This has to be the warmest Wellington summer since we came here in 1980. I do not remember temperatures exceeding 31ºC, ever. We have had a lot of blue sky days and some grey ones, but it has remained warm and humid on most days, even when it rained. More of the same is forecast for the week ahead.
On one of the grey days I went looking for images that used the grey-ness and then, at the Taranaki St Wharf, saw this splash of colour that just stood out. I am not sure of the purpose of the building but my memory suggests that it housed the controls for the now removed loading ramp when the trans-Tasman Ro-Ro service used to berth here. The Union Steam Ship Company brought ships such as Marama, Maheno, Union Rotorua, Union Rotoiti, Hawea and Wanaka to load and unload here on the coastal and Australian runs. Back then, I worked for Philips, the Dutch multinational and my office window was on the top floor of the hexagonal building just below the “M” of the central Datacom sign.
As I said, I was looking for greys, and the view from Wellington towards the Hutt Valley in the North certainly met that need. Despite the appearance, the rain didn’t amount to much.
That same evening, there was a stillness on the earth and though there was greyness everywhere, the last rays of the sun picked out the redness in the rocks at the North end of Lowry Bay.
Mary and I were guests for lunch at the lovely Waikanae home of some friends of very long standing. They are garden people, and there is always something to see. This lovely flower is Ptilotus exultatus “Joey”, an Australian perennial known over there as the pink mulla mulla. The flower spikes are about 10 cm long , so that’s a good-sized bumble bee (Bombus terrestris).
Grandson Cooper is a history buff with special interest in matters military. Though he lives in a fantasy world much of the time, he takes somethings very seriously. I took him up Brooklyn Hill to the WWII gun emplacements at Polhill reserve. He was deeply offended and outraged that the graffitists had dishonoured the soldiers who had served there by defacing the installation. Despite the Nerf gun and the helmet, he is a gentle soul and I think he is a flower child at heart.
On the waterfront for lunch with former colleagues yesterday, my eye was drawn to a line-up of rental e-bikes parked against a re-purposed shipping container.
My aspirations as a landscape photographer lead me often to the Wairarapa, that often dry and rugged province that occupies the bottom right-hand corner of the North Island. It is a large rectangle aligned to the North East, bounded on the West by the Rimutaka and Tararua ranges, and on the East by the vast Pacific Ocean. From Wellington, unless you walk the long coastal track, the only sensible access is on State Highway 2 which heads east from Upper Hutt to Pakuratahi, and then South up the long winding hill to the Rimutaka summit. From there, the road heads East to Featherston down yet another stretch of Narrow and winding road. It is a narrow road, sometimes closed by wild winds, landslips, forest fires or snow. For many older Wellingtonians it was a road of fearsome memory, of unsealed road, and unfenced edges. It was a road that saw many a car stopped at one of the few flat spots to let the car-sick kids throw up. There was a “greasy spoon” restaurant at the summit, and some ill-kept rest rooms which provided a half-way break point on the arduous adventure of crossing the hill. These days, the road is wider, smoother, has safety barriers and occasional passing lanes and takes just over half an hour to cross from Upper Hutt to Featherston. What’s all the fuss? Crossing it is still a psychological hurdle and a significant dent in the petrol budget, but I love it in all weathers.
Particularly I like it when there are low drifting clouds and even some rain. Actual fog is less useful, and probably more hazardous, but swirling broken clouds get me out. Last week I got as far as Pakuratahi, near the Kaitoke Waterworks reserve at the Wellington end of the hill and was lured up a short side-road by the mist in the Kaitoke valley to the West. It was a still morning and the only sound was in the adjacent paddock where a recently milked dairy herd was steadily ripping and chewing the grass. Heavy breathing, heavy footsteps and rhythmic chewing were a great accompaniment to my efforts. I chose long slow exposures, knowing that the cows would move but thinking they would add to the story. All went fine until I finished and my car wouldn’t start. I had left the headlights and fog lights on, and it was flat. Fortunately, there was cellphone coverage. Thank goodness for the Automobile Association. Within 20 minutes, a roadside assistance agent was there with his portable jump-start battery and a bank of diagnostic equipment. And I was on my way again.
From Featherston, I went down the Western Lake road where again, I enjoyed the misty conditions and the contrast of the lakeside trees with the bank of cloud to the East.
Later that same week we were in the midst of a heat wave wherein the mercury in the Hutt Valley reached an unprecedented 31ºC . I know that heatwaves are relative things, but in a normal year, it is a really hot day in the valley when we get 27ºC. Anyway, Mary doesn’t do heat, so she sent me off unsupervised. That darned hill called me again, so I want over to Martinborough and then headed off down the White Rock road where I paused at the Hau Nui wind farm. Despite the warmth, there was sufficient breeze to spin those turbines fairly briskly. By the way, Hau Nui is Maori for “Big Wind”.
The road to White Rock is somewhat primitive in places. It is unsealed, often unfenced, winding and steep in places, but there are great views. Your teeth chatter as the road crosses cattle-stops and sometimes the road itself is corrugated, but the place is worth the journey.
I think I have mentioned that our house is currently on the market and with an open home due last Sunday, we needed to have the lawns tidy. However, I had to capture the weeds before they were cut. I always think of these as dandelions but a knowledgable friend tells me they are not … apparently this is a hawksbeard.
We continued to have wonderfully warm days and spectacular evenings and one evening a few days ago, I wandered down the road as the giant cruise ship “Ovation of the Seas” was setting sail for Sydney. She has just dropped the pilot. The two vessels closer in are a drilling barge looking for a clean access to the fresh water aquifer under the harbour, and beside it, her attendant tug is at anchor.
My last shot in this edition is one of my favourite views in the region. As you drive around Evans Bay towards the city, you finally round Pt Jerningham and there it is in all its glory. I love the various colours and textures in our cityscape, and I always love that first visual impact as you round the corner.
Thank you for staying with me. Some of you have been Internet friends since about 1994, and I value your continued company on this ever-changing journey. My presence on the Internet, and then on the Web, has evolved over the years, from its initial purpose of providing home news to disconnected kiwis. It has been through several stages since then and is now a vehicle for the photographic expression of my love for this region, this country, and wherever else I find myself.
If you have been with me for a while, you will know that I am somewhat insecure when it comes to the evaluation of my own skills. This is not false modesty. I know that I make some really nice shots now and then, but I also produce a regrettable number of mediocrities. My journey is about changing the proportions of each. I want more really nice shots.
My challenge each day, is to be a better photographer than I was yesterday. For the sake of clarity, I regard photography as the making of images using whatever tools help me to illustrate the possibility I saw when I picked up the camera. I am an unashamed user of Lightroom and Photoshop to bring my vision to life in print or on the screen. So, 2018, bring it on. Here are some of my first efforts for the year.
When our family came to Wellington in 1980, the trip across the hill to the Wairarapa was much more challenging than it is now. The old “greasy spoon” cafe and the awful rest-rooms at the summit are long one. The road is now well sealed, and there are safety barriers on all the nasty corners. Only the landscape is unchanged. On the last sharp corner before the road crosses the bridge to head into Featherston, there is an iconic stand of trees that I have long wanted to photograph. However, there is no safe place to stand, and you would need to be on the outside of the Armco barrier at risk of falling into the valley below. On this occasion, Mary was driving, so I would the camera strap around my wrist, adjusted the swivelling rear screen and held the camera out of the window firing as we drove. It’s not the image I envisaged or aspire to, but it’s a start.
A few days later I was wandering the quiet city and found myself in Kelburn where the university campus was closed and quiet. I drove to where I used to park when I was a staff member there, and looked out over the moody city. As you can see the pohutukawa was making its seasonal presence felt.
From there I drove up to the wind turbine at Brooklyn and thence down the hill again, pausing at the Polhill Reserve to have a look at the old anti-aircraft gun emplacements. The 109 men who were stationed there at any one time in all weathers from 1942 until the end of the war would probably not comprehend the desire to be there at all, and even less the desire to waste so much paint on the pointless graffiti. And yes, the despite reserving the right to process my images, the sea to the South really was that blue on the day.
On some of the grey days, cabin fever was prevented by some wandering in the direction of the Pauatahanui wildlife reserve. I was in the Forest and Bird hide with not much happening when I realised that the large rock a few metres away had changed shape. It has been a long while since I was this close to a kingfisher, even one as scruffy as this. Nice to see you again, little fellow.
I crossed the road from there to see what was happening in the fresh water ponds. The answer was that there was nothing, not even water there. Where the ponds are normally, found there were moon-craters, cracked and dry. And, in the words of Farley Mowat, “no birds sang”. Trudging back to the car, I caught a glimpse between the slats of the boundary fence of somebody’s “secret garden” (Wow – two literary allusions in one paragraph).
And then it rained.
Didn’t it rain, children? Talk ’bout rain, oh, my Lord Didn’t it, didn’t it, didn’t it, oh, my Lord? Didn’t it rain?*
Though I didn’t go back to the dry ponds, they would surely have been filled, at least temporarily.
Though not exactly forty days and forty nights, it rained quite heavily, and I decided to see if I could catch the experience in a night shot from our front door looking down towards the Seaview oil terminal
In the weekend just ended, Mary and I went up to Clive, just South of Napier. Some of Mary’s family were having a get together at Te Awanga. It was a joyous occasion with much laughter, good food and great company. Before we went out exploring on the Sunday morning, I strolled the 100 metres or so from our rented accommodation to the banks of the Clive River where there was a rowing regatta under way. The river was still, though somewhat clogged with weed. Down at the river mouth, heavy swells after the recent storm could be seen crashing on the bar, but I loved the steady procession of rowers moving steadily down the river to the start line. Though the racing shells would be wildly impractical in that situation, their purposeful passage looked like a latter-day Dunkirk.
My brother-in-law, Gerard later took us to a place along the beach where the was a significant nesting site of shore-birds. There were white-fronted terns, pied stilts, banded dotterels and New Zealand dotterels. The dotterels are very hard to see on the rocky shore but the terns and stilts were more visible. A recent storm had disrupted the season and many eggs were washed away, according to a birder I met. There were juveniles aplenty, squawking loudly and demanding ever more fish. I felt for the term parents who would dash in at high speed from the sea with a fresh fish and attempt to get the youngster to swallow it before the marauding red-billed gulls could snatch it mid-transfer.
Homeward bound the next day, I had to pause just South of Hastings to record the latest stage of the slow and inevitable decay of an old house. I have shot this house many times and perhaps even shown it in this blog. Last time I was there, there was a blackberry thicket at the rear. It has been cleared, and perhaps that has allowed the house to lean gently inwards towards the earth.
Yesterday was a moody sort of day in the Capital and I went up the hill to the entrance to the Horokiwi quarry and from there caught the wide view of the Eastern side of the harbour, The island to the left is Matiu/Somes and the hill to the right is the Miramar peninsula.
From the same spot, looking ninety degrees to the right, the winding path that carries road and rail between Wellington and the Hutt Valley shows just how vulnerable that vital link would be in the event of an earthquake like the Kaikoura one last year.
“Didn’t it rain” is a Negro Spiritual, according to Wikipedia, that long predates Mahalia Jackson’s version