Adventure Architecture Birds Clive Family harbour Hawkes Bay Kelburn Landscapes Light Lower Hutt Napier night Pekapeka Tararuas Trees Wellington

January 10, 2018 … Happy New Year

Thank you for staying with me. Some of you have been Internet friends since about 1994, and I value your continued company on this ever-changing journey. My presence on the Internet, and then on the Web, has evolved over the years, from its initial purpose of providing home news to disconnected kiwis. It has been through several stages since then and is now a vehicle for the photographic expression of my love for this region, this country, and wherever else I find myself.

If you have been with me for a while, you will know that I am somewhat insecure when it comes to the evaluation of my own skills.  This is not false modesty. I know that I make some really nice shots now and then, but I also produce a regrettable number of mediocrities. My journey is about changing the proportions of each. I want more really nice shots.

My challenge each day, is to be a better photographer than I was yesterday. For the sake of clarity, I regard photography as the making of images using whatever tools help me to illustrate the possibility I saw when I picked up the camera. I am an unashamed user of Lightroom and Photoshop to bring my vision to life in print or on the screen. So, 2018, bring it on. Here are some of my first efforts for the year.

When you see that descending line of trees you know you are almost at Featherston

When our family came to Wellington in 1980, the trip across the hill to the Wairarapa was much more challenging than it is now. The old “greasy spoon” cafe and the awful rest-rooms at the summit are long one. The road is now well sealed, and there are safety barriers on all the nasty corners. Only the landscape is unchanged. On the last sharp corner before the road crosses the bridge to head into Featherston, there is an iconic stand of trees that I have long wanted to photograph. However, there is no safe place to stand, and you would need to be on the outside of the Armco barrier at risk of falling into the valley below. On this occasion, Mary was driving, so I would the camera strap around my wrist, adjusted the swivelling rear screen and held the camera out of the window firing as we drove.  It’s not the image I envisaged or aspire to, but it’s a start.

It’s 2018 already but the Christmas decorations are still up. The inner harbour from Kelburn

A few days later I was wandering the quiet city and found myself in Kelburn where the university campus was closed and quiet. I drove to where I used to park when I was a staff member there, and looked out over the moody city. As you can see the pohutukawa was making its seasonal presence felt.

Gun emplacement.
1942 Gun emplacement on Brooklyn hill intended to defend the city from Japanese air attacks which never eventuated.

From there I drove up to the wind turbine at Brooklyn and thence down the hill again, pausing at the Polhill Reserve to have a look at the old anti-aircraft gun emplacements. The 109 men who were stationed there at any one time in all weathers from 1942 until the end of the war would probably not comprehend the desire to be there at all, and even less the desire to waste so much paint on the pointless graffiti. And yes, the despite reserving the right to process my images, the sea to the South  really was that blue on the day.

Kingfisher having a bad hair day at Pauatahanui

On some of the grey days, cabin fever was prevented by some wandering in the direction of the Pauatahanui wildlife reserve. I was in the Forest and Bird hide with not much happening when I realised that the large rock a few metres away had changed shape. It has been a long while since I was this close to a kingfisher, even one as scruffy as this. Nice to see you again, little fellow.

Water lilies
A glimpse of a secret garden with water lilies at Pauatahanui

I crossed the road from there to see what was happening in the fresh water ponds. The answer was that there was nothing, not even water there. Where the ponds are normally, found there were  moon-craters, cracked and dry. And, in the words of Farley Mowat, “no birds sang”. Trudging back to the car, I caught a glimpse  between the slats of the boundary fence of somebody’s “secret garden” (Wow – two literary allusions in one paragraph).
And then it rained.

Didn’t it rain, children?
Talk ’bout rain, oh, my Lord
Didn’t it, didn’t it, didn’t it, oh, my Lord?
Didn’t it rain?*

Though I didn’t go back to the dry ponds, they would surely have been filled, at least temporarily.

From our front door towards Seaview in heavy rain at night

Though not exactly forty days and forty nights, it rained quite heavily, and I decided to see if I could catch the experience in a night shot from our front door looking down towards the Seaview oil terminal

This is a small section of the competitors at the Clive river. Apart from the rattle of the seats sliding and the oars splashing, it was an eerily silent armada

In the weekend just ended, Mary and I went up to Clive, just South of Napier. Some of Mary’s family were having a get together at Te Awanga. It was a joyous occasion with much laughter, good food and great company.  Before we went out exploring on the Sunday morning, I strolled the 100 metres or so from our rented accommodation to the banks of the Clive River where there was a rowing regatta under way. The river was still, though somewhat clogged with weed. Down at the river mouth, heavy swells after the recent storm could be seen crashing on the bar, but I loved the steady procession of rowers moving steadily down the river to the start line. Though the racing shells would be wildly impractical in that situation, their purposeful passage looked like a latter-day Dunkirk.

Tern and gull
The local bully waiting to steal the little kid’s school lunch

My brother-in-law, Gerard later took us to a place along the beach where the was a  significant nesting site of shore-birds. There were white-fronted terns, pied stilts, banded dotterels and New Zealand dotterels. The dotterels are very hard to see on the rocky shore but the terns and stilts were more visible. A recent storm had disrupted the season and many eggs were washed away, according to a birder I met. There were juveniles aplenty, squawking loudly and demanding ever more fish. I felt for the term parents who would dash in at high speed from the sea with a fresh fish and attempt to get the youngster to swallow it before the marauding red-billed gulls could snatch it mid-transfer.

Old house
I have done this before but the rate of decay is accelerating

Homeward bound the next day, I had to pause just South of Hastings to record the latest stage of the slow and inevitable decay of an old house. I have shot this house many times and perhaps even shown it in this blog. Last time I was there, there was a blackberry thicket at the rear. It has been cleared, and perhaps that has allowed the house to lean gently inwards towards the earth.

Wellington Harbour in brooding weather

Yesterday was a moody sort of day in the Capital and I went up the hill to the entrance to the Horokiwi quarry and from there caught the wide view of the Eastern side of the harbour, The island to the left is Matiu/Somes and the hill to the right is the Miramar peninsula.

road and rail
Tenuous link

From the same spot, looking ninety degrees to the right, the winding path that carries road and rail between Wellington and the Hutt Valley shows just how vulnerable that vital link would be in the event of an earthquake like the Kaikoura one last year.

  • “Didn’t it rain” is a Negro Spiritual, according to Wikipedia, that long predates Mahalia Jackson’s version


adversity Animals Birds Botanic gardens flowers Hastings Hawkes Bay Landscapes Weather Wellington

February 13, 2017 … our missing summer

The wind outside my window has averaged somewhere over 100 km/h today according to a report I heard on the radio. It has carried rain with it for much of the day, and no hint of summer. There are reports that this has been our worst summer for over three decades.

Evening in the Takarau gorge

Such summer as we have had seems to have been doled out with a fine day here, a fine day there and several days of foul weather in between. We take them when we can get them.

Something of an agricultural crime these days is letting farm animals into the waterways. These two sheep marched in musical unison across the water and clambered up the steep hill beyond.

And then we wait for the next one.

I find the dabchicks intriguing,. They look so severe.

It seems I missed the part of the dabchick life cycle where the new chicks are carried about on the parents back. The youngsters are already too big for that.

Dry hills
The dry hills to the South of Hastings

This seems to be a localised phenomenon. With a couple of friends I drove to Havelock North and back for the funeral of a good friend and former colleague. It seems that the Hawkes Bay region has been as dry as Wellington has been wet. The hills and most pf the paddocks are parched and often it is hard to see a flock of sheep since their wool is almost the same colour as the sun-bleached grass.

Begonias in all their glory

Back home, some days just didn’t offer any hope of outside action, so I chose to visit the Begonia House in the Lady Norwood garden in Wellington.  No matter what the time of year, they always have some wonderful specimens in bloom.

Water lily … I couldn’t find where the battery was hidden

On this visit, I enjoyed the proliferation of water lilies.  The heart of the flower seemed to be on fire.


Adventure Birds Cars Clive Family Hawkes Bay Lakes Landscapes mountains Napier Te Mata Peak

April 3, 2016 … road trip

Mary and I set out for a week in Napier,  We chose to take a back road because I had seen an image taken by a fellow club member of the Waihi waterfalls.

The limeworks at Mauriceville where there was once a Dairy factory

I had never previously heard of these falls, but from the South, they are most quickly accessed on SH52 through Mauriceville, Alfredton, Tiraumea, Pongaroa and Waione.  To be honest, most New Zealanders would need to use Google to find where most of those places are. Even after driving that route, I am still not sure I am any the wiser. Most of them seem to consist of a disused community hall. I had the sense of having driven through 92 km of deserted farmland. The scenery is beautiful but it seems empty.

Waihi Falls near Waione

The falls themselves are worth the journey. However, be warned that there is absolutely nothing else there. No commercialization, and the only facilities other than some reasonably formed paths are toilets and a shelter over some picnic tables.

Automotive graveyard tangle

We drove on towards Dannevirke, and on the Weber road, I spotted a car graveyard. It was fenced and heavily padlocked and chaotically overgrown with blackberry and other weeds. Unlike its better known counterpart at Horopito, there is no  visible semblance of order in this place, and in my opinion, no way of retrieving any of the rapidly decaying vehicles. On the other hand, many photographers of my acquaintance would sell their own body parts for unfettered access. My images were taken across the fence from the road side. We had lunch in a park in Dannevirke and resumed our journey to Napier, where we celebrated the 60th birthday of my brother-in-law, John.

Balls Clearing
A tiny glimpse of the magnificent Balls Clearing Scenic Reserve

On Tuesday, Mary and her youngest brother Gerry went hiking in the Kaweka range while I satisfied myself with lesser walks including the stunningly beautiful Balls Clearing Scenic Reserve near Puketitiri. This is a remnant of the podocarp forest that used to cover this entire area, and which was spared the axe by way of public petition to parliament and was finally made a public reserve as late as 1945. Many of the great trees in here are 600 years old.

From Puketitiri looking West to the Kaweka range

A little further on, closer to the Kaweka range, there was a lovely view over part of the Makahu station through which it is necessary to drive to get to the popular Mangatutu Hot Springs on the edge of the Mohaka River. We dined on venison from Makahu station that evening with Gerry and his wife, Vivienne before driving the remaining 50 km or so back to Napier.

From the top of Gentle Annie towards the Mountains. Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro are all visible.

On Wednesday we drove part of the “Gentle Annie” road from Napier to Taihape, and turned around after the steepest and most winding parts were over, and where we could see across vast open high country to Ruapehu on the horizon. If you look near to the right hand of the image you can also see the summit of Ngauruhoe peeking across.

Te Ngarue Stream at the foot of the Tangoio Falls track

On Thursday, we drove up to beautiful Lake Tutira which is presently toxic due to an infestation of blue-green algae. After a very nice lunch beside the lake, we returned towards Napier, but Mary was keen to walk the 4.5 km Tangoio Walkway, so I dropped her at the top of the hill and then drove to the bottom end of the walkway by the Te Ngarue Stream to wait for her.

Australasian shoveler at Clive

On our last day in Napier, I went looking for birds at Clive while Mary walked the 14 or so km from there to Havelock North on the magnificent walkway system throughout the bay. Among my captures was this handsome male Australasian Shoveler duck. Jimmy Durante would be proud of a nose like that.  I then drove to the end of the trail to collect Mary and we had lunch at the summit of Te Mata Peak.

That’s all for now.


Birds Clive flowers Landscapes Machinery

December 1, 2015 … on the downhill run

The drive home from Clive to Lower Hutt was a pleasant one.

Azolla rubra, doubling every five days … can you find the coot?

Warm and sunny weather make a drive more enjoyable. I was less pleased, however, with what I found at the Pekapeka wetland reserve just South of Hastings. I have visited it many times before, in conditions varying from flood to drought. This time, the problem was the infestation of the floating fern, Azolla rubra. Though it has many uses including stock feed, it is not doing the bird life a lot of good at Pekapeka. It can double its biomass in 3 to 5 days  and that doesn’t leave a lot of room for anything else. These wetlands are normally home to swans and swallows, coots, dabchicks, shags and ducks. In my first cautious stroll around the walkways, I thought the place was deserted. It was not until I processed this image on the computer that I found the distinctive white blaze of an Australian coot (about one third in from the right, on the centre line).

Black swan in briefly clear water


There were a few small patches of clear water, and after a while a pair of black swans appeared from under the boardwalk.

Apiti wind farm

After a nice coffee and slice of Louise cake in the excellent Vault cafe in Dannevirke, we carried on South to the Manawatu Gorge, where I stopped for a slow shot of the spinning turbines in the Apiti wind farm above the river.


At home, the weeds in our garden had proliferated, but some are quite photogenic, including this heartsease or wild pansy.

This is the first day of the last month of this as a daily blog.


Adventure Bees Family Landscapes Napier

November 30, 2015 … from Clive towards the Kaweka Ranges

Yesterday was the day of wedding.

A seemingly electric bottlebrush flower with a honey bee lurking within

It dawned fine and clear, and the bottlebrush tree outside the motel window was almost electric in its colouration.  Bees were humming around, and all was well with the world.

Landscape near Puketapu

We weren’t needed for the wedding until 4 pm, so with Mary and her brother Vincent, I drove westward though Taradale, Puketapu, Rissington, Patoka and out to Puketitiri  and the Mohaka river at the foot of the Kaweka Ranges.  The landscapes were a delight all the way, but I had made a major blunder and left the chargers for my camera batteries at home. One of my spare sets of batteries was flat. I had to conserve shots for the wedding reception, so took far fewer images than I would normally consider.

Landscape near Patoka

Another panorama was made soon after we passed through Patoka. I love the way the character of the landscape changes so swiftly as you move about our country. From the openness of the Heretaunga plains to the folded landscape of the Kawekas it’s all a wonderful spectacle.

The wedding was a delight, but that’s a family matter.


Architecture Birds Clive Masterton Weather

November 29, 2015 … to Hawkes Bay in the rain

Our niece is getting married today.

Old house
Farm building a little North of Masterton

As a consequence, we drove  to Clive, near Napier, yesterday. Unkind weather made the trip less pleasant than it usually is,but on the other hand offered some opportunities for mood shots. Most photographers at some stage have the “original” idea of photographing old farm buildings.So did I.

Hawk circling in the rain

Somewhere South of Dannevirke, I saw a distant possibility for a misty panorama. I took the shots, but was then distracted by a circling Australasian Harrier (Circus approximans) and decided it was a more interesting shot.


The temperature when we left Wellington was showing as 9 degrees on my car’s instrument panel. When we arrived in Napier, it was showing 29 degrees. A trip to the Clive Estuary was called for. Though there was less variety than I hoped for , I enjoyed an encounter with a New Zealand Pipit (Anthus novaeseelandiae).

White-faced heron in flight

White-faced herons were visible, but wary as always. This one made a rapid departure to the other side of the waterway.

More tomorrow.

Architecture Hawkes Bay Wairarapa Weather

June 22, 2014 … homeward bound into darkening weather

Napier was grey, and a little damp.


After a coffee in Taradale with our younger daughter Helen, and a brief visit with other family members staying in the area, we hit the road. I could see, as I drove South, that we were heading into “weather.”  There were some spectacular clouds overhead, but I was driving and needed to make sure I stayed on the road. I chose SH50, the lovely scenic back road through Tikokino and Ongaonga. Sadly the light was fairly flat most of the way and I decided that the grand landscapes I had hoped for would not eventuate. A little past the Tikokino pub, Mary said “Stop!” Ever the dutiful husband, I did. She was pointing back to an old cottage and a chimney stack standing in the middle of a paddock. I liked it and took several angles, of which this is my favourite.


We had a very nice lunch in Dannevirke (The Red Sky cafe) and then moved on into the ever-darkening Wairarapa district. The drive down towards Wellington was uneventful until Masterton where some sort of emergency was in progress with Hazmat command  vehicle and Breathing apparatus trucks racing in from Wellington to join the already plentiful collection of flashing red and blue lights.  Clouds on the Tararua Range looked interesting but I didn’t get anything like the view I wanted until Carterton. Trees and buildings cluttered the view so I went a little way up Dalefield Rd towards Mt Dick and caught this view of the conditions in the mountains.

From there it was back to the winding road home. Despite signs warning of extreme winds on the Rimutaka Hill road, we made it safely. What? Only two images? I took many more, but they were mainly of the same two subjects.

Enough for today.

Birds Family Napier Taradale Weather

June 21, 2014 … solstice sunshine

Yesterday morning, my windscreen was misted up on the outside, so naturally I turned my wipers on.

The conditions were just perfect and even from here I could see spoonbills, stilts, geese, and other waterfowl.

Instead of wet clear glass, I got that mocking dry rasp of rubber blades bouncing on ice. The clear blue sky in Taradale and the morning chill should have warned me, but the day looked so perfect, so innocent, I had not expected ice. Having cleared that mystery, and the windscreen, I went out to Ahuriri. See how still the morning was. No ND filters were needed here. This is a simple shot, as seen by the camera.

Mallard ducks trying to decided whether to run away from the person with the camera

I began my exploration on SH2 looking to the West, and though common mallard ducks would not normally excite me, I just loved their setting.

Shades of blue

Obviously the morning was so perfect and so full of promise that I decided I should walk the 4 km circuit of the inlet and see what else  I could find. Again the stillness was captivating and I enjoyed the shades of blue in the sky, in the hills, in their reflections and in the water.

Pied stilt in flight

My first encounter was with pied stilts which are plentiful around this inlet. They are shy creatures though and flew off if I came too close. The bird and its reflection were appealing.

Kingfisher lurking at the edge

As I approached the now disused Napier to Gisborne railway line, I spotted a kingfisher lurking. Since I was dressed for the funeral, I chose not to leave the formed path, and settled for the distance shot.

Bar-tailed godwits staying on for winter

Walking beside the railway over the old road bridge, I spotted a significant flock of bar-tailed godwits which I expected to have left on their annual migration to Siberia by now. It seems that some proportion of them “winter over”, and will not make the trip until next year.

The old bridge at Ahuriri

I got many more shots on my circuit of the inlet but the last one I put forward in this edition is a panorama of the old road bridge, stitched together from six separate hand-held images. It was a perfect morning.

In the afternoon, we said our farewells to, and celebrated the life of, my late Mother-in-Law, Catherine Bidwell, a fine lady. May she rest in peace.


adversity Birds Family Napier Weather

June 20, 2014 … a journey in soft focus

The day was busy, in preparation for today’s funeral.

Takahe in the enclosure at Mt Bruce

Mary and I drove from Lower Hutt to Napier, pausing at Mt Bruce for a coffee break instead of our usual stop at Dannevirke. The coffee was less than stellar, but I managed to grab a shot of the Takahe  across the fence from the verandah of the coffee shop.

Ruahine Range
Rain on the ranges

The journey was mostly in grey overcast thought it improved as we went North. Somewhere North of Dannevirke, there were road works which allowed me to see this view of the Ruahine range.

Napier wetlands

Mary was attending to family matters and I was turned loose to see if there were photographs to be had. I had really left it too late, and the best I could manage was this wetland area near the airport.

I have nothing else today.


insects Landscapes Light Napier sunrise Te Mata Peak Wairarapa Weather

May 19, 2014 … from perfect morning to grey overcast

Yesterday was the day we came home.

Napier panorama
The grand panorama from Sugar Loaf Hill in Taradale. The lump towards the left on the horizon is Bluff Hill with Te Mata peak on the right.

Before we left Napier, Mary spent some time with her mother and I was turned loose once again. It was a magically magnificent morning, clear blue sky, no wind, and a hint of winter crispness in the air. Totally beautiful. Since I was in Taradale, and had a limited time, I chose to trudge up Sugar Loaf hill. The approach from the East is short and brutally steep for one so unfit as I am. With many pauses to look back at the landscape unfolding behind me, I eventually made it, gasping, to the trig station at the top. There, I took the eight images that were stitched together to make this panorama.

Te Mata Peak and Havelock North from Taradale

The air was spectacularly clear except in the direction of the recently risen sun. The obvious solution is to look in another direction, so the next image from that delightful hilltop looks across the plains to Havelock North and Te Mata Peak.

Mission vineyards
Across the vines at Mission to Westshore. Morning mist lingers

In the opposite direction and far enough around to avoid the sunstrike, we look across the vineyards of the Mission Winery. If you look down in the lower right hand corner you can see some of the plane trees lining the driveway  which featured a few days ago.

feral bee
Honey Bee on Magnolia

Back at the rest home, I was waiting for Mary and spotted a honey bee (Apis mellifera) wandering about on the blossoms of a small magnolia shrub. Sadly the feral honey bee is a rarity now, so it was a delight to see a few in the garden here.

Northern Wairarapa … just before we got to the uglier weather

My last image from yesterday was taken on a side road just North of Woodville. We had been driving in perfect conditions until Dannevirke, and suddenly heavy clouds appeared. We decided to enjoy a lunch break in the last shafts of bright sun. Happily the ugly weather was confined to the Northern Wairarapa and it cleared again by the time we reached Carterton.

Home at last, and reunited with my big lens, and getting to know the replacement camera.