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August 31, 2017 … don’t trust the GPS

Since my last post, Mary and I did a random “no-good-reason” day trip to Dannevirke. The day was beautiful, so we just went.

The real New Zealand at work … the mob of sheep is being controlled by a pack of well-trained dogs responding to the whistles from the farmer on horseback. He obviously has a hobby, hence the two somewhat battered stock-cars in the yard.

As soon as Dannevirke was mentioned, I decided to come back via the scenic route out to the East. This included a trip past the Waihi Falls which, though I have done it before, is always worth another trip. It was here, that things went wrong. I used Google Maps for navigation. I knew there was another road that would take us more directly to the falls without first going to Weber and Waione. It seems that there are two such alternatives, one of which was at least 35 minutes longer than the other. Just before the decision point, Google changed its mind about which route was labelled as quicker. So it was that we set off down Waitahora Road towards Coonoor Rd and then to Towai Rd and on to the falls.  Apart from Skippers Canyon in Central Otago, I have not previously been on such a wild, lonely and ill-maintained road. The landscapes more than compensated.

This is a seven shot panoramic stitch that doesn’t quite convey the grandeur of this landscape.

As well as a view into New Zealand’s rural back yard, this accidentally taken road led us high into the hills  from where there were great views. Mary was driving at the time and I got her to pull over whenever I saw an irresistible view which may have added a little to the length of the journey. I also had to make sure that, when I stepped out of the car, there was something on which to stand. Quite often there was a long steep drop to the valley below.

Waihi Falls near Dannevirke (if you take the more direct route)

Waihi Falls were flowing well, with less brown sediment and a smaller volume of water than on our last visit. However, the sun was already low in the sky, and home was still 200 km away. I have said before that the back road from the falls to Masterton, though very scenic, is remarkably empty of people and settlements. Even the named towns seem to consist of a mould-covered and apparently disused community hall and little else.  It was much later and darker than we planned when we finally got home.

Apple blossom in Lower Hutt

We have had a run of seemingly endless damp weather, but perhaps it is warmer than usual because I am seeing signs of Spring everywhere. As well as apple, plum and cherry trees, there are lambs.

Herald of spring

Daffodils are the unfailing sign of the new season and suddenly they are everywhere.

Lake Wairarapa from the Western shore

Yesterday, there was a change in the weather and instead of the rain we had mists and cloud. Mary said “go forth and photograph”. I went first to the upper valley, and that led me to the Rimutaka Hill where the road is often wreathed in tendrils of cloud in such weather. The problem with the hill road is that there are very few spots where you can safely stop, and almost nowhere to safely walk back to a viewpoint. The clouds were there, but were simply inaccessible. I carried on to Featherston, and thence down the Western side of Lake Wairarapa. It’s quite a large lake, but rarely does it have the cam surface I hope for. Yesterday was an exception, if only for a short while.

A random farm pond on the East-West Access Road

At the Southern end of the lake, the East-West Access road provides a route across the South Wairarapa and here and there are little scenic gems worthy of pausing and appreciating.

Ruamahanga River from the Barrage

The access road crosses the Ruamahanga river diversion by way of the barrage system which provides flood control for the Southernmost part of the valley. The surface of the river was almost perfect in its stillness, despite the flow southwards towards Lake Onoke and the open sea. I went South from there to Lake Ferry Hotel. There I had an excellent whitebait fritter and a glass of beer, before turning for home into the teeth of a sudden downpour from the South.

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August 24, 2017 … across the hill and down the other side

It seems I have let time get away on me again.

Banded dotterel on the Wainuiomata coast

Since I last wrote I have spent a lot of time trying to improve my ability to see things in creative ways. Sometimes it works, and sometimes the seeing is ordinary. I seem to have a strong tendency to see things as they first present themselves. I suppose it is the visual equivalent of literal interpretation of texts.  Sometimes that works out alright, as in the case of this little banded dotterel (Charadrius bicinctus) lurking on the edge of the reeds on the beach at Wainuiomata.

Mist in the Belmont Regional Park near home

We have had a lot of “interesting” weather, with swirling mists. Though I am ready for some brighter weather, I am always a  little excited if there is some mist about, as long as it is not too uniformly dense and grey. The dips and folds of the Wellington landscape allow the mists to create some wonderful sheaths, and I have a good idea where to go for the best effects. This river of mist was in the Belmont Regional Park at the top end of the road on which I live.

Normandale looking mysterious in the mist

On another day, with another mist, I needed to travel less than a kilometre up the road and the view back up the hill was totally transformed.

Waterfront at night

Sometimes, when a day or two goes by without a reasonable photo, and if the night is still and there are no domestic obligations, a gather up my tripod and camera and see what  photographic opportunities the night offers. This shot was made from the old Interisland wharf. Now it is used as a base for the tugs and a few fishing trawlers and during the day it is a car park.

The Haywards Interchange at Manor Park

Another slightly odd day sent me out in search of mist. At Manor Park, the new pedestrian overbridge is finally open and I got this shot of the almost complete Haywards Interchange, where traffic coming over the hill from Porirua can now join SH2 without the need to for traffic lights.

Racing river in the Kaitoke regional park

From there, I went onwards to the regional park at Kaitoke North of Upper Hutt. There had been some heavy rain and the Hutt River was flowing fast even this far up the valley.

Tararua morning

Yesterday, we had a sudden fine clear day. My lovely wife gave me a packed lunch and said go forth and photograph. Often as I head North to the Rimutaka Hill Road, if the light is right, I am captivated by the great South wall of the Tararua range, and so it was on this occasion.

South Wairarapa

On the other side, I made my way towards Tora on the East coast of the Wairarapa. As I climbed the hill out of Martinborough my rear view mirror suggested that I stop and look at the view to the West. Yes, there is some snow on the high peaks of the range and the sky was clear and blue.

Wind farm
Hau Nui wind farm

A few kilometres further to the East, some of the turbines at the Hau Nui wind farm. There is a public lookout from which six of the fifteen turbines are visible and four of them were ticking over in the light breeze.

The wreck of the Opua at Tora

By lunch time I was at Tora. To my great delight, the wreck of the collier, Opua was more accessible than I have seen it on previous visits. A combination of low tide and near calm sea allowed me to clamber over the rocks on which it was wrecked without loss of life on October 2, 1926. If I had stronger ankles and a better sense of balance, or was willing to get wet, I might have got closer still. As it was I was about 30 metres from the wreck, and could see much detail. This view is near the stern. We can see the rudder pintle at the left and  the top of the toppled triple expansion steam engine is visible just to the right of the great bulk of the boiler.



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August 9, 2017 … a thing of shreds and patches*

There is little or no coherence to the images I have been catching recently, except that in each case, I have been trying to see. I want to look behind the obvious.

The as yet un-named building at 20 Customhouse Quay

My first image this time was taken on Customhouse Quay where a new building is nearing completion. It stands where the BP Tower once stood until it was deemed incapable of economical repair after recent earthquakes.  The new building is a steel structure with glass curtain cladding. It presents a bold face to the world though I had to work hard to get a full frontal image of it. I shall try again once it is complete.

Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Ohariu Valley.

In the depths of the Ohariu Valley, there is a one of those delightful little colonial churches built in Wellington’s earliest days. The Holy Trinity Anglican church was built in 1870 and is the oldest Anglican church still in active use in the region.

A new day begins in the Hutt Valley

I have often said that I am not a morning person, but there have been some interesting mornings recently. Perhaps it is the quality of the light sneaking through the curtains that wakes me. On one day last week, I opened the curtains and then literally ran for my camera, knowing that this would be a fleeting opportunity. Crepuscular rays are always interesting to me, but on this occasion they were aligned perfectly with the angles of the hills across the valley at Naenae. Within minutes of the shot, the light was gone.

Fog (1)
Morning fog fills the valley as seen from my bedroom window

A day or so later, another strange morning  occurred. A fairly heavy mist was filling the Hutt Valley and drifting out into the harbour, while Wellington City was in clear bright sunshine.

Fog (2)
Valley fog drifting towards the harbour mouth

I got in my car and went around the hills to Anthony and Sarah’s house in Maungaraki. They have a stunning view across the harbour to the city. However, the mist was already thinning as the sun rose higher in the sky.

A banded dotterel in the shingle at Wainuiomata beach

It had been a little while since I last went to the coast at Wainuiomata and I knew that it was coming up to the time when dotterels nest. At first sight there was nothing there, but the thing with dotterels is that you don’t tend to see them until they move. I sat and waited and after a while they began to move about. As tiny as they are, they need to come close to allow a good shot, so I lay face down on the shingle and waited, and in due course, was rewarded.

Harbingers of Spring

On the way back from the coast, I saw some early spring lambs walking on wobbly legs in the late afternoon sun. Truly a gilt-edged investment for the farmer.

“Architextural” photography

On Monday I spent some time in the city again, looking as always to see things differently. From the parking deck of Pastoral House where I used to work, I looked across Lambton Quay and saw reflected in the tower block opposite, the two adjacent buildings. I was thinking of coining a new word to describe this  -“architextural”photography.

Definitely Spring

Finally in this edition, to reinforce the notion that Spring is imminent, I set up to photograph what I hope to be the first of many daffodils. Time now for me to seek “a dreamy lullaby”*

* A Wand’ring Minstrel by W.S Gilbert