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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 Birds Dolphins East Harbour Regional Park flowers Hokio Beach insects Maritime Weather Wellington

February 13, 2019 … some gaps in the week

Since I last wrote, there have been at least three and maybe four days on which no meaningful photography occurred. I am unsure whether this is the result of, or the cause of, my somewhat flat state of mind. However, I learned first as a graduate student and later as the supervisor of other graduate students, that the cure to a creative block is to put your hands on the keyboard (or camera) and do something. No matter that the output is rubbish to begin with, at least you have a starting point for what will follow.  Something to improve on.

Straitsman
Straitsman heads purposefully towards her berth in downtown Wellington

A lovely hazy morning in Wellington caused the distant hills to fade in delicate shades. Then came the Straitsman, briskly rounding Pt Halswell. she is not a pretty vessel but she was close enough to avoid the haze,. I liked the way she stands out.

Dandelion
Taraxacum officinale … the common dandelion

A few rubbish days, as I mentioned, and I was not motivated to venture out. A dandelion seed was worth a look, though a million others have trodden that path before me. I used focus stacking. This means taking several images, each of which is focused on a point a little further back. I then merged the six images in Photoshop which selects the “in-focus” area from each image to produce the final image.

Sheep
Given the number of 27ºC days recently, these sheep were long overdue a shearing

Another pleasant morning and I decided to head down the Wainuiomata Coast Road where I encountered a flock of sheep in a pen, awaiting shearing by the look of those long fleeces. They kept a wary eye on me.

Baring Head
Wainuiomata River with Baring Head to the right

Down at the coast, I wandered along the bank of the Wainuiomata River where it curves towards Baring Head before twisting back to the sea. There was a nasty Northerly ruffling the water, but a long exposure settled that down for this image.

Dragonfly
Giant dragonfly (Uropetala caravei) at Forest Lakes

A little to the North of Otaki is a camping and conference centre called Forest Lakes. I have been there in the past as a parent supervisor on various school camps. I decided to try my luck and drove in to seek permission to photograph the lakes and landscape features if the camp was not currently occupied. I got lucky and had some fun. The lakes have a lot of greenery around them, various weeds and even some water lilies. These seem to attract the very large dragonflies. They are frustrating things to photograph as they have the ability to teleport. One second they are there, hovering, and suddenly they are elsewhere without having visibly flown the intervening distance. The challenge is to achieve focus before they move.

Dotterel
Black-fronted dotterel (Elsyomis melanops) … such a tiny delicate bird

From Forest Lakes, I went to Hokio Beach. It is a delightful but little known beach town just to the South of Levin. It seemed to be sheltered from the wind, so I started to eat my lunch when a small grey bird emerged from the reeds nearby. Lunch was dropped and a long lens was hastily mounted. Oh great joy! A beautiful little black-fronted dotterel  was picking its way delicately along the banks of the Hokio stream, probing the mud for food. The random feathers on the edge came from some other bird. The black-fronted dotterel is a self-introduced member of the plover family which from Australia in the 1950s and though its numbers are still small, it has done well enough to be classified as a native.*

Hokio Beach
Hokio Beach – shhhh … don’t tell anyone

The settlement at Hokio beach is small, with a population of about 200, most of whom seem to hope that the rest of country never find it. I share their sentiment and hope that the stillness of the place is kept for the few who live there (and me).  The Hokio stream winds its way through the grey sand out into the Tasman Sea.

Dolphins
Dolphins in Island Bay … fishing in the marine reserve

My last image of the week is purely a record shot with little photographic merit. Yesterday I was at Island Bay sitting in my car looking at a freighter idling off the South Coast when a passing pedestrian drew my attention to the pod of dolphins swimming about inside the barrier provided by Taputeranga Island. Their purposeful circling suggested that this was a fishing expedition and there was no playful leaping. Still I got several bunches of dorsal fins and estimate that the pod might have numbered 20 or more. Though I didn’t manage an artistic image. just being there with them was a delight.

* http://nzbirdsonline.org.nz/species/black-fronted-dotterel

 

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adversity Christchurch Cook Strait Dolphins Maritime sunrise Wellington

April 30, 2013 … a porpoise close behind us, and it’s treading on my tail*

Heartbreak is an extremely dramatic word.

Yet here I am using it twice in two days. We left Rolleston in the dark, a little after six. It was very dark and once we hit Russley Rd which is seemingly becoming a four laned highway, everything got confused. Flashing lights, pink road cones and no external visual cues increased my stress levels. Added to that, the massive grilles of the huge “B-train” trucks front and rear scared me witless. Eventually I realised that we were indeed headed North when I got to signs pointing to Harewood.  From there the road turned to the North East (John’s Rd)  and straight into the rising sun.

This is where the heartbreak occurs. It was a blood-red sunrise with dramatic dark cloud above, and trees silhouetted in the golden light at the horizon. Magnificent picture opportunities presented themselves, and there was no possibility to stop without having a Fonterra tanker and trailer, or a big Hall’s refrigerated rig trampling all over me. The photographic disaster was complete as we swung Northwards again and crossed the bridge at Saltwater Creek near Sefton. This is one of those braided rivers so typical of Canterbury, and the water was reflecting that red dawn. I desperately wanted to stop right there, but alas survival instincts prevailed.

In the course of staying alive, I was mostly focussed on the road. All this was gained from impressions from the corner of my eyes. My gift to my fellow photographers in Canterbury is this: next time there is a similar partially overcast sunrise such as this, get to Sefton and onto Geisha Road. Get down onto the shingle and wait for the right moment. I am sure it will be a salon-buster.

Anyway, grumpy and disappointed I drove on until at last, somewhere in the Hurunui where the traffic was lighter, I was able to stop (Mary is very patient), and capture the last of the red morning before it washed out entirely.

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Mary was driving the rest of the way, so I was able to enjoy the magnificent landscape through Waipawa, Cheviot and the Hunderlees to the East coast near Kaikoura. A little to the South of Kaikoura,  I was watching seaward ever hopeful of seeing a whale blowing, and there was a pod of dolphins frolicking. We pulled in and noticed that a number of others had seen them too.

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Regrettably their best antics were at fairly extreme distances, so this first image is a fairly extreme crop.

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They did get closer but behaved more sedately near the shore. After a good coffee and snack (I always choose the whale watch site in Kaikoura, it is bright, cheerful, immaculately clean, and does good coffee), we moved on to Picton.

There, the marshalling people performed their usual mysterious rites to ensure that those who arrive early (as we did) get shunted into the line that boards the ferry last and misses out on the best seats. I am sure there is some science in their apparently arbitrary system, but I have never figured it out.

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The passage up the sound was beautiful and uneventful. I watched in hope for conspicuous dolphin or bird activity and saw none. A pretty little classic double ended motor launch called “Kiwi” puttered by in the other direction.

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As we came abeam of the wind farm near Wellington, I had a sense of homecoming.

So now we are home with a busy week ahead.

* The Lobster Quadrille, by Lewis Carrol