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April 28, 2022 … catching casual beauty

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?

Say it with flowers

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.

Cosmos

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

Long-tailed pea-blue butterfly

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).

Sitting in judgement

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.

Home

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.

Old and New-ish

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.

Strait Feronia

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.

Royalty

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.

Mill Creek

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.

Mouse traps

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.

A fully functioning death star?

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.

Afternoon sun

The honey bees have been busy in recent times and I was pleased to catch this one in between two lavender flowers.

That’s all for now. See you next time, I hope.

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March 1, 2022 … diversion from the serious stuff

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

Word of Mouth

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

Black Swans

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

Bumble bee with sweet pea

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

Wairarapa Moana

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

Chicory

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

Lowry Bay in the mist

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

Waves of bark

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

Reading

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

Newtown barber

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

Old style greengrocer

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

The graveyard

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

The iconic OLB

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

New Zealand Fur Seal pup

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

Mother and child

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

Thanks for visiting. I always appreciate any constructive feedback.

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May 22, 2020 … birds and bees

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

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

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

Vivid colour

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

Graffiti in the bush

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

Hi, George

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

To see the world in a grain of sand

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

A white-faced heron

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

Madonna

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

Pukeko

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

white on white

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

Bumble-bee resting

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

Sandra II

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

The elusive George

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

Glass

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

Imperial gaze

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

Vagrant spider (Uiliodon albopunctatus)

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

Leucanthemum (I think)

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

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

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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.

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Adventure Bees Birds Cook Strait flowers harbour Landscapes Light Maritime night Railway South Coast Sunset Weather Wellington

January 24, 2020 … making lots of images

Challenging weather in the last few weeks has been a mixed blessing. There have been days which offered little inspiration. When the light has been reasonable, it has made me look more closely at whatever is in front of me. It has made me actively seek shapes, patterns, colours and ideas.

Steel and grease

Mary and I took a friend who is a train enthusiast up to Paekakariki to the sheds where Steam Inc work on their locomotives. It was a gloomy overcast day and there was nowhere that offered the space to see any of the locomotives in full. Instead, I selected part of the valve linkage to represent the whole. The sheer weight of metal, the array of nuts and bolts and the heavy coat of oil all speak of the power of this mighty machine (Ja1271 for anyone wondering).

Giant Bush Dragonfly

At the wetlands in Queen Elizabeth Park in Paekakariki, I looked in vain for any dabchicks, so settled for this large dragonfly. Despite its name, it is much smaller than the enormous ones I remember seeing in Colorado. Nevertheless, since they rarely sit still I was pleased to get this one. hovering in one spot. I also got lots of shots which were blurred or contained no dragonfly.

Reeds

There’s something about the various reeds in the wildlife reserve in the Pauatahanui wetlands that just demands attention. They sway and swirl, and seem to change colour through a spectrum of brown green and gold. It’s quite a small area, but one that I love very much.

Sleeping on Parade

Also in the Pauatahanui wetlands, I found group of Royal Spoonbills sleeping together with remarkable military precision. Not only were they arrayed in a straight line, but were evenly spaced. I am intrigued that they always seem to pull one leg up and fold their bill along their back when they sleep. Still water gave nice reflections.

A pied stilt chick

While I was in the hide making spoonbill pictures, I was aware of a noisy pied stilt squawking at anything that moved. It was chasing other birds and clumsy humans away, circling around and diving towards any intruder, regardless of size. Then I saw her chick. Against the sandbanks, it seemed like a small clump of wind-blown fluff. Not until it went into the water did I realise what I was seeing. I suspect that much of its mother’s squawking was telling it to look out for the many dangers.

Bombus terrestris – the heavy lifter of the bee world

I am unsure what the flower in this picture is, though it seemed to be coming to the end of its season. Like a heavy-lift helicopter the bumble bee came in slowly, hovering above the flowers to gather nectar and I could feel the energy transferred by its wings to the air that supported it. I had been about to attempt a long-range landscape shot, so I already had the long zoom lens on the camera. It worked quite well allowing me to focus on the insect just a few metres away.

Passion vine hopper – nymph

I get easily confused by the developmental stages of various insects, and as far as I can tell, this is the nymph stage of the passion vine hopper (Scolypopa australis). Surprisingly for the scientific website I used, I learned that the nymphs are universally known as “fluffy bums”. This particular example was at most, 4 mm long (5/32 inch). The fibres at the rear are apparently extrusions of wax, the purpose of which is not known.

The odd couple

I have always loved ships. Though I mourn the passing of the ships I kew in my youth, with their graceful curved sheer line, I am slowly becoming accustomed to their modern replacements with huge apartment block accomodation sections that look as if squeezed from a toothpaste tube before being chopped off to selected length. Cruise liners tankers and container ships are all straight lines these days. The two in this image are both relatively small ships. They are the Seabourn Encore (604 passengers) and the Seven Seas Explorer (700 passengers) . If they don’t look small compare them with the Ovation of the Seas (see later in this edition) which comes with 4,900 passengers.

Skylark

Whitireia park is a large open area which occupies the Southern headland of Porirua Harbour. Most people who know Wellington will recognise it as the place near Porirua where the old AM radio mast for station 1YA was. It is characterised for most of the year by long grass. Large areas of open grass are attractive to skylarks, though they are usually quite shy. For some reason, this one was bolder than most so I got down low and pointed the camera at it. It looked indignant and flew away.

Glassware

My son and daughter-in-law live near our house. They have a magic view across the harbour and out through the heads towards Antarctica. Looking at that view through a large glass bowl on their table just appealed to me. I don’t feel the need to justify it further.

Le Laperouse

The French were in town. Ponant Cruises boutique luxury liner Le Laperouse is small enough to be able to berth at Queens wharf right on the edge of downtown. She is a fine looking vessel, though I suspect her small size means she might be more lively in a big sea. She carries just 264 passengers so does not instil the sense of dread that comes when I contemplate the giant liners. From Oriental Bay I thought she fitted well with the glass and steel textures of the tower blocks across the road.

From small to oh my goodness

Monday this week was a a lovely day with clear skies and no wind. As well as Le Laperouse mentioned above, there were two large cruise liners in port and Ovation of the Seas, the larger of the two, was scheduled to leave at 8 pm, much later than usual for most cruise liners. Bearing in mind the disruption to our evening domestic routines, I asked to be excused and went out into the golden evening to capture her departure. I settled down to wait at Point Halswell. She eventually left her berth and headed towards the harbour entrance. I then found a suitable viewing spot literally at sea level on the Eastern side of the Miramar Peninsula. Soon enough in the beautiful golden light, she came ghosting past. I remain astonished that a ship of 168,600 Gross Tonnes and powered by 67,200 kW (over 90,00 hp) could move so quickly and in almost total silence. The pilot launch Te Has made more noise. There was remarkably little wake from this huge ship.

In the golden West

By the time the Ovation of the Seas had dropped the pilot and resumed her journey towards her next port, there was a lovely light in the sky and the mountains of the Kaikoura ranges were nicely silhouetted. Bonus!

Evans Bay

Fully content with my photographic adventures that evening I set out on the homeward journey through Evans Bay. Oh, oh, oh! The stillness was just beautiful. Out with the tripod again and I set up a long exposure to catch the tail of the blue hour.

That will suffice for this edition. Somehow I am feeling less insecure this week than in recent editions. I think it is that I am trying to be satisfied with an image if it pleases me, regardless of how I think others might judge. See you next time.

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adversity Architecture Art Bees Cook Strait flowers harbour History Maritime Reflections Rivers Trees Wellington

May 15, 2019 … grinding of teeth

I spend a lot of time agonising over my photographic ability. I get lots of positive feedback from you, gentle readers and I thank you for it. But my severest critic remains unsatisfied. My best images still fall far short of the best images in the competitions I occasionally  enter.

The infuriating thing is that most of their winning images are within my technical capability. What my images usually lack is their genius way of seeing, of extracting something extraordinary, and usually very simple, from the banal complexity of ordinary life. A self-inflicted handicap is my tendency to shoot in broad daylight rather than in the dramatic low light of the blue and golden hours associated with the start and end of each day. Perhaps I need to get up earlier.

Wanting some images to submit for two prestigious national competitions, I spent half a day skimming through the 5,500 or so images I have retained since January 2018. I make far too many images and retain far too many “snapshots”. In case you are unaware, snapshot is a very derogatory term in photographic circles. I extracted about 50 images that would not embarrass me. I reduced that to 14 images a very few of which might be deemed worthy of acceptance for display. As an accredited judge myself, I am aware of the mercurial fate that makes a judge like or dislike an image so more in hope than expectation I have entered the two competitions and will let you know in due course how I fared.

But as for now, I am engaged in culling the sad images that I should never have kept and am trying even harder to see with the eyes of genius to which I aspire. But enough of the flagellation, here are some shots made since I last wrote.

Autumn colour
Pastoral scene in Silverstream

Silverstream is one of those Hutt Valley places settled early by homesick pioneers who were desperate for the sights and colours of their distant homeland. Seeds were planted and a century or so later we see the lovely colours of deciduous trees in Autumn. It is a brief splash of colour and I needed to position myself carefully to exclude power poles and the severe evergreens of native bush in the background.  I might have gone for a square format to show just the foliage. On the other hand the fence and the horse tell part of the settlers’ story.

Tide
Incoming tide at the boatsheds, Hutt estuary

Many times before I have shown images from the Hikoikoi reserve, so the boats and the boatsheds may be familiar. In my opinion, each visit is different. The boats swing, the tide comes and goes, the clouds and the light vary and each visit offers the chance to see the same place in a new way. I used a wide angle lens (equivalent to 18 mm on a full frame camera) and positioned the camera very close to the sand, I was so intent on the visual aspect of the incoming tide that I didn’t realise how fast it was coming until it seeped through my shoes into my socks.

blue
Blue on blue … the new Lyall Bay Surf Lifesaving club’s premises

Wellingtonians who have been away for a while may recall the surf lifesaving club’s wooden building on Lyall Bay. The old building is dead and gone, and a vividly coloured replacement now stands there. The child in the picture was incidental but I like his red hat. For anyone concerned for his welfare, his father was seated around the corner out of sight, keeping a close watch. I liked the geometry of the composition and blue of the sea and sky and the many shades of blue in the tiles,

Harbour
Captain Herd of the Settler ship Rosanna said in 1826 of Wellington Harbour “Here all the navies of Europe might ride in perfect safety”. He was presuming they wouldn’t shoot at each other.

Stillness always appeals to me, especially on the water. From my son and daughter-in-law’s housein Maungaraki,  I borrowed their front balcony which offers a great view of Wellington’s inner harbour. The light was a little flat, but there was a glittering quality to the water which made it worth the shot

Nga Kina
The closing gaps and the art works

Town planners speak of “view shafts” by which they mean the ever-declining number of places from which their citizens can see between the high-rise buildings to the waterfront and the sea. I fear that this gap at Queens Wharf gates at the bottom of Whitmore St is endangered. I remember in more innocent times being allowed to wander on the wharves alongside ships even as cargo operations were in progress. Alas the parts of the port to which the public have access seems to shrink each year. However, the authorites allow and even commission art works in the remaining areas to soften the blow. In this case, the fibreglass reinforced concrete work in the foreground is “Nga Kina” by Michael Tuffery. I used a neutral density filter to allow a 20 second exposure to tame the water.

Pukeahu
Though it symbolises the “Red Heart of Australia”, the 300 tonnes of sandstone in the memorial were sourced from Agra in India.

The Pukeahu national war memorial  park is located in front of the old Museum part-way up Taranaki St.  One of its feature memorials consisting of 15 red sandstone columns with inlays of New Zealand grey basalt was gifted to the people of New Zealand by the people of Australia. It’s a struggle to see it from other than the obvious angles so I laid my camera on the ground between the columns and fired it remotely. It was quite a challenge to find a view spot that did not include unwanted external items.

Bee
“How doth the little busy bee improve each shining hour …” (Isaac Watts)

Earlier in the year I reported a visit to the cherry blossoms at the Aston Norwood gardens to the North of Upper Hutt. Mary and I went back there a few weeks ago for lunch, and to seek Autumn colour. There was some, but what caught my eye was the industrious honey bees working on the lovely expanse of flowering yellow shrubs. I had a long lens mounted, and this shot was made at a 300 mm equivalent

tree
Standing against the wind

The South Wairarapa district calls me often, and I love it all the more when there is mist in the background. This shot was made on the Lake Ferry Road looking Westward to the Rimutaka ranges. I tried hard to make that weather-worn tree separate from the backgrounde

Autumn
Red carpet

My last shot in this edition is to re-affirm that Autumn is here, and indeed almost over. These leaves are from one of the two Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) in our front yard. It always amazes me how little time passes between the first browning of the summer leaves to a full blown dump of dead red leaves. But each season has its beauty.

So ends another edition. Constructive feedback is always welcome

Categories
Adventure adversity Architecture Art Aviation Bees insects Light Lower Hutt Masterton night Reflections Rivers Weather Wellington

February 24, 2019 …. if you haven’t grown up by now, you don’t have to

This somewhat belated edition is slightly longer than normal because, well, there was an airshow. If you have been reading my ramblings for any length of time, you know that I love a good airshow.  But first, let’s get some random images out of the way. Truth to tell, they are not all that random. They follow the trajectory of my wandering, but the subject matter is fairly random.

Architecture
Architectural quirkiness in Eastbourne

Sometimes my search for artistic form gets a bit desperate. I grit my teeth and clench my fists, hold my breath and strain to see something attractive hidden in the ordinariness around me. It rarely works. Now and then I am rewarded by an image which may not be great, but which pleases me. This architectural detail is on the main road into Eastbourne. I am not sure how practical the house is for its owners but I liked the shapes and proportions of the towers.

Stream
The stream above the ford on the Waiohine Gorge Road

When the members of the family were here from Brisbane recently, we went up the Waiohine Gorge road just North of Greytown in the Wairarapa. As we were coming back, we crossed a ford and from the corner of my eye, I glimpsed a tree-shaded steam  which ran across the road and down into the Waiohine River below. Holiday traffic on the dusty road made it impractical to stop. A week or so ago, I went back there on a quiet week-day morning, to try again. The ford was dry and I thought I had missed the opportunity. Happily the stream was still there and the residual flow goes under the road. You might wonder why the reflected leaves seem blurred. The answer is that there was a strong wind overhead and the highest parts of the canopy were thrashing around.

Bridge
ANZAC Memorial Bridge – Kaiparoro

On the same day after some fruitless wandering in the South Wairarapa,  I was on my way home  via SH2 and had just passed through Ekatahuna when I arrived at the ANZAC Bridge at Kaiparoro. In all the years I have been passing this, I have never stopped to look. The bridge was built in 1921 to cross the previously unbridged Makakahi River, and to serve as a memorial for the six men from the district whose lives were lost in the first world war. I made this picture from beneath the much larger bridge that now carries the busy SH2 traffic over the stream. The old bridge is no longer connected to any roads and its sole remaining purpose is as a memorial.

Cicada
Discarded shell of cicada nymph

Mary likes to be in the garden. I like to look at gardens but rarely participate, except when Mary finds something. This discarded shell of a cicada nymph seemed worth a look. The image is a stacked composite of about seven images to ensure every part is in focus.

Harbour
Wellington Harbour Entrance

At the top of Mt Crawford on the Miramar peninsula sits the deserted but still  grimly locked Mt Crawford Prison. Looking down from its Eastern wall, there is a lovely view of the harbour entrance. In the foreground is Miramar. Seatoun is behind that, and across the water you can see the upper and lower lights at Pencarrow. If you have sharp eyes you can see the Baring Head light to the left of the upper Pencarrow light. Baring Head is the only one of the three that is still operational. If you use your imagination and squint really hard, the Antarctic ice shelf is just 3,200 km over the horizon.

Night
Looking down on Lower Hutt

Earlier this week, there was a super moon, and I tried to catch it rising over the Eastern hills. Sadly heavy cloud obscured its rising and I had to be satisfied with a night shot of the valley below. The darkened tower block in the centre is Hutt Hospital on High St.

Khandallah
It’s always good to find a new viewing platform

I found a new view window down onto the port that provides a more broadside view of the vessels berthed there. On this occasion I caught the Ovation of the Seas and the US Coast Guard icebreaker, Polar Star. Apparently this is the only operational icebreaker left in US Cost Guard service, and she is the first coast guard vessel to visit New Zealand since the suspension of the ANZUS treaty in 1984. Welcome back.

Sunset
It had been a miserable windy overcast day and then this happened

Sometimes I see a sunset only because there is a rosy tint on the Eastern hills. On this night the colour was so intense that I mounted a grab and dash mission. Click for a better view of this image which I caught from the slopes of Maungaraki.

The following images are from the Wings Over Wairarapa airshow held at Masterton this weekend, so if it’s not your thing, skip to the end.

LAV III
A heavier than air machine at the Air show

No matter how fast it goes down the runway, this General Dynamics LAV-III will never take off. Belonging to the Queen Alexandra’s Mounted Rifles regiment, it was part of the NZ Defence Forces contribution to the show. Apparently it just fits inside a C-130

Agricola
A beautifully restore piece of history

This ugly duckling is the world’s last surviving Auster Agricola. The prototype of this aerial topdresser was flown in 1955 but no more than ten were ever built. It was good at its job, but the Auster company were not good at selling it to the world. Pity.

PC-12
Horsepower … it would need some serious power to spin that five-bladed propeller

Much more glamorous than the Auster is the Pilatus PC-12 seen here on display at the show. If you click to enlarge, you will see a honey bee sitting on the apex of the spinner, I didn’t see it when I made the image, and was about to tidy up what I thought was a photographic flaw.

Yak 3
Full Noise – a Yak-3

As I have written elsewhere, the airshow was a disappointment to me, with a very limited selection of serious warbirds on display or in action apart from the superb WWI machines belonging to The Vintage Aviation Limited (TVAL). There were lots of Yak-52 trainers and this excellent Yak-3. It has made its presence felt at the Air Races in Reno, racing under the name “Full Noise”. But missing were any real Spitfires, Mustangs, Corsairs or Kittyhawks.

PBY
PBY-5a Catalina rumbles off the runway

The other piece of real hardware on display was this lovely PBY-5a painted in the WWII colours of XX-T of the RNZAF’s number 6 squadron. An aviator and dear friend wrote of them that they took off at 90 mph, cruised at 90 mph and landed at 90 mph.

And now we come to the bit about growing up. After all these years, I got bored at an airshow, and left long before the end. The entry fee was triple what I expected to pay and the aircraft on display were far less varied than in previous years. They would need to up their game by a very long way to get me back to the Wairarapa show. If my Saturday Night Investment Plan (SNIP) ever pays off, I might consider a trip to Oshkosh, but I fear my days at airshows could be in the past.

 

Categories
Architecture Art Bees Birds insects Landscapes Light Maori Maritime Paremata Plant life Weather Wellington

November 23, 2018 … a weird mixture

Days of alternating weather have meant different styles of photography as the week has gone by, We have had some grey misty days and a few nice days and a few that did nothing for me at all.

heron
White-faced herons are not as glamorous as their distant cousins the white heron, but they move with the same careful elegance

On one of the calm days, I went to the estuary and watched a white-faced heron doing its slow deliberate stalking through the shallow water, pausing now and then to spear a fish or crab.

spoonbills
Royal spoonbills seem to sleep on one leg with their extraordinary bills tucked among the plumage on their backs

Later the same day, I spotted a small flock of royal spoonbills  all dozing on one leg while a black swan cruised among them.

Hei tiki
The hei-tiki is an ornamental pendant made by the Maori. This is not one, but the similarity is there.

As I was climbing out of the estuary basin, I spotted something half-buried in the sand. My first thought was that I had found an intricately carved wooden hei-tiki, I was only mildly disappointed to discover that it was just a piece of driftwood, shaped by long immersion in the ever-moving sand.

Hutt
Looking down the Hutt River from home with the Eastern hills getting a good soak

A few nights ago, as the sun was setting, there was a heavy rain cloud moving down the Eastern side of the valley. The combination of clear sky in the west and heavy cloud in the East produced some interesting light.

Koromiko
This plant is so common as to be almost a weed, Nevertheless it has at least three names: Hebe, Veronica or Koromiko 

The next day the weather was unhelpful, so I played about with some flowers in my dark box using my excellent macro lens and the technique of photo-stacking. I quite like this image of a sprig of Hebe.

Harbour
Steel grey harbour

The weather changed several times and I liked the silver-grey view down the harbour.

Bee
Inbound heavy freighter

Today was pleasant and I found myself at Paremata at the entrance to the Porirua harbour. There was not much happening from a landscape perspective but I enjoyed the sight of bumble bees exchanging pollen for nectar on a bush that I later learned is Tree Mallow.

boat sheds
Paremata boat sheds

My final shot in this edition was made from the edge of the beach at the mouth of the Pauatahanui inlet. I wanted still water so opted for a long exposure. The boats moved with the water’s flow but the colours and forms of the boat sheds appealed to me.

That’s all for now

Categories
Adventure Bees Cook Strait Horokiwi Landscapes Light Maritime Wellington

November 17, 2018 … Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow*

Day by day, time passes. Of course, there is no other way to get here. That’s how we get older, how our kids got older, and how our grandchildren are starting to graduate from high school and so on. It comes at a cost, of course. Creaking bones, uncertain balance and perhaps a bit less confidence than I used to have. But I would not change a thing. I am loving where I am and who my kids are, and who my beautiful grandchildren are.  And until the final recall notice, I shall just keep on enjoying life as it comes, day by day.

Ferries
Coming through the mist, two ferries return home

 

Even the grey days bring their pleasures. I was standing on the Eastern end of Petone Beach when I spotted the ferries Kaitaki and Strait Feronia emerging through the mist at the harbour entrance. The sharp horizon line contrasts with the softness of the weather in the South.

Mist
I like the contrast between the sharp lines of the oil terminal and the softness of the hills beyond

If you know the children’s movie, “The Never Ending Story” in which the world is steadily being eaten by “the nothing” you get a sense of what I saw as I looked past the Point Howard oil terminal to the distant city being relentlessly swallowed by the mist.

Rock pool
Blues and greens, ebb and flow and beauty in the simple things

But a day or two later, reality was restored. I explored some rock pools in Island Bay, and put the steady surge and suck of the water on hold for a few seconds.

Dory
Prettier than many a glass fibre gin-palace

If you have read more than a few of my blog entries, you will be familiar with  my constant battle with debilitating self-doubt as I struggle to see the essential simplicity that makes for a better image. This one, at least, I like. It is a simple working dory, moored in the shelter of the breakwater at the Hikoikoi reserve in the Hutt River estuary. Warm varnish, red boot topping and blue-green  water combine nicely, I think.

Bee on flax
How doth the little busy bee Improve each shining hour, And gather honey all the day From every opening flower! (Isaac Watts)

Among my fellow bird photographers, many of us are members of “the tail feathers club” … membership is attained by pushing the shutter too late, and catching no more than a glimpse of the rear of the departing bird. I think membership could be extended to similar photographs of any life form. Here, we see the North end of a South-bound honey bee, looking for nectar among the flax flowers.

boats
The never-ending restoration project … step one: start

This image is very similar to an image I made just a few weeks ago, but the light is so much better this time, I just had to try again.

Horokiwi
Looking in on the city from the North

I like looking at Wellington from different angles. In this instance, I was on a narrow road high up in the semi-rural suburb of Horokiwi, looking back across Newlands to the central city, up to Kelburn  and to Brooklyn and the wind turbine and airport radar  on Hawkins Hill

Manuka
Manuka flower

I was visiting a friend and saw a lovely mass of red on a shrub in his garden. He purchased  it as a Boronia. I think he should seek a refund from his garden shop. This is clearly Leptospermum scoparium … the manuka

Rose
Such short-lived beauty

Then Mary was given some roses so I had some more fun with the light box. In camera club circles you will rarely do well with simple flower images, but as William Blake wrote, “to see a heaven in a flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand” … who cares about camera club success?

Makahika Stream
Perfect peace

To the East of Levin, over the hill from the Kohitere Forest is the Makahika Stream at the edge of the Tararua Forest Park. A pleasant place where the only sound apart from the wind in the trees and the flowing river is wonderful birdsong, dominated by tui and the grey warbler.

Enough for this week. See you again soon.

* Shakespeare – Macbeth

Categories
adversity Bees Cars harbour Landscapes Light Lower Hutt Manawatu Masterton Masterton Petone Wairarapa Weather Wellington

February 2, 2018 … all good things come to an end, eventually

January has been a month of mixed fortunes. Weather-wise, from my photographic point of view, it was great, with sun, little wind and lots of warmth. That has now been replaced by a severe gale suddenly lashing central New Zealand. And I could have done without the catastrophic engine failure I experienced during a trip to the Wairarapa last week.

Reflection
I often wonder at the wisdom of glass-curtain architecture in such a seismically threatened city as Wellington. I like the appearance though.

The week began hot and fine. I spent time wandering the waterfront, trying to look behind the obvious, to find the image-worthy subjects. On the waterfront near the TSB arena I saw a reflection in the tower block on the other side of Jervois Quay, and liked its contrast with the Norfolk pine nearby.

Traffic
Evening rush on Jervois Quay …stop, go, stop, go …

Later that day, in the afternoon, I was crossing the bridge from the waterfront as the evening rush hour began. My camera has an interesting feature intended to build high-resolution composite images by taking eight images in rapid succession, each with the sensor moved in very small steps to left or right, up or down and then combining them to a single 40 megapixel file. It is intended for still subjects, but I wondered what it would make of the traffic below. As you can see the road, the building and the trees are all shown as they should be. The rendering of the moving vehicles is interesting and to my mind, as I hoped, catches the sense of the slow-moving step by step progress towards home.

Otahoua
The transmission tower atop Otahoua Hill to the East of Masterton is a visible landmark for miles around.

Then came my day of madness. Despite a forecast temperature of 33ÂșC, I crossed the hill into the Wairarapa and just a little to the East of the town is the Te Ore Ore – Bideford Rd. You can guess the names of the two localities it connects.  Otahoua hill overlooking a large expanse of somewhat dry-looking grain caught my attention.

Panorama
Somewhere between Ihuraua and Alfredton, there was birdsong and the hum of bees and the thermometer was nudging 33ÂșC

The road from there, through to Dannevirke, though picturesque, is long, winding and narrow, and in places quite rough. My car chose that remote spot to start sending me distress messages via the temperature gauge. I stopped for a while to set up this North-facing panorama of the wild and lonely countryside in the area. Click on the image to get a better sense of the emptiness of the area. The road I was following runs along the edge of that pine plantation and winds on to Dannevirke perhaps 50 km further to the North West.  Very little traffic on the road though I did have to wait until a convoy of motorcyclists thundered past. Then I resumed a cautious slow drive to Dannevirke where I sought assistance. I did eventually get home, but perhaps should have stayed. It is either a cracked cylinder head, or a leaking head gasket. Either way, the engine in the car is wrecked and the cheapest repair option was a replacement used engine.

Blue
Beyond that blue horizon there is absolutely nothing until you reach the Antarctic ice

The next day, back in Wellington, using a courtesy car provided by my dealer’s service department, I went to explore yet another day of magical warmth and stillness. An old man got in his dinghy and rowed out from Petone beach to tend his fishing nets. That’s Matiu/Somes Island to the right and in the haze on the left is that drilling platform looking for a fresh-water aquifer below the sea bed.  Next to that is its attendant tug, Tuhura.

heat
Haze so early in the day suggests a hot day ahead

Yet another day dawned hot and hazy and this view from my bedroom window promised at least one more day of summer. After that, all bets were off. A tropical storm brought wind at 130 km/h and rain, lots of rain. The delicate people amongst us cheered as they temperature dropped from consistent 30ÂșC to nearer 20ÂșC. It seems so long since we had a real summer that I would have liked it to continue a while. Of course, farmers and gardeners were delighted. According to media reports this was Wellington’s hottest January in 150 years of temperature records.  I have loved it.