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January 24, 2020 … making lots of images

Challenging weather in the last few weeks has been a mixed blessing. There have been days which offered little inspiration. When the light has been reasonable, it has made me look more closely at whatever is in front of me. It has made me actively seek shapes, patterns, colours and ideas.

Steel and grease

Mary and I took a friend who is a train enthusiast up to Paekakariki to the sheds where Steam Inc work on their locomotives. It was a gloomy overcast day and there was nowhere that offered the space to see any of the locomotives in full. Instead, I selected part of the valve linkage to represent the whole. The sheer weight of metal, the array of nuts and bolts and the heavy coat of oil all speak of the power of this mighty machine (Ja1271 for anyone wondering).

Giant Bush Dragonfly

At the wetlands in Queen Elizabeth Park in Paekakariki, I looked in vain for any dabchicks, so settled for this large dragonfly. Despite its name, it is much smaller than the enormous ones I remember seeing in Colorado. Nevertheless, since they rarely sit still I was pleased to get this one. hovering in one spot. I also got lots of shots which were blurred or contained no dragonfly.

Reeds

There’s something about the various reeds in the wildlife reserve in the Pauatahanui wetlands that just demands attention. They sway and swirl, and seem to change colour through a spectrum of brown green and gold. It’s quite a small area, but one that I love very much.

Sleeping on Parade

Also in the Pauatahanui wetlands, I found group of Royal Spoonbills sleeping together with remarkable military precision. Not only were they arrayed in a straight line, but were evenly spaced. I am intrigued that they always seem to pull one leg up and fold their bill along their back when they sleep. Still water gave nice reflections.

A pied stilt chick

While I was in the hide making spoonbill pictures, I was aware of a noisy pied stilt squawking at anything that moved. It was chasing other birds and clumsy humans away, circling around and diving towards any intruder, regardless of size. Then I saw her chick. Against the sandbanks, it seemed like a small clump of wind-blown fluff. Not until it went into the water did I realise what I was seeing. I suspect that much of its mother’s squawking was telling it to look out for the many dangers.

Bombus terrestris – the heavy lifter of the bee world

I am unsure what the flower in this picture is, though it seemed to be coming to the end of its season. Like a heavy-lift helicopter the bumble bee came in slowly, hovering above the flowers to gather nectar and I could feel the energy transferred by its wings to the air that supported it. I had been about to attempt a long-range landscape shot, so I already had the long zoom lens on the camera. It worked quite well allowing me to focus on the insect just a few metres away.

Passion vine hopper – nymph

I get easily confused by the developmental stages of various insects, and as far as I can tell, this is the nymph stage of the passion vine hopper (Scolypopa australis). Surprisingly for the scientific website I used, I learned that the nymphs are universally known as “fluffy bums”. This particular example was at most, 4 mm long (5/32 inch). The fibres at the rear are apparently extrusions of wax, the purpose of which is not known.

The odd couple

I have always loved ships. Though I mourn the passing of the ships I kew in my youth, with their graceful curved sheer line, I am slowly becoming accustomed to their modern replacements with huge apartment block accomodation sections that look as if squeezed from a toothpaste tube before being chopped off to selected length. Cruise liners tankers and container ships are all straight lines these days. The two in this image are both relatively small ships. They are the Seabourn Encore (604 passengers) and the Seven Seas Explorer (700 passengers) . If they don’t look small compare them with the Ovation of the Seas (see later in this edition) which comes with 4,900 passengers.

Skylark

Whitireia park is a large open area which occupies the Southern headland of Porirua Harbour. Most people who know Wellington will recognise it as the place near Porirua where the old AM radio mast for station 1YA was. It is characterised for most of the year by long grass. Large areas of open grass are attractive to skylarks, though they are usually quite shy. For some reason, this one was bolder than most so I got down low and pointed the camera at it. It looked indignant and flew away.

Glassware

My son and daughter-in-law live near our house. They have a magic view across the harbour and out through the heads towards Antarctica. Looking at that view through a large glass bowl on their table just appealed to me. I don’t feel the need to justify it further.

Le Laperouse

The French were in town. Ponant Cruises boutique luxury liner Le Laperouse is small enough to be able to berth at Queens wharf right on the edge of downtown. She is a fine looking vessel, though I suspect her small size means she might be more lively in a big sea. She carries just 264 passengers so does not instil the sense of dread that comes when I contemplate the giant liners. From Oriental Bay I thought she fitted well with the glass and steel textures of the tower blocks across the road.

From small to oh my goodness

Monday this week was a a lovely day with clear skies and no wind. As well as Le Laperouse mentioned above, there were two large cruise liners in port and Ovation of the Seas, the larger of the two, was scheduled to leave at 8 pm, much later than usual for most cruise liners. Bearing in mind the disruption to our evening domestic routines, I asked to be excused and went out into the golden evening to capture her departure. I settled down to wait at Point Halswell. She eventually left her berth and headed towards the harbour entrance. I then found a suitable viewing spot literally at sea level on the Eastern side of the Miramar Peninsula. Soon enough in the beautiful golden light, she came ghosting past. I remain astonished that a ship of 168,600 Gross Tonnes and powered by 67,200 kW (over 90,00 hp) could move so quickly and in almost total silence. The pilot launch Te Has made more noise. There was remarkably little wake from this huge ship.

In the golden West

By the time the Ovation of the Seas had dropped the pilot and resumed her journey towards her next port, there was a lovely light in the sky and the mountains of the Kaikoura ranges were nicely silhouetted. Bonus!

Evans Bay

Fully content with my photographic adventures that evening I set out on the homeward journey through Evans Bay. Oh, oh, oh! The stillness was just beautiful. Out with the tripod again and I set up a long exposure to catch the tail of the blue hour.

That will suffice for this edition. Somehow I am feeling less insecure this week than in recent editions. I think it is that I am trying to be satisfied with an image if it pleases me, regardless of how I think others might judge. See you next time.

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January 10, 2020 … happy new year

Hello! Happy new year to all who read this. I hope 2020 will be your best year yet. I also hope that it will see an improvement in the images and stories that I offer you. So, let’s begin this new year.

When shall we three meet again, in thunder lightning or in rain?

New Year’ day produced no images. The second of January dawned fair and blue, so I went to the Hikoikoi reserve with the ever-present hope of seeing a white heron. Sadly, none were found. On my way out, my attention was caught by the row of pohutukawa trees along the ridge that protects the sport field from the encroaching dunes on the beach. Their precise spacing and similar sizes suggest that they were deliberately planted, perhaps as a part of Project Crimson. This was a project commenced in 1990 to reverse the loss of coastal pohutukawa. I selected three of the thirty or so trees, and liked the fact that the middle tree was at the peak of its flowering season.

Trans-Tasman haze

At the other end of the Petone foreshore the next day, I attempted to capture the very visible haze blown across the Tasman Sea from the Australian bushfires. We have experienced this many times in the past though never as intensely or for so long as now. The prevailing winds carry the smoke from the fires approximately to the South East where it makes landfall on the West Coast of the South Island. The intensity of the smoke and the ash that it carried was such that it discoloured our alpine glaciers, leaving them coated with a thick orange layer of ash rather than the expected pristine white snow. Here in Wellington, local winds diverted the cloud our way, and we are occasionally experiencing quite intense haze. This shot from Petone Beach shows the Wellington hills obscured by it. Our hearts go out to our Australian cousins.

Kereru … the native Wood Pegeon

There have been stories of fewer kereru (native wood pigeon) around Wellington this year. I have to say that I have not noticed this around home, despite the presence of two pairs of nesting New Zealand falcons nearby. Despite being twice the size of the falcon, the kereru just explodes in a shower of feathers when caught mid air by the deadly little raptor. On a very warm day, this kereru was obviously thirsty so it perched on Mary’s birdbath which was obviously designed with smaller birds in mind.

Demolitions on hold

Much of New Zealand goes on summer vacation from just before Christmas to about mid or late January. This is often exaggerated and scorned by the media, but the line of idle demolition machines tends to reinforce the notion. I was unable to get inside the wire fence but the neat row of hydraulic diggers was worth a shot. I often wonder what is the capital value of all the agricultural and engineering machines that are sitting idle at any given time.

Crossing at the horizon

On one of those days when the blue of the sea and the sky to the South are almost the same, I caught a shot of the ferry Kaiarahi inbound, and the Kaitaki outbound. They were far enough away for there to be optical distortions at the waterline.

Airport

On some days, the conditions tempt me to seek high viewpoints, On this occasion, I went up to Newlands from where there are great views to the South and East. There are many opinions among landscape photographers as to which lenses are most appropriate. Most often, conventional opinion suggests a fairly wide angle. Several of the people whose work I most admire will often go the other way and choose a long lens. In this case, I used my 300 mm zoom which, because of the micro four thirds crop factor, gives the same angle of view as would a 600 mm lens on a full frame camera. So here, from 9km across the harbour is a close view of Wellington airport. To the left, moored near the Miramar cutting, is the research vessel, Tangaroa. On the runway is an Air New Zealand Link Bombardier Q300 just touching down from Napier. To the South, nothing until Antarctia.

Long green

Five days into the new year, and the weather is already variable. Mary decided she wanted to walk the Eastern Walkway from the Pass of Branda in Seatoun, down to Tarakena Bay. I dropped her off at the pass, and went to Tarakena bay to await her arrival, and watched the waves rolling in. I love it when the waves are long and slow with a period of 10 seconds or more between each crest. They may look slow, but their power is undeniable. Even better when they are backlit, and the deep green looks like the stained glass of a cathedral. The spray ripped off the tops by the offshore wind adds to the spectacle.

Shabby Chic

I was wandering around behind our national museum, Te Papa, when I spotted this sad old lady. She is a 1974 Citroen Super D. I remember when these beauties first appeared and they were the wonder of the age. The complexity of their systems was such that one reviewer warned potential owners not to suffer a breakdown in Taranaki because “you might as well ask the mechanic for a valve-grind on a flying saucer”. If the car had been in showroom condition, I might still have made the picture, but the rust and the mis-matched panels made this especially interesting to me. A fellow photographer coined the phrase “shabby chic”. In many jurisdictions this car would not be allowed on the road, but it seems to have a current warrant of fitness.

Defying the laws of physics

Walking around Chaffers Marina with a friend, I came across this young man who was practicing some derivative of the Afro-Brazilian martial art of Capoeira. It seems to involve repealing the law of gravity. From a standing start on the grass he seemed to simply levitate. Of course that fanciful description is nothing like the reality. It involved a violent flick of one or more limbs and using the momentum to carry the rest of him into the air. The landings were as amazing as the lift off and flowed into an astonishing sequence of routines. I hope to see him again at some time and use different settings to get better results .

The day does not begin until after my first coffee

With the same friend, I went Staglands on the Akatarawa Rd. Sadly (for us) the place was filled, indeed over-filled, with hundreds of small children, and this would not result in the photographic opportunities we hoped for. So we abandoned the tour of the park and settled for a pleasant lunch in the cafe. We then spotted this rooster picking over the leftovers on the tables. I was surprised at what it deemed appropriate food. It explored every opportunity.

Leaf contrast

From Staglands, we carried on to the West across the narrow winding Akatarawa road towards Waikanae and as we neared the coast, out of the corner of my eye, I saw this little tree.On its own, it was not spectacular, but in contrast with the dark pines I liked it very much.

So ends the first post of 2020. I hope to have your company as the year goes on.