Birds Evans Bay Geology Haywards Hill Hokio Beach Kapiti Island Landscapes mountains Pukerua Bay Reflections Rivers Sunset Waves Weather Wellington

June 7, 2019 … thanks for your many kindnesses

Since I last wrote, the region has had more than its fair share of wild and downright ugly days. If I were a depressive personality this would be getting me down. Happily, I can sometimes use the bad days to my advantage. And in any case, many of you have sent me kind and affirming messages which have been balm to my soul. Thank you to those kind people who take the trouble to send messages.

A month or so ago, WordPress changed their default editor, and I didn’t notice that images no longer provided a “click-to-enlarge”. I have corrected that as of this issue and may eventually get back to the issues that were affected. Please do click for a much bigger image

A Little shag (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos) flying in close formation with its reflection at Pauatahanui

When I look up from my keyboard and notice that the trees outside are not moving, I check on the other side of the house for confirmation, and unless domestic courtesies require otherwise, head for the nearest body of water likely to deliver attractive reflections. On this occasion, I went to the Pauatahanui Inlet where the bright blue sky and the gold reeds provided a nice contrast with the Little Shag. “Little” is not a casual adjective here. That is the formal name of the species, as distinct from the Little Black, the Pied, the Spotted and about half a dozen more common types in New Zealand.

Reflections don’t always depend on still water. This architectural study is on The Terrace

Very occasionally I will turn my attention to the structure of the city. I have probably commented before that, for a seismically risky city, Wellington has a large number of buildings with glass curtain frontages. Leaving aside the question of what happens when the earth moves, these buildings present some nice reflections. In this case, the building at 155 the Terrace is reflected from a tower block down on Lambton Quay. I took care to line the framework as well as possible, and cropped and trimmed the last bit in the computer.

It takes sustained high wind to generate lenticular clouds of this magnitude

On the Haywards Hill one evening two weeks ago, I just had to pull over to the side of the road to catch this spectacular formation. I was on my way to act as judge for another camera club’s competition, otherwise I might have lingered longer to catch the brilliant orange colour which came with the setting sun. Dozens of my photographic friends produced stunning images of this event.

Pukerua Bay Lookout offers a fine view towards Kapiti and then a challenge to get back into the North-bound traffic

Mary and I were driving to Waikanae the next day to enjoy lunch with some friends of very long standing. Despite the clear blue sky and the glitter on the water, the thing that caused me to stop at the Pukerua Bay lookout was the impression of relentless power from the waves being driven in from the Tasman by that strong Nor’Wester. The other thing that lookout offers is the challenge of forcing your way back into the North-bound traffic.

Williwaws swirling up Evans Bay

The wind did not abate, and if anything it started to get serious. According to the TV news, it peaked at 121 km/h the next day. I went looking for waves, but found little of interest. That proves that I was not looking clearly because some of my friends produced some great wave shots. However, the wind coming into Evans Bay after its journey across the harbour produced some interesting effects. The swirling williwaws lifted their spouts a hundred metres or more from the surface, and I had to work hard to keep my lens dry. I loved the dark sky over the Western hills.

Downtown glassware

I know that modern architects work really hard to ensure that all the bits of the building remain attached even when the earth moves. Nevertheless, recent demolitions pursuant to the Kaikoura earthquake (14 November 2016) tend to suggest that there are some factors that even the best of them didn’t think of. I love the shapes, colours and textures of a modern cityscape. On the other hand I see hundreds of tonnes of sheeet glass seemingly just hanging on the outside of the building, and I imagine it falling as a huge guillotine. As long as the fixing methods perform as expected I am happy.

Wellingtons winds suck and blow North West then Southerly, most of the time.

If we are lucky, after we have endured a few days of sustained wind, we get a break for a day or two before it all comes roaring back in the other direction. I like the Southerlies for the spectacular waves they deliver on the coast between the harbour entrance and Owhiro Bay. Jagged rocks which are typical of our Southern shoreline help to break the incoming waves and sometimes create astonishing explosions of water. A technique advocated by one of my photographic idols is to be deliberate about the tonal relationships between various elements of the image. Notice the clarity of the rocks and the successive reduction in tonal intensity as we progress to the mountains across the strait.

Pied stilt – Pauatahanui Inlet

And just like that, the new day dawns still and golden. Mary recognises the signs and packs a lunch for me to take on my wandering. I know how lucky I am. Unlike the preceding image, this one presents a clear sharp day and a relatively short distance between near and far, so the tonal range need not be an issue. I really love the golden tones of the reeds at Pauatahanui and the comparison with the formal attire worn by the stilt/.

It has been a long time between kingfishers

One of my photographic friends tells me I lack the patience to be a real bird photographer. She is probably right, and she has it in abundance. On the other hand, I get lucky now and then. Just below the big tree that most of my birding friends know, I spotted this sacred kingfisher hovering for a moment before it dived. In my experience they rarely signal their intentions so I was lucky to have time to point the lens at the ring of water. A moment or so later and it emerged, but without the crab that I assume it was seeking. A real bird photographer would have been lined up before it hit the water and made a dozen images with the shutter set fast enough to freeze the wings. Even so, I like the image. The bird’s eye is sharp and much can be forgiven if you achieve that.

Mighty mountains across the strait

A few consecutive days of stillness are a joy. Not all still days are equal. As I headed to Lyall Bay, the weather was overcast and the light was flat. I drove around the coast towards Owhiro bay and got a suddenly clear view of the great peaks of the inland Kaikoura range. And there’s that tonal range problem again. The mountains were startling in their clarity considering that they are over 120 km distant. I hoped the cloud would clear itself from the peak of Tapuae-o-Uenuku but took the shot while it was there. The typically red rocks of Wellington’s South Coast provide a lovely foreground.

The only constant is change

Drizzle and streamers of mist are not necessarily a disaster in my opinion. I drove down the Wainuiomata coast road and back up again. These receding hills caught my eye. A friend said he wanted to cut along the dotted line. I suspect he is referring to the row of bee hives beneath the nearest tree.

Some real rarities

Another packed lunch day developed and I was motivated to go to Hokio beach on the West coast just South of Levin. To my great joy when I parked for lunch on the estuary of the Hokio Stream, I found a patch of relatively still water and there scurrying back and forth, were a lot of black-fronted dotterels. I love the dotterels for their delicate beauty and the black-fronted variety is especially attractive to my eye. In the picture above, the bird at the back is a banded dotterel which seems to a little bigger than its cousins. I counted ten of them all racing around pecking at some food source in the sand. They it worth the journey.

That’s sufficient till I gather more images. I hope you got some pleasure from my random wanderings and as always, if you have constructive criticism please let me know.

Adventure Birds flowers Geology Lakes Landscapes Maritime Masterton Masterton mountains Reflections Rivers Seasons Tararuas Trees Wairarapa Wellington

September 29, 2018 … to be in the same place but see it again

Since I last wrote, it has been a crazy couple of weeks. As an accredited judge for the Photographic Society of New Zealand, I get to view and assess entries for competitions held by other clubs. Now if only I could get my head together, I would not accept judging for three different clubs with results due all within the same three-week period.  I really must keep better records of what I have agreed to.  On the other hand, I get to see some superb work, and to be truthful, some work that is less  so.  So, an insanely busy period in which I still found time to go out and make a few images of my own.

New Zealand native wood pigeons (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae), or in Maori, kereru. If startled they depart with much thrashing of wings and clattering of broken twigs.

I didn’t have to go far for these two splendid wood pigeons who were busily demolishing a shrub a few metres from our front door. Part of the charm of these birds, apart from their irridescent feathers is their clumsiness on takeoff or landing. They seem to aim at a tree at full speed and stick out an arrester hook in the hope of catching a branch. Not so much a landing as a controlled crash is a phrase I have heard elsewhere.

One of the reflecting pools at the Supreme Court of New Zealand, stripped of distractions

A beautiful day in the city found me outside the Supreme Court building. I liked the reflecting pool but wanted the reflections without the passing traffic or pedestrians. I used the statistics feature of Photoshop. Basically this means taking several identical photos and then Photoshop extracts anything that is not present in all of the images. Thus the buses and the passers-by disappear. The only vehicle in the image was parked.

Litigants awaiting a hearing at the Supreme Court. Or perhaps they are just pigeons

I needed no such trickery for these two common pigeons sitting in the pool at the side of the same building.

George has come home for the season – welcome back White heron (Ardea modesta) or in Maori, kotuku

On the way home, I went to the Hikoikoi reserve at the Hutt River estuary where, to my great joy I renewed my acquaintance with “George”, our resident white heron returned after a long absence. I imagine that he has been down to their only known nesting colony in New Zealand at Waitangiroto near Whataroa. This is 450 km away  on the West Coast of the South Island. Welcome back, old friend.

Warp 5 Mr Sulu!

George is something of a character, and one of his favourite spots to rest as at the wheel of a derelict motor boat on a slipway in the reserve. If he had more flexible lips, I can imagine him at the wheel going “Brrrrrm, brrrrrm”.  Or perhaps he imagines himself as Captain Picard saying “make it so, Mr Data”

Wellington Botanic Gardens tulip display

It’s tulip time again. Although the gardeners are apologetic that the flowers are less than perfect this year, they looked fine to my eyes. One of the pleasures of retirement is the ability to visit the gardens at times when the crowds are small.

Flowering cherry display in the Aston Norwood Garden

A new discovery for me has been the Aston Norwood Gardens at the foot of the Remutaka Hill on SH2 just North of Upper Hutt. There has been a restaurant there for a long time, but the current owner has developed the gardens to a place of stunning beauty. Right now they are coming to the end of the cherry blossom season and I understand there are over 300 mature trees in the grounds. The result is magnificent.

Aston Norwood
Cherry blossom petals drift over the pond

I got down low, close to the surface of one of the several ponds on the property and with the aid of a neutral density filter made a long exposure (13 seconds) as the breeze pushed the fallen petals in interesting paths across the surface.

Aston Norwood
The Remutaka stream flows though the Aston Norwood Garden

The Remutaka stream runs through the property and again, the ND filter was used to good effect. I shall be visiting this place again (and again, and again)  as they have rhododendrons and camellias as well.

Finding another Dory – at Hikoikoi reserve

This little boat is a newcomer to the Hikoikoi reserve and I think it falls into the classification of a dory. I visited in the hope of seeing George, but he  was having an away day, so I looked for other subjects and was pleased to find this. It is a good example of going to a familiar place and seeing it with new eyes.  It’s a matter of pointing the camera at the bits of the landscape that constitute the picture you want to make, and leaving everything else out.

A breath of ice on a spring day

Despite all the signs of spring, the winter snow lingers on the tops of the Tararua range as seen here from Masterton in the Wairarapa.

And so

Adventure Architecture Art Geology Lakes Landscapes Machinery Maritime Reflections Tora Wairarapa

August 31, 2018 … at the end of Winter

In New Zealand, there is an ongoing debate as to the boundaries of each season. We have a meteorological calendar which says that Spring begins on September 1, and an Astronomical calendar which has it beginning at the vernal equinox (about Sept 23) . Either way, I have been seeing daffodils and lambs for at least a month already.

Not so long ago, the Waiwhetu stream was notoriously polluted. It has been cleaned up in recent times, and can look pretty in the right light

Despite the arrival or approach of Spring, the weather has been extremely changeable so whenever there is stillness I am out and about. Sometimes, when the air is still, it is possible to get a pleasant image from the midst of an industrial zone. This image is of the Waiwhetu Stream as it passes through Seaview among all the light industry.

Some of Mary’s lavender

Then it turned rough again, so I played with my lightbox and some lavender that Mary grows in a pot at the back door.

Dominion Farmers
Dominion Farmers Building, Featherston St

I have an interest in architectural photography and chose to wander the CBD. I have always liked the old Dominion Farmers building on Featherston street. These days, only the facade remains as there is a modern building inside the shell. I am glad they retained the facade.

Lambton Quay
Lambton Quay

On Lambton Quay there is a mix of old and new. The Hallensteins building on the left was once home to Whitcoulls, the bookseller, but they vacated due to earthquake risk. I presume remedial work was carried out before Hallensteins moved in. To the right is one of Wellington’s new double-decker buses made by Xiamen Fengtai Bus and Coach International. The introduction of the new fleet with new routes and new timetables has been a total circus and has met with almost universal condemnation for its perceived  ineptitude. A major redesign is promised.

Through a pub door darkly, the structure of the floating crane Hikitia

I was walking along Cable Street and glanced into the door of Mac’s Brewbar, a popular waterfront hostelry. The door was closed but the glass panels gave an interesting view through the opposite window of the Hikitia. According to Wikipedia, she is thought to be the only working steam-powered floating crane of her type left in the world. She sailed under her own steam from Scotland to Wellington in 1926. That is seamanship.

Propeller from F69 HMNZS Wellington

While we are on a maritime kick, here is a phosphor-bronze propeller. It is one of  the two removed from the Leander class frigate, HMNZS Wellington before her hull was scuttled as a dive site off the South coast of the city. They were gifted to the city by Rotary as art works if I recall correctly. Her other propeller is on the Esplanade in Houghton Bay not far from the wreck. Imagine how fast they had to spin to get the 2,500 tonne ship up to 50 km/h

Rankine Brown
The Rankine Brown building from Dixon St

Back on the architectural kick, this image was made from Dixon St, looking west to Thorndon and Victoria University of Wellington. The Rankine Brown Building is home to the university’s library. The semi-circular protuberance is a stairwell which I trudged up far more times than I could count in my years there.

Pukerua Bay
Pukerua Bay

Even comparative calm is good. I took myself up to the Kapiti coast and went down to the rocky beach at Pukerua Bay. It used to be home to many ramshackle cottages. These are steadily giving way to some rather up-market seaside homes. Lovely as the place is, it is not where I would wish to live in the event of a serious tsunami.

Lake Wairarapa looking South

Yesterday, before the weather turned ugly, I deemed it worth a trip over the hill to Tora on the Wairarapa coast. On the way I stopped at Lake Wairarapa and just loved its perfect stillness.

A geologist friend once told me that you should get a geology degree in NZ by driving around on buses. He said all the workings are on the outside, and open to view

From there it is approximately 70 km over winding and mostly gravel roads to the coast. Just where the road turns North to Te Awaiti there are some rock formations off the coast that fascinate me. They put me in mind of what I am told is the impasto style of painting, wherein the artist lays the paint on the canvas thickly with knife or brush (think of Van Gogh) .

That’s it until Spring



Birds Geology Lower Hutt Maritime Plimmerton Waves

May 7, 2015 … around the edges

Lingering nasty weather imposes greyness.

Crowded mooring at Mana Marina

Unless the sea is either flat calm or spectacularly stormy, I tend to go elsewhere. Yesterday I broke that pattern by going to Mana Marina while the wind was blustery and the water was choppy. It helps to have a splash of colour on a day like this.

Empty bench

At the mouth of the inlet to Porirua Harbour, I paused for a while and watched the surf tumbling in. Any empty park bench spoke volumes about the weather. A lone sailboarder was racing up and down along the beach at Plimmerton, but at least from this side, there was no visible audience.

Little Black Shags

My homeward route took me along Grey’s Rd around the Northern edge of the Pauatahanui inlet. As I reached Motukaraka Point, a hangout” of Little Black shags was resting on the weed bed near the road. I parked and tip-toed to a place where there was a good view. They are fine looking birds and despite the plain plumage, show attractive patterns.

Sacred kingfisher in the dive

Since I was this close I went to the usual spot for Kingfishers and found one on the tree. I had left the big Canon at home so used the Olympus with a 300 mm zoom. It’s not a bad performance for a small sensor and a kit lens, but I suspect that serious birding will require the use of the heavier camera.

See you tomorrow


Cook Strait Geology Landscapes Maori Pukerua Bay Weather

January 24, 2015 … facing the sea from a rocky shore

Again that wind was deceptive.

Kapiti Island across the blue water, is even more rugged than the shoreline in the foreground.

Ruffled water at Pauatahanui spoiled the shots I planned there, so I kept going. Before I knew it I was on SH1 in the early stages of the rush traffic on a Friday afternoon. This was not good, so I baled out at Pukerua Bay. That too was more difficult than I expected. It was a lovely warm sunny afternoon on the last day of the school holidays so the beach was crammed with families parked on every free spot. I finally found a space at the far end, and set out along the coastal trail.

Te Ana Puta – the Marble Arch

Beyond the first kilometre or so, the track leaves the beach behind and becomes savagely rocky and strewn with tangled driftwood. A little way along the track is that huge rock with the hole in it which is known in Maori as Te Ana Puta.

Geology near Wairaka Rock

Nearing Wairaka Rock the track becomes more rugged and the rock structure is more shattered and broken.

Uplifted layers

Looking around, it is possible to see the uplifted layers of rock. This would not be a kindly place to be shipwrecked.

Pou Tangaroa at Pukerua Bay. There are many Pou Whenua which make a statement about the relationship between the local people and the land. There are fewer Pou Tangaroa which tell of the relationship with the sea.

The return journey offers slightly different views and as the car park nears, the Pou Tangaroa takes centre stage. This carving in honour of Tangaroa, god of the sea was made by master carver Hermann Salzmann.

Tomorrow, we begin a road trip.

Architecture Birds Festivals and fairs Geology Hutt River Korokoro Petone Reflections Weather

January 16, 2015 … from squabbles to stillness

Mary wanted to see the pied-stilt chicks.

I suspect the nearer trio are the ladies, and the unruly group in the rear are the men

Thus, my photographic day began at Pauatahanui once more. However, I think I have stretched the pied-stilt kick about as far as possible, so though I got some shots, I turned elsewhere. Near the entrance to the reserve, just a little back from the road, there is a fresh-water pond. Sometimes there are ducks, most times there is nothing, but yesterday there was a gathering of Royal spoonbills. As I watched, s fight broke out among three. Perhaps I am anthropomorphizing, but I interpreted this as three young women standing by while three young men fought over who was taking the prettiest one to the spoonbill ball. The fight got quite vicious though it’s hard to imagine those large flat bills inflicting any damage.

Dead Man’s elbow – Petone

In the afternoon I went to Sladden Park in Petone, to a place that I always knew as Dead Man’s elbow, though I can find no documentation to validate that. If nothing else there are usually numbers of Canada Geese there, but on this occasion, nothing.

On the slip at Hikoikoi

Down to Hikoikoi where again there was little of note in the birdlife, but a spell of calm made the place picturesque. In this picture, the boat on the slip was the favoured perch of George, our local white heron. Alas I haven’t seen George since the big storm in June 2013 when the windows on this boat blew out.

The boatsheds


From the sea wall, the view across the water to the boatsheds appealed to me. There seems to be a lot of weed at present.

That’s enough for this visit.

Cook Strait Geology South Coast Waves Wellington

May 9, 2014 … rock concert on the South coast

Wellington’s South coast really shows its teeth to people landing at Wellington from the South.

South coast
Sharp rocks

From Palmer Head  at the harbour entrance to Cape Terawhiti and up the West coast at least as far as Makara, the rocks are sharp and savage, promising to tear the bottom out of any vessel foolish enough to approach. In stormy weather they defy the waves. In conditions of relative calm, such as it was yesterday, they provide a spectacular contrast to the gentler aspects of the landscape.

Ebb and flow
Hard to walk on the pebbled beach or the ragged rocks

The tiny beaches, such as they are, are made of heavy pebbles. Sand seems to occur at Lyall Bay, Houghton Bay, and Island Bay but in few other places. The stony beaches move underfoot and are very difficult to walk on.  On the other hand they make a wonderful growling noise as the sea surges in and withdraws.

More South Coast
Black rocks and a calm sea

Colours in the rocks are wonderful, though many of them are a wonderful shade of red or brown. In one particular area, the rocks are quite black and this makes them even more intimidating.

Cloud bank
Westward to the Sounds

Looking behind me, as best practice demands, I was impressed by the build-up of cloud over Arapawa Island and the Marlborough Sounds.

Busy, busy, so that’s all for today.

fungi Geology Landscapes Light Pukerua Bay Waves Weather

May 7, 2014 … wind, waves and spores

Nor’Westers in Wellington are frustrating.

Kapiti coast
Pukerua Bay, looking towards Paekakariki. If you click to enlarge, you will see the Southern tip of Kapiti on the left hand side at the horizon

If they are strong enough, they make it unpleasant to be out in. They spoil the chances of photography on the inlet, and you have to go quite a distance to see decent waves on the sea. Yesterday I decided that Pukerua Bay was the nearest place that gets the full force of swells off the Tasman Sea. From high on the road that leads down to the beach, the sea state was less than I had hoped for, but the clouds around the Paekakariki Hill were dramatic. Kapiti Island was likewise hiding, and you can just see its Southernmost tip on the horizon.

Pukerua Bay
Pou tangaroa … the Maori equivalent of a totem pole … a statement of guardianship

At beach level, once you reach the end of the road, almost the first thing you encounter is the big pou tangaroa … a carving by Ngati Toa carver and Pukerua Bay resident, Herman Salzmann. It represents the guardianship of that coastline felt by the local Ngati Toa people. As you can see, the waves in the background were vigorous but not massive.

rocky coast
The Paekakariki coast line with cloud

Back up the coast to the North, that cloud was even more dramatic from sea-level, and the glitter of the sun on the water was in striking contrast to the dark bulk of the coastal rocks.

Wave action
Foaming tide in Pukerua Bay. Note the untouched pool at bottom right. Yes, this is a slow exposure with the ND filter.

In the bay itself, the waves were surging into the jagged rocks, seeking out every cranny and coming perilously close to giving me wet feet.

in Normandale
Colourful roadside fungi

In the afternoon, the wind had not abated, but there was more sunshine, so I went looking in my own neighbourhood. I had collected Cooper from School again, and on the way, noticed some fungi that were worth a second look.

Poto Road Reserve
More fungi growing in the wood chips in the new reserve

A new reserve further up the hill has been cleaned out and planted in native trees and shrubs. Weed control is by way of a layer  of wood chips. They seem ineffective in that role, but provide a fine nursery for all kinds of fungi. I shall visit there again

Time to meet a friend for lunch so that’s all for today.


adversity Geology Hutt River Silverstream

April 17, 2014 … grey wet landscape

My heart was just not in it yesterday.

Taita gorge
The river is up, though not yet at flood levels

In fact, pieces of it were still back on the floor with my shattered camera and lens. But I have not yet missed a day of this blog, and whether it is commitment, or simply incipient OCD, I was not about to start now.

My other camera, a Canon 5DII is a very fine, if somewhat battle-weary camera, and my longest surviving lens (a 24-105mm zoom) is a superb piece of optical engineering so I should quit my whining and get back to it.  Steady rain and drifting wind made me wonder what the river was doing up at the weir. There had been some really heavy rain overnight so I wondered if the river would present a different face.

Taita gorge (2)
The drop shown here is perhaps one metre, but enough to allow me to capture this veil

Though the levels were visibly higher, the change was marginal, but I was there and since I was in a heavy mood I was disinclined to look elsewhere. It was here or nothing.

Bed rock
There are few places where the underlying rock is so visible. The river gravels in the Hutt are up to 100 metres deep on the Western side of the valley and the faulted and shattered rock is rarely visible like this.

The underlying rock at the gorge is colourful and interesting though for the most part it is well hidden under the river shingle that forms the floor of most of the Hutt Valley. Seams exposed here are, as best as I can find out, Triassic Argillite and Greywacke, but I am no geologist, so take that with a large dose of caution.

Taita gorge (3)
Across the weir to Silverstream railway bridge where one of the old Hungarian Ganz-Mavag units is heading from Manor Park to Silverstream and Upper Hutt. Rain obscures the more distant landscape and Autumn colours frame the view

An approaching train made itself heard above the throbbing rush of the tumbling water so I lined up on the Silverstream bridge in time to catch this shot.

And that’s all for now.