Friday, December 30, 2011

Time Keeps on Slippin' Slippin' Into the Future.......

Well, here we are at the end of another year!  It might be just me, but it sure seems like the older I get, the faster the years go by!!  I echo the line of the Steve Miller Band classic that says, "Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin', into the future"..... or is it into the past?  Either way, it is gone forever.

When life is good, time seems to fly by, when we are down, time seems to drag, and on those rare moments of critical life events, time seems to stand still.  But in reality, time is a great equalizer of men (and women).  We may have less money than our neighbor, more prestige,  a smaller house, more friends, but we have exactly the same amount of time each year as every one else has. 

So now is the time to decide if we will use the 365 days of 2012 wisely and purposefully, or will we allow those days to quickly and quietly slip away unnoticed.     

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Day at Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga - A Sacred Place

Kupe left Hawaiki to follow the stars, the cloud and weather patterns, and the migration of birds, and he discovered a beautiful land of the long white cloud.  He named the very northern most tip Te Rerenga Kairua.  This became a most sacred place for the Maori people because they believed that when they die, their spirits would leave their bodies from this very place to join their ancestors. 

It is a unique and magical place in that the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean come together here.  One can see different shades of blue and turquoise, and waves and currents traveling from opposite directions toward each other, defining the two bodies of water.  The line or 'meeting place' is fluid and ever moving.  Even though it was a dark and gray day when we were there, you can see the 'meeting place' on the left side of the lighthouse. 

Since the office was closed on Monday and Tuesday, we had a four day weekend.  Even though we average traveling once a month, we feel we need to take every opportunity we can to see this beautiful country.  We traveled up the west coast (Tasman Sea side), out to the tip of Cape Reinga (Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean), then down the east coast (Pacific Ocean).  Although overcast most of the time (not great photo weather), it was beautiful, as is everywhere in NZ we have been thus far.  Although we missed being with our family, this will certainly be a Christmas to remember, as we opened our few Christmas gifts, (thank you family), at Cape Reinga.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas to my photog friends!

Merry Christmas
Elder and Sister Larsen
New Zealand 2011

“Jesus, who is called Christ, is the firstborn of the Father in the spirit and the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh.  He is Jehovah, and was foreordained to his great calling in the Grand Councils before the world was.  He was born of Mary at Bethlehem, lived a sinless life, and wrought out a perfect atonement for all mankind by the shedding of his blood and his death on the cross.  He rose from the grave and brought to pass the bodily resurrection of every living thing and the salvation and exaltation of the faithful.  He is the greatest Being to be born on this earth – the perfect example – and all religious things should be done in his name.  He is Lord of lords, King of kings, the Creator, the Savior, the God of the whole earth, the Captain of our salvation, the Bright and Morning Star.  He is in all things, above all things, through all things, and round about all things; he is Alpha and Omega, the first and the last; his name is above every name, and is the only name under heaven by which we can be saved.  He will come again in power and glory to dwell on the earth, and will stand as Judge of all mankind at the last day.”  (Bible Dictionary, Christ, pg. 633)

May we all focus on our Savior this Christmas and on our blessings of eternal families and friends.  Let our gifts be service to others, and a light to those in need.  We love and pray for you daily.

Elder & Sister Larsen
(Jeff & Karen)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hamilton New Zealand Temple at Christmas

Christmas 2011

The Hamilton Temple sits atop a hill and overlooks beautiful green pastures and country scenes.  At Christmas time the grounds are adorned with 150,000 lights.  A trip to the temple grounds is a Christmas tradition for members of all faiths.  An Indian man not of our faith, brings his family to see the lights and feel the spirit of the season each year.  When asked why he does this he said, "Because this is the most sacred place in New Zealand."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Hangi - Traditional Maori Cooking

 Hangi is a traditional process of steam cooking with hot stones in an earthen oven.  This is how a hangi might look in a village
 This is a modern hangi cooked meal on a large scale
The food was flavorful and the meat was tender and moist

Friday, December 16, 2011

Huka Falls
The water is a beautiful turquoise and these falls are the most visited natural attraction in NZ. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Maori Body Art - Tattooing

Tattooing is an important tradition in the Maori culture.  In the past, women would usually tattoo their chin and sometimes their lips.  This has some reference to being wise and passing along important information and traditions within the tribe.  Even now, we occasionally see older women in the streets with tattoos on their chins.

The men would have the genealogy of their mother tattooed on one side of their face, and that of their father on the other side, so obviously the sides were not symmetrical. When meeting a stranger, one would know instantly his tribe and ancestry. (In more recent times, men opt for a symmetrical pattern of their own choosing.) Tattooing was a matter of great pride, honor, bravery, etc. and women would not marry a man who was not tattooed.  It was a very long and painful process, sometimes going deep enough to etch bones and many times rendered the recipient unconscious during the process.

(Side note on the above picture:  I think I've mentioned before, that men perform the haka in which they portray confronting an enemy. Part of the dance is to appear fierce in order to intimidate and they do this with swift movements of their weapon, bulging eyes and tongues stuck out. They dance or move with all parts of their body.)

The tradition of tattooing continues today and we see many, many, many people with tattoos, but usually not on the face.  We see many people, mostly men, with tattoos that cover their entire arms, or legs with very intricate and distinctive designs rather that a specific object.  

The above photos were taken at a Maori tourist attraction, so I'm not sure if their tattoos are real or painted on, but I've included the following photo taken at a local farmer's market that I think I've posted before, to show real facial tattoos:

Friday, December 9, 2011

New Zealand Birds




The pukeko is a common and colorful bird in New Zealand.  The kiwi, however, is nocturnal, and it is rare to catch a glimpse of one, except in wildlife parks.  We saw several in a controlled environment, but unfortunately were not allowed to take photos.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

ROTORUA - Thermal Valley

 Pohutu Geyser

Rotorua sits in a natural thermal valley complete with geysers, mudpots etc.  Although nothing compared to Yellowstone, the area is very interesting and certainly has a fair share of photo ops.  Polutu Geyser is the largest active geyser in the valley.  It erupts once or twice every hour and reaches up to ninety feet.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

ROTORUA - Wood Carving

We took the weekend off and drove to Rotorua, a village about a four hour drive south.  It is a center for Maori history and also centrally located for many tourist attractions and activities. Our first stop was Te Puia, a Maori arts and crafts institute in a natural thermal valley.

Following are some examples of Maori woodcarving, and finally, a woodcarver continuing the tradition:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Whangarei Falls

We drove for 2 hours north to Whangarei (pronounced Fongaray wih a soft 'g') to go to a conference with other missionaries, both young and old.  Afterwards we started home and saw a sign to Whangarei Falls.  We drove about 10 minutes and right in the middle of town was a park with this beautiful waterfall.   

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Scarlet Sheep

 I've Sunk to a New Low!!!

I've always tried to be somewhat selective in the photos I put on this blog.  After all, it is a photography blog so I hope that what I post has some redeeming quality and of interest as far as the art of photography is concerned.  But now I think I've sunk to a new low.......  Here I bring you scarlet sheep, (used to advertise a tourist place where one can learn all about the sheep industry in NZ), and I post it for no other reason except it is so absurd!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Women of Faith in Christchurch

Women of Faith

One of the most satisfying photography assignments I've had so far took place in Christchurch several months ago.  Our Director of Public Affairs in the area wanted to document just a few of the hundreds, (thousands), of women who continue to face challenges as a result of the recent devastating earthquakes.  The following women are different in many ways - age, lifestyle, careers.  But they have one thing in common- a firm knowledge that there is a God in Heaven who personally knows them, loves them and is helping them through their trials.  We interviewed them all and found that although they are ordinary women who possess neither wealth, power or prestige, they are remarkable in their positive outlook on life and their ability to move forward with hope and faith and lift all who know them.  My personal challenge was to photograph them in their environment, and in such a way as to capture a glimpse of who they are and what makes them so special.  We were truly inspired by these women and I only hope my photography does them justice! 

This is a young high school student with many talents.  She lives with her mother, and blesses the lives of others with her music.  We talked about the challenges she faces in school of finding friends who support her standards of morality and Christian faith, and how she helps her friends to resist peer pressure and not use drugs or participate in other destructive behaviors.  In this photograph she is waiting in their apartment for her mother to come home from work. 

This beautiful lady recently lost her husband of many years, after caring for him through a long illness.  Yet she was not depressed nor sad.  She believes her marriage will last through eternity, a principle taught in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, not just 'until death do you part' as most people believe.  She knows her separation from her eternal companion is only for a short time.  Until then she lives her life to the fullest, surrounded by children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and friends.  I photographed her sitting at her kitchen table with her flowers and picture of her handsome husband of earlier years.
This woman comes from a rich Samoan heritage.  She told us of a simple childhood life surrounded by a large, loving family.  Fishing and growing vegetables to feed family and relatives took up most of the family's days.  As society moves farther away from family ties and connections to the past, it is important to her to preserve and pass on her cultural heritage to her children.  I included a photo of her cherished grandmother that sits on her coffee table.

This accomplished woman teaches university statistics, math, computer science and has invented a math game app.  In addition, she is the mother of two sons, one who is blind and autistic, and the other who is also autistic.  She talked about the challenges of parenthood, and how she has been richly blessed and honored to be a mother.  Her personality was positive and upbeat.  I chose to photograph her in her tiny home office filled with bright colors to match her shirt, her stuffed animals,  calendar pictures stapled to the walls, and her computer and ipad which are her constant companions.

Overcoming an abusive marriage and difficult divorce, this woman found purpose and fulfillment in her artwork.  She grew up in a frugal family where she was taught to save, conserve, reuse and make do, and now she finds fulfillment in creating beautiful art out of materials which most people would throw away.  Her work can be found adorning the walls of schools and government buildings in her town. Here she is working on a current project.

This feisty 'young' woman believes in making a difference.  She has seen the devastating effects of alcohol abuse in her town, and is a vocal crusader who attends and participates in political and town meetings to speak out in favor of tougher alcohol related laws.  This lovely Maori lady also believes is serving others and spends her days volunteering at a local thrift store. She told us that one time a man came into the store needing a suit to apply for a job.  They didn't have one that would fit, but she said she had one at home he could have, and she brought it the next day. She has learned to be of strong character and hold to her values, yet live in peace with her husband of many years, who strongly and openly is opposed to her religious beliefs and community service.  We met and I photographed her at the thrift store.      

This young woman is posing with her 'miracle' baby, as she was told she would never have children.  They live in a modest home and she works out of her home as a seamstress, so that she can be a stay at home mommy.  I've photographed her in her living room which also serves as her sewing room.

An excellent university student and an accomplished pianist, this young woman has set high expectations for herself.  Her family moved to New Zealand in order to give their children a better education, and this encourages her to excel at her music and her studies.  She tells us she used to think she was independent and could do everything on her own, but now realizes that prayer and her faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for her to do her best.  I've photographed her studying at the Church institute building near her university.

As a divorced mom of teenagers,  this woman has learned to be the leader in her family.  
She desires to be a good example to her children by showing them how to be courageous in times of adversity.  She works for a program that assists mothers and children in her community and wants her own children to know the value of working hard to provide for one's own needs.  
We met her as she came home from work and visited in her living room where I took her photograph.

This is our Director of Public Affairs in Christchurch and she is a very remarkable woman.  Several years ago she was asked to volunteer in this position, and at that time she had no experience or education in public affairs.  After working tirelessly for several years she has become an expert at what she does and accomplishes.  She has developed close relationships with many local opinion leaders, members of parliament and other government officials, interfaith leaders and the media.  She has appeared on television and in the newspaper many times,  building and strengthening relationships between her community and the Church.  She has literally brought the Church out of obscurity in the Christchurch area, and turned attention to the humanitarian and service projects performed by the good people of our faith who are contributing to their community in positive ways.  In addition to this, she is working on a doctorate degree and she teaches at a Maori school.  And most importantly, she is the wife of a Bishop and mother to five active children.  I've photographed her correcting papers at school.

'Women of Faith' is her project and vision and we were so pleased to be able to assist her.  If all goes according to plan, you will be hearing more about 'Women of Faith' in the near future.     

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Beautiful Fijian Woman

This beautiful young woman was our hostess at the hotel restaurant.  She was very graceful and soft spoken, like many of the Fijian people.  When I told her she had a beautiful smile, she was embarrassed.  She giggled and covered her mouth.  I asked if I could take a picture of her, and she said she has not had a picture taken since she was a little girl.  I told her to sit down and look out the window.  I will send her a copy of this picture.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Suva, Fiji LDS Temple

This beautiful LDS Temple is in Suva, Fiji, and sits high on a hill overlooking the ocean.  People come from many of the nearby islands to go to this temple.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fiji Sunset

We were home from New Caledonia for a couple of days and then off again to Fiji.  We had some amazing experiences, (you'll have to look on Kiwi Krossings in a few days to read about what we did), and the icing on the cake was the beautiful scenery and the warm and gentle people who welcomed us.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Head Chair

I thought this 'head chair' was funny