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© 2017. Ground level of Zhencheng Lou (振成樓) in Hongkeng Village, Yongding County, Fujian, China. Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Portra 400, Canon EOS A2.

Our morning tour was cut short when we were summoned to breakfast, another table heavy with hot and hearty dishes. After we couldn’t eat another bite, it was time to take tea.

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© 2017. Tea in Zhencheng Lou (振成樓) in Hongkeng Village, Yongding County, Fujian, China. Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Portra 400, Canon EOS A2.

We soon learned that tea would follow every meal (in contrast to my immediate family’s habit of drinking tea during the meal), and would also be served whenever we were meeting someone new. But no matter where or when, over a special tea tray, our host would place tiny, three-sip cups and pour hot water into each to warm the cups. Then, he or she would steep the tea, pour a serving in each cup which we would drink, and steep the same tea leaves again for subsequent servings, until either the conversation (entirely in Chinese) had concluded, it was time to move on to the next excursion, or the tea leaves’ flavor was depleted.

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© 2017. Tea at Zhencheng Lou (振成樓) in Hongkeng Village, Yongding County, Fujian, China. Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Portra 400, Canon EOS A2.

By the end of the trip, our palate for tea had shifted substantially and our family sent us packing with large quantities of tea from the region. So, in the airport before departing for Taipei, we bought our own tea set — tray and cups and all — to take home with us.

We’ve since moved a couple times (within the same county, between states, within the same metro area), but the tea and the tea set have always been packed and unpacked as a priority item. It’s been unspeakably comforting to have this tea, and to know how to prepare it, and I’m hard-pressed to think of a better way to remember our trip than by making the time to sit down in front of the tray and enjoy multiple infusions.


This «homelandcoming» series features film I shot when I traveled with my grandmother in 2017 to her ancestral home in China, which she had not seen in 74 years.

Some frames show the postcard-perfect scenery of «tulou» (“earthen buildings”) practically untouched by time; others reveal the everyday details that fascinated or amused us, and served to remind us that modern-day life continues for the residents who remain.

As a whole, this series is not a comprehensive visual diary of our trip — rather, it is a selection of a selection, showing the intersections of history and modernity, of authenticity and tourism, and of foreign and familiar.

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© 2017. Photos of my great-great-grandparents who built Zhencheng Lou (振成樓) in Hongkeng Village, Yongding County, Fujian, China. Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Portra 400, Canon EOS A2.

My grandmother’s grandfather built the «tulou» at a cost of 80,000 silver dollars in 1912. My great-great-grandfather, who was of the 21st generation in his clan, made his fortune with his brother by establishing a tobacco cutter factory in the village.


This «homelandcoming» series features film I shot when I traveled with my grandmother in 2017 to her ancestral home in China, which she had not seen in 74 years.

Some frames show the postcard-perfect scenery of «tulou» (“earthen buildings”) practically untouched by time; others reveal the everyday details that fascinated or amused us, and served to remind us that modern-day life continues for the residents who remain.

As a whole, this series is not a comprehensive visual diary of our trip — rather, it is a selection of a selection, showing the intersections of history and modernity, of authenticity and tourism, and of foreign and familiar.

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© 2017. Zhencheng Lou (振成樓) in Hongkeng Village, Yongding County, Fujian, China. Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Portra 400, Canon EOS A2.

As we explored the «tulou» on our first morning, we encountered the man whom my Uncle Doug called “the Proprietor” — the eldest in our branch of the family, and therefore the head of the household and the «tulou». He led us to levels and rooms not accessible to tourists, including this iconic view from the fourth level.

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© 2017. The ancestral hall and inner ring of Zhencheng Lou (振成樓) in Hongkeng Village, Yongding County, Fujian, China. Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Portra 400, Canon EOS A2.

“The Zhengchang tulou spans 260 feet and has two concentric circles of different heights that contain 250 rooms. In its center is a white and pink ancestral-worship hall. Red lanterns wave from the eaves, and several rooms have become souvenir shops.” — The New York Times, 2008.

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© 2017. Tea at Zhencheng Lou (振成樓) in Hongkeng Village, Yongding County, Fujian, China. Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Portra 400, Canon EOS A2.

A “gorgeous complex” (UNESCO), Zhencheng Lou (振成樓) is prominent in the Chinese tourism industry, likely due to the size, grandeur, and well-preserved condition of the «tulou», and in 2001 was designated as a historic site with additional protections. Also known as “The Prince of Tulou” because it’s the second-largest «tulou» in Fujian, Zhencheng Lou (振成樓) became one of 46 «tulou» designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.

All that said — and amid the souvenir shops, the red lanterns, the constant tours — Zhencheng Lou (振成樓), like several other «tulou», remains inhabited. We were told, in 2017, that full-time residents numbered around 80, or 10 family units — a fraction of the potential capacity.

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© 2017. Lanterns and laundry are suspended over an open-air kitchen sink in Zhencheng Lou (振成樓) in Hongkeng Village, Yongding County, Fujian, China. Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Portra 400, Canon EOS A2.

The New York Times, in 2011: “[T]he thousands of ‘earthen buildings’ here, built by the ethnic Hakka and Minnan people of rural Fujian Province, are the ultimate architectural expression of clan existence in China.

“But as the clan traditions of China dwindle today, more and more people are moving out of the tulou to live in modern apartment buildings with conveniences absent from the earthen buildings — indoor toilets, for example.”

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© 2017. Ground-level kitchen at Zhencheng Lou (振成樓) in Hongkeng Village, Yongding County, Fujian, China. Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Portra 400, Canon EOS A2.

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© 2017. A mop and clothes on the third level of Zhencheng Lou (振成樓) in Hongkeng Village, Yongding County, Fujian, China. Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Portra 400, Canon EOS A2.

As “the Proprietor” guided us to levels and rooms not accessible to tourists, we were led to what had been my great-great-grandparents’ bedroom on the fourth floor, above the only entrance into the «tulou». Swinging the window open, we could enjoy views of both the distant mountains and the wide stone-covered area where my grandmother said fruit trees used to grow.

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© 2017. View from the front of Zhencheng Lou (振成樓) in Hongkeng Village, Yongding County, Fujian, China. Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Portra 400, Canon EOS A2.


This «homelandcoming» series features film I shot when I traveled with my grandmother in 2017 to her ancestral home in China, which she had not seen in 74 years.

Some frames show the postcard-perfect scenery of «tulou» (“earthen buildings”) practically untouched by time; others reveal the everyday details that fascinated or amused us, and served to remind us that modern-day life continues for the residents who remain.

As a whole, this series is not a comprehensive visual diary of our trip — rather, it is a selection of a selection, showing the intersections of history and modernity, of authenticity and tourism, and of foreign and familiar.

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© 2017. Hongkeng Village (洪坑), Yongding County, Fujian, China. Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Portra 400, Canon EOS A2.

Thanks to jet lag, roosters cawing every two hours of the night, our continued awe of actually being in my grandmother’s ancestral village, and a sense of urgency to soak it all in before the daily hordes of tourists arrived, we woke up early on our first morning in China and immediately set out to explore 洪坑 (Hongkeng Village).

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© 2017. Hongkeng Village (洪坑), Yongding County, Fujian, China. Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Portra 400, Canon EOS A2.

Everything was as if we were seeing it for the first time. By the previous evening’s post-dinner tea, the blanket of nightfall, aided by the absence of bright electric lights in this remote country, had fallen. It was in heavy, humid darkness punctuated only by an occasional walkway lamp that we’d taken our bags to the hotel, then returned to the «tulou» for our nighttime tour, then crept back to the hotel.

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© 2017. Hongkeng Village (洪坑) and Zhencheng Lou (振成樓), Yongding County, Fujian, China. Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Portra 400, Canon EOS A2.

In the morning, wandering through 洪坑, making our way to the «tulou» before sitting down at a groaning table of breakfast, we relished seeing the village with fresh eyes in new sunlight.

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This «homelandcoming» series features film I shot when I traveled with my grandmother in 2017 to her ancestral home in China, which she had not seen in 74 years.

Some frames show the postcard-perfect scenery of «tulou» (“earthen buildings”) practically untouched by time; others reveal the everyday details that fascinated or amused us, and served to remind us that modern-day life continues for the residents who remain.

As a whole, this series is not a comprehensive visual diary of our trip — rather, it is a selection of a selection, showing the intersections of history and modernity, of authenticity and tourism, and of foreign and familiar.

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© 2017. Arrival at Zhencheng Lou (振成樓) in Hongkeng Village, Yongding County, Fujian, China. Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. Portra 400, Canon EOS A2.

The «tulou» my grandmother’s grandfather built is one of about 3,000 that remain in Fujian.

Wrote a New York Times reporter in 2008: “Feng shui correct, the compounds have withstood bullets, fires, quakes, and typhoons. They’re at least three stories tall, and their outer walls are three to five feet thick. The entrance is a wooden slab sheathed in iron. Windows are tiny and only on the upper floors. A well is inside; outhouses are outside. Most ingenious are the walls — a mixture of soil, lime, pebbles and wood chips held together by soupy glutinous rice and brown sugar, pounded into impregnability, giving the structures their name, ‘tulou,’ or ‘earthen building.’”

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© 2017. Arrival at Zhencheng Lou (振成樓) in Hongkeng Village, Yongding County, Fujian, China. Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. Portra 400, Canon EOS A2.

I remember feeling dazed — first from jet lag and then the dawning realization I was actually standing in that cobblestoned path, staring at the “round house” that my parents had told me about.

I remember being warmly greeted amid the cackle of hastily lit firecrackers that startled several nearby groups of tourists.

I remember being ushered inside the «tulou» and taking tea and smiling and nodding among family whose chatter I couldn’t understand.

I remember being seated at a round table loaded with more than 10 different dishes for our first family dinner.

I remember taking a second round of tea in another room, and wondering whether my stomach would burst.

I don’t remember how Jeff, my Uncle Doug, and I managed to leave everyone else to explore the area immediately outside the «tulou».

As I walked with my camera in hand, a man approached, displaying photos inside creased plastic sheets and speaking to me in Chinese. “I don’t understand, I’m sorry,” I tried telling him, but the man continued speaking to me until the woman who had served our enormous dinner appeared in the main gate and yelled at him.

“He was trying to sell you photos, but she told him who your grandmother is and that you’re her granddaughter and to leave you alone,” my Uncle Doug told me.

With that, in addition to the afternoon’s welcoming round of firecrackers, I began to see that my grandmother — and her family — enjoyed a status of which I’d previously heard only hints.

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© 2017. Arrival at Zhencheng Lou (振成樓) in Hongkeng Village, Yongding County, Fujian, China. Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. Portra 400, Canon EOS A2.

After we were settled in the hotel that my relatives operate nearby, Jeff and my Uncle Doug and I returned to the «tulou». I think we wanted to make the most of every moment, even though it was nighttime and the «tulou» was officially closed to visitors. One of our relatives recognized us and we were allowed inside where we saw the red lanterns lit up against the navy blue sky. When we ran into my grandmother’s cousin, he led us on an impromptu tour, showing us the ancestral hall and then the fourth floor, which is off-limits to visitors and from which we could hear the sounds of various residents, young and old, washing up and getting ready for bed. Knowing we, too, should rest, we thanked our relative and returned to the hotel.


This «homelandcoming» series features film I shot when I traveled with my grandmother in 2017 to her ancestral home in China, which she had not seen in 74 years.

Some frames show the postcard-perfect scenery of «tulou» (“earthen buildings”) practically untouched by time; others reveal the everyday details that fascinated or amused us, and served to remind us that modern-day life continues for the residents who remain.

As a whole, this series is not a comprehensive visual diary of our trip — rather, it is a selection of a selection, showing the intersections of history and modernity, of authenticity and tourism, and of foreign and familiar.

First, we flew halfway around the world to meet my grandmother in Taiwan. Then, all together, she and my husband, my uncles, and I left her Taipei high-rise to take a cab to take a flight to the mainland. There, we were met by two young men — one a distant cousin, the other a friend of his — who greeted us, loaded our bags into a Honda and an Audi, and drove us through Xiamen, past industrial spaces, banana tree groves, and roadside villages, for three hours into mountainous Yongding County.

Finally, as the sun began to creep behind a neighboring mountain ridge, we arrived and, for the first time since 1943, my grandmother saw with her own eyes the «tulou» where she’d arrived as a 5-year-old and last seen as a 12-year-old.

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© 2017. Arrival at Zhencheng Lou (振成樓) in Hongkeng Village, Yongding County, Fujian, China. Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. Portra 400, Canon EOS A2.

She was home, and so were we.

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© 2017. Arrival at Zhencheng Lou (振成樓) in Hongkeng Village, Yongding County, Fujian, China. Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. Portra 400, Canon EOS A2.


This «homelandcoming» series features film I shot when I traveled with my grandmother in 2017 to her ancestral home in China, which she had not seen in 74 years.

Some frames show the postcard-perfect scenery of «tulou» (“earthen buildings”) practically untouched by time; others reveal the everyday details that fascinated or amused us, and served to remind us that modern-day life continues for the residents who remain.

As a whole, this series is not a comprehensive visual diary of our trip — rather, it is a selection of a selection, showing the intersections of history and modernity, of authenticity and tourism, and of foreign and familiar.

Analog: Homelandcoming

Living in Houston again, among family and friends and old haunts, I’ve been thinking a lot about home.

Coincidentally, The Wangs vs. the World — one of five novels by different female Chinese-American authors that I recently read — touched on the concept of home and, in several ways, really stuck with me.

For the first time ever, I felt like a book was written for me: For second-generation kids who grew up straddling and blurring edges of dueling identities, and for anyone who visited their family’s ancestral land for the first time as an adult and felt strangely at home there.

The Wangs vs. the World covers the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and how the loss of wealth, stability, and status sends the Wang family on a cross-country road trip that makes up the bulk of the novel. While I haven’t quite experienced that sudden financial blow and the consequential chaos, I could relate to patriarch Charles Wang’s feeling of having come home when he arrives at “the land in China” that his family had fled and that he’d never seen til the events of this novel.

I could relate to Charles Wang because, in September 2017, I traveled to China with my grandmother, uncles, and husband to my grandmother’s ancestral home, which she hadn’t seen in 74 years and where we received the warmest welcome from family whom my uncles, husband, and I had never met.

For seven years, my grandmother lived in the tulou (“earthen building”) fortress that her grandfather had built in 1912 in Hongkeng Village. Called the “Prince of Tulou,” Zhencheng Tulou is the second-largest in Fujian, boasting more than 200 rooms in two concentric rings designed to house multiple nuclear families belonging to a clan. We stayed for three whirlwind days, exploring the village and temples and family homes and schools that were familiar to my grandmother but that had previously existed for me only in oral tradition referencing “Grandma’s round house.”

I had never been in China before. I don’t speak or read or understand Chinese. I had never met any of the distant relations who so generously hosted, fed, and transported us.

And yet, somehow I felt as if I hadn’t simply come home — rather, I’d returned home.

Every immigrant is the person he might have been and the person he is, and his homeland is at once the place it would have been to him from the inside and the place it must be to him from the outside. — The Wangs vs. the World

Just like Charles Wang.

• • • • •

Chinese New Year is often referred to as “the world’s greatest annual migration of people.”

It’s traditional in China to go home during the 40-day period that is Lunar New Year — frequently, to the rural towns and villages that urban workers rarely otherwise have the time to visit. Traditions observed throughout the month-long celebration can vary widely, but one remains universal: Whether in China or elsewhere, the Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner is an annual reunion for many families.

Tonight in Texas, we’ll enjoy a Chinese New Year’s Eve feast with my grandmother, uncles, parents, brother, and husband. But even as I look forward to this special time with family, my thoughts turn also to that tiny village in China that, for three days, was my home.

• • • • •

And so today, I’ll start sharing film I shot during our trip to my grandmother’s ancestral village.

Shooting film has always been a deeply personal, completely intentional practice for me. Committing my first and second impressions of our homelandcoming permanently, tangibly, on film was a particularly intensely personal process. Even months later, it seemed unreal somehow that I’d actually visited my grandmother’s tulou, that we’d been so completely welcomed by family she either hadn’t seen since the 1940s or hadn’t met, that we had — if for only a few days — come home. I guardedly showed the film only to close family members, feeling as if sharing it to the broader world meant exposing, and consequently losing, a recently discovered but deeply hidden part of myself.

But now, just over 500 days later, I’m ready. After all, Chinese New Year means new beginnings, fresh starts, and homecomings.

This homelandcoming series will feature a selection of the film I shot in China. Some frames show the postcard-perfect scenery of earthen buildings practically untouched by time; others reveal the everyday details that fascinated and amused us, and served to remind us that modern-day life continues for the residents who remain. As a whole, this series is not a comprehensive visual diary of our trip — rather, it is a selection of a selection, showing the intersections of history and modernity, of authenticity and tourism, and of foreign and familiar.

Here we go.

© 2017. Zhencheng Lou (振成樓) in Hongkeng Village, Yongding County, Fujian, China. Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Portra 400, Canon EOS A2.

If you’re driving down the two-lane highway that’s the only paved road in New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park, you can have only one destination — after all, the highway ends at Milford Sound.

© 2016. The Milford Sound / Piopiotahi in Fiordland National Park in the Southland region of New Zealand. Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

Milford Sound, or Piopiotahi in Maori, is one of several fiords in Fiordland. It’s by far the most accessible, and is by some measures New Zealand’s most famous tourist attraction.

We booked a late-afternoon two-hour cruise to allow us plenty of time to make stops along the way to Milford Sound, plus explore the area on foot before embarking on the boat.

© 2016. The Milford Sound / Piopiotahi in Fiordland National Park in the Southland region of New Zealand. Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. The Milford Sound / Piopiotahi in Fiordland National Park in the Southland region of New Zealand. Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. The Milford Sound / Piopiotahi in Fiordland National Park in the Southland region of New Zealand. Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. The Milford Sound / Piopiotahi in Fiordland National Park in the Southland region of New Zealand. Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

Because our boat was so small, the cruise operators were able to steer us fairly close to waterfalls and other features. They also took us out into the open Tasman Sea for maybe 15 minutes, which was enough to churn my stomach. Other cruise companies do offer longer or overnight durations in larger boats, which wouldn’t be as affected by the water currents.

© 2016. The Milford Sound / Piopiotahi in Fiordland National Park in the Southland region of New Zealand. Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. The Milford Sound / Piopiotahi in Fiordland National Park in the Southland region of New Zealand. Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. The Milford Sound / Piopiotahi in Fiordland National Park in the Southland region of New Zealand. Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. The Milford Sound / Piopiotahi in Fiordland National Park in the Southland region of New Zealand. Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

I was nursing my second cup of tea inside the boat lounge to try to soothe my roiling stomach when, very unexpectedly, the sun broke through the clouds for the first time that entire day. I immediately jumped from my seat and ran to the stern, where I captured these last two frames before the clouds obscured the sun once again.

© 2016. The Milford Sound / Piopiotahi in Fiordland National Park in the Southland region of New Zealand. Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

And, just a moment later:

© 2016. The Milford Sound / Piopiotahi in Fiordland National Park in the Southland region of New Zealand. Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

Thank goodness I had several frames left at the end of that roll of film — these final two photos are among my very favorites from the entire trip.

 


A selection of these photos can be purchased as prints at prints.christhedunn.com.

Of New Zealand’s 14 national parks, Fiordland National Park is the largest, arguably the most isolated and perhaps the least touched by humans.

It’s stunning.

© 2016. Te Anau-Milford Highway in Fiordland National Park in the Southland region of New Zealand. Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Lake Marian waterfalls track in Fiordland National Park in the Southland region of New Zealand. Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

A single, two-lane highway runs through the park, with only a few unpaved roads branching off. There are a couple established tracks for multi-day trampers, but otherwise, much of the park is inaccessible to visitors. Even before the development of the modern tourism industry, Fiordland has remained largely unmodified by humans because of the steep, glacier-carved terrain as well as moody weather (an annual average of 200 rainy days!) and the resulting thick vegetation.

We drove from Te Anau north to Milford Sound, where we had an afternoon cruise scheduled. On the way, we made a couple stops, including a brief detour down Hollyford Road to hike a bit on the Lake Marian track, from which several falls are visible.

© 2016. Lake Marian waterfalls track in Fiordland National Park in the Southland region of New Zealand. Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Lake Marian waterfalls track in Fiordland National Park in the Southland region of New Zealand. Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Lake Marian waterfalls track in Fiordland National Park in the Southland region of New Zealand. Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Lake Marian waterfalls track in Fiordland National Park in the Southland region of New Zealand. Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Lake Marian waterfalls track in Fiordland National Park in the Southland region of New Zealand. Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get anywhere near Lake Marian itself — roundtrip, the entire track would have taken at least a few hours.

We did stop at “the Chasm” before arriving at Milford Sound. The Cleddau River’s thundering waters have, over time, carved out steep channels and falls in the rock that are visible from a couple foot bridges.

© 2016. The “Chasm” track over the Cleddau River in Fiordland National Park in the Southland region of New Zealand. Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. The “Chasm” track over the Cleddau River in Fiordland National Park in the Southland region of New Zealand. Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. The “Chasm” track over the Cleddau River in Fiordland National Park in the Southland region of New Zealand. Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

Next up: Milford Sound.

 


A selection of these photos can be purchased as prints at prints.christhedunn.com.

There’s a lot of water in New Zealand, and it’s all beautiful.

Our next stop after Fox Glacier was Queenstown, so we took Highway 6 south. It’s a gorgeous route that follows the Haast River, first skirting around the edges of Mount Aspiring National Park and then delving through the park’s eastern sides. We stopped along the way to walk a quick track, cross a couple suspension bridges and see the Blue Pools:

© 2016. Blue Pools in Mount Aspiring National Park in the Wanaka region of New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Blue Pools in Mount Aspiring National Park in the Wanaka region of New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

Fun fact about this southwestern part of the South Island: If you stand still for longer than a moment, you will get swarmed by sandflies, which are gnat-sized flying insects that bite. The sandfly hordes were particularly bad when we were on the Blue Pools track, especially near the water, to the point that I worried I’d trapped a couple sandflies in my camera body after I changed lenses.

Onwards down Highway 6, there’s Lake Wanaka and its stunning views.

© 2016. View over Lake Wanaka in the Otago region of New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. “That Wanaka Tree,” a willow tree in Lake Wanaka in the Otago region of New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

That’s an Instagram-famous tree, by the way.

We checked into our Queenstown hotel pretty late, so we explored the historic gold-mining town Arrowton and Queenstown the next morning. Queenstown was by far the single most touristy place we visited, as it’s basically a huge resort town with seasonal adventure activities like bungee-jumping, paragliding, kayaking, skiing, mountain biking and more. It was nice to walk around the shops, but it felt good to depart for a quick northbound detour to Glenorchy before going to Te Anau for the night.

The Glenorchy-Queenstown Road is more of a “journey, not the destination” experience, and we lucked out with some gorgeous weather on our scenic drive.

© 2016. Glenorchy-Queenstown Road in the Otago region of New Zealand. Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

For the first half of this trip, I was obsessed with ferns. For the second half, I was obsessed with lupins.

© 2016. Glenorchy-Queenstown Road in the Otago region of New Zealand. Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Glenorchy-Queenstown Road in the Otago region of New Zealand. Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Glenorchy-Queenstown Road in the Otago region of New Zealand. Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Glenorchy-Queenstown Road in the Otago region of New Zealand. Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Glenorchy-Queenstown Road in the Otago region of New Zealand. Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

Glenorchy is a super teeny town, and we fortunately found the one gas station before it closed at 5 p.m. After filling up our tank, we returned down the same road and then on to Te Anau, where we’d spend the next two nights.

 


A selection of these photos can be purchased as prints at prints.christhedunn.com.

The day after we relished golden sunshine and gallivanted on West Coast beaches, we were supposed to be ice-hiking on one of New Zealand’s two major temperate maritime glaciers.

But iffy weather made for less-than-ideal conditions for the helicopter flights necessary for taking us to and from Fox Glacier. Fortunately, we’d anticipated that weather could be an issue for the helicopters and so had already budgeted in an extra day in the area. So we spent the day hiking to see the glacier and then exploring the village.

© 2016. Pedestrian track to view Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

The pedestrian track to view the glacier’s terminal face is initially pretty level, following a stream that flows from the glacier.

© 2016. Pedestrian track to view Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. View from the pedestrian track to view Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

Then, the path becomes quite steep as it goes straight up the side of the valley, with no switchbacks. The worst part is, plenty of signage warns visitors to keep walking and not to stop, because the risk of rockfalls is so high. We arrived panting heavily at the path’s terminal, where we could finally get a good view of the glacier.

© 2016. Pedestrian track to view Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Pedestrian track to view Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Pedestrian track to view Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

The next day, we returned to the Fox Glacier Guiding building and were delighted/relieved that the weather had cleared sufficiently for us to go on our ice hike. After getting a rundown on glacier and helicopter safety, we walked to the pad with the rest of our tour group: a couple with a young daughter, a brother and sister on holiday and three young women.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

Once on the ice, we met our guide, strapped crampons to our boots and began our three-hour hike.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

Our guide took us down the glacier from the helicopter landing area, where he knew there would be more interesting formations. He’d go on ahead of us, carve out steps in the ice if there was a slippery area and find features like crevices and ice caves that we could explore, once he’d inspected them for safety.

I’d heard that glaciers are constantly changing and moving, but there’s also the phrase “glacial pace,” so I asked him how dramatically the glacier changes. After a pause, he compared the glacier to a baby — day by day, it doesn’t seem to change much, but if you looked at it week by week or month by month, the differences are much more obvious.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast, New Zealand. Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

The glacier hike was far and away the most expensive single experience we had in New Zealand, but we agreed it was absolutely worth it. Seeing the terminal face from the pedestrian track was awe-inspiring by itself, but it’s impossible to get a good sense of the glacier’s vastness until you’re flying over it or are exploring it on foot.

 


A selection of these photos can be purchased as prints at prints.christhedunn.com.

On the second day of New Zealand summer, Jeff and I took a ferry across the Cook Strait, tasted wine at a Blenheim winery and drove halfway down the entire South Island on the West Coast, surviving some hairpin turns on the Great Coast Road, making spontaneous stops at Tasman Sea beaches and famous rock formations and then hurtling south past a glorious sunset and under a brilliant canopy of crystal-clear constellations on the clearest night we’d had yet.

It was a long, glorious day from Wellington to Franz Josef Glacier.

© 2016. Fox River Beach on the West Coast, New Zealand. Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

New Zealand, we found, has nicknames for its major highways — Highway 5 south out of Rotorua is the “Thermal Explorer Highway” — and the Great Coast Road lives up to its name. After enduring mostly cloudy skies for much of our North Island escapade, we were overjoyed to see beautiful, golden sunshine as we drove down the South Island’s beautiful West Coast.

The Great Coast Road offers access to a number of small Tasman Sea beaches. We happened to pull off at the Fox River Beach, where we discovered the tide was low enough for us to cross the rock-lined river mouth…

© 2016. Fox River Beach on the West Coast, New Zealand. Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Fox River Beach on the West Coast, New Zealand. Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Fox River Beach on the West Coast, New Zealand. Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

…to access a really pleasant sandy beach with towering rock formations.

© 2016. Fox River Beach on the West Coast, New Zealand. Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

Oh, and a beach cave:

© 2016. Fox River Beach on the West Coast, New Zealand. Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

We also took one of my favorite photos of us together on the trip at this beach:

© 2016 by Jeff Lautenberger. Self-timer on a DSLR camera.

After brushing the sand off our feet, we got back in the car and continued racing southward, trying to see as much of the West Coast for as long as we could before the sun set.

© 2016. Paparoa National Park in the West Coast, New Zealand. Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

Fortunately, we arrived at Punakaiki at just the right time.

© 2016. Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes in Paparoa National Park in the West Coast, New Zealand. Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes in Paparoa National Park in the West Coast, New Zealand. Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

Punakaiki itself is a “blink and you’ll miss it” community on the West Coast Road. To access the Pancake Rocks (which are limestone formations 30 million years in the making), you park in a car park on the east side of the highway, cross the highway and start walking on a paved trail. It couldn’t be simpler.

© 2016. Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes in Paparoa National Park in the West Coast, New Zealand. Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes in Paparoa National Park in the West Coast, New Zealand. Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

As for the “Blowholes” part? The tide was too low for us to experience the sea waters roiling and bursting about the limestone formations. I was happy enough that we got to enjoy the view on such a fine evening.

© 2016. Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes in Paparoa National Park in the West Coast, New Zealand. Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

After we’d walked the entire trail and relished the sunlight, we got a small pizza at Pancake Rocks Cafe and then continued our drive southward under what would be the only night sky clear enough for us to see the stars. Ironically — because our trip hashtag was #wherethestarsarestrange, in reference to being in the southern hemisphere — I couldn’t find a safe spot in the utter darkness to pull off the highway so we could enjoy the stars.

I guess we’ll just have to go back.

 


A selection of these photos can be purchased as prints at prints.christhedunn.com.

The day after we toured the Hobbiton Movie Set, we hiked a short ways on New Zealand’s largest active volcano. It was very cold and windy, but I guess that’s the better alternative to violently erupting.

© 2016. Tongariro National Park in Ruapehu District, New Zealand. Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

Before driving halfway up Mount Ruapehu, which also happens to be the highest point on the North Island, we hiked the ridge track. In retrospect, one of the waterfalls tracks might have been better — plus, the Forbidden Pool scene from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was filmed at one of those waterfalls.

But, after enjoying the lush rolling hills of the Shire, it was nice to get back into real mountains.

© 2016. Tongariro National Park in Ruapehu District, New Zealand. Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Tongariro National Park in Ruapehu District, New Zealand. Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Tongariro National Park in Ruapehu District, New Zealand. Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Tongariro National Park in Ruapehu District, New Zealand. Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

Of course, as soon as we were driving south outside the park, the clouds parted over us and so we pulled over for this quintessential New Zealand scene:

© 2016. Outside Tongariro National Park in Ruapehu District, New Zealand. Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

We then drove on to Wellington, where we would stay the night before boarding the ferry for our South Island adventures. Before turning in for the night, we visited the Weta Cave and then, on a whim, went to Mount Victoria.

© 2016. Mount Victoria in Wellington, New Zealand. Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

Mount Victoria is a hill in the middle of Wellington that offers excellent views of the city and of Cook Strait. There are some residential areas on the slopes of the hill, plus a tunnel runs underneath to connect the sides of the city.

© 2016. Mount Victoria in Wellington, New Zealand. Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Mount Victoria in Wellington, New Zealand. Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

A couple of scenes from The Lord of the Rings were filmed on Mount Victoria as well (the hobbits hiding from the Ringwraiths, plus Dunharrow), which only deepened our appreciation for talented film location scouts. But the web of trails, with many variations in grade, is excellent for anyone looking for exercise. We shared the trail with bikers and runners alike, as well as two women walking their dogs and cat.

© 2016. Mount Victoria in Wellington, New Zealand. Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Mount Victoria in Wellington, New Zealand. Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Mount Victoria in Wellington, New Zealand. Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Mount Victoria in Wellington, New Zealand. Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

 


A selection of these photos can be purchased as prints at prints.christhedunn.com.

There are no hobbits in Hobbiton.

© 2016. Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

Before we left for our New Zealand honeymoon, I joked that the whole trip would be a failure if we didn’t find hobbits at the Hobbiton Movie Set. We spent several hours there and saw nary a hobbit, but our evening banquet tour was nevertheless one of the most delightful things I’ve ever experienced.

© 2016. Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

We booked the evening banquet tour, which was a solid choice because:

  • Our tour group was the last on the property, so there were no groups crowding behind us and the hardcore fans among us could lag behind the more casual tourists;
  • We ate to our hearts’ delight during the hearty, rich and plentiful banquet at the Green Dragon Inn, which was especially welcome after a couple days of light eating;
  • We had a second, twilight tour of the movie set after the banquet, so we got to see the hobbit holes lit up and had the entire set to ourselves.

© 2016. Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

The actual movie set is not super large — when we watched The Fellowship of the Ring recently, I could see how economical the cinematographers were in utilizing every angle of the set to make it seem like Hobbiton was a bucolic sprawl when in fact the entire walking paths could easily be trod inside of an hour. But this just added to the magic of getting to see the set in person. Even Jeff, a cynic, was enchanted by the evening’s end.

© 2016. Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Portra 400+3, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Portra 400+3, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Portra 400+3, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Portra 400+3, Pentax 6×7.

 


Due to trademark law, prints of the Hobbiton Movie Set are not available for purchase.

When we found ourselves with some free time between cave tours and our Hobbiton Movie Set evening banquet tour, we found ourselves at the Hamilton Gardens.

© 2016. English Flower Garden in Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Modernist Garden in Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

Built on the remains of a rubbish dump, the Hamilton Gardens is a collection of 21 gardens themed by different varieties of architectures, lifestyles and traditions. It’s technically not a botanical garden, but it might just be one of my favorite gardens I’ve ever visited. Each garden led to another, or sometimes several. After spending a couple hours underground touring the Waitomo Glowworm Caves and the Ruakuri Cave, it was lovely to explore this maze of green growth.

© 2016. Modernist Garden in Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. English Flower Garden in Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Chinese Scholar’s Garden in Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Chinese Scholar’s Garden in Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Indian Char Bagh Garden in Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Indian Char Bagh Garden in Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Indian Char Bagh Garden in Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Italian Renaissance Garden in Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Italian Renaissance Garden in Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Kitchen Garden in Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Kitchen Garden in Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Tropical Garden in Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Tropical Garden in Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Hamilton Gardens in Hamilton, New Zealand. Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

 


A selection of these photos can be purchased as prints at prints.christhedunn.com.

Growing up, I took only a mild interest in my family’s history. As second-generation Chinese-Americans, my brothers and I knew the basics of how our parents’ parents had carved out their space in the U.S., but we weren’t pressured too hard to go into engineering, finance or law. (There was some pressure, but I did become a journalist and my parents still love me.) We didn’t speak Chinese at home, but my mom passed on the important lessons — remove your shoes when you enter a home, top off others’ teacups before refilling your own, education comes first — and we still got red envelopes on Lunar New Year.

But over the past couple of years, I’ve begun asserting my identity as a Chinese-American. Maybe it’s because I see my young niece and nephew and I wonder how I’ll pass on my heritage to my rhetorical children. Maybe it’s because I regret the error of my flippant childhood/adolescent/young adult attempts at pretending — or hoping — I wasn’t any different than the people I went to school with. Maybe it’s because I know my parents, uncles and one remaining grandparent aren’t getting any younger and there remain untold stories that I want to hear, but I don’t know enough to ask.

Perhaps it’s because I have a belatedly newfound appreciation for the challenges and struggles immigrants face, no matter when they came to the U.S., and I am proud of what my family has accomplished in spite of the obstacles that were strewn across their paths.

So, lately, I’ve taken a greater interest in my family’s history. A couple months ago, I got to join my grandmother on the most personal, once-in-a-lifetime trip I can imagine taking. When I haven’t been working on my print shop or moving across town or traveling once again, I’ve been culling and editing the film I shot in China with my grandmother. I finally finished going through it last night. And I apologize if this just makes me a massive jerk, but there are a few more things I need to do before I can share the film here or anywhere.

But I’m really excited.

So, in the meantime, I’m just going to share a couple photos I took in May of my dad’s home in San Francisco Chinatown, where he and my grandparents and uncle lived when they first came to the States in the 1960s.

© 2016. Near San Francisco Chinatown. Saturday, May 6, 2017. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

I’m sorry I’m a jerk.

The film will come.

© 2016. Near San Francisco Chinatown. Saturday, May 6, 2017. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

When we travel abroad, we’re fascinated by the familiar. For Jeff, this often means fast food chains with a “local” twist; for me, plant life that I didn’t expect to encounter on another continent.

Such as California redwood trees.

© 2016. Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Portra 400+2, Pentax 6×7.

If you drive about 5-10 minutes out of the city of Rotorua in New Zealand’s South Island, past some homes and warehouses and auto shops, you’ll come to Whakarewarewa Forest. There’s a visitors center, an extensive web of trails in constant use by runners, walkers, cyclists and horseback riders… and a stand of California redwoods.

Among other native and exotic plant life, as well.

We visited Whakarewarewa in the late afternoon, as the trails swelled with after-work users. But no matter how long we had to wait, on occasion, for the trails to clear enough for us to get people-less photos, the forest never felt crowded.

What a beautiful, and priceless, resource.

© 2016. Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Portra 400+2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Portra 400+2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Portra 400+2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Portra 400+2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Portra 400+2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Portra 400+2, Pentax 6×7.

 


A selection of these photos can be purchased as prints at prints.christhedunn.com.

We live in a very strange, very beautiful world. Take, for instance, Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley.

© 2016. Frying Pan Lake in Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

The valley, formed in 1886 after a volcanic eruption outside of Rotorua, is now a tourist attraction that markets itself as the world’s youngest geothermal system. Frying Pan Lake, one of the more famous features, averages a temperature of 131° Fahrenheit, resulting in a steaming surface, and has a pH of 3.5. But amid the geysers and hot springs and extremely acidic waters is an abundance of vegetation and microorganisms that repopulated the valley after the eruption.

© 2016. Frying Pan Lake in Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Portra 400, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Frying Pan Lake in Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Hot Water Creek and Springs in Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Cathedral Rocks and Frying Pan Lake in Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Hot Water Creek and Springs in Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Hot Water Creek and Springs in Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Bird’s Nest Spring in Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Inferno Crater Lake in Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Mt Haszard hiking trail in Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Warbrick Terrace in Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Warbrick Terrace in Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Warbrick Terrace in Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley in Rotorua, New Zealand. Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

 


A selection of these photos can be purchased as prints at prints.christhedunn.com.

Our first morning in New Zealand, we got to be the early bird who were handed lemons and made lemonade.

© 2016. Te Whanganui-A-Hei / Cathedral Cove Marine Preserve in the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

Our first day in New Zealand gave us a good preview in the temperamental weather patterns we’d experience for the rest of the trip: Widespread cloud cover would give way to brilliant sunshine, only for a quick and cold rain shower to emerge out of nowhere, and vice-versa.

Our second day was much of the same. We left Auckland early enough to laugh at the morning radio hosts fretting over why Angelina didn’t invite Brad for Thanksgiving and arrived at Hahei Beach for an 8:45 a.m. sea kayak tour to Cathedral Cove. The sky was blue, the water was clear and we were ready to go.

But the winds were unusually strong, so the tour guide canceled the tour for safety. Undeterred, we drove to a half-full public access lot and hiked to Cathedral Cove instead.

© 2016. Te Whanganui-A-Hei / Cathedral Cove Marine Preserve in the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Te Whanganui-A-Hei / Cathedral Cove Marine Preserve in the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

When we arrived, there were maybe a dozen other people on the entire beach, and it almost felt like we had the place to ourselves. We left our sandals on a tree trunk near the trail and began exploring. It was a gorgeous morning, and life was good.

© 2016. Te Whanganui-A-Hei / Cathedral Cove Marine Preserve in the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Te Whanganui-A-Hei / Cathedral Cove Marine Preserve in the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Te Whanganui-A-Hei / Cathedral Cove Marine Preserve in the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

By the time we left, an hour later, the beach was fuller and we encountered more people on the trail that took us back to the now-full parking lot. I’m not sure when we would have arrived at the beach had we kayaked from Hahei, but as disappointing as it was to have that tour canceled, I’m pretty okay with the way things worked out.

© 2016. Te Whanganui-A-Hei / Cathedral Cove Marine Preserve in the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Te Whanganui-A-Hei / Cathedral Cove Marine Preserve in the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

 


A selection of these photos can be purchased as prints at prints.christhedunn.com.

“I have crossed many mountains and many rivers, and trodden many plains, even into the far countries of Rhûn and Harad where the stars are strange.”
— Aragorn, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

For our much-belated honeymoon, Jeff and I crossed the equator for the first time and spent two weeks in New Zealand, where we hiked a glacier, walked through a redwood forest, explored the world’s youngest geothermal system, cruised a fiord Rudyard Kipling called the eighth Wonder of the World and, of course visited the Hobbiton Movie Set.

It was all Jeff’s fault.

When we were floating ideas for a honeymoon, I wasn’t sure how big we could or should go. There are plenty of places in the U.S. I’d love to see for the first time or revisit. But when he suggested Middle-earth, there was no looking back.

So, a year and a half after our wedding, we found ourselves in Auckland, jet-lagged but high on adrenaline, as we navigated highways, roundabouts and Christmas parade road closures while driving on the “wrong” side of the road. Once we unloaded bags and took a quick shower at the hotel, we immediately went out again, eager to explore and not waste a minute of our long-expected journey.

© 2016. St Kevin’s Arcade, at the start of a self-guided walking tour through Auckland, New Zealand. Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. St Kevin’s Arcade, at the start of a self-guided walking tour through Auckland, New Zealand. Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. St Kevin’s Arcade, at the start of a self-guided walking tour through Auckland, New Zealand. Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. The walk to Myers Park from St Kevin’s Arcade, part of a self-guided walking tour through Auckland, New Zealand. Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. The walk to Myers Park from St Kevin’s Arcade, part of a self-guided walking tour through Auckland, New Zealand. Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. The Edwardian-era Queen Street Shops, dating to 1909, part of a self-guided walking tour through Auckland, New Zealand. Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Women’s Suffrage Memorial mural, depicting Amey Daldy, Anne Ward, Lizzie Frost, Matilda Allsopp, Elisabeth Yates, Annie Jane Schnackenberg, Fanny Brown and Ida B. Wells, in Te Hā o Hine / Khartoum Place, as seen on a self-guided walking tour through Auckland, New Zealand. Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. Ektar +2, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Vulcan Lane, as seen on a self-guided walking tour through Auckland, New Zealand. Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Auckland harbor, as seen on a self-guided walking tour through Auckland, New Zealand. Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Sheep and the Auckland cityscape, as seen from One Tree Hill Domain in Auckland, New Zealand. Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Cornwall Park in Auckland, New Zealand. Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Sheep graze in Cornwall Park in Auckland, New Zealand. Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

© 2016. Cornwall Park, as seen from One Tree Hill Domain in Auckland, New Zealand. Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. Portra 160+1, Pentax 6×7.

 


A selection of these photos can be purchased as prints at prints.christhedunn.com.