Aviation Children mountains Queenstown

November 30, 2013 … to the deep South

It’s always a joy to visit our family.

ATR 72 at Wellington
Striking in black … the red streak is a reflection from inside the departure lounge

Unfortunately distance means it happens less frequently than we might like. Yesterday we travelled to Queenstown. Travel from Wellington to Queenstown tends to be served by ATR aircraft operated by Air New Zealand. The ATR is a fine aircraft, but is a bit less roomy than the Boeing and Airbus aircraft that used to be on the run. As we were waiting for our boarding call, it was hard not to notice the one in the special black promotional colour scheme … there is now at least one of each type of aircraft in the Air New Zealand fleet bearing this striking colour scheme. For any who are unaware, most of New Zealand’s national sports teams compete in black.

Overhead Kaikoura
In transit views are good

On the way down, we enjoyed some spectacular scenery and having chosen seats on the right hand side we could look down on the pretty peninsula of Kaikoura, base for whale watching in New Zealand.

Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo
Almost in Queenstown

Further South, we had a clear view of Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo, and later Lake Pukaki.

Otis before his haircut
A very laid-back three-year-old

In Queenstown, grandchildren Billie and Otis gave us great welcoming hugs and we enjoyed catching up. Three year old Otis was scheduled for a haircut, so we went into the town for that to take place.

Otis having his haircut on Andrew's knee
Very entertaining to watch

More from Queenstown tomorrow.

adversity Architecture Birds Island Bay Weather Wellington

November 29, 2013 … a slow ride across town

Yesterday, I was asked to photograph a function for Hospice New Zealand.

Tui in the flax
This one was so engrossed in the food that it ignored me

As I was walking out of the front door, I encountered this fine fellow feeding on the nectar in the flax flowers. The tui and flax go together at this time of year, and as in yesterday’s image, the forehead coating of pollen tells of successful feeding.

Rush hour traffic in the city
The traffic was stopped when I took the photo

Then I hit the road bound for Tapu Te Ranga Marae in Island Bay. In normal circumstances, and empty roads, it would take a little over 30 minutes to make the journey. On a wet Thursday night at rush hour it took over an hour. On several occasions, the entire system came to a standstill, and since my camera was on the front seat beside me, I grabbed a shot or two.

In The Terrace tunnel
This is not a pleasant place to be stopped

The closer I got to the city, the worse the congestion came and this shot was taken while parked in The Terrace tunnel.

Tapu Te Ranga Marae
Highly unconventional but welcoming to all.

I arrived a few minutes before the appointed hour, and thought I had lost the opportunity  so scope out the site of the required group photograph. On the other hand, the whole gathering was running late so it all worked out in the end. I won’t breach the privacy of the meeting, but I can show you the extraordinary building that is Tapu Te Ranga Marae. Though it is Maori through and through, the external structure puts me more in mind of the Swiss Family Robinson than the Maori. Nevertheless, it was a welcoming place and a tribute to its founder Bruce Stewart and the visionaries who helped him build this amazing wooden structure on eleven levels. .

Tomorrow from Queenstown.

Architecture Aro Valley Birds

November 28, 2013 … in the depths of the city

Parts of Wellington are strange to me.

Aro Valley, Wellington
The sun has gone behind those hills some while ago. No hope to dry the washing outside now

Strange in the sense that I am unfamiliar with them. If truth be told, however, I find some of them strange in other ways. The Aro Valley seems to meet both of those criteria.

I know that there is a village within the city in the Aro Valley, and people who live there will defend it to the death.  The Valley sits between very steep hills, and the houses get a much more constrained ration of direct sunlight than most other suburbs. There are houses from which the sun has gone by 3pm in mid summer, and much earlier in the winter.

Aro Valley houses
Character abounds


As a suburb, it is not so much Bohemian as idiosyncratic. People seem to march to a different drummer up there. This should not be construed as a bad thing. It is merely different. True, some houses seem to be neglected and in desperate need of remedial work.

Bright scheme
The bright paint seems to add light and colour to a deeply shaded street

Other houses are clearly their owners’ pride and joy, but present themselves in a way that would not fit so well in other, more conservative suburbs.

Newer houses are easy to detect
Perfectly even machine-made boards and long run coloursteel roofs identify the newcomers

Parts of the valley have been the target of developers, and in an area already known for its tightly compact land use, new housing blocks make an attempt to mimic the colonial cottages. They are about as effective in this as BMW’s monstrous caricatures of Issigonis’s masterpiece, the Mini. There is a hint of similarity, but it stops at the broad outline.

Tui on flax
Pollen on the forehead suggests this has been going on for a while

At home later in the evening, tuis were making good use of the abundant flax flowers. Expect more of these shots. This one was taken through glass, so I hope to improve.

More tomorrow, though Mary and I are off to Queenstown.

Art Camera club Children creativity Lower Hutt

November 27, 2013 … random disconnected images

It was a messy day.

In the morning I had some administrative stuff to do on my last day as secretary of the Hutt Camera Club. While I was dealing with that, my clever new screen calibration device reminded me it had been two weeks since I had checked for colour accuracy on my monitors.

Screen calibration in process
It’s a clever device and now my two monitors show the same colours. Here, it’s just about to start on my external (Dell Ultrasharp) monitor

It’s a simple device that looks a bit like a mouse that gets hung in a designated area on the screen being calibrated. The associated software then sends out a whole gamut of colours and the device measures what it receives. The software compares what it sent with what came back and then generates a new screen profile for each attached monitor so that the colours displayed are as they were seen by the camera. I am much happier with my colours now.

Flax in motion
Slow speed hand-held shot

My camera was sent outside to play. With its raincoat on and on the tripod with the remote trigger attached, It was set up to capture any tuis that visited the flax plants outside the door, Damp weather and a howling wind produced the above, or did they?

Flax still
High shutter speed and a tripod produce different outcomes  on the same plant … all that is missing is the tui.

They didn’t. I lied. There was no wind and the first flax image was taken hand-held, with the shutter still on the half-second exposure from the train shots the day before.What I showed was camera-shake, not a storm. The reality was almost still conditions. Though the flax is in full bloom, no tuis came, so all I got when I checked that it was working, was the empty flax bush.

Keas and Cubs
Feeding time at the den … Cooper has a finger full of tomato sauce and is pretending to bleed. His sister, Maggie, gets on with the food

In the evening, my youngest son Anthony was to be inducted as a scout leader so I looked in. If anything the chaos was more pronounced than the previous visit and I couldn’t stay for the induction ceremony. Annual General Meetings of clubs and societies rarely attract a full house, so we combine ours with the annual judging of the portfolio competition. In two grades (beginner and advanced) , members submit a set of six images that hang together, and they are judged as a set rather than as single images.  The AGM usually takes fifteen minutes and last night was no exception even with a minor increase in subscriptions which was unanimously approved. A new president was elected (me), and then the portfolio judging began.

Judging the portfolios at Camera club
Outgoing president Paul introduces the judge for the evening, Bruce. Some of the sets submitted can be seen.

Last evening’s judge was the chair of the Photographic Society of New Zealand’s judging panel so we got a very competent and at the same time supportive critique of the sets, and two outstanding sets were chosen. I was unsuccessful, but pleased for my friend and fellow blogger Toya, whose six kingfisher images came together to produce a superb set.

Maybe next year, but the competition is hotting up.

flowers Landscapes Petone Railway Silverstream

November 26, 2013 … a train of thought

My writing is obviously not as clear as I hoped.

Thanks to those who sent supportive messages in response to yesterday’s bout of introspection.  I had not intended to give the impression that I was contemplating quitting my photo-a-day blog. Rather, I was trying to explain why I shall continue. Either way, the responses are enormously valued, and I thank you.

Grey skies and a steady Northerly wind were the main features of yesterday’s Wellington scene. Wandering in search of a subject, I began at the St James cemetery behind the Lower Hutt public library. A reader in Australia had asked if I could find the graves of two of his forbears. It is not a service I plan to offer routinely, but I have always liked that graveyard and was going down there anyway. Regrettably many of the markers are so aged and uncared for that their inscriptions are unreadable.  I have yet to find the required markers , but have not yet given up.

In memoriam
Somebody loved Sam


While I was there, I found at the base of a big oak tree, a solitary red rose and the name “Sam” spelled out in little white stones. The identity of Sam is a mystery to me, but whether it be person or pet, Sam is clearly missed by someone. And yes, I have applied a few effects around the edges.

Oak bark
Am I barking mad or is that an owl?

In the spirit of “seeing”, I looked at the other side of the tree, loving the ruggedness of its bark, and I wonder if you can see the owl that I saw? I was tempted to emphasise its eyes, but that would be a manipulation too far.

The spirit of the old town lives on

On the steep edge of Korokoro Road above Petone Station, I looked out over Petone to the East. The road running from lower right to upper middle of the image is Jackson Street, the main shopping street of Petone. Somehow, despite its unwilling amalgamation with its Northern neighbour into the City of Lower Hutt in 1989 the spirit of the old Petone Borough lives on, and the retailers on Jackson Street have managed to persuade the normally greedy city council to refrain from imposing parking charges in the area. Free parking and quirky specialist shops and a host of interesting cafes and restaurants is are some of the reasons people flock here. It is always busy, though it is slowly losing historic buildings and becoming gentrified.

Evening commute
Electric train rushing across the Hutt River at Silverstream bridge

Looking down on the station and watching early evening commuter trains come and go suggested another opportunity, so I went up to Silverstream bridge (which I photographed a few weeks back when the river was in flood). There I waited a few minutes with the tripod erected in front of my car, and the camera set up and focused on the bridge. I arranged a slow exposure and then sitting in the warmth of my car, waited for the first train bound for Upper Hutt. As soon as the train intruded on the screen, I pressed the shutter and the train’s momentum did the rest.

Life goes on.



adversity Art Avalon creativity Pauatahanui Sport

November 25, 2013 … I doubt, therefore I might be

Introspection time again.

Occasionally I get asked why I persist in this photo-a-day thing when my grumbling indicates that it is often difficult, and even more frequently, unsatisfactory. This is day number 1,058. How long will I continue? And why do it anyway?

While I make no claims to be a participant in high art, my photography is a creative endeavour that is very important to me. It gives me great satisfaction. On the other hand, the vast majority of photographers don’t commit themselves to taking a photo every day, so why should I?

Another question is, how successful have I been? That question has two different answers. One is judged by those who read this blog (about 60 people a day), and the other is in my own mind. Some of you are kind enough to give me much valued feedback by way of comments on the blog. The comments have been overwhelmingly supportive and have been greatly appreciated.

In my own mind, as I have said in earlier blogs, this whole thing is about learning to see. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But I want to look behind the immediate details that present themselves. It sometimes eludes non-photographers that it is rarely enough just to “be there”. To create the desired image you need to be there again and again and again, in varying times of day, light conditions and seasons of the year. One of the images may eventually work.

Of course people, events, shapes, textures, colours and movement can all be captured at a moment in time, in the conditions that prevail at the time.  But when the file is transferred from the camera to the computer, then I have to ask  myself again, what was I seeing when I pressed the shutter? Does this image on the screen capture the essence of what I experienced, and can I make it say what I felt, or what I wanted to say about that experience?

A windsurfer at Pauatahanui
I suppose I could have eliminated that green grass in the foreground, but the bokeh produced by the long lens was part of my image.

Wait a minute! “… make it say?” … am I manipulating the images? Well of course I am. That, in my view is at the heart of  modern photography. Manipulation has always been part of photography, by way of cropping, dodging, burning, multiple exposures and other clever tricks. However, digital technology has shifted the balance, and I utterly reject any assertions that processing in the computer somehow makes my images less legitimate.  For every hour I spend with the camera, I spend about three beating the images into shape. I crop, I adjust the exposure, the contrast, the saturation. I judiciously remove distracting elements. I use vignetting and selective focus tricks to make sure you look at the subject of the image I made. That’s my approach to image making.

Back to the point. Why am I doing it every day? I do it because I can.

Wind sculpture at Avalon
The essence of this is spinning colour. I used a neutral density filter with the camera on a tripod so as to achieve a well focused but  slow (half a second) exposure. Notice too, the leaves on the trees thrashing in the wind.

I enjoy and am thankful for the gift of sight. I enjoy making images that please me, and if they please you too, that’s a bonus. If I compare my daily images this year with those from earlier years, I like to think I am making better images most of the time. If I can be happy with on image in ten, I would regard that as a great success, but the nine are a necessary part of the learning process.

You may have noticed too, that I like to express myself in writing. Untill my retirement, words were my business … now they are an essential part of my creative urge.  I am unlikely to stop photographing or writing in the foreseeable future.

More tomorrow.

Birds harbour Landscapes Light Weather

November 24, 2013 … fitting it all in

There are days when I get asked to take photographs for other people.

Royal Spoonbill
This bird was a youngster and not as cautious about photographers as its elders who stayed further away

Yesterday I took a lot of images of the annual strawberry and ice-cream promotion for the local hospices. I also got to take shots of youngest son and his wife and sister-in-law all dressed for the costume party that evening. Before I knew it the day was nearly done, and apart from a Royal Spoonbill dredging in deep water, I had little achievement of a personal nature.

Wellington Harbour from Maungaraki
The day is closing down

Fortunately, the evening was bringing a beautiful day to a wonderful conclusion. The harbour was still and though there were clouds about, they were insufficient to steal the warmth of the afternoon. This first effort is a five-shot panorama from Dowse Drive, Maungaraki, looking South across Matiu/Somes Island to the heads and beyond that there is nothing until the Antarctic ice.

Sunset over Wellington
Pure luck

Down on the foreshore, with the light almost gone, there was a lovely light on a cloud over the city and I came up with this result.

And now the wind has returned.


November 23, 2013 … trouble in the mud

On the Eastern side of the motorway just North of Porirua is the Okowai Lagoon.

Okowai Lagoon
Pied stilt picking its way through the mud and rubbish of the Okowai lagoon

A place of no great history, it was formed when the then new motorway  carved off a piece of the Porirua Harbour, back in the 1960s. It is part of a public reserve and is designated as a freshwater wetland. The company developing a housing estate just above it, undertook some remediation back in 2010, but I fear it has regressed a lot. A great deal of weed and trash clutters the surface, and the 2010 initiative appears to have been a short-term fix.

White-faced heron in distress
If you look closely, you can see the sharp object wedged in its gullet

Of course, I hoped to encounter the white heron that is a frequent visitor there, but no such luck. Worse, I found a white-faced heron in trouble. It had attempted to swallow something long and sharp and inedible, and the object prevents it from catching food or closing its beak. I suspect it will starve to death in a short time.  I reported it to the bird rescue people, but since the bird was still free to fly, it could be anywhere.

Pied stilt
Normally they would fly rather than confront … the nest must be nearby

Pied stilts were  as defensive here as they were at the Pauatahanui pond, so I suspect that there are nests nearby.

Black swans and cygnets
From a distance it was not easy to discern that the grey things were indeed cygnets

In the distance, black swans were drifting about, and there were some huge grey balls of fluff with them. Ugly ducklings indeed, but in a month or so, when they are fledged, these two will be elegant black swans.

That’s all for now.

Birds Pauatahanui

November 22, 2013 … refreshing a parched landscape

I mentioned a day or two back that the pond at Pauatahanui had dried up.

water returns to the dry pond
So many crab holes to create all those bubbles

It is something to do with some lower than usual tides, apparently. There is some sort of tidal flap that retains water in the pond even as the tide goes out. As I got there yesterday, a thin film of water was creeping across the mud.  Air was bubbling from the crab holes and you could almost hear a sigh of relief from the reeds.

Kamikaze stilt
It looks fierce but didn’t really come close

The Stilts were still eager to ensure that I didn’t come to close and they began a series of low passes intended to intimidate me. Their swoops were a bit half-hearted. A magpie or a falcon would draw blood. These remained a good seven or eight metres above me, but they looked fierce.

overhead protest
full of sound and fury

A loud squawking was also intended to register a protest vote, but to be honest, the stilt is normally such a delicate looking bird it is hard to take them seriously as a threat.

Still protesting
Back to earth.

After a few passes, they alighted on the edge of the newly inundated pond and sulked.

More tomorrow.

Architecture harbour Maritime Weather Wellington

November 21, 2013 … a cruisy Summer day

Suddenly it was summer.

Summer in the city
The lower end of Tory Street … one of the many colourful apartment blocks that now typify the inner city

I don’t know if the phrase translates well across international orders, but as people say here and in Australia, it was “one out of the box”.  That usually means that the thing being discussed was among the best of its kind. The dashboard thermometer on my car was telling me that the outside air temperature in downtown Wellington was 27°C (81°F)  which was pretty warm at any time of the year.

Cruise liners
Voyager of the Seas and Celebrity Solstice both contribute to atmospheric gases … on the other hand those generators are providing electricity for 8,669 people  … that’s nearly the population of Gore, Queenstown or Greymouth

Two cruise liners struck it lucky. The Celebrity Solstice (121,878 GT, 2,850 Passengers,  1,500 crew) and the Voyager of the Seas (137,276 GT, 3,138 passengers, 1,181 crew) delivered a huge gift to the retailers and restaurateurs of the city. As for me, I was in the city to have lunch and to take a photowalk  with two friends. We were in Tory Street to begin with, a little beyond the walking range of a typical cruise passenger, so it was a very pleasantly uncrowded place to eat, and to do so in good company.

Oriental Bay
Weather too good to waste, but water too cool for swimming

After lunch, we started our wandering at the waterfront behind the old Post Office Herd St depot, and thence wandered along Oriental Parade. This was a working day, but of course many students are on their summer break. Despite the warm air temperature, few were tempted into the still chilly water, choosing instead to ignore all warnings of Melanoma risk and to work on their tans.

A study in obsolescence
I have no idea what the plant is, bit it is in flower

The three of us chose to walk up the steep flight of steps from Oriental Parade to Prince Street, only to find ourselves in the middle of a tarmac laying exercise. The site officials had closed things off from the top, but it had not occurred to them that people might come up from the bottom.  We balanced along the concrete gutter beside the new tarmac road and emerged onto Roxburgh street where a foreman with delusions of authority started yelling at us. We ignored him and moved on down the hill to the city. These back streets turn up interesting finds like this long disused chimney supporting new growth and a recently obsolete antenna for analogue TV reception.  Obviously it would be more hassle to remove the chimney or the antenna than it would be worth.

A very old stairway
I imagine visitors must use at their own risk

Some of the infrastructure in the older suburbs has been there since the city’s earliest days, and though a bit run down, is still performing the task for which it was designed. This stairway, for example still provides access to number 53, but even the most skilled Cinderella would lose her glass slippers here.

What a magnificent vehicle

As we neared Cambridge Terrace, we passed a small motor workshop, and there in the doorway , amidst all the partially complete vehicles, two men were working on a beautifully painted electric toy car. Totally unexpected.

And that was it for the day.