One of my favourite mentors, Alastair Benn this week asked his subscribers what makes a good photograph/photographer. Any of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that this is a sure way to trigger all my anxieties and self doubt. He also asked whether we thought it was feasible to judge your own work.
Solely in relation to my own work, I regard a good photograph as one that I like, that I am pleased to have made and one to which my first reaction is not how much better it could have been “if only I had done something else.” In my view, although I love to get affirming opinions from others, the vital component is that I like it myself. I take it for granted that the image is made competently. After that it is a matter of what I saw and how I extracted that seeing from all that was in front of me.
So here follows the usual collection of images made since the last edition of this blog. I like some of them. Others not so much.
Winter mist on the harbour and all is blank beyond Pt Halswell. The Hutt Valley is probably still out there, though there is no evidence of it.
I like the little black shags. Their plumage is beautifully patterned but not coloured. This one was hanging the wings out to dry in whatever thin substitute for sunshine was available.
Misty conditions appeal to me, though the resulting images rarely match the vision I had when I made them. This was on the road South to the Wainuiomata coast. Silhouettes against the mist always appeal to me.
Now and then I get the urge to go up Wright’s Hill at the Western end of Karori. The problem with geographic lookouts such as Wrights Hill, is that they are constraining. Every time I go up there, I end up in the same place looking at the same view. Only the light, time of day and the weather change. I need to get more inventive.
Unlike Wright’s Hill, Evans Bay offers myriad different vantage points. Some face East, some West. Some look into bays, others look out. I liked this view because it is an angle not often seen.
As far as I can tell, this caterpillar is going from left to right. I will further venture that this is probably a white cabbage butterfly seen here hanging under a parsley plant. Two aspects caught my eye. A droplet of water on the caterpillar’s back was interesting because I have no idea where it came from. The other thing that drew my attention was its pointy little feet.
A seemingly perfect day seemed to promise a spectacular sunset. Sadly, it didn’t happen. Instead, a wall cloud developed to the West and we had a fairly ordinary sunset. The only consolation were the glittering reflections in the Hutt River and the Waiwhetu Stream.
Ivey Bay is a frequent haunt of mine. Among other things, I like it because of the character of the boats moored there. As I have observed before, these are not plastic “gin palaces”, but rather, honest working boats, probably built by the original owner.
Looking from the top of the Wainuiomata Hill across the Cook Strait, there is usually a splendid view of the Kaikoura mountains. Tapuae-o-Uenuku is always magnificent, especially considering that summit is 130 km away.
Here is the new kid on the block. This is Tākina. It is the almost finished Wellington Convention Centre. I quite like it, though birders are not pleased with so much glass that could injure the birds.
Aquilla is one of the local fishing trawlers seen here returning from the Cook Strait with a swarm of sea birds hovering hopefully in her wake.
Porirua Harbour has its moments. I especially like it when there is no wind, and that is much more often than you might think. This is a multi-image panoramic stitch made between two trees near the Whitireia Polytchnic.
Mary had a birthday recently and the family turned up and provided morning tea at a local cafe. Jack (15) arrived with a bunch of tulips for the occasion. Flowers for the win!
And that’s another edition in the can, though I had a repeat of that sudden loss of editing. I might have to see if there is something more reliable than WordPress.
Winter solstice was in the week just ended. Spring seems so far away. And yet there are signs already. We have had a few bright winter days but for the most part, strong winds, cloud and rain. I try to convince myself that there is beauty to be found even in bad weather, but some days do not encourage me to venture out with the camera.
Nevertheless, I do get out in rough weather now and then, especially if there is the hope of large swells on the South or West coast. If, however the water is merely ruffled, and the weather is grey and bleak, I stay home. I seem to have got out reasonably often since my last posting.
Pukerua Bay normally offers a view across the water to Kapiti Island. On this day a howling Nor’Wester was driving swells in excess of 4 metres directly towards the beach. I chose to make my images from inside the car, using the passenger window as my portal to the storm, and the width of the car to protect my lens from the spray. I got some reasonable wave shots, but my favourite of the day was this image taken after I rolled the window back up. And that’s when I found that the passenger seat was absolutely soaked!
Aaaghhh! I had finished typing this edition when WordPress suddenly decided to stop saving and to go back four days and lost everything from here forward. Everything from here on is a rewrite.
Another dull day and my attention turned to the birds in the tree just outside our dining room window, Common house sparrows were doing battle over access to the birdseed bell that Mary had hung out there. They are messy eaters so if there any viable seeds on that thing, there is a strong likelihood of something exotic growing from fallen seeds around the tree. Last season, it was sunflowers. Who knows what next.
The observant among you may notice the red light on the right hand end of the locomotive’s buffer beam. Yes, this is the back of the train. Steam Inc were running out and back trips between Paraparaumu and Manakau. If you look closely or click to enlarge, you will see a vintage diesel locomotive down the other end. The diesel hauls the train in the Southbound trips, and the steam locomotive leads the way back North. It burned 5 tonnes of coal in the two days on which the excursions were running.
In contrast this ship, La Richardais was burning no fuel except by the generators. She had lost power a few hundred km off the coast of New Plymouth and had been under tow ever since. The large tug is MMA Vision which normally spends her time as a tender to the Taranaki oil fields, and was released to tow La Richardais first to New Plymouth and then to Wellington. They are seen here arriving in Wellington assisted by the two local tugs, Tiaki and Tapuhi. They spent a week in Wellington. I suspect that no local firm was equipped to achieve a repair so the tow resumed. MMA Vision will take her to New Caledonia and another tug will take her onwards to Singapore and presumably a repair.
Long long ago, when I almost understood such things, I did an applied mathematics course at the University of Auckland. I bandied around terms like amplitude, frequency and period and knew a few formulae on how to find one of those if I had the other two. I have a lingering sense of the importance of those characteristics of a wave. The ones that impress me the most are the amplitude (Height from trough to crest) and period (the time between successive crests). I know I am in for a visual spectacle if the amplitude is greater than 4 metres and the period is greater than 10 seconds. This image was made at Pukerua Bay.
In a different set of circumstances, I was at Owhiro Bay when the view across the strait was crisp and clear. Mighty Tapuae-o-Uenuku was soaring skyward up into the clouds hovering around its peak. The Interisland ferry Kaitaki which seems sorely in need of a paint job passed at speed across the face of the mountain., heading towards Tory Channel and Picton.
Even as Kaitaki was heading West, the competing ferry Straitsman emerged from Tory Channel. She has recently had a major overhaul, and her crisp clean paint job was quite a contrast.
From Oriental Bay, the high-rise blocks of Wellington’s CBD are eye-catching. The Deloitte building is especially so. Recent seismic losses were undoubtedly in the minds of the architects when they used such a thoroughly triangulated structure. I imagine that those angled tubular columns are a nuisance in the building’s interior, but offer some reassurance whenever the earth moves, as it often does in Wellington.
I have no idea which site is served by this crane, but the way it was picked out of the late afternoon gloom by that shaft of sunlight made it an image worth taking.
As I mentioned earlier, the weekend of running up and down between Paraparaumu and Manakau consumed 5 Tonnes of coal. This produces a lot of ash, much of which remains in the firebox and the rest is carried through the boiler tubes and falls to the base of the smokebox. There are access hatches in the sides of the locomotives, but that is the only concession to convenience. After that, it is shovelled by hand from the collection area into a wheelbarrow, and then wheeled to a tipping area behind the locomotive shed. It is a tedious task, but these members of the crew laboured away until the job was done
Crepuscular rays are a magnet for most landscape photographers. This view from Oriental Bay looking North conceals the usual view of the Tararuas. It’s a full colour image that could easily pass as monochrome. The steel grey colour of the harbour is probably a good indicator of just how cold the day was.
I am sure there is someone who could dispute the botanical identity of this seed head. I don’t care. It walks like a dandelion and quacks like a dandelion, so … I struggle to choose an exposure that does justice to the outer sphere, and to the spectacle of the inner parts where each seed attaches to the plant.
Kelburn Park fountain is perhaps outclassed by the Carter Fountain in Oriental Bay, despite its spectacular coloured lighting at night. Nevertheless, it is worth a look. It wasn’t until I got home that I saw that I had caught a gaggle of sightseers the lookout platform atop Mt Victoria 2,240 metres away.
The Kakariki is less than a year old, and her paint reflects that. The only significant marks are those left by the black rubber buffers on the nose of numerous tugs assisting her into her berth.
That will do for this edition. I hope to see you again soon.
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With the road trip behind me, my challenge now is to keep the photographic flame alive. That can be hard while living an everyday life in suburbia. Many times before, I have referred to seeing familiar things in a different way. Some of my photographic friends have the gift of “finding a different place” to stand when making pictures of things that I see every day. What I need to do in my search for something worth photographing is to pause, and to not make the picture until I have considered other ways of looking at it. This might be to go round the other side. It might be to include (or exclude) another element. Perhaps it is looking at the subject through a different lens. The wide angle offers a different picture to that made by the telephoto. Anyway, for now at least, we are at home on the Western Hills of Lower Hutt and Winter has officially begun.
Before I totally forget the road trip, many thanks to all the nice readers who sent kind words and affirmation. Your messages were greatly appreciated.
A crranberry flavoured tablet made a spectacular fizz. I tried to catch it in my lightbox. That went OK, but I wondered whether a dark box might give a better image. The illusion of a reflection is createrd by the simple trick of standing the glass on the base of an identical glass inverted.
One trick for seeing a view differently is to make a part of the scene substitute for the whole. Looking from Oriental Parade up the harbour, Wellingtonians are familiar with the view of the hills to the North. I have tried to present that view differently. The dark mass in the foreground is Matiu/Somes Island. Behind that are three folds in the Eastern hills of the Hutt Valley and I suspect the highest visible hill through the haze is Mt Climie behind Upper Hutt. A popular track with runners runs 6km from Tunnel gully to the summit. Masochism at its finest.
Big swells on the South coast tend to attract the surfing community to Lyall Bay. It also attracts photographers. I am not sure why. Though the surfers may be different, it’s essentially the same picture each time. The only thing that rescues such an image from being the same as last time is the extent to which the light conditions or the waves are different. In this case I think the explosive burst of a big swell on the breakwater at the end of the airport runway makes a difference.
Recently a flock of Royal spoonbills has taken to spending time on the Pauatahanui wetlands. It is often the case that, even when the rest of the inlet has a bit of a chop on the surface, the wetlands are perfectly still. These birds are still not quite the equal of the white heron, but they run a close second.
On Ivey Bay, there is often a variety of shore birds. In this case, a pied shag is proclaiming dominance over the bay. Across the inlet, the hills to the North of Grays Rd tower above the foreshore. I mainly liked the light.
That same morning, the water was perfect and one of the classic older wooden boats in the bay served as a focal point for my image making. I have no idea which boat it was, but as with previous captures, I have a preference for the simple old-fashioned working boats.
We have been blessed with a relatively mild winter thus far. No deep cold, no sign yet of snow on the Tararuas. The only real symptom of winter has been a few heavy swells from the South. I like to try to catch these big waves, and hope to convey the weight of water behind each one. I am fascinated by their slow ponderous advance. I know conditions will be interesting when the gap between each wave is about ten seconds.
In the grounds of St James Church, Lower Hutt, shared by the public library except on Sundays, there is a lot of history and a great deal of horticulture, mostly carried out at the expense of the Lower Hutt City Council. I spotted these little beauties and thought they were some kind of spring flower that got confused. These Loddon lilies, however, are a winter flower so they were perfectly on schedule and it was only me that was confused.
Unilever has been part of Petone’s scenery scenery since 1919. The big factory building with its constantly steaming exhaust stacks came much later, sometime mid-century. At its peak, about 600 people worked there. Automation in the latter years apparently reduced the on-site numbers to about 30. The distinctive glass office block was built in the 1980s. In 2014, pursuant to global restructuring, Unilever transferred its New Zealand operations to Australia and the Petone factory fell silent. Some of the lesser buildings at the Eastern end of the 5 hectare property seem to have been leased or sold to small businesses. The office block remains dark and reflects the equally still factory block.
A long-proposed cross-harbour pipeline will improve resilience of Wellington’s water supply. The present sole pipeline runs alongside the main highway and crosses known seismic fault lines in several places. Construction began on the new line this year and is expected to be complete in 2025. A barge with some heavy machinery has been in Lowry Bay for several months now and has established some piles. I saw these two intrepid workers being lowered on a work platform to inspect one of the piles. I got the impression that they were controlling the crane themselves. If so, they were not afraid to get their feet wet.
I shouldn’t tempt fate with a caption like that. We have endured some vile weather in recent days. No surprise then, that when conditions are good, I seize the day. This image is from the walkway beside the marina below Pt Howard. You can see traces of the morning mist dissipating over the Western Hills.
May I urge you to click on any image that appeals to you to see a larger version.
I don’t know why I didn’t discover it earlier, but WordPress has a feature that allows its readers to sign up to receive each new edition of a blog by email. Simply enter your email address once in the space below. Once only and not if you are already getting it by email.
Sadly, the very last exhibition of the now defunct Hutt Camera Club closed this week. Sixty one years of comradeship and photographic endeavour came to an end. No one was willing to stand for any of the essential offices at the AGM, and so it was agreed to dissolve the club. Its assets were distributed to a photographic charity and to other clubs. The bureaucratic rituals were followed, and it is no more.
And that leads me to wonder at the significance of this to my own photography. Even when the club was still in existence, I tended to be a solitary photographer, and rarely participated in field trips with fellow members. I enjoyed their company at club meetings, but kept to myself while making pictures. Though I admired the superb artistry of many of my friends, I was not inclined to mimic their work.
In short, though I am sad to see it go, it has relatively little impact on my artistic endeavour. My style is to be in the world and experience it as best I can. I look for compositions shapes and colours that, in my opinion, might make an attractive image. The result to other eyes is possibly a bit weird or at least eclectic. So, what do I have to share this time?
This lovely little cactus was a gift on the occasion of our recent wedding anniversary and it came with some deep thoughts about the nature of marriage. I love it.
We have some kindly neighbours who often share the beauty of their garden with us. These Cosmos flowers are beautiful, though their splendour is all too brief before the petals fall off
I am not sure how it came about, but I seem to be making more images of botanical subjects recently. Perhaps it’s that the trees and flowers move more slowly and are less evasive than the birds that I also love. Anyway, this was in a public garden on Oriental Parade at the foot of Point Jerningham. I went looking to see what was currently in bloom and loved the deep blue of the lavenders. Then came the butterfly. People malign the social media but I get much benefit from the various groups in which I participate. My bug identification group told me it is a long-tailed pea-blue butterfly (Lampides boeticus).
Pulling away from the garden mentioned above, I ran straight into some road works and had to wait for the stop/go person to allow us to progress. I was taken by the noble pose of the dog in the car ahead of me. S/he seemed to be in a state of mild contempt over the strange antics of the humans.
On a warm Autumn afternoon, I was on my way home from the far side of the valley, along Waterloo Rd. As I crossed the railway bridge, I realised that our house was directly ahead of me. It is above the car ahead of me and to the right of the middle light on the left. It’s hard to make out the shape and extent of the house through the haze, but that’s home.
In downtown Wellington just outside the central library (which remains closed pending resolution of the need for seismic strengthening), I was taken by the contrast between the old “Dominion Building” and the “Majestic Centre” behind it. I have mixed feelings about the trend to add one or two extra storeys onto the grand old ladies of the city. This building was once home to reports and editors (remember them?) and clattering linotype machines and thundering presses. Who knows what people get up to in the newer building.
A beautiful Autumn afternoon in Eastbourne and I was looking for shots across the harbour in the golden light. The Bluebridge ferry, Strait Feronia sailed in from Picton and presented a pleasant view of herself.
Without doubt, the white heron is the head of the preference chain for bird photographers in New Zealand. I am not sure why, but the Royal Spoonbill seems to come a long way down the pecking order. It is visually similar to the heron in most respects except for the extraordinary cartoon-ish bill. These were part of a cluster that seem to have made the Pauatahanui wetlands home.
Just to the North of Makara, is Mill Creek wind farm. It is a modest sized installation with 26 turbines along the coastal hills. On this day there was a light breeze, and I needed to use a neutral density filter to get the exposure down to 0.5 seconds for the blur on the slowly spinning blades.
There are many variations on the recipe for “mouse traps”. I love the ones Mary makes, though she has a lightning approach (never the same twice). This batch had sweet chilli sauce, ham, cheese, spring onions, and bell peppers. I had just started eating lunch when I realised their photographic potential. Mary has seen that look on my face countless times before, and she allowed me to interrupt the meal to catch the shot.
The gem squash does not appeal to me as food, though I like the symmetry and colours. These were taken in my “dark box” and I saw a certain astronomical aspect. Weird.
The honey bees have been busy in recent times and I was pleased to catch this one in between two lavender flowers.
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?
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?
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Various health issues delayed this edition. Ah well, so be it.
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.
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.
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.
“,,, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I occasionally evaluate my reality. Mary and I are retired, living in leafy suburbia in a small city (pop 104,700) adjacent to our small capital (population 215,100) in a small peaceful and politically stable country (pop 5 million) in the bottom right hand corner of the world (population 7,794,798,739). We have so much to be grateful for.
From my perspective as a photographer, while other parts of the country may offer more spectacle, even the region in which I live offers many opportunities within an hour’s drive and even more within a four hour round trip. So why, you might ask, have I been so grumpy of late? Well, I continue to claim the right to grumble about almost two solid months of grey dismal blustery weather, but remain hopeful of some semblance of summer weather in the remainder of the season. I know I should be more appreciative of what I have. The landscape and seascapes around me have good bones. When the weather precludes those shots, there are interesting possibilities in the close up.
Sometimes I encounter a plant or flower and identify it confidently. Then I find that I have been wrong for years. In the certain knowledge that this flower was a hollyhock, I submitted the image to my favourite plant identifying site looking for the scientific name. It seems that this is in fact, a tree mallow. Pride cometh before a fall.
Mary came in from her walk in bleak and blustery conditions, carefully nursing something very delicate. A monarch butterfly! It was unwilling to sit still and fluttered about until it settled on a piece of foliage I had been using for other purposes. Snap. Then it flew away.
A promised and long awaited calm day appeared, and brought some mist with it. I can live with that. My wandering took me to Hataitai Beach in Evans Bay. I loved the appearance of the distant yachts sandwiched between the cloud above and the glutinous sea below. The tiny wavelets lowered themselves almost silently onto the gravel beach.
The conditions in Evans Bay allowed me to narrow the focus onto a few of the yachts. I like these “old school” yachts, with no sign of moulded plastic or meaningless shapes. These are the shapes taught by the sea, shapes that have served generations of mariners well. I suspect that these will still be here even as the plastic gin-palaces crumble to dust.
At the instigation of Mary’s brother Paul and his wife Robyne, we went together to see the “Van Gogh Alive” at an exhibition centre on the Wellington Waterfront. I used the word “see” … perhaps I should have said “experience”. This was an immersion with beautifully selected elements of Van Gogh’s art projected on the multiple surfaces at various angles all around us. If this exhibition comes near you, don’t miss it. It is a joy.
The final element of the Van Gogh exhibition was a mirrored room filled with artificial sunflowers. The effect was truly spectacular. As I said, don’t miss it. That pink sunflower against a black background in the back centre is not a sunflower. It is me. A rare but inadvertent selfie.
An actual fine day came as a surprise, so I drifted along the less travelled roads around the city. It was Wellington’s provincial anniversary day and a public holiday, so the town was quiet. I paused at a gate on Thorndon Quay where I had a view of the railyards and many commuter units sitting dark and quiet in orderly rows.
That same public holiday, I was walking around the inner city and found myself at the intersection of Willis Street, Manners Street and Boulcott Street. Across the street, the little old house, now a pub, was long known as “The House of Ladies” due to its time as a massage parlour. It was physically relocated from a little to the right, to make way for the 116 metre “Majestic Centre” tower block behind. The spot from which the image was made, used to be known as Perrett’s Corner. It was so named for the Chemist shop which was a significant landmark through most of the early twentieth century, and I have added a link to a fine National Library photograph.
I had a brief flirtation with the idea of buying upmarket cars as a photographic portfolio topic. I had no intention of buying such a car. With the dealer’s permission, I made several trial images and decided that I was less excited than I expected to be. Nevertheless, this Maserati does embody my expectations of Italian automotive style. The idea is paused rather than abandoned.
No matter how often I drive from Evans Bay around Pt Jerningham to Oriental Bay, my breath is always taken away by the great Southern Wall of the Tararua ranges. On days such as this when the morning light makes layers the view is especially wonderful.
Behind the parliamentary precinct, Bowen Street curves up the Thorndon gully to Tinakori Rd. It passes through some of Wellington’s oldest and most picturesque dwellings. To my regret, the government (I presume the State Services Commission) seems to be transforming the area into an administrative precinct. Whereas I think the old houses are protected by legislation, glass and steel are changing the nature of the area.
There have been ugly blustery winds for most days over several weeks. I shall be glad when they depart. On the other hand, the kite surfers at Lyall Bay reveal in the conditions.
See you again in a week or two. Stay safe. Keep recording your locations and observing your local protocols to avoid the virus.
Let me begin by saying that I am experiencing an artistically flat period. There are days when I make no pictures, and it doesn’t seem to matter to me at the time. I can identify no cause and offer no explanation. Perhaps it is the photographer’s equivalent of writer’s block. Back when I was supervising PhD students, my advice to them was put your hands on the keyboard and press some keys. Even if the output is rubbish, you at least have something to work with and to improve upon, which is better than the terrors of an empty page. I suppose I should apply the same logic to making pictures. Press the darned shutter! And so it shall be until such time as the muse re-appears. In the meantime, here are twelve images from a creatively dry October.
In the forecourt of Wellington Railway Station, there is a statue of Mohatma Gandhi. Made by the sculptor Gautam Pal, the statue was gifted to the people of New Zealand by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations on behalf of the Indian people. I believe that about 35,000 people trudge past the statue daily, and I hope at least some of them give a moment’s thought to his humility and his concern for others.
Frequently, I look back at the pictures I was making at the same time last year, and wonder whether I can do it better this year. Early to mid-October is the time for the carefully planned display of tulips in the Wellington Botanic Gardens. In reality, nature, aided by the gardeners, does most of the creative work. All I can do is try to make better use of the available light for making pictures. Let me revise that. I can try to be there when the light is better. Thank you, gardeners.
Speaking of better light, I pass through Evans Bay often, and see yachts apparently racing as part of what I take to be a training school. As with the tulips, light makes all the difference and with the sun behind them, the sails light up nicely. I am often frustrated that , between the time I first see them and the time I am safely parked and ready to shoot, the fleet has turned about, and the light I saw is no longer there. Or worse, their race is over and they are dropping their sails as they return to the ramp.
Our little kowhai tree on the front lawn is a favourite feeding station for sparrows, waxes, starlings, song thrush, finches, blackbirds, kereru and bellbirds. On this wet day the tui just sat glumly and tolerated the steady drizzle. Perhaps that is a reasonable analogy for my state of mind at present.
I really like the days of silver grey when there is no wind and the sea is flat calm. This picture was made in Sorrento Bay just between Pt Howard and Lowry Bay. The rocks are a favourite roosting spot for the black-backed gulls, though few were visible at this time.
Every year from August to December, our hills turn purple as the invasive weed, purple ragwort breaks into flower. The effect on the landscape is spectacular, but it is poisonous to stock and takes over large areas of land. It is spread on the wind, and I suspect that accounts for its presence along the highways as vehicle slipstreams pick up the seeds. I read that each plant produces something in the order of 50,000 seeds.
In 2016, the Kaikoura earthquake revealed some serious weaknesses in the local movie theatre complex in Lower Hutt’s Queensgate Mall. The theatres had to be demolished in the interest of public safety. After a long period of inactivity, their replacement is being erected. I was walking nearby last week and spotted the two tower cranes silhouetted against the Western skyline. It seemed worth a shot.
Steady rain, not heavy but consistent, offers some opportunities in the form of puddles or droplets. The clothes line outside my office window carried a splendid display of jewels.
Not long ago, the place where this image was made was bare yellow clay. Now the purple ragwort has filled in the vacant spaces while the more diffident native species get no chance. I confess that they are quite attractive and come in various shades from pale pink to dark purple.
One of the nicer features of the Wellington waterfront is the frequent placement of art works, mostly in the form of sculptures. These are funded by the Wellington Sculpture Trust. Many of them are fragments of poetry by people who love Wellington, rendered in bas-relief on placques on walls or in the walkways. This particular work is “Nga Kina” by Michael Tuffery. Kina shells would have been a significant part of the midden of the old Kumutoto pa (village) which once stood near this spot where the Kumutoto stream ran down to the sea. His sculpture evokes the memory of how this area used to be.
Whairepo lagoon is a much loved small lagoon in downtown Wellington. It was known for a while as Frank Kitts Lagoon, in memory of a long-serving mayor, however, it has had its original name restored. Whairepo is the Maori word for the eagle ray which is often seen browsing its rocky floor. Despite Wellington’s evil reputation as a windy place, I often see it in conditions of flat calm and when I do, I try to capture it in a different way than before.
The foot of the vertical white pillars of the walkway is where I stood to make the previous image. Since I rarely if ever make selfies, I chose to move before I made the shot in the other direction.
That will do for this time. Regardless of whether or not I have broken out of the doldrums, I hope to be back in two weeks or so. Stay safe, and may the world be a better place next time we meet.
Oh my goodness, time has slipped by and it has been almost a month since my last post. I have no clue how many regular readers still remain, but if you are one, thank you.
I know that August is generally the kindest of our winter months, but this one was extraordinary. According to the books, Spring is now with us I shall not be surprised if we now get some of the rough weather that we missed in winter. Even as I write, we have a howling Norwester with rain. On this morning, at the beginning of August, my attention was caught by the black-billed gulls at rest on the water at the Eastern end of Oriental Bay. That, and I am always intrigued by the textures of the cityscape from here.
At the intersection of Lambton Quay, Mulgrave St and Thorndon Quay this grand old lady has stood in various states since 1908. As the engraved letters attest, this was once the headquarters of the long defunct Wellington Corporation Tramways. Indeed I remember being here in the early sixties when the trams were still operating. My memory is of a constant stream of uniformed drivers and “clippies” coming and going through those doors. The rooftop amendments are not entirely to my liking but I suppose they could have been worse.
Just behind the spot from which I made the image of the old tramways building is a stairway that leads to the concourse of the city’s Sky Stadium. It is a featureless flat concrete walkway that crosses the railyards. This image was made just after 10 am., long after the morning commuter rush is over. I liked the moody atmosphere and the glittering tops of the Korean-made commuter units as they wait for the rush to resume in the afternoon.
The duck pond in Te Haukaretu Park, Upper Hutt is sheltered from the wind and often provides a peaceful scene. I particularly like the form of the trees in the pond.
Having seen some of the truly great rail terminals of the world, I know that Wellington railway station is a relatively small competitor. Nevertheless it has a handsome and well proportioned main atrium. It lacks the stalls and shops that you might find in Washington or New York, but on the other hand it has a mere 30,000 passengers per day compared with 750,000 in New York.
I have the privilege of being allowed to accompany a group of conservationists who specialise in the care and observation of the dotterel population along the South East coast of Wellington harbour. This gets me to Baring Head and beyond in comfort in a car as opposed to the four hour return walk. We saw few dotterels on this day, but I enjoyed the view across the harbour entrance. I should acknowledge that this was one of the few windy days in August.
A second trip to Baring head was also a bust as far as dotterel sightings went, but I enjoyed the company of this New Zealand pipit (Anthus novaeseelandiae). They characteristically bob their tail up and down as they walk.
When there is little or no wind, the wetlands at Queen Elizabeth Park in Paekakariki are a favourite place for me. The still dark waters reflect the green of the surrounding bush and provide a lovely contrast for the water fowl that visit. In this case, the dabchick is moving quickly to escape the photographer.
Some calm days are better than others. In this case, the water on the Northern side of Pauatahanui Inlet was just perfectly still. I rather liked the pattern made by the rocks.I almost wonder whether I should have cropped out everything above the sandbar.
I am always fascinated by the Australasian Shoveler duck (Anas rhynchotis). It is the duck equivalent of a baleen whale. It feeds by filtering water through a curtain of fibres in its extraordinary bill to catch plankton, seeds and other edible material. This was also made at QEII park.
I mentioned a change of pace. We had long planned trips to see our more distant grandchildren. Sadly the virus has taken away the possibility of a visit to Brisbane any time soon. However, since New Zealand is at alert level 2, domestic travel is possible, so we could fly to Queenstown in time for our youngest grandson’s tenth birthday. For that journey I love to get a Westward facing window seat, and Mary always generously yields it to me. I look for interesting land forms below. I can usually identify the larger settlements and geographic features, but I have fun with the smaller places, grab the shot and try to match it against Google Earth when I get home. In this case, the river caught my eye and then the little township sliding into the view at bottom left. It took me a while to identify the town as Luggate and the river as the Clutha.
Our middle son Andrew lives in Lake Hayes Estate which can be described as a dormitory suburb about 15 km to the North East of Queenstown. I was intrigued by the oak trees that lined many of its streets,. The leaves had turned colour and died many months ago, but refused to let go. Spring in New Zealand is generally regarded as the months of September through November, so we are still seeing Autumnal brown even as nature starts applying some green to the landscape.
Despite the severe economic impact of the covid virus on Queenstown’s tourist industry, there is still a great deal of development to provide new housing. At the Southern end of Kelvin Heights, on the narrow part of the isthmus just beyond the golf course, a large patch of land has been cleared for development. Among the few plants remaining was a sturdy example of the matagouri (Known in colonial times as Wild Irishman). Happily, it is relatively rare in the North Island. It too will go to be replaced no doubt by upscale housing.
Before anyone gets too excited, no I did not lash out the $219 required for a tandem jump. I don’t do heights, remember. We were at the base of the gondola to the skyline complex where the young folks were about to have a ride on the luge when this pilot and his passenger caught the light as they passed in front of the gondolas.
I can’t visit Queenstown without spending time at Lake Hayes. I mean the lake itself which seems to enjoy a lot of shelter from the wind. The bird life is interesting and varied. I always hope to see and get close to the crested grebe which we just don’t see in the North. Alas, I saw coots and scaup, oystercatchers and a huge variety of ducks but no grebes. This common mallard drake gets the call because it was bold enough to take centre stage.
Down below the historic huts in which Chinese miners lived, Bush Creek tumbles through the bush to join the Arrow river. I liked the little waterfall. The light was low enough that I didn’t need a neutral density filter. The rushing effect is conveyed well enough with a mere 2 second exposure.
Andrew was at work, and the children were at school so Mary and I did a tour through the Kawarau Gorge and Cromwell to Clyde, Earnscleugh and Alexandra looking for whatever the landscape might reveal. After a great morning tea in Dunstan House, Clyde, we drove over then under the historic Clyde Bridge to catch this view of the Clutha.
When we reached Earnscleugh, I made a fortuitous turn into Conroy’s road (recommended) and up through the scientific reserve where the rocks are shaped in fantastic ways. This view from near Black Ridge Winery includes one such formation and then looks beyond across the Manuherakia Valley to the Dunstan Mountains in the background. Somehow, the plentiful birdsong did not spoil the silence of the magnificent landscape.
Family trips always come to an end and so we were homeward bound. Mary gave me her window seat again, and as we left Queenstown we passed over Coronet Peak where the ski-field operators were desperately trying to wring the last out of a virus-ruined season. The snow guns were working hard overnight to keep the popular trails useable. We loved our time with the family, and as always, loved coming home.
Our amazing spell of benign weather was obviously coming to an end so we looked for a walk that kept us out of the boisterous wind. I suggested the Catchpool Valley area of the Remutaka Forest Park. Mary set out on a brisk circuit of the various tracks while I explored the beech forest areas.This tiny shoot, growing out of a dead log tickled my fancy. The title of the image is borrowed from the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy”
That tree root in the foreground is fairly obvious so I crossed it without incident. I failed the test on the next one which was concealed in the leaf mould, and did a face-plant. I landed on my camera which ripped my recently repaired macro-lens in two pieces. Waaaahhhhh! No significant personal injury, so I returned to the car park to await Mary.