harbour Landscapes Light Maritime Weather Wellington

April 30, 2014 … a prickly problem and a storm

Up to date once more!

Choko or chayote presents a prickly face to the world

For a very long time, Mary has tried to grow choko, or as it is known elsewhere chayote. In Auckland, it grows like a weed, and is hard to eradicate. In Wellington, it seems to need just the right conditions, so until now there has been no fruit. Suddenly we have a vine that produced a crop of these spectacularly ugly vegetables. A particularly fine specimen just demanded to be photographed, so here it is.

Rough weather
Across the muddy harbour to the city and the Arahura departing for Picton

In the afternoon, a very strong Southerly was blowing so I went to the Petone foreshore once more. River silt was discolouring the harbour. Over in the city, stray sunlight was lighting the hills and the Arahura was setting out on what I expect was a very uncomfortable crossing of the Cook Strait.

Southerly swells
Wave action at Petone

Waves were thumping into the seawall at the Western end of the beach and hurling spray high in the air.

Wind surfer
It’s an ill wind … only one surfer out there with the beach all to himself

Further to the East, a wind-surfer was making use of the conditions to fly back and forth along the beach, with Matiu/Somes Island in the background.

Mt Victoria
Mt Victoria across the water

My last image was caught when Mount Victoria was suddenly picked out from the dark background. You can see that the water regains its natural green colour out in the distance.

And that’s all for now.

Hutt River Maritime

April 29, 2014 … an ordinary day

Today is catch-up day and this is the first of two posts.

At Hikoikoi
J-Vee is not a pretty craft, but she seems to do a job

After the excitement of the national convention of the Photographic Society of New Zealand (PSNZ), it was back to earth on Monday. I went down to the foreshore at Petone on a grey, and often wet day. Some old favourites were there, though alas, still no sign of George, our once resident white heron. I have never discovered whether J-Vee is a serious commercial fishing vessel, or just someone’s hobby. However, she has an expensive  license number on her side and the weirdly attractive ugliness of a serious work-boat. She is often absent from her mooring, so the balance of probabilities is that she fishes regularly. Definitely a character boat.

On the ramp at Hikoikoi
Maree K is out of the water for now. I wonder if she will ever sail again

And then there is the poor old Maree K which sat semi-submerged on the sea-wall for almost six months after being swept from her ramp in the big storm last July. She is back where she came from though there is no sign of any repairs being done, and more storms are on the horizon.

Post, rope, fake flower
Faded glory

A little further around the boat sheds, a very weathered support post was ornamented by the somewhat random addition of a fading fake carnation threaded into a faded rope which served no visible purpose.

Submerged jetty
High tide at Hikoikoi

An unusually high tide submerged the nearby jetty. I have often used those two vertical posts to stabilise images taken from the end of the jetty. If nothing else, the inundation might flush away some of the deposits left by local ducks which seem to roost there.

So that was Monday



adversity Cook Strait Landscapes Light Maritime Weather Wellington

April 28, 2014 … over the bounding main

Yes, I’m still running a day behind.

Lenticular clouds forming
Somewhere off the South coast, we could see those high wind clouds forming

On Sunday a group of fellow photographers joined me on the homeward trip across the strait, on the Kaitaki. Bizarrely, we ended up sitting at the same table from which my iPad was stolen on the journey South. I have now replaced it, and of course, the instant you use iCloud to restore the contents of the old machine to the new device, the tracking that might otherwise have located my stolen device ceases to apply. As far as iCloud is concerned, my new machine is my old one. We were all a bit battle weary and to some extent, “peopled out” so it was a somewhat subdued crossing. The weather was deteriorating rapidly and through the salt stained  front window I noticed some lenticular clouds forming over the Eastern hills of Wellington as we got nearer. In need of fresh air, I went to the upper deck to get this.

View from the upper deck
The white dot in the far distance is the Santa Regina

Sufficient fresh air was obtained in a  very short time since it was being forced into my lungs at high speed and low temperature. I turned my back and looked across the lifeboats to the Bluebridge ferry far in the distance even though she left Picton five minutes ahead of us.

Sunset at sea
Looking back towards Arapawa Island

Out to the North West, the clouds were interesting and the wind turbines near Makara were clearly visible.

That’s it for today.



Birds Camera club Kaikoura Maritime

April 27, 2014 … majestic seabirds

Saturday was the day for field trips.

Kaikoura beach
Kaikoura beach looking North

The one I chose was the albatross encounter at Kaikoura. We waited outside the convention centre in Blenheim from about 6:30 for a 6:45 departure. The moon and Venus were spectacular in the starry sky overhead. A large comfortable tour bus took us down the coast road and soon we were in Kaikoura where the sun was shining, and the sea appeared to be flat calm. Since I am a notoriously poor sailor on small boats, this was a huge relief.

A swell
Though the water appeared flat calm in the first photo, this was the reality half an hour later.

The sea lied. Within minutes of leaving the little bay on the South side of the peninsula, I noticed that other boats nearby kept disappearing into holes in this supposedly flat sea. Happily, I had taken “Sea Legs” and I was lucky to avoid “mal de mer

Royal albatross knows that food is coming

Almost as soon as we left the jetty there were birds following us in ones and twos

Buller’s Mollymawk … a very handsome bird

Before very long we were a few kilometres offshore and a bag full of bait was dragged behind the boat. I am not a hundred percent comfortable with the ethics of this from a pure animal welfare perspective, but the birds weren’t complaining and it seemed a shame to waste the opportunity.

Walking on water
Slap, slap, slap as the birds run to follow the food. In this case, a giant petrel and a cape petrel

Every so often the skipper would give a little thrust ahead with his engines and suddenly all the birds would have to engage in the comical walking on water routine, running after the boat with their bizarre feet slapping at the water trying to keep up with the food source.

Cape petrel
Cape petrel or Pintado …. there were hundreds of them

We saw a great variety of albatrosses and kindred birds. The Royal albatross, the white-capped albatross, the wandering albatross, Buller’s mollymawk, as well as various petrels and shearwaters, and the most common of all were the Cape petrels.

One of the worl's great wanderers
Another royal attracted to free food


We were at times surrounded by birds and the knowledgeable young lady who was assisting the skipper of our launch was keeping us informed of the various birds coming and going.

giant petrel
The giant petrel was an ill-tempered and aggressive bird


At times the birds would squabble though there was a definite pecking order, mostly related to size. The exception was the giant petrel which seemed undaunted by the bigger albatrosses.

It was a fantastic day.

Architecture Blenheim

April 26, 2014 … Conference and ANZAC Day

Mornings keep happening to me.

IMG_5202A rustic setting
The pleasant tree-lined stream flowed slowly through the estate.

At least this one was less extreme than the previous one, though a real breakfast proved elusive. My chosen workshop was led by a visiting Australian expert, and we went to “Old St Mary’s Convent” just out of Blenheim. This is a vineyard estate set up to provide luxury accommodation and a wedding venue. While it is true that the building was once a convent it wans never so on this site. Instead , it was transported from its original location in Blenheim to its current location in the vineyard. My colleague and I travelled independently of the bus used by the rest of the group and were thus the first of us to discover its magnificent riverside location.

Wooden architecture
Old St Mary’s convent, Blenheim

The building itself retains some of the grandeur of early colonial wooden church architecture, but for me, the star of the show was the splendid setting.

Fungi – type unknown (to me) . These were very delicate and perhaps 5cm tall

I took many shots but I was taken by the small details. For example these tiny fungi were on the leaf-covered path beside the river. I got down very low for this shot. Someone more knowledgeable than I on these matters said that these would not last the day before melting away.

ANZAC Day, Blenheim
RNZAF unit heads the parade of veterans, territorials, cadets, scouts etc.

After a session with our workshop leader in which we learned a few new tricks in Photoshop, we went back tp the conference centre for lunch. We arrived at the same time as the town’s main ANZAC day parade was reaching its conclusion at the same spot, Since RNZAF Woodburn is nearby, the parade was led by a platoon of RNZAF personnel with bayonets fixed and swords drawn. As an aside, for a military unit to do that in a civilian area in peacetime usually signifies that the unit concerned has been “given the freedom of the city” .

ANZAC Parade
Lest we forget … the youngest marchers in the parade

behind the RNZAF came the old soldiers or their surviving relatives. Then came contingents of the emergency services and finally the youth of the scouts and other service organizations. I found it profoundly moving that, at the terminal point of the parade, the youngsters marched passed the veterans and rendered an eyes right and salute. There are some fairly arcane military protocols about who should render salutes to whom and in what circumstances. The past and present service personnel replied to the salutes with applause as the young people moved by.

Blenheim Camera club Landscapes Light night

April 25, 2014 … conference day 1

Photographic conventions don’t provide as many opportunities for photographs as you might think.

Wither hills lookout
Looking down on the lights of Blenheim to the left and Eastward to the sea. Though there is light in the sky, sunrise is still some way off.

The day is full to overflowing with keynote speakers, workshops, and other sessions. There is also the trade show with many temptations. Yesterday however began at some mythical hor of the morning which I am astonished to learn occurs every day. At 6 am we were trudging up the walkway to the Wither Hills lookout above Blenheim. It was completely dark except for a few small glow-worm type flashlights  carried by foresighted people.  We arrived at the lookout, some of in better condition than others. Our hope was to catch the sunrise (whatever that is) spreading its golden rays across the hills and plains.

Wither Hills
Though the sun may have risen the clouds and the hills prevented a clear view.

Sadly, the Eastern sky remained sullen for the most part, and the anticipated spectacle happened in a very filtered kind of way. Photographers in groups are funny to watch as they shuffle to get a clear view of their common target without including other photographers in the image. It’s a bit like watching Emperor penguins shuffle their eggs to the sheltered spot in the flock.

View to the West. Omaka airfield is just behind the second line of trees to the right of centre

As I was heading back to the carpark to attend the first conference session of the day the sun finally broke through and the colours of the Marlborough landscape were at last revealed.

And that’s all I have from yesterday.

adversity Cook Strait Maritime

April 24, 2014 … yet another in the string of calamities

Aaaaaghh! I swear I am accident prone.

Offshore patrol vessel
HMNZS Wellington crosses our bows

It started well enough. Three of us travelling to the photographic convention in Blenheim were dropped off at the ferry terminal in good time by Anthony. We boarded on time and secured a table at the front windows so as to enjoy the view as we crossed the strait. The Kaitaki made a slow exit from port and I suspect it was to give way to the offshore patrol vessel, HMNZS Wellington (Pennant P55) which was arriving from Napier. The front windows of the ferry are regrettably salt-stained hence the soft focus.

Breaker Bay
Breaker Bay

The sea was calm and I got some views of the South coast from a different perspective. This is Breaker Bay from the Seaward side. another apparent impediment to our speedy exit was the fisheries research vessel Kaharoa in the channel ahead of us, and we were almost at Pencarrow before she veered off the East and our engine speed increased.

Fisheries research vessel Kaharoa


In the Sounds, the views were beautiful as usual, but I had seen much of it quite recently. I went to the upper deck to get a view of one of the many salmon farms in the sounds.

salmon farm
Salmon farming in the sounds

On my return, it was time to pack up and get ready to go ashore. I was almost off the vessel when I realised that my much-loved iPad was missing. Though we had never left our table unattended, some light-fingered party seems to have uplifted it. My insurance company already hate me.  The “Find my iPad” app has not been helpful so far.

More tomorrow.


Birds Day's Bay Light Maritime Weather

April 23, 2014 … rushing around before departure

This is a very hasty blog issue because I have got behind again.

green finches
Greenfinches flock to gather seeds


On Tuesday, I had to rush around to get things ready for the trip to Blenheim on Wednesday. I began at Hikoikoi and at first saw nothing until I realised that the grasses on the beach were moving though there was no wind. Hundreds of greenfinches were flocking around the dry seed heads, and I shall spend more time there on my return from Blenheim.

Commuter ferry
Day’s Bay ferry heads back to the city

Around to Day’s Bay in time to see off the 5:15 ferry to the city. It sailed nicely into the sun’s path.

paddle boarders
They seemed unaware of the Autumnal chill

Despite the late hour and the cool temperatures, a pair of youngsters were setting out on their stand-up paddle boards. That’s all for now.

See you soon.


Family Greytown Hawkes Bay Napier sunrise Sunset

April 22, 2014 … from an unaccustomed part of the day

Apparently there is a whole world out there before morning coffee.

Sunrise, Monday 21 April, 2014
The very first edge of the sun peeks over the horizon yesterday. The sea was calm with just a modest swell coming in from the East.

Who knew? I always thought that my coffee at 10am actually caused the day to begin. My natural inclination, if I wake earlier, is to pull the covers up and close my eyes until eventually the desire for breakfast triumphs. For some reason, my normal reactions failed yesterday and my eyes remained open.  I could see through the curtains that there was some light in the sky. Perhaps it was time to discover whether these rumours of a phenomenon called “sunrise” were based on fact. The motel was a few hundred metres from the beach so I walked out, across the railway line, and over Marine Parade. Though the sun had not yet risen, the sky was quite light, and looking North along the beach, I could see that there were many other photographers along the beach, all pointing out to sea, awaiting the arrival of the new day. Gisborne is the nearest city to the International date line, and is thus  first city in the world to see the light of each new day. Napier will be just seconds behind.

Beach sunrise
Beautiful light on the clouds at sunrise

The sky was reasonably clear for the most part, but there was a line of cloud along the beach that was catching the light of the newly emerged sun. The building to the left is the national aquarium.

Delicately floating on the weed-covered water

After a visit to Mary’s mother, we set out for home. Without the urgency of the Northbound journey, we had the freedom to stop now and then for photographic purposes. Mary is very patient, most of the time, and  has knitting and a book at hand. One such stop was the Pekakpeka wetlands, just South of Hastings. The water level was quite high, and though it was tea-brown, seemed quite clear. Bird life was disappointing, though, with little to see but the ubiquitous black swans. Usually I can rely on this site for dabchicks and Australian coots. It is perhaps symbolic that my image from this part of the trip is a solitary feather left behind to float on the water.

Dark cloud
Rain in the hills to the East of Dannevirke

Near Dannevirke, the weather started to deteriorate. The hills to the East were shrouded in some heavy-looking cloud, and rain was falling, no doubt to the delight of the farmers in this often drought-plagued region.

Old farm building
Greytown landmark in the maize

Nearer to home, at the North end of Greytown, there is an old shed in a field of maize. It presents different aspects at different times of the cropping cycle, and at different times of day. Most photographers in the area have probably given it a shot. I finally stopped and Mary didn’t actually roll her eyes as she got out her knitting. I liked the warm afternoon light and te height of the maize.

Well, it’s been a longer day than usual and I am still unsure about this “morning” thing.

adversity Cape Kidnappers Napier Taradale

April 21, 2014 … in sombre mood

As I write this, the Radio NZ Concert Programme is playing the 1812 Overture.

Waves at Napier
Napier beach, near the port. The slow exposure has flattened the short sharp waves

We have just arrived home after our very hasty trip to Napier. Somehow the mood of Tchaikovsky’s beautiful opening movements matches perfectly with my perception of the scenes I was taking yesterday. As I mentioned Mary and I had dashed up to Napier to be with Mary’s mother who had suffered a serious health set-back and we feared the worst for her. Happily she staged a come-back so for now, at least, all is well.  Mary sat with her mother and I went to the beach at marine parade to contemplate the meaning of life and to take pictures.

Waves at Napier (2)
Looking South along the beach to Cape Kidnappers. Again the waves are flattened by the long exposure.

It’s a fearsome beach comprised of billions of small grey pebbles. It shelves very steeply and the relentless waves produce a tremendous backwash. It has claimed many lives over the years. This is a beach to look at rather than to swim at. However the grand sweep of Hawkes Bay from Cape Kidnappers in the South to the Mahia Peninsula in the North is a magnificent place for contemplation.

Moody afternoon
Westward into the setting sun, from the ridge above Taradale

Later in the day, I went up the road through Taradale, and from a ridge looked at the moody landscape to the West. I am quite unsure which ranges I am seeing in the distance … poring over a map leads me to believe they are the Glenross range and the Black Birch range.

More tomorrow.