October 31, 2013 … in domestic captivity

For reasons already discussed I stayed at home yesterday.

That left me in desperate straits as I sought material for my daily photographic commitment. Perhaps the hedge outside the window might yield something if a suitable bait could be found.  After some hobbling about, I found a plastic dish that I wired into the hedge, then filled  them with birdseed.

Sparrows in the hedge

They’ll go wherever there is free food

Sadly, the persistent wind kept anything of interest away. and after many remotely triggered exposures, just three frames contained a bird. And all I had to show for it was a little group of house sparrows.

The landscapers next door

The broken fence was already there

Over the fence to the South, my neighbour’s landscapers were still at work almost five months after they started, and the sound of a truck arriving to deliver some topsoil offered some hope.  Photos were taken, but frankly none of them were “pictures”.

Begonias

Zooming in

My last effort was an attempt at some creative zooming with some bedding begonias in a pot.

Ho hum, perhaps tomorrow.

October 30, 2013 … hobbled and handicapped

Crippled and in considerable discomfort, I could not really get out and about yesterday, nor indeed today.

The blisters from the unaccustomed walking over the previous two days have forced me to walk on the balls of my feet, unable to put my heels to the ground. From the outside, it probably looks very funny. Needless to say, I am not enjoying it.  However, my youngest son, “Ants” picked me up yesterday afternoon to accompany him and the kids to a scouting exercise on road safety.

His son Cooper is a member of the most junior branch of scouting, known in New Zealand as “Keas”, presumably after the mountain parrot. His daughter Maggie is in the next tier up, as a cub.  Before we set out for the exercise, we paused at their house while the kids had their dinner.

The inner harbour from the lower slopes of Maungaraki

A tanker and a log carrier wait for berths

 

While I was waiting, I took photographs from their verandahs which offer magnificent views over the harbour and the lower valley.

Petone from Maungaraki

Slowly the traditional bungalows and villas of Petone are being replaced by apartment blocks

 

One of the amazing features of living on the hill is how different the views are as you move a few hundred metres one way or the other.

Ava Station

One of the new Korean commuter units bound for Wellington pulls into Ava

 

Down at Avalon Park, there is a set of tracks laid out and painted like street intersections, complete with traffic signs, for precisely the purpose of instilling road rules.

Cooper is having a great time

Eyes shut and emitting siren noises Cooper is having fun

All the little Keas were soon whizzing about on their bikes, scooters or inline skates, giving way at the intersections in accordance with the signs. 

First responder at the scene of the "accident"

Cooper is doing a racing dismount as he rushes to the aid of the victim

Then the Scout leaders staged an accident and did the great melodrama about what to do next. Cooper was first on the scene, and he leapt from his bike, raced around the “victim” and began to administer CPR to the great hilarity of the other scout leader.

CPR in progress

I am not sure what diagnostic processes were followed but Cooper immediately began CPR, though the effect may have been more like the Heimlich manoeuvre

Cooper’s dad, as well as being a police officer, is a trained paramedic. The leaf is not far from the tree. 

Art work

Windmills at Avalon

The exercise lasted about an hour, so I shuffled carefully along the path to the windmills which are installed as an art work at the edge of the park.

That’s it for a somewhat handicapped day. 

October 29, 2013 … a Good Keen Man*

The parking lot at the bottom of the hill should have warned us.

Yesterday was Labour Day in New Zealand, a public holiday. I had suggested to Mary that our next walk should be the Rimutaka Incline. This is a disused rail track that has been popular for years as a walking and cycle track. My lunacy was in forgetting that earlier in the week the track had been incorporated into part of the new national network of cycle paths. The car park was more than full and there were people abusing each other over inconsiderate parking. While they were distracted, we managed to acquire a park that came free and set out to walk the 10 km to the former railway settlement at “Summit”. It was a fine morning and there was a benign forecast so we began at the gate to follow the old railway line.

Start of the track ... the gate from the carpark

Ten steady uphill kilometres to go

 

This is a grand landscape through which some imaginative engineers managed to carve a track to get steam hauled engines across the Rimutaka range to the Wairarapa on the other side.  By railway  standards, this is a steep track, and required the use of “Fell engines” which gripped a special installed third rail to provide added traction uphill, and braking on the down side. A heavy train could have as many as five Fell locomotives inserted into the consist, to get the load over the hill between Rimutaka station and Cross Creek.  On the day our family arrived in New Zealand (February 4, 1954)  we were on the night train to Auckland and went over that line. Nine months later, it was closed and replaced by the tunnel through the ranges.

Cyclists and walkers of all ages were out on the track, some coming, some going

Many of the more athletic cyclists had been over to Cross Creek and returned (18 km each way)

I said it was steep by railway standards, and so it is, but it is still an easy gradient for walkers and cyclists. I saw family groups with kids of five years or younger pedalling with various degrees of vigour up the hill. There must have been several hundred cyclists on the trail at the same time, yesterday.

Pig hunter with his catch and his two packs of dogs

The lower of the two pigs was secured to the bike by way of sliding the empty abdominal cavity over the saddle

Perhaps the most special image of the day for me, was this “Good Keen Man”*, a hunter of the old school. He was  trudging down the track with his pack of pig dogs and with the corpses of not one, but two substantial wild pigs across his old bicycle. No firearm involved in this hunt, but rather the old-fashioned use of the dogs to corner the pig, and then despatch it with a knife. I am not, and never have been a hunter, and could not do what he did, but I have a certain grudging respect for this kind of skill (no correspondence will be entered into on this topic).

The Rimutaka ranges

Contrary to popular belief, the Rimutakas are not visible from Wellington. The ones we see covered in snow are the Tararuas. The Rimutakas are not particularly high, topping out at 940 metres, but it is a wild and rugged landscape where lives have been lost.

Unlike the bush walk the previous day, this walk requires a more macro-view of the landscape. It is a vast and wonderful range and I’ll say again that a great deal of imagination was required to conceptualize crossing it by rail.

Truss bridge crossing the Pakuratahi River

Considering that quite large locomotives crossed these tracks aided by the powerful little Fell engines, the roadbed turns some very sharp corners

There are viewpoints that afford views over the Pakuratahi River at various points, and there are bridges, tunnels and cuttings to look at., and many rushing streams to cross.

Tumbling waters

This rushing stream joins the Pakuratahi at Ladle Bend

At the top of the climb is the former railway settlement of Summit, a wild, lonely and windswept place where railwaymen and their families lived in the five cottages, and serviced the locomotives, checked the brakes and so on.

Rusting remnants

These relics were once fine locomotives that crossed this difficult landscape, but they are NOT Fell engines.

As on the previous day, birds on was everywhere though the birds were heard more than seen. As before, the most prolific call was that of the grey warbler (Click here to listen to the Department of Conservation’s recording of one), though we caught glimpses of the native pigeon, North Island Robin, fantail, grey warbler, Australasian Harrier, bellbird, and a variety of finches.

Downhill with the rain coming in

This is Ladle Bend with eight blistered agonised kilometres to go. I lost interest in more photographs about here.

After a delightful lunch near the remains of locomotive boilers at the highly manicured rest area at Summit we started the return journey. At the marker where it says the gate is only 9km further on, my feet alerted me to their presence. At eight km, they were howling in chorus, and to complicate matters it started raining. By the five km mark I was in real discomfort, and for the last few km was barely shuffling in the rain which was just made things miserable.

I got there, and am resolved to try some better boots for my next walk. The gravel track is not all that rough, but it is unremitting gravel all the way. I enjoyed the uphill walk and the first few kilometres of the downhill one, but it is not a trail I need to visit again. Today I have been walking around on the balls of my feet trying desperately not to put weight on my injured heels. It must look very comical.

Now to figure out how to get shots today without walking far.

*A Good Keen Man by Barry Crump, 1960

October 28, 2013 … fond memories revived

In years long gone, we went there quite often.

Not that we were ever tramping people (US = hiking), but the Catchpool Valley in the Rimutaka Forest Park has always offered easy walking access to some wonderful bush country. The main walks are almost able to be used pushing a baby in a stroller, and are quite wide and easy with very few really steep grades.

More strenuous adventure is easily accessible to the adventurous, and I have memories of our sons David, Drew and Anthony taking off with their buddies to camp out overnight, getting up to who knows what mischief. Happily they all turned out well, and I am very proud of them all (and their sisters).

Less than a hundred metres into the walk

Lots of tree-stained creeks

From the Wainuiomata Coast Road, we entered the park and drove up to the main parking area, and after the usual loading and adjusting of backpacks and camera set out into the bush. Almost instantly you are in a different world.

The wind is still howling overhead, but down here in this green wonderland, the trees throttle it back to a very light and pleasant breeze. The main track from the carpark to the Orongorongo river is very civilised these days, though not everyone approves of that. For much of the way, you could walk four abreast on a well-formed gravel path.  Most of the streams, creeks and drains are bridged, sometimes in unexpectedly grand style.

A native orchid

One of the greenhoods

Mary walked these tracks more often than I when our elder daughter Catherine was a student at Sacred Heart College in Lower Hutt. The school was heavily committed to participation in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, under the leadership of the late and much lamented Sister Marie Gabrielle Wright RNDM.

Another greenhood

Unless you were looking for them you would miss them entirely

 

Mary went along as a parent helper. Marie-Gabrielle was a dedicated and very expert amateur botanist, and gave Mary a particular fondness for the various plants of the forest floor, and high on the list were the New Zealand native orchids, especially the Greenhoods. They look like grass most of the year, and even when flowering are hard to spot. Even the flowers are green.

Northern Rata surrounds its host

In another month or so it will be a blaze of crimson flowers

This forest park is a living classroom, and strategically placed information boards provided information about noteworthy features of the landscape and the trees and animals to be found nearby. This Northern Rata (Metrosideros robusta) is an epiphyte. Its seeds lodge high in the branches of a host tree (in this case, a Rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum)) and over a long period of time it sends roots to the ground , and wraps itself around its host. Though it had long been thought that this killed the host, the latest thinking is that it is more of a life companion relationship and that by the time the host dies, the Rata is able to stand alone, though hollow centred, as a mighty tree in its own right. It’s flowers and leaves are very similar to the Pohutukawa.

Down on the shingle beds at the Orongorongo river

Not much water flowing despite recent bad weather

The only steep part of the track is the final descent down “Jacob’s Ladder” to the shingle of the river bed.  We ate lunch in the sun on a shingle bank beside one of the little branches of what must be one of the few braided rivers in the North Island.

A random walker and his dog

Dozens of people passed as we ate our lunch

What goes down has to come back up, so it was a steady plod up the hill until we reached the ridge and then resumed the normal walking pace.

Forest panorama

About eight images stitched

Much of the forest is beech and in order to get a sense of the place, I stitched together a panorama. I was really enjoying walking with Mary, though when we reached the sign that gave us the choice of 40 minutes to the carpark by the main route or another 80 minutes via the old Five-mile track loop, her preference for the longer walk was a challenge. It was less well-formed and required some leg stretching!

A splendid beech

Four images stitched vertically

Occasionally a particularly handsome mature tree presented itself, but it was hard to capture them until I remembered the possibility of a vertical panorama. This is four images to catch the full hight of a majestic tree.

Our national emblem the silver fern

Nearly at the end of the track.

My last shot from yesterday is a grove of Ponga ferns (Cyathea dealbata) … when the sun reaches through and lights them up they can be spectacular.

Another walk is planned today though it may be less sheltered than yesterday.

October 27, 2013 … expect little, avoid disappointment

With the wind gusting in excess of 100 km/h I expected interesting surf on the South coast.

It has seen better days

I am not sure whether this house has always been here or has been moved on site

Alas, all I found was flattened waves, though there was sign of watery disturbances too far offshore to be useful. Coming back up the Coast road towards Wainuiomata, I noticed a derelict house I had previously overlooked. This shot was taken through the open window of my car as a way of avoiding the unpleasantness outside.

Seaview industrial area

From the top of the Wainuiomata hill in a shrieking gale

From the top of the Wainuiomata hill there was nothing special to see, but I have done the best I could with the industrial area at the foot of the hill.

In the marina at Seaview, I expected some shelter, and to an extent it was there. However, all the masts were rocking in accordance with the formula that governs any pendulum. I hoped to capture the movement with a slow exposure, but even at 1/3 second, the pendulum rates of the boats was so slow that the best I managed was some mild blurring of the taller masts.

Seaview marina

If you look really closely you will see the blur at the mast tips

I expect better things tomorrow

October 26, 2013 … and just like that, it all changed

Promise little, deliver much.

It’s a recipe for customer satisfaction. The day was promising nothing at all. The wind was still howling and shrieking, and the rain, though intermittent, was quite heavy when it came. Having arrived early in the city for lunch with friends, I parked for a while on Oriental Parade.  Despite the gale-force winds, there were inevitably runners. On Oriental Bay, there are always runners. I tried for a shot but failed to get the focus right in the second or so in which the runner was in line with the open window of my car. On the other hand, in one of the brief lulls in the wind and rain, there was a brief view across to the port.

Oluf Maersk and Tequila Sunrise

Despite the rough weather loading and unloading continued

The Oluf Maersk  (34,202 Gross Tonnes) was doing one of those twenty-four hour turnarounds which are characteristic of the modern express container ship. Further down the quay, the improbably named Tequila Sunrise (weighing in at a mere 19,800 gross tonnes) was loading logs, and will depart from here on Sunday to get more at Napier before taking them off to Asia for processing.

Norfolk Pines

That was very heavy rain

Looking through the rain-washed windscreen at  the Norfolk Pines along Oriental Parade gives some idea of how heavy the rain was. However, it was lunchtime and time to move on.

After a splendid bowl of some of the world’s finest mussels steamed in Dijon mustard and blue cheese, and a foaming glass of Leffe Blonde beer, I returned home. My wandering in the afternoon took me towards Eastbourne, and to my surprise, the weather began to clear. This low-angle shot is taken on the beach at Eastbourne, near the bus barns, looking North towards Petone.

Eastbourne beach

I lay flat to get the shot. The dryness of the shingle was an illusion. The moment I lay down, the water seeped up to ensure I got wet.

Half an hour later, I was nearing home in bright sunshine under blue sky. Next to the bridge at Normandale, this lovely golden elm (Ulmus procerawas positively glowing , cleansed by the wind and rain. 

Golden elm, Normandale

These are not native to New Zealand, but their spring colour is magnificent

The day delivered more than it promised.

As I write, the wind is steadily increasing again, but I was glad of the brief interlude.

October 25, 2013 … smile, they said, things could be worse*

It’s allegedly spring.

Wind-lashed punga

Taken from my front door

We expect spring to be quirky and unpredictable. We expect the odd gale or two.  Sustained bad weather is outside the normal pattern. Yesterday’s Nor’Wester was fairly vigorous, and the ponga tree on the front lawn was lashing wildly about.

Evans' Bay squall

Grey-green water … not good for the cleanliness of my lens

Wind always makes me want to see what it looks like on the water. I went to Evans’ Bay and the wind was even stronger there. However, in contrast to a Southerly,which has had thousands of miles of Southern Ocean in which to construct mighty waves, the Northerlies in the harbour have a mere six km to play with and tend to rip the tops off the waves and to provide a viciously flattened harbour that hisses and spits but doesn’t aspire to any great heights.

Kowhai and ornamental flaxes feel the blast

Taken through a briefly open window from the dining room

Back at home, the poor little kowhai bush (the one where the three kereru harvested all the blossoms a few weeks ago) was writhing in the ongoing lash of the wind. The ornamental flaxes on either side put up a stiff resistance but they always seem to survive.

Back door outlook

More akin to winter than late spring

Inside the porch at the back door, the rain on the glass summarised the day nicely.

The wind rose

The plant is remarkably resilient

*So I smiled. And sure enough things got worse.

No improvement today either.

 

October 23, 2013 … wandering in the wet

Apologies. I wrote this on time, saved it in draft and then forgot to post it, so it’s a day late. The photos were taken on schedule, though. 

In wet weather, I went looking for images yesterday.

My wandering took me to Silverstream over Blue Mountains Rd to Whitemans’ Valley. Soft grey drizzle isn’t a total loss, and the wind had abated.

There are thousands of old and decaying buildings on farms around New Zealand. My guess is that it would cost more to remove them than any benefit gained. On the other hand, there must be many acres of otherwise useful land cluttered by the remains of old buildings. But how much less interesting would our landscape be, devoid of these charming references to our past? 

At the end of its days

This old farm shed serves no useful purpose any more

This old shed has finally succumbed to the ravages of time.  I have no idea if it fell or was pushed. As I was tidying the image up, I was tempted to remove that white blob in front of the shed. The closer I look, the more I think it is some kind of domestic rabbit – a large white rabbit with erect black ears.

Looking down on the prison

A regrettable necessity

Coming back over the hill I paused to look up the valley. Down below the Rimutaka Prison occupies a regrettably large part of the landscape, while the large green expanse in the mid ground is the Trentham racecourse.

Pretty Pinehaven

This little valley is isolated from the main transport corridors

Further down Blue Mountains Road, there was a view-window in the pines that looks out over the suburb of Pinehaven. It’s pretty to look at, but too much shade in winter, and too much fire-risk in summer for my taste.

Homebound commuters

It’s a long haul from Wellington to Masterton, but less stressful than driving over the hill

 

Following the road behind the defence area at Trentham, I came onto Ward Street at Wallaceville, just as the evening train to Masterton was approaching. The glint of its headlights on the damp rails caught my eye.

That’s the day.

October 24, 2013 … a day out of the box

The cruise liner got lucky.

It came and went on the one fine day in this week’s forecast.  I was on my way to have lunch in town with a good friend and former colleague. I had to drop an emergency lunch pack at Normandale School for my grandson, Cooper, who had lost his lunch (later found in the refrigerator at home). This brought me onto Dowse Drive in Maungaraki, from where the harbour was calm and clear.

Across Wellington Harbour towards Eastbourne from Maungaraki

The clouds came and went but the harbour was calm

Having arrived in the city ahead of schedule, I wandered the streets with my camera, and was thus mistakenly identified on two occasions as a passenger from the Sun Princess. In Lambton Quay, I happened to glance skywards and saw a spectacular cloudscape. I am told by an authoritative meteorological source, that these are altocumulus clouds. The patterns had dissipated with about 20 minutes.

Altocumulus clouds to the North of Lambton Quay

I worked in Pastoral House for many years … the one with the white concrete ribs and bluish glass panels at the end of the street

Down at ground level, the denizens of the many buildings nearby were out in the all-too-brief sunshine, enjoying their lunch on the grass of Midland Park.

Lunch in the park

You have to be quick to get a seat

On the corner of the park there is a statue of Katherine Mansfield. Perhaps it was the element of compulsion that caused my dislike, but for one reason or another I was never fond of Mansfield’s writing. And having read some of the biographies, I was not an admirer of her as a person. I am willing to concede that better qualified people than I regard her as something of a literary giant in the short story genre. Coming back to Virginia King’s statue, it seems to bear a very vague resemblance to Mansefield herself, but I see it as more of a symbolic tribute than a realistic representation.

Victoria King's statue of Katherine Mansfield

I took a lot of shots and this is just one perspective

Modern sculpture occurs in many forms, and this elegant hollow stainless steel statue with its laser-cut words is a piece of engineering genius, and perhaps even artistic genius.

And now the weather is back.

October 22, 2013 … the cold breeze of desperation

Of the pictures I took yesterday, I retained just three.

That is either desperation, or confidence. I have never suffered from a surfeit of confidence. I was desperate. That wretched wind was still there, and still is today.  Anyway the net result is that you get to see my entire photographic output from yesterday. That has not happened before.

Much of the day was spent attempting to assemble a portfolio of six prints for an annual club competition. Portfolios present a special challenge as they need a unifying theme and a certain internal consistency. My set is of birds in flight, or at least with their wings spread ready for flight. Most of my flight images are achieved at a longer distance than the sitting shots, and so are of lesser quality in terms of sharpness and digital noise. Finding six images that suited is no small feat.  My collection has over 3,100 images of birds, and over 500 of these are of birds in flight. I have since tagged all the in-flight shots so I can find them more easily in future.

With that done, I realised that the day was reaching a conclusion, and I needed to get out and take some pictures. High wind tended to rule out bird shots, so I went along the road around the Eastern bays.

Looking South from high above York Bay

The whitecaps tell the force of the wind

There are many little side roads which climb from the foreshore up into the bush, giving access to the many houses tucked into the various crevices on he steep hills.  They are ridiculously narrow roads with few opportunities for turning, but they offer some very nice view windows out over the harbour.

Kaitaki inbound from Picton

If I had to cross the Strait on a day like this, I would do it on the Kaitaki

Coming through the heads, the interisland ferry, Kaitaki seemed impervious to the wind, so I grabbed another shot from back down on the coast road.

Eastbourne as seen from York Bay

It’s a pleasant and slightly upmarket village

Following the doctrine of checking other angles, I saw a view of Eastbourne with its solitary high-rise building.

And that’s all I have for the day.