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September 29, 2019 …some local colour

Since I last wrote, there have been a lot of days that were, at best grim and uninviting as far as photography goes. It’s officially Spring, and that has brought grey skies and bitter winds. Of course there have been exceptions and I have made some images that I quite like. Let’s have a look.

At the back of the boat sheds

The Hutt River estuary is a place I have photographed on many occasions, usually looking at either the birds or the boats on the water. On this occasion I was sitting in my car at the back of the boat sheds waiting for Mary to meet me at the end of her six or seven kilometre walk down the river bank. I spotted a puddle on the gravel road and started thinking about the recent trend towards low-level wide-angle reflection shots. It seems that almost any pool of still water bigger than a dinner plate will work for this technique. Putting that idea together with the bold paint on the sheds it seemed worth the experiment. It seems that, no matter how banal the subject, the addition of its reflection improves the image.


The kereru, or NZ Native wood pigeon is a regular subject of mine. They are reportedly fewer in number around Wellington this season. Nobody seems to have passed the word to the ones that visit our little kowhai bushes and this one was about 3 metres from our front door. Whereas the Tui is a nectar feeder that looks for the liquid in the flowers, the kereru is the avian equivalent of a motorised hedge trimmer. It chops young shoots and flowers indiscriminately. Their iridescent plumage is a delight to my eye so I forgive their greedy habits..

Tulip season

Wellington’s Botanic Gardens puts on a splendid display of tulips each year at about this time. Since they use the same beds each time, it gets harder and harder to find a different way to capture their splendour. Using the “less is more” principle, I aimed at the glow of some side-lit blooms. The contrast with the distant hedge worked nicely. I thought.

Nemo me impune lacessit

I was driving Eastward from Owhiro Bay towards the airport when I spotted a man on the roadside with a long lens shooting at something on the beach. I paused and was surprised and delighted to see a young leopard seal had hauled itself out of the water. I am told that this is an immature male, but even so, I too used a long lens so as not to come too close to an animal with such fearsome reputation for aggression. It was obviously there for a rest, and apart from yawning a lot, it did little while I was there.

Sakura season

On SH2 at the foot of the Remutaka hill, there is a cafe and function centre called Aston Norwood Gardens. It has a delightful formal garden that is worth a visit in most seasons of the year, but especially when the cherry blossoms are on display. The main catch is that you sometimes have to wait for other visitors to the garden to move out of the way before you get a clear picture. Of course cherry blossoms and reflections make nice images but always on the edge of cliche.

At the Supreme Court

While I have a strong preference for nature, I also love the way that the colours and textures in our cities catch my eye. In this case, I used the “low-wide” technique in the reflecting pools at the front of the Supreme Court building. This picture was made in the weekend so this end of Lambton Quay was untypically quiet. I was particularly attracted to the patchwork quilt effect of the two light-coloured buildings.

Singing competitively

In Sladden Park, Lower Hutt, there is a lovely grove of mature kowhai trees near the Hospice Garden of Remembrance. It is a favourite haunt of many tui when the kowhai is in flower. I suspect that there is something of a competitive courtship ritual taking place as the birds whistle and honk melodically in the hope of impressing a mate.

Weather warning

I was driving somewhat aimlessly though Oriental bay not seeing anything until those lenticular clouds registered on my brain. I am often drawn to patterns in subtle shades of grey and those well defined layers just demanded attention.


At the Western end of the Pauatahanui Inlet, the water was pleasantly still, though the cloud on the far side suggested that change was on its way. It certainly was, since there was a heavy, but brief downpour soon afterwards.

Banded dotterel

Sometimes I drive down the Wainuiomata coast road in the hope of seeing something worthy of shooting. The forest park, the seascape, or sometimes, the beautiful dotterels which nest on the shingle beach. It can be an uncomfortable place, with bitter winds blasting the sand at you. Sometimes, I get all the way to the coast and find nothing that makes me want to press the shutter button. On this visit, I was greeted by a lovely dotterel pulling the old diversion trick … “follow me, follow me, nothing to see over there”. Ideally I want to get down at the bird’s eye level, but I have to confess that sometimes getting up afterwards is a challenge.

Clear all the way across

Often when I am on the coast at Wainuiomata, the salt haze prevents a clear view of the mountains in the South. On this trip, there was startling clarity and the mountains stood clean and proud. But what caught my eye most was the spray ripped from the wave crests. It gives a sense of how bleak the conditions were on the beach. I must remember to keep a warm jacket in the car. It’s no fun on that beach if the clothing is too light.

Hogwarts or Neuschwanstein?

On the way home, I paused at the Seaview Marina and noticed a stack of the old cast-iron fence posts saved from the city wharves. I have no idea what fate awaits them, but they seemed worth a shot.

That will do for now. I wonder what the weeks ahead hold.

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September 15, 2019 … stop! breathe in! think! try harder.

Looking back at the last few posts, I have noticed a slide back towards mediocrity. I let images get in that really did not deserve a place in this blog. What do I mean by that? I want each image to reflect my own emotional response to what I saw through the viewfinder. Too many recent images are merely a record of my presence at a particular venue rather than an interpretation of the scene. I have no easy solution. Of course no one promised it would be easy. So, I must take a deep breath, grit my teeth and try harder.

The texture of the city

The very word “landscape” suggests to some, a view of open pastoral or wild countryside. My own interpretation is much wider, including seascapes, cloudscapes and cityscapes. All are, in my opinion, legitimate interpretations of the landscape genre. In fact, I have a particular fondness for cityscapes, and love the contrasts, colours and textures of our cities. Each era tends to have a way of expressing itself in wood, concrete, steel and glass. In a seismically prone landscape such as ours the structures are somewhat constrained in height and in other ways.

Last minute grab-shot

Every year, at the beginning September, the Masterton-based newspaper, the Wairarapa Times-Age sponsors a steam-hauled rail excursion from Wellington to the Wairarapa so that the passengers can gather daffodils in Carterton. I believe that this results in donations to the Cancer Society to support cancer research. I was caught by surprise this year, and saw the distant plume of smoke and the scream of the whistle as the train headed North. What goes up must come down, so I was ready for it’s return. I got greedy and tried to operate two cameras, and consequently did well with neither.

This image was the best I could salvage. Unfortunately I chose a vantage point where the upgrading of the overhead catenary system was still in progress, so there were twice as many posts as there would be a week or two later. Nevertheless. Ja1271 obliged with an impressive blast of smoke and steam as it came thundering out of Woburn station.

Inner city repairs

As I observed earlier, each era has its own architectural style. Some have withstood the test of time very well, and others are no longer up to current standards in the event of an earthquake. I believe that all buildings in the city must be up to at least 33% of the current seismic building codes. So some of our more elderly structures have to be strengthened. This is Toomath’s Building on Ghuznee St in downtown Wellington. The modified shipping containers are used as a safe walkway for passing pedestrians.

Beach-side wildflowers

When I go out looking to make pictures, I could end up almost anywhere. My mind flits hither and yon, and my driving follows. It would be maddening for any passenger who wanted to get purposefully from A to B, so most of my wandering is on a solo basis. In this instance I was in Worser Bay on the Eastern side of the Miramar peninsula and I caught a glimpse of colour among the green succulents that protect the dunes. I imagine someone planted them deliberately.

I have no idea about the egg

While wandering North of Waikanae, I followed the road from Pekapeka beach back to SH1 when I encountered this sadly decaying Bedford J2 school bus. These were built in some numbers to serve small rural communities. It wasn’t until I first got the image on the large screen at home that I saw the “egg” under the rear of the bus. Very odd! I can offer no explanation.

Can you smell the lavender?

Several days of greyness and persistent rain caused me to play with some still life. Mary has some nice robust lavender plants at the back door, so with permission, I “borrowed” some. This image is a composite of seven images to gain depth of focus.

Eventually, regardless of the weather, still life is insufficient

At the end of the Wainuiomata coast road, there is a good view of Baring Head and on a clear day, across the strait to Tapuae-o-Uenuku near Kaikoura. The weather on this day was not so generous and so the clouds themselves became the subject of my picture.

Beautiful but not very smart

While I was walking across the pebble beach on the Wainuiomata coast, I saw one of the banded dotterels (Charadrius bicinctus) that nest in the area. They seem to choose wide flat stony beaches on which to nest, and the nest is nothing more than a shallow scraping in the sand. It is prone to attack by larger birds, or wandering cats and dogs, or even the clumsy foot of wandering photographers. It is such a beautiful little bird that I can overlook the stupidity of its nesting habits.

Seeing a scene within a scene

While I was watching (in vain) for more dotterels, I enjoyed the stillness of a small pond on the beach and noticed a small outcrop with rocks and grass. They seemed worth a second look. The area in the photograph is a tiny fragment of a much larger scene.

Yellow carpet

On the way back up the coast road, I encountered a paddock that seemed to be more gorse than grass. A few sheep and a horse were grazing the small patches of grass and the rest was a riot of yellow flowers. A plague upon those early settlers who thought it would make a good hedge plant. It grows so well in New Zealand that it takes up all the space it can get as it has in this paddock and up the hills behind it.

That’s all this time. As always constructive comment is welcome

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September 5, 2019 … road trip

Mary and I are just back from a South Island road trip. We decided that our youngest grandson, Otis’s ninth birthday was a good reason to go, and so we did.

Kaiarahi was standing in for the larger Kaitaki which was in Australia for an overhaul

After several weeks of ugly weather, the day we crossed the strait dawned clear and still. How lucky is that? We arrived nice and early but to this day I have never figured whether there is science or merely mysticism in how the crew decide the loading sequence. Of course it doesn’t really matter, the ship never leaves until the doors close behind the last person with a ticket. Nevertheless, I hate it when they let all the &@#$%@# motorhomes out onto the highway ahead of me.

We spent two pleasant nights at an AirBnB in Greymouth. I was disappointed that recent weather patterns and some dire forecasts prevented fishing vessels from crossing the notorious Greymouth Bar as they present a spectacular sight when they do so in big swells. Likewise, the weather was not conducive to birdwatching on Cobden Lagoon. But our accommodation was warm and dry and sufficient for our needs.

Magical Lake Ianthe

Our next destination was Tarras, just a little out of Wanaka so that meant a long drive from Greymouth with rest breaks here and there for photographic purposes. One of my favourite lakes in the South Island is Lake Ianthe about 55 km South of Hokitika. It is a smallish lake with few access points, but when it is still, it is just perfect. There are others such as Brunner, Mapourika, Mahinapoua, Kaniere, and each is beautiful in its own way.

Roadside wetlands as we neared Haast

It’s a long and seemingly endless 480 km from Greymouth to Tarras, and as the signs say, New Zealand roads are different and you should expect to take longer. The road has its charms, and where it was possible to stop safely we did. I rather liked the various wetlands on the road between Fox Glacier and Haast.

Towards Hawea from Tarras

Our accommodation in Tarras was a modern cottage with all of the usual facilities and to Mary’s delight, a log burner for warmth. The next morning, looking back towards Lake Hawea, the rising sun lit up the snow capped peaks. I am unsure which range this might be, but is is a spectacular view to wake up to.

Sunset at Lake Hayes Estate

We got to our son’s house in Lake Hayes Estate without incident and settled in. A spectacular sunset was experienced on our first night. This view is to the South West. I am guessing that those peaks are Ben Lomond and Bowen Peak in the range behind Queenstown township.

Opposing forces

I rather liked Andrew’s chess set which is apparently modelled on the one used in a Harry Potter movie. I don’t play the game myself, so my interest was purely aesthetic.

Murky weather on the Remarkables

As the ski season winds to its close, most of the schools in the region seem to spend some time up on the ski fields. Both grandchildren had two full days up there in each of the last two weeks. Otis spent his school day up there on this particular day, but in conditions like these, it was apparently not very pleasant. I suppose that is a good lesson to learn in itself.

Lake Wanaka

I was turned loose with the car and my cameras so I spent the day going over the Crown Range to Wanaka, then along Lake Dunstan to Clyde and then back through Cromwell to Queenstown. I came within a few hundred metres of “the tree” at Wanaka but chose to ignore it. The lake was still, so I spent some time there. I was a little sad to see the intensive development happening to the town since I last looked.

Look the other way

I have mentioned before, the 180˚ rule … if there is something interesting in front of you, don’t leave without checking behind you. A spectacular sunset over Queenstown was nicely reflected in the clouds over the Crown Range to the North East.

Near Glenorchy

The kids were at school, Andrew was at work, so Mary and I went along the Glenorchy road. We did a bit of a walk along the track towards Bob’s Cove and then carried on to Glenorchy itself. The spectacular mist in the far corner of the lake behind Pig and Pigeon Islands would appear to be sand from the Dart River delta being picked up by a vicious wind. In fact I struggled to open my car door against the wind to make this image.

At Lindis Summit

All too soon, it was time to leave Queenstown, so we set out early in the morning to our next booked accommodation in a farm stay near Rangiora. We took the route through the Kawarau Gorge and Cromwell, across the river to Tarras and over the beautiful Lindis Pass. I had been anxious that conditions might require snow chains. Happily that didn’t happen.

Across Lake Pukaki to Aoraki/Mt Cook

It was great weather for travelling and the view across Lake Pukaki to Mt Cook was irresistible even if the image has been made a million times before by almost every tourist who passed this way. Aoraki/Mt Cook is New Zealand’s highest peak at 3,724 metres (12,218 ft)

On the road from Fairlie to Geraldine

South Canterbury’s lovely landscape was nicely displayed on the road from Fairlie across to Geraldine. We paused there for lunch and resumed the journey to Rangiora.

Terra Cotta and Rust

We enjoyed two nights at the farm stay before completing the journey home from Picton. Regrettably I seem to have acquired an outbreak of pre-patellar bursitis which happens from time to time and is uncomfortable rather than dangerous. It tends to limit my mobility but “this too shall pass”