Adventure Landscapes Light mountains Otaki Weather

May 31, 2015 … rain or shine

What’s a little rain between friends?

Almost immediately I fell in love with the area.

As I have said before, some might see my daily photography excursions as manifestations of obsessive compulsive disorder. No matter what the weather or where I am on the day, I have the need to make images. There is no need for pity over my apparent disorder. It gives me great pleasure to face up to the daily challenge and on most days to produce at least one image that I like. Yesterday I took it into my head to go somewhere new. I pored over Google Maps and settled on the Otaki Gorge. It was a damp grey day, one that might produce what a photographic friend calls “atmospherics”.

Heavy cloud on the ranges had the courtesy to stay high enough to add to the picture

My hopes were more than met. Otaki Gorge is the product of the Otaki River coming out of the Tararuas. Though these are not mountains on a grand scale, the country is wild and rugged. I had never been up this road before and was almost instantly bewitched by its beauty, regardless of the weather. If nothing else the wetness reduced the number of people in the area, and allowed me to stop for hasty photographs on stretches of empty road.

It’s wild country and easy to get lost in. There are a lot of search and rescue operations in the area.

I didn’t go right to the end because I had left my journey until late in the day. Every new corner unveiled new landscape possibilities and the low cloud wreathed around the tops just added to the pleasure of the journey.

Long lines of trees near Otaki

A long tree-lined section of a designated area of “rural character” was a particular pleasure worthy of future attention. This is definitely a journey I shall do again, in various conditions, but I definitely shall not be deterred by rain (except perhaps in flood conditions when it would be downright dangerous).

That’s enough for this edition.

Architecture harbour Landscapes Light Lower Hutt mountains Reflections Weather Wellington

May 30, 2015 … finding shots in the cold

It took a while to start looking for pictures yesterday.

Pt Howard
Those mountains are 160 km away. Sunset at Point Howard

When I finally stirred myself into action, I consciously tried for different perspectives from my usual ones. I went up to the water reservoir at Point Howard, and looked South across Seatoun to the Kaikoura Ranges in the very far distance.

Seaview Marina

From the same place, there is a view of the Seaview Marina which is different to the normal water level shots I have tried there. I am still learning the various quirks and complexities of the Olympus, so when I got home, I was not well pleased with what I caught.

Oriental Bay
The old Oriental Bay marina in a bleak wind

Since Mary is still in Sydney, I decided to head into the city and try some night shots. It was not a great idea since there was an ugly boisterous wind, and even with a heavy tripod,  the buffeting was inconsistent with the long exposures required. Add to that the fact that the boats in the marina were not sitting still at all, and certainly not for a 30 second exposure.

St Gerard’s Monastery

When I could set up in a less exposed position and shelter the camera from the wind, I achieved sharper results, though the choice of subjects was more limited. In this case, St Gerard’s monastery was the subject.

That’s all for now.

Adventure Landscapes Light Lower Hutt Maritime night Paremata Pauatahanui Reflections Weather

May 29, 2015 … a stunning day from start to finish

My day started at 3am since I had to deliver Mary to the Airport two hours before check-in.

This apparently, is how the day begins.

It was still pitch black when I left the airport soon after 5 am, but street light reflections suggested that the sea was flat calm. I drove home and made myself an uncharacteristic bacon and egg breakfast instead of my customary muesli and milk. I reasoned that since the day had started out of the ordinary, I might as well continue. After breakfast I spent some time editing the previous day’s images until I noticed a hint of light outside. I got excited by the colour of the clear sky starting to appear behind the dark silhouette of the Eastern Hills. This really needed a panorama treatment so this is a twelve-shot stitch. Please click to enlarge. I think it’s worth it.

River fog flowing down the valley to the sea

My editing occupied me for a while until I looked again, and now there was a river fog creeping down the valley through the Taita Gorge and over to the Easter side of the Hutt Valley.

Paremata boat sheds

I had other things to attend to and for some reason the middle of the day turned grey and chill. This prompted me to have a siesta after lunch. By the time that was completed to my satisfaction, the day had resumed the calm clarity with which it had started. I tried the harbour and though it was flat, I saw nothing that really moved me there, so I went out to Pauatahanui, and there the conditions were near perfect. At the Paremata beach, I liked the view across to the boat sheds.

Kate at anchor

One of the boats moored nearby is Kate. I may have photographed her before. She really appeals to me as good honest simple work boat. Her owner has just repainted her and she was looking very smart.

Red orange sunset

By now the sun was almost gone so I attempted to capture the colour in the sky and water.


With the light almost gone and the temperature dropping, it was time to go home and get dinner. As I neared Pauatahanui, I liked what I glimpsed in the rear-view mirror so pulled into one of the very few lay-bys on that side of the inlet and took one last shot to bring my photographic day to a close.

Time for domesticity now, so more tomorrow.

adversity Cook Strait Maritime South Coast Waves Weather Wellington

May 28, 2015 … what a swell party this is*

Rumours reached me of a South Coast spectacle.

It is a firm rule to always check behind me, unless I am actually driving at the time. Thus I caught these sheets of rain (I think), falling in the Hutt Valley.

Naturally, I had to investigate so I went to the city on my way to the South Coast. In my rear-view mirror, I noticed that there were curtains of heavy weather of the Hutt Valley from whence I had just come.

Arahura brings a load of queasy passengers from Picton but their trial is nearly over

At Lyall Bay, the road was strewn with rocky rubble from the beach swept up on the hight tide and heavy swells. They were past their peak, but still around 5 metres high. Coming in from the West, the interisland ferry Arahura kept disappearing into the troughs of successive waves.

Arahura and Santa Regina almost head to head off Lyall Bay

Santa Regina was doing the same journey in the opposite direction. I am sure they were never in danger, but from the shore, they appeared to be on a collision course.

Sea wall
Heavy swells inside the breakwater, and even bigger ones outside. The Arahura’s superstructure can be seen through the spray.

From beside the airport runway, I was attempting catch the waves crashing over the breakwater when the Arahura made another cameo appearance.

Arahura enters the harbour mouth

At this point it occurred to me that Arahura would be close to  the shore as she turned into the harbour entrance, so I drove around to Palmer Head. Sure enough she performed nicely, disappearing behind the large swells surging in from the South.

Golden light on the Eastern hills

Towards the end of the day, I had to add one more image to today’s set as the late afternoon sun painted the Eastern Hills a beautiful gold colour.

That’s all this time.

* Well Did You Evah? from High Society by Cole Porter

Adventure Birds Landscapes Light Makara Rivers Weather

May 27, 2015 … sunlit interlude

Technically it’s not yet Winter here.

Good morning world.

Lately, however, we could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Yesterday broke the mould. Sunshine always inspires a sense of wellbeing in me, even if there is frost on the ground. Some mist around the Eastern hills made the start of the day very attractive.

Looking South towards Makara

I had recently obtained permission to enter a farm in the Ohariu Valley so it seemed like a perfect day to try it out. As I said there was ice on the ground, especially in the shady spots, so I trod cautiously as I climbed the small hill to get my first view looking back towards the West Wind wind farm. If you click to enlarge the image, you will see the spinning turbines on the ridge.

Ohariu Valley Wetland

On the other side of the hill is a pretty little wetland which seems to be well populated by waterfowl, of which the most visible and audible were the Canada Geese. The frost is visible in the background.

Glittering morning

My sense of balance is not what it used to be, so I relied heavily on the support of my photographic tripod as I waded into the middle of the stream for the next shot which was a slow (8 second) exposure.  Just tn days earlier this was the scene of raging floodwaters. How innocent it looked yesterday.

Something else tomorrow.

Airport Aviation Cook Strait Landscapes Weather Wellington Whitireia Park

May 26, 2015 … a chilly start to a bright cold day

The forecast from the previous day had predicted snow in the morning.

An unusual coat of snow on the hills behind Wainuiomata, as seen from my bedroom window. The lights on the hill are on the Wainuiomata road.

We looked out at the clear starry sky and thought they had it wrong. Next morning, I looked out of my window and saw the hills behind Wainuiomata.

The unmistakable “wop wop wop” sound of the three Iroquois approaching cut across all other airport sounds

Despite the heavy clouds to begin with, the day cleared rapidly, and blue skies saw the light dusting of snow disappear quite early. The thermometer didn’t rise much though.  I went out to Lyall Bay where the RNZAF were conducting a farewell tour for their venerable fleet of Iroquois helicopters. Three of them were at the airport giving short flights to carefully selected people with air force connections. The problem with airports these days is the wretched wire fences that block the view. I don’t know if the C130 was part of the farewell tour or just there as part of the regular shuttle service between defense bases up and down the country, but two of the three helicopters are coming in over its wings.

It was bitterly cold standing with my camera lined up on the holes on the airport fence. I bet it was even colder in the cabin of the helicopter with its doors wide open.

As a design, the Iroquois has stood the test of time. They first flew in 1956, and the RNZAF acquired the first five of its fleet in 1966. The 13 remaining will be sold by tender to eager commercial users and that is a testament to ts durability. The distinctive sound of the Iroquois has signalled both danger to those facing the gunship models, and rescue to the many thousands airlifted to safety in its rescue mode.

Across the Strait to the South Island

From there I went to Whitireia Park near Porirua where the low temperatures persisted in a stiff Southerly wind, despite the bright clear conditions. It was a brittle cold and I had to hold my camera firmly against the concrete survey point on top of Whitireia to maintain stillness. It was a very clear view across Mana Island to Arapawa Island 40 km away at the North Eastern edge of the South Island.

That will suffice for today.


Landscapes Light Machinery Railway Rivers Silverstream

May 25, 2015 … the sight and sound of steam

It was a damp day to begin with but got steadily better.

Hutt River near Silverstream

In the morning, Mary went for a walk from Silverstream bridge to Totara Park bridge, walking up the Eastern side of the Hutt River trail. I dropped her at point A and collected her from point B, but somehow failed dismally to find a useful picture in the intervening hour. The best I could manage was the stony riverbed, washed clean after last weeks torrential rain.  I did notice, however that there was coal smoke and steam emerging from the vicinity of the Silver Stream Railway (somehow, they have registered their name as three words, though the suburb is generally known as Silverstream.

For a lady of her age, L509 hauls the train almost effortlessly, though she huffs and puffs a bit on the way.

Live steam is a magnet for me, so towards the end of the day, I went to Silverstream and bought my ticket, and talked very nicely to the duty stationmaster in order to be allowed to cross the tracks and walk up to a good vantage point.  The locomotive on duty and in steam yesterday was the tiny little tank locomotive, L509 built by Avonside Engine Company at Bristol, UK, in 1877. Yes, this delightful little engine is 138 years old.

Back to the station
The return journey

She was hauling a train of three passenger cars, one of which was filled with a child’s birthday party. I am sure that most of the kids were absolutely baffled by the parents’ expressions of delight and amazement. From their perspective, I am sure they thought they were on a particularly smelly bus, but the cakes and ice cream made up for it. The train goes up to the end of the line, and the locomotive is switched to the other end of the train and comes back in reverse. I lay down on the track to get the low level view having first assured myself several times that the points were properly set to swing the train onto the line to the right of the picture.

In the engine shed

After it had passed, I wandered back through the engine shed.  The translucent roofing panels provided a lovely diffuse light in the shed. Pure magic for a lifelong train spotter.

That’s enough for now.

Architecture Birds Landscapes Makara Maritime Waves Weather

May 24, 2015 … living at the margin

Makara is an interesting little community.

Interesting structures at Makara

Though it is just twenty minutes from Wellington, and is indeed part of Wellington City, it seems like another country. Many of the homes, at least as seen from the outside, are rustic, and in some cases eccentric. The casual visitor might get the impression that some occupiers don’t spend a lot of money on maintenance. Of course it is fully exposed to the incoming salt spray in the prevailing Nor’Westerly wind, so paint does not last long.

Even in a modest swell such as this, the beach grows as the rocks surge back and forth. It’s not a beach for family swimming.

But it is the bay itself that is the essence of Makara. A steeply shelving rocky beach has an unending sound track of growling rocks surging back and forth in the swells from the Tasman Sea .

I suppose it might have floated if the bottom were not rusted through

Last week’s torrential rains caused the river to rise so I wandered upstream a little to see what changes had been wrought since my last visit. It is clear that there was a massive surge of water as all of the fences down the Takarau Gorge had debris draped over every wire from bottom to top.The gorge must have been a fearsome sight at the peak of the flow.  Down at the bay, however, apart from a solid coating of mud, things were pretty much as usual. How the sad old wheelbarrow got there is beyond me.

“Point of order mister chairman!” Shags meeting in their roosting tree.

I walked a little way back upstream to the well known shag roost tree. I think the shags were conducting their annual general meeting. It was good to see a number of juveniles up there.

That’s my lot for today.

Birds flowers Landscapes Light Pauatahanui Porirua Weather

May 23, 2015 … bright and cold

We interrupt our regular rain programme to bring you an unscheduled day of sunshine.

As far as I can tell, these are grey ducks (Anas superciliosa) but there were some shovelers keeping them company.

To prevent any misunderstanding about the seasons,  the regular programme of chilly temperatures will be maintained.  This was evidenced by the flock of grey ducks on the pond at Pauatahanui huddled into little feathered floating balls.

A mixed neighborhood with masked lapwing, white-faced heron and black swans.

At the Eastern end of the inlet at Ration Creek, an odd mixture of water fowl was gathered beside the creek. Imitating the Pink Panther to the best of my ability, I inched ever closer to this strange community. As always the masked lapwings were the first to panic, and as usual, their shrill alarm calls startled the other birds into flight. The black swans remained aloof and unimpressed.

Toetoe seed heads

At the Okowai lagoon near the Aotea subdivision in Porirua, the water was so stagnant that I didn’t blame the birds for boycotting it. The foliage has no such option, so  the Toetoe flowers made a brave picture.

Pauatahanui Inlet looking across to Whitby

On my way back around the inlet, I had to admire the stillness. A five shot panorama was constructed.

That’s all for today.



Birds Landscapes Light Pauatahanui

May 22, 2015 … soggy soggy day

Bright sunshine streams in my window.

Heavy weather on the hills behind Camborne on the Northern side of the Pauatahanui Inlet

It was not like this yesterday. In fact it briefly crossed my mind that we might be in for a repeat of the previous week’s deluge. Fortunately, it was less severe than that. It was just wet. And so I went into town for lunch with a friend, postponed from the preceding week. Afterwards, I came home via a trip up SH1 to Plimmerton and across Grey’s Road to Pauatahanui.

Todyramphus sanctus, the Sacred Kingfisher watching for crabs

A brief diversion to Motukaraka Point allowed me to see three kingfishers perched in their favourite tree. While I was there, though it was high tide, none of them dived, and one by one they flew elsewhere. As is usually the case I was unable to wait around in the hope of their return so I moved on.

Whitby in the mist

Across the water, the upper slopes of Whitby were wreathed in cloud and rain.  It has a beauty of its own.

Wood pigeon
The native wood pigeon or Kereru chomping on our kowhai shrub

Back at home, I was aware of a heavy thrashing sound typical of the clumsy landing of a New Zealand native pigeon. It had landed in the miniature kowhai bush near the front door. A stealth approach allowed me to see the top of its head as it nibbled on the upper shoots of the shrub. The weight of the bird is such that it can’t perch on top and it needs the heavier branches lower down. I tip-toed inside and went upstairs and opened the window as quietly as possible, to look down on the bird as it systematically harvested the new growth. I love the irridescent plumage.

I had better go and capture this sunshine.