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


Birds Pekapeka

January 13, 2014 … it’s not easy being green*

We’ve been here before, in good times and bad.

Grey teals in the swamp
Though they are classified as “common”, I don’t recall seeing many grey teals before.

The Pekapeka wetlands just South of Hastings are very special. About this time last year, they were in the grip of a very serious drought, with scarcely any water. The next trip saw the water levels back to their normal state, but the bulrushes had died off and were brown and dry. This time, it was as if the drought had never been and the bulrushes (Raupo in Maori) were bigger and greener than ever. The big change was a massive infestation of pondweed, but it doesn’t seem to worry the birds. My first encounter was with a pair of grey teal (Anas gracilis) and I enjoyed the colour contrast.

New Zealand dabchick
This is a member of the grebe family.

In one of the few weed-free patches , I saw a solitary New Zealand dabchick (Poliocephalus rufopectus). This was probably an immature specimen, and it certainly was not engaging in the repetitive diving that I have seen on other visits. Instead, it seemed to be doing some stretching exercises and setting up ripples on the otherwise still water.

Black swans
The weed parts as they swim through it. I was tempted to remove the white spots, but they are swan feathers and are part of the story, so they stayed.

Black swans (Cygnus atratus) were plentiful, if somewhat shy, and they were difficult to get close to. On the other hand, the distant view against the lurid green  was interesting anyway.

The swamp
Elsewhere in the world, there would be dangerous predators. No snakes, no crocodiles here.

My last shot is of the vegetation in the wetlands. We have seen this log and its reflections before, but not with such prolific weed to add colour.

See you tomorrow.

*”Bein’ green” by Joe Raposo

Animals Birds Hawkes Bay Landscapes Machinery Napier Pekapeka Railway

August 18, 2013 … a meandering homecoming

A leisurely breakfast and a good coffee is a good way to start the day.

After that, we were on the road, heading home from Taradale. With the gentle tolerance of Mary, my wife, and Paul, my brother-in-law, I was able to stop more or less as often as I needed for photographic purposes.

My first stop was the Pekapeka wetlands, ten km South of Hastings. We’ve been there before. Last summer’s extreme drought is long forgotten in terms of water levels, but oh, the bulrushes! There is dead foliage everywhere, looking for all the world like badly done craft weaving.

Birdlife seems less prolific than it was at this time last year. Nevertheless, I saw black swans, Australian coots, a myriad of Welcome swallows, mallard ducks, white-faced heron, shags, and a few dabchicks. First to make an appearance was a black swan, advancing majestically towards me like a gunboat ready to declare war. It turned away as I stood taking pictures.

Black swan in threat mode
That’s an impressive looking wake

Birds or not, the wetlands have a beauty of their own that varies as you move through the walkways. New weed growing underwater offers promise of re-greening.

Weed in the wetlands
As you may have noticed, I like the occasional abstractions

Areas where surface weed is aggregated by the current are already green.

Green reflections
It’s quite difficult to capture this without getting the road in the background

And then there are those dried and dead bulrushes. They offer shelter to birds and other life forms as evidenced by the swallows darting in to obtain large insects.

Welcome swallow eating unknown insect
Look at how dry the leaves of the rushes are

As you can see behind the swallow, those bulrushes are stone cold dead. They do however offer some interesting reflections.

Bullrush reflections
As I said, abstractions appeal to me

A little further South, somewhere before we reached Otane, I saw a landscape that so encapsulated my love of contrasting colour and texture that I could not pass it by without stopping for the picture.

Hawkes Bay landscape near Otane
I could not pass those colours and textures by

Then somewhere near Takapau there was a paddock full of black lambs. Oh how welcome is this Spring. I am really ready to believe it is here.

Lambing time
Those black sheep get a bad rap

As we approached Shannon on the back road to Levin a distant headlight and plume of black exhaust signalled the approach of a steam excursion running from Wellington, past their base in Paekakariki, to Otaki, Levin and Foxton.

Ja1271 with the throttle wide open
What a magnificent sight she made as she thundered by.

So here we are, back home again.

Architecture Birds Clive Hawkes Bay Landscapes Napier Pekapeka

July 8, 2013 … unusual midwinter weather

Sunrise was perfect, in Napier.

Though the colour was ominous, the morning was bright and crisp, windless, just beautiful.

Sunrise from the door of the Clive Motel
If you look very closely just a little to the right of centre, you will see the last of the waning moon rising.

We set out on our journey home, and since photography was permitted in this direction, we anticipated that it would take a little longer than the journey North. My first stopping point was the Pekapeka wetland, just South of Hastings. When last I reported from there, it was in the grip of drought, and the wetlands were all but dry, with expanses of cracking mud.

Pekapeka wetlands refreshed
Lots of water, not so many birds

The water is back, though the bird life was less prolific than I recall. There were swans, swallows, ducks and dabchicks. I also saw a pukeko which for some reason chose to traverse the tops of the rushes, rather than navigating through the roots. It afforded him a better view, but also less concealment.

This swamp hen has huge feet for dealing with mud, but apparently prefers to keep them dry

Further South near Te Hauke, I stopped again to have a closer look at the derelict house which I pictured once before.

The old farmhouse at Te Hauke
Unlike many of the other derelicts, this one seems to have suffered little further damage from the recent storm

I am not sure whence the fascination with derelict buildings, but I suppose the sense that there are hidden stories has some relevance. My previous image of this house was made in the rain. This time, it was a postcard blue day. The people at the farm were happy to allow me to get closer, so with gumboots and a camera on a tripod, I crossed the fence and climbed the hill. Thought it looks picturesque and time-worn from the road,  when you get close it is a scene of total decay. Two of the exterior walls are now roughly attached corrugated iron sheets. Inside, the floor has long since rotted and the shell is now a shelter for the livestock.

Car of unknown origin in the brambles
Someone somewhere will look at that window profile and identify the make and model. I have no idea what it is.

Last time, I mentioned the old car embedded in the vines at the rear. Like the house, there is less of the car left than I thought. Perhaps the brambles have been nibbling at the shell.

Just South of Waipukurau, I saw what looked like a wrecker’s yard full of old cars of a certain vintage. I knocked on the door of the house and asked permission to take pictures, and the owner was generous in allowing me into the paddock. I was a little disappointed that they were not simple wrecks. The damage and decay were because these were stock cars. The most intriguing of them was this vile pink coloured Humber Super Snipe. In its day this was a prestige car, the top of the Humber line. It deserved a better fate.

Humber Super Snipe
The owner reckons this car is good for at least one more track outing!

The beautiful weather lasted until perhaps Dannevirke, after which the wind went all the way to gale force. Once through the Manawatu Gorge, on the Western side of the Tararuas, we were subjected to intermittent drizzle and increasingly strong winds.

And that’s if for today.



Birds Clive Hawkes Bay Pekapeka

November 11, 2012 … wetland birds

This is a full-scale relapse, and tomorrow will be no better.

Mary and I went to Napier yesterday for family reasons. We set off around 9 am and about the time coffee was needed found ourselves in the vicinity of the bird sanctuary at Mt Bruce (Pukaha). Frankly, I am not especially fond of this kind of bird sanctuary where almost everything is in wire cages. I would like to be able to walk in the aviary rather than view the birds through wire.

We chose not to go into the sanctuary,  but settled instead for the coffee (and a sticky lemon slice) on the balcony in the sun.  Just below the balcony was a fenced off area of open land, and oh my goodness, there was a Takahe, once thought to be extinct, and slowly being reinstated, but still critically endangered … there are about 200 of them alive today. They are the largest living member of the rail family. What an amazing accompaniment to a fine cup of coffee.Takahe (Porphyrio hochstetteri) I wondered why the bird was cocking its head to one side then realised it was aligning its beak to chop of the grass it was eating.

Our next stop was the Pekapeka wetland, a little south of Hastings. I just love this place. Among the varieties of bird life seen and photographed there yesterday were Black Swan and Cygnet, Australian Coot and chicks, Welcome swallows, and Dabchicks.

Dabchick aerobicsReflections of the reeds around the dabchick

The dabchick is a lovely little bird that I was previously unaware of. I am not sure which I liked more, the bird, or the beautiful quality of the water. This one put on a little show, flapping its wings before resuming its patrol.

After making contact with family. Mary and I went for a walk on the superb walkway system near the Clive river. In the coastal wetlands in the last light of afternoon, we saw Pukeko and chicks, White-faced heron, Shoveller and chicks, Black Swan and Cygnets, skylark, more swallows and various finches and passerines. Oh yes, and the Australasian Harrier Hawk.Australasian Harrier Hawk

I think this is the largest of our native raptors and is normally found in pasture, tussock and swamp country. I had never been aware of it as a coastal predator, but with such an abundance of chicks around there were several of them cruising at low altitude down among the reeds, looking for an unwary and unguarded chick to eat. Like every other guy at the beach he's there to pick up chicks

Nature is cruel but beautiful.