January 24, 2018 … summer takes various forms

This has to be the warmest Wellington summer since we came here in 1980. I do not remember temperatures exceeding 31ºC, ever. We have had a lot of blue sky days and some grey ones, but it has remained warm and humid on most days, even when it rained. More of the same is forecast for the week ahead.

colour

A splash of colour on a grey day

On one of the grey days I went looking for images that used the grey-ness and then, at the Taranaki St Wharf, saw this splash of colour that just stood out. I am not sure of the purpose of the building but my memory suggests that it housed the controls for the now removed loading ramp when the trans-Tasman Ro-Ro service used to berth here. The Union Steam Ship Company brought ships such as  Marama, Maheno, Union Rotorua, Union Rotoiti, Hawea and Wanaka to load and unload here on the coastal and Australian runs. Back then, I worked for Philips, the Dutch multinational and my office window was on the top floor of the hexagonal building just below the “M” of the central Datacom sign.

not monochrome

No colour at all here, and no, it is not a monochrome image

As I said, I was looking for greys, and the view from Wellington towards the Hutt Valley in the North certainly met that need. Despite the appearance, the rain didn’t amount to much.

Mist

Last light at Lowry Bay and the sea mist lingers on

That same evening, there was a stillness on the earth and though there was greyness everywhere, the last rays of the sun picked out the redness in the rocks at the North end of Lowry Bay.

Ptilotus

As in ocean swimming, the P is silent in Ptilotus exultatus. The bee wasn’t.

Mary and I were guests for lunch at the lovely Waikanae home of some friends of very long standing. They are garden people, and there is always something to see. This lovely flower is Ptilotus exultatus “Joey”, an Australian perennial known over there as the pink mulla mulla. The flower spikes are about 10 cm long , so that’s a good-sized bumble bee (Bombus terrestris).

Orderrrrr . Arms! Cooper at the Anti-Aircraft battery site.

Grandson Cooper is a history buff with special interest in matters military. Though he lives in a fantasy world much of the time, he takes somethings very seriously. I took him up Brooklyn Hill to the WWII gun emplacements at Polhill reserve. He was deeply offended and outraged that the graffitists had dishonoured the soldiers who had served there by defacing the installation. Despite the Nerf gun and the helmet, he is a gentle soul and I think he is a flower child at heart.

e-bikes

e-bikes in the red

On the waterfront for lunch with former colleagues yesterday, my eye was drawn to a line-up of rental e-bikes parked against a re-purposed shipping container.

See you next week.

 

 

 

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Posted in Bees, Children, Family, flowers, insects, Landscapes, Light, Lower Hutt, Weather, Wellington | Leave a comment

January 18, 2018 … in the bottom right hand corner

My aspirations as a landscape photographer lead me often to the Wairarapa, that often dry and rugged province that occupies the bottom right-hand corner of the North Island. It is a large rectangle aligned to the North East, bounded on the West by the Rimutaka and  Tararua ranges, and on the East by the vast Pacific Ocean. From Wellington, unless you walk the long coastal track, the only sensible access is on State Highway 2 which heads east from Upper Hutt to Pakuratahi,  and then South up the long winding hill to the Rimutaka summit. From there, the road heads East to Featherston down yet another stretch of Narrow and winding road. It is a narrow road, sometimes closed by wild winds, landslips, forest fires or snow. For many older Wellingtonians it was a road of fearsome memory, of  unsealed road, and unfenced edges. It was a road that saw many a car stopped at one of the few flat spots to let the car-sick kids throw up. There was a “greasy spoon” restaurant at the summit, and some ill-kept rest rooms which provided a half-way break point on the arduous adventure of crossing the hill. These days, the road is wider, smoother, has safety barriers and occasional passing lanes and takes just over half an hour to cross from Upper Hutt to Featherston. What’s all the fuss? Crossing it is still a psychological hurdle and a significant dent in the petrol budget, but I love it in all weathers.

Pakuratahi

Misty morning at Pakuratahi

Particularly I like it when there are low drifting clouds and even some rain. Actual fog is less useful, and probably more hazardous, but swirling broken clouds get me out. Last week I got as far as Pakuratahi, near the Kaitoke Waterworks reserve at the Wellington end of the hill and was lured up a short side-road by the mist in the Kaitoke valley to the West.  It was a still morning and the only sound was in the adjacent paddock where a recently milked dairy herd was steadily ripping and chewing the grass. Heavy breathing, heavy footsteps and rhythmic chewing were a great accompaniment to my efforts. I chose  long slow exposures, knowing that the cows would move but thinking they would add to the story. All went fine until I finished and my car wouldn’t start. I had left the headlights and fog lights on, and it was flat. Fortunately, there was cellphone coverage. Thank goodness for the Automobile Association. Within 20 minutes, a roadside assistance agent was there with his portable jump-start battery and a bank of diagnostic equipment. And I was on my way again.

Trees

Lakeside trees in the Wairarapa

From Featherston, I went down the Western Lake road where again, I enjoyed the misty conditions and the contrast of the lakeside trees with the bank of cloud to the East.

Hau Nui

Hau Nui wind farm in production

Later that same week we were in the midst of a heat wave wherein the mercury in the Hutt Valley reached an unprecedented 31ºC . I know that heatwaves are relative things, but in a normal year, it is a really hot day in the valley when we get 27ºC. Anyway, Mary doesn’t do heat, so she sent me off unsupervised. That darned hill called me again, so I want over to Martinborough and then headed off down the White Rock road where I paused at the Hau Nui wind farm. Despite the warmth, there was sufficient breeze to spin those turbines fairly briskly. By the way, Hau Nui is Maori for “Big Wind”.

White Rock

White Rock on the Wairarapa Coast

The road to White Rock is somewhat primitive in places. It is unsealed, often unfenced, winding and steep in places, but there are great views. Your teeth chatter as the road crosses cattle-stops and sometimes the road itself is corrugated, but the place is worth the journey.

Hawksbeard

Three “not dandelions”

I think I have mentioned that our house is currently on the market and with an open home due last Sunday, we needed to have the lawns tidy. However, I had to capture the weeds before they were cut. I always think of these as dandelions but a knowledgable friend tells me they are not … apparently this is a hawksbeard.

Ovation

Bon Voyage

We continued to have wonderfully warm days and spectacular evenings and one evening a few days ago, I wandered down the road as the giant cruise ship “Ovation of the Seas” was setting sail for Sydney. She has just dropped the pilot. The two vessels closer in are a drilling barge looking for a clean access to the fresh water aquifer under the harbour, and beside it, her attendant tug is at anchor.

City

City panorama – click to view

My last shot in this edition is one of my favourite views in the region. As you drive around Evans Bay towards the city, you finally round Pt Jerningham and there it is in all its glory. I love the various colours and textures in our cityscape, and I always love that first visual impact as you round the corner.

Posted in Adventure, Architecture, flowers, Lakes, Landscapes, Machinery, Sunset, Wairarapa, Weather, Wellington, White Rock | 2 Comments

January 10, 2018 … Happy New Year

Thank you for staying with me. Some of you have been Internet friends since about 1994, and I value your continued company on this ever-changing journey. My presence on the Internet, and then on the Web, has evolved over the years, from its initial purpose of providing home news to disconnected kiwis. It has been through several stages since then and is now a vehicle for the photographic expression of my love for this region, this country, and wherever else I find myself.

If you have been with me for a while, you will know that I am somewhat insecure when it comes to the evaluation of my own skills.  This is not false modesty. I know that I make some really nice shots now and then, but I also produce a regrettable number of mediocrities. My journey is about changing the proportions of each. I want more really nice shots.

My challenge each day, is to be a better photographer than I was yesterday. For the sake of clarity, I regard photography as the making of images using whatever tools help me to illustrate the possibility I saw when I picked up the camera. I am an unashamed user of Lightroom and Photoshop to bring my vision to life in print or on the screen. So, 2018, bring it on. Here are some of my first efforts for the year.

Trees

When you see that descending line of trees you know you are almost at Featherston

When our family came to Wellington in 1980, the trip across the hill to the Wairarapa was much more challenging than it is now. The old “greasy spoon” cafe and the awful rest-rooms at the summit are long one. The road is now well sealed, and there are safety barriers on all the nasty corners. Only the landscape is unchanged. On the last sharp corner before the road crosses the bridge to head into Featherston, there is an iconic stand of trees that I have long wanted to photograph. However, there is no safe place to stand, and you would need to be on the outside of the Armco barrier at risk of falling into the valley below. On this occasion, Mary was driving, so I would the camera strap around my wrist, adjusted the swivelling rear screen and held the camera out of the window firing as we drove.  It’s not the image I envisaged or aspire to, but it’s a start.

Harbour

It’s 2018 already but the Christmas decorations are still up. The inner harbour from Kelburn

A few days later I was wandering the quiet city and found myself in Kelburn where the university campus was closed and quiet. I drove to where I used to park when I was a staff member there, and looked out over the moody city. As you can see the pohutukawa was making its seasonal presence felt.

Gun emplacement.

1942 Gun emplacement on Brooklyn hill intended to defend the city from Japanese air attacks which never eventuated.

From there I drove up to the wind turbine at Brooklyn and thence down the hill again, pausing at the Polhill Reserve to have a look at the old anti-aircraft gun emplacements. The 109 men who were stationed there at any one time in all weathers from 1942 until the end of the war would probably not comprehend the desire to be there at all, and even less the desire to waste so much paint on the pointless graffiti. And yes, the despite reserving the right to process my images, the sea to the South  really was that blue on the day.

Kingfisher

Kingfisher having a bad hair day at Pauatahanui

On some of the grey days, cabin fever was prevented by some wandering in the direction of the Pauatahanui wildlife reserve. I was in the Forest and Bird hide with not much happening when I realised that the large rock a few metres away had changed shape. It has been a long while since I was this close to a kingfisher, even one as scruffy as this. Nice to see you again, little fellow.

Water lilies

A glimpse of a secret garden with water lilies at Pauatahanui

I crossed the road from there to see what was happening in the fresh water ponds. The answer was that there was nothing, not even water there. Where the ponds are normally, found there were  moon-craters, cracked and dry. And, in the words of Farley Mowat, “no birds sang”. Trudging back to the car, I caught a glimpse  between the slats of the boundary fence of somebody’s “secret garden” (Wow – two literary allusions in one paragraph).
And then it rained.

Didn’t it rain, children?
Talk ’bout rain, oh, my Lord
Didn’t it, didn’t it, didn’t it, oh, my Lord?
Didn’t it rain?*

Though I didn’t go back to the dry ponds, they would surely have been filled, at least temporarily.

Rain

From our front door towards Seaview in heavy rain at night

Though not exactly forty days and forty nights, it rained quite heavily, and I decided to see if I could catch the experience in a night shot from our front door looking down towards the Seaview oil terminal

Rowers

This is a small section of the competitors at the Clive river. Apart from the rattle of the seats sliding and the oars splashing, it was an eerily silent armada

In the weekend just ended, Mary and I went up to Clive, just South of Napier. Some of Mary’s family were having a get together at Te Awanga. It was a joyous occasion with much laughter, good food and great company.  Before we went out exploring on the Sunday morning, I strolled the 100 metres or so from our rented accommodation to the banks of the Clive River where there was a rowing regatta under way. The river was still, though somewhat clogged with weed. Down at the river mouth, heavy swells after the recent storm could be seen crashing on the bar, but I loved the steady procession of rowers moving steadily down the river to the start line. Though the racing shells would be wildly impractical in that situation, their purposeful passage looked like a latter-day Dunkirk.

Tern and gull

The local bully waiting to steal the little kid’s school lunch

My brother-in-law, Gerard later took us to a place along the beach where the was a  significant nesting site of shore-birds. There were white-fronted terns, pied stilts, banded dotterels and New Zealand dotterels. The dotterels are very hard to see on the rocky shore but the terns and stilts were more visible. A recent storm had disrupted the season and many eggs were washed away, according to a birder I met. There were juveniles aplenty, squawking loudly and demanding ever more fish. I felt for the term parents who would dash in at high speed from the sea with a fresh fish and attempt to get the youngster to swallow it before the marauding red-billed gulls could snatch it mid-transfer.

Old house

I have done this before but the rate of decay is accelerating

Homeward bound the next day, I had to pause just South of Hastings to record the latest stage of the slow and inevitable decay of an old house. I have shot this house many times and perhaps even shown it in this blog. Last time I was there, there was a blackberry thicket at the rear. It has been cleared, and perhaps that has allowed the house to lean gently inwards towards the earth.

Harbour

Wellington Harbour in brooding weather

Yesterday was a moody sort of day in the Capital and I went up the hill to the entrance to the Horokiwi quarry and from there caught the wide view of the Eastern side of the harbour, The island to the left is Matiu/Somes and the hill to the right is the Miramar peninsula.

road and rail

Tenuous link

From the same spot, looking ninety degrees to the right, the winding path that carries road and rail between Wellington and the Hutt Valley shows just how vulnerable that vital link would be in the event of an earthquake like the Kaikoura one last year.

  • “Didn’t it rain” is a Negro Spiritual, according to Wikipedia, that long predates Mahalia Jackson’s version

 

Posted in Adventure, Architecture, Birds, Clive, Family, harbour, Hawkes Bay, Kelburn, Landscapes, Light, Lower Hutt, Napier, night, Pekapeka, Tararuas, Trees, Wellington | 3 Comments

December 31, 2017 … closing the curtains on another year

I hope the year has been kind to you, as it mostly has for Mary and me.

Lagoon

From the lagoon – Wellington offers interesting views even n grey days

Since I last wrote, photographic opportunities have been variable, and there have been times when I have had to make my own luck. I prefer it if any water in the picture is not too ruffled. On this occasion the day was a bit drab so I went under the edge of the walkway bridge at the edge of the lagoon at Frank Kitts Park.

Demolition

Defense HQ Demolition

Later in the day I had a coffee with our younger daughter Lena (long time readers will remember her as Helen) . Across the road from her place of work, the headquarters building for the Ministry of Defence is being demolished. It was supposedly strong enough to withstand a hit from a cruise missile. A Wellington earthquake was stronger so now, a year later, it is being reduced to rubble.

Dry

On Dry Creek Road – near Martinborough

Then there were days of such perfection that a road trip was needed. Over the Rimutaka Hill near Martinborough, conditions were very dry.

Spoonbills

Royal spoonbills in mating plumage – Wairio Wetlands

A little further down the road from there, are the Wairio wetlands on the Eastern shore of Lake Wairarapa. There were a lot of Royal spoonbills browsing the ponds and they were wearing their breeding plumage.

Pohutukawa

Feliz navidad – the national flower of Christmas – the pohutukawa

Early in December, someone threw the switch that initiated the pohutukawa flowering season. Almost overnight, there were crimson blooms everywhere. I tried for a different take.

ferries

Ferries crossing – mid-strait

Another lovely evening with a golden sunset prompted me to go to Moa Point above the airport. The ferries Aratere and Kaitaki passed each other in the middle of the Cook Strait, and the Kaikoura ranges can be seen in the haze at the rear.

Grass

Hare’s Tail grass

Sometimes the simple things appeal. Backlit hare’s tail grass always catches my eye.

Christmas

Unto us a child is born

Then it was Christmas. Mary and I like to attend the children’s Mass on Christmas eve, and this image is of our parish priest, Fr Michael carrying the statue of the Christ child to be installed in the crib. The sculptor was obviously unfamiliar with the actual dimensions and character of a newborn.

memorial

Memorial

Passing through the city I caught a glimpse of the newly revealed  sculpture in the Pukeahu National War memorial. It is a gift from the people of Britain to the people of New Zealand, and is intended to represent the shelter formed as the royal oak and pohutukawa intertwine. It has had a mixed reception from the artistic community, but I quite like it.

River

Hutt River

And then another fine day in that lost period between Christmas and New Year. The Hutt River has a few interesting spots. This one is just on the corner near Totara Park in Upper Hutt.

slow and easy

Gladstone rush-hour

From there I went back over the hill to Gladstone, to begin with, where I encountered rush-hour traffic. This image is taken through the windscreen of my car which needed a clean.

Grain

Ripe Grain

I went from Gladstone via the back road to Masterton and was again attracted to a dry-looking field of ripe grain.

Sir Peter

BE-2C taking care not to run over the boss, Sir Peter Jackson – Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit … love the bare feet

As I was setting up my tripod for the grain, I saw some biplanes overhead and instantly knew that there was activity at the Vintage Aviator Limited, on Hood Aerodrome, Masterton. I drove there in all cautious haste and managed to wheedle my way onto the apron outside their hangar. It was apparently a private event for “friends of friends” so I was fortunate to be allowed inside the barriers. I got some shots I liked. This one captured the spirit of the event. A BE-2c taxiing slowly behind the boss, Sir Peter Jackson. He is the ultimate aviation nut and those of us who live near enough are grateful for the opportunities to see the magnificent work done by the Vintage Aviator Limited (TVAL).

Wairarapa

Lake Wairarapa in a rare calm moment

From there I drove south via Boggy Pond and across the East-West link and then back up the Western Lake road where I caught this panorama of Te Moana Wairarapa (Lake Wairarapa). It was a stunning day.

bee

Everything here has a sharp point … bee and thistle both

My last image for 2017 was captured at the Catchpool Valley in the Rimutaka Forest Park. We had to vacate the house while our real estate agent showed a potential buyer through. We think an offer may follow. Meanwhile, I saw a honey bee enjoying a Scotch Thistle.

And so the year is ended. Thanks to all who follow my somewhat self-indulgent rambling. Thanks to everyone who has offered supportive comments. Thanks for your company. Warmest wishes for a safe and happy new year in 2018. May it be your best year yet.

 

 

Posted in Adventure, Animals, Art, Aviation, Bees, Birds, Boggy Pond, Children, Cook Strait, Festivals and fairs, insects, Lakes, Landscapes, Light, Maritime, Martinborough, Masterton, Masterton, Rimutaka Forest park, Rivers, Sunset, Upper Hutt, Wairarapa, Wellington | 4 Comments

December 17, 2017 … another year runs its course

Even though I have been retired for six years now, the end of the year still brings with it that sense of a burden lifting. Of course, a few weeks after that and the circus begins again. Mary and I are in housing Limbo, with no offers on our present place as yet. On the other hand, we have no external impetus to move, so we need not look for a replacement until we have a sale. In the meantime, we live in a somewhat Spartan state of semi-preparedness to move.

Tansy

Purple Tansy

Photography has had to step back a little despite the stunning burst of early Summer. Now and then I take the camera for a walk on a short leash, and found these little flowers in the rockery. I think they are Phacelia tanacetifolia commonly known as purple tansy. The whole cluster is just 25mm or one inch across. We think they have propagated from the wild bird seed Mary likes to have for the local birds.

Sunset

South Wellington looking across the airport

 

It seems only a short time ago that I was complaining week after week about wet and windy weather. Astonishingly we have now had a string of warm sunny days with the temperature reaching 30 degrees C on occasion. We have had no significant rain for almost two months and there are restrictions on water usage. Still a bit of wind , but some beautiful days.

Lights

Christmas lights on Oriental Bay

Some of the nights were warm and clear too. This shot was on Oriental Bay with the ornamental Christmas lights reflecting on the parked cars.

Mt Vic

Wellington from Mt Victoria

Last week I went to the summit of Mt Victoria and looked down on our picture-postcard city. It’s hard to be original up here, but worth doing anyway.

Architecture

CBD variety

There are those who dislike cityscapes, but I always love the contrasting colours and textures of an unregimented architectural environment.

 

 

Posted in Airport, Architecture, Cars, flowers, Landscapes, Light, night, Weather, Wellington | 1 Comment

December 8, 2017 …

Just a few short months ago, I was complaining about our weather and its constant wind and rain. Over the last week or so, we have enjoyed some genuine summer, warm, calm, and yesterday the temperature in Lower Hutt reached 31 deg C. Unheard of. And now we are hearing concerns about drought on the farms, normally expected in February.

Harbour

A still but misty day on Wellington Harbour from Petone beach.

Since I last wrote, things started slowly, but at least the sea was calm.

Dawn

Hutt River Estuary at Dawn

Gradually as the days passed, things got better and better. Something woke me early one morning and this view from my bedroom catches the morning light on the Hutt River estuary.

Aotea

Standard class railcar RM30 Aotea

Last weekend, the Silverstream Railway Museum had an open day with trains offering rides. When Mary and I were first engaged, she was a theatre nurse in New Plymouth and I was a computer geek in Wellington. Since I didn’t own a car, the only way to see her was to catch the train. In those days (1969) NZR used their Standard or “Canoe” class railcars for the Wellington to New Plymouth service. Each bore the name of one of the canoes of the great Maori migration. Last weekend, the museum was running RM 30 “Aotea”. Nostalgia required that I take the ride.

Steam locomotive

Getting along nicely after 140 years of service

They also had a train hauled by the 140 year old steam locomotive. How could I resist?

Supermoon

Supermoon on 4 December from my bedroom window looking in the direction of the Rimutaka summit

Then there was the so-called “super moon”  which I caught rising over the Tararuas  from my bedroom window.

Estuary

Hutt River Estuary looking South to the harbour mouth

And still the weather kept getting better.

Wainuiomata Hill

Wainuiomata Hill Panorama

The evenings have been fine, warm and still, and I have been tempted to wander far and wide at night. This panorama is a three-image stitch from the top of the Wainuiomata hill taking in the view from the city on the left to Lower Hutt CBD on the right. If you click for the larger version, you will see the high peaks of the Kaikoura ranges in the red glow of the setting sun.

No significant movement on the house as yet. We are lucky that we have no external imperative to move, so we are quite relaxed and can wait for a suitable offer. There is just the mild inconvenience of living with many of life’s comforts packed away. On the positive side, we did get rid of another three tonnes of hoarded rubbish in a hired 7.5 cubic metre skip.

 

Posted in harbour, Landscapes, Light, Moon, mountains, night, Railway, Weather, Wellington | 2 Comments

November 25, 2017 … it has been a crazy busy month

As you might have noticed, my busy-ness did not extend to keeping up with the blog for quite a while. Both Mary and I have had dealings with the heath system (good outcomes all round, we think). And then there is the business of selling the house. We have been packing, discarding, giving away, and all the while, trying to retain a semblance of tidiness for the recurring “open homes” that our real estate agent has been running. This too, shall pass. Christmas is looming with just one month to go. But every now and then, I have managed to get out and make images.

Mokopuna

This is Mokopuna, the small island at the North end of Matiu/Somes in Wellington harbour. It was on this island that a Chinese immigrant who was wrongly suspected of having leprosy was quarantined, and where he died.

I like stillness. When the sun comes through the curtains in the morning, my heart lifts. When I draw the curtains back and see that the leaves on the flax bush are perfectly still, my heart soars and I know that I must go. Sadly there have been few such days in the last month, though some days were better than others.

Sunset

The Western sky near Wellington Airport

During the month we have had some spectacular colour in the evening sky, though I suspect that is often attributable to the amount of wind-blown sea salt in the air.

Walkers

Heroes, firefighters, extreme walkers arrive at the Westpac Stadium after walking 170 km from Palmerston North to raise funds for MND

Annually, the Motor Neuron Disease Association (US = Lou Gehrig’s Disease or ALS) conducts fund-raising activities. Mary is involved on the local committee so I got roped in to make images of the proceedings. Most striking event of the day for me were the five extreme walkers of the New Zealand Fire Service who had walked the entire distance from Palmerston North , 170 km, in full fire-fighting gear with breathing apparatus in return for sponsorship.

trains

Commuter trains get little usage in the weekends

While I was at the stadium, I was struck by the patterns on the roof lines of rows of electric commuter trains at rest over the weekend.

Kapiti

Kapiti Island as seen from Pukerua Bay

And then we had some real Wellington weather, of the kind on which Wellington can’t be beaten. This shot was made at Pukerua Bay, and yes, that is the stormy Tasman sea at its benign best. Kapiti is the island in the distance.

Shag

Pied shag drying its wings at Pukerua Bay

If you look closely at the rock in front of the right hand (Northern) end of the island you will notice a shag drying its wings.  I decided to look more closely.

frog

Jeremiah was a bullfrog …

From there I went to Queen Elizabeth Park just North of Paekakariki, and there, the wetland area was just alive with the call of frogs who have not yet discovered Tinder. I’d like you to meet Jeremiah. He’s a very good friend of mine

 

Posted in Airport, Animals, Birds, Kapiti Island, Landscapes, Light, Pukerua Bay, Railway, Sunset, Weather | 1 Comment