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

September 27, 2022 … changing times

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

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

Hutt Valley rainbow

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

Cloudscape over Pt Halswell

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

Rosemary in the rain

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

Evans Bay ripples

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

Interesting art in the back alleys

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

Old familiar territory

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

Australasian shoveller

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

Tumbling water

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

Tulip display

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

Single bloom

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

Kaiarahi returns to service

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

Urban forest

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

See you next time, I hope.

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adversity Airport Arachnids Art Birds Cook Strait flowers harbour Landscapes Light New Plymouth Seasons Waves Weather Wellington

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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adversity Art Dolphins flowers insects Weather Wellington

February 14, 2022 … looking for new ways of seeing

The remains of tropical cyclone Dovi was battering Wellington as I began to write. Summer feels more like winter today, despite the 15°C temperature. A howling Southerly was blasting rain against the windows and the Cook Strait ferries were cancelled. Add to that the burgeoning covid numbers, and the ridiculous protest at parliament, and the world seems to have gone mad. Nevertheless, I am still taking pleasure from the small things I find nearby, and have begun getting interested in the simplicity to be found in the world around me. And everything is so much clearer after the two recent cataract procedures.

Argentine ants?

We have lived in Normandale since 1980. In all that time we have never been troubled by ants. That might be about to change. I suspect that these are not the common black ants. They are probably the invasive Argentine ants. I found them difficult to photograph. These were revealed when a small rock was turned over and they were scurrying all over, moving quickly in and out of my focus zone.

Seed head

This weird alien was given to me as a possible photographic subject. I was baffled, having no idea what it was. Happily my preferred plant identification app (https://identify.plantnet.org) took a shot and suggested that it might be the seed head of a plant called Alpine avens. That ID seems unlikely since the object was found in Normandale and that is a truly alpine plant, but I am reasonably confident that it is indeed a seed head of some kind.

Nature is red in tooth and claw

A buzzing noise on the front corner of the house caught the attention. It seems that the bumble bee had flown too close to the spiders web. The bee was putting up a valiant fight, trying to position its sting towards its foe. The spider however was agile and aggressive dancing all around the bee, gradually wrapping the bee in more and more silk. Eventually the bee subsided and was dragged into the spider’s lair.

Incoming

Mid summer is not behaving well at all. I was in Oriental bay looking back up the harbour towards the Hutt Valley where there were heavy clouds delivering a downpour on the washing we had hung out under almost clear skies an hour earlier. When we got back to the valley everything had been thoroughly rinsed, and the drying process had to start all over.

Even if she did, you can’t prove it.

Lovely green insect. It took me a while to get the identification but it is a Katydid. It was moving around vigorously so it spent a little time in the fridge and that slowed it down significantly. I got several shots in while she was slowed down, but the effects soon wore off and I had to turn her loose outside.

Lavender

Mary has a cluster of lavender plants in a pot at the back door . I see them in various lights from dawn to dusk, and in wind sun and rain and always find them attractive. I decided to arrange a parade.

Heavy lifter

The old myth about bumble bees is that they have insufficient wing area to fly according to conventional aerodynamic theory, but since they can’t read they go ahead and fly anyway. The reality is that they flap their wings forward and backwards and generate some powerful vortices … yes I have explained it inadequately but it will do for this purpose. There have been a lot of bumble bees around recently including this one on a rose in the Wellington Botanic Garden.

Dahlia

While I was having a recent period of downtime from driving, a kindly neighbour gave me one of her dahlias. It seemed so perfect and so delicate that I had to give it a shot. My prior experience with dahlias is that tend to be quite heavy and substantial flowers. This one was quite translucent in the lightbox.

Sunflower

The local birds get well cared for with the provision of fruit and wild bird seed. however, their table manners leave a lot to be desired and a lot of the seed gets dropped. Thus we have a couple of self-sown or bird-sown sunflowers. They are not spectacular specimens but pretty enough in their own way.

Maidenhair fern

l have recently started to enjoy the Japanese idea of “Wabi-Sabi” In photography terms this is usually manifested in terms of minimalist images of transience and beauty. Imperfection and decay are common themes. In this instance, I used the newly emerged branch of a maidenhair fern against a porcelain bathtub.

Daddy Longlegs

This little chap has spun a minimal sort of web across the mouth of a yellow plastic bucket. Unfortunately he/she is hanging beneath the web so the image is of the arachnid’s underside.

St Francis of Assisi

This character-filled statue of Francis of Assisi belongs to Mary. I love its gentle simplicity and thought the candles add an attractive ambience. The long exposure didn’t treat the flames kindly, but it will do for now.

High flyer

I was at Seatoun Beach on my way around the peninsula when I saw two kite-surfers enjoying the stiff Nor’Wester. I was amazed at how high this young lady got when she decided to leave the water.

Fishing expedition

There was a significant pod of dolphins in Lyall Bay last week. Perps a hundred of these magnificent creatures were stirring the bay into a froth. And then out of the South nine of so dolphins came bouncing across the bay in unison and I speculate that they were herding a school of fish towards the larger part of the pod.

That will do for this week. See you next time. Don’t forget to click on the images for a larger view.

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

October 2, 2021 …just enjoy the process

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

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

Botanic Garden, Wellington

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

Gladstone derelict

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

Oaks

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

Perfect stillness

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

A fine specimen

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

Breakfast

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

Day 1 of Daylight Saving

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

Crux

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

Pink rock orchid

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

Wind

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

Customhouse Quay

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

They take a bottle

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

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

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Architecture Art Butterflies Family flowers Landscapes Maritime Railway Waves Weather Wellington

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

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

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

Tree Mallow

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

Monarch butterfly

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

Unexpected stillness

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

Paint and varnish, masts and rigging

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

Van Gogh Alive (1)

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

Sunflowers

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

The city railyard on a public holiday

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

In Wellington

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

Italian grace

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

A cliche but a good one

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

On Bowen Street

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

Wild Onshore Wind

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

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

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

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Academic adversity Architecture Art Birds creativity flowers Landscapes Light night Sunset Weather Wellington

October 31, 2020 … push on through

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.

Statue of Mohatma Gandhi
Mohatma Gandhi

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.

Tulips
A fleeting season

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.

Evans Bay yacht race
Evans Bay

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.

Tui in the rain
I know how he feels

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.

Sorrento Bay
In Sorrento Bay

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.

Purple ragwort
Purple Ragwort

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.

Construction
Remediation

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.

Raindrops
After the rain

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.

More ragwort
Did I mention that it is invasive?

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.

Kina sculpture
Waterfront sculpture

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
Under an ominous sky

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.

Aotea Quay
The other side of the coin

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.

Categories
Art Birds flowers Seasons Waikanae Weather

September 14, 2020 … but a walking shadow*

It’s well known to everyone of a certain age, that time moves faster as you get older. So here I am and it’s already two weeks since my last post, and relatively little seems to have happened. That last bit is the subject of a separate complaint. So let us see what is in the cupboard this time.

Cornflower blue

Spring is undoubtedly with us. There are lambs, cherry blossoms, daffodils, other flowers and a gale which today is expected to reach 120 km/h. My images this week seem to have a botanical leaning. I hope those of you with an engineering bent can cope.

Flannel plant

My neighbour kindly permitted me to steal a bit of this intriguing plant. From a distance it looks like a clump of yellow daisies. When you get close, it takes a different and more three-dimensional form.

First leaf of spring

It’s almost exactly four months since I made an image of the last leaf of the season on our Japanese maple, and now it has clad itself in new season’s clothes.

Follow your nose

The day was a bit rough, with a strong chilly wind. As I was coming back from the boat sheds at Hikoikoi Reserve, I saw a couple in silhouette, walking their dog along the ridge near the shore. The dog was on a long lead, and it was excitedly scanning the path for the scent of any potential enemy or past girl friends.

Cherry blossom

The season of cherry blossom is such a brief glory. A Japanese friend of Mary died recently, and knowing how she loved the ones in Upper Hutt, Mary obtained a sprig of it to leave on the casket.

Sculpture – artist unknown

In the suburb of Kingston, there is a reserve in which there is a stone pou whenua. According to Maori custom, a pou whenua (which is more usually carved from wood) is an assertion of ownership or custodianship of an area. This one was apparently erected by the people of the nearby Tapu Teranga marae. According to an article in Stuff, “The sculpture depicts Te Rauparaha, who faces Kapiti Island to the east, and his nephew Te Rangihaeata, who looks out to Tapu Te Ranga Motu, the island in Island Bay that once served as a refuge for local Maori.”

Tui in a cabbage tree

A brief visit to QEII Park near Paekakariki this well-built tui seemed unafraid.

Black-fronted dotterel at Hokio Beach

Though it’s a 200 km round trip, I love going to Hokio Beach to see the black-fronted dotterel. This tiny bird runs so fast that it appears to blow across the beach like so much fluff. They are a delight to watch.

the un-daffodil express

Each year at about this time, Steam Inc combine with the cancer society to organise a steam-hauled train from Wellington to Carterton where, in normal times, passengers are free to gather daffodils from a field planted for the purpose. Sadly, the organisation decided that social distancing rules made the daffodil collection unsafe this year. Steam Inc went ahead with the train journey anyway, since all seats had been sold ($99.00 per adult return). I caught it as the locomotive clattered across the steel bridge at Moera. I hoped for a more dramatic image on the return journey. Sadly, the train returned an hour ahead of the published schedule, so I was distressed to hear the steam whistle telling me I had missed it.

A host of golden daffodils **

So be it. There were still plenty of daffodils in various public gardens and on traffic islands so it’s easy to find consolation. for other disappointments.

  • *Macbeth, William Shakespeare
  • ** I wandered lonely as a cloud, Wordsworth
Categories
Art Birds flowers Lakes Landscapes Lower Hutt Machinery mountains Petone Reflections Sunset Taranaki

July 17, 2020 … everything changes

I seem to have let things slip for a few weeks. Ah well, the solution is to pick them up again.

In Avalon Park

Stillness speaks louder than the strongest gale. It demands my attention. The first thing I do every morning when I pull back the curtains is check whether the fronds on the ponga tree are waving or still. If they are still, life speeds up and after shower and breakfast, I head out. If they are waving I spend time at the keyboard. This still moment occurred at the end of the day and I was driving through Naenae. The duck pond in Fraser park was free of ripples and I was able to get low enough to separate the tree from the background.

Naenae Fog

On several mornings recently, we have experienced river fog drifting slowly down the valley. It doesn’t always follow the river exactly and takes a shortcut through Naenae. The various heating equipment at Hutt Hospital contributed to scene and showed the generally Southbound movement,

Someone left the plug out

There was a mist in Evans Bay. The ex-naval whaler owned by the Sea Scouts was in need of a good baling out. but was still afloat, and separated from the other nearby boats by the fog.

On the road to Shelly Bay

It was an unusually thick fog, so I went around Shelly Bay road to see what opportunities might arise. I was setting up my tripod for a shot across the bay when two cyclists emerged out of the mist behind me and were disappearing away to the North. I swung the camera and seized the moment.

In Shelly Bay

Back to the view across the harbour and the old jetties at the former Air Force flying boat base. I got the shot I wanted and within thirty minutes the fog had lifted and the view across Evans Bay was back to normal

What a mighty mountain

Mary and I chose to spend four nights away recently. We looked at the various AirBnB opportunities and settled on Opunake on the Taranaki coast. It’s about half an hour North of Hawera and 50 minutes South of New Plymouth. I had driven through it before but had spent no time there. Just getting there fulfils the first rule of landscape photography: first go somewhere where there is a good landscape.

Sunset in Opunake

The weather was variable while we were in Taranaki but we had a few memorable sunsets. Though there was a chill Southerly breeze, the sky was clear apart from some haze on the horizon. This shot was made in Middleton Bay, just North of Opunake beach.

North Island Tomtit

A nice thing about Opunake is the number of interesting places that are with less than an hour’s drive. One such is Dawson Falls at the edge of the tree line high on the South Eastern side of Taranaki. The day we went up there was complicated with low cloud, and though I made some shots of the snow and glimpses of the summit, the mountain was not displayed to best advantage. I was happy however, to see this delightful little North Island tomtit (Petroica macrocephala). It was happy to see me too since my passing by stirred up insects for it to catch.

Carved life-sized hawk

While we were in Taranaki, we visited our friend Wayne Herbert. I posted an image of his tui last edition. This is one of an American hawk . What a gift this man has. I swear I can see life in the eye of this wooden carving.

Waxeye in the red-hot pokers

One of my favourite places near New Plymouth is Lake Mangamahoe. We stopped in there on our way back to Opunake. It was a grey overcast day, but colour was provided by the extensive growth of red hot poker (Kniphofia uvaria) along the lake’s edge. And then there were the lovely waxeyes browsing among the flowers, presumably for insects.

Live steam

Steam Inc, at Paekakariki was having an open weekend recently and I happened to be driving past when I spotted the plumes of steam as the locomotives were being fired up for the event the next day. There were two locomotives out in the sunshine. One was Ja1271 and the other was Ab608 “Passchendaele”. Both were hissing gently and occasionally blowing steam.

The dog walker

On Petone Beach late this week, I saw a dog-walker with nine or ten “clients” which he had walked oolong the stormwater outlet. Several of his dogs were off the leash and he seemed to be calling them to heel with varying degrees of success.

That will suffice this time. Stay safe and well everyone. I look forward to catching up in two weeks or so.

Categories
Adventure Animals Art Birds flowers Hokio Beach Lakes Landscapes Light Maritime mountains South Coast sunrise

June 18, 2020 …seize the day

“Up we go! Up we go!’ till at last, pop! his snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.” (Kenneth Grahame, Wind in the Willows)

Like Mole, I feel I have emerged from the darkness and am enjoying the world with new eyes after the long weeks of lockdown. Even as I visit familiar haunts, I seem to see them differently now. Whether or not this results in new or better images is open for discussion. Either way, I am having fun.

Distand land under a grey sky

How many times, I wonder, have I shared an image of the Tararuas from our front lawn. From a photographer’s perspective each set of light conditions and cloud formations creates a scene different to the many times I have seen it before. The bones of the landscape are unchanged, but the season, the light and the weather add flesh to the view. I am always tempted by those receding layers of hills leading to the great South wall of the Tararuas.

Superb craftsmanship

I have recently made a friend in New Plymouth whose hobby and passion is carving wildfowl in wood to life-size. I know nothing about this hobby except that Wayne Herbert is a master of his craft. For various reasons, the bird he is entering into a global competition this year is in the possession of a near neighbour, so he asked me to make photographs of it. Yes, that beautiful tui really is made of wood.

Morning mist

River mist changes the character of the landscape. Most mornings it disperses fairly quickly and the day turns out well. The tower block in the background is the former TVNZ studios and office block at Avalon. It’s hard to figure out what it’s used for these days. The trees in the mid-ground are on the Boulcott golf course.

Premature symbols of spring

Folklore is fun, but often implausible. There is a fable to the effect that a sure sign of spring is when there are six daisies on the lawn that you can cover with your hand. Well here we are. But how can this be a sign of spring with the winter solstice still a a few days in the future? And why are there early jonquils in flower? I suspect spring may not actually come early, but our warming planet may show us things that, in previous times, were not seen until much later in the year.

Nature – the jeweller

The Japanese maple beside the path to our front door is now bare. The last living leaves have fallen and so begins the long wait for the new season. Or perhaps it won’t be such a long wait. A day of soft rain decorated the branches with sparkling droplets.

Hansa Freyburg departs for Nelson

Several viewpoints around the region afford a good view of the Kaikoura ranges. I was at the lookout at the top of the Wainuiomata Hill road and admiring the view of snow-tipped Tapuae-o-Uenuku when I noticed the container vessel Hansa Brandenburg and the pilot launch Te Haa emerging from the port. I had to wait a few minutes to catch it in front of the mountain. That peak is 2,885 metres high and 140 km from my standpoint.

Autumnal carpet

The flaming Autumn colour of our Japanese maples made a small but spectacular showing and then, in the space of a few days, the colour was all on the ground. Mary’s moss covered driftwood contrasts nicely with the various reds of the dying drying leaves.

Commuting

In Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” (which I have never seen or even read) there is a well-known monologue that outlines the seven ages of man. The words that always resonated with me were “And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel And shining morning face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to school“. In the days when I still commuted to work, I loved to watch the people getting off the train or bus with expressionless faces trudging towards whatever new misery fate might deliver to them today. Rain or shine the expressions never changed as they trudged unwillingly to work. I was aiming to catch the reflection of the portico in the puddle, but I think the two pedestrians capture the day perfectly.

Petone foreshore

At the Western end of the Petone esplanade, is a park which is commonly used by people bringing their dogs for exercise. Its formal name is Honiana Te Puni Park though I doubt that many know it as such. It seems that the car park surface is far from horizontal, judging by the puddles that form after a little rain. I am always happy to find large still puddles as they present an opportunity for reflection shots and in this case a minimalist image. The bollards are there to prevent motorists driving across the narrow strip of grass and over the sea wall into the harbour.

Red

A Canadian photographic group that I joined proposed “Red” as the theme of the week. A strip of florist’s ribbon and a macro lens (just before it died) allowed my to produce this image. It might make more sense if you click on it to see the larger version. Or not. The lens has gone to the maker’s agent in Christchurch and is awaiting the arrival of a replacement barrel with the electronics. Ouch! $450.

A sea horse?

Some of the beaches on the West coast of the North Island are wild and lonely places characterised by black iron sand and lots of driftwood. The long smooth beaches are popular with drivers of off-road vehicles and the occasional equestrian. This picture was captured at Hokio Beach, a little to the South of Levin. There was a heavy swell and the sea was glittering in the afternoon sun. The young lady was clearly enjoying her time with the horse.

Sandra II

Sandra II has featured in many other shots, though usually at her mooring in the Hikoikoi reserve. I saw the two gentlemen preparing for their trip and then they cast off and headed out into the harbour. It seems to have a permanent list to port. It made me think of the old Picton ferry Tamahine (1925 – 1963) which also had a permanent list that gained her the nickname “Tilting Tam”

Deceptive weather

On the South coast near Island Bay, the sun was shining brightly and the sea state was quite moderate. However, the temperature was about 9°C and the spiteful Nor’Westerly wind was ripping the tops off the incoming waves. In the background, the lighthouse on Baring Head gleamed in the morning sun.

Dawn

Early mornings are not familiar territory for me. Nevertheless the rosy glow through the curtains caught my attention. This view from my bedroom window is to the North and the lights on the hills on the left are at the entrance to Stokes Valley. The dark patch in the right foreground is the Boulcott golf course with Naenae and Avalon beyond. Despite ancient warnings about red skies it was the first of several flawless days.

Lake Wairarapa at Featherston

Another lovely day and Mary and I decided to take a picnic lunch to the Southern Wairarapa. Flat calm conditions in Featherston led me to hope that the lake might present opportunities. We got off to a late start so I was pressing my luck. Nevertheless, at 11 am the water was still unruffled. I hung the camera inverted on the centre pole of the tripod and got it close to the surface of the water and looked to the South. A reader commented that she was accustomed to the lake seeming always brown and scruffy. Happily, a smooth surface reflects the colour of the sky above so we have a nice blue lake. I noticed with some regret that the two rows of rusting steel piles that were once a jetty for the yacht club had been removed.

Pole dweller

As we were pulling away from the lake, I saw this white-faced heron perched on the only surviving steel pile and reflecting nicely in the water below. I rolled the window down and shot this from the driver’s seat. There was no other traffic on the road.

I hope the new vision continues and look forward to seeing you next time/

Categories
adversity Art Bees Family flowers Food insects Landscapes Light Plant life sunrise Weather

May 5, 2020 … so much to be grateful for

A full five weeks of Level 4 lockdown is behind us. It seems to have been the right course of action. Yesterday, in New Zealand, there were no new cases of Covid-19 reported. In terms of our personal well being, Mary has performed daily domestic miracles, so from my perspective, lockdown has been no great hardship. We were warm, well fed, and only mildly inconvenienced. I have much to be grateful for. It did, however, constrain my photography. First world problem.

As I indicated two weeks ago, the main impact of lockdown on making images was that most of them have had to be made at short distances. I couldn’t drive to places that gave me the long view required for landscapes. Let’s see how I did.

Down the hole

In one of the neighbourhood walks into which Mary cajoled me, I looked over the railing at the edge of the footpath and down into the crown of a beautiful Silver Fern, (Alsophila dealbata or ponga). I liked the swirling impression it gave, rather like a whirlpool.

Spruce cone

Items of possible interest from her own much longer walks were delivered almost daily by Mary. As far as I can tell, this is the cone is from one of the 35 or so varieties of spruce. I was intrigued by the general lightness of the cone, and the delicacy of each seed wing. Even the simplest things in nature come with their own beauty.

More neighbourly craft

The last time I posted, I mentioned our neighbour painting rocks. Her rate of production seems to have escalated and she has been gifting them to friends and neighbours and even leaving them in various places near the front of the driveway for strangers to find and treasure. It brings a smile to my face to see such a generous instinct.

Cicada

I associate the cicada with February. To my mind it is the sound of late hot summer weather. The sometimes deafening buzz-click of a million insects in unison is what summer sounds like. It was a surprise, therefore, to get one in late April.This specimen is not the common chorus cicada, but rather, I think it is the native April Green cicada, Kikihia ochrina. I have never encountered one before. I just love the delicacy of its wing structure.

Seizing the moment

Though many things are suspended during lockdown, our hedge keeps growing. So I had to uncoil the power cord, oil the hedge trimmer blades and begin the trimming. The hedge was in copious bloom, and the bees were doing their thing. As the clippers reduced the number of available flowers, the bees became a bit disgruntled and buzzed threateningly. I paused in my domestic duties to get out a camera with a long (400 mm) lens so as to catch the bumble bee visiting the last of the uncut flowers. Sorry bees, I bow to a higher authority and she asked for a tidy hedge.

Glass ware

I participate in making pictures to a daily theme with a group of photographers, most of whom are in or near Grand Bend, Ontario. One day recently, the theme was glassware so I produced this. The glass angel (in reality, a small flower vase) was placed inside a larger glass bowl that contains some of Mary’s found rocks. I had to reshoot this because glass that may appear clean to the naked eye is often not so. Any smooth surface seems to need a good wipe before a clean image can be made.

Lost marbles

Continuing the glass theme, I placed this handful of glass marbles inside a fruit bowl. I considered swirling the marbles and getting some motion blur, but with so many marbles, they stopped orbiting as soon as I put the bowl down.

Familiar scene, different light

ANZAC Day was unique this year. For the first time ever, there were no formal public observances. Instead, at the suggestion of our Prime Minister, citizens were invited to stand at their own front gate by the letterbox at 6am to collectively honour the dead of all our wars. And so it was. Many people stood in the pre-dawn darkness, to honour our fallen. The social-distancing rules were observed as we listened to the basic broadcast rituals of ANZAC day. A neighbour played a lament on his bagpipes, and as we dispersed silently back to our homes the day began. A beautiful red sky in the North East warned of murky weather to come.

Katydid

As you will realise, when the public mantra is “stay at home, save lives”, there are few opportunities to use long lenses, so I am always looking for something interesting at close range. Happily, Mary has a good eye, and is not scared of much so she brought this katydid home from one of her walks. The branch recently vacated by the cicada served as a posing platform. Unfortunately the insect kept waving her feelers about, and the relatively slow exposure meant that they were not as sharp as the rest of her.

Spinster

Another close-up is of a small pewter souvenir I bought for my late mother-in-law while I was in Amsterdam in 1982. The girl at the spinning wheel is described in Dutch as a “spinster”, so I was a little nervous about having an invoice for a spinster on my credit card. As with all my images, if you click on it, you will get a larger view and see the details better. As with most of my photography, this is made using natural light from a West facing window.

For medicinal purposes

Also made for the Ontario group, this time with the them with the theme of “bird’s eye view”, is this jar of marshmallows which I keep because someone told me that they are good for the relief of an irritating cough. I was prepared to take that as gospel with out doing any research to check it out. I suppose I want it to be true, and if it’s not, please don’t tell me.

Longhorn

My lovely assistant turned up with yet another interesting specimen. This one took a lot of Google time to track down, and even then, a friend found the identification before I did. It is a variegated longhorn beetle (Coptomma variegatum) … it is usually a forest dweller, the larvae of which burrow into live twigs. I thought it was a handsome beast, although it was very active. I had to resort to an old photographer’s trick of storing it in the fridge for a while until it slowed down with the cold. I got about ten minutes of relative stillness before it began to recover, and then it was turned loose unharmed.

Yucca flowers

Apparently, yucca plants are a significant cause of domestic injury in New Zealand. Their leaves certainly come to a viciously sharp point, and people manage to stab themselves with them. No matter, the flowers are a delight to the eye. The fine specimen in my neighbour’s garden seems to flower every other year and makes a spectacular show when it does.

Not George, but he’s not far away/

Our old friend George, the white heron is back in town. I hoped to see him in the usual place, but alas, he was elsewhere when we visited. His old and smaller friend, the white-faced heron was there keeping watch on his usual resting place inside the derelict boat.

That is all this time. I am guessing that we shall have at least another week or more in semi-lockdown, but perhaps some of the time ahead may allow travel to places with a longer view. Stay well, stay safe, observe the distance guidelines. See you next time.