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24 August, 2022 … mostly birds and botanicals

I can’t recall a more miserable winter than this one. Not in the sense of a Northern hemisphere snowy winter. Rather, it has been a season of persistent rain and sustained strong wind. Not a season to encourage much in the way of landscape photography in my opinion. And so it has been that I have made fewer images, and that the images were constrained by the subjects available, and by the often unkindly light of bleak wet winter’s days.

Apart from that, I somehow let time slip by, so I have accumulated a few more images than usual.

Little black shags getting ready for a hunting foray

The little black shag intrigues me. As far as I know, it is is the only shag that hunts in packs. All of the others are solitary hunters.

The flock in pursuit of a shoal of fish

It fascinates me to watch the flock herding a shoal of fish into the shallows where they can feast on the fish which have no escape route.

Winter weather in Island Bay

I mentioned the winter weather. One aspect of it that I rather like is the Southerly swells. Big slow moving waves with long intervals between each crest are so impressive. This is at the Western end of Island Bay.

Weight of water

Huge swells (by local standards) seem to glide almost silently towards the coast. Of course, the wind is shrieking but that seems separate from the water.

Welcome swallow

We’ve met this guy or one of his relatives before. For whatever reason, the wetlands at Queen Elizabeth Park have not had the usual variety of bird life. No coots or dabchicks have been seen in my recent visits. It’s a really tough day when there are no Welcome swallows. The flax branch just outside the bird hide is a favourite resting spot for them, and if I am lucky, it is open to the occasional shaft of light.

Tui in the rain

The tui was named Parson bird by early colonists because the white throat tufts have the look of a clerical collar. It is a member of the honeyeater family. Many people tend to think that its plumage is dark, almost black. If you catch it in the light, however, you find that its coat is an iridescent blend of blues and greens, brown and white. It seems to be increasing in numbers over recent years and that brings me joy, despite its bullying behaviour towards the smaller passerines.

Hard to keep the lens dry in such squalls

Somedays it sucks and then it blows. Though it’s warmer than the Southerlies, the Northerly wind can produce miserable conditions. Here we are in Evans Bay as the strong Northerly squalls rip the top off waves on Wellington Harbour.

Tui tries exotic foodMana

Another tui shot, with the clerical collar in full view. As I said above, it is a honey eater, and likes any source of nectar. I was surprised to see this one slurping on a banana that Mary had placed there for the waxes.

Mana marina

One of my struggles is to find different ways of looking at the broad scenes in front of me. In this case, I was at the Mana Marina. Normally I would choose a wider angle that reveals more of the boats, but on this occasion I liked the pattern or texture of all the boat bows nosed into the marina gangway.

Flowering cherry appeals to the tui

I promise this is the last tui in this edition. Spring is with us next week, but some of the flowers are ahead of the officially approved timetable. As I said, this is a nectar feeder so the sudden outbreak of new flowers is a delight to it.

The answer is always on the web

I think I have done this before. The bird hide at Queen Elizabeth park is not always productive, and I fill in time by making images of the spider webs around the view ports. I suppose the existence of the webs suggests that not much photography has happed here in recent days.

Pride of Madeira

There are some cliffs near the Seaview Marina, and as I was driving past, I spotted a beautiful splash of deep blue. Later investigation identified it as a member of the borage family called Pride of Madeira (Echium fastuosum) . Anyway, I snaffled a single bloom and photographed it in my dark box and quite liked it.

Sea shells from the sea shore

Wet windy weather persisted. Mary had braved the weather to walk Petone beach and she found some shells. OK, still life is good practice. I have no idea which particular mollusc this is but I liked the translucence.

Nuts

More still life – guess what the weather was doing. These walnuts have sat in the bowl for several months now.

Graffiti colours

I despise most forms of graffiti, especially the ones that are the equivalent of a dog marking its territory. Now and then, the colour choices catch my eye, as in this case in Lyall Bay.

Beautifully flat landing

I was eating my lunch in my car on the corner of Lyall Bay near the airport when this Pilatus PC12 approached the South end of the runway. It’s not a great shot of this fine little 9 seat aircraft, but I paid attention because it was making the perfect three-point landing without the usual nose-high flare more commonly seen. OK, so I’m a nerd.

More graffiti … I wonder how much this paint cost

More graffiti. This example is on one of the water reservoirs at the top of the Haywards Hill. If I had my way, the manufacturers and distributors of spray cans would be taxed annually based on the estimated square footage of external private property that is covered in their product. That includes every rail wagon and every wall defaced.

Elizabeth St, Mt Victoria

I don’t often look at Wellington from the East. This is from Elizabeth Street on the lower slopes of Mt Victoria. Those who know the city will recognise the Hunter building at Victoria University across the valley.


Pou Whenua

Further up Mt Victoria, near the summit lookout, is this fine pou whenua. I suppose a pou whenua is roughly equivalent to a totem pole. It is a statement of heritage by the tangata whenua (the people of the land).

Central city

Somehow, I find panoramic images are rarely satisfying, yet I keep attempting to make them. This one is a stitch of eight or nine images. I knew something was different in this one and struggled to identify it. It was only as I was checking that the stitching between images had worked that I realised there was no scaffolding on the Post Office headquarters building (extreme right). Scaffolding has surrounded this building since before I retired in 2011. Apparently apart from many other issues, this has involved asbestos remediation.

And so ends another edition. Sorry for the long gap this time. The weeks slip by ever faster. If you want your copy emailed, please subscribe below

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March 18, 2022 … peaks and troughs or vice versa.

It’s hard to categorise the images gathered for this edition. I like some. Others not so much. Nevertheless, these are what I regard as my best shots since I last posted.

I urge you to click on each image to see the a larger version of the picture.

At Dolly Varden Beach

In the South West corner of the Pauatahanui Inlet, is Ivey Bay and Dolly Varden Beach. It is a sheltered area popular for swimming with children. On this occasion I liked it because the still water reflected the blue doors of the boat sheds so well.

Craftsmanship

The bird hide at Queen Elizabeth Park wetlands has some hatches that swing up to give a clear view over the water. Despite the high usage of the hides, I can guarantee that the industrious spiders have almost always used the frames to spin their webs since the last visitor. Normally, if there had been birds to see I would have cleared the openings, but on this occasion, I chose to photograph the web itself. The randomness of the web fits nicely with that whole wabi-sabi thing I mentioned last time

Fresh water drill

Test drills in theWellington Harbour have been happening for at least a couple of years now. What they are doing is looking for the flow of fresh water in the strata below the harbour bed. The intention is to access aquifers close to the city that can be accessed with out crossing the fault lines as all present supplies do. I loved the colourful reflections below the platform despite the fact that the bright pink and green came from the two “portaloo” cabins.

Te-Wheke-a-Muturangi

This temporary art work will sit in Whairepo lagoon until 20 March. It is an inflatable piece, by Auckland artist, Lisa Reihana as part of the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of Arts. Art seems to take a different form each year. In this case it is of the giant inflatable octopus. It represents Te-Wheke-a-Muturangi which was chased and killed by the legendary warrior, Kupe.

Seeing is the challenge

Our neighbour allowed me to make images in her garden. I suspect she was surprised that I spent time on this spiny succulent which I think is a spiral aloe. Light was the key to its attraction for me.

Unexpected treasure

Just North of Featherston, there is a memorial park that is on the site of a major army camp of WWI. At its peak, it was home to 60,000 trainees, many of who died on European battlefields It was also the site of a WWII prisoner of war camp that held up to 800 Japanese soldiers. It now serves also as a memorial for the deaths of 48 Japanese soldiers who were shot by their New Zealand captors during an altercation over being required to work. One New Zealand soldier also died from a ricochet fired by his fellow guards. The site today is small, and has a beautiful grove of flowering cherry trees and several memorial plaques. As we walked Mary spotted a cluster of fungi at eyelet on the trunks of some of the beech (?) trees. They looked to me like common mushrooms, but I firmly believe that unless you are 100% sure, leave them be.

Market gardens, Otaki

We had been to Foxton Beach and Mary was at the wheel as we drove home. I love the orderliness of the market gardens in the Otaki region. A large proportion of the farmers in this area seem to be of Chinese ethnicity, and at the risk of perpetuating stereotypes, I observe how long and hard they work. The rubbish fire at the foot of the hills added interest to this image which was taken through the open window of the moving car.

Self heal

The tiny flowers that propagate down in the lawn are attractive, but increasingly harder for me to get close to with the camera. I got down really low for this image of the self heal flower (weed). It took me much longer to get up than it did to compose and make the picture.

Golden hour

Rarely do I venture out in the evenings to make pictures, but this evening was just so perfect that I asked for a leave pass and went down to the beach at Petone. I was lining up for a low angle shot across the harbour when a young woman decided to launch her paddle board right beside me. I took that as permission to include her in the photograph that I was obviously about to make. Her skill in getting up and paddling was admirable.

Daddy Long Legs

There are various arachnids and even some insects that get called “daddy longlegs”. I think this one is Pholcus phalangioides. I was in the smallest room and spotted it climbing up the edge of the door. After the necessaries were done, I grabbed my camera and got close, by which time it was almost at the top of the door Happily it stayed still while I got it in frame.

Friendly neighbours

Nice neighbours occasionally provide flowers to Mary who looks after their cat when they are away. I get to take advantage and attempt some floral portraits. I think the white flowers are Cosmos and the red one a dahlia variety, as is the quite different pink flower.

Southerly blow

Looking North towards Evans Bay beach from around the Western edge of the Bay and I noticed a gaggle of kite surfers. If I am on the beach I am too close and thus unable to get them and their kites in a useful image. It’s still a squeeze but three kites in one shot is satisfying.

Not the first, probably not the last time

I collected a posy of dandelion seed heads during the week just ending. Of the seven heads collected, five were persuaded to dump their seeds by the stiff Southerly on the way into the house. Not pleased.

One of the landscape photographers whose weekly vlog I follow said this week that some weeks are flat. He doesn’t always have good weeks. I agree with him. The last two weeks have not been great but we do what we can.

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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.

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November 14, 2021 … let’s get on with it

What kind of photographer am I? I don’t think it matters. Looking at the images I offer in this edition it is clear that my preferred subject matter is whatever I happened to belooking at when I pressed the shutter release. What is less clear, is why. My current thought is that what I am doing is enjoying the process of crafting a pleasing and/or interesting image based on whatever I was looking at when I pressed the shutter release. I scanned the candidates for inclusion in this edition and deleted two because they were less pleasing and/or interesting. Perhaps I can intensify this process.

At the ferry terminal

Placid water is magnetic as far as I am concerned. It grieves me that there are so many wonderful but inaccessible viewpoints on the Hutt Road which would provide magical views. Sadly the police would take a dim view if I stopped there to make the picture. So I occasionally pop into the car park at the InterIslander ferry terminal and walk along the footpath by the loading area to get the view. The ferry Kaiarahi has been laid up since about September and will be for several more months with gearbox issues.

Oriental Bay

I love the elegant lines of classic yachts. Combine them with a glassy calm harbour and I can’t go past it. There is some debate as to whether clear blue skies make for a good picture. I prefer some cloud interest.

Waxeye Quartet

At breakfast, I glanced out the window and spotted the small birds lining up on the kowhai tree for access to the feeder that Mary keeps filled. Since I was eating alone, my camera joined me at the table, literally. Among the horde of passerines, these four waxeyes provided a lovely opportunity with the sun glinting off the Japanese Maple in the background.

“it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven” Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice

One morning starts with sunshine, and the next dawns wet. I love the way the rain beads on the maple leaves, but I have to try various angles to see the droplets clearly.

Kaiwharawhara

There are some nice viewpoints on the winding roads in Wadestown. This one is above the long disused Kaiwharawhara station. I made a deliberate slow exposure (1.3 seconds) to capture the sense of rush as traffic enters and leaves Wellington.

Cineraria

At this time of year, the roadsides are alive with wildflowers as well as domestic flowers deliberately set loose. These cinerarias present a fine display

Family or Kindergarten?

At Whairepo lagoon (known to some as the Star Boating Club Lagoon), a female mallard was surrounded by a cluster of ten ducklings. I got too close so they set out across the lagoon in line astern. I was terrified that with the various predators underwater the ducklings would disappear one by one. Happily the convoy crossed the lagoon intact.

Cape Rain Daisy

It intrigues me that so many of the flowers in Wellington at this season seem to be a shade of purple. Further investigation shows many of them to be South African in origin. I am convinced that there is an orchestrated plan by one or more homesick expatriates to spread them. They are pretty enough, but rend to aggressively displace the natives.

Flower Crab Spider

Apologies to any arachnophobes. Mary found this tiny fellow on some flax flowers . With the help of the NZ Bug Identification group on Facebook, we learned that it is a flower crab spider. I love the bright yellow translucence.

Renewing the beach

I mentioned recently that the Oriental Bay Beach is regularly refreshed with sand shipped inform Golden Bay to replace that swept out to see by the harbour currentsA digger and a dump truck spent about a week dispersing the new sand along the beaches on either side of the rotunda. I assume that after wading through a metre or so of salt water the truck gets a thorough wash down.

Mana Marina

Is it a cliché? Probably. Do I like it? Yes. So what’s the argument?Mana Marina, like most such places gives limited access to the viewpoints on the harbour. There was a time when anyone could stroll along the pontoons. Now, you need to know the pass code to open the gate to each wharf. I suppose if I had heaps of money invested in one of these floating palaces I would want to protect it from risk.

A small waterfall

On the notoriously narrow and winding Akatarawa road that runs across the rugged hills between Upper Hutt and Waikanaethere is a sign that points to the Jock Atkins Waterfall.This pretty but somewhat trivial fall is named for Jock Atkins, a roadman who worked on this road for 50 years keeping it open with never a sick day. He rode the length of the road with his shovel, clearing the frequent minor slips. He died in 1997 aged 88.

A beach find

I love it that Mary finds treasures on her frequent walks and brings them home for me to photograph. This was the holdfast of a clump of seaweed from Petone Beach. Look at the colours and textures. Nature is surely the master weaver.

Another spider

As with the little yellow spider, this too is small, perhaps 20 mm in span. When you get close to see the hooked jaws (chelicerae) he looks fierce. It can give a painful bite but is rarely a threat to humans.

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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.

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May 22, 2020 … birds and bees

The weeks since my last post have been strange. Despite the easing of our lockdown status to level 2, life feels markedly different to the way it was before the restrictions. Perhaps it’s just the onset of winter weather.

As you will see from the pictures I display this time, I have not been to many places that afford a long view. Traditional landscape shots have been hard to come by. In fact, under the rules of level 2 lockdown, domestic travel is now permitted but I still feel obliged to stay close to home.

WARNING: The penultimate image in this edition is of a spider, so if spiders upset you, approach with caution.

Vivid colour

I was walking down the walkway beside Te Mome Stream near the Shandon golf course in search of our old friend “George”, the white heron. I never did find George on that trip, but these bright pegs (US = clothespins) seemed to make a picture.

Graffiti in the bush

On the same walkway, I encountered this shed tucked into the bush beside the track. I have no tolerance at all for graffitists who I regard as the equivalent of dogs marking their territory. Nevertheless the overall effect was interesting.

Hi, George

A few days later, I finally found George. More precisely, Mary found George while she was out on one of her long walks and texted me as to where she had seen him. I then drove to a street nearby and tip-toed into the area. There he was standing in a place where a storm-water drain empties into the Te Mome stream. I had to engage in a combination of sneaky approach and weird contortions to get a clear shot of him. So nice to see him again.

To see the world in a grain of sand

One of Mary’s treasured pieces of driftwood suddenly revealed the surface pattern that I had been looking at but not seeing for a long time. The Lockdown seems to have developed that skill a little. Please do click to enlarge in order to see the pattern.

A white-faced heron

This image was made at the Hutt River estuary while I was checking to see whether George had returned to his old haunts. George had gone elsewhere, but his smaller cousin, the white-faced heron was standing in the an area of sunlit water, producing an interesting high-key effect.

Madonna

Even as we came out of the level three restrictions, we had some less than pleasant weather. So, back inside for still life shots. Mary has a small sandstone madonna about 75 mm (3″) tall. I used my light tent and made this high key image. It was fun to do.

Pukeko

Still in pursuit of George, I prowled the banks of the Te Mome stream and encountered this handsome pukeko. The pukeko (Porphyrio melanotus) is a member of the swamphen family and there are numerous joke recipes for preparing it for the table. It usually goes, boil with an axe head until the axe head goes soft then discard the bird and eat the axe head. Regardless of its suitability for eating it is a fine looking bird with a vivid red shield on its head and beautiful blue and purple plumage. Did I mention that it has huge feet?

white on white

This flower was part of a bouquet that Mary received recently. As far as I can tell, it is one of the fleabane family and as you might guess, is related to daisies. I rather like the idea of high key images (usually very bright images with minimal shadows). So the faithful light tent was pushed into action again and I think it did a good job displaying the purity of the petals.

Bumble-bee resting

I was hanging washing on the line in our back yard when Mary drew this bumble bee to my attention. It was clinging to a down-pipe on the outside of the house, and looked as if it were about to die. I raced inside for camera and tripod and made images from several angles while it obligingly stayed very still. Then I completed my domestic duties and when I next looked, it had flown away.

Sandra II

Before the lockdown, I used to visit Hikoikoi quite often and am familiar with the working boats that are usually moored there. Sandra II is a sturdy little fishing vessel that, I suspect, rarely goes beyond the harbour limits. Nevertheless, I have seen her owner unloading good hauls of fish. On this occasion he seemed to be preparing to go out.

The elusive George

Another day searching for George and I found him, lurking among the reeds beneath some trees overhanging the stream. He certainly doesn’t make it easy. When I got to close he departed for distant places.

Glass

Another wet day and more indoor work. I am not sure how to describe this piece, but I suspect it to be a bas relief. It qualifies by virtue of no undercutting, but it is inverted, carved into the back of the glass block. Again about 75 to 100 mm tall.

Imperial gaze

This statue of Queen Victoria was cast it’s steely gaze over Kent and Cambridge Terraces since it was moved there in 1911 to make way for the trams in its original location in Post Office Square, It’s a fine statue, but the panels on the plinth were controversial because the Scottish artist had a rose-tinted view of the signing of the Treaty of Waiting.

Vagrant spider (Uiliodon albopunctatus)

Mary spotted this large black spider in the upstairs bedroom. It was moving pretty fast so she yelled for me to bring my camera. She then caught it in a glass jar and put some cling film to secure the beast. Neither of us was aware of it at the time but Uiliodon albopunctatus has a reputation for being aggressive and capable of inflicting a nasty bite. Like almost all New Zealand spiders, its bit is non-toxic. An hour in the fridge slowed it down considerably and I was able to pose it on a sheet of white paper and make my images. As it started to warm up and show signs of animation, I released it unharmed into the garden where it might normally live.

Leucanthemum (I think)

This flower is growing on a large shrub in a neighbour’s somewhat overgrown piece of undeveloped land. Botanical identification is quite difficult to me and often a flower seems to match at least five or six candidates.

That will suffice for this round. I look forward to your company in a few weeks.

Categories
Academic adversity Animals Arachnids Architecture Art flowers Landscapes Light Moon Seasons Weather

April 19, 2020 … If I had the wings of an angel*

Three weeks of lockdown at level 4 (the highest) are now completed in New Zealand. At least one more week to go, and perhaps more. Even if the government does loosen the reins, I suspect there will still be considerable restrictions on movement, especially for those of us over 70.

If as a result, I don’t pass the virus to anyone else, or indeed receive it as an unwelcome gift from another person, then it is a price worth paying.

Mary and I are doing well in our shared confinement, and have much to be grateful for, especially having Mary as my “bubble companion”. Of course the confinement has a limiting effect on my photography. It does however, give me lots of practice in photographing things that are closer than usual. It also enables me to observe just how very hard Mary works (and has always done) to keep the house running smoothly and still keep supporting other people by phone.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Mary brings home things that might make a good image. I really liked this roadside plant. My web search suggests it is a Yarrow (also known as Achillea). The density of the little flowers made it especially attractive to me.

Autumn

Just about a kilometre down the road, and well within our permitted walking distance is the grand old house originally built for George von Zedlitz, one of the four founding professors of Victoria University of Wellington. Sadly, being German, he was interned on Somes Island as an enemy alien during the first world war. The university did not cover itself in glory with their support for him. The house is in what is now Jubilee Park, just across the road from us. It is currently designated as Hutt Minoh House, and is the focus of the sister city relationship between Lower Hutt and the Japanese city of Minoh. Although the park in which it is situated is predominantly native bush, there are patches of deciduous trees which allow me to find a touch of Autumn colour in the otherwise unrelenting green.

Super Moon

The full moon just prior to Easter looked as if it was going to emerge into a clear sky. Then the Eastern hills acquired a blanket of low cloud. The moon appeared but hid behind the scudding clouds. I took the shot and was quite pleased with the result … click to enlarge for a better view. This shot was made from our front door.

The owner of this bear keeps changing its persona

I gather that in many countries where lockdowns are in force, people are putting “teddy bears” in their windows to cheer up the kids walking in the neighbourhood. Some householders are putting a lot of effort into their bear displays. This home owner changes the persona of the bear every so often and most recently it has a red wig and a guitar in its guise as Ed Bearan.

Thoughtful gift

A near neighbour has been painting rocks to give to friends and neighbours to cheer them up in these times of lockdown and anxiety. Some are left on the roadside as treasures to be found by random strangers and they each have a message of encouragement on the back. She does very nice work. People are really good.

Leptospermum

The flow of things that might be worth photographing continue as Mary does her regular daily walk around the hills, anywhere from seven to twelve kilometres a day. This lovely piece of leptospermum is a derivative of the Manuka shrub, much prized for the medicinal quality of the honey made from it. I like it for the delicacy of the flowers perhaps a centimetre in diameter. .

Floating flora

Sometimes I spend a lot of time setting up images that, while they may look attractive to me, make no sense. In this case, a chrysanthemum blossom floating in a glass vase is accompanied by some dandelion blossoms from the (un-mowed) back garden. I like it but can offer no other reason for making the picture.

A rare visitor

Despite the cuteness of Beatrix Potter’s Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, the common hedgehog is a pest animal in New Zealand. It is a serious predator of many of our ground-dwelling birds, and as a friend described it they are a “rat with spines”. It is rare that we see them near home and especially in daylight. I am not equipped either in tools or in my nature to kill the animal so it was allowed to wander on its way.

A howling Nor’Westerly

At the bottom of the front yard there is a ponga fern which is a good indicator of whether the wind is the prevailing Nor’Wester or a colder Southerly. It just depends on which side its skirts are lifted. At this stage the wind was well in excess of 60 km/h. Even had there been no lockdown, I probably would not have gone far on such a day.

Driftwood

Our home at 150 metres above sea level is very far above even the highest of tides, so the only explanation for this piece of driftwood is that it took Mary’s attention while on some beach walk and I was persuaded to load it into the car. It’s a very heavy lump of wood and thus not suitable for setting up on my usual photography table. The stump takes on various characters depending on the weather and the way its coating of moss and lichen catches the light.

Random Web

I have not seen the spider that made this web. The randomness of the pattern is astonishing. Even more so is the question of how it went about building it. I tend to view it as a little like Gaudi’s plan for the Sagrada Familia cathedral … for a very long time, though they admired the work, other architects struggled to understand how the design derived its strength and how it worked.

Koru

Though I have spent a lot of time focus stacking recently, I suspect I shall be glad to move onto other techniques when the present lockdown is relaxed. Meanwhile, here we have a new unfurling frond from a silver fern. the circle of light is a shot glass in the background.

As you can see, most of the images in this edition have been made in close proximity to the subject. Despite the relative comfort of our metaphorical prison, I shall look forward to the chance to get further away whenever it finally arises.

*The Prisoner song (Guy Massey)

Categories
Arachnids Birds Festivals and fairs flowers Maritime Moon mountains Weather Wellington

February 29, 2020 … I’ll take what I can find

I seem to have fallen into a rhythm of posting every two weeks, perhaps in the hope that I might have produced sufficient images that I am happy to share. Obviously, I would like to produce great images, but even the best photographers produce a modest number of great shots out of the hundreds of images they make.

Let there be no illusion, my images are rarely, if ever, in that “great” category, and any that come near are usually the result of serendipity. On the other hand perhaps it is not too immodest of me to hope that I can deliver five or six images each week that, to my own eye at least, are pleasing. If you like some of them too, that’s a bonus.

Courting ritual

Dabchicks fascinate me. Like others in the grebe family, their legs are very far back on their body and they are designed for water propulsion rather than walking. I love their parenting technique which includes hiding their chicks in the plumage on their backs. I hoped to see the little black and white chicks sticking up like periscopes from one or other of this pair. Things seem to have moved further on than I thought. I am told the dance I observed is a part of their courting ritual, so the previous youngsters are on their own and the parents are thinking of a second brood.

Photographs such as this would be better taken from nearer to the waterline, perhaps at their eye level. Sadly, neither my agility nor my sense of balance is what it once was, and if I get down low, I have to think about getting back up again. So I tend to shoot from a standing position. I am working on solutions to this that don’t involve getting the camera wet, or me actually falling in.

Super moon

Though I tend to take it for granted, the view across the Hutt Valley from the front of our house is one to be treasured. This shot was taken from our front lawn at about 9 pm on the day of our most recent super moon. I am a little cynical about moon shots. Unless there is something else in the image, and provided the shot is basically well exposed, there is very little to distinguish one moon shot from another. I concede that high quality optics and a solid tripod can help make a better image, but I prefer to have a recognisable context. In this instance, the foreground includes the Avalon tower, formerly headquarters and production studios of TVNZ. The tower is not artificially lit here, but is catching the last light of the setting sun behind me.

Just hanging around

This branch may look familiar. It should. I have used it many times before as it is a favourite roosting site for various shags. I have a particular affinity for the little blacks and the lovely patterns visible in their plumage. These birds made me smile for their gangster-like pose. Apart from small numbers of rooks, New Zealand has no significant population of corvidae, so these are the nearest we come to seeing the sinister bird characters portrayed so well by Edgar Allan Poe. The setting is the Waiwhetu stream where it passes through the channel at Seaview. It often provides nice background colours.

Get your warthogs sharpened here

Petone retains its own separate character, despite having been absorbed into Lower Hutt City. It is slowly becoming “gentrified” which is a matter for regret. A few weeks back it had its annual street fair in which Jackson Street was blocked off for the day and filled with various food and craft stalls. Though I rarely make images of people I thought I had better have a look. This stall made me laugh out loud. I am sure the company concerned makes really good sharpeners but the ambiguity of their name amused me. I should mention that Warthog Sharperners is a reputable company based in South Africa,

Nature’s architects

My workshop has not been seriously used for a very long time, so other tenants have moved in. Mary drew my attention to the amazing curves of a spider web. A little exploration revealed that it was made by the “daddy long legs” spider. Their webs are notoriously messy but every so often they achieve some beautiful curves.

A scented gift

I am happy to observe that my kids all really appreciate their mother, and that this is often demonstrated by a random “just because” bunch of flowers. In this case, she received red roses, and to Mary’s great pleasure they were quite strongly scented. Sadly, most roses supplied by florists lack any scent. Not these. They are lit with natural light from the window against the blackness of my “dark box”.

Sunset in the Eastern Sky

Often, if the clouds are right, a lovely sunset in the west projects its colour in the East. This is another view from our front door looking across the Hutt Valley. Though it was taken at 9 pm the sun is still lighting the lenticular clouds and provides a little colour down on the valley floor.

Midsummer drizzle

Summer cruises around the New Zealand coast and especially to Wellington seem to be a lottery. It is sad that a one-time visitor to our fair city who strikes it on a day of bad weather goes away with a warped view of the place. Still, as a photographer, I find that the misty conditions have a charm of their own. I hope that the visitors travelling on Europa come again on a better day.

Armada

In the bird viewing hide at Queen Elizabeth II park near Paekakariki I waited in vain for any interesting bird life. The only thing moving was the vast cluster of feathers from some moulting event. They put me in mind of a vast fleet of sailing ships. I have to say that this is my favourite image in this edition.

Lingering on after the wind has died

A few days of consistent Nor’Westerly wind can usually be relied upon to generate some lenticular cloud above the Eastern hills. They often linger for a while even after the wind drops. This image was made from the park at the Western end of Petone Beach looking towards Eastbourne.

Wary, but standing its ground

Petone wharf is on shaky ground, and is not as straight as it once was. It has wooden hand rails on most of its length, and these serve as a handy perch for the variety of gulls and shags in the area. The little shag is the most common of the varieties in New Zealand. They can be easily identified by their long tail feathers and short beak. This one was less skittish than normal and allowed me to walk past it without it taking flight.

A summer morning

I use and like the paid online video tuition provided by Scott Kelby. Almost his first piece of advice for making good landscape images is “go somewhere where there is a good landscape”. Most of us tend not to think of our own back yard in those terms. And indeed there are days when I look cynically at a grey wet Wellington landscape and dream wistfully of distant scenes of great beauty. However, if I wait long enough, the harbour goes still, the sky clears and the Tararuas provide some lofty mountain grandeur as a backdrop.

It’s raining as I write this, but earlier in the week we had several days of pure magical stillness. I was driving from Evans Bay around Pt Jerningham in the late morning. The temperature was a modest 24°C … not really hot, but sufficient to deliver a haze on the distant mountains. The harbour was almost perfect, and the various vessels moving about were leaving clean sharp wakes. On such a day, I did not have to go far to find a pleasing landscape. In case you were wondering, Mary and I live on those distant hills just a little to the left of the edge.

That will suffice for this edition. I hope you enjoy what you see and read here. Your feedback is always welcome.

Categories
Adventure Animals Arachnids Birds Brisbane Landscapes Waves Weather Wellington

July 23, 2017 … there and back again

Since I last wrote, Mary and I spent eleven days in Queensland with our eldest son and his lovely family. In so doing we missed most of the wildest and coldest storm Wellington has had in four or five years.

Fishing
Fishing at Tinchi Tamba Wetlands Reserve

The very first evening in Brisbane was just the opposite of hat was starting to happen already back in Wellington. It was a warm evening  with a delightful rosy sunset starting to happen on the North Pine river at Tinchi Tamba wetlands.

Kangaroos
Wild Kangaroos at Tinchi Tamba

On the way in, Mary and I had spotted the mob of feral kangaroo and I really should have taken the shot then before the sun disappeared.  I am told this is a mature female with its immature offspring.

Glass House Mountains
Glass House Mountain sunset

Rowena and David had arranged for us all to spend three days on the Sunshine Coast at Noosa. On the way there, we visited the stunning Mary Cairncross reserve. If you are in the area North of Brisbane and like nature this is not to be missed. Regrettably we arrived rather late in the day, so it was very dark inside the rainforest area. Happily, there was a lovely view out over the Glass House Mountains, before we carried on to Noosa.

Noosaville
Lagoon at Noosaville

As luck would have it, it rained on our first day at Noosa, but it didn’t prevent a nice sunset glow on the lagoon behind our accommodation.

Wattlebird
Brush Wattlebird at Noosa

On our last day there,  we went out on Noosa Sound on a rented boat, and during a brief walk ashore at the Noosa Spit Recreation Reserve, I managed a shot of this handsome Brush Wattlebird.

Orbweb
Golden Orbweb Spider

Not to everyone’s taste, but equally handsome to my eye was this Golden Orbweb spider … apparently a small one at about the size of the palm of my hand.

Pelicans
There’s always one who can’t keep the rhythm – Pelicans

The youngsters went back to school and parents back to work, so Mary and I spent some time exploring the delights of the Brisbane River on the excellent Rivercat ferries.  It was a  delight to see the formation of Pelicans flying over us against a clear blue sky.

Water Dragon
Water Dragon – Gardens Point

Back in the city, in the magnificent gardens at Gardens Point, we encountered a water dragon. In summer there are dozens of them, but since this was midwinter and the temperature a mere 22 deg C, they were harder to find.

Brisbane
Goodbye to Brisbane til next time … not bad for an iPhone shot

All to soon it was time to return to reality. Having stowed my camera in the overhead locker, I resorted to my iPhone to capture a departing shot of this lovely city.

Storm
Into the storm over the Marlborough Sounds

Categories
adversity Arachnids Day's Bay Day's Bay harbour Landscapes Light Lowry Bay Plant life Seasons Trees Weather

May 31, 2017 – still but chill

Winter is almost upon us. So far it has been relatively mild, but Wellington can be deceptive in that regard. Though the thermometer may register as much as six or seven degrees, winter in the area can produce a sense of wet misery that seems much colder.

Maple
Japanese Maple – last colour of the season

The last colours of autumn linger with us. A few more days or even a windy day will see the last of the colour on our Japanese maple fall to the ground.

Web
tiny jeweller in the centre of its universe

Despite my whining, we have had a good string of still days. On such a cool damp day, the best jewellery show in town is staged by the tiniest of crafts-people. This dew-covered web is about the size of a small plate. I think the spider at the centre is a garden orbweb, but would welcome expert advice if I am wrong.

Spider
Webmaster

If you are an arachnophobe, look away for a moment while I get closer. This specimen is about 5mm in size.

Lowry Bay
Lowry Bay

Continuing with the theme of calmness, I have been making a lot of images at nearly water level, and you can see just how still the harbour has been. This one is on the beach at Lowry Bay.

Day's Bay
Day’s Bay wharf

A few kilometres further South, the Days Bay wharf caught my eye as the sun headed inexorably towards night.

Loma
Loma brings her catch home

On my way home from there I paused at Pt Howard as the fishing vessel Loma returned to its berth after what the following flock of gulls obviously  regard as a successful trip.