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February 19, 2021 … happier days

This is a rare occasion. I can say that on the whole, I am pleased with this edition’s images. And did you notice that I didn’t feel the need to add the usual semi-apologetic disclaimer?

Being a photographer in the way that I am is perhaps parallel to being a general practitioner. Unlike the specialist portrait makers, I rarely use artificial light. Though I dabble in the mystic arts of architectural images, I don’t have the experience or the right tools for the highest levels of achievement. I am much too introverted to engage in portrait or street photography, so my natural habitat includes elements of landscape, nature and still life, with a strong preference for water. Of the fourteen images in this edition nine include the sea. So let’s have a look.

Black-fronted dotterel

I suppose it is natural to return to the places where I have had good results before. Hokio Beach is situated at the estuary of the Hokio stream that runs to the Tasman Sea a little to the South of Levin. On weekday mornings, if the conditions are right, it is a place of serenity and sea birds. It is always a delight to encounter the black-fronted dotterel. Somehow it is almost invisible against the dark West-coast sand. I find it necessary to sit down among the driftwood and wait. Eventually a tiny patch of grey fluff will scuttle across the beach in a away that catches the eye. Once the target is acquired, it resolves itself into this beautiful tiny bird. It is very cautious and tends to stay on the far side of the stream away from the occasional passing vehicle. They delight me.

Kaitaki leaving port

Conditions such as this are all too rare. When the trees outside my window are still, I look out the other side and look for reflections on the river and harbour. I love to get my camera close to water level and find a suitable target across the water. In this case, the ferry Kaitaki on the 9am service to Picton is about to pass between Ward Island and Point Dorset on her way to the harbour entrance and a turn to the West.

Ancient piles

Truth to tell, nothing man-made in New Zealand is really ancient. The original Petone wharf was erected in 1883 and I guess some of the inshore piles may date from then. Some recent earthquakes caused five of the piles to slump and the wharf was deemed unsafe. This much loved structure is currently closed to the public while repairs are effected, I was walking on the beach and looking at the reflections and saw this. Many of the piles are riddled with marine worms, so it’s a little scary to know that there are three or four trucks and a substantial crane on the deck overhead.

The Port of Wellington

Nicholson Road, Khandallah, is a narrow winding road that twists its way along the East-facing hills above the harbour. It provides few places to stop safely but offers some splendid views down into Oriental Bay and the port area. When I made this picture the harbour was still and the Singaporean registered Kota Lembah was exchanging containers and the Panama registered Pan Gloris was loading logs. Note the thousands of logs waiting on the wharf, mostly bound for China.

Cowgrass Clover

Our lawns were overdue for mowing and this cluster of cow grass clover had popped up on its edge. I decided that since the weather had delivered an ugly day I would have a closer look. My “dark box” was used with reflected light from the window to illuminate the plants.

Brisk Northerly

It was a clear but windy day , and it seemed that the view from atop Brooklyn Hill might be worth a look. On the way up the access road I saw the rapidly spinning turbine at the top of the hill and with the aid of a neutral density filter slowed the blades a bit.

Food for thought

Our son Anthony, his wife Sarah and our Grandchildren Maggie-May and Jack joined us for dinner recently and Mary delivered what the kids refer to as her signature dessert – lemon meringue pie. Pure magic, though it does nothing to diminish my shadow. As you can see if the conditions don’t lend themselves to outdoor photography, then I will point my camera at anything I can find.

Seeking the light

Summer, such as it has been, is withdrawing. A lovely sunset and a relatively calm sea persuaded me to to dash down to the harbour’s edge at Petone. Alas, to photograph the best moments, it is necessary to be there waiting for them. In the ten minutes or so that it took to get to the beach, the glory I had seen was gone. What saved the day for me was the sudden emergence of the Kaitaki from the shadow of the Miramar peninsula into the last glorious rays of the setting sun. The sudden explosion of light demanded a hand-held grab shot so as not to miss it.

Little red tugboat

As I often do, I was driving around the Miramar Peninsula and saw CentrePort’s two Damen 2411 ASD tugs crossing the harbour to assist the departure of an oil tanker from Seaview. I think this is Tapuhi which was built in China.

Citizens’ Tribute

While the peninsula, I chose to walk up to the Massey memorial which sits atop Point Halswell. Our 19th Prime Minister, William Ferguson Massey served from 1912 to 1925 and died in office. The memorial and mausoleum was funded largely by public subscription, despite his controversial right wing politics.

By land and sea

As I drove around Karehana Bay in Plimmerton, I noticed people fishing from boats in the bay as well as from the yacht club’s wharf. I am a very bad fisherman and always end up snagged on the rocky bottom.

Old school

Some of the upmarket marinas are filled with modern plastic vessels filled with electronics and appliances. In the older mooring areas such as Ivey Bay, it is more likely to encounter older vessels with planked wooden hulls and not a radar aerial to be seen. These appeal to my sense of marine aesthetics.

In need of attention

Sadly, many of these old boats are laid up with the best of intentions and then nothing happens. The planked hulls do not take kindly to neglect. I am not suggesting that the boats in the image are neglected but they do have that forlorn appearance that comes from a long time without attention.

Scouting

In Evans Bay, there is a troop of sea scouts. Many of my previous shots of the area have included the blue vessel pictured here moored and without the masts stepped. What a pleasure to see her sailing briskly with a crew all well equipped with life jackets. Another seas scout crew is sailing the clinker built cream coloured boat with the number 45 on her sail.

That will do for this edition . I hope to improve in the next edition.

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Architecture Art Butterflies Family flowers Landscapes Maritime Railway Waves Weather Wellington

January 30, 2021 … the road goes ever on and on*

I occasionally evaluate my reality. Mary and I are retired, living in leafy suburbia in a small city (pop 104,700) adjacent to our small capital (population 215,100) in a small peaceful and politically stable country (pop 5 million) in the bottom right hand corner of the world (population 7,794,798,739). We have so much to be grateful for.

From my perspective as a photographer, while other parts of the country may offer more spectacle, even the region in which I live offers many opportunities within an hour’s drive and even more within a four hour round trip. So why, you might ask, have I been so grumpy of late? Well, I continue to claim the right to grumble about almost two solid months of grey dismal blustery weather, but remain hopeful of some semblance of summer weather in the remainder of the season. I know I should be more appreciative of what I have. The landscape and seascapes around me have good bones. When the weather precludes those shots, there are interesting possibilities in the close up.

Tree Mallow

Sometimes I encounter a plant or flower and identify it confidently. Then I find that I have been wrong for years. In the certain knowledge that this flower was a hollyhock, I submitted the image to my favourite plant identifying site looking for the scientific name. It seems that this is in fact, a tree mallow. Pride cometh before a fall.

Monarch butterfly

Mary came in from her walk in bleak and blustery conditions, carefully nursing something very delicate. A monarch butterfly! It was unwilling to sit still and fluttered about until it settled on a piece of foliage I had been using for other purposes. Snap. Then it flew away.

Unexpected stillness

A promised and long awaited calm day appeared, and brought some mist with it. I can live with that. My wandering took me to Hataitai Beach in Evans Bay. I loved the appearance of the distant yachts sandwiched between the cloud above and the glutinous sea below. The tiny wavelets lowered themselves almost silently onto the gravel beach.

Paint and varnish, masts and rigging

The conditions in Evans Bay allowed me to narrow the focus onto a few of the yachts. I like these “old school” yachts, with no sign of moulded plastic or meaningless shapes. These are the shapes taught by the sea, shapes that have served generations of mariners well. I suspect that these will still be here even as the plastic gin-palaces crumble to dust.

Van Gogh Alive (1)

At the instigation of Mary’s brother Paul and his wife Robyne, we went together to see the “Van Gogh Alive” at an exhibition centre on the Wellington Waterfront. I used the word “see” … perhaps I should have said “experience”. This was an immersion with beautifully selected elements of Van Gogh’s art projected on the multiple surfaces at various angles all around us. If this exhibition comes near you, don’t miss it. It is a joy.

Sunflowers

The final element of the Van Gogh exhibition was a mirrored room filled with artificial sunflowers. The effect was truly spectacular. As I said, don’t miss it. That pink sunflower against a black background in the back centre is not a sunflower. It is me. A rare but inadvertent selfie.

The city railyard on a public holiday

An actual fine day came as a surprise, so I drifted along the less travelled roads around the city. It was Wellington’s provincial anniversary day and a public holiday, so the town was quiet. I paused at a gate on Thorndon Quay where I had a view of the railyards and many commuter units sitting dark and quiet in orderly rows.

In Wellington

That same public holiday, I was walking around the inner city and found myself at the intersection of Willis Street, Manners Street and Boulcott Street. Across the street, the little old house, now a pub, was long known as “The House of Ladies” due to its time as a massage parlour. It was physically relocated from a little to the right, to make way for the 116 metre “Majestic Centre” tower block behind. The spot from which the image was made, used to be known as Perrett’s Corner. It was so named for the Chemist shop which was a significant landmark through most of the early twentieth century, and I have added a link to a fine National Library photograph.

Italian grace

I had a brief flirtation with the idea of buying upmarket cars as a photographic portfolio topic. I had no intention of buying such a car. With the dealer’s permission, I made several trial images and decided that I was less excited than I expected to be. Nevertheless, this Maserati does embody my expectations of Italian automotive style. The idea is paused rather than abandoned.

A cliche but a good one

No matter how often I drive from Evans Bay around Pt Jerningham to Oriental Bay, my breath is always taken away by the great Southern Wall of the Tararua ranges. On days such as this when the morning light makes layers the view is especially wonderful.

On Bowen Street

Behind the parliamentary precinct, Bowen Street curves up the Thorndon gully to Tinakori Rd. It passes through some of Wellington’s oldest and most picturesque dwellings. To my regret, the government (I presume the State Services Commission) seems to be transforming the area into an administrative precinct. Whereas I think the old houses are protected by legislation, glass and steel are changing the nature of the area.

Wild Onshore Wind

There have been ugly blustery winds for most days over several weeks. I shall be glad when they depart. On the other hand, the kite surfers at Lyall Bay reveal in the conditions.

See you again in a week or two. Stay safe. Keep recording your locations and observing your local protocols to avoid the virus.

*J.R.R. Tolkien The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings

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January 15, 2021 … may it be the best yet

Welcome to 2021.I have had some wonderful years, as well as some that were, at best, a trial. It is my fervent hope in this new year that we all avoid entanglement with the virus. I also hope that we can come to terms with whatever is our new normal. I am convinced that the old normal is gone forever, and whatever happens, 2021 will bear little resemblance to the world as it was before the outbreak. I am pleased with and proud of the comparative success achieved by the government and people of New Zealand, and I hope we don’t fall into the trap of complacency and carelessness. But enough. On with the photography.

The all too brief season

I suppose it’s a rare Christmas season that I don’t feel compelled to make an image of the pohutukawa. I am not sure that the images from this season differ much from those that have gone before. The trees are not visibly different, but perhaps I hope to see a new view or see them with new eyes.

Nectar gathering on the flax

This tui was beside the path to the bird hide at Pauatahanui. There comes a moment in every season when the birds are so obsessed with the consumption of nectar that they are almost impervious to the proximity of people. Some suggest intoxication as a cause.

Intriguing flower with an ugly name

Mary received a bouquet at Christmas and it contained a number of flowers unknown to me, as well as some plastic ornaments. I confess, I thought this was one of the latter However, I was assured that this is a real plant. It’s name is star scabious which is an ugly name for an interesting flower.

Mary’s bounty

It’s a rare day on which Mary does not walk. Recently she gathered some wildflowers found on her way. They include milfoil (pink), Jupiter’s beard (white), common ragwort (yellow) and viper’s bugloss (blue). To my eye, they are just wonderful, even if some are common weeds.

Across the blue water

I’ve done many images like this before. Each one is a little different in character depending on the season, the wind, the waves and the air clarity. This shot was made from the base of the Ataturk memorial on Palmer Head, looking Westward across Cook Stait to Tapuae-o-Uenuku. The ferry in the distance is Straitsman which still has about 90 minutes or so to run on its run to Wellington.

Moody in the Harbour

The first week or so after Christmas has offered mediocre summer weather at best. Lots of heavy overcast mood has been the norm with the odd patch of weak sunlight holding out hope for better times to come. On this day, low cloud covered the Miramar Peninsula and the harbour entrance and all that remained was Matiu/Somes Island looking somewhat glum out in the harbour.

Inner harbour

Still the grey weather persisted. I tried for a high viewpoint. This time I went to Stellin Park up in the suburb of Northland. I liked the succession of promontories beginning with Clyde Quay in the foreground, then Pt Jerningham and Pt Halswell. As you can see from the fountain which is falling almost back on its base, there is no significant wind.

Darwin’s Barberry

In Wellington’s Western suburb of Karori, there is a wonderful lookout atop Wright’s Hill. I enjoyed making some panoramic shots there before going back to the car park. On the way, I encountered some flowers and berries that somehow had colour and texture that seemed more vibrant than real life. I was unfamiliar with either flowers or berries, and turned to Pl@ntNet Identify. They are Darwin’s Barberry. Apparently the fruit is quite edible. (Please don’t take my word for it, make your own checks).

On Boulcott St

Antrim House is a little way round the corner and up the hill from the church of St Mary of the Angels. It was built forRobert Hannah, the owner of Hannah’s shoes who was an Irishman. He used a Spanish architect and it has French and Italian influences. These days it is the home of Heritage New Zealand. You can see it reflected in the tower block in the second set of panels from the right.

A treasured gift

A kind friend gave this hand-carved wooden bowl to Mary at Christmas. As far as I can tell, it is carved from one piece of wood. I have no idea who the artist is. The wood is probably macrocarpa. When delivered, it was full of Christmas goodies. Many thanks Natasha.

We three kings …

Makara is a tiny village in a wild landscape on Wellington’s rugged West coast. It’s an interesting place to visit and walk. The steep rocky beach does not look safe to swim, in my opinion. People do don wet suits and seek sea food among the rocky inlets further round the coast. Anyway, the Makara Stream winds its way down the valley to join the Tasman Sea in Ohariu Bay. These three (possibly dead?) trees guard its distant shore.

Some days are better than others

The yachts in the old harbour between Clyde Quay Wharf and the Freyberg Swimming Pool intrigue me. If you compare them with the more modern and upmarket vessels in Chaffers’ Marina on the other side of the wharf, then these are the stately old ladies of the town. Paint and varnish are the order of the day compared with plastic and chrome on the other side. I see it as romance versus luxury.

Natural Triptych

As I was leaving Oriental Bay, I spotted the reflection in the window of the old restaurant/yacht club. There are competitions that are dedicated to the making of triptych art. I am not normally a practitioner but it just presented itself. I didn’t even have to make three images. As you can see in the reflection on the left, the tripod on the table was set up to point the camera at the windows. The two right-most yachts are the same two as on the right of the previous image.

That will do for the first session of 2021. I wish you all the very best for the year ahead. Take all precautions to stay safe, both health-wise and politically and may you and your family all do well and much better than 2020.

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adversity Birds creativity Family Hokio Beach Lakes Landscapes Maritime Music Weather Wellington

December 31, 2020 … thank goodness that’s over

…. but who knows what 2021 will bring? It’s possible that we might look back on 2020 as “the good old days?”

Petone wharf with mist behind it

I remember August with fondness. It was mostly calm and sunny. However, December in Wellington has been mostly complete rubbish, with lots of rain and wind. Some days offered calm, but with mist or drizzle. I can live with that. This image was made at Petone wharf and as you can see, Matiu/Somes is almost obscured in the rain, and there is no sign at all of the Miramar peninsula.

Looking back

The same morning, I took a trip up Malvern road which runs up the side of the hill at the bottom of Ngauranga Gorge. It offers a fairly generous panorama over the Northern parts of the harbour. On this particular day, low cloud obscured the lower parts of the Hutt Valley and it offered a different view to the usual. .

Handel’s Messiah with the NZSO

Our daughter Lena and son-in-law Vasely generously took us to hear the NZSO with the Tudor Consort Choir performing Handel’s Messiah. No matter how many times I hear it it seems always new. The conductor, Gemma New encouraged the ancient tradition of all standing for the Hallelujah Chorus. The performance earned them a rarely given standing ovation from the capacity crowd in the Michael Fowler Centre. Of course I didn’t take my camera so this is a sneaky grab shot from my iPhone.

Minimalism

On one of the few fine days this month, I went to the wetlands at Queen Elizabeth Park at Paekakariki in the hope of finding some interesting bird life. sadly, the birds had made other plans so I was out of luck. There was the sound of a million frogs, and though I was very close, I saw not one. I settled for the remnants of some rushes in the water.

Welcome Swallow

Despite the lack of water fowl, there were, as always, Welcome Swallows flitting about and performing impossible changes of direction in mid air as they gathered insects. They are fast and unpredictable so I was pleased when one sat on a branch near me.

Kota Lestari

Sunshine is nice, but it would be better without the Southerly wind. I was on the South coast when the Singapore registered container vessel Kota Lestari picked up her pilot. She has a gross registered tonnage of 41,578 and has the capacity to carry 4,300 twenty foot containers. She berthed soon after 3 pm and left just after midnight bound for Napier and then on to Hong Kong.

Canada Geese

Mostly I like all the Canadians I have met. I am less fond of their geese, despite their handsome appearance. They always seem to choose pathways as a place to deposit their calling cards. Even so, I enjoyed seeing this family at QEII park.

Thunder of wings

A favourite spot on a calm day is Hokio beach. It is just over 100 km to the North from home and is situated on the West Coast of the North Island, a little to South of Levin. The Hokio stream runs Westward from Lake Horowhenua and forms a beautiful estuary where it meets the Tasman Sea. There are seabirds aplenty most times, though my favourites, the black-fronted dotterels were missing. A large flock of black-backed gulls were basking in the sun when some idiot in a small SUV came racing towards them and instantly there was feathered chaos.

On Brooklyn Hill

Like many landscape photographers before me, I love conditions of mist or fog, though sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Driving up the hill from Aro Street to Brooklyn, conditions were clear, though overcast. Then from just above Brooklyn shops things got heavy. These misty pines are a few hundred metres up the hill towards the wind turbine. The turbine itself was scarcely visible even as I stood at its base.

Not monochrome

I hardly ever make monochrome images. Sometimes nature presents itself in black and white and then I am happy to capture it if I can. This view from the Titahi Bay road looks South towards Porirua City. It is an eight-image panoramic stitch.

Sparrows feeding

Mary was given a new bird-feeder that allows birds to sit on various perches around its base and access the seeds. They will empty that pile in about an hour, after which no matter how they sulk, they wait until tomorrow.

Red

I recall a respected photographer friend telling our camera club that any image containing a splash of red had a much better chance of favourable treatment. This little yacht in Evans Bay certainly grabs attention

So ends 2020. Though we have lamented its many downsides, we in New Zealand have come through it fairly well. Our covid-19 statistics are among the best, and even the impact on our country’s economy has been much less than was feared. Our biggest personal sadness is our inability to visit family in Brisbane and Melbourne, or indeed for them to come here. But they and we are well and we can talk to each other, so again things are less bad than they might have been.

I wish you all the warmest of wishes for 2021. May it be a kinder and better year than its predecessor. May all your hopes and dreams come true. See you next year perhaps?

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December 9, 2020 … the song that never ends

Almost every long car trip featured our kids mischievously singing “The Song that Never Ends” … you know the one … Wikipedia describes it as “self referential and infinitely iterative”. Though the calendar tells me that it is December, and we could normally expect the year to end soon, I fear that it might refuse to yield office to 2021. There is still room for some new unpleasantness to raise its head. Leaving aside the world events which have dominated our thinking, my photographic world has been dominated by grey and overcast images.

If and when a new year does take office, I hope that I seize every opportunity to make better use of the brighter days. Meanwhile, let us see what crossed my lenses recently.

Monumental masonry

Whenua Tapu cemetery is on SH1 between Plimmerton and Pukerua Bay. My decision to wander through it was not based on any morbid fascination with cemeteries, but was purely motivated by the patterns of the monumental masonry. This particular area of the cemetery is devoted to the Greek community which has a strong presence in Wellington.

Boutique port

Centreport is the successor to the old Wellington Harbour Board. It is a private company that runs the business of the harbour. It is jointly owned by the Wellington Regional Council and the Horizons (Whanganui and Manawatu) Regional Council. Wellington is not one of the country’s major ports as designated by the big shipping companies. In fact its container activity has just two cranes. From Point Halswell, I looked across to the empty container berth and saw them both parked and looking tidy.

At the end of a lovely day

Camera club meetings start at 7:30 pm and are usually all done by 9 pm. On this day, as I was driving away, I was struck by the lovely light in the sky to the South and West. As always I had my camera and tripod on board so I set out for the Petone foreshore. Ten minutes later with the light fading rapidly I set up to make a panorama. Seven shots at 30 seconds each had to be done as fast as possible since the light difference between the first and last was significant. The bright light along the beach and on the driftwood was from the street lights on the Esplanade. I suppose I could have tried to dim it in the computer.

Spoonbills in shelter

I like high key images. The royal spoonbills at Pauatahanui almost provided one The brilliant white plumage and the silver grey water provide a nice contrast with their black bills. The spoonbills were huddled in the lee of the dune, staying below the mean-spirited Northerly wind.

Ready for the lunch crowd

Portofino is an Italian restaurant on the Wellington waterfront. As I walked past their back window, I was taken by the neatness of the glass and silverware. With the kind permission of the manager I made an image from the back of the restaurant looking over the tables and across the harbour to Roseneath.

Tui at the wine bar in the rain

The tui and other nectar feeders are enjoying Mary’s regular supply of sugar water. An inverted wine bottle into a plastic bowl is all it takes. The tui claim first rights and any lesser birds just get knocked off as the tui lands on the perch, whether or not it is occupied. They are usually wary of humans and you can see this one giving me the evil eye.

Coaching in the Mist

Soft rain and low cloud put Mt Victoria and Roseneath into the mist. Just offshore from Petone beach a rowing eight was getting some apparently forceful coaching from the man in the inflatable. The harbour was blessedly calm.

And then the wind blew

Somehow, I missed the worst of it, but the next day the wind came up and swells of about 4.5 metres started battering the South coast. Here, the Bluebridge ferry, Strait Feronia is starting to lift into the swells on the open water of Cook Strait. I don’t envy the open part of their trip.

Pure gold

Most people are familiar with the pohutukawa, the member of the myrtle family famous for it’s glorious crimson flowers every Christmas. Many are surprised to discover the gold variety. I have to say that I prefer the traditional crimson.

Rubber ducky

While driving along Riverside Drive in Lower Hutt, I spotted some little yellow objects floating down the river. So help me, I was convinced I was seeing plastic toy ducks. Then one of them reversed course and went upstream. What? I got my long lens out and good grief, they were a flock of mallard ducklings. I believe the current word of the day is diversity. Beautiful, and a lift to the spirits in these days of persistent grey cloud and rain.

See you next time

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November 20, 2020 … Persistence

One hundred and ten years ago, G.K. Chesterton wrote “a thing worth doing is worth doing badly“. I find this famous paradox resonates with me in the context of my photographic aspirations. It’s not that I think my photographs as especially bad. Rather, it’s that many of them are simply not as good as I would like them to be. When I like what I see in the viewfinder, I press the shutter. Sadly, when I see the image on the screen at home, it is often less pleasing than I hoped it would be. Life is full of those little disappointments.

Nevertheless, the process of making images still gives me much pleasure. The essence of it, for me, is using the viewfinder to frame the subject of my picture. Whether by means of a zoom lens, or by walking closer or further away, I try to ensure that the viewer knows exactly what was supposed to be in or out of the picture. It sounds so simple, and yet seems so difficult.

Atmospherics

Heavy cloud and strong winds have characterised the last few weeks. This image was made near the wind turbine at the top of Brooklyn hill in Wellington. As you will see from the green grass at the bottom, this is not a monochrome image.

From Makara to Mana and Kapiti Islands

On this day, the sea and sky were hazy, but I rather liked the mystery quality that the weather gave to Mana and Kapiti Islands to the North while I looked from the car park at the West Wind windfarm at Makara.

Celebrating the failure of a terrorist plot

Back in 1605, in London, England, a terrorist/patriot attempted to blow up the King James I in House of Lords, but was discovered with the stash of gunpowder before it could happen. The conspirators were executed. Guy Fawkes Night has been celebrated in former British territories ever since. It is fading in New Zealand in favour of Matariki, the Maori new year which comes with the rising of Pleaides in Late May or early June. Some people still do Guy Fawkes and can legally purchase fireworks between November 2 and November 5 if they are over 18. I suspect that in future, fireworks will be restricted to professional licensed displays.

Chris Church in Taita

Occasionally, my wandering takes me through the Eastern Hutt Road , Taita, where I pass Christ Church, the oldest church in the Wellington Region. It was completed in 1853 (we are a young country). These days it is still a consecrated church and serves both as an historic place and venue for weddings, baptisms and funerals. The sexton is a real gentleman who, on seeing me photographing the exterior unlocked the back door and kindly gave me access to the interior.

Rain

When the weather outside is miserable, I often resort to still life. In this case, a yellow rose which our kindly neighbour allows Mary to hijack. Roses lose their perfection all too quickly, and even at their peak, there are flaws. Even so, the rose always brings me pleasure.

Into the rain

When the weather outside is miserable, I sometimes go the other way and defy the conditions. On the day this image was made, there was some steady rain. For some reason, I like rain shots so I went around Tarakena Bay along Moa Point Road and saw the Strait Feronia leaving the harbour mouth on its way to Picton. The wall of rain she was heading into was sufficient to blot out Baring Head and the background hills.

Sparkling

Spring leaves should not be on the tree and not on the ground. However, a strong gale ripped a few off the Japanese maple. The wind died away a little so as I went out I was attracted by the glistening drops of water on the fallen leaf.

Downtown architecture

How much the waterfront architecture has changed since first I came to Wellington in the mid 1960s. This building was completed last year, and is quite distinctive. To the best of my knowledge, it features very advanced earthquake resistant engineering. To my eye, it looks best during daylight hours. In the evening hours when the cleaners are at their busiest, the geometry of the structure disappears and the illuminated interior divisions make it quite untidy. This intersection on the corner of Customhouse Quay and Waring Taylor St is always busy, so I made multiple shots and then used the statistics feature of Photoshop so that anything that was not present in most images simply disappears. No traffic!

Knitted blanket

Looking for some still life options, my eye fell on one of Mary’s current projects. Mary enjoys knitting as a way of retaining mobility in her wrists and fingers, and she always has at least one item in progress. This is a baby blanket.

Nature’s knitting

The wetlands in the Pauatahanui Wildlife reserve reminded me of Mary’s knitted blanket, with seemingly random splashes of colour. I was disappointed with the image which I had hoped to achieve with focus stacking. Unfortunately, the stiff breeze moved everything about, so I chose to focus on the Royal spoonbills having a siesta in the pond.

Escort duty front and rear.

At the back of the pond nearest Gray’s Road is a bird viewing hide, donated by the Thorpe family. I am grateful to them, and have spent many happy hours there, watching various waterfowl enjoying the pond. Canada geese are increasing in numbers and watching these proud parents escorting their brood of six cygnets I can see why.

Old school boating

Mary was walking from Pauatahanui village around to Paremata via the Camborne Walkway so I was looking for images in the Ngati Toa domain until it was time to pick her up. The local scout group had hauled their dinghies out ready for some old fashioned rowing with heavy oars.

Young pups 🙂

Our youngest son, Anthony and his family have just acquired a puppy. It is a golden retriever/poodle cross which is apparently called golden doodle. It doesn’t seem so long ago that I held Ants with that same big grin. The puppy is called Rascal.The other one answers to “Ants”.

See you next time, people.

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Academic adversity Architecture Art Birds creativity flowers Landscapes Light night Sunset Weather Wellington

October 31, 2020 … push on through

Let me begin by saying that I am experiencing an artistically flat period. There are days when I make no pictures, and it doesn’t seem to matter to me at the time. I can identify no cause and offer no explanation. Perhaps it is the photographer’s equivalent of writer’s block. Back when I was supervising PhD students, my advice to them was put your hands on the keyboard and press some keys. Even if the output is rubbish, you at least have something to work with and to improve upon, which is better than the terrors of an empty page. I suppose I should apply the same logic to making pictures. Press the darned shutter! And so it shall be until such time as the muse re-appears. In the meantime, here are twelve images from a creatively dry October.

Statue of Mohatma Gandhi
Mohatma Gandhi

In the forecourt of Wellington Railway Station, there is a statue of Mohatma Gandhi. Made by the sculptor Gautam Pal, the statue was gifted to the people of New Zealand by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations on behalf of the Indian people. I believe that about 35,000 people trudge past the statue daily, and I hope at least some of them give a moment’s thought to his humility and his concern for others.

Tulips
A fleeting season

Frequently, I look back at the pictures I was making at the same time last year, and wonder whether I can do it better this year. Early to mid-October is the time for the carefully planned display of tulips in the Wellington Botanic Gardens. In reality, nature, aided by the gardeners, does most of the creative work. All I can do is try to make better use of the available light for making pictures. Let me revise that. I can try to be there when the light is better. Thank you, gardeners.

Evans Bay yacht race
Evans Bay

Speaking of better light, I pass through Evans Bay often, and see yachts apparently racing as part of what I take to be a training school. As with the tulips, light makes all the difference and with the sun behind them, the sails light up nicely. I am often frustrated that , between the time I first see them and the time I am safely parked and ready to shoot, the fleet has turned about, and the light I saw is no longer there. Or worse, their race is over and they are dropping their sails as they return to the ramp.

Tui in the rain
I know how he feels

Our little kowhai tree on the front lawn is a favourite feeding station for sparrows, waxes, starlings, song thrush, finches, blackbirds, kereru and bellbirds. On this wet day the tui just sat glumly and tolerated the steady drizzle. Perhaps that is a reasonable analogy for my state of mind at present.

Sorrento Bay
In Sorrento Bay

I really like the days of silver grey when there is no wind and the sea is flat calm. This picture was made in Sorrento Bay just between Pt Howard and Lowry Bay. The rocks are a favourite roosting spot for the black-backed gulls, though few were visible at this time.

Purple ragwort
Purple Ragwort

Every year from August to December, our hills turn purple as the invasive weed, purple ragwort breaks into flower. The effect on the landscape is spectacular, but it is poisonous to stock and takes over large areas of land. It is spread on the wind, and I suspect that accounts for its presence along the highways as vehicle slipstreams pick up the seeds. I read that each plant produces something in the order of 50,000 seeds.

Construction
Remediation

In 2016, the Kaikoura earthquake revealed some serious weaknesses in the local movie theatre complex in Lower Hutt’s Queensgate Mall. The theatres had to be demolished in the interest of public safety. After a long period of inactivity, their replacement is being erected. I was walking nearby last week and spotted the two tower cranes silhouetted against the Western skyline. It seemed worth a shot.

Raindrops
After the rain

Steady rain, not heavy but consistent, offers some opportunities in the form of puddles or droplets. The clothes line outside my office window carried a splendid display of jewels.

More ragwort
Did I mention that it is invasive?

Not long ago, the place where this image was made was bare yellow clay. Now the purple ragwort has filled in the vacant spaces while the more diffident native species get no chance. I confess that they are quite attractive and come in various shades from pale pink to dark purple.

Kina sculpture
Waterfront sculpture

One of the nicer features of the Wellington waterfront is the frequent placement of art works, mostly in the form of sculptures. These are funded by the Wellington Sculpture Trust. Many of them are fragments of poetry by people who love Wellington, rendered in bas-relief on placques on walls or in the walkways. This particular work is “Nga Kina” by Michael Tuffery. Kina shells would have been a significant part of the midden of the old Kumutoto pa (village) which once stood near this spot where the Kumutoto stream ran down to the sea. His sculpture evokes the memory of how this area used to be.

Whairepo lagoon
Under an ominous sky

Whairepo lagoon is a much loved small lagoon in downtown Wellington. It was known for a while as Frank Kitts Lagoon, in memory of a long-serving mayor, however, it has had its original name restored. Whairepo is the Maori word for the eagle ray which is often seen browsing its rocky floor. Despite Wellington’s evil reputation as a windy place, I often see it in conditions of flat calm and when I do, I try to capture it in a different way than before.

Aotea Quay
The other side of the coin

The foot of the vertical white pillars of the walkway is where I stood to make the previous image. Since I rarely if ever make selfies, I chose to move before I made the shot in the other direction.

That will do for this time. Regardless of whether or not I have broken out of the doldrums, I hope to be back in two weeks or so. Stay safe, and may the world be a better place next time we meet.

Categories
adversity Aviation Birds Cook Strait Family flowers Food Landscapes mountains night Weather Wellington

October 13, 2020 … interesting times

We are in the last week of New Zealand’s electoral cycle, and on Saturday, it will be all over. That combined with the disruptions of our various stages of Covid-19 lockdowns have made the last few weeks some of the fabled “interesting times”. It is not my intention to use this as any kind of excuse for photographic shortcomings, so here’s what I got, and in keeping with our long-running meme, what you see is what you get.

Cornflowers and lavender

After a particularly beautiful August, we have endured a fairly dire September. Rain and gales resulted in a lot of indoor photography. Our neighbour has the cornflowers growing in their garden and they are generous in giving me access to them. I seem to recall that blue is perhaps the least common of the colours in nature, so I am always delighted by the intensity of the cornflowers.

Springtime in Upper Hutt

As in the last two years, Mary and I paid a visit to Aston Norwood Gardens at the foot of the Remutaka hill road because it is cherry blossom time. This year, with the region recently out of lockdown and with some judicious publicity, the place was insanely crowded. On the weekend of peak flowering, some 5,000 people paid to go through the gardens each day. There was about half of the required parking space.

Such brief glory

Somehow, despite the hordes of people making selfies, I managed to get some people-free shots. As the image shows, we visited height of blossom season. The gardens are situated in a gully such that it seems to be sheltered from the wind whistling down from the Tararuas. The petals were falling but there remained plenty of colour.

Spring in the city

Despite my grumbling about the boisterous Spring weather, we got a few rather nice days, though the temperatures were not especially warm. Nice to look at but not yet swimming weather. Soon after this image, there were heavy machines replenishing the sand brought in from the South Island each year.

I love those lemon muffins

Mary is very generous with her baking and shares it with neighbours and friends. I get to smell the good smells, and view the golden textures and even get to eat one or two. I am always available for testing purposes.

Smooth sailing

Some seemingly nice days have a mean streak. The view across the strait was sharp and clear, but the breeze had a very nasty bite. Still, I liked this view of Tapuae-o-Uenuku as the ferry Kaitaki passed in front of it on the way to Picton.

Seasons come and seasons go

My colour printer died on me. Canon NZ pointed me to an agency that undertakes repairs, and it was located in the light industry area in the South of Porirua. Happily, the repair depot was able to resuscitate the purge pump (whatever that is) at a modest cost since the printer was several years out of warranty. On my way there, I spotted the lovely contrast between spring flowers and a red corrugated wall.

Weather

Amidst the days of unpredictable weather we had several days of sustained heavy rain. This shot was maid at night through a rain splattered wind. I do love our view from up on the hill even in such turbulent weather as this.

Search and Rescue

They say you are getting old when policemen look young. Our youngest son Ants has just resigned after 21 years as a police officer and has taken up a new career as an apprentice builder. Ants spent most of his police career in search and rescue duties, and in the latter years, as sergeant in charge of the Wellington region’s land rescue activities. He was also a disaster victim identification specialist, and I couldn’t be more proud of him. Among the gifts bestowed at his leaving ceremony was this pewter figurine of a search and rescue person. It’s about 30 cm tall and weighs 5 kg. Ants is now happily learning to be a builder.

Across the harbour

Erratic weather continues and suddenly there was bright sunshine and flat calm. I got low on Petone Bach and looked across the harbour to Wellington City.

Pied stilt

Pauatahanui Inlet has some areas defined as wildlife reserves, of which my favourite is the ponds near Grays Rd. The most common inhabitants of this pond are the pied stilts which usually nest there. They are handsome birds, though a little aggressive. In nesting season they will dive-bomb anyone near their nests or the chicks.

The old bird

The C130 Hercules entered service with the RNZAF in 1965. Who would have thought that they would still be in service 55 years later. Or indeed that they would be replaced by the C130J-30 Super Herculese in 2024. Meanwhile, the old birds soldier on.

That’s all for now. See you after our election.

Categories
Art Birds flowers Seasons Waikanae Weather

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
Categories
Adventure Architecture Arrowtown Birds Children Family Kawarau Gorge Lakes Landscapes mountains Queenstown Queenstown Rivers Waves Weather

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.