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Adventure adversity Art Birds Evans Bay Landscapes Light Maritime Normandale Reflections Wellington

September 27, 2022 … changing times

Queen Elizabeth II was a remarkable women who became queen in my 9th year. Despite my distaste for the notion of monarchy in general, Queen Elizabeth has served all her peoples with grace, dignity and unswerving commitment over seventy years. I do not intend to enter into debate with anyone on these matters, but it seems appropriate to acknowledge such a span of service.

Meanwhile, life continues at the coal face. Sometimes I find the routines of life a little uninspiring, and even depressing. Still, I love the process of making images. On the other hand, if I am not seeing or finding the images that bring me joy, the mood barometer swings downward again.

Hutt Valley rainbow

Mary and I had driven up to Palmerston North in the hope of finding birds or signs of spring. While I enjoyed travelling with Mary, the day was photographically, a bust. Then, as she was serving our evening meal back at home, Mary said “look out of the front window!” I begged a slight delay in the meal and grabbed my camera and a wide angle lens and went out onto the front lawn. Ever the sign of hope, the rainbow made up for much that we had missed earlier.

Cloudscape over Pt Halswell

It’s slightly weird when I am lamenting a down mood, that I can take pleasure in heavy clouds and grim outlooks. From Balaena Bay across Evans Bay to Point Halswell and the Miramar peninsula, I was attracted to the imposing cloudscape.

Rosemary in the rain

At the back door, Mary grows various flowers and herbs. They are just so ever-present that I often fail to see them. Now and then, they catch my eye. In this case, the rosemary’s blue flowers took some time on an otherwise damp and dismal day.

Evans Bay ripples

Evans Bay is a frequently visited site that occasionally yields a nice image. The still patch of water near the shore was disrupted by a row of incoming waves. Why do these waves differ from the chop on the water further out?

Interesting art in the back alleys

As I often do, I arrived too early for an excellent yum char lunch with friends and former colleagues in Courtenay Place. I filled the time by exploring nearby laneways. This image was made in Forresters Lane and is the front of a cocktail bar called “Love Bite”. Foreign territory to me.

Old familiar territory

Although I have done it many times before, I can’t resist still water in Oriental Bay marina.

Australasian shoveller

Despite the number of trips I make to Queen Elizabeth Park wetlands, I have not been rewarded with the hoped for birdlife in recent months. The only capture on this trip was this Australasian shoveller.

Tumbling water

Wellington’s Botanic Gardens are full of little surprises. This little waterfall is perhaps only a metre high, but adds to the music of the garden.

Tulip display

It’s tulip time again. Sadly it’s all too brief , but the gardeners always manage to arrange a good display of tulips for a few weeks. I got there the week prior to the annual tulip festival, so was limited as to the available colours.

Single bloom

I find it hard not to love tulips, singly or en masse.

Kaiarahi returns to service

Here is Kaiarahi (formerly Stena Alegra) just back in Wellington after many months sitting in Picton with a broken gearbox. The required parts were finally installed and here she is ready to resume service.

Urban forest

A splash of colour at the head Evans Bay. Urban forest’ (2008) by Leon van den Eijkel and Allan Brown is a stack of cubes designed to spin in the wind, of which there is plenty at the site. Sadly it fails often and just sits. Nevertheless, it is interesting and nine metres high.

See you next time, I hope.

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Adventure Cars Family Forest Lakes Landscapes Mangakino Rotorua Travel Weather Whanganui

May 29, 2022 … Waikato road trip (part III) … homebound

This is the third and final in a three part series describing our road trip to the Waikato and back.
Part I covered the trip from Wellington to Mangakino
Part II covered our trip from Mangakino to Wingspan and now we cover the journey from Mangakino to Horopito, to Whanganui and home.

In one sense, our spontaneous adventure away from home was a trip to nowhere. With all due respect to its 1,200 inhabitants, Mangakino is scarcely a tourist destination. On the other hand, having spent six years as a single man in nearby Tokoroa back in the late 1960s, I was familiar with the region. I knew and loved the rhythms of life in the area at this time of year. Sharp frosts, river mists, clear days and dark brittle starlit nights characterised the early yeas of my working life. The smell of logs burning in open fireplaces so familiar back then was still familiar now, though no longer acceptable in most other places.

Our last two days in Mangakino after our memorable trip to Wingspan were characterised by soft but steady rain. That was OK by me. I had lots if image processing to do and Mary seemed happy reading or knitting when she wasn’t managing the fire or organising excellent meals for us.

There was a break in the weather on Sunday, our last day in the region, so I made one last expedition back upriver to Atiamuri and thence to Lake Ohakuri. This was new territory to me. I don’t know how I had never been to Lake Ohakuri before, but like the other lakes on the river, it seems to enjoy a sheltered situation and its surface was glassy calm. No one else was visible. I had this vast beauty all to myself. However, we were due to leave for Whanganui the next morning and there was packing to be done, so it was back to Mangakino to enjoy one last log fire.

We left Mangakino in drizzle conditions and headed Westward on SH30 towards Benneydale and Taumarunui. My love of the South Waikato landscape has been expressed several time in recent blogs. Even in these soggy conditions I find it attractive. Pouakani is not a place I have previously heard of. Nor, as we pass through it, is it a place I am likely to remember. However, according to Google Maps, the picture above was made there.

Maniaiti/Benneydale is a town in the Waitomo district that is home to about 180 people. When I lived and worked in Tokoroa in the mid 1960s, we thought of it as a frontier town on the Western edge of forestry country. It was in fact a coal mining town between the years of 1931 and the early 1990s. That has now ended. Until 2018 Benneydale was the only town in the King Country that did not have a Maori name. Local iwi applied to the Geographic Board to remedy that and it is now Maniati/Benneydale despite considerable local opposition. I photographed this same derelict house last time I came this way in 2016. Back then the green tree was just beginning to appear through the roof.

The King Country is an interesting area. While you can draw it on a map, it has no existence as a governance entity. For that, it falls partly within Waikato, and partly within Manawatu/Whanganui region. All of this is merely of passing interest, as we headed down a backroad from Benneydale to join SH4 at Ongarue. The region is heavily forested and very hilly. The only clue I have about where I made the image above through the windscreen is that it is somewhere North of Taumarunui.

We made a rest stop and had an excellent morning tea in Taumarunui. Then it was Southwards through Raurimu and National Park, heading purposefully for Horopito, home to Horopito Motors. This place is known globally as “Smash Palace” and was the setting for the 1981 Roger Donaldson film of the same name.

The last time I was there was in 2013. Back then in return for a gold coin donation, they allowed photographers and tourists to enter the 5 or so hectares and wander at will among the thousands of rusting cars.

On that occasion, we arrived early in the morning and there was no one in the office. The gate was open so I made the expected donation and began wandering about and making pictures. Mary sat in the car and knitted while I was in photography heaven. After I was done, I started to thread my way out of the maze only to be confronted by a man with a rifle and a bunch of distinctly unfriendly dogs. Awkward. He had been hunting and was a bit late back and was startled to find a wandering photographer on the premises. We resolved our differences peaceably.

This time things were done properly, and I paid the now required $10 admission fee at the office and spent a blissful hour looking at rusty textures and the shapes of cars as they used to be in my youth. There may be a pattern or system to the way in which cars are placed when they come in, but if so I could not work it out. It definitely is not brand, year, nor even the era from which the car was made. I am told that if you need a part for your old car, the staff can nevertheless tell you whether they that or a similar model.

At first I was a bit disconcerted that, near the front gate, there were many cars of recent manufacture that still had visible full-coloured paint and chrome work. I presume they were recent crashes or simple mechanical failures. They were not what I had come for, so I avoided them as much as possible.

There are estimated to be about 5,000 cars on site. As I wandered about I saw many that I have not laid eyes on for years. Mostly these would be British cars that are rarely on our roads any more. There were a few continental models , but by far, most were from Dagenham, Cowley, Solihull or the like.

“Austin of England” was the brand emblazoned on the boot of cars with that grill. There are very few bearers of that brand still running in New Zealand. And yet they remind of of a sunny childhood and I retain a certain affection for them. We once even owned a lovely three litre A110 Austin Westminster.

It was fun testing my ability to identify some of these old wrecks Across the back, a Ford Zephyr, a Ford Prefect sitting on a Standard Vanguard, a Hillman or Singer wagon. In the front row, I suspect the one on the left might be a Renault, and then a Fiat Bambina in front of who knows what.

I said there was no apparent organisation to the placement of cars. This pile seems to be an exception as there are at least three Morris Minors here. I struggle to imagine that there are many useful parts in these cars, or what economic model makes them worth keeping. I imagine that these were once someone’s pride and joy, and were probably washed and polished weekly. Now there are few if any body panels that would be of any use.

If you have seen enough rust by now, I would not hold it against you should you choose to skip this and the following two images and go straight to Whanganui. For my part, I see interest in the different patterns and textures in each image. And I wonder at the story behind each vehicle. A quote from Casablanca comes to mind: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world, she walks into mine”. There is no way that all these vehicles belonged to families or businesses in the nearby towns. So how did each car come to be here, so far from any significant centres of population?

Not only the individual vehicles, but the way in which they are scattered around the vast property is fascinating. Occasionally you can see that an attempt has been made to group like vehicles together. It never seems to have lasted though. Three or four Morris Minors together might be the start of something and then a Ford Consul Classic 315, a Trekka, a Wolseley 6/110, a Vauxhall Velox, a few Holdens, a Bradford and an Alfa Romeo throws the pattern into confusion.

Always, the harsh climate, rain, snow and sun are breaking down the once polished paint, and red rust becomes the dominant colour. The odd car puts up a longer resistance. Or perhaps it came into that part of the plot at a different time to its neighbours. Why is that Ford Prefect in the shot above still blue? Why is the paint on the back corner of that car the only bit that hung on?

The land on which the cars are stored is uneven and though there are many flat areas, there are gulleys and small hills. Cars are strewn close together over almost all of it. The tracks left clear for access form a maze of sorts, and often you come to a dead end. Though you can see the home buildings on the other side of the stack, there is no way to get there without risking an avalanche of sharp rusting steel. And so you retrace your steps, dodging the deep puddles in the soggy ground.

Every path you take reveals a different view and models you hadn’t noticed when you came the other way. A person of my vintage keeps seeing models familiar in my younger days but not seen on the roads for many a year. The Armstrong Siddley Star Sapphire, the Vauxhall Cresta, The Ford Pilot, the Morris Oxford, the Triumph Mayflower, the Rover 3500, the Lanchester. It’s not the cars themselves that arouse the emotion, but rather the way they trigger recollection of happy times, youth, friends and family members long gone.

Enough wallowing in maudlin sentimentality. To my photographic eye, the place is a delight in any weather. Regardless of the memories, the stacks of rusting remains provide fascinating set of opportunities to capture shapes and colours, though rust is dominant. After an hour of photography, I decided that though the cars in front of me were different, I was making the same image over and over again, just with different cars. Time to resume our Southward journey.

We had an excellent picnic lunch beside the Makotuku River in Raetihi during a break in the drizzle. Then it was down the winding 95km of the Parapara. In case you didn’t know it, SH4 runs parallel to the Whanganui River from Raetihi to Whanganui and is known as the Parapara. It is notorious for its treacherous greywacke landscape. It is magnificent to look at but prone to crumbling landslips and washouts, potholes and floods. When the Parapara is closed as it is at least a few times in most winters, then it is a very long detour down SH1 to Bulls, or even around Egmont and through New Plymouth. I think I dozed off on this part of the trip.

Fortunately I wasn’t driving, and soon enough we were crossing the Dublin St bridge in Whanganui on our way to our Airbnb in Castlecliff.

The owner of our Airbnb advertised it as “quirky”. I must remember to avoid any described as such in future. Fortunately we were there for just two nights. Whanganui, along with most of the North Island was fairly wet during our brief stay. Peat Park was looking more like Park Lake. We drove up to Waverley to visit my brother and sister-in-law and that trip was even wetter. And then it was time for the journey home.

Wetness persisted all the way to Wellington. We broke the 190 km trip home with morning coffee and a magnificent cheese scone at the excellent Riverstone Cafe at the South end of Otaki. Then the final leg home is much quicker than it ever was in the past. The expressway starts at Pekapeka just North of Waikanae and from there it’s motorway all the way home. I asked Mary to drive the last bit because I wanted to snatch an image of the bush near the summit of Transmission Gully.

Just before the Southbound summit on Transmission Gully there is a forested valley on the left side. Each time I have crossed that road, I have wanted to catch it. Most of the surrounding hills are covered in pines, but here is a remnant of the native bush landscape as it once was. Not possible to photograph if you are driving, of course.

And here at last we are at the foot of the Haywards Hill, emerging into the sunshine of the Hutt Valley and Wellington and home. The distant hills are the Miramar peninsula and the prominent tower block is the former TV studios at Avalon.

I hope you have enjoyed my rambling and the images related to our trip. Now it is done. I continue to post photo-blogs on this site on random topics every two or three weeks. I advertise infrequently so if you care to, you could check back every few weeks to check for the latest. Or you can subscribe to have it emailed to you. Thanks for keeping me company, and special thanks to all who sent kind comments which warmed my soul.

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Adventure Animals Birds Mangakino Rivers Rotorua Waikato

25 May, 2022 … Waikato road trip (part II) … Wingspan

This is the part 2 of our three part road trip story. Part one ended after visiting the magnificent reserve and wildlife sanctuary at Maungatautiri. With my diminishing fitness and agility, I didn’t do Maungatautiri justice. It is a wonderful wildlife reserve well worth the visit for anyone of average mobility.

Mangakino continued to be a total delight. Morning mist on the river and bright blue afternoons and cool nights with log fires were just magic.

Having damaged my lightweight Olympus camera, I was slowly re-learning how to use the big Canon cameras after having left them idle for a year or two. Meanwhile, Mary was enjoying walking on the Waikato River trails while I enjoyed not walking the same trails. You can see how I did so poorly at Maungatautiri.

I have previously quoted Scott Kelby’s rule for making good landscape images: “first go somewhere where there is a good landscape”. There is no excuse for not finding good landscapes in the beautiful South Waikato.

This second part of our road trip is mostly about our adventure from Mangakino across to the truly wonderful Wingspan Bird of Prey Centre in Rotorua. If you are in the region, do not miss it (Monday to Sunday). If you are not in the region, go there. This is the best hour or 90 minutes a birder can spend.

Mangakino mist

We had learned that Wingspan had a school visit on the Thursday , so we deferred our booking until Friday. Kids should of course be encouraged to visit, but we preferred not to have to compete with them for access to the front seats. So it was that on Thursday Mary set out on the three hour walking trail from Mangakino to Whakamaru while I drove around looking for the magic of the mist. This tree appeared at just the right distance from the road.

Waikato river at Dunham’s Point

Then I went the 16 km back to Dunham Reserve where, sadly, there was no mist whatsoever. As I said last week, if you don’t capture the scene when you first see it, it is unlikely you will see the same conditions or light again. So, back to the Whakamaru Dam where I met Mary and we enjoyed a picnic lunch in the sun beside a small pond near the dam.

Arohaki in flight

Then came the day of our visit to Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre. (Check that link) They specialise in conservation, education and research for birds of prey. They also put on a superb hour long public display at 11:30 am every Thursday through Sunday. Seats are limited so book before you go.

We drove across the fondly remembered countryside from Mangakino to Atiamuri and then across SH30 to Rotorua. From there we went North on SH5 to Wingspan’s big new display area on Paradise Valley Rd in Ngongotaha. It was a beautiful morning and with our promised front row seats, we watched the show with perhaps twelve others.

The MC was Shannon, a young lady from Lower Hutt. She did an excellent job, and filled in all the gaps when the unpredictability of the birds disrupted the programme. The first bird to appear was Arohaki, a male NZ Falcon with his trainer, Heidi who is also from the Hutt Valley. Arohaki has obviously been doing this performance for quite a while, and settled himself on the wooden post set up in the field for that purpose.

Arohaki

Arohaki sits with a haughty demeanour and the certainty that, despite weighing a mere 300g, he can take on almost any bird in the neighbourhood. After chasing and catching a number of lures, he was brought closer to the audience and saw no problem in flying to perch on the head of the visitor at the end of the front row. Those are sharp claws so I advise visitors to wear a hat.

Ribbon dealing with a bait

The falcons are unapologetically and exclusively carnivores. Like me they have not developed a taste for broccoli or kale. They make short work of any chicken or duck on offer. They are not delicate eaters and quickly shred the morsels that the trainers offer for tasks achieved.

The second avian star of the show was “Ribbon”, a female who was displayed by the amazing Noel Hyde MNZM. Noel received that honour for services to wildlife conservation and research taxidermy. Ribbon weighs in at about 500 gm, almost half as much again as Arohaki. Foolishly, I went along to the end of the row for a different photographic perspective and next thing I knew was that Ribbon was sitting on my hat. It’s a lightweight fabric hat so I can testify that her claws are very sharp. Not only that, but with a long lens, its impossible to photograph a bird on your own head.

The staff brought the falcons along the row of audience seats and allowed people the opportunity to get really close. Another member of the audience caught the moment with Ribbon on my sitting on my hat as I had done for him with Arohaki on his hat, so we swapped images. I had not intended to include these two, but what the heck, it was all part of the delight in the day.

Mary gets to handle Ribbon (I think)
Ribbon sitting on my head – photo courtesy of Denis Came-Friar
Robo-magpie

The staff at Wingspan take great care for all aspects of each bird’s welfare and ensure that they get appropriate and sufficient exercise. One way they contribute to this is by the use of the “Robocrow” which was invented by the internationally renowned expert in falconry, Dr Nick Fox. Of course we don’t have crows in New Zealand so the wingspan version is dressed as a magpie. Basically it is a simple polystyrene radio controlled model aircraft, powered by an electric ducted fan, or as trainer Heidi says, a “hair dryer”. Here we see Heidi launching the Robo-magpie for Ribbon to chase.

Ribbon defeats the noisy enemy

As soon as Ribbon saw the robo-magpie, she was off. There ensued a vigorous pursuit around the skies above us, with Ribbon getting ever closer, and Heidi trying to evade capture. Ribbon won and Heidi throttled back, whereupon Ribbon took her capture up the hill into the scrub to eat the bait that was strapped to the robot’s back. Heidi and Noel had to trudge quite a way up the hill to retrieve both.

Jarli

Forgive me if I get a bit excited now. Wingspan has acquired an Australian Barn Owl whose name is Jarli. Yes, it is an Australian, but Barn Owls have been breeding here since 2008, and according to the experts at Wingspan, have thereby become our newest “native owl”. The Morepork and the Little Owl are the only other owl species in NZ and even they are not often seen. Isn’t she beautiful?

What did you say?

One of the many things that fascinate me about owls is the flexibility of their necks. If I heard correctly they can rotate through 270ยบ so it should be hard to sneak up on them.

Totally silent flight

Surprisingly (to me), owls are receptive to training in similar fashion to the falcons. Jarli put on quite a show under the guidance of Heidi. In this image, she is launching off the pole that is at the centre of the displays, and on her way to receive a reward for a job well done.

If you are squeamish, I recommend you skip the next two shots. There were a few squeals of horror from other audience members on the day, but dinner was already dead and felt no pain.

We all enjoyed this except the mouse

Apparently Jarli can swallow three or four mice a day, and it was a somewhat gruesome spectacle, even though the mouse was already dead. Well at least it was not struggling. I saw these birds described as hyper-carnivores. Their food in the wild is exclusively of other small birds and animals that they catch and occasionally carrion.

Mmmm… bliss!

I framed this image way too tightly, but couldn’t resist showing it. The expression on the bird’s face is of sublime satisfaction … a bit like me after a dozen Bluff oysters. I am sure that I am guilty of anthropomorphism, and perhaps I just caught her as she blinked. I still think she looks satisfied.

Star

Our final performance was by “Star” under the guidance of the remarkable Debbie Stewart, NZM. Debbie is the Director of Wingspan and a major force in its founding. She received her MNZM “for services to birds of prey and raptor conservation.” Jarli was theoretically the last official performer of the day, but Debbie wanted to give star, a recently acquired bird, some training time, so we got a free extra display.

Star in pursuit mode

No complaints from me. I could watch them all day. Here is Star launching from that same pole in pursuit of a lure being towed across the paddock attached to a winch. I had hoped to see Noel’s Harrier Hawk, Fran fly. Alas, Noel noted that her plumage was not in good condition on the day.

As on my previous two visits, the display was an absolute joy. I can not recommend a visit highly enough.

Pohaturoa

After a pleasant lunch on the shores of Lake Rotorua in perfect weather, we headed back towards Mangakino. I was still buzzing from Wingspan, so no lakeside images.

Like many thousands of motorists every day, we drove past Pohaturoa near Atiamuri. Did you know, as you drove unthinkingly past, that this rock is up to 500,000 years old? Or that there is a long history of fierce inter-tribal battles on the hill from about the year 1400 onwards. Its one of those landmarks that tells an old Tokoroa boy that you are near what once was home.

Pohaturoa again

As we drove beside the river towards Whakamaru, I noticed a different view of Pohaturoa in the mirror, so we paused for the last photograph of the day. And that will do for part II.

The next and final part in this three part series will take us through Benneydale and National Park to Horopito and Raetihi and thence to Whanganui and Home. Perhaps I’ll see you then.

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Adventure adversity Birds Forest Lakes Landscapes Light Mangakino Maungatautari Military mountains Rotorua Seasons Travel Vehicles Volcanic Plateau Waikato

23 May, 2022 … Waikato road trip (part 1)

Travelling to foreign lands is but a distant memory. Even our closest neighbour presents some interesting bureaucratic hurdles these days, and I am hearing people say that going is relatively easy, but coming back can be tricky. Travel insurance is ridiculously expensive now too. The risk being trapped by the bureaucracy of a sudden lock-down due to the pandemic are, for now at least, deterring us from leaving New Zealand.

So, we decided to do a road trip. As long as there are places to walk, Mary tends to defer to my photographic obsession so asked me to choose a location. My somewhat random choice was dictated by the memory of a photograph that I should have taken in 2016 but didn’t.

Any photographer who sees something worth photographing should do it now! Those of us who say “I’ll catch it on the way back”, or “I’ll come back another time” will rarely see the same scene. Do it NOW! At this time of year, it is quite common that mornings on the Waikato river are characterised by no wind and drifting mist. In the hope of finding such conditions, we booked a week in the nearest Airbnb house to that area. And so we begin with the first part of the journey:

Hunterville in Autumn

Monday was wet in Wellington. It was wet all the way up SH1 through Levin, Bulls and Hunterville. Happily, Autumn colours were all the more vivid for being freshly washed. This image is on SH1 as it leaves Hunterville to the North. Mary was driving at this stage, and I was not at all sure that I would get a clear shot through the windscreen between the strokes of the wipers. I think I got lucky.

Following the Army through Taihape

Soon enough, we were at Taihape which claims the title of Gumboot capital of the world. It was once a significant railway town, though trains seem to pass straight through these days. It is a significant business centre for the local farming community, and has a couple of popular cafes used by both locals and long distance travellers. It is not at all uncommon to find yourself behind a convoy of trucks heading through the town towards the Army training base at Waiouru.

Ruapehu dons its cloak

Waiouru is a place of both misery and beauty. Those who have trained in the army base, especially in the winter will understand the misery aspect. The landscape provides all the beauty you could ask for, whatever the weather. Mighty Ruapehu is an active volcano that stands 2,797 metres (9,177 feet) above sea level on the volcanic plateau in the centre of the North Island. As we approached Waiouru, I could see that the mountain was wrapping itself in cloud and would soon disappear from view. A shot from the roadside in a biting breeze caught that cloud rolling over the summit.

Along the Desert Road

The “Desert Road” is the stuff of legends in New Zealand. It runs 63 km from Waiouru in the South, to Turangi in the North. It passes to the East of the mountain, through the Rangipo desert, and to the West of the Kaimanawa Forest through a wild and barren landscape. There are neither sand nor camels in this desert but its very barrenness justifies the description. Regardless of the weather, there is always something to see and appreciate. Even after the clouds blocked off the view of the mountain, I found drama in the march of the power pylons beside the road. Signs warn of army exercises with live ammunition on either side, so stay in your car or risk staring down the barrel of a 25mm cannon on an armoured fighting vehicle. The other feature of the Rangipo desert is its herd of wild horses. Those I have yet to see.

Tragedy on the Desert Road

Though it has some long straight stretches, the Desert Road has some tight and nasty bends that can bring drivers to grief in the wet and icy conditions that are common at this elevation. If you look a little to the right of the second black and yellow sign, you will see the wreck of a car that has departed from the road at speed and embedded itself in the bank. I have no information as to the fate of its occupants.

Maraetail Mist

Mangakino as it is today has its origins in the mid-late 40s as a dormitory town for the workers who were engaged in the construction of the hydro dams on the Waikato. The houses are modest but sufficient, and the one we rented for the week was very well equipped. Mary loved lighting the fire each day and using the copious supply of firewood included in the rental.

Mangakino is on the shore of the Waikato River where it becomes Lake Maraetai which provides the energy for the two power stations at the nearby Maraetai dam. When I booked the accommodation, I jokingly asked our host to arrange a week of no wind and some river mist. Well goodness gracious, she pulled it off!

Regrettably I suffered a calamity here when I dropped my Olympus camera and wrecked the mounting plate of my favourite lens. As if my insurers did not already hate me.

Dunham Reserve on Lake Whakamaru

Almost as if I anticipated the disaster, I had packed my two venerable Canon cameras (the 5DII and the 7D) so all images for the remainder of the trip were made on these huge, heavy, but still optically excellent cameras.

Anyway, back to the trip. If you are unfamiliar with the geography of the Waikato River, there are a series of hydro dams each of which creates a lake on the river. Coming downstream from Lake Taupo, they are in turn, Aratiatia, Ohakuri, Atiamuri, Whakamaru, Maraetai I and II (both on the same dam), Waipapa, Arapuni and Karapiro.

About halfway between Atiamuri and Whakamaru, there is a beautiful spot on the river called Dunham’s Reserve. This was the place that I failed to shoot back in 2016. Regrettably, on this trip, I didn’t find anything like the beautiful conditions of that earlier opportunity. Nevertheless, the river produced a scene worthy of photographing in its own right. I believe the lily pads are regarded as a pest to the hydro dams and were due to be sprayed with weed killer from the air.

Autumn tones at Dunham Reserve

As already observed, the colours of Autumn were still lingering and this clearing on the Dunham Reserve was a delight to me.

Stillness and River mist at Mangakino

The next day offered those lovely misty conditions on the river, so I went down to the Mangakino Lakefront Reserve where I took pleasure in the stillness of the water on the lake, and mystery provided by the mist. Bear in mind that this apparently still body of water is part of a river system with a mean flow rate of 340 Cumecs (12,000 cubic ft/sec)

River scene

The same morning, from a little further round the reserve edge, I found another view looking downstream towards the Maraetai dams. These are the conditions I came for.

Pastoral scene in the South Waikato

Later the same day, we drove North along the river to the stunning Maungatautiri Mountain Reserve. The South Waikato region offers some delightful scenery that ranges from heavy pine forests to soft rolling pastoral land. The reserve itself is a 3,400 hectare wildlife sanctuary on the Maungatautiri Mountain with a 47 km pest-proof perimeter fence. Within are a wonderland of native bush laced with many delightful walking tracks from which to observe the magnificent bush and the variety of birdlife.

Friendly visitor

I am less agile than I used to be and set out on the so-called Rata-trail with a view to going part of the way and then returning to the entry. The canopy is quite dark, and I struggled to catch the fast moving bird-life flitting about. Fortunately, the little North Island Robin (Toutouwai, or Petroica longipes) is not shy, and will fly around your feet chasing the insects you disturb as you walk. Many a photographer has been trapped with the bird sitting on his or her boots while having a telephoto lens that just won’t focus that close. Foolishly, I went further round the trail than I intended, and soon it seemed better to complete the loop walk than to turn back.

So that’s the end of the first part of this three-part road-trip narrative. If you like what I do, please come back soon for a trip to the amazing, the stunning, the magnificent Wingspan Bird of Prey Centre.

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Adventure Animals Bees Birds Cape Palliser flowers Lakes Landscapes Lowry Bay Machinery Pauatahanui Wairarapa

March 1, 2022 … diversion from the serious stuff

An old joke asks “what am I doing in this hand basket, and where am I going?” Recent world and local events seem to reflect this theme. I lack the kind of spirit that might cause me to be personally involved, other than expressing my opinion. (Putin is a war criminal and the local anti-mandate protest movement is based on culpable disinformation.) And so I divert myself by seeking the beauty around me. Mostly, I find it in small scale things. For sure, New Zealand has a lot of beauty on a grand scale, but this is not the time to be travelling and among crowds of people. In recent times, the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi has appealed to me. Crudely summarised, it seeks beauty in imperfection. Imperfection is a specialty of mine ๐Ÿ™‚

Word of Mouth

Out in the Pauatahanui inlet there is a resident flock of royal spoonbills. They are wabi-sabi personified. While its cousin the white heron is undeniably beautiful, the spoonie wears a clown costume. The grotesque bill is efficient at dredging the mud for food, but makes it hard for me to take them seriously. Watching a pair squabbling is akin to seeing two people engaged in a duel using salad servers.

Black Swans

Near the yacht club at Foxton Beach, Mary and I were enjoying a picnic lunch on the stop bank when a flight of black swans came over low and slow. I grabbed my camera and lined them up but even so, they were past me when I finally got them in the viewfinder and in focus. If you thought the black swans were all black, then this shows otherwise.

Bumble bee with sweet pea

There was a clump of sweet peas beside the lookout platform at Foxton Beach. It was being visited by a number of bumble bees. To my surprise, they were not all of the common black and yellow bumble bee variety (Bombus terrestris). There were several others and various expert groups have suggested that the strangers were the large garden bumble bee (Bombus ruderatus). This is narrower, and is more black and white than my old familiar friend.

Wairarapa Moana

It is a rare visit to Featherston that I don’t divert down Murphy’s Line to the Lake Domain Reserve. I am often disappointed. On this occasion, the lake was perfect, and reflected the silvery blue clouds beautifully. The rusting steel piles of the old Hansell’s jetty make a delightful focal point for the photographer. Yes, I have made similar shots before, but I take joy in beauty no matter how often I encounter it.

Chicory

The lovely blue chicory flower seems to spread along the roadside grasses of the back country roads in the South Wairarapa. How does it get distributed? I assume that somehow the slipstream of passing vehicles is involved in the spreading of the seeds.

Lowry Bay in the mist

Misty weather is always interesting to me, and I always imagine a more romantic picture than the one I capture on the day. One day I shall get the picture that I envisaged when I pressed the shutter.

Waves of bark

Wabi-sabi means different things to different people. For some, it involves simplicity and beauty, akin to minimalism. Other interpretations include age and decay, and the deliberate inclusion of imperfection. I thought I saw elements of it in this sheet of fallen bark that Mary brought home for me.

Reading

There was a time when I went to the city library every two weeks and would take home a bag of eight or ten adventure novels. If I finished them all before the fortnight was up, I would refresh my stash ahead of time. Now I find I lack the necessary attention span to deal with books at that rate. Instead I load books into the Kindle app on my iPad/iPhones and read my preferred styles of adventure as and when the mood takes me. I can divert to YouTube if I wish, and go back to Kindle when I am ready to resume.

Newtown barber

As I walked the streets of Newtown, I passed the open door of a traditional men’s barber shop. I think the barbers are of middle Eastern origins, judging by the posters with Arabic script on the walls. Whatever, the shop was immaculate and attractively presented. I walked on by and then thought, if I don’t ask, how can he say yes? So I went back, scanned the QR code at the door and went in. I asked permission to shoot from the door. Both he and his client consented and here we are.

Old style greengrocer

Newton is a place of magical diversity. As well as the middle Eastern barbers, there are specialist shops and restaurants from many different countries. In the few shops nearest me in this image we have a Mexican restaurant, Mr Bun (a Chinese-owned bakery and coffee shop, a Halal butcher, a (Japanese) sushi shop, and the ever colourful Jimmy’s Fruitmart. Jimmy’s is an old school greengrocer that, as well as the fruit and vegetables with which I am familiar, sells many interesting items that are welcomed by the people of the varied ethnicities that make Newtown so special.

The graveyard

I always suggest that Ngawi, on the South Wairarapa coast is where the bulldozers of the world come to die. Despite their decrepitude, almost all of the bulldozers on this beach are hitched by a very long drawbar to a large steel trailer, crudely welded out of girder stock and on large rubber tyres. These trailers are backed down the steep shingle beach into the sea to launch and retrieve the owner’s fishing vessel. No matter how rusty and run-down these tractors, they all seem to fire up on demand and trundle down to the sea. When it finally dies, it is replaced soon enough by another of similar condition.

The iconic OLB

The most common truck of my childhood years was the Bedford OLB. I have an affection for them, though now they are either beautifully restored by enthusiasts, or else quietly rotting in rural situations. In their prime, they looked just how I thought a truck should look. This old girl is near the bulldozers in Ngawi and is slowly being absorbed by the trees growing up around and through it.

New Zealand Fur Seal pup

If you drove the 120 or so km from Lower Hutt to Ngawi, then it would not be sensible to not drive the extra 5km to visit the New Zealand fur seals nursery at Cape Palliser. There is a sheltered pool among the vicious rocks where the new season’s pups frolic and splash. They are a joy to watch if you can get close to them. The limiting factor is the protective mothers. Mostly they snooze in the lee of the rocks, but if you come between them and the sea, or worse, between them and their pup, expect trouble. A large boulder with halitosis and big teeth suddenly turns into a raging matriarch, and you had better run. This wee pup is probably a few weeks old and is curious about the guy with the camera.

Mother and child

This pup scuttled to its mother’s side when I got too close (sorry, pup!) Mother was a bit irritated to have her siesta disturbed, but make no mistake she was aware of my presence and swift action might have followed had I got closer.

Thanks for visiting. I always appreciate any constructive feedback.

Categories
Adventure adversity Architecture Birds Boggy Pond Family Hokio Beach Lower Hutt Otaki Plant life Rivers Waikanae Wairarapa Weather Wellington

December 28, 2021 … what lies ahead?

Another year reaches a conclusion, and what a year it has been for the world, and for our country, for my family and for me. Despite the fact that I try to live with hope in my heart, I look forward to 2022 with trepidation. On the personal front, I seem to crumbling at the edges. As well as the cataract, I have now been fitted with hearing aids, and hope to become accustomed to them. Then, following some sort of event that resulted in double vision, vertigo and nausea (unconnected with the cataract procedure), I ended up in hospital for a couple of nights undergoing a CT scan and MRI. No clear causes identified, but nothing sinister found. And thank heavens for free public health care which was superb for me. Nevertheless, with the vertigo and visual disturbances, my doctors say I am not permitted to drive for four weeks. Grrr.

Christmas has passed and family is scattered in Melbourne, Brisbane, Queenstown and Gisborne. Happily youngest son Anthony,, his wife Sarah and our lovely grandkids Maggie and Jack are at home nearby, so we spent some of our Christmas with them. OK, enough with the babble, what images did I get this round?

Black fronted dotterel

Fine days have been rare in recent times, so when one occurs, I select from one of my preferred locations. On this occasion , it was Hokio Beach (again). Since the whitebait season is ended, it was peaceful with no whitebaiters to deter the bird life. In fact, we had the beach entirely to ourselves. Mary went for a walk along the beach to the South while I lay back on the water’s edge and waited. In just a few minutes, I was blessed with a visit from one of my favourite birds, the black-fronted dotterel. These tiny creatures move very quickly and their legs are almost invisible in motion. They appear to hover across the sand and water. Just beautiful.

Also present at Hokio were the bar-tailed godwits, champions of long distance flight. They fly to tidal estuaries in New Zealand from Western Alaska in epic non-stop flights lasting 8 to 9 days. Barring the great albatrosses, they are the olympic athletes of the bird world. And they are handsome birds, aren’t they?

Feed me mama!

It was a great trip. Dotterels, godwits and even dabchicks. In this visit, the chicks have grown too big to be carried around on the parent’s back any longer. In fact they seem even bigger than the parents now, Nevertheless, they are still dependent on the parents for food. As always, the water in the Wetlands at Queen Elizabeth Park is reasonably sheltered and echoes the deep green of the surrounding bush.

Californian Quail

On another damp but windless day, Mary drove me up to the regional waterworks at Kaitoke. I was delighted to spot a small cluster of female Californian quails browsing in the lawns there beside the road. The males are more spectacular, I suppose, but the females as seen here are beautiful in their own way.

Stick insect

Stick insects are always problematic for me. They are interesting but very hard to make an attractive image with. They seem to need a context, so in this case it was moving slowly among the flax and lavender at the back door. It’s the first time I have seen a stick insect with a face.

Gold

It drives me nuts that, every year, the mainstream media are surprised to discover the existence of Metrosideros excelsa aurea. Breathless headlines about “rare yellow pohutukawa” appear without regard that they used the same story last year and the one before that. To be fair, I probably make the same complaint about them each year too. The yellow variety is definitely less common than the more familia crimson variety, but I think they are far from rare. There are plenty of very fine yellow specimens in the Wellington region.

Coat of many colours

This little Hebe moth is, like many others quite spectacular when up close. Mary drew it to my attention on our stairwell, so I switched to my trusty macro lens and got really close. Do click on the image to see it in the larger version. It reminds me of some of the more spectacular weaving that I have seen, though I think it would be a talented weaver indeed who could produce work as beautiful as this.

Rata in the rain at Kaitoke

Like the pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) , the rata (Metrosideros robusta) is a member of the myrtle family and of the genus metrosideros. The flowers are, to my eye, indistinguishable from those of the pohutukawa. If you get close, the leaves of the pohutukawa are larger and a darker green, and have small hairs on the underside. Rata leaves are smaller, glossy on both sides and have a notch on the tip. A good friend alerted me to the spectacular colours of the rata trees in bloom in the rain up at Kaitoke. He was right.

Waterloo railway Station, Lower Hutt

Most people think of somewhere else when Waterloo Station is mentioned. Our local version would probably fit in the cafeteria of the other one. Nevertheless, it is a locally important interchange between the Upper Hutt/Wairarapa railway line and the Hutt Valley bus services. The wind-shelters in the station are an interesting and necessary feature. As I said before, I am not permitted to drive until early January so I decided to use public transport and roam around the region by train and bus for the day.

Wellington commuter traffic

On arrival at Wellington railway station, I made this image. It occurred to me that not much has changed since the first time I passed through here in February 1954. Well, there are no steam locomotives, and the electric units have advanced through two generations. And then there are the face masks, and the cell phones. And the women wear trousers and the men don’t wear hats. No-one is smoking. Apart from that, nothing much is different

Top deck

Part of my day wandering the region by public transport was to take a trip from the railway station to Island Bay by double-decker bus. Like the schoolboy I sometimes am, I grabbed the front row seat on the top deck, and enjoyed the different perspective from up there. A feature of the city at this time of year is the proliferation of pohutukawa trees in magnificent bloom. This specimen is about midway along Kent Terrace.

Back to the station

On my return from the Southern suburbs, I decided to take the train out to Upper Hutt and thence back to Petone Station from where I would catch a bus back up the hill to home. This was all for the pleasure of riding the rails and seeing our city from different points of view. I paused for a pizza lunch in the station before heading North. Since I wasn’t driving, a glass of Pinhead Supercharger IPA helped that go down.

Once was a high school

Through the train windowI was intrigued by the extent of the “Bob Scott Retirement Village”. This was built on the site which was once Hutt Valley Memorial College and before that Petone Technical College. In its latter days as it was rotting, graffitied and increasingly vandalised, it suffered an arson attack and was totally destroyed. It has taken several years but the retirement village that stands in its place is now complete. Despite its somewhat forbidding appearance, I know many people who enjoy living there, and liken it to living on a cruise liner. I am happy for them, but the lifestyle does not appeal to me.

A favourite corner

I am very blessed that Mary works so hard to compensate for my driving prohibition and she made a picnic lunch and drove us over the hill to Lake Wairarapa. We also visited Boggy Pond and had our lunch on the shores of Lake Onoke at Lake Ferry.

Time was when the trip over the hill was a long and arduous journey, especially with kids in the car. Now you wonder why it was such a big deal back then. Heck there was even a greasy spoon cafe at the summit to break the journey. Obviously the places have not got closer together, but modern cars are more powerful, more comfortable and more reliable. The journey from Te Marua to Featherston is a mere 25 minutes. My favourite spot is a corner just to the North of bridge number 6 where there is a bank of trees down a steep ridge. There is no footpath and no safe space to stop to get my desired view. This shot is not what I desired. I should have waited until we got to where that next car ahead is, but it will do as a grab shot. As a passenger I can stick the camera out the window and point it in the right direction.

That is my last blog post for the year. I hope the festive season treated you kindly and you all had a great time. For any who are locked down or constrained by Covid, my sympathies. I look forward to your company in 2022. I enjoyed a cartoon I saw (but can’t find) which depicts the occupiers of 2021 cowering behind a corner in a dark corridor, reaching out tentatively with a very long pole to nudge open the door to 2022. I would like to hope for a much better year than this has been for the world, and I wish all the very best for the new year to all those who share my journey in this blog. Thank you for being with me and for the kind words from so many of you.

Categories
Adventure Arachnids Birds Butterflies insects Lakes Landscapes Light Moon night Plant life

November 29, 2021 … with new eyes

That’s a fairly heavy handed reference to my cataract operation scheduled for later today, for which I have high hopes. So, for now, let’s see whether my metaphorical new eyes are making progress:

Improve each thing hour … (Isaac Watts)

Wellington’s Botanic Garden is always worth a visit in my opinion. Some seasons are more spectacular than others, but there is always something to see. I was too late for the tulips, but a few prolific Rock Rose shrubs were displaying nicely. and were attracting the Honey bees.

Primulaceae

There are seasons of the year when certain flowers have dominance. I love it when there are tulips or poppies for example. At other times, there are random displays of less spectacular species such as a cluster of primulas just above the duckpond. This particular bed of flowers contained a lovely variety of colours arranged in small geometric clusters.

Upstream

Just a little upstream from the duckpond, the creek runs between some stepping stones and the creates little rippling ladder of water which, to paraphrase the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson, sparkles out among the fern and bickers down a valley.

Love’s Labours Lost

Beside the steps to our front door, there is a collection of shrubs most dominant of which is the kowhai much loved by the kereru. As I get older, I find my gaze is directed downwards more. This is a self-defence mechanism to avoid trip hazards. It has the advantage that I spot treasures that, in the arrogance of my youth, I would have passed by. I have no clue which bird lost this egg, nor whether its loss was by accident or enemy action. However it came about this is as I found it under the kowhai shrub.

I’m called Little Buttercup

The weather has prevented lawn mowing for a week or two and consequently our lawn is rich with a splendid crop of buttercups and daisies. I am so glad that the American notion of the Home Owners’ Association (HOA) has never been a thing here. Buttercups have always presented a photographic challenge to me. I suspect this might be overcome by the use of a polarising filter to tame the reflections in the flowers. On this occasion I managed to get the surface of the petals reasonably exposed without the aid of the filters. I was a bit surprised after all these years on the planet, to learn that they are poisonous to humans and many animals.

Your best guess?

Many people wondered why I made pictures of new potatoes. If it helps, these little objects are about 1mm x 1.5mm x 2mm and in this case are firmly stuck to the painted surface at the top of a bedroom door. With no idea of what I was looking at, I posted this image to the FaceBook group, “NZ Bug Identification – Spiders, Insects etc”. Within minutes someone said those are the eggs of a Gum Emperor Moth. We have no gum trees nearby so I was baffled. We reasoned that if a gum emperor had laid them, it would be still in the room somewhere, so we started a more thorough search. Mary found it on a window sill

Gum Emperor Moth (female)

The Gum Emperor is among the most spectacular of the New Zealand Moths. This was a moderate example with a span of about 120 mm (about 4.75″). She was absolutely flawless, Like many moths she emerges with neither mouth parts nor waste disposal. Her sole function is to mate, lay eggs and then die. Sadly she found no male so the eggs duly withered and died and a few days later, so did she.

The source

We wondered where our Gum Emperor moth had come from , and the penny finally dropped. Mary had found a fallen eucalyptus branch which had a cocoon on it, and she thought I might wish to photograph it. I had forgotten about it, and in the meantime, the moth had emerged, laid eggs and died. Nature is so extravagant.

Treasure Flower

The wind was howling across the valley and I was waiting outside the War Memorial Library in Lower Hutt for Mary to collect a reserved book. This flower caught my eye and when I found an example that was in a relatively sheltered spot, set up to make the picture. I had no idea what it was, but should not have been surprised that it is yet another South African immigrant. It is Gizania riggers, or more commonly, Treasure flower.

Australian Shoveler

I need scarcely tell you that a favourite place is the wetlands at Queen Elizabeth Park near Paekakariki. I had been looking for the dabchick carrying its young on its back. I was unsuccessful on this particular day, but did catch this handsome Australian shoveler drake. Look at the length of that extraordinary bill.

Welcome Swallow

This image has a comic back story. Again I went to the bird hide at the Queen Elizabeth park wetlands. Although the door is normally closed with heavy magnetic catch, I couldn’t get in. I administered a hefty kick which should have opened it. It didn’t. Then a voice from inside asked me to wait a moment. There were sounds of hasty rearrangements followed by the bench being dragged away from the door. A few moments later an embarrassed young couple emerged red-faced and made themselves scarce. I felt guilty that I had interrupted them, but it gave me access to this view of the Welcome swallow which is beautifully coloured.

Ripples

The longest arm of the wetlands is surrounded by dense bush and when the water is relatively still, it reflects the green of the bush beautifully. This black shag cruised rapidly across and completed the picture for me. The closely spaced ripples made a beautiful background of black and green.

Parental duty

Then came the sight I hoped to see. The dabchick or weweia is a member of the grebe family. It is apparently rarely found in the South Island. Despite the glossy brown colours of the adult, the chicks are born with dark stripes on a white background. They are carried about in the plumage on the adult’s back until they get too big

Manuka

A visit to the home of daughter Lena and son-in-law Vasely let me see a beautiful manuka specimen. The intensity of the colour attracted me to make the image

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A small pine in the pot next to the manuka had what appeared to be prolific flowers. Closer inspection identified them as tin seed cones.

Before the eclipse

Last week there was the partial eclipse. We got lucky with relatively clear skies over the Hutt Valley. Early in the evening, the red moon rose in the North East and I made this image. Perhaps because I don’t have the very high quality optics and thus rarely do one of those amazing moon shots, I always like to capture some foreground. In this case we can see both sides of Stokes Valley and in the background, the foothills of the Tararuas. Later in the evening when the eclipse proper occurred, the moon was higher in the sky and was obscured by clouds at our place.

That’s all for now. Might see you again in a few weeks.

Categories
Adventure Animals Architecture Art Castlepoint flowers History Lakes Landscapes Light Moon night Reflections Rivers sunrise

October 2, 2021 …just enjoy the process

Why, is the recurring question. Why do I persist in creating this blog, even when others are declaring that the age of the blog has passed?

I am not musical, but I think I have the heart of a troubadour, or perhaps like Gilbert and Sullivan’s Nankipoo, I might be a wandering minstrel. My aim is to be a story teller. Some do it in song, some in poetry. My chosen style is in a mix of prose and pictures. My principal aim is to take pleasure in making the pictures and using them to tell the story

Botanic Garden, Wellington

I went to the Botanic Garden in hope of tulips. There were some tulips, though fewer than usual and less well presented. Happily, the surrounding gardens possessed a glory of their own. The bands of colour, the shape and splendour of the trees and even the sculpture all give me pleasure.

Gladstone derelict

In my judgement, the back road from Martinborough to Masterton through Gladstone offers some of the most beautiful pastoral landscapes you will find anywhere. And tucked away, here and there, are a few much loved relics of earlier times that are slowly dissolving into the landscape. This old house near Gladstone is one that few photographers will pass by without a pause to make yet another picture. Of course it is a cliche, but I don’t accept that beauty is diminished by multiple viewing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mary had been gifted a voucher for a two night stay at an historic cottage in rural Wairarapa. India Cottage is situated between Castlepoint 40 km to the NE and Riversdale 22 km to the SE. It is part of the ICA station from which the Whareama Coastal Walkway is managed. We had little idea of what to expect, and were surprised and delighted by the beauty of the place. Water is a significant problem throughout the Wairarapa so the estate has a storage pond surrounded by reeds. Someone introduced the Australian green and golden bell frog. so the visual beauty was enhanced by the unceasing chorus from the frogs. Magic!

Oaks

Pioneering farmers had little regard for our native trees and yearned for the beauty of the great trees of their various homelands. And so it comes about that we have stands of magnificent oaks and other deciduous aliens. They are indeed beautiful trees. but so are the natives of this land which were cleared to make way for them.

Perfect stillness

If you have been with me for a while, you will know that morning and I are usually strangers. Here in deepest Wairarapa, with no Internet access, I woke early. No sound save the froggy chorus and the bawling of occasional cattle in the distance. No wind, and no clouds. I arose early and took my camera and tripod outside and caught the sun peering through the trees at the end of the pond.

A fine specimen

Another of those exotic trees … I didn’t pause to identify it but didn’t think it to be an oak. With the sun behind it I thought it made a nice image.

Breakfast

Over the fence, a classic pastoral scene as the sheep munch steadily on the dew-soaked grass. Rim-lit by the rising sun, I thought these were the quintessential “gilt-edged investment”.

Day 1 of Daylight Saving

Our last evening at India House coincided with New Zealand’s annual shift to daylight saving. Since the clock went forward, I expected to wake an hour later than usual. Perversely, I woke almost an hour earlier by the clock than usual. A still starlit morning prompted me to get dressed and tip-toe outside, being as quiet as possible. As you can see this long (56 seconds) exposure was illuminated by the stars and a bright moon. No artificial light. And you know it is still when an exposure this long shows no disturbance in the reflections. I returned to the cottage and Mary asked why I made so much noise when I went out!

Crux

The same scene from a different angle catches the Southern Cross, the much loved constellation emblematic of the Southern hemisphere. With the exception of my bedroom window all light in this image comes from the moon. In case you are unfamiliar with it, the cross in in the upper left quadrant of the picture. The head is down and to the left, and the foot is top right. The pointer Beta Centauri is sending its light 391.4 light years from just above the edge of that cloud.

Pink rock orchid

Back home after a delightful break, the weather forced me indoors. I placed a tiny orchid in my light box. Multiple flowers on a single stem are a bit of a challenge. It is conventional wisdom amongst those who enter competitions, that simple flower images rarely do well. I am getting away from the competition mindset, and the question is did I have fun making it, and does the finished product please me. The answer is yes and yes.

Wind

Wellingtonians are the butt of much joking about the city’s notoriously windy climate. It’s not easy to photograph wind. The best you can hope for is to catch things being moved about by the wind. Waves and trees, birds and rain are all possibilities. These reeds at the boat ramp in Lowry Bay seemed worth a try and another opportunity to use the neutral density filter. I put the camera on its tripod inside the car, and opened the downwind passenger window. Thus, the camera and tripod were not buffeted by the gusting wind. I love the texture of the windblown clumps of reed.

Customhouse Quay

Wellington’s skyline changes at a relatively slow pace. The last time I visited Melbourne, there must have been at least twenty tower cranes each presiding over a new high rise building site. Wellington has three or four. Of course, Melbourne has a population of 5 million compared with 417,000. This view along Customhouse Quay looking South shows the crane on the site of the new BNZ headquarters being built to replace the one destroyed by the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake.

They take a bottle

The nearer (yellow) crane is on the waterfront across the road from the red one on the BNZ site. This one is assisting a generic office building which will be available for lease. The answer to the unspoken question most people have in respect of the people who operate these machines in solitary splendour is that they have a bottle. I guess that their privacy could be compromised by people with long lenses.

And that’s another edition. I think I am coming to terms with the idea that I can make images for the pure joy of participating in the process. I don’t have to meet anyone else’s expectation. Of course I share them with you in the hope that you will take pleasure in what you see. Until next time.

Categories
Adventure adversity Airport Aviation Birds Family flowers harbour Landscapes Light Maritime Oriental Bay Pauatahanui Rongotai

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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Academic Adventure Arachnids Architecture flowers Food Moon Upper Hutt

June 8, 2021 … winter approaches

Various health issues delayed this edition. Ah well, so be it.

Pikelets

There are many varieties of pancakes and flapjacks around the world. In New Zealand, we call these little things pikelets. They are typically 4″ or 10 cm in diameter and are commonly served with cream and jam. Mary is an expert at making them. It was a drab day in May so I caught some in the process of being made. I caught them even more effectively on a plate later.

Mystery Webmaster

There are gaps in the hedge outside our kitchen window and occasionally the local spiders accept that as a challenge. Here in the Southern hemisphere, North-facing windows catch the morning sun which lights up these amazing structures. Unfortunately the webs bounce vigorously in the lightest of breezes, so I have had to get lucky to capture the silk in focus and not blurred.

different ages

Juxtaposition is an ugly word which simply means placed close together. Usually we use it to suggest that the placement is incongruous … oops … there I go again. St Mary of the Angels on Boulcott St in Wellington sits peacefully across the road from the city’s tallest building, the Majestic Centre. I find each building interesting in its own way, with wildly different textures.

Common Dandelion

“,,, and Heaven in a wild flower” said William Blake. The architects of those two buildings in the preceding image were pretty clever, but in my mind, their designs are not in the same league as the exquisite structure of this simple blossom which we dare to call a weed.

A gift to mother

Mothers’ day came and youngest son delivered a bowl of tulip bulbs with six flowers just starting to break out. Mary (and I) enjoyed watching the flowers emerge into full bloom over the following week or so. Each day they offered a new vision.

Water Lily

When the weather is unkind to photographers, I sometimes revisit the begonia house in the Lady Norwood Rose Garden in Wellington. I especially enjoy the carp pond in the Western room. It has some beautiful water lilies which allow unfettered access with little or no background clutter.

Mood

I wasn’t paying attention, but Mary said come and look at the light out here. Wow! It was spectacular and I am glad she was such a great picture-scout.

Scots College Pipe Band

I was on my way to have lunch with former colleagues from the Dairy Board days and walked past the gates of the law school. Another burst of nostalgia as I saw all the shiny new graduates, several hundred of them in their academic regalia. They were about to set off on the graduation march along Lambton Quay and Willis Street and then to the civic square where speeches would be made prior to the formal graduation ceremonies. Scots College Pipe Band has long provided the music for the march. I participated in those marches at least a dozen times, maybe more.

Lingering

Those Mothers Day tulips lingered on and on and were things of beauty for at least ten days. This image was made on their last day.

Sad site for a beautiful sight

One of the difficulties I occasionally face is persuading people that I rarely “go somewhere to take pictures”. Rather, I travel and hope that my travels put me in a position to see a picture. The picture may be found somewhere on the way or perhaps somewhere off the track. The maps of the two journeys are quite different. One is obviously purposeful and less likely to be productive. The other is obviously random and might or might not produce something useful. I can well understand that being a travel companion on such journeys is not necessarily pleasurable. One such wandering took me to the vicinity of the Remutaka Prison where suddenly, there was an intense rainbow.

Upper Hutt Autumn

There are those who say that Winter begins on 1 June. I work on the theory that the solstice marks mid-Winter and thus winter starts around the 7 May. Whichever appeals to you, the colours of Autumn seem to linger on in Te Haukaretu Park in Upper Hutt. It sits in a corner where the Hutt River swings round to the south at Maoribank, and is sheltered from the wind in all directions.

Winter in Silverstream

Perhaps because it is exposed to the vicious NorWesters off the mountains to the North, Silverstream surrenders to Winter more quickly than that sheltered park in Upper Hutt. These three trees newly bare, caught my attention.

Super Moon just before the eclipse
Super moon half-way through the eclipse

Like almost everyone who owns a camera, I tried for the recent eclipse. I didn’t do well, and to be honest, by reason of distance and parallax, I tend to believe that every moon picture is the same as every other moon picture. The only difference is how well you focus and whether you get the exposure right. After that whatever you get in the foreground makes a difference. I talked myself out of persisting for the remainder of the eclipse, and felt justified by the many thousands of identical moon shots on social media the next day. Bah, humbug! By the way, I know it was a blood moon, but these are full colour images and I chose not to enhance the colour as so many did

The surgery I referred to in the previous edition snow in the past, and the dramatic scars that were with me then are now comparatively faded, and life is almost back to normal. Thanks to those who sent good wishes.