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Sarah Down Undah

[ website | Photography by Sarah Underwood ]
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[15 Dec 2012|01:40am]
[ mood | accomplished ]

*blows the dust off the Sarah Down Undah blog*
*coughs and sputters*

Hey guys! Although I have not posted on the blog in forever, I thought this would be an appropriate place to advertise that I have designed brand new 2013 New Zealand calendars! They were very popular in 2009 and 2010, but I didn't do any last year and might not next, so don't miss your chance to own some more drool-worthy photos of New Zealand!

The calendars measure 11x17" when open, with each photo being about 8x9". They are printed on glossy card stock and are coil bound, not stapled.
Calendars are $25 each if shipped within North America, and $35 CAD for calendars shipped internationally. I prefer online payment via Paypal to connect@sarahunderwood.com (you don't have to have a Paypal account to do it this way -- you can use the Pay Now button below and it will prompt you to securely process your credit or debit card. If you would like to send a cheque or money order, please email me at the same address and I will provide my mailing address.

I need it shipped...

10 Kiwis [x] Choice, bro!

Riding with Nita! [04 Aug 2011|12:08am]
[ mood | accomplished ]

Well, look what the cat dragged in... me! I have been so busy lately and I spend so much time on the computer as it is that any thoughts of updating this blog again have fallen by the wayside. Life back home is going a mile a minute. I successfully moved out to Kamloops, British Columbia in April, and ended up managing a guesthouse for the first six weeks while the owner was away (providing me with short-term accommodation while I figured out where I wanted to be longer term). I've stayed on at the guesthouse for a bit longer since the owner's return, but will be moving to a new place this Friday. My horses joined me out here in May. I absolutely love it out here so far! I've already been back to Alberta twice for photography work, however, and hope I continue to have the opportunity to return to my stomping grounds. If you'd like to see what kind of photography I've been up to, the best place to look is on my Facebook fan page, which I've been updating regularly. For now, I wanted to get the following post up on this blog because my friend Nita has been patiently waiting for these photos of her horses since... oh, January?

The story goes, one December day in Masterton, I was at the supermarket and came across a lady handing out samples of Christmas pudding. I accepted and the triple chocolate mousse was divine, prompting me to seriously think about purchasing a whole one. However, with my less active lifestyle in NZ, at least compared to the amount of exercise I usually did in Canada, I realized it probably wasn't the best idea to buy an 20,000 calorie chocolate pudding to consume entirely myself. I may have hiked a lot, but it's no real workout compared to riding every day! I was telling her that riding is how I usually get my exercise, and she said that she had horses too. We chatted for awhile and to my surprise, she offered for me to come out to ride sometime! I'm not sure how she knew that I wasn't a greenhorn who merely claimed to know how to ride, haha... maybe my legs are bowed? Anyway, it was nearly Christmas, so we decided to meet up after the busy holidays.

When I went out to Nita's place, I was greeted by a happy and healthy family of animals. Bart the black standard poodle came bounding up to me first, acting as the greeting committee. Nita's horses are Arabian-crosses: two mares, Milly and Maggie, a gelding, and a pony she keeps for her grandkids to ride. Milly is the horse Nita likes to ride, and I got to ride the lovely Maggie. I wasn't sure how she would go, as Nita's friend had ridden her the week before and had some trouble, but she was just perfect for me! She had the nicest long walk, smooth trot, and ground-covering canter. She was a bit spooky at a few things, but really nothing more than giving things the hairy eyeball or scooting a few steps.

Nita is an endurance rider, so thinks nothing of several-hour-long rides. Usually I'd have no problem with these, but having only done two short rides since November, my seatbones were protesting halfway through our ride! I wasn't complaining though, as I was just so happy to be on a horse again. :)

I didn't have my compact camera with me, so didn't take any photos of the ride, but I grabbed a few shots of the girls with my big camera when we got back.

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7 Kiwis [x] Choice, bro!

Home on the range [17 Mar 2011|02:50am]
[ mood | accomplished ]

Hello friends! I have been home for a few weeks now. I returned to -35C and my body promptly voiced its displeasure by making no attempt to fight off the 72341293215 viruses I had been exposed to while associating with 16,000 other photographers at the conference in Las Vegas, and I got sick AGAIN for the third time since November! It was another doosy and left me housebound for nearly two weeks (not that I wanted to go outside anyway). By the time I emerged, there was four feet of snow in our yard -- but it wasn't -35 anymore, so I took what I could get!

The snow does make things beautiful, mind you.

"It was snowing so heavily, the birds had to walk to the feeder!" (My mum, in jest)

Homefront update: family is good, friends are good, horses are good! Life is good. I'm preparing to move one province over, to British Columbia, in search of more mild winters and new photography opportunities. I've been talking about it for two years now, but the time has come to actually do it, seeing as all my possessions are already packed up anyway! I think this is the first time I have really talked about the move publicly, but I didn't want to say anything until I was sure it was happening.

I've been busy with catching up on life, but I do want to continue sharing stories of the trip here as I have time. I will also be posting over at my new business blog, and you can now follow me on my Facebook fan page as well! I've been meaning to do both of these for a long time now, but was inspired to finally get in gear after my photography conference in Las Vegas.

My latest business blog post was some photography news, which is that two of my photos were selected as finalists in an international equine photography competition! Copied from the blog... There is a People's Choice Award for the public's favourite image, so have a look and if mine is your favourite, I would love it if you could vote for it. Mine are in row ten, "Spellbound" and "Windswept", but as you can only vote once in the Professional category, I am aiming for "Spellbound" to win. Click here to see all the photos and vote.
Please be sure to confirm your vote via the email receipt (check your Junk mail if you don't see it in your Inbox!)

"Spellbound": Kim and Tango are the subjects of a long-time favourite image of mine from 2008.

"Windswept": This hardy mare and foal were braving the gusty spring winds near Glenwood, Alberta last year.

Edited to add: I won! Not the People's Choice Award, but 1st place in the category for Spellbound, and an Honourable Mention for Windswept, determined by the judges. :D

36 Kiwis [x] Choice, bro!

Kiriwhakapapa [12 Feb 2011|10:12pm]
[ mood | relaxed ]

I have returned to the mainland! Yes, it has already been three months since I left... time flies when you're having fun! To finish my mini-summaries that I've been doing at the top of my archived posts, from Queenstown, Juli and I headed out to one of my other favourite places in New Zealand, Aoraki (Mount Cook). After doing a couple hikes, we headed to Christchurch to sell our car. Then we flew to Auckland on February 6th and Tahiti on the 7th. We had a two day stopover there before heading back to North America. we landed in Los Angeles, spent two nights there, and then drove to Phoenix yesterday, where Juli's parents have a winter home. Juli is heading home in the morning, but I am staying with my friend Maura for a week while I wait for a photography conference to start in Las Vegas. I have three days there, then am home to Canada on the 23rd!

Phew, that was a lot of name dropping! :p Back to catching up on posts...

Yet another entrance to the Tararua Forest Park is at the end of Kiriwhakapapa Road (say that three times fast!). It's only about 20km north of Masterton and there is a trail that goes from the end of the K-Road to the end of another road -- it takes three hours, so some smart people with two cars drop one at one end and hike from the other. I didn't have this option and I wasn't keen on hiking for six hours, so I took a one hour loop trail which met up with the trail between the roads, then went an hour up that way and turned back. I was out for about four hours and my total distance was about 7km, I think (that doesn't seem very far, but I swear it was uphill both ways!). This walk had everything -- unbelievably lush foliage, a trail that followed a bubbling creek with several crossings, and even a strand of massive redwood trees. If I lived in the area, it's a place I could easily return to every week!

The drive out passed through some beautiful countryside.

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16 Kiwis [x] Choice, bro!

Waiohine Gorge [30 Jan 2011|12:07pm]
[ mood | relaxed ]

Yesterday I ran and jumped off of a mountain into an air current with my arm around a Swedish man -- also known as hang gliding, and it was a BLAST! They say you feel like you're flying when you go skydiving, and when I went in Australia, I will say that I felt "lift" when I outstretched my arms at 200km/h, but hang gliding... wow... it's really like being a bird as you catch the wind and truly soar! I loved it! Spectacular scenery, of course, but you'll have to wait in the wings for the post showing that. :) For now, here is some more Wairarapa scenery.

The Waiohine Gorge is another trailhead that leads into the Tararua Forest Park. When I went there, it was later in the day and I had actually just intended to go to a small nature reserve on the edge of the nearby town of Carterton, but I couldn't find where I was supposed to turn to get there, so I kept driving and thought I'd poke in at the gorge when I saw that sign for it.

A tree-shrouded road, to give you a break from tree-shrouded path pictures, haha!

It was already getting dusky as I started out on a walk, so I just went about half an hour in and turned around so I wouldn't end up hiking in the dark. The famous attraction of the gorge is one of New Zealand's longest swing bridges and that's right at the start, so at least I got to see that! I kind of feel silly for being excited about that narrow swing bridge in the Coromandel, because it was teeny compared to this one! They were both only a foot wide, but this one was so long you almost couldn't see the end, and it was WAY higher. :p

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8 Kiwis [x] Choice, bro!

Mount Holdsworth [28 Jan 2011|05:18pm]
[ mood | relaxed ]

Ice climbing was fantastic, even though we did it in the rain -- a severe weather warning, in fact! What an experience to climb a vertical wall of ice with just ice picks and spikes on my feet! We are now in Queenstown -- adventure capital of the world. We're booked in for an adrenaline activity tomorrow, but I'm keeping it a secret til later. ;)

Back to your regularly scheduled programming...

Mount Holdsworth and its surrounding area is a popular hiking destination in the Wairarapa (Masterton area). It is part of the Tararua Forest Park. As with many trailheads in New Zealand, there are hikes ranging anywhere from half an hour to a few days long, the latter of which often have huts about every five hours of walking time, so you can stay overnight without packing a tent.

I visited Mount Holdsworth twice, once by myself and once with my neighbour, David. On the first occasion I only wanted to scope out the options and just did a short one hour loop track to Donnelly Flat, but it was plenty scenic, with beautiful native forest, a footbridge across a fairly wide river, an attractive creek that fed into it, and lots of interesting plants which I did some closeups of. And of course there are lots of pictures of tree-shrouded paths -- my favourite!

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13 Kiwis [x] Choice, bro!

Rawanui Forest Park [25 Jan 2011|02:58pm]
[ mood | busy ]

We are in Hokitika, which we like to call "Hockey-tika" just to Canuck it up a bit. :p We have been doing lots of hiking and also went river kayaking a few days ago, plus caving yesterday -- unguided except by the light of our phones! Tomorrow is going to be epic: we are going ice climbing on the Franz Joseph glacier!

And now back to the backlog...

My first longer hike outside of Masterton was in Rawanui Forest Park, which is about 25km east of the town (back towards Castlepoint). It was a hot day and I didn't want to overdo it, so I chose something that would be about two hours round trip. I had to cross some farmland to start and the sun beat down on me with all of its "UV index of 13" power.

The actual trailhead started as a footpath through tall grass, and I wondered if I had missed something or if I was in fact going the right way. You can understand my hesitation after my wayward hiking experience in the Kauaeranga Valley. I was pleased when the trail became more apparent and lead into the shaded forest, although it obviously wasn't a popular track, as it was narrow and overgrown. At least this time it was fairly level other than a few small steep sections!

Even sheep have to pause and admire the view sometimesCollapse )
10 Kiwis [x] Choice, bro!

Life and Times of Masterton [17 Jan 2011|01:09pm]
Muahaha, I have already found internet, and it's FREE! Juli and I are staying at the best hostel I've ever been at... Bug Backpackers in Nelson. Everything is new and clean and well laid-out and the beds are so comfy and the taps are separated into hot and cold and there is a freezer for my ice pack and and and... FREE INTERNET (this is very rare in hostels here). Juli has gone to buy some hiking shoes, so I'm using this time to whip up another post. :) This is kind of an all-inclusive Masterton entry, about some of the wonderful people I met and the shorter walks I went on in local parks, as well as one out of town trip.

I'd also like to share the results of a new photography goal I set while I was there, which was to successfully photograph the stars, or more specifically, star trails. star trails are the "paths" left by stars, as perceived from the earth... proof that we are spinning! As we spin, the stars appear to move and circle in the sky. I did this by tethering my camera to my laptop on the deck and doing seven to twelve 60 second exposures, then layering them on top of each other to get the movement effect.

The stars closest to the pole appear to "move" the least, thus the apparent epicentre in the photo.

I am really pleased with the results of this and hope I can try more in the future! It does take some patience and experimentation, but it is so worth it. The night sky is so clear here, thanks to the near-imperceptible amounts of pollution (both chemical and light) when you are in a small town.

Here's another shot I liked -- the Milky Way.

On to the life and times of Masterton!Collapse )
21 Kiwis [x] Choice, bro!

[16 Jan 2011|12:45am]
[ mood | tired ]

OK, I lied. I haven't had time to inundate the blog, even with photo-only posts, so I will just have to catch up when I am able. Juli and I are leaving on the ferry to the South Island in a matter of hours, and we'll be on the road until February 6th, so I'll update as we have internet access. Ta!

2 Kiwis [x] Choice, bro!

Castlepoint Station [14 Jan 2011|07:05pm]
[ mood | busy ]

Greetings! I am now in Wellington! Well, near Wellington... Lower Hutt, to be exact, also known as "The Hutt" along with Upper Hutt, apparently. I do not see an abundance of huts, so I am not sure where this name came from. :p

My friend Juli has arrived to accompany me on my travels for the last month! I don't think I mentioned that this was in the plan, but it was all arranged way back when the trip was first in the works, and I am very pleased to have her company. :) I picked her up from the airport last night and impressively, she seems to have already recovered from her jet lag.

We are staying with Richard and Arleigh, who own the sleepout I was staying in in Masterton. Juli and I are going to take the ferry over to the South Island in a day or two and camp + hostel it for the next three weeks, and then we fly out on February 6th. We will not have regular internet access while on the road, and so I realize that if I have any hope of getting the blog up to date, I am going to have to write less about my recent adventures and for the most part, simply post the photos from them. So prepare to be inundated with photographic goodies!

I do need to explain a bit about this post, though, and caption some of the photos or they won't make sense. To start, here is a synopsis of the weekend of December 18th and 19th: Richard and Arleigh know the owners of one of the biggest sheep stations (farms) in New Zealand, which is 35,000 head (!) and is located about an hour from Masterton in the village of Castlepoint. They got me in touch with the owners and I headed out there for a bit of a tour, but I ended up doing so much more! The primary tourist attraction in Castlepoint is the lighthouse, so I walked up there first and then met up with Emily. I was introduced to their horses (I didn't even know they had any, so this was a pleasant surprise) and was invited for dinner with the family. Afterward, their daughter (another Sarah), her boyfriend (Pete), a friend (Felicity) and I all went caving in the rocks underneath the lighthouse! Then in the morning, three of us went for a horseback ride on the beach... I certainly didn't expect that to be in the cards, but of course I was thrilled to bits! We went for the BEST gallop... sand flying, wind stinging my eyes... waves crashing next to me... yup, it doesn't get any better than that!

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19 Kiwis [x] Choice, bro!

Napier to Masterton [10 Jan 2011|11:40pm]
[ mood | tired ]

Driving from rainy Taupo into the glorious Napier sunset made me feel a shift -- I felt as if I was leaving my bad luck behind me, and it seems I have, as everything has been just dandy since that night! In the morning, my hostel roommate and I decided to explore a bit of Napier before I continued my course to Masterton. There was a market on and I got some delicious fresh nectarines and we browsed all the stuff vendors seemed to have picked up at thrift stores and were trying to resell for a profit, haha.

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13 Kiwis [x] Choice, bro!

Cathedral Cove and on to Napier [08 Jan 2011|04:39pm]
[ mood | working ]

The hike I alluded to in my last post was to a place called Cathedral Cove. It's a very popular and well-known hike, and while I usually I prefer trails that every other visitor hasn't already been on, this wasn't one to miss. Crystal clear blue water, lush vegetation, and striking rock formations... what more could a girl want? I had mentioned the walk to David, and even though he has lived in the area for years, he had never been, so we met up in the morning and went together.

That thar pointy rock in the distance is where we be hiking to!

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27 Kiwis [x] Choice, bro!

A flat tire, eels, and orange-eating sheep: Just another day down undah! [08 Jan 2011|01:15am]
[ mood | accomplished ]

I've been procrastinating from blogging, and I realize the main reason is that I just didn't want to have to write this post, because it has the last of my car trouble detailed in it and I'm just so over talking about my car! But again, it needs to be written, so here I am. To remind you where we left off, my last known whereabouts were the Coromandel Peninsula.

Now, in my previous entry I forgot to tell a little anecdote that helps set up the events later in this entry. When I awoke at my hostel in Thames, I stepped out into the hallway and was greeted by the hostel owner.

"Good morning!" he chirped cheerfully.
"And good morning to you," I replied, pleased that my first full day away from Auckland was starting with friendliness.
Then he smiled and added matter-of-factly, "YOU have a flat tire!"

The smile faded from my face and I rolled my eyes, saying, "Ugh, will my bad luck ever end?"

He inquired as to why I should say such a thing, so I gave him a quick Reader's Digest version of my troubles. Thankfully, it turned out that I just had a low tire likely caused by a slow leak, not a flat tire. The owner had a pump, so he filled it for me. It was Saturday and no tire shops were open to have a proper look, and since it had lasted from Auckland to Thames without going down dramatically, I decided I would just keep an eye on it and get it fixed on Monday. I went on my Kauaeranga Valley hike and it seemed fine the next morning, but I topped it up before I left Thames.

I had to get gas too. The price of petrol had gone up at least 5 cents over night. Last time I was in New Zealand, I usually paid $1.60 a litre and was appalled the one time I had to pay $2.02 a litre, but this time the prices have been hovering around $2 since mid-December! When I first got here it was $1.84 and I was not happy with that... now I wish I could go back!

The ocean along the western side of the Coromandel is a deep sparking blue.

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24 Kiwis [x] Choice, bro!

A poem for you [26 Dec 2010|05:47pm]
[ mood | relaxed ]

I've never been too keen on all the Christmas rush;
Busy stores and traffic just make me feel crushed!

So I took it upon myself to find a more suited place:
Somewhere to spend the season with a slower pace.

If I'm traveling, it may as well be somewhere warm,
Since I'm cold-blooded, and don't do well in storms.

I had to fly ten thousand miles to find the perfect spot,
But it was worth it to spend Christmas somewhere hot!

Although I miss my family, friends, and horses too,
New Zealand's where it's at -- sorry, but it's true!

Now please don't think me rude, but I must say goodbye:
The pool party is starting, and I have sunscreen to apply!

Merry Christmas everybody! I was kindly invited to a family's Kiwi Christmas dinner: roast lamb, sweet potato, white potato, pumpkin (squash), broccoli in cheese sauce... mmm... then there were half a dozen desserts... a trifle, merang, chocolate mouse cake, strawberries, cheesecake, sugar plums, and ice cream! I wanted it ALL. There's nothing like Christmas dinner to make you feel greedy!
7 Kiwis [x] Choice, bro!

The Great Escape (from Auckland) [21 Dec 2010|06:50pm]
[ mood | hungry ]

Sorry for the slow-coming updates. I have been very lazy so far while in Masterton! :)

I didn't sleep too well in my car the night before I left Auckland... first I tried curling up in the back seat, but being six feet tall, I got cramped up quickly. I switched to the reclined passenger seat, and even though I couldn't lay flat, I did fall asleep for a couple hours at a time. When I woke up again at 7am, I hopped in the driver's seat and got the heck out of there!

I planned to stop in at an AA office and get my free reciprical membership card (I'm not sure if the NZ AA has partnerships with other countries, but if you are a member of the Alberta Motor Association or maybe other Canadian branches, the NZ AA will give you a complimentary six month membership!). The problem was, I left my AMA card in Canada. When I was in Orewa though, I stopped in at the AA there to ask if a scanned copy would suffice. The nice lady there said yes, and that I could take it to any other AA and they would honour it. So, I stopped in at one in south Auckland, but when I explained the situation to the employee there, she flat out said it couldn't be done... they would not accept a photocopy, scan, etc... it MUST be the original. Frustrated with this answer but not willing to give up, I thought I would email the lady in Orewa later and ask for her advice. However, I saw another AA office before long and decided to try my luck there instead. Well lo and behold, the lady there was more than happy to give me my membership, and didn't even require a printed copy of the scan (I just showed it to her on my laptop screen!). She didn't even write down my AMA #. So it just go to show that if you don't get the answer you're looking for the first time, try again -- similar to asking dad if your mum says no, hahaha. :)

My destination was the Coromandel Peninsula, a favourite holiday destination for Auckland dwellers and for good reason, with it's beautiful forests and sparkling blue waters. I followed the coastal route out there, which went through several cute townships and rolling farmland. I breathed a sigh of relief -- I was finally in the New Zealand I knew and loved!

These Jersey cows had a million dollar view from their pasture, which was fringed by thick blossoms of a variety of flowers.

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15 Kiwis [x] Choice, bro!

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