May 24, 2017 … turbulent times

Fewer images this week, pursuant to a brief stay in hospital for some small remedial surgery and the subsequent recovery time. All seems well (thanks for asking). When I finally did get out and about again, I spent my time looking at weather on the Southern coast.


The weight of that water is just amazing. Pencarrow upper light in the background

There was a strong Southerly which raised the sells in the Cook Strait to somewhere well above six metres and shut down the ferries for a few days. By the time I was mobile again, the worst had passed, but there was still significant wave action.


Wild horses on the Wainuiomata coast

The next day the sun was shining and in a typical example of Wellington’s suck/blow climate, there was now a strong Northerly.  I took the long and winding road through Wainuiomata to the South Coast where the residual swell was being blown back out to sea.  For some reason, as I look at the right hand side of this image, I am hearing  Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” in my head.


Evening light in the Wainuiomata valley

On the way home from the coast (it was late afternoon), I got lucky with the light in the valley beside the Wainuiomata stream.  Beams of light over the edge of the hills to the West picked out a cluster of trees in a way that I just had to stop and photograph.

Normal service is expected to resume next week.

Posted in adversity, Cook Strait, Landscapes, Light, Maritime, South Coast, Wainuiomata, Waves, Weather, Wellington | 6 Comments

May 17, 2017 … random acts of seeing

As some of you know, landscapes are my most common form of photography. A well known photographic tutor has said “first you have to be somewhere”. To be honest, I am not entirely sure he is right, at least not in the sense he intended. Of course it helps to be somewhere that is visually spectacular, but sometimes you just have to see things in your everyday location.


Purest gold peering under the edge of a heavy cloud

For example, when a new day impinges on my brain, I pull back the curtain to see what’s happening outside. Most days I see nothing out of the ordinary. Every so often, I am forced to scramble for my camera.


Pauatahanui at Ration Point

My other photographic enthusiasm is birds. I have a number of birding friends and they do better than I because they have patience to sit and wait. They are willing to get wet and muddy and to crawl through beds of shells or reeds or flax. I tend to arrive and see what is convenient and then move on, grabbing a landscape if the gift of sight is upon me. The other day, I was at Pauatahanui and saw a sandbank where there were royal spoonbills, a white-faced heron, pied stilts, pied oystercatchers, masked lapwings, black swans, geese and ducks. To get a real birder’s image I would have had to crawl through the mudflats unseen to get close enough. I weighed my chances and settled for the landscape (an eight image panoramic stitch) .


Horokiwi stream

Sometimes I go to the mouth of the Horokiwi stream at the Western end of Petone beach, in the hope of seeing terns or other common residents. However, it is a popular dog-exercise area and the two exercises are incompatible. I would love to throw bricks at the owners who throw sticks for their dogs to retrieve, aiming deliberately to land them among the resting birds.


Up the valley from Evans Bay

Yesterday I wandered the Southern coast, and on the way looked back up the harbour to the Hutt Valley. From Evans Bay, I liked the layered landscape and the hovering mist arising from a melting frost.


Fearless climbers vanquish the monster

At Lyall Bay, there was a giant tree trunk washed ashore from who knows where. Though I was waiting patiently for them to finish, I was delighted to see a young father playing on the trunk with his three or four year-old son.


“You shall not pass!” – driftwood at Lyall Bay

I did eventually get to be alone with the tree and approached it from several angles and I rather liked this view in which it appears to be trying vainly to hold the waves in check.


Cold and dark at Petone

That evening, after dropping our grandchildren at Scouts, I went down to Petone beach. It was a beautiful still evening though the light Southerly breeze was a bone-chiller. Since the water was flat, I persisted. A thirty-second exposure reveals itself in the painted clouds, but it worked.

Pier (2)

Petone pier is still closed since the earthquake last year

From the other side of the pier there was a different image (think of it as a pier review). Again the long exposure was interesting and I debated whether to remove the light trail from an Airbus 320 coming out of the airport. I chose to keep it.

That’s all for now. I hope to get better at this seeing business, whether or not I am actually somewhere at the time.

Posted in Adventure, Birds, Evans Bay, harbour, Horokiwi, Landscapes, Light, night, Petone, sunrise | 1 Comment

May 9, 2017 … back home

After the scenic splendour of the last month, coming home and back to earth is a  bit of a come-down.


Just one little wave

Of course I still love Wellington (as do Deutsche Bank’s customers, apparently ) and of course, if there is stillness, and the harbour is on show, then I am there. Last Thursday was such a time. Mary was out collecting for charity (Motor neurone disease) at a basketball game. I mounted my camera low, at the bottom of the centre column on my tripod, and went to the water’s edge in the corner of Chaffer’s Marina. I tried a really long exposure, but preferred this which was quick enough to catch the only wave I saw.


Wellington City at night

Night had not yet fallen completely, and I was there in what photographers call “the blue hour” after the sun is below the horizon. From Clyde Quay, the glittering lights of the CBD sat like jewels along the base of Te Ahumairangi (formerly know as Tinakori Hill), and it was all reflected in the stillness of the inner harbour.


Coloured lighting on the Michael Fowler Centre

From the end of Clyde Quay, there was a  view of the Michael Fowler Centre, lit up presumably in preparation for an upcoming carnival of some sort. Silhouetted against the MFC is the old steam tug, Hikitia, and along the top edge, above the crane’s jib, are the lights of Victoria University’s library, the Rankine-Brown building.


The steel-grey balls are part of the ornamental lighting along the public parts of the Wellington waterfront

A few days later, I found myself once more near the Hikitia on Taranaki St Wharf. Getting down low is a pain in the knees, these days. That’s where that trick with the bottom of the tripod comes in handy if I need a  different viewpoint.


Streamlined but stationary

Finally this week, my attention was taken by reflections in a coffee stall. It was closed at the time, but this one is regularly on the wharf, based in an Airstream caravan. The brick building is the former home of the head office the State Coal company before it was relocated and is now the home of Circa Theatre.



Posted in Architecture, Art, harbour, Landscapes, Light, Machinery, Maritime, Reflections, Sunset, Wellington | Leave a comment

May 6, 2017 … to complete the circle

The last place I described was Harihari on ANZAC day.


Lake Kaniere

The next few days after that, we did some exploration of the Lakes to the North of our bush hideaway at Pukekura. Lake Mahinapua, Lake Kaniere and Lake Brunner all offered their own brand of magic. Moody grey weather was the norm, but vitally, there was no wind, especially in the first half of each day.


Lake Mahinapua looking Eastward

The first lake you come to North of the town of Ross is Lake Mahinapua. I have been there before, and was not much impressed, but perhaps that was because a nasty breeze spoiled the surface of the lake in its stillness. This time we got lucky and it was glassy calm, if somewhat bleak and chilly.


Lovely Lake Kaniere on a moody morning

Lake Kaniere (above) was just breathtaking in its beauty. I got lucky in that I arrived moments before someone in a power boat went racing around to ruin the tranquillity of the place. Hard to imagine that for many years this lovely place was home to a huge, noisy  and very ugly gold dredge.

Dorothy Falls

Dorothy Falls near Lake Kaniere

We travelled Eastward along the lake’s Northern shoreline to Dorothy Falls which is tucked in a lovely glade just off the narrow gravel road. It’s not  a huge fall in terms of volume, but it makes up for that with its charm and isolation.


Hokitika Gorge where the Hokitika River emerges from the Southern Alps

From there we went inland to the South a little through Kokotahi and Kowhitirangi to see the startling turquoise water in the Hokitika Gorge. Apparently a combination of South Island schist, greywacke and icy water combine to produce this intense colour.


Lake Brunner dark and brooding

Our last lake while on the West Coast was Lake Brunner. Like the others, it is magical in the right conditions and sometimes a place of dark mystery.

Buller Gorge

Buller Gorge in the rain

And then it was time to move North towards our final Airbnb accommodation on this trip, in Linkwater, on the Queen Charlotte Drive. It’s a long (6.5 hours) haul from Pukekura, made even longer by rain and road works most of the way. Nevertheless this part of the West coast has a  wild beauty no matter what the weather, so I stopped briefly in the Buller Gorge to capture a sense of the place.


Lake Rotoiti in the rain

It was still raining steadily when we paused to eat our picnic lunch (in the car) at Lake Rotoiti near St Arnauds.


Pelorus Sound from the Cullen lookout

From there, the last long haul in our trip was down the Wairau Valley to Renwick, just out of Blenheim, and then up Long Gully beside the Kaituna River to Havelock, and around the many twists of Queen Charlotte Drive to our accommodation on the Mahakipawa Arm of Pelorus Sound.


The cows return to their paddock after milking … they seem to be on autopilot, and just follow the one ahead.

We enjoyed a wonderful restful four days there with mostly fine weather. A side trip to Nelson was enjoyable and I had to sample the wares at “The Mussel Pot” in Havelock which describes itself as “The Mussel Capital of the World”. And then it was time to leave. The morning of our departure was bright and cold with a strong mist on some of the paddocks. How could I resist these cows returning from their morning milking?


A new day in Anakiwa

Just along the road, we encountered the sea again at Anakiwa on the Queen Charlotte Sound. The conditions were stunning and I knew I needed to stop somewhere with a view. A small settlement called “The Grove” provided the perfect viewing spot. I think this shot is my all time favourite.


Golden start to the day

From exactly the same spot, looking to the East, I had to catch the fire of the morning as the sun brought the new day to the Sounds.


Morning mist at the Picton Marina

After a somewhat hazardous 30 minute  journey with multiple sunstrike places on a steep and winding road, we made it to Picton in plenty of time for the ferry. Some wandering around the waterfront and a coffee and scone in a cafe, it was time to say farewell to the South.


Leaving Picton on the Aratere

Despite dire warnings from various friends and rough conditions the previous day, our journey on the Aratere was wonderful.

And so ends our circumnavigation of the South Island. It was a wonderful experience, made all the better for me by the companionship and support of Mary. Our trip was to celebrate her retirement, and though she got some of the walks she wanted, I got the better of the deal with lots of photo-opportunities. She is my greatest treasure.


Posted in Adventure, Cook Strait, Lakes, Landscapes, Light, Machinery, Maritime, mountains, sunrise, Weather | 3 Comments

April 26, 2017 … help I am drowning!

So many beautiful places to see, so many images to make and process. Of course, I am loving every minute of it, but it is a bit overwhelming.

A house by the railway line in Warrington

On Friday I went with our middle son, Andrew (Drew to his friends), from Queenstown to Dunedin. While he attended to his appointment in the city I wandered and made pictures. Then he chose to return home via “the Pigroot”  (yes, that is how it is spelled) and the stunning Ida Valley. On the way, at my request, he passed along the coast road through Warrington where there was a house that I had regretted not shooting last time.

Ida Valley

Mountains … perhaps the Raggedy Range from the Ida Valley

The Maniatoto must surely be among the most beautiful places on Earth, especially during the late afternoon on a fine day such as we had. I can’t possibly show all my images so this one was among my favourites. Emerging from the Ida Valley near Poolburn, we are looking to the South West.


Balloon descending in front of the Morven Hill near Arrowtown

Then it was time to leave Queenstown. Despite a dismal forecast, we had a fine day for travel, and as we climbed the Crown Range road towards Hawea, we enjoyed watching hot air balloons descending near the Morven Hill for a landing site close to Arrowtown.


Reeds on Lake Ianthe

Our next accommodation is in Pukekura which claims to be the smallest town in NZ with a population of two.  Our holiday home is near the Bushman’s Centre in the midst of some spectacular West Coast rain forest. Pure magic and still the weather holds for us. We retraced our steps a little to stop in at lovely Lake Ianthe, perfectly still and shrouded in mist.


Okarito Lagoon

Okarito is another contender for my favourite places and we were there sufficiently early to catch the lagoon while the water still had that lovely unruffled surface.


Past its best

Our temporary home has a gate guardian … an ancient Fordson Tractor, and as you can see the main wheels are past repair, and the flanged front wheels look to have been borrowed from a rail wagon.

Ianthe (2)

Lake Ianthe in the morning

The next day was ANZAC day, the day on which New Zealand and Australia remember their dead of various wars, and especially those who died in the disastrous Gallipoli campaign. We went to the ceremony at the tiny town of Hari Hari  (pop. 348) but left early enough to catch Lake Ianthe in all its sun-bathed glory.


ANZAC Parade in Hari Hari

The ceremony was led by a small contingent of the New Zealand Army from Burnham. They commandeered the main road through town and were quite unabashed at blocking traffic during the most sacred moments of the this remembrance.


Blocked chimney

Finally this week, I spotted this old house on the way back to Pukekura. I have a weakness for old houses but have yet to see a house more in need of a chimney sweep than this one.

Posted in Adventure, Architecture, Lakes, Landscapes, Light, Machinery, Military, mountains, Queenstown | 4 Comments

April 19, 2017 … in tourism-land

Lake Hayes

Lake Hayes in the morning

Whenever I arrive in Queenstown, one of my first photo locations is Bendemeer Bay on Lake Hayes where, if the water is calm, I hope to see grebes. Alas, no grebes, but there was a nice view back towards the Remarkables.


Looking back towards Queenstown from the top of the Crown Range road

On Monday, I went over the Crown Range to Wanaka. The weather in Queenstown was grey with low overcast, and as I followed the zig-zag up the Southern face of the range,I entered the cloud and the visibility dropped to about 50 metres and only the tail lights of the car ahead were visible. With almost no warning, I emerged into clear sunlight and arrived at the lookout. Behind me to the South, the valley leading down to Queenstown was invisible.

In the Cardrona Valley

The road to the North, along the Cardrona river was bathed in golden light under a clear blue sky. Just a little past the Cardrona Hotel, there was a view to the West  which warranted a panorama.


The Wanaka Tree …

And then to Wanaka. As almost every photographer in New Zealand knows, there is a tree in the lake that has become the great cliché. Some refer to it as the Wanaka Tree, but more commonly, it’s just “that bl**dy tree”. Normally it is a little off shore, and is surrounded by water. On this occasion, the lake level was low and tourists can walk up to the tree and drape themselves over it to make their infernal selfies. It took twenty minutes of increasing blood pressure before there was a gap in which the tree was captured on its own.


In Skippers Canyon

Yesterday, our son, Andrew took Mary and I with grandchildren Billie and Otis, down Skippers Canyon. The road is sometimes easy, and sometimes sheer terrifying. Yesterday was relatively easy, dry and firm though far from smooth. No matter the state of the road, the landscape is always magnificent.


An old miners hut (I think) in Skippers

In winter, the countryside in the canyon is bleak and inhospitable and it is hard to believe that miners lived down here, scratching at the frozen soil, looking for the elusive gold. Their accommodation was largely fashioned from materials on site, and anything else was hauled in over the range on horse and wagon.


Inside the hut

I went inside one of the remaining huts and was delighted to see it seems to be still used from time to time. I couldn’t catch the two fantails flitting about inside, but just loved the atmosphere. I suspect I would have a different opinion in the dead of winter.


Father and son at rest together

We went down the old Skipper’s schoolhouse and visited the nearby cemetery.  It had a lot of unused space, and the planners obviously expected the town to be bigger and last longer.  One grave caught my eye, it was that of father and son, John and James Mitchell, aged 46 and 15 respectively, killed together in the Phoenix mine.


Looking towards the Remarkables from the road to Coronet Peak

After the long haul back up the canyon, we paused at the top to capture the view down to the Remarkables and Queenstown. More next week.

Posted in Adventure, Architecture, Family, Lakes, Landscapes, Light, mountains, Skippers | 3 Comments

April 14, 2017 … now where was I?

Karitane was a delight, both as a place to stay, and as a place from which to visit other places. I got a year older since I last wrote, and to celebrate, Mary took me to the famous “Fleur’s Place” restaurant at Moeraki. It was brilliant, and lived up to the very best of my expectations, and we got to chat with Fleur herself, a delightfully extroverted character. While at Moeraki, we visited Mary’s cousin Rosalie who runs a hospital for sick and distressed sea life at Katiki Point where the endangered yellow-eyed penguins come ashore.


Waikouaiti River – stillness

On the way home, I asked Mary to pause as we crossed the Waikouaiti river. I suppose it was flowing towards the sea, but from the road above, it was mirror-calm  and made interesting patterns with the bridge supports.

First Church

First Church, Dunedin

Next day with continued fine weather, we drove to Dunedin for a bit of shopping. A pause at the lights on Stuart Street reminded me of my long-held opinion that First Church is one of the most beautiful of the traditional churches in New Zealand.


Waikouaiti estuary

The next day, still in Karitane was just perfect and I was out of bed uncharacteristically early.


Wetlands at Karitane

As the day wore on, the stillness and the sunshine continued. By now most of you know I am a sucker for reflections.


Lake Waihola looking its best, but currently toxic

Then it was time to move on. Due to accommodation complications, we changed our original plan, and instead of going to Riverton near Invercargill, we went instead to Owaka in the Catlins. This took us down SH1 towards Balclutha, passing Lake Waihola on the way. This is a lovely lake to look at but due to an infestation of algal bloom, is currently unsafe to swim in.


Ducks seem immune to the algae

Nevertheless, in company with many other tourists, I went to the water’s edge and was delighted to be “photobombed” by a flock of ducks.

Nugget Point

Lighthouse at Nugget Point on the Catlins Coast

Check-in time at our accommodation was 2 pm so we diverted to Nugget Point on the Catlins coast.


Hinahina bridge on the “Catlins Lake”

By the time we arrived in Owaka, we were catching the edge effects of tropical cyclone Cook. Next morning, skies were grey and rain and wind were promised. I wanted to visit the “Catlins Lake” which is in reality the estuary of the Catlins River. My luck held out and despite the grey sky, the water was perfectly still except for the occasional splash of jumping fish. This is the Hinahina bridge.


Purakaunui falls in reduced circumstances

From there, since the weather was still reasonable, we drove up to the park for the Purakaunui falls and walked through the magnificent bush to see them. What a let down! Scarcely any rain had fallen, it seems and the usually splendid falls were a mere trickle.


Old house in the rain

Next day, the weather arrived. It is impossible to be in the Catlins and just sit inside, so I went out looking for scenes and character. If you click on this image you will see the rain belting down. Our accommodation had a log burner and plentiful firewood, so we stayed warm and dry for the rest of the stay.


De Havilland Dragonfly at Mandeville

Yesterday (Thursday) we drove from Owaka to Queenstown, but on the way I was able to fulfil a long-held wish to visit the Croydon Aviation Heritage Centre at Mandeville, just a little out of Gore.


De Havilland Fox Moth and others of the breed at Mandeville

This is both a museum and a working aviation restoration facility. Almost everything on display is flight-worthy. They have a strong history with aircraft from the de Havilland stable but do other aircraft as well. Thoroughly recommended to my fellow aviation nuts.




Posted in Adventure, Aviation, Catlins, Lakes, Landscapes, Moeraki, Museum, Queenstown, Queenstown, Reflections, Rivers, Weather | 2 Comments