Panorama Galore

If you happen to have followed this blog for some time you must by now be quite familiar with my fondness of digitally stitched panorama shots. Yesterday our new friend John, who is vacationing down under here in the Southern hemisphere from his almost arctic homeland of Canada’s forested Saskatchewan Province took me on a joyride in his rental SUV. We went up the Pakiri Hills, a rolling mountain range about 30km North of where Aluna is presently resting. The range is part of the many East to West folds that cross the northern end of New Zealand’s North Island and create its jagged East Coast sailors paradise with vast bays spreading out between capes sticking out into the Pacific Ocean. The Pakiri Hills eventually drop into the sea at Cape Rodney. John is a self-confessed compulsive talker and on the way up in between very frequent comments on his a little erratic driving habits he rattled on uninterruptedly about his meandering life story, which flowed along the lines of working as a math and geometry teacher, then jumping to farming, which on the vast stretches of Canada’s interior plains means driving enormous machinery harvesting mountains of Canola and such, and finally ending up selling those same giant tractors and other mechanized beasts to the other farming folks around him.

John was looking for a very specific shot up there in the highlands. He had taken it previously with a low-resolution camera and handed me a printout to help him identify the location where it had been taken. The weather was not ideal for the retake. He had quite a particular sketch inside his mind that included puffy trade wind clouds overhead. But if there were too many then you get dark spots on the landscape. In spite of the spectacular view the haze was way too dense, so all that was on the list of tasks for the day was to re-encounter the shooting location so if in the near future the weather gods decided to play things his way, he could just race up there and take the shot without having to err around endlessly in search of the one and only sweet spot.

On our first stop along a bend of the motorway the tree silhouettes on the hillcrest in front of us lined up perfectly with the jagged, haze-blue specks of Sail Rock and Mother Hen, the biggest of the Hen and Chicken Islands in the distance, to form an exact match to what was depicted on the printout. But John didn’t want to have any of that. We took off on a side road, which ran along the crest of the range and one breathtaking view after another opened up all around us, a new perspective after every bend of the gravel road. In contrast to John mine is a search for the big picture, so I clicked away boxing series of shots for my panoramas.

This first one covers a sector roughly East to West. You can just make out Little Barrier Island partially covering lighter and more distant Great Barrier Island at the end of the road to the left. Then the horizon line runs to the northern end of the Cormandel Peninsula faintly visible in the background. Closer by now you see the Tawharnui Peninsula with Kawau Island behind it, leading your gaze to the Omaha spit and Whangateau Harbor before running into the hills in the foreground.

Here we’ve gone West to East but looking North this time. Gleaming white Pakiri Beach leads up to Bream Tail, from where the view jumps out to Bream Head and on to the Hen and Chickens. In between those last two a faint extension creeps along the horizon line: Cape Brett basking in the distant haze.

Now the view to the South has opened up to let us see more of Whangateau Harbor and behind it towards the horizon Rangioto Island, sentinel to Auckland’s Waitemata Habour. Auckland’s trademark skyline with the arrogant Skytower scratching the heavens could just be made out with the naked eye. Another patch of blue in midst of the dark green wooded hills just right of center is Sandspit Harbour and barely a little further into the distance a slither of the entrance of the Mahurangi River makes itself known.

At the far end of the winding hilltop road we came upon this incredible view through a split rock out over Cape Rodney to the Barrier Islands. And here comes the crown jewel of panoramas, spanning from West through North and East to almost South, looking out over the Goat Island Marine Reserve.

John, after coming back to the main road with a dusty car and many more details revealed of his life, his present world views itching and jumping between them, and of course many, many variations of the exact reasons why he needed to capture this precise shot under those precise conditions, finally had run out of other options and had to admit that the location of his mentally encrusted shot was along that same bend of the motorway we had stood an hour and some ago. Another splendid example of how important it is for you and me to deviate from our very own stubborn ideas as much as possible in a flurry of wondrous pretense across the hillcrests and valleys of life. Go out there and give yourself a good beating before you come and humbly admit that the others were right all along!

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