Capture by A photoblog


Tribute - Dr Chris Ward

by Philip Wilkie

PAS Regular Chris Ward sadly died last year of cancer. Earlier this year we received an email from his friend Philip, with a beautifully written eulogy to Chris. We thought it would be good to post a collection of Chris' photos along with this letter, and sought permission to do so from family and friends. Time and distance meant this has taken longer than anticipated, but we are pleased now to present this photo blog as a tribute to our friend. RIP Chris.

Chris Ward, by Philip Wilkie

My very old and much loved  friend Dr Chris Ward (PhD) passed away late December from melanoma. Some of the regulars here will remember him as ChrisW whose contributions, especially to Capture, were much admired.

Born 1952 in Auckland Chris was one of four brothers, all of whom went on to attain Doctorates in various fields. Drawn all his life to the natural world he attain his Masters in Geology at Auckland, and then went on to a most remarkable PhD at Otago. His field area was rough 700 sq km of Fiordland, north and south of Dusky Sound. The field trips were done pure tramping style up to six weeks in duration. No tracks, no huts and only food drops to support us. I had the extraordinary privilege of being his field assistant on several of these epic trips.  He was without any doubt the finest, most inspiring man I have ever had the privilege to know. Those months we spent in Dusky together are still the most vivid memories of my life. Most especially the impromptu geology lecture each evening in the tent, the poring over the maps and aerials, the keen observation, intellect, aesthetic sense and sheer masculine energy and intellectual confidence. Or the morning on the bank of the stream behind his house trying to convey to my limited mind the layers of detail his obsessively observant and analytical mind could see. And see where I could not.

Which made him such a remarkable photographer. I think his images were not intended for superficial consumption; they were meant to invite the viewer under the surface and emerge into a gentle, reflective contemplation on what only the inner eye might see.

Such a melange of contradictory qualities is rare in any person. And especially when they ran

so strongly within him. And yet I think he didn't waste too much of it on the frivolities of life; this was one serious minded man who has left his mark on many of us ... even if it was a discomforting, challenging one at times.

After nine years at Otago (one of the longest doctorates in NZ's academic history), he moved onto to serve most of his career with the Department of Conservation, in Wellington until 1990, and then onto a role as the Senior Conservancy Scientist and later Conservancy Advisory Scientist for East Coast/Hawkes Bay Conservancy. His interests and capacity expanded over the years, well beyond the bounds of geology.

Much of his life's work should be better known. Intensely cerebral, powerfully observant and the master of critical analysis, yet as the years went by his artistic, intuitive senses flourished to match.

Scientist, tramper, climber, photographer, poet and a wonderful husband to Gillian, father to Megan and Alex. And while I lay claim to only a small sliver of his rich and well lived life .. he remains a hero to me.

Those of you who knew him here at the PA community will have glimpsed, as best anyone can online, at the soul of a remarkable man. Chris would scold me for this sentimental note, but for myself I only rejoice in my memory of him, and hope to have shared a small part of it with you.

Philip Wilkie
Ballarat, Victoria

The Photos

These photos were selected by Chris' family, and the captions are the descriptions Chris sent along with the photos, as he reported on the progression of his illness, with hope and positivity.

You can see a lot more of Chris' photographs through the Capture threads. This link will take you to his list of posts.

It would be nice to have the thread itself become a photo tribute, so please feel free to post your own photo refections in the comments.

Capture away.

Magnolia Sub-Prime: Yes that's about a lovely flower as the centrepiece, but the ever-present intimations of mortality are currently cluttering the background, a mess of confusion notwithstanding they are not in focus. Photo: Chris Ward

Impression Spring: A small segment of the river reflecting spring as also seen from my doorstep in the late afternoon sun yesterday Photo: Chris Ward

Impression Spring II: A little later, as Auntie the Peking duck and her mate Halfring forage along the edge of the tide. Photo: Chris Ward

Bookish Walnut: Where the long male inflorescences reach down to lightly touch on the land. I haven't seen and photographed this point of connection in previous springs - I guess relating to the recent walnut pruning. As well as the colouring of the new leaves in the morning sun, note too the more subtle set of three female flowers within the upper angle of the leaf stems. So all the walnut's responses to spring are shown there, framed within or above a 'negative' space, a piece of the sky beyond that I came to see a few years ago as an open soft-covered book, a book of knowledge and insight towards understanding. Photo: Chris Ward

Stilted Hope: The best my camera can manage from about 90 m. So the incubation period for pied stilts is shorter than I realised. The reference books tell me a clutch of four eggs is normal, but I suspect raising two chicks is as much as might realistically be expected and hoped for. Photo: Chris Ward

Survivor: Evidence of at least one stilt chick's growing maturity and survival late yesterday afternoon, with parent confident enough to use only one watchful eye while vigorously washing/preening nearby. Photo: Chris Ward

White-faced Heron I: A while ago I observed a remarkable phenomenon. I took a series of three photos, each including a white-faced heron in flight, each of them unseen by me. Photo: Chris Ward

White-faced Heron II: Talk about focal deficit! In partial mitigation, I was distracted in the first instance by the seagull flying through the frame of the first bird, but have no excuses for the last two which are of the same bird. Photo: Chris Ward