Winter is coming and it’s starting to get windy, cold, and wet in the Otago Peninsula. With only a couple of weeks left to shoot, it’s pretty much crunch time to get everything that we need before we head back up to the North Island. At the start, four weeks seemed like a lot of time to do a documentary. Two weeks in and actually working on it, it has become obvious that time goes by so fast you tend to lose track of it. One day its Monday and you’re shooting, you blink and you’re at the farmer’s market Saturday morning. Especially when you are in such a beautiful country like New Zealand.
Where I am staying is very picturesque with rolling green hills, harbor views, and dramatic tide changes. The photograph of the fishing boat showcases all three that I just described. I am completely surround by 180 degree breathtaking views. No wonder it’s hard to get things done here. The harbor is a stone’s throw from the front porch. One day, I wanted to go for a run, but I didn’t want to run in the street so I walked out to the water and saw that the tide was extremely low. Normally, the water is crashing over the road, but the tide receded nearly a half mile in and I decided to do my morning run on the sand. That’s how low the tide was and is every 12 hours.
Zach and I have been going to Penguin Place and filming the Yellow-Eyed Penguins almost every day since we arrived. We have been seeing penguins here and there from a good distance away while on the guided tours that they give. We’ve been real lucky to even see the penguins. On every tour, we have been blessed to see at least 5 different penguins, each doing his own thing. This is truly a blessing since the guides tell us that there will be days that you won’t see them at all. In the past, tourists are known to sometimes leave without seeing the cute flightless bird, but they fail to realize how rare these little guys are to even see. This last Tuesday, my professor Susan came into town to spend time with us for a couple of days and wanted to go on the tour with us the same day she arrived. So Zach and I went into Dunedin to meet up with her so that she could follow us to Penguin Place for the tour. We hadn’t heard from her all day and the tour started at 3:45pm and it was past 3 o’clock. It was going to be a very rushed 45 minute drive on the beautiful meandering road along the harbor I mentioned earlier, a drive and deadline we are growing anxious about. If we didn’t make it, the buses that escort you over the hill and into the bush where the penguins live, would have left and we would not be able to film for that day. We finally met up with Susan at 3:10pm after hearing from her and like that we were on are way. While driving, we got stuck behind slow cars and had to keep slowing down to allow Susan to catch up in her vehicle behind us. It was 3:45pm and we were still a good 16 kilometers (15 minutes) away. Honestly, I thought that we were all going to miss the bus and I was thinking of alternative activities to do if we did miss it. We kept pushing forward hoping the bus didn’t leave yet. All the while wishing Susan would drive faster and Zach would drive slower. Luckily, we arrived before the bus left and we hopped in and sat down with a sigh of relief. I’m glad we did’t give up because Zach and I struck filming gold during that tour. Two male penguins were standing less than a foot away from us battling through a mating call to see who would win the affection of the female penguin that was heading down the hill towards them to choose. It was quite beautiful to watch. I had a smile on my face the whole time I was filming and watching that encounter from the back of my LCD screen. You have no idea how rare it was to see this in person. I was crying on the inside because I was so happy. This was definitely, our best day of shooting yet.
The next day, on Wednesday May 11th, Susan joined Zach and I to assist us in filming our interviews of the tour guides and owner of Penguin Place. She was a great help and gave us advice on how to improve in the future when interviewing people on camera. This is the type of education that Brooks Institute should continue to offer more of. The experience and learning you get working in the field with instructors who are there to aid and guide you is an invaluable experience and one I will never forget. After that we also helped Susan the next two days on her documentary film with her interviews as well, which was a lot of fun. But I think Zach’s arm is still hurting from being the human light stand. Being out with my professor in a professional setting, certainly helps me learn better and faster than I do in a classroom. It was nice to spend time with her, not as a teacher, but as a colleague and friend. I think that’s really important.
Recently, Zach and I also spent some time in the city of Dunedin. Zach loves it in the city. He is so immersed in the Scottish culture and the history of this place. As for me, I could care less about the city. It’s too run down for me and it kind of feels like Los Angeles. Granted, I have never been a city girl at all, but I needed to make it fun for myself while in Dunedin. I heard that this place has some outrageous street art hidden in the city. To keep myself amused and still experience what New Zealand had to offer, I was on a quest to find the hidden murals. It’s amazing to see see how big, beautiful, and detailed these murals are. You want to know the cool thing about the art here? They don’t have any graffiti on them! If this was in the United States, they would be instantly covered with neon tags from some vandal or another. The people here actually appreciate art and leave it be and I wanted to show you several of the many art works that surround the city because they deserve to be shared.
One area of Dunedin that I actually wanted to check out was Baldwin Street. Yes, that’s correct. I wanted to see a street, but not just any street. The world’s steepest street! It’s a 38º incline and Zach and I barely drove our pathetic lemon-sneeze colored 4 cylinder compact rental car up its steep and unforgiving incline. I was surprised that our jalopy made it up there without shutting down and rolling backwards. As we got to the top, of course, I was out taking pictures and Zach took this photograph of me doing so.
Have I mentioned that we have been driving a lot? It seems everywhere we go, everything we do it is essential that we drive. I cannot imagine doing all of this without our own wheels. Zach explained to me that we (he, since he’s the only one that can drive legally right now) have driven over 1,100km already and we still have a huge trek along the west coast ahead of us. It is a good thing the car gets 11km per liter, whatever that means. Besides the flat tire, the occasional road reflector, suddenly and unexpected speed bumps that have us flying like Dukes of Hazard, and a lot of tight corners, we have been safe on the road and I hope it stays that way. “Slow down Zach!” I hear myself saying in my head. “Wait, we don’t have much time for that. Carry on…” Two weeks will be here before we know it. My friend Michael, who is a professional graphic designer that I met on the North Island, was gracious enough to make an amazing logo for my documentary film of the Yellow-Eyed Penguins. The film is called Code Yellow because of how rare and endangered they are in New Zealand and he really captured the essence of the penguin. I can’t wait to use it for my film and branding advertisement. To see more of Michael’s work, visit his website at Michael Tanner Design.
That is basically all there is to update you on right now. Let’s hope that next week doesn’t include another flat tire from Speed Racer Zach (who weirdly drives our gutless car like its his old Mustang), or any of those sand fly bites I keep seeing on everyone’s social media. I will just stay down here in the cold where they don’t bite and keep enjoying my cute Yellow-Eyed waddling penguins.