Winter is almost upon us. So far it has been relatively mild, but Wellington can be deceptive in that regard. Though the thermometer may register as much as six or seven degrees, winter in the area can produce a sense of wet misery that seems much colder.
The last colours of autumn linger with us. A few more days or even a windy day will see the last of the colour on our Japanese maple fall to the ground.
Despite my whining, we have had a good string of still days. On such a cool damp day, the best jewellery show in town is staged by the tiniest of crafts-people. This dew-covered web is about the size of a small plate. I think the spider at the centre is a garden orbweb, but would welcome expert advice if I am wrong.
If you are an arachnophobe, look away for a moment while I get closer. This specimen is about 5mm in size.
Continuing with the theme of calmness, I have been making a lot of images at nearly water level, and you can see just how still the harbour has been. This one is on the beach at Lowry Bay.
A few kilometres further South, the Days Bay wharf caught my eye as the sun headed inexorably towards night.
On my way home from there I paused at Pt Howard as the fishing vessel Loma returned to its berth after what the following flock of gulls obviously regard as a successful trip.
Fewer images this week, pursuant to a brief stay in hospital for some small remedial surgery and the subsequent recovery time. All seems well (thanks for asking). When I finally did get out and about again, I spent my time looking at weather on the Southern coast.
There was a strong Southerly which raised the sells in the Cook Strait to somewhere well above six metres and shut down the ferries for a few days. By the time I was mobile again, the worst had passed, but there was still significant wave action.
The next day the sun was shining and in a typical example of Wellington’s suck/blow climate, there was now a strong Northerly. I took the long and winding road through Wainuiomata to the South Coast where the residual swell was being blown back out to sea. For some reason, as I look at the right hand side of this image, I am hearing Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” in my head.
On the way home from the coast (it was late afternoon), I got lucky with the light in the valley beside the Wainuiomata stream. Beams of light over the edge of the hills to the West picked out a cluster of trees in a way that I just had to stop and photograph.
As some of you know, landscapes are my most common form of photography. A well known photographic tutor has said “first you have to be somewhere”. To be honest, I am not entirely sure he is right, at least not in the sense he intended. Of course it helps to be somewhere that is visually spectacular, but sometimes you just have to see things in your everyday location.
For example, when a new day impinges on my brain, I pull back the curtain to see what’s happening outside. Most days I see nothing out of the ordinary. Every so often, I am forced to scramble for my camera.
My other photographic enthusiasm is birds. I have a number of birding friends and they do better than I because they have patience to sit and wait. They are willing to get wet and muddy and to crawl through beds of shells or reeds or flax. I tend to arrive and see what is convenient and then move on, grabbing a landscape if the gift of sight is upon me. The other day, I was at Pauatahanui and saw a sandbank where there were royal spoonbills, a white-faced heron, pied stilts, pied oystercatchers, masked lapwings, black swans, geese and ducks. To get a real birder’s image I would have had to crawl through the mudflats unseen to get close enough. I weighed my chances and settled for the landscape (an eight image panoramic stitch) .
Sometimes I go to the mouth of the Horokiwi stream at the Western end of Petone beach, in the hope of seeing terns or other common residents. However, it is a popular dog-exercise area and the two exercises are incompatible. I would love to throw bricks at the owners who throw sticks for their dogs to retrieve, aiming deliberately to land them among the resting birds.
Yesterday I wandered the Southern coast, and on the way looked back up the harbour to the Hutt Valley. From Evans Bay, I liked the layered landscape and the hovering mist arising from a melting frost.
At Lyall Bay, there was a giant tree trunk washed ashore from who knows where. Though I was waiting patiently for them to finish, I was delighted to see a young father playing on the trunk with his three or four year-old son.
I did eventually get to be alone with the tree and approached it from several angles and I rather liked this view in which it appears to be trying vainly to hold the waves in check.
That evening, after dropping our grandchildren at Scouts, I went down to Petone beach. It was a beautiful still evening though the light Southerly breeze was a bone-chiller. Since the water was flat, I persisted. A thirty-second exposure reveals itself in the painted clouds, but it worked.
From the other side of the pier there was a different image (think of it as a pier review). Again the long exposure was interesting and I debated whether to remove the light trail from an Airbus 320 coming out of the airport. I chose to keep it.
That’s all for now. I hope to get better at this seeing business, whether or not I am actually somewhere at the time.
After the scenic splendour of the last month, coming home and back to earth is a bit of a come-down.
Of course I still love Wellington (as do Deutsche Bank’s customers, apparently ) and of course, if there is stillness, and the harbour is on show, then I am there. Last Thursday was such a time. Mary was out collecting for charity (Motor neurone disease) at a basketball game. I mounted my camera low, at the bottom of the centre column on my tripod, and went to the water’s edge in the corner of Chaffer’s Marina. I tried a really long exposure, but preferred this which was quick enough to catch the only wave I saw.
Night had not yet fallen completely, and I was there in what photographers call “the blue hour” after the sun is below the horizon. From Clyde Quay, the glittering lights of the CBD sat like jewels along the base of Te Ahumairangi (formerly know as Tinakori Hill), and it was all reflected in the stillness of the inner harbour.
From the end of Clyde Quay, there was a view of the Michael Fowler Centre, lit up presumably in preparation for an upcoming carnival of some sort. Silhouetted against the MFC is the old steam tug, Hikitia, and along the top edge, above the crane’s jib, are the lights of Victoria University’s library, the Rankine-Brown building.
A few days later, I found myself once more near the Hikitia on Taranaki St Wharf. Getting down low is a pain in the knees, these days. That’s where that trick with the bottom of the tripod comes in handy if I need a different viewpoint.
Finally this week, my attention was taken by reflections in a coffee stall. It was closed at the time, but this one is regularly on the wharf, based in an Airstream caravan. The brick building is the former home of the head office the State Coal company before it was relocated and is now the home of Circa Theatre.
The last place I described was Harihari on ANZAC day.
The next few days after that, we did some exploration of the Lakes to the North of our bush hideaway at Pukekura. Lake Mahinapua, Lake Kaniere and Lake Brunner all offered their own brand of magic. Moody grey weather was the norm, but vitally, there was no wind, especially in the first half of each day.
The first lake you come to North of the town of Ross is Lake Mahinapua. I have been there before, and was not much impressed, but perhaps that was because a nasty breeze spoiled the surface of the lake in its stillness. This time we got lucky and it was glassy calm, if somewhat bleak and chilly.
Lake Kaniere (above) was just breathtaking in its beauty. I got lucky in that I arrived moments before someone in a power boat went racing around to ruin the tranquillity of the place. Hard to imagine that for many years this lovely place was home to a huge, noisy and very ugly gold dredge.
We travelled Eastward along the lake’s Northern shoreline to Dorothy Falls which is tucked in a lovely glade just off the narrow gravel road. It’s not a huge fall in terms of volume, but it makes up for that with its charm and isolation.
From there we went inland to the South a little through Kokotahi and Kowhitirangi to see the startling turquoise water in the Hokitika Gorge. Apparently a combination of South Island schist, greywacke and icy water combine to produce this intense colour.
Our last lake while on the West Coast was Lake Brunner. Like the others, it is magical in the right conditions and sometimes a place of dark mystery.
And then it was time to move North towards our final Airbnb accommodation on this trip, in Linkwater, on the Queen Charlotte Drive. It’s a long (6.5 hours) haul from Pukekura, made even longer by rain and road works most of the way. Nevertheless this part of the West coast has a wild beauty no matter what the weather, so I stopped briefly in the Buller Gorge to capture a sense of the place.
It was still raining steadily when we paused to eat our picnic lunch (in the car) at Lake Rotoiti near St Arnauds.
From there, the last long haul in our trip was down the Wairau Valley to Renwick, just out of Blenheim, and then up Long Gully beside the Kaituna River to Havelock, and around the many twists of Queen Charlotte Drive to our accommodation on the Mahakipawa Arm of Pelorus Sound.
We enjoyed a wonderful restful four days there with mostly fine weather. A side trip to Nelson was enjoyable and I had to sample the wares at “The Mussel Pot” in Havelock which describes itself as “The Mussel Capital of the World”. And then it was time to leave. The morning of our departure was bright and cold with a strong mist on some of the paddocks. How could I resist these cows returning from their morning milking?
Just along the road, we encountered the sea again at Anakiwa on the Queen Charlotte Sound. The conditions were stunning and I knew I needed to stop somewhere with a view. A small settlement called “The Grove” provided the perfect viewing spot. I think this shot is my all time favourite.
From exactly the same spot, looking to the East, I had to catch the fire of the morning as the sun brought the new day to the Sounds.
After a somewhat hazardous 30 minute journey with multiple sunstrike places on a steep and winding road, we made it to Picton in plenty of time for the ferry. Some wandering around the waterfront and a coffee and scone in a cafe, it was time to say farewell to the South.
Despite dire warnings from various friends and rough conditions the previous day, our journey on the Aratere was wonderful.
And so ends our circumnavigation of the South Island. It was a wonderful experience, made all the better for me by the companionship and support of Mary. Our trip was to celebrate her retirement, and though she got some of the walks she wanted, I got the better of the deal with lots of photo-opportunities. She is my greatest treasure.