adversity Cook Strait Maritime

August 31, 2015 … falling flat

It has been a long and sometimes difficult week.

Pencarrow lights

There have been highs and lows, but somehow yesterday was a particularly flat day. I was on the South Coast, and though it was as beautiful as ever, I just couldn’t see anything that appealed  for a photograph. When I was supervising thesis students who said they had writer’s block I told them to put their fingers on the keyboard and type something. It is easier to improve what you have than it is to improve emptiness. So, I pointed my camera at the waves crashing on Barrett’s Reef against the background of Pencarrow.

Aratere and a yacht in distant sunlight

Not great, but better than an empty card. Next I was at the other end of Lyall Bay and in the distance, the Aratere was steaming from the local gloom into the sunlight of Marlborough. Perhaps a metaphor for the week ahead.

I hope tomorrow’s images will be better.

Adventure flowers Landscapes Light Manawatu

August 30, 2015 … further afield

How blessed I am that after 45 years of marriage, I enjoy my wife’s company.

Lenticular cloud over the Tararuas to the East of Palmerston North

Mary suggested a trip to the Cross Hills gardens near Kimbolton in the Northern Manawatu  region. It seemed like a good idea despite the somewhat dubious weather forecast. She is smart enough to bring a book to read and/or some knitting. We set out in the morning and went up through Shannon, and then took the back roads through Rongotea towards Feilding. A little North of Shannon, there was a recently ploughed paddock and in the background a ridge-line full of wind turbines. Above them there were lenticular clouds which give some indication of why that was a really good area for the turbines. Please click for a clearer view

My version of the Golden Valley

North of Feilding there is the tiny settlement of Kimbolton (pop. 250) and North of that again the road follows a ridge above the valley where the little town of Apiti sits. If you ever saw the movie “Shadowlands” in which Anthony Hopkins played the part of C.S. Lewis, this would be my candidate for the “Golden Valley.” Some snow remains on the high peaks of the Ruahine range in the background.

Patient angler in the ornamental pools

Inside the gardens, we and one other couple had the whole vast space to ourselves. In peak season it is often very crowded, but yesterday it was still dressed as for winter, though a few early blooming rhododendrons and azaleas were putting on a show. We went to the ornamental ponds which were a bit greener than usual, perhaps due to an absence of visitors to press the button to start the waterfalls. Never mind, Froggie was still patiently waiting for a fish though his chances were small.

Japanese flowering quince

In that same part of the garden there were a few flowers in bloom, so here is what I think is a Japanese quince (Chaenomeles japonica) .

Japanese Andromeda … each little bell is perhaps 8 to 10 mm long. I love their waxy texture

The gardens are divided into themed blocks so the adjacent tree was the Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica). In order to get as much as possible in focus, this a blend of five separate images in the process called focus stacking. It takes forever to blend in Photoshop, but I am happy that it worked.

Guess which way the prevailing wind blows

On the way home, as we were getting near Shannon, I caught this row of trees  that tend to confirm again that this is a good area for a wind farm.  I liked the Indian ink on wash background look.  Mary read the book that she carries when we are out together while I performed my routine with the tripod.

That’s all for now.


Birds Zealandia

August 29, 2015 … birds and more birds

My fellow club member and expert bird photographer, Toya invited me to accompany her and a friend to Zealandia yesterday.

Inversion by the tui

I don’t need a lot of coaxing to go to Zealandia, and the opportunity to see how Toya achieves her amazing results were too much. Almost immediately there were birds around us. A tui was undaunted by our proximity and performed some interesting gymnastics in pursuit of food. The picture is not upside down.

Shag apartments – one up, one down


Down by the lake, the pied shags are on the nest. We saw no chicks so perhaps the latest eggs are yet to hatch.

Critically endangered takahe

A little way up the path from there, were the Takahe. There are apparently fewer than 300 left in existence. It was something of a disaster then, that a group of deer shooters who were contracted to cull the pukeko population on Auckland’s Motutapu Island managed to shoot four of the takahe by mistake. The colouring is similar, but the comparison is an anorexic fashion model with a sumo wrestler.

North Island Robin

In the bush, we were accompanied for a while by this chirpy little North Island Robin. They enjoy the insects stirred up when people pass.

It was an enjoyable experience but I shall probably never develop Toya’s patience.

Adventure Birds Landscapes Light night Paremata Pauatahanui Reflections Weather Wellington

August 28, 2015 … what a magnificent day

When I opened the curtains yesterday there was a golden haze in the North East.

Into the golden haze, on SH2 just North of Naenae

Not a single cloud in the sky, not the slightest breath of wind  and all the signs were there that this would be one of those perfect Wellington days. Much earlier than usual, I set out for Pauatahanui, hoping to catch the mirror calm that had eluded me the previous day. Even on the road out there, that golden haze persisted, and I ducked off SH2 onto a little slip road called Hebden Crescent to try to catch the sense of the morning.

I am guessing that this is a dispute over mating. The bird in the air is trying to get away from the one below with its beak firmly clamped around the throat of its rival.

Over the hill and through the village on Gray’s road, there was a brief stop to watch the many pied stilts in their immaculate black and white uniforms  feeding, flirting, fighting and flying.

Breathless calm

Did I mention my hopes for a mirror calm day?  I made lots of panoramas, this one looking from Ration Point back towards Pauatahanui village and the Eastern edge of Whitby. It’s been a while since I enjoyed such a prolonged period of perfect windless calm at the inlet and it  was still calm when I drove home almost two hours later. Wonderful.

Kingfisher with crab

At Motukaraka Point, I took the Canon out for a walk and managed to catch some kingfisher action. I still need to get more practice. Each time a bird left the tree I had trouble picking it up in my autofocus system, and the bird had dived, got the crab and was on its way back with dinner by the time I caught it.

Perfect Paremata

From there, I lingered a little with the white-faced herons near the bridge and then went on to Paremata. This area is my happy place in circumstances like these.  I came home from the inlet with a couple of hundred images and spent a happy afternoon processing them. Normally that would be a good day, but it was not over yet.

The Lux festival at Frank Kitts Park

In central Wellington there is the Lux festival. In case you think of soap, the word Lux is Latin for Light. A cluster of lighting special effects is set up around Frank Kitts Park and crowds come to enjoy the show and to eat at the many ethnic food stalls set up for the occasion.

Crowds of people ignore the chill as they walk to the lux festival

The night was clear, but by now the wind had risen and the temperature had dropped to around 7 deg C . That didn’t deter the crowds strolling along, perhaps buoyed and still warmed by the perfect day behind them.

That will do for now.


Birds Waikanae Weather

August 27, 2015 … a change in the weather

A beautiful day with no commitments is always tempting.

Pied stilts browsing at the Pauatahanui ponds

Waikanae popped into my head, so I went that way. Of course, this takes me past Pauatahanui so I had to pause for the beauty of the ponds, reasonably calm and unruffled. Perhaps it is my imagination, but it seems that the pied-stilts have established territorial dominance there.

Waikanae Estuary

I was about to do some landscapes on the inlet itself when my phone rang. I talked with a friend from camera club for two or three minutes and when I hung up, the wind had come up and spoiled the perfect surface. My friend who sometimes reads this should not feel guilty. I would not have got into position in time anyway. Instead I carried on to the lagoons at Waikanae. Sadly they were ruffled too, and there were no birds of interest. I did like the rows of piles which I presume are there to stabilise the sand where the river curves to the estuary. Kapiti Island is in the background.

Unusual cloud inbound

On the way home, I had just come off the Haywards Hill when the cloud layers coming in from the South hit me. They seemed to be advancing in perfectly straight horizontal lines from horizon to horizon. I diverted up the hill to Kelson to get the widest possible unobstructed view.

I’ll call it quits for today

Hutt River Silverstream Weather

August 26, 2015 … endless drizzle and rising river

It was a good moody day for a funeral.

Home, as seen through the rain, from the valley

From the Hutt Valley, the view up the hills towards home was variable, coming and going as the rain drifted by.

Brown water, dark clouds

After the funeral service in the afternoon, I paused to look at the mud-stained Hutt River, a metre or two higher than normal.

Ready to go in the morning

In the evening, it was camera club where I was delighted to get an honours award for one of my images in the latest round of the club’s internal competition.  On the way home I diverted to Seaview and tried to capture the sense of the Oil terminal with its gleaming trucks and a fleet of tankers ready to deliver petrol to the lower part of the island.

Sun is pouring in my window so I had better go and do something new today.


Adventure Greytown Wairarapa

August 25, 2015 … fierce wind at altitude

Aimless wandering yesterday got indifferent results.

North West from the summit

Some interesting low level clouds in the upper valley suggested there might be something worth seeing on the Rimutaka Hill road. There was, but nothing to make a great image with. Once you are on the road, there are few places to change your mind, so I carried on to the summit and attempted to take a photograph of the road back to the Hutt Valley. It may surprise some to know that from the summit, the road back to Wellington heads to the North West. I looked to the North West straight into the teeth of the gale. A tripod would have blown away, and I struggled to stay upright myself.

A pleasant if somewhat brief bush walk provided a welcome respite from the howling wind

There is a short loop walkway at the summit which in better weather would be very pleasant. Once I got into the lee of the lookout, the bush was indeed nice to be in, though it was being whipped about by the wind across its tops.

Wairarapa view
Looking Eastward to Greytown and beyond

Just before the track re-emerged into the wind, there was a view out to the East with the Wairarapa plains and Greytown visible through the notch  in the far distance.

That will do for the day


Academic Architecture Wellington

August 24, 2015 … disrupting the memories

My wandering took me up the hill to the Kelburn campus of Victoria University of Wellington.

Ground floor entrance to the Easterfield building

It is likely that the passing of my friend Gary was the subconscious cause. I have not a single regret about retirement, but on the other hand, I have some memories of happy times with some good people. And of course, there were people who were total nightmares, but time draws a veil across them.  I started at the Easterfield building where my last Kelburn office was located.

Interior of the Hub

Behind the Easterfield building, there used to be “The Quad”. Despite its famous architect, it was a windswept grey concrete wasteland worthy of the most totalitarian regimes. It was a place where the smokers used to gather, so it, and all the doorways leading from it smelled like ashtrays.  It was bleak, but the food kiosk in the corner had a steady clientele. Most people crossed the Quad as quickly as possible except when there was an event on. Now known as “The Hub”, the space is enclosed, well lit, warm, colourful and has become a place where a lot of serious study occurs. There are meeting rooms around its edges and on the upper floor.  There is still a multi-level terrace as there was in the old Quad, but this is cushioned by bright soft cushions. This view of the space is from the first floor elevator lobby in Easterfield building. I think the column at the left is approximately where the kiosk used to be.

RB and Hub
Rankine-Brown and the Hub

I went outside and stood on the access ramp to the Old Kirk building and looked back to the Rankine-Brown (library) building and the exterior of the Hub is the black building to the right. Easterfield would be to the right of that again.

City view

Following the road behind the library, between the Cotton Building and the recreation Centre brings you to the staff carpark from which are some great views over the inner city and harbour.

“Cotton Street”

Many more shots were taken but the last one I shall use today is of the “Cotton Street” … perhaps the least changed of the places I wandered. Admittedly the occupants of some of the rooms have changed, and the somewhat geometric bay window meeting space known as “the Octagon” has gone.

Apologies for the self-indulgence and the somewhat mixed memories.



Adventure harbour Landscapes Machinery Maritime Petone Sport Wellington

August 23, 2015 … need for speed

My friend Adam had an idea.

Lady Liz
Lady Elizabeth IV with the throttle open

I am not suggesting that this is unusual, he has lots of ideas. This particular idea was to make images of him on his motorbike using panning techniques. I am up for most challenges that don’t involve cucumber, heights or black and white photography, so we agreed that Port Road, Seaview would be a suitable venue with relatively light traffic over the weekend. As I usually do, I arrived ahead of time, and began practicing. The Wellington Police Launch, Lady Elizabeth IV was crossing the harbour with a much greater than usual application of throttle. She was too far away to generate any panning blur, but it was nice to see her opened up.

Indoor Karting

Then I heard the sound of a million bees. Or perhaps it was just the kart racing in the nearby facility. They allowed me to come inside to take more shots. Unfortunately, customers pay by the ride, so when the ride is ended, it all goes quiet. I got to see a few laps anyway.

Adam at (modest) speed

Adam arrived and after some discussions about technique and strategy (he is no mean photographer in his own right), he did a few runs at a steady 50 km/h. I really must read the manual about the clever autofocus features but a few shots came out the way I imagined.

Round the bend … hmmmm

We also used the ninety degree corner at the end of the road to catch some banking shots. Being road-legal at all times and not on a race track we didn’t get too dramatic.

Thanks Adam, it was fun.

adversity Animals Birds Landscapes Light Paremata Sunset Weather

August 22, 2015 … sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the days*

Another day almost done and another late-in-the-day panic-stricken search for images.

White-faced heron in calm waters

The afternoon was kind to me, as was the Pauatahanui inlet. At Motukaraka point, a white-faced heron was nicely silhouetted against a patch of still water. It’s not a monochrome image, but now and then nature presents itself in black and white. Close inspection reveals the green weed on the foreshore.

New Zealand Fur Seal pup dozing on the boat ramp

At the launching ramp of the Paremata Yacht club, there was a seal pup sleeping in the late sun, ignoring the ladies fishing a few metres along the dock. I moved with as much stealth as possible and put my camera within a metre of its nose. It opened a huge liquid dark eye, and went back to sleep.

Paremata at Sunset

By now the sun was getting low in the sky, and commuter traffic across the bridges was building up, though the noise was muted by distance.

Ivey Bay – a seven shot panoramic stitch

A hundred metres or so up the road, is Ivey Bay beach. The surface at low tide is a little treacherous with lots of vegetable matter in piles concealing soft muddy spots, but the panorama possibilities seemed worth the risk.

Another sunset.

*”Fiddler on the Roof” by Sheldon Harrick and Jerry Bock