Architecture flowers Trees Wellington

August 31, 2012 … making images in company

Making images is normally a solitary occupation for me.

Boxed living in Te AroRarely do I participate in group trips. If I am with someone else who points their camera at a scene just as I was about to do so, I have a queasy feeling that to take the image would be akin to plagiarism. It may be irrational, but that is why I rarely shoot with others. I tend to wander, looking, sometimes finding, sometimes shooting.

Yesterday, I had lunch with Adam, a long time friend, accomplished photographer, and occasional stringent critic of these columns. And, as we agreed, we took our cameras and  after lunch, went for a stroll on the sunny Western slopes of Mt Victoria (the suburb, not the hill).

It was a very pleasant spring day in the city. On Courtenay Place, the kowhai trees (Sophora microphylla) were in full uniform dress.Kowhai on Courtenay Place

Around the corner, on her often wind-swept plinth on the median strip between Kent Terrace and Cambridge Terrace, Queen Victoria Regina et imperatrix, gazed down her royal nose at the commoner pointing his vulgar camera at her.Victoria, Queen and Empress

Up the quiet side streets, I was intrigued at the “character houses” that typify this and many of the older suburbs in the city.

Character house in need of paintSome were well overdue a pot of paint, but times are hard, and paint is expensive, so as long as the house isn’t leaking and the tenants pay their rent, life goes on.

On Austin St, I spotted one of the many steep pathways and steps that allow (fit) pedestrians access to the higher streets without the need to follow the longer path used by motor vehicles.  A student had obviously decided that there were fewer fit pedestrians, and thus fewer interruptions if she sat in the sun with her trusty water bottle and read her book right there.

Reading space, Mt VictoriaDown Marjoribanks street (which most Wellingtonians pronounce exactly as it is written, rather than in accordance with the aristocratic British “Marshbanks”), Adam and I came back to Oriental Bay and there, in amongst the usual endless stream of fitness fanatics running and walking was an Imperial Storm Trooper. He or she did not appear to be advertising anything or handing out flyers, so the presence of a stormtrooper remains a mystery. For once, I did not refrain from taking the shot, though I saw Adam taking the same opportunity with a longer lens.

Truth to tell, it was interesting to see what things were catching his eye, and though they were not always things I would make an image of., I could at least see why he was taking them (most of the time).

It was a pleasant lunch and I enjoyed the company. I am still likely to be a solitary shooter most of the time.

Birds Hutt River Light Lower Hutt Plant life Seasons Trees

August 30, 2012 … new greenery

It is much nicer in Italian.

“First green” is such an inadequate and literal translation of primavera. Even the English word “spring” doesn’t have the emotional loading of primavera.  I can think of no society, bar the equatorial ones, that do not celebrate the emergence of new life after the dark and chill of the winter season. And of course the most celebrated artistic representations of la primavera are by two Italians, Botticelli and Vivaldi.

Yesterday, with the loud encouragement of my bathroom scales, I went for a walk on the riverbank. Like many rivers, the Hutt can, on rare occasions, burst its banks. After the last such event (1976), a great deal of work has been done to improve flood protection, including raised stop banks and the extensive planting of willows.

In all probability, if you stuck a willow walking stick in some mud, it would sprout. They seem remarkably easy to grow and before you know it, a bunch of sticks in the ground have become a junior forest. At this time of year, they array themselves in a wonderful delicate shade of green, and are very popular with the bird life along the river.

Spring willows on the Hutt RiverMy first image today is taken within a hundred metres of the Lower Hutt CBD (on the far side of the river).  As you can see, this river is a major transporter of gravel, and indeed the entire valley floor is built on the gravel deposits brought down from the Tararuas by the river.

From the Melling BridgeCrossing the Melling Bridge, I was pleased by the shades of green in the water and on the trees.

My final image today arouses mixed feelings. Vandalism and destructive behaviour is always repulsive, but I couldn’t resist the patters left in the sodden grass on the riverbank, left by some idiot who chose to use an off-road bike to rip up the grass under the Ewen Bridge. The geometry of his passing was irresistible. Geometric vandalism

More tomorrow

Aviation Birds harbour Landscapes Light Newlands Wellington

August 29, 2012 … a blue and green landscape

How sharper than a serpent’s tooth …

… is a well deserved criticism from one’s own son. His comment on yesterday’s post was phrased more diplomatically, but between the lines, I read “stop whining and do something about it”. Similarly, my friend Adam proposed some worthwhile solutions to my recurring crisis of “ad hoc-ism”, wherein the day comes to an end and THEN I start looking for a subject. They are both right, and since each is an accomplished photographer in his own right, I feel obliged to do something about it.

My friend Toya pointed me to yet another standpoint for views of our city, so in a wonderful Wellington afternoon, I went up the Ngauranga Gorge to Newlands and out onto the East-facing slopes above the harbour.

By now, you will have gathered that this city’s magnificent landscape moves me, and that seeing it from a new place is exciting. Newlands is a suburb overlooking the harbour, to the North of  State Highway 1 and the Ngauranga Gorge. There seems to be a good deal of land yet to be developed, and the houses on the seaward fringes seem to be on a far grander scale than most of the older housing stock in the area.

To the North East over the lower Hutt Valley and PetoneIt would be a shame not to make the most of such views, though weatherproofing may require special attention. If you have an unobstructed view to the South, then obviously, Southerly weather has easy unobstructed access to you. However, on a day like yesterday, such considerations can be put to one side.  Grey warblers were offering their cascading songs in the bush just below, and the predominance of blue gold and green in the view promoted a sense of well-being.

To the South East, Miramar Peninsula, the airport, Kilbirnie and Mt VictoriaAircraft on approach to Wellington Airport across the bay passed low overhead, so that the whistling of lowered flaps and undercarriage could be heard clearly, as could the adjustments to power to maintain the glide slope. It seemed there was one every few minutes, and I was reminded of a furore which arose in the early 70’s when an Air New Zealand DC-8 passed so low overhead, well below the normal height, that it scared the heck out of the residents. For an aerophile like me, this is wonderful. I can see that others might be less enthusiastic.

To the South and West, the city, Brooklyn, and Wright's HillThe viewpoint changes with each fold in the landscape, and some can see to the North, some to the South, some get it all. But no two views are quite the same.

OK, must prepare for today’s image.

PS. Thanks to those who do provided feedback. I really appreciate it.

Landscapes Light Lower Hutt Sunset Wainuiomata

August 28, 2012 … gorse and cloud

Racing around the valley desperately looking for an image is all wrong.

It’s indicative of poor planning, and total disorganization. Yet there I was again. I had several visions of what I hoped to see from various viewpoints, but from each in turn there was disappointment. Flat light, no shadows, no colour, no focal point, no picture.

Old faithful places let me down, or rather, I decided that I had done that before, and a new version was not going to be significantly different. I am obviously no Edward Weston with his myriad images of peppers.

Various spots around the valley yielded nothing. With the light fading, I went to the lookout at the top of the Wainuiomata hill and looked at the harbour. Blah!  (Of course the harbour is still beautiful, but I couldn’t find a way to make an interesting or original picture of it.)

Then I remembered Geoff Cloake’s wise advice to look in the opposite direction. Looking Eastward over WainuiomataNot a great view, but at least more lively than the other direction, so here we look out over Wainuiomata and the college (formerly Parkway). The gorse in the foreground added a burst of colour where the sun provided little.

Not especially satisfied, but having at least made an image, I packed up and headed home into the grey West. As I put the car away, I noticed an interesting cloud formation After the windthat might be worth recording, so I throw that into the pot too.

Maybe a little more planning tomorrow.


creativity harbour Light Maori Petone Seaview Weather Wellington

August 27, 2012 … from a different standpoint

On the other hand …

There is always another way of looking at things, always another place on which to stand. When I am not off in some other part of the world, you may have noticed that I keep coming back to old familiar places in Wellington or the Hutt Valley.

What might this place look like, if seen from somewhere else? In Te Reo Maori, there is a wonderful word which ought to be adopted by every photographer as part of the toolkit. The word “turangawaewaeis “the place on which I stand”. My choice of place alters my view of the world.

Every human situation needs to be explored so that we see how it looks from someone else’s point of view. (I love it that such a widely understood concept has its roots in the graphic arts).

Photographically speaking, very small movements in standpoint can yield very different images. Low angle, high angle, wide angle narrow angle, or indeed a completely different start point, all alter the way in which I see the world. And for me, I have to keep asking “what would this look like from over there?”

Sometimes this is a problem. There are places that simply cannot be accessed for photography. It frustrates me that there are so many views in and around our city where it is simply unsafe, or even illegal, to stop.

Some of yesterday afternoon, I spent in the car and on foot, looking for different viewpoints over the Hutt Valley and the Harbour. The roads around Korokoro (on the Western Hills above Petone) are very narrow, with few safe parking spots.  I saw several nice views as I explored, and on each occasion, parked the car at the first available space. Then, with camera and tripod on the shoulder, I walked back to the place where the view could be seen.

This sometimes meant that the front legs of the tripod were on the outside of a safety rail above a very steep drop, and the rear leg had to be hastily “sucked in” each time a car approached. Happily the traffic is light up there, and I don’t think I was in grave danger. A few drivers audibly lifted their foot off the accelerator as they passed (thanks), but I don’t think I impeded anyone’s progress.

Looking down on Petone past the big house on the hillThe first image looks down on the commercial (Western) end of Petone, with the tank farms at Seaview at the other end of the beach. The house on the left has intrigued me for a while. From below, around the area of the Petone railway station, it appears to be on the edge of a very risky precipice, so I sincerely hope that its owners had a competent engineer to design the foundations.  I also hope that rustic wagon wheel is securely fastened. It would be an unwelcome arrival in the houses below to the South.

My second image is an unusual angle on Matiu/Somes Island (in the shade), and Ward Island catching the only visible shaft of sunlight.  The golden island ... Ward island in the Sun, Matiu/Somes in the shadeI really must make a visit out to Matiu/Somes sometime soon.

Birds Eastbourne Maritime Sport Wellington

August 26, 2012 … muddying the waters

Weirdness reigns, optically speaking.

Some days my medium tele-zoom delivers sharp images, some days not so much.

I have been conducting various tests to see if it is me or the lens that is playing up with no conclusive results as yet. This leads to an atmosphere of uncertainty which is very disturbing.  Explorations will continue.

This weekend we had the pleasure of our local grandchildren for a sleepover, and I had to take Cooper for his final rugby game of the season. Actually, he plays a variation of rugby called “Little Rippers” in which each child has a strip attached by Velcro to the left and right side their belt. A tackle is achieved by ripping one of the strips from your opponent’s belt, whereupon the person tackled must pass the ball.

The team of five and six-year olds seemed to be split evenly between those from real rugby families, and those who were there because the family wanted them to participate in some form of team sport. The former raced towards the opposing try-line at every opportunity whereas the latter were more interested in almost anything else on the field, but especially the big pool of mud in the middle of the field. I think the most fun was had at the end of the game when, with the active encouragement of their coach, they all tramped through the evil-smelling mud at the Petone Recreation Ground..Little Rippers in the mud

In the afternoon, we took Cooper and his sister Maggie on the Eastbourne ferry from Day’s Bay to the city where we had lunch and visited the national museum, “Te Papa”. The weather was variable at best,  but the youngsters were enthusiastic about everything. For my part, it was also interesting to see the city from an unusual direction.Approaching the city terminal on the Eastbourne Ferry

As we waited for the ferry back, I noticed several white fronted terns (Sterna striata) making frequent passes overhead. One came close enough to be in range of my shorter lens.White fronted tern

As we crossed the harbour to the East, the weather deteriorated again, so we stayed inside the cabin of the catamaran. It was from there I saw some interesting patterns of spray and rain streaming down the cabin window. These patterns offered an interesting filter through which to view the sea, the shore and the dark hills behind. Coastal abstraction

Another weekend ended, but that’s OK, no work tomorrow.

flowers Seasons Trees

August 25, 2012 … winters past and spring to come

Settling back home to the single daily reflection is proving difficult.

As I observed yesterday, I took a deserved swipe for the seagull shot, and today I find myself not much better off. For quite some while I have been watching the various growths on a piece of driftwood in our garden. Not being a botanist, I am not sure what they are, ferns, mosses, liverworts or fungi.Growth on the driftwood in the rockery

Nevertheless I take pleasure in the contrast among the weathered wood, the river rocks, and the rich green of the things growing on it. I love the delicacy of the tiny flowers embedded in the greenery. The wood itself is lending itself to flights of imagination, with particular leanings towards Tolkien’s “Ents” .

What really fills me with pleasure, though, is the lovely colour of the bark on the Japanese Maple in the background. That glow that precedes the buds of spring promises so much.  I hope it comes to pass.

Cook Strait harbour Landscapes Light night Sunset Tararuas Wellington

August 24, 2012 … in the afterglow

Just being there is half the battle.

There is an annual competition among the six photographic clubs in the Wellington region, and yesterday it was the turn of the Wellington Photographic Society to host it. I ate my dinner early, and then went into town to see what, if anything, the evening light might do for me before the competition commenced at 7:30pm.

An ongoing frustration for me, is that many of the very best views of the city and harbour can be had only from a moving vehicle. Stopping on the motorway to take photographs is actively discouraged. So it was last evening … the combination of rapidly disappearing light and flat calm harbour was wonderful, and I couldn’t stop.

As I got closer to the city, I realised that there was still some lovely rosy light on the upper parts of Roseneath and Mt Victoria.

Narrow winding streets, parked cars, and oncoming buses are just part of Wellington’s quaintness.  There was still some lingering light when I eventually navigated all these hazards and reached the lookout at the base of the radio mast on Mt Victoria.

I think my presence there was an irritant to a number of young couples who were obviously seeking privacy (ah yes, 1969, I remember it well!). On the other hand the pair of drunken loons who decided I was a photographer, and therefore just the person to take a picture of their staunch “gangsta” poses on their iPhone welcomed me with open arms.

Perhaps the delay was a good thing. The afterglow of the day was possibly better for pictures than the full strength sunset. There was a delicacy to the colours that really appealed to me. View to the North from Mt VictoriaLooking to the North across the harbour, I observed that the Tararuas were fading towards the night. A recently passed ship had left a wake on the water.

Out to the South, the airport was busy  with traffic coming and going, and at one stage I could see three sets of landing lights in line astern on finals.  Several aircraft were held on the taxiway waiting for these incoming planes to take precedence. (Please enlarge)Panorama to the South and East from Mt Victoria

To the West, the contrast between the dark hills and the rosy sky was fading quickly. With very little wind, the big wind turbines out near Makara were just ticking over, so slowly that I had to really concentrate to be sure they were moving at all. In the foreground, the harbour was almost still, with just some gentle swells to mark the pattern of its breathing. Down in Oriental Bay, the fountain was falling almost vertically back on itself. Now that is calm.

Sunset in Wellington from Mt VictoriaThe tower blocks in the CBD were lighting up as the swarm of cleaners moved in. It was but a faint echo of the view from the Empire State Building (just three weeks ago), but very beautiful in its own way. I am really glad to be back.

Yesterday I was given a frank criticism of the seagull shot the other day. I really appreciated the honesty of the feedback (which was well deserved), and continue to welcome straight shooting on the part of my readers. 

flowers Food Lower Hutt

August 23, 2012 … of shoes and ships

My parents always had a struggle to get me to eat cabbage.

To this day, I eat it more from a sense of duty than because I really like the stuff. In fairness, my parents were of that generation of Britons who cooked lamb and beef to a uniform shade of brown, and boiled most vegetables to mush. That certainly didn’t help.

My mother was a good cook in her day, and she loved to entertain family and friends, and they kept coming back, so she must have done something right. I just didn’t like cabbage (or spinach or broccoli or cauliflower). I might have been a good rehabilitation project for Jamie Oliver.

However, I observe with interest, that the gardeners who look after the city parks have now found a good use for the humble brassica, and have arranged them in splendid patterns in various open spaces around the city.

I was scrambling for some images late in the day yesterday, when there had been little direct sunlight. The plants themselves were not immediately obvious to me until I got up close. unmistakably cabbages.Ornamental brassica

Like photographers, I imagine they will go to seed, soon enough, but for now they look very well.

Birds Kapiti Coast Paremata

August 22, 2012 … desperate measures

As I said just a few days ago,  street photography is not my thing.

On the other hand, when I look back through the images of yesterday, a shot I made on Lower Willis Street in Wellington was the most interesting (and perhaps the sharpest) of them. I have no idea who the men were, or what they were talking about (they greeted each other like long-lost friends), but they just caught my eye as I waited for a bus.

Despite that, I could not bring myself to further breach their privacy by gratuitously posting their image on the Internet.

Red billed gullInstead you get a shot of the common red-billed gull (Larus novaehollandiae) attempting to fly through some bushes on the foreshore at Paremata.

See you tomorrow.