A Step Back In Time

Waipiata - not a one horse town
The railway end of Waipiata's main street.

Are you sitting comfortably because this is a long story. Actually it’s a story in two parts – one short, the other a bit longer.

I have become aware of a new “newspeak” term that TVNZ presenters have been using in news bulletins lately. It is “back story”.

Although I’m intelligent enough to work out what it means, I Googled its meaning to see when the term came into common usage. Turns out it’s been around for many, many years having first been used in the 1980s. Although being “invented” for fictional not factual use, I like this definition that I found in the online Cambridge dictionary – “the things that have happened to someone before you first see or read about that person in a film or story“. Thus our current news can have a back story!

Right – that’s my introduction to this post which has not one back story, but two back stories.

Step Back In Time Part 1

Long story short…we have just returned from a 12 day motorhome trip around beautiful Central Otago, and on the way stayed at Omakau, St Bathans, Naseby, Waipiata, then back to Omakau. Being a photographer I shot hundreds of photographs, many of which don’t really qualify as “keepers“. Some of the keepers appear in this story – so that’s back story #1.

Back Story #1 continues further down the page – so read on

Step Back In Time Part 2

But back story #2 is really the one that shaped this particular story, and more specifically shaped the images you see here.

On arrival back home I turned my Apple Mac on to transfer photographs from my SD-card to the computer, and the first thing that popped up was a message that said I could upgrade my Mac to the new macOS Big Sur. So I did a full backup as advised, then hit the upgrade button.

First mistake – I was in for a (pardon the pun) Big Sur-prise!

After waiting an hour and a half for the upgrade to complete, the first thing I noticed was start-up time. It had doubled –  a few extra seconds that I’d never get back but I could lie with that – but then, when I inserted my SD-card into the reader – nothing! Tried a card reader in a USB port – still nothing. Tried an external hard drive – still nothing. How to transfer my photos went onto the back burner for a while while I checked out a few other features of Big Sur.


Affinity photo wouldn’t work; Luminar Flex wouldn’t work; DxO Photolab3 and Nik Collection were super sluggish, and a few features in other software had disappeared as well. As I said – big mistake. – but what to do?

I did a search on the ‘net to find what version of macOS was best suited to my now 6 year old Mac Mini. El Capitan everyone said. Two hours later after downloading El Capitan and having to create a bootable install flash drive, I finally was up and running again.

But wait – oh oh! DxO Photolab 3 and the Nik Collection by DxO were not supported at all by this version and Affinity Photo would not install either. Back to the drawing boards. Anyway, to cut to the chase, I eventually upgraded to macOS High Sierra and then to Mojave. And lo and behold everything is working the way it should and my dear old Mac is quite snappy again.

Phew! Installed DxO, Affinity and all the other odds-and-sods I use, then restored my photos from my backup, and transferred photos from our latest trip. Now that didn’t take too long did it? Only a day and a half….

Now this the bit where, quite by accident, I decided to convert some of the trip photos to monochrome. As I installed and tested the Nik Collection – which I might add works seamlessly with DxO Photolab – I opened the photo taken at Waipiata to check that Silver Efex Pro was working okay, and for some random reason applied a vintage preset.

I kind of liked it so decided to apply the same finish to the rest of the photos here, mMy feeling being that Central Otago is so steeped in history, the vintage effects would help me – and other viewers – step back in time.

So, now that back story #2 is finished and out of the way, let’s go back to back story #1.

After leaving Invercargill our first stop was Alexandra to pick up essential supplies (i.e. wine…), then on to Omakau where we spent three lovely relaxing nights camped alongside the Manuherikia River. These few days gave us plenty of time to wander around Omakau itself, as well as cycle/walk up to Ophir, a couple of kilometres away.

Omakau itself has a permanent population of around 250. Since being a major stop for stock shipping on the Otago Central Railway when the station opened in 1904, today Omakau has become a typical small rural service and is also a popular stop for riders on the rail trail. If you are of a mind to, you could easily cycle individual portions of the rail trail Lauder in one direction from Omakau, Chatto Creek in the other direction.

One of the things I like to do when visiting a small country town is wander into the local cemetery. It’s not that I’m ghoulish, but so much of a town’s history is found in a cemetery. The photo of St Peters was taken from the cemetery which lies adjacent to the old railway line.

St peters Catholic Church Omakau

St Peters Catholic Church, Omakau

Gold was discovered near Ophir in the early 1860s. Back then the town that sprang up was called Blacks (as is the hotel today), but the name was changed to Ophir when the population grew to about 1,000 and the town became the commercial centre of the area. Although not actually on the Otago Central Rail Trail Ophir is a popular place to visit for trail cyclists with it’s historic Post Office dated 1886, and the Daniel O’Connor suspension bridge that dates back to 1880.


Historic Post Office Ophir Central Otago

Historic Post Office, Ophir


Historic Daniel O'Connor Suspension Bridge Ophir

Restored 1880s suspension bridge over the Manuherikia River at Ophir


From Omakau/Ophir our next stop was St Bathans, another town that played a major role in Central Otago’s gold mining history.

I recall reading somewhere that St Bathans had at one time a population of over 2,000, with 40 or more stores in its main street. Today the main street – St Bathans Loop Road – has just one pub and an old Post Office. The Vulcan Hotel was originally the Ballarat which burned down and was rebuilt twice before being renamed the Vulcan. Legend has it that the Vulcan is haunted by the ghost of a young prostitute who was murdered in one of the bedrooms in the 1880s.

Not only is the Vulcan a major attraction for visitors, but so is the beautiful Blue Lake. The lake, man-made as a result of gold slicing – gets its blueish colour from the mix of minerals that leach into the water.


Step back in time to The Vulcan Hotel - once the Ballarat - in main street St Bathans

The Vulcan Hotel


Church of St Alban The Martyr, St Bathans

Church of St Alban The Martyr, St Bathans


St Bathans Cemetery - oldest headstone

The oldest headstone in St Bathans Cemetery


We stayed at the St Bathans Domain, a lovely wee spot just out of town. Camping there is free (it’s a DOC site) but a donation in the honesty box is always welcomed. The only facilities at the domain are a long-drop toilet, and non-drinkable water on-tap. So with the motorhome loo virtually full and water low, we headed for the Naseby Holiday Park for one night.

2,000 feet above worry level, Naseby’s catch phrase,  is emblazoned on large signs on the main road approach to the town. Like so many other small Central Otago towns, Naseby played a major role in the 1860s gold rush in the area, but those heady days are long gone, and now most people flock to Naseby for mountain biking on the 52 kilometres of trails that run through the forest that has been planted on the old goldfields. Only a hundred or so people live in Naseby permanently, but this number swells to over 3,000 in the summer holidays.


a relic of gold mining days a water race above naseby township

A water race in the forest – a relic of gold mining days


Ancient Briton Hotel - closed as a result of a fire a couple of years ago

The Ancient Briton Hotel – fire damaged and needing some TLC

The Ancient Briton, built in 1863, was damaged by fire in late 2019, however good news is that the owner, who is also the owner of Naseby’s other pub – The Royal – told me that he is hoping to be able to refurbish and reopen the old hotel next year when he can be sure of getting good staff again post-Covid.


Boot manufacturer in Naseby, Central Otago

The old boot manufacturer’s building in Naseby


Waipiata was our next stop where the domain beckoned us for a coupe of nights. Again, camping is free, but there is a donations box, which I would urge you to contribute to, because the Central Otago District Council has done a great job with the toilet block there. It is very modern and clean and has a flush toilet. Great! I was told by the camp manager at Naseby that the council decided to limit overnight stays at Waipiata Domain to three nights because unscrupulous campers had been stealing power recently from one of the outbuildings there.

In all honesty there is not a great deal to do in Waipiata, whose main reason for being in the old days was as a rail stop, and as the home for people who worked at a local rabbit processing factory that went bust in the 1930s when business slumped. Today of course it right on the Otago Central Rail Trail, and the Waipiata Hotel has wonderful reputation for warm friendly country service. They also make fantastic pies. I enjoyed a Thai lamb curry pie for lunch when we were there, and Lyn had beef and danish blue. Very yummy.

Waipiata has one main street…one pub…but, if this photo is anything to go by, is not just a one-horse town!


Waipiata - not a one horse town

The railway end of Waipiata’s main street.


Cattle around a farm shed at Waipiata

Cattle around a farm shed at Waipiata

The last stop before heading home on our latest road trip was back at Omakau, at the same spot we enjoyed at the beginning of the trip.

This old cottage – presumably a shepherd’s cottage – sits beside the Omakau-Ida Valley Road on the approach to Ophir and Omakau.


Old cottage in a paddock near Ophir

Near Ophir


So there you are – two stories in one effectively!

For those of you with a technical inclination here is my workflow for the photographs in this story.

Most photos were taken using my Nikon D5100 with 18-200 zoom. The Naseby photos were taken with my Oppo AX7 phone camera. Images were processed in DxO Photolab 3 where optical corrections were applied, horizons levelled where needed, and other basic adjustments made. Some images were exported to, and returned from,  Affinity Photo where, using the Inpainting Brush Tool, some unwanted objects were removed – e.g. a power pole immediately to the right of the Vulcan Hotel. Monochrome conversion was done using Nik Silver Efex Pro. Luminar Flex was the final stage where watermarks were added, and images resized for the web, then converted to JPG format.

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Rick - The Occasional Photoblogger

I am Invercargill photographer Rick Harvey – aka The Occasional Photoblogger. I consider myself an opportunist photographer and enjoy taking photographs of ordinary things I see around me, and try to make them appear a little less ordinary and interesting, and while it is always nice to have others appreciate my images, my primary goal is to take photographs that make me happy.

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