harbour Light Maritime Seasons Sunset Tararuas Wellington

January 31, 2013 … “a beaker full of the warm South”*

Back in the mid nineties I spent a couple of weeks in Saudi Arabia.

Among the inhabitants of the expatriates’ compound there was a story of a certain Brit who drove them all to distraction. Every morning, as he waited for the bus to take them to office in Jeddah, he would say in his broadest Yorkshire accent, “I see it’s turned out nice again”.  In a land of almost perpetual blue skies and temperatures in the high thirties, it was a wonder he was not assassinated.

I need to be careful not to become equally weather-fixated. Perhaps it’s my own British heritage, but the current weather patterns are pure magic after a string of miserable summers. Rain is forecast for Monday through Wednesday of next week, and then good weather is expected to return.

Oriental Bay, in Wellington, is an artificial beach, imported by barge from Golden Bay across the Cook Strait. The location is great for a beach, but the natural currents in the harbour tend to work against it. The sand washes away, so the good citizens of Wellington pay through their rates each year to have it topped up, and the beach groomed.

Oriental Bay eveningLast night they were out in their hundreds, cashing in on their investment. I got there at about 8 pm and went up on the roof of the restaurant on the old band rotunda.   There were people swimming, watching others swim, or just paddling at the edge. Youngsters were out on the raft moored a little way off the beach. paddling, drinking, taking in the sightsSerious swimmers were doing laps out to the fountain and back. A couple of motor launches were ostentatiously at anchor. People on kayaks and people just splashing about.

trimming the sailsA couple of historic gaff-rigged yachts were stooging about, their sails catching the last low rays of sun as the shadow of the hills began the closing ceremonies of the day.C18 passes astern of the Interisland feryy Kaitaki

I decided to stretch things, and went to the top of Mt Victoria and constructed a panorama looking North towards the Hutt Valley and the Tararuas. This needs a click to enlarge.Another panorama

This really is building up as a summer to treasure.

*Ode to a Nightingale, John Keats

Eastbourne harbour Landscapes Light Seasons Sunset Wellington

January 30, 2013 … “Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight”*

Warm summer evenings confer a sense of well-being.

On the road towards Eastbourne at around 8pm yesterday, every one of the little beaches in each successive bay had people in the water, reluctant to concede that yet another glorious day was coming to an end.

Out near the bus barns at Eastbourne, there is a rocky beach which was meeting many needs.  Several fishermen were surf-casting. There were swimmers, though I thought it was a bit dangerous being in the same stretch of water as a steel hook, and probably likely to scare the fish anyway. A family of kids was clambering over the rocks at the Eastern end, teasing their mother who was trying to persuade them that it was time to pack up and go home.

As best I could, I wedged my tripod in the loose pebbles of the beach, and tried to capture the beauty of the evening and of the view across to the high peaks of the Kaikoura ranges 160 km away. I confess to being diverted to the receding planes in the various layers of landscape across the harbour mouth.Looking across the harbour and beyond to Tapuae-o-Uenuku

On my way back towards Lower Hutt, I paused in Day’s Bay to watch a bunch of youngsters enjoying the last days before school. Thirty or forty of them crowded onto the ferry wharf, and many of them were having fun simply by doing “bombs” into the sea, and climbing out to do it all over again. Others had a more elaborate set up, having constructed a ramp at the end of the wharf, and then pedalling a bicycle at speed to launch far out into the water. I chose my position on the roadside so as to give the best backlight for the splash as they landed. I got some good splash shots but the location tended to provide a somewhat confused background.That bike is going to land on him

As an older person, my thoughts instantly went to all the things that could go wrong. What if the bike landed on them? What if the ferry came? The only question they asked was “is it fun?” Obviously it was, and they had a well organised system of having someone dive with a grapple to allow the bike to be retrieved for the next intrepid diver.

On the beach below me, a family had enjoyed their meal on the beach and were thinking about packing up. Someone in the family had school the next day. Dad was persuaded to do one more run on the jet ski.Last run of the day

Yet another in a string of lovely days.

*Gray’s “Elegy written in a country church-yard”

Birds harbour Hutt River Maritime Moon Petone Weather Wellington

January 29, 2013 … summer as it used to be

In an unusual reversal of form, our friends and relatives in Australia are enduring violent weather while we bask in extended sunshine. Our sympathies go out to them.

Here, there is even talk of drought in the regions. Various sources have suggested that, once Australia has finished with it, the rough weather will come our way. That is the usual way of things. For now, though, we are revelling in the longest spell of real summer weather most of us can remember in a very long time.

We know it will come to an end, and our forecasters are suggesting that perhaps Monday or Tuesday next week things will start to decay. So be it.

Yesterday on Facebook, a friend mentioned that there was a sea mist rolling in. The day was so bright and clear, that I thought there had to be a picture in that. This shot was made while lying on my stomach on Petone beach. Interestingly, that was about as far as the mist came. Some kind of force field held it at bay, and ensured that summer conditions continued.Sea mist at the harbour mouth

Since I was in the area, I looked around the corner to the estuary at Hikoikoi Reserve. A fine Black Shag (Phalacrocorax carbo) or Great Cormorant was sunning itself on the sand bank.Black shag

Nearby, a white-faced heron was stalking about among the weed, pausing now and then to take a crab or small fish, but for the most part it seemed to get mouthfuls of weed. It all went down, just the same. Regardless of its catch, I had to admire the technique, and this image may convey some idea of the speed of its strike.Strike! (White-faced heron)

I needed to be in the city, and having studied the maps after my earlier visit to Wadestown, decided that there might be even better views of the port from further around Barnard Street.

Two more cruising giantsThe fact that the cruise ship season is at its peak gave me a nice test target with the Diamond Princess, ( 115, 875 T and 2,670 passengers) and Radiance of the Seas (90,090 T and 2,501 passengers). Lifeboats swung out from the side of the Diamond Princess, I imagine to be part of some safety inspection regime.

Yet another beautiful day came to an end as the moon burst into the clear night sky above the Eastern hills a little after 9pm.Moonrise

This will be one of those summers that live in memory.


harbour Landscapes Light Lower Hutt Maritime Sunset Wellington

January 28, 2013 … persistent golden weather

Wellingtonians have justifiably complained about the quality of their summers, in the past.

There can be no complaint this year. Of course it must eventually come to an end. Everything has to be paid for.

For now, we have been enjoying a string of wonderful golden days. We rarely reach the extremes experienced across the Tasman, though it seems that Christmas Day was an exception this year, at 31 degrees in Wellington. Our fine weather typically reaches a very pleasant 26°C.

Yesterday was such a day, and after visiting younger daughter Helen in her new rental house, I carried on through Wadestown towards the city, drawn, as ever, to the sea.

Wadestown has narrow winding roads, most of which have yellow dotted lines which mean no stopping. You get tantalising glimpses of the harbour, but there is usually a bus on your tail so you have to keep going. However, forewarned, I was watching for side streets with fewer restrictions, and ducked into Barnard Street. From there I could look down on the port.

Silver Whisper and Crystal Symphony

What, more ships? Well, yes, and I make no apology. The two cruise liners in yesterday were smaller than most, but fine looking ships anyway, by today’s standards.  The Silver Whisper, (28,258T, and 382 passengers)  and the Crystal Symphony, (51,044T and 922 passengers) were berthed one behind the other on Aotea Quay, near the Stadium.

From my vantage point, I could see that, despite the golden weather, there were some passengers who chose not to go ashore, preferring to wander the mostly deserted decks.  Northward along the motorwayMindful of the dictum “always check the other way”, I looked North, and quite liked the unusual viewpoint looking up SH1 to where it disappears up Ngauranga Gorge. Further up, are the lower reaches of the Hutt Valley. The isolated tower block at the back of the picture is the old Avalon TV studio tower.

The air was so clean and clear, that a trip up to the wind turbine at Brooklyn seemed like a good idea.  At the foot of the turbine, the air was so still that the blades were rotating at perhaps 1 or 2 rpm.  A series of ten images (in portrait format) were taken and later stitched together to create the panorama below. Please click to enlarge. There is a lot of detail in this image. Wellington Panorama

As the day came to a rose-tinted conclusion, and the glorious full moon was rising, I went across the road from home, and a few yards down the hill to gain a clear view of the heads and the evening-silvered harbour. The ferry Aratere had just turned in to enter port and was sitting on a patch of glassy golden water.Harbour mouth at sunset ... from Normandale

Apparently this weather is forecast to persist for the remainder of the week.

What hardship.

Hawkes Bay Landscapes Light

January 27, 2013 … summer landscapes

Whether or not you like his theology, C. S. Lewis was a superb descriptive writer.

At least according to the biopic movie “Shadowlands”, some of his best writing was inspired by a painting of a pastoral scene which he referred to as “the Golden Valley” which may or may not have been the beautiful valley of that name in Herefordshire.

I always interpreted it as an idealized non-specific location which served to assist his writing.

If I were to identify a similarly inspirational location in New Zealand, at least in the North Island, it would be at the top of an unnamed pass on SH 50 which runs to the North and East from near Takapau, through Tikokino to Fernhill, just out of Hastings, and thence to rejoin SH2 just North of Napier. For most of the year, the green-ness of this land must be seen to be believed.  Click to enlarge for a better view. You can see the road winding down into the picture from the right. My "Golden Valley"

At this time of year, the paddocks are scorched dry by the seemingly endless summer sun of the Hawkes Bay. But the country has good bones. Rolling hills slope down to the plains in the East, and butt against the Wild and rugged Ruahine ranges to the West. Looking East towards Waipukurau

I love SH50 as a quiet way to bypass the traffic on SH2, skipping the towns of Waipukurau and Waipawa. Relatively few heavy vehicles pass this way, but above all it offers scenic rewards.

When it emerges at Hastings it passes through the productive Gimblett Gravels, home to some of the world’s very best red wine producing vineyards.Grapes quitly maturing in the very productive Gimblett Gravels

One day I shall explore this road more carefully.

Aviation Eastbourne Maritime Wellington

January 26, 2013 … from a lofty vantage point

Looking down from a high place is good.

You get to see a different world. Yesterday was the first in a string of promised fine days. So having enjoyed a small Margherita pizza with a friend, I drove to the summit of Mt Victoria.  I mentioned yesterday my sympathy for the cruise passengers of the day before, who suffered a cold drizzly day. Yesterday, there were two cruise liners in. The Celebrity Solstice (122,000 Tonnes, 2,850 passengers) and the Seabourn Odyssey (32,346 Tonnes and 450 passengers) brought joy to the retailers in the city. It was a perfect day for tourism.Celebrity Solstice and Seabourn Odyssey in Wellington

From Mt Victoria, they made an imposing picture, and the Celebrity Solstice in particular towered over the freighters moored nearby.  As I was waiting to see what developed, the little interisland ferry, Straitsman (13,900 Tonnes, 400 passengers) left its berth bound for Picton. Straitsman leaving for PictonAs she passed Pt Halswell, the Interisland Line’s Aratere (12,596 Tonnes, 670 passengers, 230 cars, 28 rail wagons)  was coming the other way.Straitsman and Aratere crossing off Pt Halswell

I did say that ships and the sea would feature, so just by way of variety I toss in a Boeing , probably inbound from Auckland. I wouldn’t have bothered, but thought there might be some interest in the structure across the water at Eastbourne. The white thing sticking up just ahead of the aircraft’s nose and across the channel is the main mast of the ill-fated Wahine (8,943 Tonnes, 924 passengers), wrecked with loss of 53 lives in the entrance to Wellington Harbour on 10 April, 1968. Her foremast is also a memorial, situated in Frank Kitts Park on Jervois Quay.The Wahine's main mast ... oh yes, and a Boeing B737-300

That’s it for today.


harbour Maritime Petone Weather Wellington

January 25, 2014 … like a whetted knife*

So many authors have written about the sea.

Poets and prose writers alike find something to say about the sea. What can I say that others have not yet said? All I can attempt is to say why I find myself drawn time and again to the sea.

There are so many facets to the sea, so many ways to encounter it.  I am moved by the relentless majesty of great rolling ocean waves. I love it in its calm moods, when the moon traces its path across the mirrored surface. Green water with white horses, or the reflection of a blue sky on the vastness of the ocean are all lovely. Silver surface in grey mist, or thundering surf, all these aspects attract me. Odd then that I am such a poor sailor. It takes very little motion to make me feel unwell on a boat. Legend has it that Admiral Lord Nelson was sick for a few days every time he went to sea.

Despite this affliction, I love ships.  When my friend Brent phoned to say that there was a “tall ship” in the harbour, I knew I would have heard if it were any of the great tall ships. It could only be our own “Spirit of New Zealand”, our little sail training ship (she is technically a barquentine).  At a mere 184 gross tonnes she is among the smallest of the tall ships.  An attractive vessel, nevertheless, she was anchored off Petone wharf, sheltering from the Southerly which was imparting a lively chop to the harbour. Despite the chill wind, there were a number of people fishing or just strolling on the wharf, and even a fellow photographer. IMG_4843

At the point I next chose to photograph the Spirit of New Zealand, there was another ship in the background, and the contrast could scarcely be greater. IMG_4827The cruise liner Voyager of the Seas is a leviathan of 137,276 Tonnes. I felt a little sad for the three thousand or so tourists paying a fortune for a summer cruise who had struck Wellington on its one bad day this week.

IMG_4841My aversion to the cruising life has been mentioned before, but she is a stunning piece of marine engineering.

Ships and the sea will probably be a recurring theme.

* “To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife” … from Sea Fever, by John Masefield

Art flowers Landscapes Lower Hutt Weather

January 24, 2013 … an odd mixture

It was one of those days again.

Days in which no serious attention was paid to making images because I was busy solving transitional issues in respect of my “puddle jumping” to the Mac world. I hasten to add that this does not relate to any failure in the new environment, but rather, my failure to convert to the way things work over here.

My biggest issue thus far has been the process of converting my external USB drives from “NTFS” to “MacOS Extended (Journaled)” so that the new machine can write to the disks. I suspect that, in the Mac world, the notion of USB hubs is tolerated rather than embraced. If the finder does not “see” the external drive that is plugged in, there seem to be no tools to diagnose the issue. And the Mac is very sensitive to devices being unplugged without first being “ejected”, with real risk of damage to the device.  But this is not intended to be a geek blog.

In town yesterday for  delicious Yum Char* lunch at the excellent Majestic Restaurant on Courtenay Place, I saw this green doorway. For reasons I cannot begin to articulate, I found it interesting.Green door

In the late afternoon, with nothing to show for the day but a green door, the lenticular cloud over the Eastern Hills offered some promise.Lenticular cloud built up by a relentless Nor'Wester

And finally, an attempt at a macro image on a Fuchsia plant.

Close and personal with a pair of Fuchsia flowers

As I observed, it was one of those days.

Despite the grey drizzle outside my window, I must try for better results today.

*Yum Char is the name used by Cantonese restaurants for the kinds of meal consisting of an assortment of Dim Sum 

Children Normandale Sunset

January 23, 2013 … from cool blue to rosy gold

Most, if not all New Zealand primary schools have a small swimming pool.

This is intended to encourage the teaching of swimming. During the long break over summer, many schools permit families from the school to use the pool. Our grandchildren enjoy regular trips to swim and splash about. Maggie and Cooper cooling off in the school poolIt’s not a big pool, but it is clean, solar-heated and easy to get to.  As you can see they have the greatest amount of fun in the simplest ways, and at their ages (8 and 6) they may not be able to spell it but they certainly know about joie d’vivre.No-one seems to have more sheer joy in life than Cooper

Later in the day, Mary and I went with Helen for a walk along the river bank from the Ewen Bridge down to Petone and back. We left things a bit late for the best of the light, but the bushfires in Australia are contributing to some colourful sunsets. This takes nothing away from our sincere sympathy for those impacted by some very real tragedies over there.Looking to the West from Petone bridge

Even as we crossed the Ewen bridge back to the car, there was a nice soft light on Hawkins Hill behind the city.Hawkins hill in the last glow of day

And that’s it for the day.

Architecture Art flowers Wellington

January 22, 2013 … I do it my way

After the excitement of the previous day, yesterday needed to be more placid.

Our younger daughter Helen is staying with is this week as she and her husband transition from Gisborne to Wellington. We took her in to the house they are renting and then, once the removal truck arrived with their household contents, I became surplus to requirements, so wandered off towards the city with my camera.

I found myself in the Lady Norwood Rose Garden in Wellington’s botanic gardens,. The roses are cared fro using natural methods of pest control, and though I understand the motivation, the results are disappointing. Perhaps it is compounded by the weather, but the roses are ragged and look moth-eaten. Since I had not been there for many years, I wandered into the Begonia House.  The begonias are very nice indeed as are the other exotic flowers in there.BegoniaOn the other hand, a straight flower shot sometimes doesn’t say much. I got the images home and manipulated them. I have no qualms about this as I have always held that I am in the business of making images, and the mechanism by which this is achieved is unimportant. What I put before you is an image created, not some historical notion of what constitutes a legitimate photograph (whatever that is).Water lily

My final image was a reflection caught on the corner of Lambton Quay and Willis Street. Nothing more than a bit of straightening and cropping here.Reflection

Who knows what tomorrow will bring.