September 14, 2020 … but a walking shadow*

It’s well known to everyone of a certain age, that time moves faster as you get older. So here I am and it’s already two weeks since my last post, and relatively little seems to have happened. That last bit is the subject of a separate complaint. So let us see what is in the cupboard this time.

Cornflower blue

Spring is undoubtedly with us. There are lambs, cherry blossoms, daffodils, other flowers and a gale which today is expected to reach 120 km/h. My images this week seem to have a botanical leaning. I hope those of you with an engineering bent can cope.

Flannel plant

My neighbour kindly permitted me to steal a bit of this intriguing plant. From a distance it looks like a clump of yellow daisies. When you get close, it takes a different and more three-dimensional form.

First leaf of spring

It’s almost exactly four months since I made an image of the last leaf of the season on our Japanese maple, and now it has clad itself in new season’s clothes.

Follow your nose

The day was a bit rough, with a strong chilly wind. As I was coming back from the boat sheds at Hikoikoi Reserve, I saw a couple in silhouette, walking their dog along the ridge near the shore. The dog was on a long lead, and it was excitedly scanning the path for the scent of any potential enemy or past girl friends.

Cherry blossom

The season of cherry blossom is such a brief glory. A Japanese friend of Mary died recently, and knowing how she loved the ones in Upper Hutt, Mary obtained a sprig of it to leave on the casket.

Sculpture – artist unknown

In the suburb of Kingston, there is a reserve in which there is a stone pou whenua. According to Maori custom, a pou whenua (which is more usually carved from wood) is an assertion of ownership or custodianship of an area. This one was apparently erected by the people of the nearby Tapu Teranga marae. According to an article in Stuff, “The sculpture depicts Te Rauparaha, who faces Kapiti Island to the east, and his nephew Te Rangihaeata, who looks out to Tapu Te Ranga Motu, the island in Island Bay that once served as a refuge for local Maori.”

Tui in a cabbage tree

A brief visit to QEII Park near Paekakariki this well-built tui seemed unafraid.

Black-fronted dotterel at Hokio Beach

Though it’s a 200 km round trip, I love going to Hokio Beach to see the black-fronted dotterel. This tiny bird runs so fast that it appears to blow across the beach like so much fluff. They are a delight to watch.

the un-daffodil express

Each year at about this time, Steam Inc combine with the cancer society to organise a steam-hauled train from Wellington to Carterton where, in normal times, passengers are free to gather daffodils from a field planted for the purpose. Sadly, the organisation decided that social distancing rules made the daffodil collection unsafe this year. Steam Inc went ahead with the train journey anyway, since all seats had been sold ($99.00 per adult return). I caught it as the locomotive clattered across the steel bridge at Moera. I hoped for a more dramatic image on the return journey. Sadly, the train returned an hour ahead of the published schedule, so I was distressed to hear the steam whistle telling me I had missed it.

A host of golden daffodils **

So be it. There were still plenty of daffodils in various public gardens and on traffic islands so it’s easy to find consolation. for other disappointments.

  • *Macbeth, William Shakespeare
  • ** I wandered lonely as a cloud, Wordsworth

September 1, 2020 … a change of pace

Oh my goodness, time has slipped by and it has been almost a month since my last post. I have no clue how many regular readers still remain, but if you are one, thank you.

Winter morning – Oriental Bay – August 1

I know that August is generally the kindest of our winter months, but this one was extraordinary. According to the books, Spring is now with us I shall not be surprised if we now get some of the rough weather that we missed in winter. Even as I write, we have a howling Norwester with rain. On this morning, at the beginning of August, my attention was caught by the black-billed gulls at rest on the water at the Eastern end of Oriental Bay. That, and I am always intrigued by the textures of the cityscape from here.

Looking good for 112 years – August 4

At the intersection of Lambton Quay, Mulgrave St and Thorndon Quay this grand old lady has stood in various states since 1908. As the engraved letters attest, this was once the headquarters of the long defunct Wellington Corporation Tramways. Indeed I remember being here in the early sixties when the trams were still operating. My memory is of a constant stream of uniformed drivers and “clippies” coming and going through those doors. The rooftop amendments are not entirely to my liking but I suppose they could have been worse.

Off-peak storage – August 5

Just behind the spot from which I made the image of the old tramways building is a stairway that leads to the concourse of the city’s Sky Stadium. It is a featureless flat concrete walkway that crosses the railyards. This image was made just after 10 am., long after the morning commuter rush is over. I liked the moody atmosphere and the glittering tops of the Korean-made commuter units as they wait for the rush to resume in the afternoon.

At Te Haukaretu Park, Upper Hutt – August 6

The duck pond in Te Haukaretu Park, Upper Hutt is sheltered from the wind and often provides a peaceful scene. I particularly like the form of the trees in the pond.

Atrium – Wellington Station – August 9

Having seen some of the truly great rail terminals of the world, I know that Wellington railway station is a relatively small competitor. Nevertheless it has a handsome and well proportioned main atrium. It lacks the stalls and shops that you might find in Washington or New York, but on the other hand it has a mere 30,000 passengers per day compared with 750,000 in New York.

At Pencarrow Head -August 10

I have the privilege of being allowed to accompany a group of conservationists who specialise in the care and observation of the dotterel population along the South East coast of Wellington harbour. This gets me to Baring Head and beyond in comfort in a car as opposed to the four hour return walk. We saw few dotterels on this day, but I enjoyed the view across the harbour entrance. I should acknowledge that this was one of the few windy days in August.

Pipit – August 11

A second trip to Baring head was also a bust as far as dotterel sightings went, but I enjoyed the company of this New Zealand pipit (Anthus novaeseelandiae). They characteristically bob their tail up and down as they walk.

Dabchick at QEII park – August 15

When there is little or no wind, the wetlands at Queen Elizabeth Park in Paekakariki are a favourite place for me. The still dark waters reflect the green of the surrounding bush and provide a lovely contrast for the water fowl that visit. In this case, the dabchick is moving quickly to escape the photographer.

Pauatahanui Inlet – August 17

Some calm days are better than others. In this case, the water on the Northern side of Pauatahanui Inlet was just perfectly still. I rather liked the pattern made by the rocks.I almost wonder whether I should have cropped out everything above the sandbar.

Shoveler ducks – August 17

I am always fascinated by the Australasian Shoveler duck (Anas rhynchotis). It is the duck equivalent of a baleen whale. It feeds by filtering water through a curtain of fibres in its extraordinary bill to catch plankton, seeds and other edible material. This was also made at QEII park.

Puzzle time – August 20

I mentioned a change of pace. We had long planned trips to see our more distant grandchildren. Sadly the virus has taken away the possibility of a visit to Brisbane any time soon. However, since New Zealand is at alert level 2, domestic travel is possible, so we could fly to Queenstown in time for our youngest grandson’s tenth birthday. For that journey I love to get a Westward facing window seat, and Mary always generously yields it to me. I look for interesting land forms below. I can usually identify the larger settlements and geographic features, but I have fun with the smaller places, grab the shot and try to match it against Google Earth when I get home. In this case, the river caught my eye and then the little township sliding into the view at bottom left. It took me a while to identify the town as Luggate and the river as the Clutha.

Lake Hayes Estate – August 22

Our middle son Andrew lives in Lake Hayes Estate which can be described as a dormitory suburb about 15 km to the North East of Queenstown. I was intrigued by the oak trees that lined many of its streets,. The leaves had turned colour and died many months ago, but refused to let go. Spring in New Zealand is generally regarded as the months of September through November, so we are still seeing Autumnal brown even as nature starts applying some green to the landscape.

Wild Irishman – August 22

Despite the severe economic impact of the covid virus on Queenstown’s tourist industry, there is still a great deal of development to provide new housing. At the Southern end of Kelvin Heights, on the narrow part of the isthmus just beyond the golf course, a large patch of land has been cleared for development. Among the few plants remaining was a sturdy example of the matagouri (Known in colonial times as Wild Irishman). Happily, it is relatively rare in the North Island. It too will go to be replaced no doubt by upscale housing.

Para-penting in Queenstown – August 22

Before anyone gets too excited, no I did not lash out the $219 required for a tandem jump. I don’t do heights, remember. We were at the base of the gondola to the skyline complex where the young folks were about to have a ride on the luge when this pilot and his passenger caught the light as they passed in front of the gondolas.

On Lake Hayes – August 23

I can’t visit Queenstown without spending time at Lake Hayes. I mean the lake itself which seems to enjoy a lot of shelter from the wind. The bird life is interesting and varied. I always hope to see and get close to the crested grebe which we just don’t see in the North. Alas, I saw coots and scaup, oystercatchers and a huge variety of ducks but no grebes. This common mallard drake gets the call because it was bold enough to take centre stage.

Rushing in Arrowtown – August 23

Down below the historic huts in which Chinese miners lived, Bush Creek tumbles through the bush to join the Arrow river. I liked the little waterfall. The light was low enough that I didn’t need a neutral density filter. The rushing effect is conveyed well enough with a mere 2 second exposure.

Clyde Bridge – August 26

Andrew was at work, and the children were at school so Mary and I did a tour through the Kawarau Gorge and Cromwell to Clyde, Earnscleugh and Alexandra looking for whatever the landscape might reveal. After a great morning tea in Dunstan House, Clyde, we drove over then under the historic Clyde Bridge to catch this view of the Clutha.

Rock of ages – August 26

When we reached Earnscleugh, I made a fortuitous turn into Conroy’s road (recommended) and up through the scientific reserve where the rocks are shaped in fantastic ways. This view from near Black Ridge Winery includes one such formation and then looks beyond across the Manuherakia Valley to the Dunstan Mountains in the background. Somehow, the plentiful birdsong did not spoil the silence of the magnificent landscape.

Coronet Peak – August 27

Family trips always come to an end and so we were homeward bound. Mary gave me her window seat again, and as we left Queenstown we passed over Coronet Peak where the ski-field operators were desperately trying to wring the last out of a virus-ruined season. The snow guns were working hard overnight to keep the popular trails useable. We loved our time with the family, and as always, loved coming home.

I am Groot – August 29

Our amazing spell of benign weather was obviously coming to an end so we looked for a walk that kept us out of the boisterous wind. I suggested the Catchpool Valley area of the Remutaka Forest Park. Mary set out on a brisk circuit of the various tracks while I explored the beech forest areas.This tiny shoot, growing out of a dead log tickled my fancy. The title of the image is borrowed from the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Remutaka Forest Park, – the Five Mile Loop Track – August 29

That tree root in the foreground is fairly obvious so I crossed it without incident. I failed the test on the next one which was concealed in the leaf mould, and did a face-plant. I landed on my camera which ripped my recently repaired macro-lens in two pieces. Waaaahhhhh! No significant personal injury, so I returned to the car park to await Mary.

I hope to post again after a shorter time lapse.

August 8, 2020 … strange weather, but I’ll take it

For almost two weeks now, we have had consecutive days of calm fine weather. In that period, I count some still grey days in which the harbours were still. Wellington has a reputation for its mean winters. According to the calendar, this one has plenty yet to come, but so far it has been a delight.

Centre of bureaucracy
Down to the centre

High in the suburb of Northland is the Te Ahumairangi Hill lookout which affords a view over the bureaucratic centre of New Zealand. The tower block with the green top is the Business School of Victoria University of Wellington. The flat building in front is the high court and then the grey roof of parliament and the “beehive” which houses parliamentary offices. To the right of the beehive is the law school in the old wooden building and behind that the IRD. On the extreme right is Bowen House which contains the overflow for all our pariamentarian’s offices. Oh, and the brick building behind the business school is Wellington railway station.

rapids
Tumbling down the gorge

The Ngaio Gorge carries the Kaiwharawhara stream through lovely Trelissick Park from Ngaio at the top of the hill down to the harbour. It’s a modest stream but I liked the little rapids seen here.

Kayak
Sustained stillness.

A lovely morning at Pauatahanui Inlet and I decided to follow the Camborne walkway around its North West corner. The water was glassy and a bright red kayak entered the frame. As I lined up for my shot, the kayaker put his paddle across the cockpit and became a photographer himself.

Demolition

A long delayed casualty of the Kaikoura Earthquake (14 November 2016), the almost new BNZ building on Centreport’s land near the railway station is finally being demolished. Unlike most demolition work in the city, they recovered as much of the building materials as possible. Now it is down to the sadly compromised concrete skeleton, and the big crane is nibbling away at the remnants.

Kereru

We’ve been here before. The kereru is perched in the small kowhai shrub on our front lawn and was nibbling new shoots as efficiently as a motor trimmer. Somehow the shrub always recovers

Seaview Marina

Seaview Marina is a favourite place when the water is still. I was down at water level with the camera hanging inverted on the tripod centre-post just above the water to get this view. I heard my name called and there was Mary taking her lunch break between volunteer roles. We enjoyed our lunch together on a lovely mid-winter day.

Tapuae-o-Uenuku

If you have read my blog for any length of time, you will have seen Tapuae-o-Uenuku many times before. I always love to see it clear and proud across the strait. It’s weird to know that distant Kaikoura is just near the foot of Manakau, the mountain on the left. In case you were unaware, Manakau is the highest peak in the Seaward Kaikoura range while Tapuae-o-Uenuku is the highest in the Inland Kaikoura range. Despite the apparent calm, waves were slapping against the rocks with some force.

Waingawa River

Mary and I went over the hill into the Wairarapa and up the road to Holdsworth lodge. A lot of people had the same idea and the beautifully formed tracks in the lower parts were quite busy. The Waingawa river was tumbling down the hill to join the Ruamahanga river and thence via Lake Onoke to the sea.

Pied shag

Zealandia wildlife reserve gives the visitor access to a great variety of birdlife as well as providing opportunities for close encounters with Tuatara and various other lizards. This pied shag is enjoying the calm of the nest but keeping a wary eye on the tourists

North Island robin

Also in Zealandia is this lovely little North Island robin. They enjoy the insects stirred up as people walk by, and come very close, even to the extent of perching on the toe of your shoes to get the best harvest. They seem quite unafraid.

Lowry Bay

It has been an extraordinary run of weather, with two weeks in mid-winter with almost no wind, and mostly sunny days. In Lowry Bay, the usual fleet of moored yachts is down to just one at present.

Little black shag

Inside the breakwater of the Seaview Marina there are a few rocks that serve as a resting place for shags. This Little Black shag is airing its laundry .

Seaview Marina (2)

And still, day after day the eerie calm continues. Overcast weather I can live with but I do prefer conditions such as these that give reflections.

Jetski

As I write this edition, the weather has broken with rain and wind. It would be churlish to complain after so long. This image was made a few days earlier as a jet-ski rider was heading out to make noise and spray in the open water of the harbour.

That will do for now. See you next time.

July 17, 2020 … everything changes

I seem to have let things slip for a few weeks. Ah well, the solution is to pick them up again.

In Avalon Park

Stillness speaks louder than the strongest gale. It demands my attention. The first thing I do every morning when I pull back the curtains is check whether the fronds on the ponga tree are waving or still. If they are still, life speeds up and after shower and breakfast, I head out. If they are waving I spend time at the keyboard. This still moment occurred at the end of the day and I was driving through Naenae. The duck pond in Fraser park was free of ripples and I was able to get low enough to separate the tree from the background.

Naenae Fog

On several mornings recently, we have experienced river fog drifting slowly down the valley. It doesn’t always follow the river exactly and takes a shortcut through Naenae. The various heating equipment at Hutt Hospital contributed to scene and showed the generally Southbound movement,

Someone left the plug out

There was a mist in Evans Bay. The ex-naval whaler owned by the Sea Scouts was in need of a good baling out. but was still afloat, and separated from the other nearby boats by the fog.

On the road to Shelly Bay

It was an unusually thick fog, so I went around Shelly Bay road to see what opportunities might arise. I was setting up my tripod for a shot across the bay when two cyclists emerged out of the mist behind me and were disappearing away to the North. I swung the camera and seized the moment.

In Shelly Bay

Back to the view across the harbour and the old jetties at the former Air Force flying boat base. I got the shot I wanted and within thirty minutes the fog had lifted and the view across Evans Bay was back to normal

What a mighty mountain

Mary and I chose to spend four nights away recently. We looked at the various AirBnB opportunities and settled on Opunake on the Taranaki coast. It’s about half an hour North of Hawera and 50 minutes South of New Plymouth. I had driven through it before but had spent no time there. Just getting there fulfils the first rule of landscape photography: first go somewhere where there is a good landscape.

Sunset in Opunake

The weather was variable while we were in Taranaki but we had a few memorable sunsets. Though there was a chill Southerly breeze, the sky was clear apart from some haze on the horizon. This shot was made in Middleton Bay, just North of Opunake beach.

North Island Tomtit

A nice thing about Opunake is the number of interesting places that are with less than an hour’s drive. One such is Dawson Falls at the edge of the tree line high on the South Eastern side of Taranaki. The day we went up there was complicated with low cloud, and though I made some shots of the snow and glimpses of the summit, the mountain was not displayed to best advantage. I was happy however, to see this delightful little North Island tomtit (Petroica macrocephala). It was happy to see me too since my passing by stirred up insects for it to catch.

Carved life-sized hawk

While we were in Taranaki, we visited our friend Wayne Herbert. I posted an image of his tui last edition. This is one of an American hawk . What a gift this man has. I swear I can see life in the eye of this wooden carving.

Waxeye in the red-hot pokers

One of my favourite places near New Plymouth is Lake Mangamahoe. We stopped in there on our way back to Opunake. It was a grey overcast day, but colour was provided by the extensive growth of red hot poker (Kniphofia uvaria) along the lake’s edge. And then there were the lovely waxeyes browsing among the flowers, presumably for insects.

Live steam

Steam Inc, at Paekakariki was having an open weekend recently and I happened to be driving past when I spotted the plumes of steam as the locomotives were being fired up for the event the next day. There were two locomotives out in the sunshine. One was Ja1271 and the other was Ab608 “Passchendaele”. Both were hissing gently and occasionally blowing steam.

The dog walker

On Petone Beach late this week, I saw a dog-walker with nine or ten “clients” which he had walked oolong the stormwater outlet. Several of his dogs were off the leash and he seemed to be calling them to heel with varying degrees of success.

That will suffice this time. Stay safe and well everyone. I look forward to catching up in two weeks or so.

June 18, 2020 …seize the day

“Up we go! Up we go!’ till at last, pop! his snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.” (Kenneth Grahame, Wind in the Willows)

Like Mole, I feel I have emerged from the darkness and am enjoying the world with new eyes after the long weeks of lockdown. Even as I visit familiar haunts, I seem to see them differently now. Whether or not this results in new or better images is open for discussion. Either way, I am having fun.

Distand land under a grey sky

How many times, I wonder, have I shared an image of the Tararuas from our front lawn. From a photographer’s perspective each set of light conditions and cloud formations creates a scene different to the many times I have seen it before. The bones of the landscape are unchanged, but the season, the light and the weather add flesh to the view. I am always tempted by those receding layers of hills leading to the great South wall of the Tararuas.

Superb craftsmanship

I have recently made a friend in New Plymouth whose hobby and passion is carving wildfowl in wood to life-size. I know nothing about this hobby except that Wayne Herbert is a master of his craft. For various reasons, the bird he is entering into a global competition this year is in the possession of a near neighbour, so he asked me to make photographs of it. Yes, that beautiful tui really is made of wood.

Morning mist

River mist changes the character of the landscape. Most mornings it disperses fairly quickly and the day turns out well. The tower block in the background is the former TVNZ studios and office block at Avalon. It’s hard to figure out what it’s used for these days. The trees in the mid-ground are on the Boulcott golf course.

Premature symbols of spring

Folklore is fun, but often implausible. There is a fable to the effect that a sure sign of spring is when there are six daisies on the lawn that you can cover with your hand. Well here we are. But how can this be a sign of spring with the winter solstice still a a few days in the future? And why are there early jonquils in flower? I suspect spring may not actually come early, but our warming planet may show us things that, in previous times, were not seen until much later in the year.

Nature – the jeweller

The Japanese maple beside the path to our front door is now bare. The last living leaves have fallen and so begins the long wait for the new season. Or perhaps it won’t be such a long wait. A day of soft rain decorated the branches with sparkling droplets.

Hansa Freyburg departs for Nelson

Several viewpoints around the region afford a good view of the Kaikoura ranges. I was at the lookout at the top of the Wainuiomata Hill road and admiring the view of snow-tipped Tapuae-o-Uenuku when I noticed the container vessel Hansa Brandenburg and the pilot launch Te Haa emerging from the port. I had to wait a few minutes to catch it in front of the mountain. That peak is 2,885 metres high and 140 km from my standpoint.

Autumnal carpet

The flaming Autumn colour of our Japanese maples made a small but spectacular showing and then, in the space of a few days, the colour was all on the ground. Mary’s moss covered driftwood contrasts nicely with the various reds of the dying drying leaves.

Commuting

In Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” (which I have never seen or even read) there is a well-known monologue that outlines the seven ages of man. The words that always resonated with me were “And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel And shining morning face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to school“. In the days when I still commuted to work, I loved to watch the people getting off the train or bus with expressionless faces trudging towards whatever new misery fate might deliver to them today. Rain or shine the expressions never changed as they trudged unwillingly to work. I was aiming to catch the reflection of the portico in the puddle, but I think the two pedestrians capture the day perfectly.

Petone foreshore

At the Western end of the Petone esplanade, is a park which is commonly used by people bringing their dogs for exercise. Its formal name is Honiana Te Puni Park though I doubt that many know it as such. It seems that the car park surface is far from horizontal, judging by the puddles that form after a little rain. I am always happy to find large still puddles as they present an opportunity for reflection shots and in this case a minimalist image. The bollards are there to prevent motorists driving across the narrow strip of grass and over the sea wall into the harbour.

Red

A Canadian photographic group that I joined proposed “Red” as the theme of the week. A strip of florist’s ribbon and a macro lens (just before it died) allowed my to produce this image. It might make more sense if you click on it to see the larger version. Or not. The lens has gone to the maker’s agent in Christchurch and is awaiting the arrival of a replacement barrel with the electronics. Ouch! $450.

A sea horse?

Some of the beaches on the West coast of the North Island are wild and lonely places characterised by black iron sand and lots of driftwood. The long smooth beaches are popular with drivers of off-road vehicles and the occasional equestrian. This picture was captured at Hokio Beach, a little to the South of Levin. There was a heavy swell and the sea was glittering in the afternoon sun. The young lady was clearly enjoying her time with the horse.

Sandra II

Sandra II has featured in many other shots, though usually at her mooring in the Hikoikoi reserve. I saw the two gentlemen preparing for their trip and then they cast off and headed out into the harbour. It seems to have a permanent list to port. It made me think of the old Picton ferry Tamahine (1925 – 1963) which also had a permanent list that gained her the nickname “Tilting Tam”

Deceptive weather

On the South coast near Island Bay, the sun was shining brightly and the sea state was quite moderate. However, the temperature was about 9°C and the spiteful Nor’Westerly wind was ripping the tops off the incoming waves. In the background, the lighthouse on Baring Head gleamed in the morning sun.

Dawn

Early mornings are not familiar territory for me. Nevertheless the rosy glow through the curtains caught my attention. This view from my bedroom window is to the North and the lights on the hills on the left are at the entrance to Stokes Valley. The dark patch in the right foreground is the Boulcott golf course with Naenae and Avalon beyond. Despite ancient warnings about red skies it was the first of several flawless days.

Lake Wairarapa at Featherston

Another lovely day and Mary and I decided to take a picnic lunch to the Southern Wairarapa. Flat calm conditions in Featherston led me to hope that the lake might present opportunities. We got off to a late start so I was pressing my luck. Nevertheless, at 11 am the water was still unruffled. I hung the camera inverted on the centre pole of the tripod and got it close to the surface of the water and looked to the South. A reader commented that she was accustomed to the lake seeming always brown and scruffy. Happily, a smooth surface reflects the colour of the sky above so we have a nice blue lake. I noticed with some regret that the two rows of rusting steel piles that were once a jetty for the yacht club had been removed.

Pole dweller

As we were pulling away from the lake, I saw this white-faced heron perched on the only surviving steel pile and reflecting nicely in the water below. I rolled the window down and shot this from the driver’s seat. There was no other traffic on the road.

I hope the new vision continues and look forward to seeing you next time/

May 22, 2020 … birds and bees

The weeks since my last post have been strange. Despite the easing of our lockdown status to level 2, life feels markedly different to the way it was before the restrictions. Perhaps it’s just the onset of winter weather.

As you will see from the pictures I display this time, I have not been to many places that afford a long view. Traditional landscape shots have been hard to come by. In fact, under the rules of level 2 lockdown, domestic travel is now permitted but I still feel obliged to stay close to home.

WARNING: The penultimate image in this edition is of a spider, so if spiders upset you, approach with caution.

Vivid colour

I was walking down the walkway beside Te Mome Stream near the Shandon golf course in search of our old friend “George”, the white heron. I never did find George on that trip, but these bright pegs (US = clothespins) seemed to make a picture.

Graffiti in the bush

On the same walkway, I encountered this shed tucked into the bush beside the track. I have no tolerance at all for graffitists who I regard as the equivalent of dogs marking their territory. Nevertheless the overall effect was interesting.

Hi, George

A few days later, I finally found George. More precisely, Mary found George while she was out on one of her long walks and texted me as to where she had seen him. I then drove to a street nearby and tip-toed into the area. There he was standing in a place where a storm-water drain empties into the Te Mome stream. I had to engage in a combination of sneaky approach and weird contortions to get a clear shot of him. So nice to see him again.

To see the world in a grain of sand

One of Mary’s treasured pieces of driftwood suddenly revealed the surface pattern that I had been looking at but not seeing for a long time. The Lockdown seems to have developed that skill a little. Please do click to enlarge in order to see the pattern.

A white-faced heron

This image was made at the Hutt River estuary while I was checking to see whether George had returned to his old haunts. George had gone elsewhere, but his smaller cousin, the white-faced heron was standing in the an area of sunlit water, producing an interesting high-key effect.

Madonna

Even as we came out of the level three restrictions, we had some less than pleasant weather. So, back inside for still life shots. Mary has a small sandstone madonna about 75 mm (3″) tall. I used my light tent and made this high key image. It was fun to do.

Pukeko

Still in pursuit of George, I prowled the banks of the Te Mome stream and encountered this handsome pukeko. The pukeko (Porphyrio melanotus) is a member of the swamphen family and there are numerous joke recipes for preparing it for the table. It usually goes, boil with an axe head until the axe head goes soft then discard the bird and eat the axe head. Regardless of its suitability for eating it is a fine looking bird with a vivid red shield on its head and beautiful blue and purple plumage. Did I mention that it has huge feet?

white on white

This flower was part of a bouquet that Mary received recently. As far as I can tell, it is one of the fleabane family and as you might guess, is related to daisies. I rather like the idea of high key images (usually very bright images with minimal shadows). So the faithful light tent was pushed into action again and I think it did a good job displaying the purity of the petals.

Bumble-bee resting

I was hanging washing on the line in our back yard when Mary drew this bumble bee to my attention. It was clinging to a down-pipe on the outside of the house, and looked as if it were about to die. I raced inside for camera and tripod and made images from several angles while it obligingly stayed very still. Then I completed my domestic duties and when I next looked, it had flown away.

Sandra II

Before the lockdown, I used to visit Hikoikoi quite often and am familiar with the working boats that are usually moored there. Sandra II is a sturdy little fishing vessel that, I suspect, rarely goes beyond the harbour limits. Nevertheless, I have seen her owner unloading good hauls of fish. On this occasion he seemed to be preparing to go out.

The elusive George

Another day searching for George and I found him, lurking among the reeds beneath some trees overhanging the stream. He certainly doesn’t make it easy. When I got to close he departed for distant places.

Glass

Another wet day and more indoor work. I am not sure how to describe this piece, but I suspect it to be a bas relief. It qualifies by virtue of no undercutting, but it is inverted, carved into the back of the glass block. Again about 75 to 100 mm tall.

Imperial gaze

This statue of Queen Victoria was cast it’s steely gaze over Kent and Cambridge Terraces since it was moved there in 1911 to make way for the trams in its original location in Post Office Square, It’s a fine statue, but the panels on the plinth were controversial because the Scottish artist had a rose-tinted view of the signing of the Treaty of Waiting.

Vagrant spider (Uiliodon albopunctatus)

Mary spotted this large black spider in the upstairs bedroom. It was moving pretty fast so she yelled for me to bring my camera. She then caught it in a glass jar and put some cling film to secure the beast. Neither of us was aware of it at the time but Uiliodon albopunctatus has a reputation for being aggressive and capable of inflicting a nasty bite. Like almost all New Zealand spiders, its bit is non-toxic. An hour in the fridge slowed it down considerably and I was able to pose it on a sheet of white paper and make my images. As it started to warm up and show signs of animation, I released it unharmed into the garden where it might normally live.

Leucanthemum (I think)

This flower is growing on a large shrub in a neighbour’s somewhat overgrown piece of undeveloped land. Botanical identification is quite difficult to me and often a flower seems to match at least five or six candidates.

That will suffice for this round. I look forward to your company in a few weeks.

May 5, 2020 … so much to be grateful for

A full five weeks of Level 4 lockdown is behind us. It seems to have been the right course of action. Yesterday, in New Zealand, there were no new cases of Covid-19 reported. In terms of our personal well being, Mary has performed daily domestic miracles, so from my perspective, lockdown has been no great hardship. We were warm, well fed, and only mildly inconvenienced. I have much to be grateful for. It did, however, constrain my photography. First world problem.

As I indicated two weeks ago, the main impact of lockdown on making images was that most of them have had to be made at short distances. I couldn’t drive to places that gave me the long view required for landscapes. Let’s see how I did.

Down the hole

In one of the neighbourhood walks into which Mary cajoled me, I looked over the railing at the edge of the footpath and down into the crown of a beautiful Silver Fern, (Alsophila dealbata or ponga). I liked the swirling impression it gave, rather like a whirlpool.

Spruce cone

Items of possible interest from her own much longer walks were delivered almost daily by Mary. As far as I can tell, this is the cone is from one of the 35 or so varieties of spruce. I was intrigued by the general lightness of the cone, and the delicacy of each seed wing. Even the simplest things in nature come with their own beauty.

More neighbourly craft

The last time I posted, I mentioned our neighbour painting rocks. Her rate of production seems to have escalated and she has been gifting them to friends and neighbours and even leaving them in various places near the front of the driveway for strangers to find and treasure. It brings a smile to my face to see such a generous instinct.

Cicada

I associate the cicada with February. To my mind it is the sound of late hot summer weather. The sometimes deafening buzz-click of a million insects in unison is what summer sounds like. It was a surprise, therefore, to get one in late April.This specimen is not the common chorus cicada, but rather, I think it is the native April Green cicada, Kikihia ochrina. I have never encountered one before. I just love the delicacy of its wing structure.

Seizing the moment

Though many things are suspended during lockdown, our hedge keeps growing. So I had to uncoil the power cord, oil the hedge trimmer blades and begin the trimming. The hedge was in copious bloom, and the bees were doing their thing. As the clippers reduced the number of available flowers, the bees became a bit disgruntled and buzzed threateningly. I paused in my domestic duties to get out a camera with a long (400 mm) lens so as to catch the bumble bee visiting the last of the uncut flowers. Sorry bees, I bow to a higher authority and she asked for a tidy hedge.

Glass ware

I participate in making pictures to a daily theme with a group of photographers, most of whom are in or near Grand Bend, Ontario. One day recently, the theme was glassware so I produced this. The glass angel (in reality, a small flower vase) was placed inside a larger glass bowl that contains some of Mary’s found rocks. I had to reshoot this because glass that may appear clean to the naked eye is often not so. Any smooth surface seems to need a good wipe before a clean image can be made.

Lost marbles

Continuing the glass theme, I placed this handful of glass marbles inside a fruit bowl. I considered swirling the marbles and getting some motion blur, but with so many marbles, they stopped orbiting as soon as I put the bowl down.

Familiar scene, different light

ANZAC Day was unique this year. For the first time ever, there were no formal public observances. Instead, at the suggestion of our Prime Minister, citizens were invited to stand at their own front gate by the letterbox at 6am to collectively honour the dead of all our wars. And so it was. Many people stood in the pre-dawn darkness, to honour our fallen. The social-distancing rules were observed as we listened to the basic broadcast rituals of ANZAC day. A neighbour played a lament on his bagpipes, and as we dispersed silently back to our homes the day began. A beautiful red sky in the North East warned of murky weather to come.

Katydid

As you will realise, when the public mantra is “stay at home, save lives”, there are few opportunities to use long lenses, so I am always looking for something interesting at close range. Happily, Mary has a good eye, and is not scared of much so she brought this katydid home from one of her walks. The branch recently vacated by the cicada served as a posing platform. Unfortunately the insect kept waving her feelers about, and the relatively slow exposure meant that they were not as sharp as the rest of her.

Spinster

Another close-up is of a small pewter souvenir I bought for my late mother-in-law while I was in Amsterdam in 1982. The girl at the spinning wheel is described in Dutch as a “spinster”, so I was a little nervous about having an invoice for a spinster on my credit card. As with all my images, if you click on it, you will get a larger view and see the details better. As with most of my photography, this is made using natural light from a West facing window.

For medicinal purposes

Also made for the Ontario group, this time with the them with the theme of “bird’s eye view”, is this jar of marshmallows which I keep because someone told me that they are good for the relief of an irritating cough. I was prepared to take that as gospel with out doing any research to check it out. I suppose I want it to be true, and if it’s not, please don’t tell me.

Longhorn

My lovely assistant turned up with yet another interesting specimen. This one took a lot of Google time to track down, and even then, a friend found the identification before I did. It is a variegated longhorn beetle (Coptomma variegatum) … it is usually a forest dweller, the larvae of which burrow into live twigs. I thought it was a handsome beast, although it was very active. I had to resort to an old photographer’s trick of storing it in the fridge for a while until it slowed down with the cold. I got about ten minutes of relative stillness before it began to recover, and then it was turned loose unharmed.

Yucca flowers

Apparently, yucca plants are a significant cause of domestic injury in New Zealand. Their leaves certainly come to a viciously sharp point, and people manage to stab themselves with them. No matter, the flowers are a delight to the eye. The fine specimen in my neighbour’s garden seems to flower every other year and makes a spectacular show when it does.

Not George, but he’s not far away/

Our old friend George, the white heron is back in town. I hoped to see him in the usual place, but alas, he was elsewhere when we visited. His old and smaller friend, the white-faced heron was there keeping watch on his usual resting place inside the derelict boat.

That is all this time. I am guessing that we shall have at least another week or more in semi-lockdown, but perhaps some of the time ahead may allow travel to places with a longer view. Stay well, stay safe, observe the distance guidelines. See you next time.

April 19, 2020 … If I had the wings of an angel*

Three weeks of lockdown at level 4 (the highest) are now completed in New Zealand. At least one more week to go, and perhaps more. Even if the government does loosen the reins, I suspect there will still be considerable restrictions on movement, especially for those of us over 70.

If as a result, I don’t pass the virus to anyone else, or indeed receive it as an unwelcome gift from another person, then it is a price worth paying.

Mary and I are doing well in our shared confinement, and have much to be grateful for, especially having Mary as my “bubble companion”. Of course the confinement has a limiting effect on my photography. It does however, give me lots of practice in photographing things that are closer than usual. It also enables me to observe just how very hard Mary works (and has always done) to keep the house running smoothly and still keep supporting other people by phone.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Mary brings home things that might make a good image. I really liked this roadside plant. My web search suggests it is a Yarrow (also known as Achillea). The density of the little flowers made it especially attractive to me.

Autumn

Just about a kilometre down the road, and well within our permitted walking distance is the grand old house originally built for George von Zedlitz, one of the four founding professors of Victoria University of Wellington. Sadly, being German, he was interned on Somes Island as an enemy alien during the first world war. The university did not cover itself in glory with their support for him. The house is in what is now Jubilee Park, just across the road from us. It is currently designated as Hutt Minoh House, and is the focus of the sister city relationship between Lower Hutt and the Japanese city of Minoh. Although the park in which it is situated is predominantly native bush, there are patches of deciduous trees which allow me to find a touch of Autumn colour in the otherwise unrelenting green.

Super Moon

The full moon just prior to Easter looked as if it was going to emerge into a clear sky. Then the Eastern hills acquired a blanket of low cloud. The moon appeared but hid behind the scudding clouds. I took the shot and was quite pleased with the result … click to enlarge for a better view. This shot was made from our front door.

The owner of this bear keeps changing its persona

I gather that in many countries where lockdowns are in force, people are putting “teddy bears” in their windows to cheer up the kids walking in the neighbourhood. Some householders are putting a lot of effort into their bear displays. This home owner changes the persona of the bear every so often and most recently it has a red wig and a guitar in its guise as Ed Bearan.

Thoughtful gift

A near neighbour has been painting rocks to give to friends and neighbours to cheer them up in these times of lockdown and anxiety. Some are left on the roadside as treasures to be found by random strangers and they each have a message of encouragement on the back. She does very nice work. People are really good.

Leptospermum

The flow of things that might be worth photographing continue as Mary does her regular daily walk around the hills, anywhere from seven to twelve kilometres a day. This lovely piece of leptospermum is a derivative of the Manuka shrub, much prized for the medicinal quality of the honey made from it. I like it for the delicacy of the flowers perhaps a centimetre in diameter. .

Floating flora

Sometimes I spend a lot of time setting up images that, while they may look attractive to me, make no sense. In this case, a chrysanthemum blossom floating in a glass vase is accompanied by some dandelion blossoms from the (un-mowed) back garden. I like it but can offer no other reason for making the picture.

A rare visitor

Despite the cuteness of Beatrix Potter’s Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, the common hedgehog is a pest animal in New Zealand. It is a serious predator of many of our ground-dwelling birds, and as a friend described it they are a “rat with spines”. It is rare that we see them near home and especially in daylight. I am not equipped either in tools or in my nature to kill the animal so it was allowed to wander on its way.

A howling Nor’Westerly

At the bottom of the front yard there is a ponga fern which is a good indicator of whether the wind is the prevailing Nor’Wester or a colder Southerly. It just depends on which side its skirts are lifted. At this stage the wind was well in excess of 60 km/h. Even had there been no lockdown, I probably would not have gone far on such a day.

Driftwood

Our home at 150 metres above sea level is very far above even the highest of tides, so the only explanation for this piece of driftwood is that it took Mary’s attention while on some beach walk and I was persuaded to load it into the car. It’s a very heavy lump of wood and thus not suitable for setting up on my usual photography table. The stump takes on various characters depending on the weather and the way its coating of moss and lichen catches the light.

Random Web

I have not seen the spider that made this web. The randomness of the pattern is astonishing. Even more so is the question of how it went about building it. I tend to view it as a little like Gaudi’s plan for the Sagrada Familia cathedral … for a very long time, though they admired the work, other architects struggled to understand how the design derived its strength and how it worked.

Koru

Though I have spent a lot of time focus stacking recently, I suspect I shall be glad to move onto other techniques when the present lockdown is relaxed. Meanwhile, here we have a new unfurling frond from a silver fern. the circle of light is a shot glass in the background.

As you can see, most of the images in this edition have been made in close proximity to the subject. Despite the relative comfort of our metaphorical prison, I shall look forward to the chance to get further away whenever it finally arises.

*The Prisoner song (Guy Massey)

April 4, 2010 … everything is changed … a locked down but nevertheless golden celebration

This week marks a special occasion which you can read about under the final image.

When I last wrote, everything was more or less normal here in New Zealand. I no longer know what “normal” means. Back then, there was little indication of the changes to come. Now we are in lockdown, and since Mary and I are both in the over 70 age group, society is taking special care of us. We are not even supposed to go to the supermarket because we are apparently especially vulnerable to catching the infection.

When I first heard the lockdown regulations, I formed some preconceptions as to how this would play out and where I would still be able to go for photography. Reality is a little different and rather more restrictive. The basic rules are:

  1. Stay at home
  2. Wash and dry your hands frequently.
  3. Stay within your own domestic “bubble”
  4. Stay at least two metres from anyone from outside of your bubble
  5. You can leave home for essential purposes such as visits to supermarket, or a doctor unless you are over 70 in which case you need to get someone else to shop for you because you are more vulnerable
  6. Go back to rule 1 … rinse and repeat

Despite rule 1, it is permitted to exercise in your own neighbourhood by walking, running, cycling etc, as long as you remain close to home and don’t come closer than two metres to anyone else. More adventurous exercises such as hiking, surfing etc are not permitted because if you need assistance you endanger others.

So, with all that in mind let us explore the images I have made since last time, in chronological order.

Spoonbills in the river
Browsing the mud in the Pauatahanui inlet

A pleasant morning and the likelihood of some bird shots resulted in Mary packing a lunch and the two of us setting out in the direction of Waikanae. Remember, this was when things were still “normal”. On Gray’s Rd around the Northern edge of the Pauatahanui Inlet, we saw the spoonbills. I thought that the cluster of them dredging for crabs in the soft mud of a serpentine creek might make a picture. I like the wandering path made by the creek, but the spoonbills were less prominent than I hoped for in my mind’s eye. I think, if you click to get the enlarged image, you will see the grey teal in between the two nearest spoonbills.

Juvenile dabchick
Still dependent on its parents

In Queen Elizabeth II Park at Paekakariki, I checked out the US Marines memorial Wetlands and was delighted to find that the dabchick families were still in residence. This one still wears the black and white facial markings of a juvenile bird, and indeed it was still being fed by its parents. I have to say I always enjoy the deep green colour of the QEII wetlands as they reflect the surrounding bush.

Yachts in the marina at Oriental Bay
In Oriental Bay

It needs to be acknowledged that Wellington is a small city, and there are relatively few parts of it that I have not yet been to in search of picture opportunities. The obvious consequence is that there are some places that I have used over and over and over again. My excuse is that they are attractive or interesting spots to begin with, and different days present different conditions, and thus different pictures.

This image was made from inside the breakwater on the Eastern side of the Clyde Quay Wharf (formerly known as the Overseas Passenger Terminal). As you can see, the conditions were calm.

Northward view across Oriental Bay Marina
The other direction

On the same day as the preceding image I crossed in front of the boat sheds, to catch the stillness of the day. Many leading photographers tell us that clear blue skies are boring, I still make blue sky images if the scene appeals, but I do enjoy grey skies if the clouds have textures. On this occasion, I liked the patterns and their reflections in the remarkably still water. So far, life is still normal.

Purple water lily
Water Lily

If I had known that my photographic activity in the near future would be almost exclusively based on still life, I might have gone elsewhere. However, the Begonia House in Wellington’s Botanic Garden offers some visual pleasure, even in normal times. There were some nice shots of orchids, and begonias to be had, but the vivid purple of the water lilies made this an image of power for me.

Pauatahanui looking moody but still
Pauatahanui Inlet

Another place I visit often in normal times is the Pauatahanui Inlet. I have over 3,000 images in my catalogue from there. So many different moods, but always my favourites are when the water is still and offering reflections.

The Hutt Valley was misty so I had hoped there might be similar conditions at Pauatahanui. Sadly that rarely happens, and I am guessing that the exposure to the sea air on the Western side of Haywards Hill prevents the mist forming. Anyway. I regret that E.L.James seems to have captured the phrase “shades of grey”as I love these conditions (the meteorological ones).

Swells on Wellington South coast
South coast

There are days when, even though conditions are calm, the South Coast still gets heavy swells. The sheer majesty of a big slow moving wave and the weight of water thudding into the rocks never fails to move me. I could watch those green walls coming in for hours.

View across Cook Strait from Makara
The day before it all changed

And now the change begins. The New Zealand Government implemented a series of conditions numbered 1 through 4 each with increasing levels of control measures to manage the spread of Covid-19. It opened at level 2, and then on March 24 went to level 3 with the warning that it would be at level 4 for at least four weeks from the following day.

Careful to minimise contact with others, Mary and I made the last of our final day of freedom for a while and drove first to Makara and then on to Plimmerton for a picnic lunch. On the way, we visited the West Wind wind farm. There standing beside one of the big turbines, we enjoyed this view across the Cook Strait to Arapawa Island and parts of the Kaikoura ranges.

I wholeheartedly endorse the government’s management of this crisis even though it means that for at least the next four weeks, we are required to stay home except as required to obtain the necessities of life. All businesses except those providing essential goods and services are firmly closed. People over 70 (you may be surprised to learn that that includes us) are instructed fairly firmly to stay at home and rely on others to shop for them. So here we go.

Sea Urchin shell
Sea Urchin shell

Day one of the lockdown. While taking that last walk on the beach at Plimmerton the previous day, Mary found this lovely little sea urchin shell. It’s rare to find an intact one and this is a very small one … about 50 mm (2″) in diameter … I was unaware of its beautiful colours until after I made the picture.

Fly Agaric toadstool
Amanita muscaria or Fly Agaric

Mary is a walker. There are few days indeed when she doesn’t walk briskly around the hills or along the riverbank for 90 minutes or more. I on the other hand, am a couch potato. Mary knows that a four week lockdown is going to be hard for me as an obsessive photographer. Bless her heart, on the first day of lockdown, she gathered a bunch of objects that she knows will make interesting still life images. The common fly agaric toadstool is quite toxic, but also presents a striking appearance. My darkbox is going to get used often, I suspect. Focus stacking may also be used for this kind of image.

Collected sea shells
Memories of beaches past

Not only is she good at gathering things while walking, but Mary also has a large collection of small mementoes gathered on various trips over many years. And so, I was allowed access to her box of small sea shells. The background in this picture is a glass drinks coaster with etched concentric circles.

Kiwi feathers
Genuine honest to goodness kiwi feathers

Back in 2014, our local hospice was involved with the Department of Conservation in a fundraising exercise involving the naming and release of a young kiwi. Mary and granddaughter Maggie got to handle the young bird, and even walked with the DoC rangers to release it in the hills behind Wainuiomata. The bird left some of its feathers behind and they found their way into Mary’s souvenir tin.

Beach souvenirs
Indoor beach

On day five of the lockdown, I was given access to some of the larger beach memories. I borrowed the sand from my long forgotten mini Zen garden and spread it in the floor of my lightbox. A couple of starfish, some sponges and some interesting shells were arranged over the sand and thus we have instant beach though no water was involved. While attempting to return the sand to its proper space, I managed to spill some on the carpet. Vacuum cleaner duty!

Dandelion and reflection
On reflection

Another of Mary’s finds (isn’t she a gem?) was this dandelion. I decided against the straightforward ‘head and shoulders” portrait since I have done it so many times before. A paper plate was filled with water to a depth of one or two millimetres. The dandelion was then drooped until I had a clear reflection.

Early morning view up the Hutt Valley
A landscape day and I am trapped at home

Landscape images are very much harder to arrange now that we can not go anywhere in the car. The best I can manage is shots of the valley from the front yard. Happily, different day, different light, different weather means a different picture. On this day, river mist coming down from the upper valley made a difference.

Starling in the bird bath
The Spin Cycle

We have a bird bath on the front lawn, and it is well used. Sometimes five or six sparrows splash about in it, sometimes a huge kereru fills it to overflowing. On this occasion a starling was taking heed of the instruction to wash frequently and thoroughly. This was taken through the glass window of our dining room, but I enjoyed the scene.

More fly agaric specimens
More found treasures

A bunch of fly agaric toadstools were in Mary’s latest collection so I arranged them in some compost from one of our pot plants. I know they are toxic, but as far as I know that refers to ingestion, and anyway, the hand washing regime should take care of everything else.

A personal celebration

Mary and I on the day before our golden wedding anniversary
Fifty Wonderful Years Together

On April 4, 1970, Mary and I got married in St Patrick’s Church in Patea. We had a Nuptial Mass celebrated by the late Father Brian Sherry from New Plymouth. Being so long ago, some details of the day are hazy in my memory. However, one thing is clear, this was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Together we have five amazing children of whom we are extraordinarily proud. They in turn brought their spouses into the family and gave us six wonderful grandchildren who light up our lives, even though, in the present circumstances visitation is not possible.

Mary does not like to be the centre of attention, and I shall probably catch it for what follows, but something has to be said on such an occasion, so here goes …

She is a woman of deep faith who believes her purpose in life, her calling, is to serve others, especially those in most need. I have never met anyone who better understands the true meaning of the word “vocation”. I and my kids have benefitted enormously from this. Mary was a registered nurse for fifty years and in the last decade or so of her employment was a social worker helping patients and their families in Te Omanga Hospice.

She also volunteered for various good causes. Since her retirement in 2017 she has become busier than ever, volunteering for an organisation that offers care and assistance to young mothers, and another that supports the partners of people who have dementia. She is the most selfless person I know. It is a matter of some grief to her that, being over 70, the lockdown rules prohibit her from carrying on those tasks until it is over.

Mary has been there for me and for all our family throughout our fifty years of marriage. We have shared many joys and a few tough times. I particularly admired the way she supported me when I lost the plot and undertook to do a PhD late in life. Even more, she allowed me to leave a well paid management role in industry for a job as a university lecturer on literally half the salary.

Mary is a wise and loving woman who I am privileged to have as my wife. She is nevertheless real, and each of us occasionally does things that drive the other nuts. (I really should exercise more and eat less) But she is also a forgiving woman so here we are together still, and if my luck holds, we will continue to be so until the end of our days. Our planned celebration with the family is of course cancelled, and alas, not even the florists are open.

Thank you Mary for all that you have done, and for all that you are. You are a beautiful person and the light of my life.


18 March, 2020 … interesting times

Interesting times are upon us. As far as I know, I and all my loved ones are well. I hope the same goes for you and all who you hold dear.

Today I offer fifteen random images with no apparent connection between them except that they were all made in the last few weeks. Mindful of all the world’s current woes, I am feeling grateful for living in a peaceful and politically stable country with so much beauty on offer. .

Remutaka Forest Park – Catchpool Valley

New Zealand’s bush typically seems much more dense, twisted and tangled than the ancient forests of the Northern hemisphere. Most of it lacks the grandeur of tall parallel tree trunks. So be it. I still love being in the bush, enjoying the shelter it gives from the wind and the pleasure I take in so many shades of green. This short track in the entrance to the Catchpool valley surprised me for the amount of dead leaves on the ground amongst what I thought were predominantly evergreen trees.

Mana Island on a beautiful day in Plimmerton

This picture of Mana Island was made by getting down low, or at least by getting the camera low, hanging inverted off the tripod centre post. Because the water was almost flat calm, it was almost touching the surface.

If you click to enlarge, and look at the gap between the furthest incoming wave and the island, you will see the neck and beak of a shag which popped up as I pressed the shutter. It’s as if it knew I was here, and was checking to see whether I was a threat.

We have had a string of beautiful calm Autumn days. They go some small way towards compensating for the miserable wet windy summer we had in Wellington this year.

Another lovely day in Plimmerton

The local yacht club was racing at Plimmerton despite the apparent lack of wind. As you can see in the picture, some of the yachts are heeling despite the light breeze. They certainly progressed around the course at a reasonable pace, and I liked the metallic effect given by the translucent sailcloth.

Ferry berth

Anyone who understands the term “depth of field” instantly knows that this picture could not have been made with just one exposure. Loosely, depth of field is the distance between the nearest “in focus” point, and the furthest. Most lenses have a relatively shallow depth of field so either the ship or the flower would be sharp, but not both. Many photographers delight in a usually expensive lens with a shallow depth of field and the artistic effects it produces. Others, like me, seek more extreme depth and achieve this by “focus stacking”. In its simplest form, and in this example, that means taking a photo in which the flower is sharp and another in which the ship is sharp. Then the two images are merged and the sharp bits from each are retained. This was possible back in the days of the darkroom, but is much easier now that we have PhotoShop.

If you think this is somehow “cheating”, then avert your eyes now because I don’t care.

I have consistently said that the art is in the final image, no matter how it was achieved.

Sacred Kingfisher

If you have been a WYSIWYG reader for any length of time, you will know that birds are among my favourite subjects. Nevertheless, I lack the patience and skill to stalk and capture the fastest and sneakiest of birds. Some of my friends make superb images, bordering on the impossible. I lack the patience and the willingness to get down in the mud and make the images they do. Now and then, I get lucky. Kingfishers typically fly at about 45 km/h.

From home

I have often presented this viewpoint, from my bedroom window and I justify it on this occasion for the special early morning light. I am grateful every day for the splendour of this view.

From the control bar

Mary and I went to Whitireia Park in Porirua where we intended to have a picnic lunch. While I looked for images, Mary walked the Onepoto Loop Track. As I wandered, a man in a wet suit was setting up to go kite-surfing. He got the kite airborne while he was still on the beach and I cheekily got down near his feet and caught his view of the canvas.

A stranger in a strange land

On one of my many trips through Evans Bay and around into Oriental Bay, I was astonished to encounter this old Seagrave fire appliance. As per the signage, it once belonged to the Los Angeles Fire Department. Made in 1960, it was retired in 1990 and gifted by the City of Los Angeles to the City of Auckland in recognition of their sister-city relationship. Since then it has been on display at Auckland’s Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT). This is an articulated 100 foot ladder machine that has a driver in the front, and another at the rear steering the trailer wheels. As you can see it is designed for the Los Angeles climate. The well wrapped crew drove this down from Auckland to Wellington in cool Autumn weather and were on their way to Invercargill for a charity fundraising event. They are going to have to raise quite some funds as it goes through $500 to $600 of fuel a day plus the ferry fares in each direction.

Sisters

Another of those days when, despite the overcast, the glittering sea was relatively still. East-West ferries have two catamarans with which they operate a commuter service that runs from downtown Wellington across the harbour to Days Bay, with stops at Matiu / Somes Island and occasionally at Seatoun. It is marginally quicker than the trip around the harbour by bus, but infinitely more pleasant. They even have a bar on board. Anyway, there I Was as Cobar Cat came in from the right after refuelling at Chaffers Marina, and City Cat approached from across the harbour.

Lavender blue

Simple things sometimes need complex treatment. This little cluster of lavender, growing in a pot at our back door, is captured with another focus stack. You can see that the background trees are well beyond focus as I intended them to be. However there are four different images of the lavender stalks. This only works in windless conditions because if the plants are in different positions as they wave, they can’t be merged.

Abstraction

I was having a coffee with my youngest son, Anthony (Ants) at the Seaview Marina. It was a beautiful morning with the sun smiling on the yachts and lovely reflections in the water. Then a ripple from elsewhere in the marina did interesting things with the reflected masts and rigging.

We had a guest speaker in the camera club about a week ago, and she explained very well how she went about making a wide variety of abstract images. I grasped the “how” well enough, but remain mystified by the “why?” Anyway, here I am offering an abstraction. This is a single shot, as seen by the camera

A rare selfie

I almost never take selfies. Usually I would prefer to make an image of the place or thing that I saw, rather than a picture of myself in the place or with the thing I saw. This image is an unintentional selfie. I saw a trailer which was a bitumen tanker. It had an engine chugging away underneath, presumably powering the burner that keeps the bitumen in its liquid state while the tractor was elsewhere. What caught my eye was the polished stainless steel cladding and I liked the grassy reflections therein. Regrettably I could find no way to exclude myself from the reflection. Though I am substantially built, I am nowhere near the proportions in that distorted reflection.

My favourite kind of day

Among my favourite places in the region are various spots around the shores of Lake Wairarapa, especially on those days when the lake is glassy calm. Whenever I come over the hill to Featherston, I usually start at the Lake Domain Reserve and see whether there is a new image to be had. The rusty steel piles of the yacht club’s old jetty make a nice feature.

Wairio Wetlands

Some thirty km to the South on the Eastern side of the lake, are two sets of wetlands beloved of many of my photographic for their prolific bird life and for the intrinsic beauty of the places. I chose the Wairio Wetlands rather than Boggy Pond on this occasion. Whereas Wellington has had a wet summer, the Wairarapa is officially in drought. This wetland still has water, but the level is lower than I have ever seen it before. There were plenty of birds there, though they were cautiously placed some distance from the walking tracks. If you click on this image to enlarge, and have a close look at the most distant of the birds, at about one third in from the right, there is a white heron (kotuku).

Low and fast over the road

As I came back up the Western side of the lake, I heard a whistle and a roar and saw a top-dressing plane shoot over the road and into the hills to the West. I was ready for it as it came round a second time and was pleased that it was a venerable Fletcher FU-24 950. The basic FU-24 design has served New Zealand agriculture since 1954. No fewer than 297 of them were built and in the later years many were fitted with powerful turbine engines. Sadly many bold Fletcher pilots didn’t get to be old Fletcher pilots because they over-estimated their skill at avoiding high-speed contact with the ground.

That is sufficient for this edition.

I am going to borrow my farewell from Radio New Zealand’s Suzie Fergusson who said at the end of a session the other day, “Wash your hands, keep calm and carry on. Ka kite anō au i a koutou (see you all again).