07 May 2008

Not gone yet

Contrary to what you might have believed, neither the blog nor I have terminated. I trust we'll both be around for some time yet (and not with the Oates connotations).

My knee's slowly coming right; it's nothing serious, but I have no intention of aggravating the injury by doing too much too soon. The hills have been out of bounds, but they'd have been infested with people (many with rifles) for the last month or two so the incentive to get shot spend time there has been low. Besides, a few weeks ago summer ran out as if the last bus was leaving, so I'm less tempted by the prospect of long walks down swift Ruahine rivers—beautifully refreshing in the heat of mid summer, but numbingly cold in winter; in any case, they're currently running too high to traverse safely. Fortunately, I can still get on the mountain bike; in fact, the physio has instructed me to do just that.

Otherwise, it's all good. I hope it is for you too.

Pourangaki River; woodcut

1. I bet that picture will get Ruahines Robb out of the woodwork.

1. The Pourangaki River, Ruahine Range, in early March this year. I've used the Photoshop technique described by Clare; an effect he likens (aptly) to a woodcut. I think the effect appeals to me largely because it reminds me of the sort of illustrations that fired my imagination as a small boy.
[Speaking of Clare, he put up a gem of a post just a short time ago. Check it out—it's an insight into life in the Arctic as well as being highly entertaining.]

Photos and words © 2008 Pete McGregor


Emma said...

It's good to hear from you, Pete. I'm glad all is well and that you are healing up. Take care. I miss reading you.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Pete,
I concur with Emma, I have missed your writings and photos as well. You did get me out of the wood work with that! Another stunner that captures a Ruahine river perfectly in a way I cannot describe. I will have to return a few times to get my head around it.I can't help but gaze up the river trying to find the best route and wondering what beauty lies ahead. Such a pleasant thought while confined to the keyboard. Kia ora Pete! Welcome back.

Anonymous said...

Phew! Thank goodness! I thought that Rifleman bird had finally got you - let alone all the other riflemen.

Zhoen said...


There are just times that call for hibernation, or at least hermiting.

Beth said...

Hi Pete, glad to see you here. Hope the recovery continues to go well. I like the "woodcut" very much too and it makes me wonder what books you were reading as a kid. Some of those illustrations have stayed in my mind forever too - it's an odd thing - I have an almost physical reaction when something reminds me of them. Always positive, but very intense; they must become burned into our visual memory when it's most impressionable and open - or what do you think?

Theriomorph said...

Glad you're healing and doing well, Pete. Happy biking and hibernating -

Unknown said...

I thought I recognized the technique. I love it's application with rolling waters. Well done and glad to read that you are well.

robin andrea said...

Glad that you posted and to read that your knee is on the mend.

I've always liked that Photoshop effect. It does remind me of a woodcut. I haven't played with Photoshop in a while, but this photo has definitely inspired me.

Good wishes to you for your continued healing.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Pete,
After sleeping on it and looking at this again, it almost reminds me of an illustration out of an early Crump novel. As if I expect a Good Keen Man to turn the corner in the next frame. Please don't take offence to that as I know people tend to either love or hate Crump, but the man aside, I always enjoyed his books. Have a great day.
Ka kite ano,

Brenda Schmidt said...

Good to know you're still with us! :)

Take care of that knee!

pohanginapete said...

Thanks Emma. I'd like to say posting will be more frequent, but I won't promise unless I'm sure. That being said, I do have another short post coming up very soon.

Cheers Robb—I thought that'd do the trick! In fact, we did walk up that river in the afternoon for a look around. Given its state (dropping fast, but still high), it wasn't the easiest of rivers to negotiate, at least in the small gorges. I imagine it'd be great in summer at low flows.
As for Crump's books, I think you've got it spot on. Dennis Turner's illustrations in the original editions of Crump's books captivated me as a boy and I still think they're classic examples of illustration. Another who springs to mind is Raymond Sheppard, whose marvellous illustrations (they might in fact be woodcuts) I first saw in Jim Corbett's books (Man-eaters of Kumaon, The Man-eating Leopard of Rudraprayag, etc.)
Crump had his faults, but he was a fine writer; not flawless, but he told a wonderful story and had a particular mastery of vivid imagery and the apt phrase. When I was 15 I spoke up in class to offer that opinion (about his writing, not his shortcomings); the rest of the class went silent, presumably thinking I was mad, but to my surprise, the teacher agreed.

P.E.A.—Hah! I'm sure if the (feathered) rifleman had succeeded, she and her mate could've raised a few broods off me. It reminds me of that Larsson cartoon of the two spiders who've built a web across the bottom of a slide in a kids' playground; one spider says to the other, “If we pull this off, we'll eat like kings.”

Zhoen, hibernation sounds like a great idea. Sadly, I don't have enough fat to last the winter.

Beth, strange, but I don't actually remember the books well, just the effect, or illustrations with something of that quality (see my reply to Robb). But, like you, I find it powerful, and I'm not sure why. You're probably right about the importance of the stage in our histories, but perhaps there are other reasons—as well, not instead of the one you've suggested. For example, for me this 'woodcut' effect seems strongly associated with stories—in particular, well-told, imaginative stories—and a well-told story captures a reader far better than any other form of discourse I can think of (perhaps with the exception of an excellent poem).
Maybe I should have responded with a story?

Thanks Theriomorph :^) Hope your own blog sabbatical's going well. I'm looking forward to more of those haunting poems.

C'est moi: Thanks. And thank you and Clare and others for your far North blogging—it's a way for me to enjoy the Arctic vicariously, without having to endure the cold. Not that I wouldn't mind checking it out in real life, though. Besides, Clare's promised me lamb shanks, although after that recent post of his, I'd be checking carefully to make sure the shanks were actually lamb ;^P

Thanks, Robin. Clare picked up the technique from somewhere he can't remember, but he's put it to good use. It's easy and simple. I made up a Photoshop Action with pauses to allow me to adjust the important steps. I have another short post, with another 'woodcut' picture, almost ready to go—it salvages a pretty nondescript photo from my little Pentax digicam in 2004.

Thanks Brenda! Got most of the way through replying and the power went 'pffttt'. So, I got on the bike and ground my way to the end of No. 2 Line; the knee feels fine. I'll test it with a gentle walk over rough ground soon.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I LOVE Captain Oates, he's my hero.

Glad to see you back in blogland, Pete, and glad to hear the crook knee is improving.

pohanginapete said...

Thanks Anne-Marie. I guess my crook knee's a ridiculous complaint when compared to Oates' leg problems: one leg an inch shorter than the other because of a gunshot wound from the Boer war, then the frost-bitten feet that led him to sacrifice his life to try to save his companions. With luck, I'll avoid those sorts of injuries, as well as the manner of his demise.
[P.S. Sorry I had to delete your earlier comment, for security reasons. But I appreciate the thought :^)]

Anonymous said...

I see I wasn't the only one concerned about your long absence, Pete! Good to have you back, and the promise of another post to look forward to. I'm glad the knee's improving.

My instant reaction to the image was "Leopard" - and then I wondered why on earth I'd made such a weird association. But after reading the comments about children's books I went to find the "Just So Stories" (which I'd read as a child, and later read many times to children). I turned up "How the Leopard Got His Spots" and yes, there is something vaguely reminiscent of your image in Kipling's illustration to that story, although it's not a woodcut.

I also have a book with woodcuts by Tom Killion of the High Sierra. It's closer in style to some of those which depict water, vegetation and rocks. Have fun!

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete,

Thanks for the kind words and for pointing people in my direction. I actually picked up the technique from a tips and hints pdf that came with Photoshop. I too find it evokes memories of old books, and (I'm not sure if these are the right words) gives some images a more concrete presence.

And no worries, I get my lamb from a very reputable butcher in Yellowknife.

MB said...

I'm sorry your knee was hurt and I wish you speedy and solid healing! Especially for those who love tramping through the wilds, it's good to have knees in as good working order as possible.

You've got me wracking my brains now to remember what childhood illustrations this reminds me of. I think they were not wood cuts but ink and color wash. Haven't pinned them down yet, though.

vegetablej said...

Hi Pete:

It's been a longer time since I've commented here, but I've checked in to read sometimes. Glad to have you back.

What can I say about the "Zebra" water? You know, perhaps I'm spoiled for woodprints after living in Japan, and I don't tend to like most of those programs that substitute for the real thing. Does that sound snobby? I hope not. I hope you continue to experiment and have fun, though, because you never know how that will end up being integrated into your art.

Just in case this is taken wrong, let me take the time to tell you how much I always enjoy your sensitive writing and sublime photography. I feel very fortunate that you have chosen to make a gift of them to us.

And speaking of gifts, a little Robb-in told me that you are having a birthday this week-end. May you get everything you've ever wanted, with a big beautiful sunrise on top.

And many more. :)

pohanginapete said...

Peregrina, I did a google search for "Killion High Sierra" and the first result was the High Sierra page on tomkillion.com. I see what you mean; the photoshop method has some strong similarities to some of his work, although it differs in other respects; moreover, the photoshop technique isn't actually a woodcut (of course), it's simply an illustrative technique. And, although it often produces pictures with some of the qualities of other forms of illustration (e.g., Dennis Turner's pen and ink drawings in Crump's books), the process is so far removed from those more traditional forms of illustration that I doubt it could ever adequately emulate them. But if they're seen for what they are — attempts to convey a particular feel, to emphasise certain aspects of a picture, to de-emphasise literal representation, and so on — then it's another technique in the toolbox.

pohanginapete said...

Clare, I look forward to those reputable shanks. And I'm glad a few people from here are getting to enjoy your stories.

MB, thanks for the good wishes. As I mentioned in the reply to Peregrina, this technique does resemble various other forms of illustration; using it on a black and white photo could, I guess simulate pen and wash.

VegetableJ, it's good to hear differing viewpoints and I appreciate how you've presented yours so tactfully. I do agree this technique pales beside real woodcuts; however, as I pointed out in the reply to Peregrina, it only simulates some qualities of woodcuts; other characteristics differ, sometimes substantially (e.g., it seems particularly poor at producing long, flowing lines — the picture often seems much more "broken up" than an actual woodcut). Other photoshop effects, like the "posterize" filter, alone or in combinations, can do similar things, so perhaps a different name for the technique ("Illustration", perhaps?) would be more apt and would avoid the misleading connotations of "woodcut"?
It also shares another shortcoming of all digital artwork; namely, that the eventual output (a print, or an image projected or viewed on a monitor) simply doesn't have the physical depth and texture of artworks like woodcuts, drawings, and in particular, paintings. I don't want to start an argument here, but I'll make that last point clear by suggesting that a photo of a painting, no matter how perfect a copy it might be, will always be identifiable as a copy; it will always be readily distinguishable from the original.

I'm not sure I've explained this particularly well, but in short, I agree — these fall well short of the quality of woodcuts, but they're not woodcuts. As I said to Peregrina, they're another tool. They should be used appropriately — one doesn't (or shouldn't) use a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.

VJ, thanks. And thanks for the b'day wishes, too.

Avus said...

I have been away for a bit - sorry to hear about the knee, Pete - hope it improves with time. Still - mountain biking ain't half bad. I begin to have a dodgy hip and knees, but cycling is still my joy and the Doc says "go for it" - exercise without joint pressure.

pohanginapete said...

Avus, I've often thought how cycling really does seem to be one form of vigorous exercise that seems sustainable indefinitely. I see guys in their 70s or even 80s out there, working hard, rolling up the miles and looking comfortable. On the other hand, maybe they just look that old ;^P

Gustav said...

Great Photography!

pohanginapete said...

Thanks Gustav :^)