Thursday, February 5, 2015

Fire at Northbank - Onamalutu.

I awoke this morning to the smell of smoke. I picked up my iPad to find messages to ask if I were okay and wondered what the fuss was. The fuss was bigger than I thought. Just 2km away from a fire was raging out of control at Northbank. Clouds of smoke billowed into the sky, some white, some black, and some pink.

We've had no rain for weeks, the driest summer in 40 years in this region.

I decided to stay at home and monitor the situation, but then RW from the Camera Club wanted to take photos, so I picked him up from the Renwick Takeaways and down to Northbank we went. These are some of the photos I got from the day.

Using my Sigma 120-400mm I took this from the road. A short while later one of the vineyard tractors towing a water truck dampened down this flare up.
Helicopters carring monsoon buckets were flying right over us, and the big zoom lens meant I couldn't get everthing in!

Another one of the flare up getting out of control.

Where there's smoke, there's fire.

This little patch of fire quickly got out of control and raced up the hill. Everything is tinder dry as we've had no rain for weeks.

We were taking photos at the section where the road was closed, but further up the road the fire was much worse and raging out of control.

We were wearing hi-vis vests, so when some officials came up talked to the road block people, we cheekily asked if we could get a ride up to the action. I didn't expect the answer to be yes, but it was!

This is where all the helicopters were starting up from, getting their monsoon buckets, and swapping around crew.

And off he goes to join the others.

We were only allowed to stay in that area for a very short while, and then we were taken back to the road block. This was taken out the window while we were heading back, which is the reason it's not quite as in focus as the others.

However, the driver stopped to let us take this one.

After that, we headed back into my car and drove to the otherside of the river we hoped to get images of the helicopters picking up the water from the river.

Monsoon bucket dropping into the water. I should have had my wide angle lens on. In fact I changed it in the hope another one would come in close, but they started filling up from another water hole rather than this one. Probably because there were simply too many people on the bank, and there had already been one helicopter crash this morning filling up the monsoon buckets. Apparently a gust of wind got the helicopter and it lost control.

I did put my wide angle lens on for a short while, and here you can see the extent of the fire and the smoke filled sky.

We bumped into two other Camera Club members, and they told us of a place further down the stopbank, so we headed down there and walked down to the river. This was with my 400mm Lens, so we were not close to the whirly birds at all, and we didn't venture closer as we didn't want to interfere with their work.

The last image I took - two helicopters flying off with full monsoon bucket, and a third one in the distance on it's way back.

As of the time writing this, the fire is still raging out of control although the wind has died down so hopefuly we'll see the last of it soon.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Amersfoort, Netherlands

Despite crashing straight away the night before, I was still wide awake at 5am. I rested a few more hours then got up and showered, then moved my stuff back up into Anne’s apartment.  Anne cooked another fabulous breakfast – tomatoes, herbs and eggs – it was a great start to the day!

Gordon and Anne then went and pick up a new sofa for Anne’s apartment, then we all jumped into the rental car and took it back to Hertz - the rental car that is, not the sofa!  It took some time finding a petrol station due to road works, but we eventually found the way.  We then caught the bus back to Utrecht central station, then a train down to Amersfoort.

Amersfoort is a municipality and the second largest city of the province of Utrecht in central Netherlands. The city is growing quickly but has a well-preserved and protected medieval centre. Amersfoort is one of the largest railway junctions in the country, because of its location on two of the Netherlands' main east-west and north-south rail lines. The city celebrated its 750th birthday in 2009.

We wandered around stopping for apple cake and coffee, taking photos, and enjoying the atmosphere.  Beautiful town, and old, gorgeous buidings.

The old cathedral door was amazing...

Lovely outdoor cafes....

I asked the three musketeers to line up against the wall for a shoot.  This is what they did!  I shot them! 

The houses along the canals were interesting - some looked like they had little studios. Many had little boats...

The wildlife was fenced in to stop them attacking the tourists...

 The old castle walls still had medieval doors and shutters...

 Remains of settlements in the Amersfoort area from around 1000 BC have been found, but the name Amersfoort, after a ford in the Amer River, today called the Eem, did not appear until the 11th century. The city grew around what is now known as the central square, the Hof, where the Bishops of Utrecht established a court in order to control the "Gelderse Vallei (nl)" area. It was granted city rights in 1259 by the bishop of Utrecht, Henry I van Vianden. A first defensive wall, made out of brick, was finished around 1300. Soon after, the need for enlargement of the city became apparent and around 1380 the construction of a new wall was begun and completed around 1450. The famous Koppelpoort, a combined land and water gate, is part of this second wall.

we wandered into the main centre as well which was very modern in comparison...

On the way back to the station we went under a bridge that had a very interesting chandelier in the niddle!

The main entrance to the old town.

We stumbled upon a a craft beer brewery and decided we were up for a tasting!

When we came out we saw the weather was changing and the clouds were really interesting...

To me this image sums up the Netherlands.  Old buildings, and bikes, cobblestone roads and pathways, and simply gorgeous landscapes!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Kinderdijk and Gouda, Netherlands

I fell asleep immediately the night before, and woke up thinking I had had 8 hours – felt so refreshed – to only find it was only 1.24am! Gah. Fell asleep again and woke at 5.00am. No getting back to sleep after that so gave up and worked on my photos.

Anne cooked an amazing breakfast of French toast stuffed with berries and yoghurt for all of us. We then got a taxi to the Hertz Rental car place and hired a car and set off to the Kinderdijk.

The Netherlands put on a stunning day for us to see the Windmills at Kinderdijk!   

The boat cruise I wanted to do wasn't running that day, so instead we walked along the canal..  We even found some fungi. Kicking myself I wasn't carrying my macro lens!

At the end of the canal, we hopped onto one of the boats that was working and hitched a ride back to the visitors centre. 

I got Anne, Jay and Gordon to pose for me...

Such a beautiful place...

Back into the car and we then went to Gouda.
Gouda is another very old town and very beautiful.

We also stopped for lunch and I ordered the eggs.  It was huge – 3 huge slices of bread, lots of cheese slices and 3 eggs.  I ate the eggs and cheese and felt my arteries harden with every bite!  The bread - I couldn't eat!

We stuffed ourselves trying all the cheeses too - so many cheese, so little time!

Cheese was even hanging on the power lines...

After wandering around gouda, we drove back to Utrecht, parked the car near Anne's apartment, then wandered into town for a beer.  Michel met us, and I was taken to this great beer place that is a converted church. I tried a Berry Beer – it was amazing – 3 types of berries-  and the beer was red.  Best beer I’ve ever had.

I could only fit in one though and I was getting chilly so ordered a hot chocolate.

We then walked through Utrecht and went to a Surinam restaurant for dinner.  More Surinam beers and beautiful food – I had a chicken satay starter only, but I was not hungry so that’s all I could manage.  Although weakened and had some ice-cream floating in advocaat and mint liqueur – yum!

I was having trouble keeping my eyes open so headed back home to bed, while the others went out for a few more beers elsewhere. I was asleep before my head touched the pillow!