Port Vila Quickie

I’m alive in Vanuatu. I’m working on my arrangements for this weekend. I’m hoping to spend two days on the island of Tanna.

Initial impressions:

  • Obviously much poorer than New Caledonia – around Tonga/Samoa levels of income it seems.
  • They have put much more effort into tourism than other countries I’ve seen in the Pacific.
  • French and English are both spoken. It is like Canada in that respect but more mixed. They speak a common language of Bislama, which I will write more about later. It’s fascinating.
  • I’m really excited to find some ‘hairs of Pele’ at the volcano. I’m a guy who spent 3 hours in the rain on this trip searching for reticulite in Hawaii.
  • I want to try and learn some Bislama.

Au revoir la Nouvelle-Cal├ędonie

I’m sitting in the Noumea airport milking their free wireless internet for all it’s worth before my flight to Port Vila, Vanuatu.

In talking to people online, most have never heard of New Caledonia….or Vanuatu. They certainly don’t know where they are and know nothing about them. I really can’t blame anyone for not knowing where tiny countries in the Pacific are. I certainly didn’t know anything about them before I started doing research for my trip.

Because I didn’t know much about these places, I really didn’t have any sort of mental image of what it might be like. For example, I have a definite idea of what China will be like. Everyone is familiar with Chinese food, music, clothese, etc. Everyone knows Chinese people. So, right or wrong, you probably have some sort of mental image of what China will be like.

You probably have no mental image for what New Caledonia is like. I certainly didn’t before I got here. I just sort of assumed it would be like Papeete, Tahiti I guess. Both are French territories in the Pacific so I just assumed they could be similar. For that reason, I only scheduled to stay here for 3 days.

Boy was I wrong.

Noumea is the nicest city in the Pacific (New Zealand and Hawaii aside). It really could be a city transported from the south of France. The majority of the city seems to be French, with a Kanak minority (where as the rest of the Island has a Kanak plurality). The cars are French, there are cheap baguettes, French TV….everything.

There are several marinas in town and they were all loaded with sailboats. I saw a few in other pacific islands, but nothing like in Noumea. There were easily several times more sailboats here than I saw in the rest of the Pacific combined (again, excluding New Zealand).

I’m really surprised this isn’t on more lists of places to visit. Even though its one of the closer islands in the pacific to Australia, the number of Australian tourists seems low. Its mostly French and Japanese.

I think not spending more time here will be one of my regrets for the Pacific…

Anyway, I’m off to Vanuatu in a few hours and I’m really looking forward to this part of the trip. Visiting the volcano should be one of the highlights so far. I don’t know how net access in Vanuatu will be, so you might not get any updates for a few days.

High Dynamic Range

Over the course of my trip I’ve been playing around with a photographic technique called High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography. Basically, it involves merging different images of scenes that have very dark and very bright elements into one photos. Today I went into Noumea to play around with it and see if I could take any interesting photos. I really haven’t had success in doing HDR up until recently. I took my first good HDR image in Tonga.

I was able to step inside St. John’s Catholic church in Noumea. I haven’t had much opportunity to take photos inside buildings here in the pacific. There isn’t much in the way of historical buildings. I used this as an opportunity to test if I could do HDR inside.

This first photo is taken in the foyer of the building. The inside of the room was very dark with bright light streaming through the stained glass onto the baptism font inside. The color of the gate really jumps out as does the stained glass.

This is the inside of the church. Thankfully, the men in the pew didn’t move while I took the photos (seven in all). I think one was asleep.

Here is another one of the inside of the church, but without the direct exposure of the stained glass windows. I think this one is a bit better. The color in the stained glass isn’t as powerful.

The final image was taken out doors. You’ll notice that it looks very different than the rest. The sun was behind the clouds at the time I took the photo. This surreal look is something I really don’t care for. Unlike the indoor photos, this isn’t even close to what it really looked like when I took the photo.

I really wish I had my shutter release when I was in Easter Island could I could have done a few of these. They would have been amazing and would have worked well with the cloudy skies I had.

I don’t expect to get too carried away with HDR, but it is a nice thing to be able to have available.