Family Invercargill Lakes mountains Otago Queenstown Queenstown Railway Reflections Sunset

August 2, 2013 … up and down the lake

Visiting my brother near Riverton yesterday took us through some amazing landscapes.

My first shot of the day was taken at Kingston, at the Southern end of the lake. As you can see, the water was still and the colours were very nice indeed.  The first shot is looking down on the Kingston township.

Kingston at the end of the lake
It would be great if the Earnslaw came down here to connect with the Kingston Flyer

The second image is from the same spot, looking back up the lake towards Queenstown.

View towards Queenstown from Kingston
With a northerly it can be very bleak here

After a pleasant family visit, and some shopping in Invercargill, we made the return journey into the fading light.  At Fairlight (the Southern Terminus for the Kingston Flyer), the clouds were interesting.

Interesting cloud formation near Fairlight
The temperature was dropping rapidly

Then again, as we were nearing Queenstown along the lake edge, there was a still view of the lake with some of the last of the sunset lingering in the clouds.

Looking across the lake to Cecil Peak on the left
By now it was positively cold.

As the day reached its end, the arrival back at Lake Hayes Estate was marred by the realisation that there were no lights anywhere. A power cut kept us cold and in candle-lit near darkness until power was eventually restored at around 1:30 am.

Home today, not sure what opportunities will arise in transit.

adversity Invercargill Travel

April 27, 2013 … chilly traverse

Yesterday started badly.

It was blowing hard from the North West when we awoke in Invercargill, so we entertained little hopes of sightseeing on our trip through the Southern Catlins. Our trip Eastward from Invercargill seemed bleak and unrewarding, and I was developing a real respect for those hardy Southern men and women wrapped in multiple layers of clothing and battling a hostile climate and poor soil to make a hard-earned living. We had gone just thirty or so kilometres when we saw a sign that pointed to the Waituna Wetlands.

This is an extensive area of wetlands adjacent to a big tidal lagoon. It looked like an ideal area for bird photography. There were lots of birds out on the lagoon, black swans, ducks, oystercatchers, etc, but the 4.5 km walkway was less rewarding. The most interaction we had was with this red-head and he was a fun guy to be with!

Red pouch fungus
We didn’t learn his name but I think it is Leratiomyces erythrocephalus

The path is beautifully made, but it seems to spend much of its time taking you through a trench of solid manuka which varies from 2 to five metres in height. It doesn’t make for good viewing, nor does it provide for a lot of visible birdlife. There were plenty of fast movers such as Welcome Swallows, and finches which burst into flight and were gone in an instant, but not much else.


It might be thought that the main virtue of this park was the fact that it offered an hour’s exercise after the amount of time spent sitting on the journey. Though there is a grain of truth in that, at ground level there is much to see by way of ferns, mosses, liverworts, fungi, lichens and other colourful ground organisms.


Somewhere on the circuit, I found evidence of an earlier civilization, in the form of the cab of an old truck. I liked it.

Improbable find in the wetland
I think it’s an old (1950s) Austin

In similar fashion, I liked the deserted old house near the entrance to the wetlands. Its rust-red colour made it leap out of the weeds.

Deserted house at Waituna
The weeds are almost higher than the house … and the blue sky in the East is a momentary aberration which quickly disappeared.

On the way to Owaka, our destination for the night, we paused at Curio Bay to eat our lunch and view the petrified forest. The last time I was here, it was marrow-chillingly cold, and this time was no different. But at least the surf hurling itself against the cliffs provided some visual spectacle.

Surf at Curio Bay
This does not do justice to the chill in the air

We were glad to arrive in Owaka where the proprietor of the Owaka Lodge Motel (a good clean basic kiwi motel)  welcomed us with a jug of milk, a vase of fresh flowers and fresh muffins. Excellent.

Birds Invercargill Maritime Queenstown

December 1, 2012 … playing ducks and drakes

Invercargill in the morning was a bit bleak.

My sister-in-law needed some things solved while my brother was in hospital, so we planned to go to their home near Thornbury on the road to Riverton … but first, a brief stop at the Waihopai River Estuary walkway to see what birdlife was about.

As with my previous visits to the area, there were grey skies and a chilly wind. Lots of black swans, some shags, pied stilts, and a lot of ducks of different sorts. The most fascinating to me are the shovelers  with their disproportionately large bills (Anas rhynchotis).New Zealand Shoveler Duck

The tide was low and many of the ducklings, including the shovelers were scuttling along through the mud finding food.Puddling in the mud

The little creatures were thoroughly covered in mud , and were fun to watch, despite the chill. Somewhere an alarm was sounded and all the ducklings were scurrying in convoy back to the protection of their parents,Puddling in the mud

But we had to move on and went on up SH1 towards Lorneville  and stopped at a garden centre for breakfast. Happily this garden centre had a good café attached so French toast, bacon and maple syrup was the order of the day. It was clearly a popular place, so there was a bit of a wait, and that led to sampling of one of Southland’s infamous cheese rolls while we waited. I am mystified.

Some of the fishing fleet at RivertonAfter dealing with the few tasks, we went on to Riverton where again the biting wind took the edge off the scenic quality of the place. One or two of the boats moored there looked as if they would be unfitted for the turbulence of a bathtub, and I sincerely hope that no lives are risked by taking them to sea.

After lunch (some of the finest blue cod I have ever had), we visited my brother in hospital and were pleased with the obvious progress he was making.  I suspect some frustrations with rehabilitation regimes are probably in store.

Then it was the road back to Queenstown.

Art Aviation Invercargill Queenstown Weather Wellington

November 30, 2012 … from Middle Earth to the Misty Mountains

Summer just got wound back three notches.

It was a stunning morning in Wellington as Mary dropped me at the airport. There were clear skies, bright sun and flat calm.

I was early for my journey, so I had a chance to see the sights for a bit over an hour. Inside the terminal, “Middle Earth” was everywhere. Overhead, a giant sculpture of Gollum chasing trout dominated the food court.

Gollum seeks his next meal in the food courtWhile I wouldn’t suggest it should remain as a timeless piece of art or anything, I have to admire the skills at Weta Workshops who are superbly skilled and practiced at this sort of thing.

Gollum blows bubbles and the fishing is goodIt stands up quite well to closer inspection.

Meanwhile, across the runway, a Gulfstream was sitting in the sun, and my first thought was that some executive from New Line/MGM was in town for the festivities. As I looked closer, I realised that while our own government might run around after such minor power figures, the US government was far less likely to provide a USAF jet. I have no idea which dignitary was in town, but thought it must be a nice way to travel. Special transport for a VIP courtesy of the US taxpayer

Another visitor to the airport was a BAe 146 “whisper jet” or “grasshopper”. I Think this one was owned by Vincent Aviation and is based at Paraparaumu. As it took off I had a strange nostalgia for the days when Ansett Airlines forced our own national airline to begin competing.BAe 146 ("grasshopper") takes off from Rongotai

Since I was travelling by Jetstar, I am happy to report that they are still forced to compete. I am happy to report that my flight was on time, staffed by a very pleasant cabin crew, and I had a very pleasant flight.

I was heading to Invercargill to see my brother. Oddly the cheapest way to do that was by flying to Queenstown and then driving with my son Andrew the two hours or so to the Southern city. By the time the plane past Blenheim, there was thick cloud everywhere, and I saw no land until the flight dropped through the cloud in the Kawarau Gorge just near the Crown Range Road.

Cold, grey, chilly weather greeted me, with spiteful rain. It must have come as an unpleasant shock to all the lightly clad young things who were returning from the joys of the Hobbit premiere in our sunny capital. Andrew and I grabbed a “Subway” meal (still the most reliable and moderately healthy fast food meal I know) … and we were on the road. Somewhere south of Kingston a cloud of black smoke was rushing towards us and I recognised it as the Kingston Flyer.  Unfortunately, we could not find a place to stop in time for me to set up, so the only evidence I have is this blurry hand-held shot taken across the driver and on all the wrong settings. But I am so pleased that the old girl was saved from the slow decay that seemed its fate during the bankruptcy that I had to include it anyway. Sorry for the quality. 

I am happy to report that my brother is in much better state than I feared, and I shall start the homeward journey today.

Architecture Invercargill Light Lower Hutt Trees

November 29, 2012 … I think that I shall never see*

Contemplating a special tree seemed appropriate.

The hoop-la associated with the Hobbit premiere was happening in the city and I made a conscious choice to stay away. As I parked in the grounds of St James Church behind the Lower Hutt Library, I remembered the two trees between the car park and the church  have always been rather special. They are golden elms, and in my opinion, are worthy of an honoured place in Rivendell or Gondor.

A tree surpassing any poemFrom the first green of spring until the bare branches of winter these are magnificent trees and I must check with the city council to see whether they are on the register of protected trees.

From there, picking up on the suggestion of my longtime correspondent Pam, in Switzerland, I decided to look at a few of the angles of Lower Hutt City.

Honesty requires the admission that this is not a spectacular city. It is Wellington’s dormitory. It has few public buildings of real architectural merit.  For a while, back in the 1950s some work was done with reinforced concrete structures that was good for its time, but which is no longer as appealing as it was back then. There can be a fine line between clean minimalist architecture, and the graceless totalitarian military look. In my opinion, the Lower Hutt War Memorial Library and the associated Little Theatre just scrape on to the positive side of that balance.Post war minimalism --- the Little Theatre

Previously I have lamented the slow death of High Street and Queens Drive caused by the glittering attractions of the modern mall nearby.  Historic photographs show a bustling main street with many fine buildings of which the citizenry were justly proud.

If you look behind the sad neon, the faded billboards and the for sale signs, the skeleton of the old days is still there, but crumbling fast. One prominent building which survives for now, is the old art deco styled Post Office building on the corner of High St and Andrews Avenue.

Once the regional headquarters when “post” included phones and telegraph, it is now deemed an earthquake risk, and has been vacated by NZ Post, though other tenants have chosen to remain. The most prominent tenant on the corner is Cash Converters, the modern-day descendant of a pawn shop. I don’t think they actually “pawn” goods, but my perception is that they pay low and sell high. How could you go wrong?The old Post Office building on High Street


My last building of the day is also subject to seismic hazard … the Town Hall and Civic buildings are being temporarily vacated pending strengthening work.

Lower Hutt Civic CentreBehind the civic buildings is the lovely Riddiford Gardens and the Library which brings us back to the start point of today’s adventure.

The next instalment will come to you from an apparently chilly Invercargill.

* “… a poem lovely as a tree”  Trees, by Joyce Kilmer


Aviation Invercargill Landscapes Light

May 3, 2012 … from dawn to raining dusk

Of course the Southland weather came right the day I left.

No rain. A bright clear dawn and a light (-2°C) frost offered a good start to the day. River mist out to the East  added to the character of the sunrise. Sunrise at Flint's Bush

The alpacas in the adjacent paddock seemed unperturbed by the ice on the ground and remained stoically squatting on the icy grass. One of them gave birth later in the day, after I had gone.

To the South, an advancing grey front partially obscured Stewart Island, but closer in, the large (700+) dairy herds were wandering in weary resignation along the tracks from their respective milking sheds to another hard day of converting green grass into white gold.

Across the idyllic landscape, a growling Dc class diesel locomotive was hauling a long  train of empty clattering coal wagons from the Edendale dairy factory back to the open cast mine at Ohai, near Nightcaps for a refill.

We had an unhurried breakfast, and when I was sure I had almost all the bits and pieces I came with, we loaded my bags and went into Invercargill via the back roads, emerging at Oreti beach (scene of Burt Munro’s “world’s fastest Indian” exploits). The Longwood Mountains in the west had a respectable dusting of snow to quite low levels for the time of year. Longwood mountains from Oreti Beach

If Bert were still with us, he would break his neck on the beach as it is now. There seem to be a large number of quite deep channels running across the beach down to the sea. It is nothing like the flat sand I saw in the film.

We spent a little time wandering the lovely Queen’s Park in Invercargill until it was time to be dropped at the airport. There was little on offer at the airport cafeteria, but I did get to try one of the infamous Southland cheese rolls. Hmmm … heart attack on a plate!  I think the airport could lift its game a little. On the other hand, I have not seen another airport that provides access to the ATR aircraft via an airbridge.

Though my camera bag fits the gauge for carry-on baggage (just), it won’t fit the overhead lockers on the ATR 72 aircraft that serve Invercargill. The support leg on the seats prevent it being stowed under the  seat on the window side, but it does fit under the aisle seats. Sadly this limits the opportunity for airborne photography.

A bleak Southerly and rain were my welcome home.

Invercargill Landscapes Light

May 1, 2012 … chilled to the bone

Icy cold weather is not what I hoped for.

My brother and his wife live at Flint’s Bush near Thornbury on the road to Riverton. I am willing to believe that on a good day there are clear views South to Stewart Island. Sadly, since arriving here on Wednesday there has been little fine weather, or else  I arrived home too late from conference functions to enjoy it. To be fair, I did get a glimpse of the island on the day I arrived, but haven’t seen it since.

Yesterday was bleak and miserable, with rain hail thunder, and just the occasional finger of sunlight picking out the odd spot on the landscape. I am also able to concede that this is a lovely landscape that would be even nicer in good weather.

I was taken first to the pretty little town of Riverton, and there I saw an extensive colony of spotted shags. Then we went around the coast to Colac Bay and then to Cosy Nook. Both were fascinating places to visit, but the weather was just against them.  So it was back to Flint’s Bush and a blazing fire.

None of the pictures from the coast were really what I hoped for, so all I have to offer is the view to the East during a brief respite in the weather. Dark weather near Invercargill

This was the coldest night I can recall for sometime, but since we were inside, you will be glad to know I survived.

Camera club creativity Invercargill

April 30, 2012 … at the feet of a master

Now the conference is over.

Time for some pleasant weather and free wandering? Alas the weather is the weak link with strong winds, rain and hail.  Be that as it may, I need to make some closing remarks about the conference.

First, let me compliment the Southland Photographic Society for their splendid efforts as hosts in Invercargill. The conference was a happy occasion for most who attended. The venue was more than adequate, though they obviously struggled to serve morning and afternoon teas and lunches to 220 attendees in a timely manner. On the other had, the Ascot Park Motel more than redeemed themselves with the excellent banquet.

Conferences are not about food, though if it is done badly, it can overshadow the substantive conference. Despite my minor niggle above, this was not the case in Invercargill, and the mechanics were very well handled.  The selection of workshop topics was excellent, and I enjoyed most of the ones I went to. Field trips were enjoyed, despite the chilly one I opted for on Saturday. Some worlds class speakers included local artist Graham Sydney who was very provocative, and Tom Ang.

Tom was the highlight of the conference for me. This man is a superb photographer, yet it would be hard to find a more humble or gentle person. He shared his experience and wisdom unstintingly. My only regret was that he was unwell during most of his visit and that curtailed some of his participation.  Tom Ang at the podium -  PSNZ Conference, INvercargillMy image today is one of the few I took yesterday, and it is a hand-held shot in a dark auditorium and shows Tom at work.

I shall take every opportunity that occurs in future to learn from him, though he too was controversial (no RAW images and no “chimping”. I am happy to record that he now has a home in New Zealand.


Birds Camera club Invercargill

April 29, 2012 … beginning and ending

Yesterday started badly.

The first field trip of the day was a walk by the wetlands in the estuary of the Waihopai River. The organizers were keen for us to be there at sunrise, so we left the conference venue at 6 am. Drizzle and a chill wind made the experience of standing in the dark waiting for the sun to rise absolutely miserable. I shivered and huddled in what shelter I could find until about 8 am by which time I was “over it” as the youngsters say.  I could see the potential of the site as there were a lot of birds about, but the sheer bleakness of the morning killed it.

The conference ran its course, with some good sessions. The day ended early so that people could prepare for the banquet in the evening. Since I was staying with my brother, near Riverton, I had no intention of going out and back, and since the weather had transformed the late afternoon into one of warm golden light, I decided to revisit the estuary.

Judging by the number of very long lenses in evidence, my idea was not entirely original. However, it was definitely a good idea.  This must be amongst the most densely populated birding areas I have ever seen.

Variety was also amazing. I saw a strange little duck with an enormous beak (the Shoveler). There were stilts, pied oystercatchers, white faced herons, a huge population of Royal Spoonbills, many kinds of ducks and geese, gull-billed tern, and many birds of field and shore.

birdlife on the Waihopai estuary

I was engrossed in all this activity and except that the sun was setting, I might have missed the banquet altogether. Looking across the river towards the airport, I was fortunate to see a lovely soft light  and a convoy of swans.Swan convoy in line astern

The banquet was a pleasant occasion, sometimes quaintly formal. How often in these interesting times, do you hear a formal toast to the Queen?

But I enjoyed myself.

Architecture Invercargill

April 28, 2012 … no business like show business

The weather has taken a turn for the worse.

Local farmers are celebrating wildly. Apparently there has been little significant rain for months and they will take all they can get. Due to my own ineptitude with check lists, I neglected to bring a rain jacket.

Friday was an interesting day at the conference with many good tutorials and some fieldtrips. I chose to stay close to base rather than going to the Catlins or elsewhere, in the hope of learning from visiting experts. Alas the star attraction was unwell which rather minimised his input on that day at least. Nevertheless things went well otherwise, and while I was on the walking tour, I managed to get a personal guided tour of the inner workings of the theatre.

This building is as splendid inside as out.  I saw the fly lofts and the wiring room and many other bits that the public rarely see. Here is the view from the proscenium arch looking out to the audience.Invercargill Civic Theatre

Now that the conference is ended, I hope to catch up in the next few hours.