adversity Airport Aviation Children Cook Strait Festivals and fairs flowers hobbies Landscapes Light Military night Upper Hutt Weather Wellington

October 27, 2017 … creeps in this petty pace from day to day*

Once you commit to shifting house, nothing is the same again. Though we have yet to sell, or to place a bid in our hoped-for new home, we have begun packing. And now the silly decisions of 37 years and 27 days of hoarding come back to bite me. How often have I said, I won’t throw that away, I might need it?

Wild water at Rongotai

Anyway, suffice it to say that I have had little time to get out and make images recently, even on those few days that have been conducive to it. Rarely in recent weeks have we had both clear sky and no wind. This image was made on a sunny day with the wind howling in from the North  and ripping the crest off the big swells on the breakwater beside the airport.

Bahá’í children wishing peace to the world

A friend who is a member of the Bahá’í  faith asked me to record part of the children’s celebration of the 200th birthday of the founder, Bahá’u’lláh. The wind was dying away as night fell and the youngsters launched candle-lit “lotus blossoms” across the lake at a local golf club.

Carnival of Lights in Lower Hutt as seen from our lounge window. The fireworks are launched from the roof of the library.

In Lower Hutt, last weekend, there was a “Carnival of Lights”, coinciding with, but apparently not connected with the Hindu festival of Diwali. It concluded on each of its three nights with a modest display of fireworks. On each night, the wind was cold and vicious. Nevertheless the fireworks seem to go straight up.

Randwick Archery Club members at the range … note the flying arrow

This week was camera club, but because our real estate agent was holding an open home at our place, I set out early. As I was driving somewhat aimlessly, I spotted the Randwick Archery club at play. With their permission, and while they went down range to retrieve their previously shot arrows, I set up my camera on its tripod, in front of their firing line, then retreated behind the line  to trigger the camera remotely and safely as they shot again. I was delighted that at least one of the hundred or so images caught an arrow in flight.

Black Falcons
The Black Falcons against a dramatically dark sky

My last shot this week is of a rare appearance in Wellington of the RNZAF’s aerobatic display team, the Black Falcons. A flight of five Beechcraft T6 Texan II trainers was supposed to fly down over various Wairarapa towns and then from Featherston to the Royal Wellington Golf Club’s course at Heretaunga. With a friend, I waited on yet another chilly open space for them to appear over the hills in the East. They came in from the North. Due to extreme upper-air turbulence in the Wairarapa, the came due South from their base at Ohakea. What’s more, due to a last minute illness, there were just four aircraft in the flight.

Back to the packing.

  • Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Aviation Birds Children Cook Strait Family flowers hobbies Landscapes Light Maritime Models South Coast Weather Wellington

January 25, 2017 … how did we get to here already?

I may have mentioned that we are seeing a lot of our grandchildren in this period between start of school and end of parental holiday entitlement. Cooper is ten and has a (passing) fixation on World War I and biplanes, so told his parents that he wanted to build one with me.

Cooper and his ridiculously complicated chuck glider. He was happy

I should have talked him down a bit, and of course I did. We went from a large radio-controlled scale model with guns to a chuck glider more in keeping with a beginner. However, I gave him a reference book and the one he liked was the Bristol F2B fighter.  I sketched out a simplified caricature of the F2B but the odd characteristic of this big fighter is that neither of its wings mount directly to the fuselage. A degree of complication quite inappropriate for a total beginner. Thank heavens for cyanoacrylate glues. It flies when thrown, but is fragile so a more sensible choice will be made next time.

Tiger Moth
ZK-AJO was among the very first top-dressing planes in the world, serving with James Aviation from around 1948

Later in the week, we visited Te Papa, our National Museum. Frankly, as a museum, it mystifies me, and I have probably said before, I regard it as more of theme park than a true museum, The thing that is most on display seems to me to be the art of curatorship, rather than the artefacts used to make the displays. Still, the Tiger Moth was worth a look.

The wind flattened the waves inshore, though there were apparently some large waves out in the strait.

On Thursday last week, we had a forecast that suggested swells of up to six metres might be expected. It occurred to me that huge slow swells rolling in might make an interesting image in the first light of day. Sadly, the huge swells didn’t eventuate, though the wind was gusting at up to 150 km/h, so I gave it my best shot anyway.The surface of the water in the harbour mouth was buried beneath a layer of flying spray into which the ferry Kaitaki was battling to enter harbour. The loom of Baring Head can be seen behind the lights of the ship.

Sparrow in the spin-cycle

On Friday, there was a brief period of calm, with bright warm sun. A sparrow in a puddle caught my eye as it used the fresh rain water to cleanse its plumage, rotating its moving parts so rapidly that I called this image “the spin cycle”

Flowering gum near the parliamentary precinct

It’s that time of year when the pohutukawa blossoms are almost done, but the lurid color of the Australian flowering gum (Corymbia ficifolia) takes its place, so I tried to place the flagstaff on the Beehive as a backdrop. The flag is not at half mast, but there is a lightning conductor atop the mast itself which can give that impression



Camera club hobbies Weather Wellington

October 12, 2014 … Worldwide Photowalk

A year gone by already!

The water feature in Te Aro park shot while waiting for the group to arrive

Each year, at about this time, the Kelby organization sponsors the “Worldwide Photowalk” which is very popular with photographers at large, especially those who subscribe to the educational services of KelbyOne as I do. Each walk is limited to a maximum of 50 participants, and usually there is one per city or suburb. This year, there were 20,001 participants registered in 1,052 cities and locales around the world. Participants have the opportunity to compete for some serious photographic prizes. I was the organizer for Wellington and I was honoured to be joined by 36 fellow photographers. We began at Te Aro Park in the heart of the city.

Hitherto unnoticed architectural detail on a building in Cuba Street

This walk was intended to discover the texture of the city as found in the back alleys and side roads, and the fabric and architectural details.

Wine on the table

Some of our participants engaged in street photography, but I am not extroverted enough to do that, so I concentrated on other things. A couple dining at the open window of a Cuba Street restaurant were bemused to be asked if I could photograph their table. Wine was open but food had yet to arrive.

Vivian St
Eastward along Vivian St, and the nearest thing Wellington has to a “red light district”

When you are in the company of other photographers, you tend to be watchful for new views, hopeful that you will see it before you do.

Joe Kim Yung memorial in the vicinity of the now defunct Chinatown

Sometimes the discoveries you make are where you might least expect. I walked on this memorial to Joe Kum Yung, a murdered Chinese miner “killed by gunshot, 24 September, 1905” before I realised it was there.

A pleasant time
Oriental Bay Marina

Though the walk was just 3.6 km long, we took almost two hours (as expected)  to reach the waterfront where there was a lovely calm and a delightful stillness on the water.

Laying the dust of the journey

Our collegial adventure ended up at Mac’s Brewbar in a very amiable gathering.

It was a happy day.

Children hobbies Normandale Sport Weather

Marh 17, 2014 … the day that the rains came down*

The weather threat lingered on.

This is practiced with and without the sticks

There was little sign, however, of the threatened disruptive weather. Since we had seen advertisements for it, and it was at Minoh House which is a few hundred metres down the road from us, we walked down to see the martial arts display.

Attack in unison
The young woman at the left appeared to be the sensei for this particular group.

A variety of disciplines were demonstrating their various skills in a variety of age groups. Karate in particular seems to sprout new sects with alarming frequency.

more karate
High speed

There are undoubtedly all kinds of good outcomes, both physical and mental from participation. On the other hand, they all seem to focus on lots of sound and fury and even the youngsters are scary.

still more karate
It would be unwise to make this young woman angry

Gender is no barrier to participation, and I watched a young woman who weighed no more than 75 kg pick up a fairly solid sumo wrestler and carry him out of the ring. Likewise, some of the fiercest cries came from the women.

Kyudoka in action
This is a highly stylised art form

Most fascinating to us were the practitioners of the ancient art of Kyudo or Japanese archery. This seems to be as much about the elegance of the action as it was about hitting the target, and one kyudoka in particular was very striking in his actions.

A robin sang a song of love,
A willow tree reached up to the heavens
As if to thank the sky above
For all that rain, that welcome rain*


Then the rain came down. And even so, it was not the much threatened storm, though we got thoroughly wet as we dashed home.

The storm came and went overnight, leaving little significant mark for most Wellingtonians.

* “The day that the rain came down” (1958) by Lawrence Hayward and Maurice Deebank, originally performed by Jane Morgan 


History hobbies Landscapes Queenstown

December 1, 2013 … a trip in time

After a pleasantly relaxed morning, Lunch in Arrowtown seemed like a splendid idea.

1956 Chevy truck
Beautifully restored classic in Arrowtown

If you are in Arrowtown, I heartily recommend “The Postmaster’s Residence” for delightful meals. Chef Sam Laycock puts real imagination into his menu, and the dishes delivered live up to their promise. They have a great wine list as well. Anyway, we were enjoying our lunch when a beautifully restored Chevrolet truck (about 1956) pulled up opposite. Though I took some straight shots, I had to give it the “Back to the Future” treatment.

Arrowtown cemetery
Tales of loss and grief. The Chinese cemetery is elsewhere

We wandered up the hill after lunch to the cenotaph which offers a nice view over the town and from there across to the old cemetery, and looked at the many tales of tragedy … a family that lost three infants in a week for example.  The wind was rising, and weather was coming in from the South. Snow was predicted down to 600 metres.

Weather on the Remarkables
They are well named

One of the back roads back to Lake Hayes gave a commanding view of the Northern face of the Remarkables. The weather sweeping along those ridges sent chills through me.

Today we go through Cromwell and Clyde.

Art hobbies

September 12, 2013 …

Just one single solitary image today.

This was my original intention for the blog anyway, but it evolved in favour of multiple pictures.

This image was made by way of rehearsal for the annual Canon Photo5 competition. One of the five “briefs” this year was to make a high contrast image using flour.

This will not be my actual entry into that brief  because it lacks that high-contrast punch that I wanted. However I had  a lot of fun making it.

The bear is a small pewter ornament, perhaps 8 cm long. My longtime friend and former colleague Pradip, brought it back from Canada for me as a souvenir of a project that involved the exploration of ruggedized bar-code readers in the timber industry for possible use in the dairy industry.

A black drape, some black base card and a couple of cups of flour were the only other props. My vision was of the bear advancing menacingly on the photographer through the snow and the darkness. Catching the snow falling was the big challenge. I wanted low light , so direct flash would be inappropriate. I have a great little multiple LED light with a built in dimmer. All other lights were off except for this which was to be the sole light source.

However, the low light required long exposures,  so when I was dropping sifted flour it was not showing up.  I should add that sifting flour to get it in the right place while attempting to trigger the remote shutter was a bit of a circus. I also knew that I would have to restore the kitchen to its previous clean and tidy status.

To catch the falling snow(flour) requires a short exposure.

The flash had to come back into the equation. There is a feature on many cameras which allows the flash to fire on “second curtain”. In other words, the shutter opens, the image is made, then the flash fires and finally the shutter closes. I pointed the flash away from the subject to avoid flooding it with light and this is my result.

Ursus horribilis
… he’s actually quite cute

For some reason, Mary didn’t want me to put the used flour back into the jar in the cupboard.

You may see a few more attempts at the five briefs in the coming days.

Aviation Birds hobbies Trentham

July 1, 2013 … mixed emotions

Bright morning, no wind, and a trip to the inlet was imperative.

Eventually, I must break this linkage. As much as I love the birds, I need to be more versatile. However, that is what was on the menu yesterday.

Even as I turned onto Gray’s Road, I could see that the conditions were wonderful. The stilts in the ponds were wading quietly in the astonishing green reflections of the hills behind Whitby.

Pied stilts in the pond at Grays Rd
That green reflection really caught me

As usual, there were kingfishers, and as usual there were several members of the “Kookaburra Club” (the kookaburra is a member of the kingfisher family, the halcyonidae) with long lens and varying aids to camouflage.

Kingfisher at high speed
They are beautiful birds


When it comes to birds, there are real birders, birders who like to take the odd picture of a bird, and photographers who don’t mid if their subject is a bird.

A fellow in a kayak was clearly a real birder. He was sneaking up on the birds armed with nothing but binoculars.

Kayaker at Pauatahanui
A real birder

I made two trips to the inlet yesterday, mainly because I left a piece of equipment behind, and a fellow photographer kindly retrieved it for me. On my way home from her place, the light was so perfect, I had to go back.

Kingfisher emerges from crab dive
Missile launch

Even more of my co-conspirators were there and even more kingfishers. With the high tide they were perched in the big tree by the water’s edge and were diving to retrieve crabs. It was fascinating to watch them re-emerge like Polaris missiles, but always with the crab.

While I was in the upper valley, I dropped in on the model fliers at Trentham to see what my old buddies were up to. Outrageously, for men of their age, they were having fun. This little electric-powered moulded-foam scale model of a North American T-28 Trojan was being expertly flown by a young man who was teaching his father to fly. He took the controls to land well clear of the Rimutaka Prison in the background, where the inmates were not having nearly as much fun.

Model aircraft landing near the prison
Corrections department staff are always a little paranoid that models should not cross the prison boundary in case they are part of some conspiracy to deliver contraband

Another interesting device was this quadcopter, complete with GPS and on-board camera. It’s owner flew it up to about 50 feet and left it hovering there. It was rock solid in its position and very stable despite a steady breeze. He then shut his transmitter down and stood back. The device went into fail-safe mode, and navigated its way to a spot directly above its initial launch point, and then reduced power slowly for a perfect gentle landing back where it started. Amazing. Expensive.

Quadcopter landing autonomously
Not sure about the pilot, but the model had fun

I would have to choose between modelling and photography, and right now photography wins, hands down.

Birds hobbies Pauatahanui Social

June 11, 2013 … mud and feathers

Routine is no bad thing.

I must get one sometime.  Much of yesterday was spent processing images from the Wairarapa trip over the weekend. Mary was still away (must remember to go to the airport  to collect her this afternoon), so domestic duties got relegated.

I still found time to get out to the Pauatahanui inlet where I found almost a full gathering of the kingfisher fanatics in progress. There were at least eight kingfishers and five of us. I think we are gaining on them. Short of a rugby test match, you would not normally see so many large lenses in such a small space. I have some very fine equipment, but with these guys I am the poor cousin. Pure envy.

Anyway, we did more talking than photography and I enjoyed their company enormously. It was amazing though, how each one of us had an eye on the surroundings and when something of avian interest occurred, the conversation stopped instantly, mid-sentence. An Australasian harrier hawk (Circus approximans) flew over and suddenly there where five big white barrels following it, and burst-mode shutters firing off  as they do at a political conference. One of our number had a Canon 1DX which can fire off 14 frames per second, and in that brief overhead passage, he shot 52 pictures.

Australasian harrier hawk (Circus approximans)
They are a beautiful bird

Birds high in a bright sky tend to appear as black silhouettes so I was quite pleased at how well my version turned out despite it being a small fragment of the frame.  During a lull in activity, two of our number, with reckless disregard for spousal approval, worked their way across the mudflats hoping to get closer to the dotterels they had spotted.

Big lenses, muddy boots
That really is sticky mud.

My footwear was inadequate for the conditions so I stayed on firm ground and was lucky to catch this quartet.

Barber shop quartet
…. actually they are lousy singers

On the way back towards Pauatahanui Village, I paused by the ponds to see who was home. This pair of stilts made a pleasant picture.

Pied stilts

I hope to see you tomorrow, but I had better put the house in order first.

Birds hobbies Maritime Pauatahanui Petone

March 26, 2013 … hey big spender

Technolust is an awful thing.

The more you have, the more you want. My big zoom lens has a nominal reach of 400 mm and mounted on a crop-frame camera (my Canon EOS 7D), the 1.6 magnification factor gives me the optical equivalent of 640 mm. Even that powerful capability does not get me across the mud flats to those darned kingfishers. So, having sold off an unwanted wide angle lens (I still have another one) I decided to explore the notion of an “extender”.

This is an optical converter that fits between the camera body and the lens itself. They are quite complex and expensive lenses in their own right, and come in two sizes which multiply the focal length by either 1.4x or 2x. However, they are an optical compromise and degrade the image quality somewhat, and reduce the light received at the sensor.

I am fortunate in that a friend in the camera club has one and has generously allowed me to play with it so that I can decide whether to buy one of my own. All of today’s images are made with the 2x extender in place.

My kingfisher shots from yesterday are still crops from a larger image, but I have to say that I am so far, disappointed in the image quality. Furthermore, with my particular lens, there is insufficient light to allow the autofocus to work properly. Long lenses tend to have a shallow depth of field (the area that is in focus at any one time)  so manual focussing is difficult to master, especially with moving targets.

I got some usable shots, but the number of discards was unacceptably high. I shall persist for a few days over the Easter break to see if it is merely lack of practice or willpower that is the barrier to more consistent success.

Kingfishers gathered to harvest crabs
Until now, I have usually seen a solitary bird here, and get excited when a second arrives. Four on the same branch was amazing.

Anyway, my trial site was out at Pauatahanui. When I got there, the conditions were right, but no birds nearby. I settled down to wait, and the first one arrived. As I reached stealthily for my camera, another arrived, and then another and another. I got excited up in Napier at the numbers of kingfishers, but here, I had four of them sitting on one branch. Astounding!

Kingfisher swoops on an unfortunate crab
These birds are very fast so in-flight shots tend to be a matter of luck

Crabs were plentiful and for a little while they maintained a shuttle service, each bird dashing off to catch a luckless crab and bring it back to the log for ceremonial dismemberment and consumption.

Consuming the catch
When the bird gets back with a crab, it proceeds to bash it against the log and generally force it to stop struggling. After a few crushing bits, it tosses the crab and swallows it.

Just to see how the extender worked for other subjects, I came back to Petone foreshore, and saw four or five crews out practising for waka ama (outrigger canoes)  races. This is clearly not as sharp as a native lens, but it is a picture. The cruise liner in the background is the Marina (66,000T, 1,252 pax)

Waka ama practice
This used the extender, but the lens was not zoomed out.

More experimentation over the next few days.

creativity hobbies Petone Weather

February 7, 2013 … getting back on track after the storm

Recent rain has passed on.

It leaves a legacy. Very often, rain high in the Tararua ranges doesn’t make its presence felt for a day or two, until the mud and debris makes its way downstream. When it gets to the river mouth, it pours out into the harbour, discolouring its Northern half.

Wellington Harbour from Normandale Rd
Silt pours into the harbour from the Hutt River after a few days of very intense rain


As the tides ebb and flow, the heavier pieces of wood float ashore to the beaches and rocky walls of the harbour. Recently the Hutt City Council cleaned and groomed the beach at Petone in readiness for the summer season. It looked fine. Yesterday it looked like the aftermath of a train-wreck.  There was tangled driftwood along the entire length of the beach.

Raft of floating debris
Carried down the river, and then back into the little bay by subsequent tides, a mass of floating debris spoils the beauty of the bay for a day or two

In the little bay by the boatsheds in the estuary, the normally tranquil waters were covered by an unsightly raft of floating debris. It will be a while, I think, before the herons wade this stretch again.

Nearby, on the Eastern end of the esplanade is a playground area with swings and other equipment for children, and a space for bigger boys. The local model engineering society has an impressive track layout on which to run their model trains and give rides to eager youngsters and their parents.

A beautifully made model locomotive under steam
The thousands of hours that go into these magnificent models deserve more frequent airing of the models.


As a former model maker, I have a sense of kinship with these guys, though I lack their engineering skills. They make wonderful models, usually close scale replicas of real locomotives. They are finished and painted with pride, and after comprehensive safety testing and certification procedures, are brought to the track to give pleasure to passengers and driver alike.

It was late in the afternoon when I got there, and things were winding down. People were still buying tickets to ride, and the locomotives were hissing and snorting as steam locomotives do, and squirting jets of spent steam from various valves. Everyone was having fun, but no one more so than the owner of a new locomotive who was enjoying high speed runs with no passengers around the smaller inner circuit.

A little freelance 0-6-0 tank locomotive at speed
Despite the green livery, this is not a Great Western locomotive design. The modeller just had some green paint. I love the flying rods on the valve gear, and exposed the image so as to give them the necessary blur.

I find the flying connecting rods and valve gear totally mesmerizing.

For today I have refrained from overt exploration of the seeing issue. But it lurks in the background. I am hoping you will find in these images something that will make you wonder why I packed that particular aspect of what was in front of me, and why I chose to treat the subject in this particular way.

More tomorrow.