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January 30, 2021 … the road goes ever on and on*

I occasionally evaluate my reality. Mary and I are retired, living in leafy suburbia in a small city (pop 104,700) adjacent to our small capital (population 215,100) in a small peaceful and politically stable country (pop 5 million) in the bottom right hand corner of the world (population 7,794,798,739). We have so much to be grateful for.

From my perspective as a photographer, while other parts of the country may offer more spectacle, even the region in which I live offers many opportunities within an hour’s drive and even more within a four hour round trip. So why, you might ask, have I been so grumpy of late? Well, I continue to claim the right to grumble about almost two solid months of grey dismal blustery weather, but remain hopeful of some semblance of summer weather in the remainder of the season. I know I should be more appreciative of what I have. The landscape and seascapes around me have good bones. When the weather precludes those shots, there are interesting possibilities in the close up.

Tree Mallow

Sometimes I encounter a plant or flower and identify it confidently. Then I find that I have been wrong for years. In the certain knowledge that this flower was a hollyhock, I submitted the image to my favourite plant identifying site looking for the scientific name. It seems that this is in fact, a tree mallow. Pride cometh before a fall.

Monarch butterfly

Mary came in from her walk in bleak and blustery conditions, carefully nursing something very delicate. A monarch butterfly! It was unwilling to sit still and fluttered about until it settled on a piece of foliage I had been using for other purposes. Snap. Then it flew away.

Unexpected stillness

A promised and long awaited calm day appeared, and brought some mist with it. I can live with that. My wandering took me to Hataitai Beach in Evans Bay. I loved the appearance of the distant yachts sandwiched between the cloud above and the glutinous sea below. The tiny wavelets lowered themselves almost silently onto the gravel beach.

Paint and varnish, masts and rigging

The conditions in Evans Bay allowed me to narrow the focus onto a few of the yachts. I like these “old school” yachts, with no sign of moulded plastic or meaningless shapes. These are the shapes taught by the sea, shapes that have served generations of mariners well. I suspect that these will still be here even as the plastic gin-palaces crumble to dust.

Van Gogh Alive (1)

At the instigation of Mary’s brother Paul and his wife Robyne, we went together to see the “Van Gogh Alive” at an exhibition centre on the Wellington Waterfront. I used the word “see” … perhaps I should have said “experience”. This was an immersion with beautifully selected elements of Van Gogh’s art projected on the multiple surfaces at various angles all around us. If this exhibition comes near you, don’t miss it. It is a joy.


The final element of the Van Gogh exhibition was a mirrored room filled with artificial sunflowers. The effect was truly spectacular. As I said, don’t miss it. That pink sunflower against a black background in the back centre is not a sunflower. It is me. A rare but inadvertent selfie.

The city railyard on a public holiday

An actual fine day came as a surprise, so I drifted along the less travelled roads around the city. It was Wellington’s provincial anniversary day and a public holiday, so the town was quiet. I paused at a gate on Thorndon Quay where I had a view of the railyards and many commuter units sitting dark and quiet in orderly rows.

In Wellington

That same public holiday, I was walking around the inner city and found myself at the intersection of Willis Street, Manners Street and Boulcott Street. Across the street, the little old house, now a pub, was long known as “The House of Ladies” due to its time as a massage parlour. It was physically relocated from a little to the right, to make way for the 116 metre “Majestic Centre” tower block behind. The spot from which the image was made, used to be known as Perrett’s Corner. It was so named for the Chemist shop which was a significant landmark through most of the early twentieth century, and I have added a link to a fine National Library photograph.

Italian grace

I had a brief flirtation with the idea of buying upmarket cars as a photographic portfolio topic. I had no intention of buying such a car. With the dealer’s permission, I made several trial images and decided that I was less excited than I expected to be. Nevertheless, this Maserati does embody my expectations of Italian automotive style. The idea is paused rather than abandoned.

A cliche but a good one

No matter how often I drive from Evans Bay around Pt Jerningham to Oriental Bay, my breath is always taken away by the great Southern Wall of the Tararua ranges. On days such as this when the morning light makes layers the view is especially wonderful.

On Bowen Street

Behind the parliamentary precinct, Bowen Street curves up the Thorndon gully to Tinakori Rd. It passes through some of Wellington’s oldest and most picturesque dwellings. To my regret, the government (I presume the State Services Commission) seems to be transforming the area into an administrative precinct. Whereas I think the old houses are protected by legislation, glass and steel are changing the nature of the area.

Wild Onshore Wind

There have been ugly blustery winds for most days over several weeks. I shall be glad when they depart. On the other hand, the kite surfers at Lyall Bay reveal in the conditions.

See you again in a week or two. Stay safe. Keep recording your locations and observing your local protocols to avoid the virus.

*J.R.R. Tolkien The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings

Cook Strait flowers Weather Wellington

January 15, 2021 … may it be the best yet

Welcome to 2021.I have had some wonderful years, as well as some that were, at best, a trial. It is my fervent hope in this new year that we all avoid entanglement with the virus. I also hope that we can come to terms with whatever is our new normal. I am convinced that the old normal is gone forever, and whatever happens, 2021 will bear little resemblance to the world as it was before the outbreak. I am pleased with and proud of the comparative success achieved by the government and people of New Zealand, and I hope we don’t fall into the trap of complacency and carelessness. But enough. On with the photography.

The all too brief season

I suppose it’s a rare Christmas season that I don’t feel compelled to make an image of the pohutukawa. I am not sure that the images from this season differ much from those that have gone before. The trees are not visibly different, but perhaps I hope to see a new view or see them with new eyes.

Nectar gathering on the flax

This tui was beside the path to the bird hide at Pauatahanui. There comes a moment in every season when the birds are so obsessed with the consumption of nectar that they are almost impervious to the proximity of people. Some suggest intoxication as a cause.

Intriguing flower with an ugly name

Mary received a bouquet at Christmas and it contained a number of flowers unknown to me, as well as some plastic ornaments. I confess, I thought this was one of the latter However, I was assured that this is a real plant. It’s name is star scabious which is an ugly name for an interesting flower.

Mary’s bounty

It’s a rare day on which Mary does not walk. Recently she gathered some wildflowers found on her way. They include milfoil (pink), Jupiter’s beard (white), common ragwort (yellow) and viper’s bugloss (blue). To my eye, they are just wonderful, even if some are common weeds.

Across the blue water

I’ve done many images like this before. Each one is a little different in character depending on the season, the wind, the waves and the air clarity. This shot was made from the base of the Ataturk memorial on Palmer Head, looking Westward across Cook Stait to Tapuae-o-Uenuku. The ferry in the distance is Straitsman which still has about 90 minutes or so to run on its run to Wellington.

Moody in the Harbour

The first week or so after Christmas has offered mediocre summer weather at best. Lots of heavy overcast mood has been the norm with the odd patch of weak sunlight holding out hope for better times to come. On this day, low cloud covered the Miramar Peninsula and the harbour entrance and all that remained was Matiu/Somes Island looking somewhat glum out in the harbour.

Inner harbour

Still the grey weather persisted. I tried for a high viewpoint. This time I went to Stellin Park up in the suburb of Northland. I liked the succession of promontories beginning with Clyde Quay in the foreground, then Pt Jerningham and Pt Halswell. As you can see from the fountain which is falling almost back on its base, there is no significant wind.

Darwin’s Barberry

In Wellington’s Western suburb of Karori, there is a wonderful lookout atop Wright’s Hill. I enjoyed making some panoramic shots there before going back to the car park. On the way, I encountered some flowers and berries that somehow had colour and texture that seemed more vibrant than real life. I was unfamiliar with either flowers or berries, and turned to Pl@ntNet Identify. They are Darwin’s Barberry. Apparently the fruit is quite edible. (Please don’t take my word for it, make your own checks).

On Boulcott St

Antrim House is a little way round the corner and up the hill from the church of St Mary of the Angels. It was built forRobert Hannah, the owner of Hannah’s shoes who was an Irishman. He used a Spanish architect and it has French and Italian influences. These days it is the home of Heritage New Zealand. You can see it reflected in the tower block in the second set of panels from the right.

A treasured gift

A kind friend gave this hand-carved wooden bowl to Mary at Christmas. As far as I can tell, it is carved from one piece of wood. I have no idea who the artist is. The wood is probably macrocarpa. When delivered, it was full of Christmas goodies. Many thanks Natasha.

We three kings …

Makara is a tiny village in a wild landscape on Wellington’s rugged West coast. It’s an interesting place to visit and walk. The steep rocky beach does not look safe to swim, in my opinion. People do don wet suits and seek sea food among the rocky inlets further round the coast. Anyway, the Makara Stream winds its way down the valley to join the Tasman Sea in Ohariu Bay. These three (possibly dead?) trees guard its distant shore.

Some days are better than others

The yachts in the old harbour between Clyde Quay Wharf and the Freyberg Swimming Pool intrigue me. If you compare them with the more modern and upmarket vessels in Chaffers’ Marina on the other side of the wharf, then these are the stately old ladies of the town. Paint and varnish are the order of the day compared with plastic and chrome on the other side. I see it as romance versus luxury.

Natural Triptych

As I was leaving Oriental Bay, I spotted the reflection in the window of the old restaurant/yacht club. There are competitions that are dedicated to the making of triptych art. I am not normally a practitioner but it just presented itself. I didn’t even have to make three images. As you can see in the reflection on the left, the tripod on the table was set up to point the camera at the windows. The two right-most yachts are the same two as on the right of the previous image.

That will do for the first session of 2021. I wish you all the very best for the year ahead. Take all precautions to stay safe, both health-wise and politically and may you and your family all do well and much better than 2020.