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July 27, 2021 … taking life as it comes

After some mysterious point, the ageing process suddenly starts forcing certain changes. No longer can I hop confidently from rock to rock. Nor can I clamber down steep slopes. The only way in which my spatial awareness has improved is in my knowledge of the direction and distance to the nearest public toilet.

These gradual changes have made their presence felt in my photography. I started thinking about this after a consultation with a health practitioner recently. She suggested I might be losing my enthusiasm for photography. I rejected that idea vigorously, but realised that the kind of the images that I observe are being brought about by the gradual changes brought on by age. Most obviously, I find myself treading old familiar paths and more rarely finding the energy or enthusiasm for long trips to new places.

One of those days

When the sky is clear and blue and the water mirrors it back, Oriental Bay has a special charm. I prefer the openness of the old Clyde Quay Boat Harbour to the regimentation of the Chaffers Marina on the city side of the wharf. On this particular day, I was tempted to hang my camera underneath the tripod as close to water level as possible. I know that the green algae on the concrete ramps down to the water has an evil reputation for being slippery. In keeping with the increasing caution I mentioned earlier, I was edging gingerly towards the water when a janitor called out and warned me that two others had already slipped and come close to taking an unexpected swim that morning. I find that the heightened risk awareness limits my mobility even further, so I didn’t quite make it to the water’s edge. Incidentally, if you want to moor your boat there, the annual fee is NZ$1,293.

New Zealand Native Wood Pigeon

The next image was made without leaving home.This magnificent bird was munching happily on the fresh leaves of a kowhai tree less than two metres from our front door. I saw it through the window so very quietly unsnibbed the front door and let it swing slowly open. I stayed well back from the door and used the long lens to get close to a bird that was very near to begin with.

Alpacas

Again, close to home I went over the Wainuiomata Hill and down the coast road to the beach. It was a frosty morning, which happens less often than it used to in my opinion. Anyway, on the way, a small herd of alpaca was casting long shadows and defrosting patches of grass.

Clinker built

Certain weather patterns raise the idea of going to places that have been previously successful in similar weather. Mist suggests a trip to the Wairarapa, or perhaps the upper valley or maybe Evans Bay. Calm water prompts me to go to the Hutt estuary, Pauatahanui, Oriental Bay or again Evans Bay. Strong Southerly wind takes me to the beach on the Wainuiomata Coast, or anywhere along Wellington’s rocky South coast.I suppose that the region’s folded landscape constrains human access to places where roads can more easily be made, leaving the ridge lines free to be farmed or to remain in native bush. And so it is that the number of accessible photo sites is fewer than the overall land area might suggest. On this occasion, the stillness took me to the Hutt River estuary. There, I struggled to to make an image different to those made in my many previous visits. Down low and select just one of the small boats, perhaps. A splash of red is always worth having.

Walkway

High tide or low, I love the Pauatahanui Inlet. Of course, I prefer it when there is no wind, and the water is totally still as it was on this day. Well done to the Porirua City Council and its various sponsors who now have a well made walkway beside the water along the entire length of Grays Road from Pauatahanui Village to the Camborne Walkway. Even when the bird life is modest, I love the reeds that lend such colour to the landscape.

Sacred Kingfisher

A trip to the Waikanae Estuary brought me close to this kingfisher. It was sitting on a branch beside the road. I didn’t even have to get out of the driver’s seat to make the image. Apparently this fellow is well known locally and is not as skittish as most kingfishers I have encountered.

Royal Spoonbills

Pauatahanui is not only a place that you have to pass through on your way north up SH1 from the Hutt Valley, but also a site worthy of visitation in its own right. Apparently there is a flock of royal spoonbills who hold a similar view. For them, the attraction may be the small mud crabs which number in the thousands per square metre. Not for me though, to deny them the enjoyment of the visual beauty of the place.

Ivey Bay

At Paremata on the South Western end of the Pauatahanui inlet where the water passes under the motorway and rail bridges to the Porirua Harbour, is Ivey Bay. It provides sheltered moorings for some of the old classic motor launches. From Camborne on the opposite shore, it provides a lovely view of the little known suburb on Moorhouse Point. I knew murky weather was imminent, so had to take advantage of conditions such as these. Blue skies are well enough, but the quilted effect of the clouds really appeals to me.

Lily parts

And then came the rough weather. I stayed home. Perhaps this is part of that decreasing appetite for discomfort and adventure. Happily, Mary had recently celebrated a birthday and I got very close to the inner workings of a lily which was part of a bouquet she had received. Not being gifted with a green thumb, I have not bothered to familiarise myself with the reproductive organs of flowers, but the lily is quite spectacular. I know that the anthers (the rough brown bits) leave a vicious almost indelible stain on fabrics. Handle with care.

Another familiar view

After the worst of the storm passed, the weather was still murky, and it was utterly unappealing to wander out. So this image was shot from the front door looking across the valley along High Street towards Naenae.

Faithful old workhorse

If memory serves (and it doesn’t always) this old girl (NZ7004) entered RNZAF service in 1969. As with the rest of the five-strong fleet, it underwent major life-extension upgrades in the first few years of the new century, and is now fated to be replaced by much more capable C130J aircraft beginning in 2024. I love the condensation around the tips of its massive propellers in the moist conditions as the captain pushes the throttle levers forward.

King Alfred Daffodils

A very pleasant lunch with friends in Waikanae allowed us to see early daffodils. I always regard them as one of the first portents of spring. In mid-late July, this is perhaps a bit optimistic, and there is probably plenty of rough weather to come before the season of lambs and new growth. These flowers from the garden of our friends are of the King Alfred variety.

Magic morning

Back to where we began, though from the other end of that little harbour. Last Friday Wellington was still and bright though a little hazy. Again, I was very cautious about walking on the green algae at the water’s edge so this image was made from a higher viewpoint.

Naval Whaler

Rear Admiral Victor Montagu apparently proposed this design as a standard workboat for the Royal Navy in 1890. Originally there was no engine housing inboard, nor was there a mount for an outboard hanging off the stern as on this one. Sailing was done with a fore and main mast, and rowing was with six oars and a coxswain at the tiller. They served with the navies of Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand in these roles until as late as 1970, and to this day remains in use by many youth organizations. I have always loved the elegant simplicity of the design. This one in the Clyde Quay Boat Harbour and the one in Evans Bay have been shot by me on many prior occasions.

And then came the calamity. It was, as you can see, a beautiful morning so I began crossing the carpark on Clyde Quay Wharf to see whether there might be some useful reflections in Chaffers Marina. With my eyes fixed firmly on the boats ahead, I missed the fact that there were some barriers on the ground to stop cars from banging into the electric charging stations. Whoops! I crashed to the ground and to add to my pain, I heard the camera and tripod bounce beside my head.

I lay there for a minute or so before some other seniors came rushing over to my rescue. To be honest, I needed their assistance to get up. I was assisted to a seat nearby where I gathered my scattered wits and checked the hardware. As the old cliche has it, ageing is not for sissies. Be assured that I am well, though going to a physiotherapist this afternoon. Photos will continue to be made.

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July 5, 2021 … first go somewhere where there is a good landscape

Oh Lordy how time flies. What with involvement with the medical profession and a very enjoyable trip to the Eastern Central areas of the North Island, my photographic collection has grown erratically. In this edition, I am offering more images than usual, and even so, I have culled it to about half of my initial candidate images

Cuba Street top to bottom

It began in Wellington. I needed to visit an auto-electrician at the top end of town, and while he was doing his job, I wandered around the neighbourhood. I realised that from the intersection with Webb Street, I had a good view down the entire length of Cuba Street.

109 tons of raw power

Mary and I were out and about with a picnic lunch and to my great pleasure I spotted the tell-tale plume of smoke and steam at Paekakariki station. Steam Inc were running shuttle rides back and forth between Paekakariki and Paraparaumu. Northwards, it was hauled by the steamer Ja127i. The return trip was hauled by the vintage diesel Da1410, built by General Motors in Ontario in 1955

Crossover

As we neared Queen Elizabeth Park (Mackay’s Crossing) the presence of rail fans at the crossing suggested that the steam locomotive was approaching. We paused and I got lucky to see the South-bound commuter unit passing the North-bound steam excursion. I loved the contrast

Jubilee Park, Normandale

A day or two prior to our road trip, I went for a walk in the bush reserve immediately in front of our house. It’s several years since that last happened. The tracks have been upgraded since my last visit, but there are still spots where the path slopes the wrong way and my footing felt more insecure than it used to. Nevertheless, the charm of the bush seemed worth the risk.

Heavens to Betsy we’ve got us a convoy

Mary and I made our road trip, staying in places at Tokaanu, Ohope and Haumoana. Bear in mind that this took place over the Southern Winter Solstice so the weather wasn’t always kind. As we were getting close to Waiouru which is close to the Army Training Group, we became aware an increasing number of army trucks. My heart went out to the soldiers huddled miserably in the back of the unheated canvas sided troop carriers.

Mighty Ruapehu

Onto the Desert Road and the weather became even more bleak. As we travelled North, the approaching weather swallowed up the mountain and everything turned grey. Oncoming trucks passed in a shower of spray and road grit.

Old Tokaanu Wharf

Weather on the central plateau was unkind throughout our two day stopover at Tokaanu, though arguably, there is beauty in the mist and drizzle over the lake. Thank heavens for the geothermal hot pools at the motel. As I already suggested, I lack the confidence on my feet that I had when I was younger, so I trod very carefully along the somewhat slippery planks of the old Tokaanu wharf.

The hydro scheme

From Lake Rotoaira tunnels through Mount Tihia carry water with sufficient energy to power the 360MW Tokaanu hydro generating scheme and deliver water from the tailrace into Lake Taupo. What a debt we owe to all those Italian and other tunnellers who produced those tunnels back in the early 1970s.

Whakatane River

From Tokaanu, we drove through Taupo, Waimangu, Murupara, Galatea, Aniwhenua. Awakeri, and Whakatane to an Airbnb in Ohope. It was right on the waterfront near the surf club. Ohope sells itself as “NZ’s favourite beach”, and in the summer months it may well be. During our mid-winter stay it was visually appealing but I was in no way tempted to swim. Instead, we explored the area with me watching for landscape possibilities. A favourite of mine was the mouth of the Whakatane River.

All roads lead to …

One of our several day trips took us up the coast to Maketu and back. Maketu is the ancestral home of the Te Arawa iwi, and landing place of the great Arawa canoe (around 1350 AD). It has developed a lot since I visited there as a young man, especially in terms of horticulture. On the other hand the settlement itself seems to retain much of the honest simplicity that it always has, save only for the satellite receivers everywhere. On the return journey we crossed the Rangitaiki River where the view to the sea encountered Moutohora Island, locally known as Whale Island. It’s amazing how many roads seem to lead straight to it.

Alas, no more

Another day trip took us to Rotorua and back, and since Mary had never seen it before, we diverted via Kawerau. Sadly, we passed by in the very last week of the mill’s operation and the week we came home, the mill shut down forever. I recall visiting there at the peak of its activity when the labour force exceeded 5,000. I shall be surprised if there are 1,000 full time jobs in the district now.

The Urupa (cemetery)

Thirty km to the North East of Kawerau is the old Whakatane Board Mills which have made kraft board and cardboard since prior to WWII if my memory is correct. It has staggered along on the edge of closure for the last few years, but just last month, found a new buyer who has apparently saved the 200 or so remaining jobs. Just outside the mill is an old Urupa (Maori cemetery) and the sad derelict remains of the Pupuaruhe Church, formerly Hato Aneru (St Andrews).

On the Way Home

Lovely Lake Aniwhenua is a little known beauty spot, well off the beaten tourist tracks about 30 km South of the Matahina dam and about 20 km North of Murupara. On our homeward journey, we arrived there in foggy conditions just as our recently acquired Hybrid Honda decided to throw a dire looking warning light in Japanese. In fog, 65 from the nearest Honda dealer at Whakatane or 100 km from the one at Taupo, I began to panic. Then I remembered the translate app on my smartphone. The message said “Soon it will be time for service”!!!!

At Aniwhenua

While my panic levels subsided, I looked around the lake and enjoyed the serenity if the Rangitaiki River flowing Northward into the lake which is, by the way, part of the small local 25 MW hydroelectric generation scheme upstream of the 290 MW Matahina Dam.

Waikato River

Misty conditions continued down through Murupara and the mighty Kaingaroa Forest. It stayed with us as we crossed the Waikato River on SH5 about 8km South of Reporoa. Mary was driving at that point so I had to seek her patience to catch the nice light in the fog on the water.

Geothermal Hyperbolid

Some people encounter the cooling tower at Ohaaki for the first time and immediately suspect the New Zealand has been hiding a surreptitious nuclear plant. No, sorry, it is a simple natural draft cooling tower as used all over the world to cool exhaust gases from all kinds of processes dealing with hot gases. This is the only such tower in New Zealand and it is located at the 104 MW geothermal Ohaaki power station. It looked especially sinister in the fog.

Maraetotara Falls

After a long trip across the bleak and chilly Napier Taupo highway, we stayed for a few nights at another Airbnb, this time situated in an apple orchard at Haumoana in Hawkes Bay. Day trips were again the order of the day and one that I had never done before was to the Maraetotara falls in the hills 16 km to the South of Havelock North.

Clive – Dowstream

We needed some groceries in Meanee near Taradale, we so drove through Clive and over the bridge where the serenity of the river drew me back for a photograph,

Clive – Upstream

In such calm conditions, the Clive River was beautiful in both directions and as usual. Mary sat and patiently read her book while I tried to capture the mood of the morning.

Sunrise in the orchard

As our holiday came to an end with predictions of dire weather for our journey home and the week ahead, Hawkes Bay left us with a magnificent sunrise.

Home is always great to come back to.