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March 29, 2017 … stillness in the mist

With the melancholy behind me, let me resume normal service. Thanks to those who sent kind words after the last episode.

Bright sun, calm day, clean air reminds me of why I like living here.

In the week gone by, we had a few windless days, and of course I took advantage by going to the water. Sometimes the water itself is the subject, and at other times it serves as a foreground or background. In this case, looking across the harbour from Oriental Bay to Thorndon, a long exposure provides a blue foreground for the railway station, and Victoria University’s Business School.

The new wind turbine was ticking over slowly in the light breeze.

Lunch with a friend was the usual excuse for a trip up the hill to Brooklyn where the new larger wind turbine spins merrily against a blue sky.

Clouds over the ranges behind Upper Hutt

In the last few days we have had a lot of mist. This image is a stitched panorama looking up to Mt Climie behind Upper Hutt. According to my distinguished meteorologist friend what we are seeing here is low cloud in the Wairarapa under an inversion, being pushed over the hill by an Easterly flow. The original image itself was huge (about 129 Megapixels).

Oriental Bay
Unpromising weather for camera club walkabout

Last night our camera club had planned to do a walkabout in the early evening commencing in Oriental Bay. All day the weather was dismal, low cloud, fog, some drizzle and I was unsure whether I would have to exercise presidential authority to call it off. There was a lifting of the cloud around 4 pm so I sent out the “Go” signal. As I drove into town, I was sure I had made the wrong decision because the cloud had descended again. As you can see, he setting sun was peeking under the heavy cloud cover, but at least it wasn’t raining.

Over in the Stadium, the All Whites defeated Fiji, 2-0, and we borrowed some of their spilled light

As the evening progressed, I became more and more delighted with the conditions. There was absolute stillness and a soccer game at Westpac stadium provided some excellent lighting for the rest of us.

Hikitia rarely moves these days. It is amazing to know that she travelled to Wellington from her builders in Scotland under her own steam

We meandered along the waterfront, concluding our adventure at a hostelry on Taranaki St Wharf where we enjoyed refreshments and swapped stories. When I left, the conditions were still suitable for more images so I captured the old steam-powered floating crane, Hikitia.

For me the conditions were a delight

Despite the continuing low cloud, the stillness made photography a joy.

Living aboard in Chaffers Marina

Walking back towards the car, I went past Chaffers Marina (on the Western side of the former Overseas Passenger Terminal), and was surprised at the number of vessels on which people were obviously living.

And speaking of living, Mary and I set out tomorrow for a month-long tour around the South Island, and consequently, postings to this blog may be erratic in the weeks ahead. Photography will continue.

adversity Camera club

March 22, 2017 … looking over my shoulder

I post this edition with a heavy sigh. As a judge in training myself, I must accept the verdict of the panel, but for my part, I still like these images. They were submitted as a portfolio of twelve for the PSNZ Associateship. They were unsuccessful.

The intention was to offer a set of images portraying various aspects of haven or shelter as offered by yachting marinas. The sequence is intended to progress from early morning to late night but with an underlying theme of stillness and shelter.

Protected by the wall




A place of stillness
Bon voyage
A tangle of rigging
Under a heavy sky
Washing away the salt
At the end of a lovely day
Touched by gold
Home is the sailor, home from sea
All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by

The panel said there was no flow, and the images were “too busy”. I suspect that a marina is always intrinsically busy, with masts, spars and rigging. And so I start looking for another theme for next year’s attempt.

adversity Architecture Camera club harbour Horokiwi Landscapes Light Weather Wellington

March 20, 2017 … close to home

We had a guest speaker at camera club last week. His name is Andy Spain and his specialist expertise is in architectural photography. He was everything I hope for when I look for guest speakers … he is not only skilled at his trade, but he is able to articulate how he achieves his results in ways that allow others to share the benefit of his long experience. On top of his underlying skills, he was entertaining. Of course I had to go out and try some of the techniques he described.

Featherston St
Attempts at architectural photography with no converging verticals … downtown in Featherston St

I am not an architectural photographer, nor do I have the time, the patience or the influence to get the shots he gets, and in addition, I took my shot opportunistically, in broad daylight when I got there. For all those excuses, I liked the portrayal of Featherston Street in the morning sun.

Putting on its best face, Wellington Harbour from Maungaraki

Yesterday, Wellington was on her best behaviour. Bright sun, scattered cloud and almost flat calm is how I like it. The image above, and the ones that follow all suffer from that same opportunistic flaw. A serious photographer would wait for the golden hour, around sunset, or the blue hour, after sunset and before darkness descends.

I think this is the common Chorus cicada (Amphipsalta zelandica) … its song was certainly part of a chorus with hundreds of others in the warm morning sun

Nevertheless, there is a  certain joy in being out without wind, and able to listen to cicadas playing their seemingly endless mating call with its predictable pattern of buzz and click.

From the Puketirotiro lookout at the Korokoro end of Maungaraki Road. The ferry Strait Feronia is steaming through the heads.Below the Maungaraki shops in the foreground you can see the Petone wharf, still closed due to damage in the November earthquake.

Above Maungaraki, there are a number of knolls wich are high enough above the surrounding houses to have been designated as reserves from which walkers can enjoy the view over city and harbour. Our landscape is so creased and folded that the view from each lookout is significantly different from the others around it.

Wellington CBD from Horokiwi

From there, I headed South towards Ngauranga, where I turned North to get to Horokiwi (There is no longer an entrance for Southbound traffic). Horokiwi is a place of so-called “life-style blocks” or farmlets. It offers a few interesting viewing points of its own.

wind farm
Wind farm. Though the blades appear to be spinning that is because it was a very long exposure and they were really just ticking over

A little further up the road, there was a view to the West looking across the windfarms at West Wind and Mill Creek to the dark shape of Arapawa Island 40 km away, across the strait.

Sad to say, my marina based project was unsuccessful with the honours board of the PSNZ. Nevertheless, bloody but unbowed I might share that set with you next week.

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March 15, 2017 … to the provinces

Our seasons of weather woe continue. An occasional redeeming day causes me to seek frantically for photographic opportunity before it evaporates.

A tiny fraction of the school kids prepare to race on Pauatahanui Inlet

On an otherwise fruitless trip to Pauatahanui, I was returning via Paremata and spotted a line-up of some thirty or more small yachts about to be launched from the beach. I assume that this was some sort of school exercise, but after a seemingly endless procession up the channel into the inlet, they were soon lined up in race-formation.

North Mole
Despite the sun glittering on the water, there was a bleak wind blowing in from the sea

Last week, I had an appointment as a trainee photographic judge in Whanganui. We combined that with Mary’s ambition to walk the Pouakai Crossing on the NorthWesterly slopes of Taranaki. We found accommodation in Whanganui on Wednesday and prior to the judging session that evening, I went down to the North Mole at the mouth of the River and enjoyed the light on the seas rolling in from the Tasman. Coincidentally, today, Wednesday 15 March is the day of the third reading in parliament  of the Te Awa Tupua bill which “makes the Whanganui River and all its tributaries a single entity with the rights of a legal person.” If you want to know more, follow the link for the text of the bill.

Light house
Cape Egmont Light house

On Thursday, we drove to New Plymouth taking the coastal road through Opunake, and diverting briefly to Cape Egmont, and the lighthouse to the West of the mountain. Don’t be fooled by the blue sky. It was intermittent at best, and totally grey again by the time we reached New Plymouth. After checking in, we drove up to the visitor centre at North Egmont where they showed us the Mountain Forecast for the next few days. It predicted heavy rain on Friday and a few light showers on Saturday. The Doc rangers recommended that we ignore Friday and make the crossing on Saturday.


Len Lye Centre
The exterior of the Len Lye Centre is almost as fascinating as the art works within

And so it was, that on Saturday, Mary visited her beloved aunt Marie at Fitzroy while her brother and I explored bits of the city.  Paul is an artist in his own right, so the Govett Brewster Gallery and the Len Lye Centre were inevitable destinations.

This huge kinetic work by Len Lye was painful without the ear defenders

Len Lye is perhaps most famous for his kinetic art and the largest of his featured works at present is called “Flip and Two Twisters”. It consists of large strips of stainless steel sheet. The two outermost strips (twisters)  are connected at one end only, to a ceiling-mounted motor that has a vertical axis. The centre piece (flip) is a longer strip, attached at both ends on either side to another motor that operates in a horizontal plane rather like a skipping rope. The motors are computer controlled and put the strips in precisely controlled motion. The surprise for visitors who turn up for one of the scheduled showings is that they are offered serious industrial quality ear defenders. When sheets of steel that big are shook and twisted the noise is calamitously loud.

The Te Rewarewa bridge at Fitzroy, in New Plymouth is photographed often. On a fine day, from the North side, Taranaki is framed in the curve of the bridge. On this day, there was no view of the Mountain so I shot from the South

Saturday came, and contrary to the forecast, was very much wetter than the previous day, on which hardly any rain fell at all. The rangers told us that our intrepid duo could possibly do the walk, but that they would be in danger of being swept away by waterfalls, and that the tracks themselves would be like rivers. Wisely, they chose not to brave the mountain and instead did the coastal walkway from Te Rewarewa bridge at Fitzroy to the port 9 km away.

Kaihihi Stream
The Kaihihi Stream at Okato was carrying far more than its usual volume

We set out for home on Sunday. and having enjoyed the emptiness of the coastal road on the way up, took the same route back.

Patea Freezing works – most of the fragile bits have been demolished and I suspect the remains will be there for many years to come

We passed through Patea on the way home and I took the opportunity to look at the solid remains of the old freezing works.  And that’s all this time.


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1 March, 2017 … oh what a week it has been

Looking North along Himatangi Beach at the end of a beautiful day

Most of my week was centred on the RNZAF’s celebration of their 80th year with an airshow at Ohakea. If you have no interest in aviation skip to the end. The last shot is worth it, in my opinion.
Mary and I booked accommodation at Himatangi Beach for three days so as to avoid the peak traffic coming and going. We arrived on Friday evening and Mary persuaded me to walk to the beach to observe the sunset.

As the sun sinks towards the horizon, Taranaki is visible 155 km away to the North

The weather was most promising for a good day for the airshow the next day and Taranaki stood proud and clear in the distance.


I was caught quite unawares by a pair of RAAF F/A-18 Hornets streaking low and fast down the coast, presumably as a rehearsal for the next day. The sun was moving considerably slower and so I caught that without trouble.

Sunrise somewhere near Oroua Downs on the way to the airshow

Next morning, show day, I was up early and on the road in the dark, soon after six. During the 37 km drive, the sun made its first appearance and revealed a ground mist which I feared might disrupt things. It didn’t.

Before the crowd built up – an F-15SG from the Singapore Air Force and a Boeing KC-767J of the Japanese Self Defense Force

Despite my early start, there were several hundred cars in the park ahead of me, and a couple of hundred camper-vans on site. We lined up waiting for the gates to open. The advertised time was 7 am, but they didn’t admit us until 0740. It was good to get access to the aircraft in the static displays with the sun at a low angle and relatively few people around compared with later in the day.

Lines to get inside the big aircraft

There were fighter aircraft from Australia (F/A-18), Singapore (F-15SG) and the USA (F-16). There were transport aircraft from the UK (A400M), France (CASA 235), Australia (C-17) and New Zealand (C-130), Japan (KC-767J) and the USA (KC-135, C-17).

Inside the mighty C-17 of the RAAF

We lined up for a look inside and I was mightily impressed by the vast cavernous fuselage of the C-17, and a little surprised at the exposed ducting in the roof.

RNZAF C-130 taking off, leaving spirals behind the props.

Flying commenced at 10 am and I had missed a trick by not claiming a spot on the flightline. Nevertheless, the planes are big enough to make themselves seen.

100% of the RNZAF’s long-range VIP transport capability

Some of the earlier movements were simply logistics associated with the show. The RNZAF owns two converted Boeing 757 aircraft which are pressed into service as VIP transports. It’s relatively rare, outside of their home base, to see them both together.

An improbable but impressive formation of heavies

Among the morning’s displays were a lot of “heavies” and one such flight was a formation flight involving one B757, one Lockheed P3C Orion and two C130 Hercules. They passed over Ruapehu which was sparking clear in the morning sun and then swung in from the South at which time the two C-130s peeled off.

TBM Avenger restored in the colours of “Plonky”, the aircraft flown by NZ aviation personality, Fred Ladd

Some historic aircraft were involved, and as well as the inevitable Spitfire there was a beautifully restored Grumman TBM Avenger.

Beautifully restored DH104 Devon

One that I remember form my days in the Air Training Corps was the De Havilland DH104 Devon which was used in the RNZAF as a light transport and a Navigation trainer.

USAF F-16 creates some pressure at low altitude

In the afternoon, came the fast movers which, in reality amounted to the USAF’s F-16 and the Australian F/A-18

RAAF F/A-18 puts its wheels away before starting its show routine

The thunderous crackle of a fighter at full throttle is surely as effective as a bowl of prunes for curing certain ailments and I enjoyed the sheer power of the displays. While all this was happening, Mary , who has scant interest in airshows, walked from Himatangi Beach to Foxton Beach and back (a mere 22 km round trip). I got out before the end of the airshow because I have no real interest in formation aerobatics which was the final event.

On the sandbank in the river at Foxton Beach

Next day we spent enjoying the rural quiet apart from the distant thunder of the airshow’s second day in the distance, a mere 20 km away as the crow flies. We drove down to Foxton Beach where there was abundant birdlife on the sandbar. Oystercatchers, pied stilts, bar-tailed godwits, red-billed gulls, black-backed gulls, and lesser knots were all crowded into one small space.

Her majesty, the Queen – Asian Paper Wasp

Later in the day, Mary and I were walking and she spotted the nest of the Asian Paper Wasp, so of course I got up close and personal. I think, from the described behaviour, that this is the queen.

Tararua ranges under morning cloud near Levin

The next day, with all the airshow traffic having dissipated we made the leisurely drive back down SH1 to home, pausing for a shot of the Tararua Range near Levin.

Boat sheds at Pauatahanui

Yesterday, officially the last day of what we have laughingly called “summer”, was perfect. I went for a wander to Pauatahanui and Queen Elizabeth Park.

Dabchick with chicks

The long-sought dabchick chicks were at last visible. As you can see the parents often carry the chicks nestled deep within their own plumage, but as the youngsters get older they become more independent and often branch out on their own.

Herons reflecting

My last shot in this extended edition, is possibly my best shot of the year to date. Two white-faced herons perched on a piece of driftwood, reflected in the mirror-calm waters. I am pleased with this.