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May 29, 2022 … Waikato road trip (part III) … homebound

This is the third and final in a three part series describing our road trip to the Waikato and back.
Part I covered the trip from Wellington to Mangakino
Part II covered our trip from Mangakino to Wingspan and now we cover the journey from Mangakino to Horopito, to Whanganui and home.

In one sense, our spontaneous adventure away from home was a trip to nowhere. With all due respect to its 1,200 inhabitants, Mangakino is scarcely a tourist destination. On the other hand, having spent six years as a single man in nearby Tokoroa back in the late 1960s, I was familiar with the region. I knew and loved the rhythms of life in the area at this time of year. Sharp frosts, river mists, clear days and dark brittle starlit nights characterised the early yeas of my working life. The smell of logs burning in open fireplaces so familiar back then was still familiar now, though no longer acceptable in most other places.

Our last two days in Mangakino after our memorable trip to Wingspan were characterised by soft but steady rain. That was OK by me. I had lots if image processing to do and Mary seemed happy reading or knitting when she wasn’t managing the fire or organising excellent meals for us.

There was a break in the weather on Sunday, our last day in the region, so I made one last expedition back upriver to Atiamuri and thence to Lake Ohakuri. This was new territory to me. I don’t know how I had never been to Lake Ohakuri before, but like the other lakes on the river, it seems to enjoy a sheltered situation and its surface was glassy calm. No one else was visible. I had this vast beauty all to myself. However, we were due to leave for Whanganui the next morning and there was packing to be done, so it was back to Mangakino to enjoy one last log fire.

We left Mangakino in drizzle conditions and headed Westward on SH30 towards Benneydale and Taumarunui. My love of the South Waikato landscape has been expressed several time in recent blogs. Even in these soggy conditions I find it attractive. Pouakani is not a place I have previously heard of. Nor, as we pass through it, is it a place I am likely to remember. However, according to Google Maps, the picture above was made there.

Maniaiti/Benneydale is a town in the Waitomo district that is home to about 180 people. When I lived and worked in Tokoroa in the mid 1960s, we thought of it as a frontier town on the Western edge of forestry country. It was in fact a coal mining town between the years of 1931 and the early 1990s. That has now ended. Until 2018 Benneydale was the only town in the King Country that did not have a Maori name. Local iwi applied to the Geographic Board to remedy that and it is now Maniati/Benneydale despite considerable local opposition. I photographed this same derelict house last time I came this way in 2016. Back then the green tree was just beginning to appear through the roof.

The King Country is an interesting area. While you can draw it on a map, it has no existence as a governance entity. For that, it falls partly within Waikato, and partly within Manawatu/Whanganui region. All of this is merely of passing interest, as we headed down a backroad from Benneydale to join SH4 at Ongarue. The region is heavily forested and very hilly. The only clue I have about where I made the image above through the windscreen is that it is somewhere North of Taumarunui.

We made a rest stop and had an excellent morning tea in Taumarunui. Then it was Southwards through Raurimu and National Park, heading purposefully for Horopito, home to Horopito Motors. This place is known globally as “Smash Palace” and was the setting for the 1981 Roger Donaldson film of the same name.

The last time I was there was in 2013. Back then in return for a gold coin donation, they allowed photographers and tourists to enter the 5 or so hectares and wander at will among the thousands of rusting cars.

On that occasion, we arrived early in the morning and there was no one in the office. The gate was open so I made the expected donation and began wandering about and making pictures. Mary sat in the car and knitted while I was in photography heaven. After I was done, I started to thread my way out of the maze only to be confronted by a man with a rifle and a bunch of distinctly unfriendly dogs. Awkward. He had been hunting and was a bit late back and was startled to find a wandering photographer on the premises. We resolved our differences peaceably.

This time things were done properly, and I paid the now required $10 admission fee at the office and spent a blissful hour looking at rusty textures and the shapes of cars as they used to be in my youth. There may be a pattern or system to the way in which cars are placed when they come in, but if so I could not work it out. It definitely is not brand, year, nor even the era from which the car was made. I am told that if you need a part for your old car, the staff can nevertheless tell you whether they that or a similar model.

At first I was a bit disconcerted that, near the front gate, there were many cars of recent manufacture that still had visible full-coloured paint and chrome work. I presume they were recent crashes or simple mechanical failures. They were not what I had come for, so I avoided them as much as possible.

There are estimated to be about 5,000 cars on site. As I wandered about I saw many that I have not laid eyes on for years. Mostly these would be British cars that are rarely on our roads any more. There were a few continental models , but by far, most were from Dagenham, Cowley, Solihull or the like.

“Austin of England” was the brand emblazoned on the boot of cars with that grill. There are very few bearers of that brand still running in New Zealand. And yet they remind of of a sunny childhood and I retain a certain affection for them. We once even owned a lovely three litre A110 Austin Westminster.

It was fun testing my ability to identify some of these old wrecks Across the back, a Ford Zephyr, a Ford Prefect sitting on a Standard Vanguard, a Hillman or Singer wagon. In the front row, I suspect the one on the left might be a Renault, and then a Fiat Bambina in front of who knows what.

I said there was no apparent organisation to the placement of cars. This pile seems to be an exception as there are at least three Morris Minors here. I struggle to imagine that there are many useful parts in these cars, or what economic model makes them worth keeping. I imagine that these were once someone’s pride and joy, and were probably washed and polished weekly. Now there are few if any body panels that would be of any use.

If you have seen enough rust by now, I would not hold it against you should you choose to skip this and the following two images and go straight to Whanganui. For my part, I see interest in the different patterns and textures in each image. And I wonder at the story behind each vehicle. A quote from Casablanca comes to mind: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world, she walks into mine”. There is no way that all these vehicles belonged to families or businesses in the nearby towns. So how did each car come to be here, so far from any significant centres of population?

Not only the individual vehicles, but the way in which they are scattered around the vast property is fascinating. Occasionally you can see that an attempt has been made to group like vehicles together. It never seems to have lasted though. Three or four Morris Minors together might be the start of something and then a Ford Consul Classic 315, a Trekka, a Wolseley 6/110, a Vauxhall Velox, a few Holdens, a Bradford and an Alfa Romeo throws the pattern into confusion.

Always, the harsh climate, rain, snow and sun are breaking down the once polished paint, and red rust becomes the dominant colour. The odd car puts up a longer resistance. Or perhaps it came into that part of the plot at a different time to its neighbours. Why is that Ford Prefect in the shot above still blue? Why is the paint on the back corner of that car the only bit that hung on?

The land on which the cars are stored is uneven and though there are many flat areas, there are gulleys and small hills. Cars are strewn close together over almost all of it. The tracks left clear for access form a maze of sorts, and often you come to a dead end. Though you can see the home buildings on the other side of the stack, there is no way to get there without risking an avalanche of sharp rusting steel. And so you retrace your steps, dodging the deep puddles in the soggy ground.

Every path you take reveals a different view and models you hadn’t noticed when you came the other way. A person of my vintage keeps seeing models familiar in my younger days but not seen on the roads for many a year. The Armstrong Siddley Star Sapphire, the Vauxhall Cresta, The Ford Pilot, the Morris Oxford, the Triumph Mayflower, the Rover 3500, the Lanchester. It’s not the cars themselves that arouse the emotion, but rather the way they trigger recollection of happy times, youth, friends and family members long gone.

Enough wallowing in maudlin sentimentality. To my photographic eye, the place is a delight in any weather. Regardless of the memories, the stacks of rusting remains provide fascinating set of opportunities to capture shapes and colours, though rust is dominant. After an hour of photography, I decided that though the cars in front of me were different, I was making the same image over and over again, just with different cars. Time to resume our Southward journey.

We had an excellent picnic lunch beside the Makotuku River in Raetihi during a break in the drizzle. Then it was down the winding 95km of the Parapara. In case you didn’t know it, SH4 runs parallel to the Whanganui River from Raetihi to Whanganui and is known as the Parapara. It is notorious for its treacherous greywacke landscape. It is magnificent to look at but prone to crumbling landslips and washouts, potholes and floods. When the Parapara is closed as it is at least a few times in most winters, then it is a very long detour down SH1 to Bulls, or even around Egmont and through New Plymouth. I think I dozed off on this part of the trip.

Fortunately I wasn’t driving, and soon enough we were crossing the Dublin St bridge in Whanganui on our way to our Airbnb in Castlecliff.

The owner of our Airbnb advertised it as “quirky”. I must remember to avoid any described as such in future. Fortunately we were there for just two nights. Whanganui, along with most of the North Island was fairly wet during our brief stay. Peat Park was looking more like Park Lake. We drove up to Waverley to visit my brother and sister-in-law and that trip was even wetter. And then it was time for the journey home.

Wetness persisted all the way to Wellington. We broke the 190 km trip home with morning coffee and a magnificent cheese scone at the excellent Riverstone Cafe at the South end of Otaki. Then the final leg home is much quicker than it ever was in the past. The expressway starts at Pekapeka just North of Waikanae and from there it’s motorway all the way home. I asked Mary to drive the last bit because I wanted to snatch an image of the bush near the summit of Transmission Gully.

Just before the Southbound summit on Transmission Gully there is a forested valley on the left side. Each time I have crossed that road, I have wanted to catch it. Most of the surrounding hills are covered in pines, but here is a remnant of the native bush landscape as it once was. Not possible to photograph if you are driving, of course.

And here at last we are at the foot of the Haywards Hill, emerging into the sunshine of the Hutt Valley and Wellington and home. The distant hills are the Miramar peninsula and the prominent tower block is the former TV studios at Avalon.

I hope you have enjoyed my rambling and the images related to our trip. Now it is done. I continue to post photo-blogs on this site on random topics every two or three weeks. I advertise infrequently so if you care to, you could check back every few weeks to check for the latest. Or you can subscribe to have it emailed to you. Thanks for keeping me company, and special thanks to all who sent kind comments which warmed my soul.

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23 May, 2022 … Waikato road trip (part 1)

Travelling to foreign lands is but a distant memory. Even our closest neighbour presents some interesting bureaucratic hurdles these days, and I am hearing people say that going is relatively easy, but coming back can be tricky. Travel insurance is ridiculously expensive now too. The risk being trapped by the bureaucracy of a sudden lock-down due to the pandemic are, for now at least, deterring us from leaving New Zealand.

So, we decided to do a road trip. As long as there are places to walk, Mary tends to defer to my photographic obsession so asked me to choose a location. My somewhat random choice was dictated by the memory of a photograph that I should have taken in 2016 but didn’t.

Any photographer who sees something worth photographing should do it now! Those of us who say “I’ll catch it on the way back”, or “I’ll come back another time” will rarely see the same scene. Do it NOW! At this time of year, it is quite common that mornings on the Waikato river are characterised by no wind and drifting mist. In the hope of finding such conditions, we booked a week in the nearest Airbnb house to that area. And so we begin with the first part of the journey:

Hunterville in Autumn

Monday was wet in Wellington. It was wet all the way up SH1 through Levin, Bulls and Hunterville. Happily, Autumn colours were all the more vivid for being freshly washed. This image is on SH1 as it leaves Hunterville to the North. Mary was driving at this stage, and I was not at all sure that I would get a clear shot through the windscreen between the strokes of the wipers. I think I got lucky.

Following the Army through Taihape

Soon enough, we were at Taihape which claims the title of Gumboot capital of the world. It was once a significant railway town, though trains seem to pass straight through these days. It is a significant business centre for the local farming community, and has a couple of popular cafes used by both locals and long distance travellers. It is not at all uncommon to find yourself behind a convoy of trucks heading through the town towards the Army training base at Waiouru.

Ruapehu dons its cloak

Waiouru is a place of both misery and beauty. Those who have trained in the army base, especially in the winter will understand the misery aspect. The landscape provides all the beauty you could ask for, whatever the weather. Mighty Ruapehu is an active volcano that stands 2,797 metres (9,177 feet) above sea level on the volcanic plateau in the centre of the North Island. As we approached Waiouru, I could see that the mountain was wrapping itself in cloud and would soon disappear from view. A shot from the roadside in a biting breeze caught that cloud rolling over the summit.

Along the Desert Road

The “Desert Road” is the stuff of legends in New Zealand. It runs 63 km from Waiouru in the South, to Turangi in the North. It passes to the East of the mountain, through the Rangipo desert, and to the West of the Kaimanawa Forest through a wild and barren landscape. There are neither sand nor camels in this desert but its very barrenness justifies the description. Regardless of the weather, there is always something to see and appreciate. Even after the clouds blocked off the view of the mountain, I found drama in the march of the power pylons beside the road. Signs warn of army exercises with live ammunition on either side, so stay in your car or risk staring down the barrel of a 25mm cannon on an armoured fighting vehicle. The other feature of the Rangipo desert is its herd of wild horses. Those I have yet to see.

Tragedy on the Desert Road

Though it has some long straight stretches, the Desert Road has some tight and nasty bends that can bring drivers to grief in the wet and icy conditions that are common at this elevation. If you look a little to the right of the second black and yellow sign, you will see the wreck of a car that has departed from the road at speed and embedded itself in the bank. I have no information as to the fate of its occupants.

Maraetail Mist

Mangakino as it is today has its origins in the mid-late 40s as a dormitory town for the workers who were engaged in the construction of the hydro dams on the Waikato. The houses are modest but sufficient, and the one we rented for the week was very well equipped. Mary loved lighting the fire each day and using the copious supply of firewood included in the rental.

Mangakino is on the shore of the Waikato River where it becomes Lake Maraetai which provides the energy for the two power stations at the nearby Maraetai dam. When I booked the accommodation, I jokingly asked our host to arrange a week of no wind and some river mist. Well goodness gracious, she pulled it off!

Regrettably I suffered a calamity here when I dropped my Olympus camera and wrecked the mounting plate of my favourite lens. As if my insurers did not already hate me.

Dunham Reserve on Lake Whakamaru

Almost as if I anticipated the disaster, I had packed my two venerable Canon cameras (the 5DII and the 7D) so all images for the remainder of the trip were made on these huge, heavy, but still optically excellent cameras.

Anyway, back to the trip. If you are unfamiliar with the geography of the Waikato River, there are a series of hydro dams each of which creates a lake on the river. Coming downstream from Lake Taupo, they are in turn, Aratiatia, Ohakuri, Atiamuri, Whakamaru, Maraetai I and II (both on the same dam), Waipapa, Arapuni and Karapiro.

About halfway between Atiamuri and Whakamaru, there is a beautiful spot on the river called Dunham’s Reserve. This was the place that I failed to shoot back in 2016. Regrettably, on this trip, I didn’t find anything like the beautiful conditions of that earlier opportunity. Nevertheless, the river produced a scene worthy of photographing in its own right. I believe the lily pads are regarded as a pest to the hydro dams and were due to be sprayed with weed killer from the air.

Autumn tones at Dunham Reserve

As already observed, the colours of Autumn were still lingering and this clearing on the Dunham Reserve was a delight to me.

Stillness and River mist at Mangakino

The next day offered those lovely misty conditions on the river, so I went down to the Mangakino Lakefront Reserve where I took pleasure in the stillness of the water on the lake, and mystery provided by the mist. Bear in mind that this apparently still body of water is part of a river system with a mean flow rate of 340 Cumecs (12,000 cubic ft/sec)

River scene

The same morning, from a little further round the reserve edge, I found another view looking downstream towards the Maraetai dams. These are the conditions I came for.

Pastoral scene in the South Waikato

Later the same day, we drove North along the river to the stunning Maungatautiri Mountain Reserve. The South Waikato region offers some delightful scenery that ranges from heavy pine forests to soft rolling pastoral land. The reserve itself is a 3,400 hectare wildlife sanctuary on the Maungatautiri Mountain with a 47 km pest-proof perimeter fence. Within are a wonderland of native bush laced with many delightful walking tracks from which to observe the magnificent bush and the variety of birdlife.

Friendly visitor

I am less agile than I used to be and set out on the so-called Rata-trail with a view to going part of the way and then returning to the entry. The canopy is quite dark, and I struggled to catch the fast moving bird-life flitting about. Fortunately, the little North Island Robin (Toutouwai, or Petroica longipes) is not shy, and will fly around your feet chasing the insects you disturb as you walk. Many a photographer has been trapped with the bird sitting on his or her boots while having a telephoto lens that just won’t focus that close. Foolishly, I went further round the trail than I intended, and soon it seemed better to complete the loop walk than to turn back.

So that’s the end of the first part of this three-part road-trip narrative. If you like what I do, please come back soon for a trip to the amazing, the stunning, the magnificent Wingspan Bird of Prey Centre.

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March 1, 2022 … diversion from the serious stuff

An old joke asks “what am I doing in this hand basket, and where am I going?” Recent world and local events seem to reflect this theme. I lack the kind of spirit that might cause me to be personally involved, other than expressing my opinion. (Putin is a war criminal and the local anti-mandate protest movement is based on culpable disinformation.) And so I divert myself by seeking the beauty around me. Mostly, I find it in small scale things. For sure, New Zealand has a lot of beauty on a grand scale, but this is not the time to be travelling and among crowds of people. In recent times, the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi has appealed to me. Crudely summarised, it seeks beauty in imperfection. Imperfection is a specialty of mine 🙂

Word of Mouth

Out in the Pauatahanui inlet there is a resident flock of royal spoonbills. They are wabi-sabi personified. While its cousin the white heron is undeniably beautiful, the spoonie wears a clown costume. The grotesque bill is efficient at dredging the mud for food, but makes it hard for me to take them seriously. Watching a pair squabbling is akin to seeing two people engaged in a duel using salad servers.

Black Swans

Near the yacht club at Foxton Beach, Mary and I were enjoying a picnic lunch on the stop bank when a flight of black swans came over low and slow. I grabbed my camera and lined them up but even so, they were past me when I finally got them in the viewfinder and in focus. If you thought the black swans were all black, then this shows otherwise.

Bumble bee with sweet pea

There was a clump of sweet peas beside the lookout platform at Foxton Beach. It was being visited by a number of bumble bees. To my surprise, they were not all of the common black and yellow bumble bee variety (Bombus terrestris). There were several others and various expert groups have suggested that the strangers were the large garden bumble bee (Bombus ruderatus). This is narrower, and is more black and white than my old familiar friend.

Wairarapa Moana

It is a rare visit to Featherston that I don’t divert down Murphy’s Line to the Lake Domain Reserve. I am often disappointed. On this occasion, the lake was perfect, and reflected the silvery blue clouds beautifully. The rusting steel piles of the old Hansell’s jetty make a delightful focal point for the photographer. Yes, I have made similar shots before, but I take joy in beauty no matter how often I encounter it.

Chicory

The lovely blue chicory flower seems to spread along the roadside grasses of the back country roads in the South Wairarapa. How does it get distributed? I assume that somehow the slipstream of passing vehicles is involved in the spreading of the seeds.

Lowry Bay in the mist

Misty weather is always interesting to me, and I always imagine a more romantic picture than the one I capture on the day. One day I shall get the picture that I envisaged when I pressed the shutter.

Waves of bark

Wabi-sabi means different things to different people. For some, it involves simplicity and beauty, akin to minimalism. Other interpretations include age and decay, and the deliberate inclusion of imperfection. I thought I saw elements of it in this sheet of fallen bark that Mary brought home for me.

Reading

There was a time when I went to the city library every two weeks and would take home a bag of eight or ten adventure novels. If I finished them all before the fortnight was up, I would refresh my stash ahead of time. Now I find I lack the necessary attention span to deal with books at that rate. Instead I load books into the Kindle app on my iPad/iPhones and read my preferred styles of adventure as and when the mood takes me. I can divert to YouTube if I wish, and go back to Kindle when I am ready to resume.

Newtown barber

As I walked the streets of Newtown, I passed the open door of a traditional men’s barber shop. I think the barbers are of middle Eastern origins, judging by the posters with Arabic script on the walls. Whatever, the shop was immaculate and attractively presented. I walked on by and then thought, if I don’t ask, how can he say yes? So I went back, scanned the QR code at the door and went in. I asked permission to shoot from the door. Both he and his client consented and here we are.

Old style greengrocer

Newton is a place of magical diversity. As well as the middle Eastern barbers, there are specialist shops and restaurants from many different countries. In the few shops nearest me in this image we have a Mexican restaurant, Mr Bun (a Chinese-owned bakery and coffee shop, a Halal butcher, a (Japanese) sushi shop, and the ever colourful Jimmy’s Fruitmart. Jimmy’s is an old school greengrocer that, as well as the fruit and vegetables with which I am familiar, sells many interesting items that are welcomed by the people of the varied ethnicities that make Newtown so special.

The graveyard

I always suggest that Ngawi, on the South Wairarapa coast is where the bulldozers of the world come to die. Despite their decrepitude, almost all of the bulldozers on this beach are hitched by a very long drawbar to a large steel trailer, crudely welded out of girder stock and on large rubber tyres. These trailers are backed down the steep shingle beach into the sea to launch and retrieve the owner’s fishing vessel. No matter how rusty and run-down these tractors, they all seem to fire up on demand and trundle down to the sea. When it finally dies, it is replaced soon enough by another of similar condition.

The iconic OLB

The most common truck of my childhood years was the Bedford OLB. I have an affection for them, though now they are either beautifully restored by enthusiasts, or else quietly rotting in rural situations. In their prime, they looked just how I thought a truck should look. This old girl is near the bulldozers in Ngawi and is slowly being absorbed by the trees growing up around and through it.

New Zealand Fur Seal pup

If you drove the 120 or so km from Lower Hutt to Ngawi, then it would not be sensible to not drive the extra 5km to visit the New Zealand fur seals nursery at Cape Palliser. There is a sheltered pool among the vicious rocks where the new season’s pups frolic and splash. They are a joy to watch if you can get close to them. The limiting factor is the protective mothers. Mostly they snooze in the lee of the rocks, but if you come between them and the sea, or worse, between them and their pup, expect trouble. A large boulder with halitosis and big teeth suddenly turns into a raging matriarch, and you had better run. This wee pup is probably a few weeks old and is curious about the guy with the camera.

Mother and child

This pup scuttled to its mother’s side when I got too close (sorry, pup!) Mother was a bit irritated to have her siesta disturbed, but make no mistake she was aware of my presence and swift action might have followed had I got closer.

Thanks for visiting. I always appreciate any constructive feedback.

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Adventure Arachnids Birds Butterflies insects Lakes Landscapes Light Moon night Plant life

November 29, 2021 … with new eyes

That’s a fairly heavy handed reference to my cataract operation scheduled for later today, for which I have high hopes. So, for now, let’s see whether my metaphorical new eyes are making progress:

Improve each thing hour … (Isaac Watts)

Wellington’s Botanic Garden is always worth a visit in my opinion. Some seasons are more spectacular than others, but there is always something to see. I was too late for the tulips, but a few prolific Rock Rose shrubs were displaying nicely. and were attracting the Honey bees.

Primulaceae

There are seasons of the year when certain flowers have dominance. I love it when there are tulips or poppies for example. At other times, there are random displays of less spectacular species such as a cluster of primulas just above the duckpond. This particular bed of flowers contained a lovely variety of colours arranged in small geometric clusters.

Upstream

Just a little upstream from the duckpond, the creek runs between some stepping stones and the creates little rippling ladder of water which, to paraphrase the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson, sparkles out among the fern and bickers down a valley.

Love’s Labours Lost

Beside the steps to our front door, there is a collection of shrubs most dominant of which is the kowhai much loved by the kereru. As I get older, I find my gaze is directed downwards more. This is a self-defence mechanism to avoid trip hazards. It has the advantage that I spot treasures that, in the arrogance of my youth, I would have passed by. I have no clue which bird lost this egg, nor whether its loss was by accident or enemy action. However it came about this is as I found it under the kowhai shrub.

I’m called Little Buttercup

The weather has prevented lawn mowing for a week or two and consequently our lawn is rich with a splendid crop of buttercups and daisies. I am so glad that the American notion of the Home Owners’ Association (HOA) has never been a thing here. Buttercups have always presented a photographic challenge to me. I suspect this might be overcome by the use of a polarising filter to tame the reflections in the flowers. On this occasion I managed to get the surface of the petals reasonably exposed without the aid of the filters. I was a bit surprised after all these years on the planet, to learn that they are poisonous to humans and many animals.

Your best guess?

Many people wondered why I made pictures of new potatoes. If it helps, these little objects are about 1mm x 1.5mm x 2mm and in this case are firmly stuck to the painted surface at the top of a bedroom door. With no idea of what I was looking at, I posted this image to the FaceBook group, “NZ Bug Identification – Spiders, Insects etc”. Within minutes someone said those are the eggs of a Gum Emperor Moth. We have no gum trees nearby so I was baffled. We reasoned that if a gum emperor had laid them, it would be still in the room somewhere, so we started a more thorough search. Mary found it on a window sill

Gum Emperor Moth (female)

The Gum Emperor is among the most spectacular of the New Zealand Moths. This was a moderate example with a span of about 120 mm (about 4.75″). She was absolutely flawless, Like many moths she emerges with neither mouth parts nor waste disposal. Her sole function is to mate, lay eggs and then die. Sadly she found no male so the eggs duly withered and died and a few days later, so did she.

The source

We wondered where our Gum Emperor moth had come from , and the penny finally dropped. Mary had found a fallen eucalyptus branch which had a cocoon on it, and she thought I might wish to photograph it. I had forgotten about it, and in the meantime, the moth had emerged, laid eggs and died. Nature is so extravagant.

Treasure Flower

The wind was howling across the valley and I was waiting outside the War Memorial Library in Lower Hutt for Mary to collect a reserved book. This flower caught my eye and when I found an example that was in a relatively sheltered spot, set up to make the picture. I had no idea what it was, but should not have been surprised that it is yet another South African immigrant. It is Gizania riggers, or more commonly, Treasure flower.

Australian Shoveler

I need scarcely tell you that a favourite place is the wetlands at Queen Elizabeth Park near Paekakariki. I had been looking for the dabchick carrying its young on its back. I was unsuccessful on this particular day, but did catch this handsome Australian shoveler drake. Look at the length of that extraordinary bill.

Welcome Swallow

This image has a comic back story. Again I went to the bird hide at the Queen Elizabeth park wetlands. Although the door is normally closed with heavy magnetic catch, I couldn’t get in. I administered a hefty kick which should have opened it. It didn’t. Then a voice from inside asked me to wait a moment. There were sounds of hasty rearrangements followed by the bench being dragged away from the door. A few moments later an embarrassed young couple emerged red-faced and made themselves scarce. I felt guilty that I had interrupted them, but it gave me access to this view of the Welcome swallow which is beautifully coloured.

Ripples

The longest arm of the wetlands is surrounded by dense bush and when the water is relatively still, it reflects the green of the bush beautifully. This black shag cruised rapidly across and completed the picture for me. The closely spaced ripples made a beautiful background of black and green.

Parental duty

Then came the sight I hoped to see. The dabchick or weweia is a member of the grebe family. It is apparently rarely found in the South Island. Despite the glossy brown colours of the adult, the chicks are born with dark stripes on a white background. They are carried about in the plumage on the adult’s back until they get too big

Manuka

A visit to the home of daughter Lena and son-in-law Vasely let me see a beautiful manuka specimen. The intensity of the colour attracted me to make the image

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A small pine in the pot next to the manuka had what appeared to be prolific flowers. Closer inspection identified them as tin seed cones.

Before the eclipse

Last week there was the partial eclipse. We got lucky with relatively clear skies over the Hutt Valley. Early in the evening, the red moon rose in the North East and I made this image. Perhaps because I don’t have the very high quality optics and thus rarely do one of those amazing moon shots, I always like to capture some foreground. In this case we can see both sides of Stokes Valley and in the background, the foothills of the Tararuas. Later in the evening when the eclipse proper occurred, the moon was higher in the sky and was obscured by clouds at our place.

That’s all for now. Might see you again in a few weeks.

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Adventure Animals Architecture Art Castlepoint flowers History Lakes Landscapes Light Moon night Reflections Rivers sunrise

October 2, 2021 …just enjoy the process

Why, is the recurring question. Why do I persist in creating this blog, even when others are declaring that the age of the blog has passed?

I am not musical, but I think I have the heart of a troubadour, or perhaps like Gilbert and Sullivan’s Nankipoo, I might be a wandering minstrel. My aim is to be a story teller. Some do it in song, some in poetry. My chosen style is in a mix of prose and pictures. My principal aim is to take pleasure in making the pictures and using them to tell the story

Botanic Garden, Wellington

I went to the Botanic Garden in hope of tulips. There were some tulips, though fewer than usual and less well presented. Happily, the surrounding gardens possessed a glory of their own. The bands of colour, the shape and splendour of the trees and even the sculpture all give me pleasure.

Gladstone derelict

In my judgement, the back road from Martinborough to Masterton through Gladstone offers some of the most beautiful pastoral landscapes you will find anywhere. And tucked away, here and there, are a few much loved relics of earlier times that are slowly dissolving into the landscape. This old house near Gladstone is one that few photographers will pass by without a pause to make yet another picture. Of course it is a cliche, but I don’t accept that beauty is diminished by multiple viewing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mary had been gifted a voucher for a two night stay at an historic cottage in rural Wairarapa. India Cottage is situated between Castlepoint 40 km to the NE and Riversdale 22 km to the SE. It is part of the ICA station from which the Whareama Coastal Walkway is managed. We had little idea of what to expect, and were surprised and delighted by the beauty of the place. Water is a significant problem throughout the Wairarapa so the estate has a storage pond surrounded by reeds. Someone introduced the Australian green and golden bell frog. so the visual beauty was enhanced by the unceasing chorus from the frogs. Magic!

Oaks

Pioneering farmers had little regard for our native trees and yearned for the beauty of the great trees of their various homelands. And so it comes about that we have stands of magnificent oaks and other deciduous aliens. They are indeed beautiful trees. but so are the natives of this land which were cleared to make way for them.

Perfect stillness

If you have been with me for a while, you will know that morning and I are usually strangers. Here in deepest Wairarapa, with no Internet access, I woke early. No sound save the froggy chorus and the bawling of occasional cattle in the distance. No wind, and no clouds. I arose early and took my camera and tripod outside and caught the sun peering through the trees at the end of the pond.

A fine specimen

Another of those exotic trees … I didn’t pause to identify it but didn’t think it to be an oak. With the sun behind it I thought it made a nice image.

Breakfast

Over the fence, a classic pastoral scene as the sheep munch steadily on the dew-soaked grass. Rim-lit by the rising sun, I thought these were the quintessential “gilt-edged investment”.

Day 1 of Daylight Saving

Our last evening at India House coincided with New Zealand’s annual shift to daylight saving. Since the clock went forward, I expected to wake an hour later than usual. Perversely, I woke almost an hour earlier by the clock than usual. A still starlit morning prompted me to get dressed and tip-toe outside, being as quiet as possible. As you can see this long (56 seconds) exposure was illuminated by the stars and a bright moon. No artificial light. And you know it is still when an exposure this long shows no disturbance in the reflections. I returned to the cottage and Mary asked why I made so much noise when I went out!

Crux

The same scene from a different angle catches the Southern Cross, the much loved constellation emblematic of the Southern hemisphere. With the exception of my bedroom window all light in this image comes from the moon. In case you are unfamiliar with it, the cross in in the upper left quadrant of the picture. The head is down and to the left, and the foot is top right. The pointer Beta Centauri is sending its light 391.4 light years from just above the edge of that cloud.

Pink rock orchid

Back home after a delightful break, the weather forced me indoors. I placed a tiny orchid in my light box. Multiple flowers on a single stem are a bit of a challenge. It is conventional wisdom amongst those who enter competitions, that simple flower images rarely do well. I am getting away from the competition mindset, and the question is did I have fun making it, and does the finished product please me. The answer is yes and yes.

Wind

Wellingtonians are the butt of much joking about the city’s notoriously windy climate. It’s not easy to photograph wind. The best you can hope for is to catch things being moved about by the wind. Waves and trees, birds and rain are all possibilities. These reeds at the boat ramp in Lowry Bay seemed worth a try and another opportunity to use the neutral density filter. I put the camera on its tripod inside the car, and opened the downwind passenger window. Thus, the camera and tripod were not buffeted by the gusting wind. I love the texture of the windblown clumps of reed.

Customhouse Quay

Wellington’s skyline changes at a relatively slow pace. The last time I visited Melbourne, there must have been at least twenty tower cranes each presiding over a new high rise building site. Wellington has three or four. Of course, Melbourne has a population of 5 million compared with 417,000. This view along Customhouse Quay looking South shows the crane on the site of the new BNZ headquarters being built to replace the one destroyed by the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake.

They take a bottle

The nearer (yellow) crane is on the waterfront across the road from the red one on the BNZ site. This one is assisting a generic office building which will be available for lease. The answer to the unspoken question most people have in respect of the people who operate these machines in solitary splendour is that they have a bottle. I guess that their privacy could be compromised by people with long lenses.

And that’s another edition. I think I am coming to terms with the idea that I can make images for the pure joy of participating in the process. I don’t have to meet anyone else’s expectation. Of course I share them with you in the hope that you will take pleasure in what you see. Until next time.

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adversity Birds creativity Family Hokio Beach Lakes Landscapes Maritime Music Weather Wellington

December 31, 2020 … thank goodness that’s over

…. but who knows what 2021 will bring? It’s possible that we might look back on 2020 as “the good old days?”

Petone wharf with mist behind it

I remember August with fondness. It was mostly calm and sunny. However, December in Wellington has been mostly complete rubbish, with lots of rain and wind. Some days offered calm, but with mist or drizzle. I can live with that. This image was made at Petone wharf and as you can see, Matiu/Somes is almost obscured in the rain, and there is no sign at all of the Miramar peninsula.

Looking back

The same morning, I took a trip up Malvern road which runs up the side of the hill at the bottom of Ngauranga Gorge. It offers a fairly generous panorama over the Northern parts of the harbour. On this particular day, low cloud obscured the lower parts of the Hutt Valley and it offered a different view to the usual. .

Handel’s Messiah with the NZSO

Our daughter Lena and son-in-law Vasely generously took us to hear the NZSO with the Tudor Consort Choir performing Handel’s Messiah. No matter how many times I hear it it seems always new. The conductor, Gemma New encouraged the ancient tradition of all standing for the Hallelujah Chorus. The performance earned them a rarely given standing ovation from the capacity crowd in the Michael Fowler Centre. Of course I didn’t take my camera so this is a sneaky grab shot from my iPhone.

Minimalism

On one of the few fine days this month, I went to the wetlands at Queen Elizabeth Park at Paekakariki in the hope of finding some interesting bird life. sadly, the birds had made other plans so I was out of luck. There was the sound of a million frogs, and though I was very close, I saw not one. I settled for the remnants of some rushes in the water.

Welcome Swallow

Despite the lack of water fowl, there were, as always, Welcome Swallows flitting about and performing impossible changes of direction in mid air as they gathered insects. They are fast and unpredictable so I was pleased when one sat on a branch near me.

Kota Lestari

Sunshine is nice, but it would be better without the Southerly wind. I was on the South coast when the Singapore registered container vessel Kota Lestari picked up her pilot. She has a gross registered tonnage of 41,578 and has the capacity to carry 4,300 twenty foot containers. She berthed soon after 3 pm and left just after midnight bound for Napier and then on to Hong Kong.

Canada Geese

Mostly I like all the Canadians I have met. I am less fond of their geese, despite their handsome appearance. They always seem to choose pathways as a place to deposit their calling cards. Even so, I enjoyed seeing this family at QEII park.

Thunder of wings

A favourite spot on a calm day is Hokio beach. It is just over 100 km to the North from home and is situated on the West Coast of the North Island, a little to South of Levin. The Hokio stream runs Westward from Lake Horowhenua and forms a beautiful estuary where it meets the Tasman Sea. There are seabirds aplenty most times, though my favourites, the black-fronted dotterels were missing. A large flock of black-backed gulls were basking in the sun when some idiot in a small SUV came racing towards them and instantly there was feathered chaos.

On Brooklyn Hill

Like many landscape photographers before me, I love conditions of mist or fog, though sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Driving up the hill from Aro Street to Brooklyn, conditions were clear, though overcast. Then from just above Brooklyn shops things got heavy. These misty pines are a few hundred metres up the hill towards the wind turbine. The turbine itself was scarcely visible even as I stood at its base.

Not monochrome

I hardly ever make monochrome images. Sometimes nature presents itself in black and white and then I am happy to capture it if I can. This view from the Titahi Bay road looks South towards Porirua City. It is an eight-image panoramic stitch.

Sparrows feeding

Mary was given a new bird-feeder that allows birds to sit on various perches around its base and access the seeds. They will empty that pile in about an hour, after which no matter how they sulk, they wait until tomorrow.

Red

I recall a respected photographer friend telling our camera club that any image containing a splash of red had a much better chance of favourable treatment. This little yacht in Evans Bay certainly grabs attention

So ends 2020. Though we have lamented its many downsides, we in New Zealand have come through it fairly well. Our covid-19 statistics are among the best, and even the impact on our country’s economy has been much less than was feared. Our biggest personal sadness is our inability to visit family in Brisbane and Melbourne, or indeed for them to come here. But they and we are well and we can talk to each other, so again things are less bad than they might have been.

I wish you all the warmest of wishes for 2021. May it be a kinder and better year than its predecessor. May all your hopes and dreams come true. See you next year perhaps?

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Adventure Architecture Arrowtown Birds Children Family Kawarau Gorge Lakes Landscapes mountains Queenstown Queenstown Rivers Waves Weather

September 1, 2020 … a change of pace

Oh my goodness, time has slipped by and it has been almost a month since my last post. I have no clue how many regular readers still remain, but if you are one, thank you.

Winter morning – Oriental Bay – August 1

I know that August is generally the kindest of our winter months, but this one was extraordinary. According to the books, Spring is now with us I shall not be surprised if we now get some of the rough weather that we missed in winter. Even as I write, we have a howling Norwester with rain. On this morning, at the beginning of August, my attention was caught by the black-billed gulls at rest on the water at the Eastern end of Oriental Bay. That, and I am always intrigued by the textures of the cityscape from here.

Looking good for 112 years – August 4

At the intersection of Lambton Quay, Mulgrave St and Thorndon Quay this grand old lady has stood in various states since 1908. As the engraved letters attest, this was once the headquarters of the long defunct Wellington Corporation Tramways. Indeed I remember being here in the early sixties when the trams were still operating. My memory is of a constant stream of uniformed drivers and “clippies” coming and going through those doors. The rooftop amendments are not entirely to my liking but I suppose they could have been worse.

Off-peak storage – August 5

Just behind the spot from which I made the image of the old tramways building is a stairway that leads to the concourse of the city’s Sky Stadium. It is a featureless flat concrete walkway that crosses the railyards. This image was made just after 10 am., long after the morning commuter rush is over. I liked the moody atmosphere and the glittering tops of the Korean-made commuter units as they wait for the rush to resume in the afternoon.

At Te Haukaretu Park, Upper Hutt – August 6

The duck pond in Te Haukaretu Park, Upper Hutt is sheltered from the wind and often provides a peaceful scene. I particularly like the form of the trees in the pond.

Atrium – Wellington Station – August 9

Having seen some of the truly great rail terminals of the world, I know that Wellington railway station is a relatively small competitor. Nevertheless it has a handsome and well proportioned main atrium. It lacks the stalls and shops that you might find in Washington or New York, but on the other hand it has a mere 30,000 passengers per day compared with 750,000 in New York.

At Pencarrow Head -August 10

I have the privilege of being allowed to accompany a group of conservationists who specialise in the care and observation of the dotterel population along the South East coast of Wellington harbour. This gets me to Baring Head and beyond in comfort in a car as opposed to the four hour return walk. We saw few dotterels on this day, but I enjoyed the view across the harbour entrance. I should acknowledge that this was one of the few windy days in August.

Pipit – August 11

A second trip to Baring head was also a bust as far as dotterel sightings went, but I enjoyed the company of this New Zealand pipit (Anthus novaeseelandiae). They characteristically bob their tail up and down as they walk.

Dabchick at QEII park – August 15

When there is little or no wind, the wetlands at Queen Elizabeth Park in Paekakariki are a favourite place for me. The still dark waters reflect the green of the surrounding bush and provide a lovely contrast for the water fowl that visit. In this case, the dabchick is moving quickly to escape the photographer.

Pauatahanui Inlet – August 17

Some calm days are better than others. In this case, the water on the Northern side of Pauatahanui Inlet was just perfectly still. I rather liked the pattern made by the rocks.I almost wonder whether I should have cropped out everything above the sandbar.

Shoveler ducks – August 17

I am always fascinated by the Australasian Shoveler duck (Anas rhynchotis). It is the duck equivalent of a baleen whale. It feeds by filtering water through a curtain of fibres in its extraordinary bill to catch plankton, seeds and other edible material. This was also made at QEII park.

Puzzle time – August 20

I mentioned a change of pace. We had long planned trips to see our more distant grandchildren. Sadly the virus has taken away the possibility of a visit to Brisbane any time soon. However, since New Zealand is at alert level 2, domestic travel is possible, so we could fly to Queenstown in time for our youngest grandson’s tenth birthday. For that journey I love to get a Westward facing window seat, and Mary always generously yields it to me. I look for interesting land forms below. I can usually identify the larger settlements and geographic features, but I have fun with the smaller places, grab the shot and try to match it against Google Earth when I get home. In this case, the river caught my eye and then the little township sliding into the view at bottom left. It took me a while to identify the town as Luggate and the river as the Clutha.

Lake Hayes Estate – August 22

Our middle son Andrew lives in Lake Hayes Estate which can be described as a dormitory suburb about 15 km to the North East of Queenstown. I was intrigued by the oak trees that lined many of its streets,. The leaves had turned colour and died many months ago, but refused to let go. Spring in New Zealand is generally regarded as the months of September through November, so we are still seeing Autumnal brown even as nature starts applying some green to the landscape.

Wild Irishman – August 22

Despite the severe economic impact of the covid virus on Queenstown’s tourist industry, there is still a great deal of development to provide new housing. At the Southern end of Kelvin Heights, on the narrow part of the isthmus just beyond the golf course, a large patch of land has been cleared for development. Among the few plants remaining was a sturdy example of the matagouri (Known in colonial times as Wild Irishman). Happily, it is relatively rare in the North Island. It too will go to be replaced no doubt by upscale housing.

Para-penting in Queenstown – August 22

Before anyone gets too excited, no I did not lash out the $219 required for a tandem jump. I don’t do heights, remember. We were at the base of the gondola to the skyline complex where the young folks were about to have a ride on the luge when this pilot and his passenger caught the light as they passed in front of the gondolas.

On Lake Hayes – August 23

I can’t visit Queenstown without spending time at Lake Hayes. I mean the lake itself which seems to enjoy a lot of shelter from the wind. The bird life is interesting and varied. I always hope to see and get close to the crested grebe which we just don’t see in the North. Alas, I saw coots and scaup, oystercatchers and a huge variety of ducks but no grebes. This common mallard drake gets the call because it was bold enough to take centre stage.

Rushing in Arrowtown – August 23

Down below the historic huts in which Chinese miners lived, Bush Creek tumbles through the bush to join the Arrow river. I liked the little waterfall. The light was low enough that I didn’t need a neutral density filter. The rushing effect is conveyed well enough with a mere 2 second exposure.

Clyde Bridge – August 26

Andrew was at work, and the children were at school so Mary and I did a tour through the Kawarau Gorge and Cromwell to Clyde, Earnscleugh and Alexandra looking for whatever the landscape might reveal. After a great morning tea in Dunstan House, Clyde, we drove over then under the historic Clyde Bridge to catch this view of the Clutha.

Rock of ages – August 26

When we reached Earnscleugh, I made a fortuitous turn into Conroy’s road (recommended) and up through the scientific reserve where the rocks are shaped in fantastic ways. This view from near Black Ridge Winery includes one such formation and then looks beyond across the Manuherakia Valley to the Dunstan Mountains in the background. Somehow, the plentiful birdsong did not spoil the silence of the magnificent landscape.

Coronet Peak – August 27

Family trips always come to an end and so we were homeward bound. Mary gave me her window seat again, and as we left Queenstown we passed over Coronet Peak where the ski-field operators were desperately trying to wring the last out of a virus-ruined season. The snow guns were working hard overnight to keep the popular trails useable. We loved our time with the family, and as always, loved coming home.

I am Groot – August 29

Our amazing spell of benign weather was obviously coming to an end so we looked for a walk that kept us out of the boisterous wind. I suggested the Catchpool Valley area of the Remutaka Forest Park. Mary set out on a brisk circuit of the various tracks while I explored the beech forest areas.This tiny shoot, growing out of a dead log tickled my fancy. The title of the image is borrowed from the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Remutaka Forest Park, – the Five Mile Loop Track – August 29

That tree root in the foreground is fairly obvious so I crossed it without incident. I failed the test on the next one which was concealed in the leaf mould, and did a face-plant. I landed on my camera which ripped my recently repaired macro-lens in two pieces. Waaaahhhhh! No significant personal injury, so I returned to the car park to await Mary.

I hope to post again after a shorter time lapse.

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Art Birds flowers Lakes Landscapes Lower Hutt Machinery mountains Petone Reflections Sunset Taranaki

July 17, 2020 … everything changes

I seem to have let things slip for a few weeks. Ah well, the solution is to pick them up again.

In Avalon Park

Stillness speaks louder than the strongest gale. It demands my attention. The first thing I do every morning when I pull back the curtains is check whether the fronds on the ponga tree are waving or still. If they are still, life speeds up and after shower and breakfast, I head out. If they are waving I spend time at the keyboard. This still moment occurred at the end of the day and I was driving through Naenae. The duck pond in Fraser park was free of ripples and I was able to get low enough to separate the tree from the background.

Naenae Fog

On several mornings recently, we have experienced river fog drifting slowly down the valley. It doesn’t always follow the river exactly and takes a shortcut through Naenae. The various heating equipment at Hutt Hospital contributed to scene and showed the generally Southbound movement,

Someone left the plug out

There was a mist in Evans Bay. The ex-naval whaler owned by the Sea Scouts was in need of a good baling out. but was still afloat, and separated from the other nearby boats by the fog.

On the road to Shelly Bay

It was an unusually thick fog, so I went around Shelly Bay road to see what opportunities might arise. I was setting up my tripod for a shot across the bay when two cyclists emerged out of the mist behind me and were disappearing away to the North. I swung the camera and seized the moment.

In Shelly Bay

Back to the view across the harbour and the old jetties at the former Air Force flying boat base. I got the shot I wanted and within thirty minutes the fog had lifted and the view across Evans Bay was back to normal

What a mighty mountain

Mary and I chose to spend four nights away recently. We looked at the various AirBnB opportunities and settled on Opunake on the Taranaki coast. It’s about half an hour North of Hawera and 50 minutes South of New Plymouth. I had driven through it before but had spent no time there. Just getting there fulfils the first rule of landscape photography: first go somewhere where there is a good landscape.

Sunset in Opunake

The weather was variable while we were in Taranaki but we had a few memorable sunsets. Though there was a chill Southerly breeze, the sky was clear apart from some haze on the horizon. This shot was made in Middleton Bay, just North of Opunake beach.

North Island Tomtit

A nice thing about Opunake is the number of interesting places that are with less than an hour’s drive. One such is Dawson Falls at the edge of the tree line high on the South Eastern side of Taranaki. The day we went up there was complicated with low cloud, and though I made some shots of the snow and glimpses of the summit, the mountain was not displayed to best advantage. I was happy however, to see this delightful little North Island tomtit (Petroica macrocephala). It was happy to see me too since my passing by stirred up insects for it to catch.

Carved life-sized hawk

While we were in Taranaki, we visited our friend Wayne Herbert. I posted an image of his tui last edition. This is one of an American hawk . What a gift this man has. I swear I can see life in the eye of this wooden carving.

Waxeye in the red-hot pokers

One of my favourite places near New Plymouth is Lake Mangamahoe. We stopped in there on our way back to Opunake. It was a grey overcast day, but colour was provided by the extensive growth of red hot poker (Kniphofia uvaria) along the lake’s edge. And then there were the lovely waxeyes browsing among the flowers, presumably for insects.

Live steam

Steam Inc, at Paekakariki was having an open weekend recently and I happened to be driving past when I spotted the plumes of steam as the locomotives were being fired up for the event the next day. There were two locomotives out in the sunshine. One was Ja1271 and the other was Ab608 “Passchendaele”. Both were hissing gently and occasionally blowing steam.

The dog walker

On Petone Beach late this week, I saw a dog-walker with nine or ten “clients” which he had walked oolong the stormwater outlet. Several of his dogs were off the leash and he seemed to be calling them to heel with varying degrees of success.

That will suffice this time. Stay safe and well everyone. I look forward to catching up in two weeks or so.

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Adventure Animals Art Birds flowers Hokio Beach Lakes Landscapes Light Maritime mountains South Coast sunrise

June 18, 2020 …seize the day

“Up we go! Up we go!’ till at last, pop! his snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.” (Kenneth Grahame, Wind in the Willows)

Like Mole, I feel I have emerged from the darkness and am enjoying the world with new eyes after the long weeks of lockdown. Even as I visit familiar haunts, I seem to see them differently now. Whether or not this results in new or better images is open for discussion. Either way, I am having fun.

Distand land under a grey sky

How many times, I wonder, have I shared an image of the Tararuas from our front lawn. From a photographer’s perspective each set of light conditions and cloud formations creates a scene different to the many times I have seen it before. The bones of the landscape are unchanged, but the season, the light and the weather add flesh to the view. I am always tempted by those receding layers of hills leading to the great South wall of the Tararuas.

Superb craftsmanship

I have recently made a friend in New Plymouth whose hobby and passion is carving wildfowl in wood to life-size. I know nothing about this hobby except that Wayne Herbert is a master of his craft. For various reasons, the bird he is entering into a global competition this year is in the possession of a near neighbour, so he asked me to make photographs of it. Yes, that beautiful tui really is made of wood.

Morning mist

River mist changes the character of the landscape. Most mornings it disperses fairly quickly and the day turns out well. The tower block in the background is the former TVNZ studios and office block at Avalon. It’s hard to figure out what it’s used for these days. The trees in the mid-ground are on the Boulcott golf course.

Premature symbols of spring

Folklore is fun, but often implausible. There is a fable to the effect that a sure sign of spring is when there are six daisies on the lawn that you can cover with your hand. Well here we are. But how can this be a sign of spring with the winter solstice still a a few days in the future? And why are there early jonquils in flower? I suspect spring may not actually come early, but our warming planet may show us things that, in previous times, were not seen until much later in the year.

Nature – the jeweller

The Japanese maple beside the path to our front door is now bare. The last living leaves have fallen and so begins the long wait for the new season. Or perhaps it won’t be such a long wait. A day of soft rain decorated the branches with sparkling droplets.

Hansa Freyburg departs for Nelson

Several viewpoints around the region afford a good view of the Kaikoura ranges. I was at the lookout at the top of the Wainuiomata Hill road and admiring the view of snow-tipped Tapuae-o-Uenuku when I noticed the container vessel Hansa Brandenburg and the pilot launch Te Haa emerging from the port. I had to wait a few minutes to catch it in front of the mountain. That peak is 2,885 metres high and 140 km from my standpoint.

Autumnal carpet

The flaming Autumn colour of our Japanese maples made a small but spectacular showing and then, in the space of a few days, the colour was all on the ground. Mary’s moss covered driftwood contrasts nicely with the various reds of the dying drying leaves.

Commuting

In Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” (which I have never seen or even read) there is a well-known monologue that outlines the seven ages of man. The words that always resonated with me were “And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel And shining morning face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to school“. In the days when I still commuted to work, I loved to watch the people getting off the train or bus with expressionless faces trudging towards whatever new misery fate might deliver to them today. Rain or shine the expressions never changed as they trudged unwillingly to work. I was aiming to catch the reflection of the portico in the puddle, but I think the two pedestrians capture the day perfectly.

Petone foreshore

At the Western end of the Petone esplanade, is a park which is commonly used by people bringing their dogs for exercise. Its formal name is Honiana Te Puni Park though I doubt that many know it as such. It seems that the car park surface is far from horizontal, judging by the puddles that form after a little rain. I am always happy to find large still puddles as they present an opportunity for reflection shots and in this case a minimalist image. The bollards are there to prevent motorists driving across the narrow strip of grass and over the sea wall into the harbour.

Red

A Canadian photographic group that I joined proposed “Red” as the theme of the week. A strip of florist’s ribbon and a macro lens (just before it died) allowed my to produce this image. It might make more sense if you click on it to see the larger version. Or not. The lens has gone to the maker’s agent in Christchurch and is awaiting the arrival of a replacement barrel with the electronics. Ouch! $450.

A sea horse?

Some of the beaches on the West coast of the North Island are wild and lonely places characterised by black iron sand and lots of driftwood. The long smooth beaches are popular with drivers of off-road vehicles and the occasional equestrian. This picture was captured at Hokio Beach, a little to the South of Levin. There was a heavy swell and the sea was glittering in the afternoon sun. The young lady was clearly enjoying her time with the horse.

Sandra II

Sandra II has featured in many other shots, though usually at her mooring in the Hikoikoi reserve. I saw the two gentlemen preparing for their trip and then they cast off and headed out into the harbour. It seems to have a permanent list to port. It made me think of the old Picton ferry Tamahine (1925 – 1963) which also had a permanent list that gained her the nickname “Tilting Tam”

Deceptive weather

On the South coast near Island Bay, the sun was shining brightly and the sea state was quite moderate. However, the temperature was about 9°C and the spiteful Nor’Westerly wind was ripping the tops off the incoming waves. In the background, the lighthouse on Baring Head gleamed in the morning sun.

Dawn

Early mornings are not familiar territory for me. Nevertheless the rosy glow through the curtains caught my attention. This view from my bedroom window is to the North and the lights on the hills on the left are at the entrance to Stokes Valley. The dark patch in the right foreground is the Boulcott golf course with Naenae and Avalon beyond. Despite ancient warnings about red skies it was the first of several flawless days.

Lake Wairarapa at Featherston

Another lovely day and Mary and I decided to take a picnic lunch to the Southern Wairarapa. Flat calm conditions in Featherston led me to hope that the lake might present opportunities. We got off to a late start so I was pressing my luck. Nevertheless, at 11 am the water was still unruffled. I hung the camera inverted on the centre pole of the tripod and got it close to the surface of the water and looked to the South. A reader commented that she was accustomed to the lake seeming always brown and scruffy. Happily, a smooth surface reflects the colour of the sky above so we have a nice blue lake. I noticed with some regret that the two rows of rusting steel piles that were once a jetty for the yacht club had been removed.

Pole dweller

As we were pulling away from the lake, I saw this white-faced heron perched on the only surviving steel pile and reflecting nicely in the water below. I rolled the window down and shot this from the driver’s seat. There was no other traffic on the road.

I hope the new vision continues and look forward to seeing you next time/

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Aviation Birds Boggy Pond Camera club creativity flowers Forest Lakes Landscapes Light Manawatu Maritime mountains Museum Rimutaka Forest park sunrise Weather

18 March, 2020 … interesting times

Interesting times are upon us. As far as I know, I and all my loved ones are well. I hope the same goes for you and all who you hold dear.

Today I offer fifteen random images with no apparent connection between them except that they were all made in the last few weeks. Mindful of all the world’s current woes, I am feeling grateful for living in a peaceful and politically stable country with so much beauty on offer. .

Remutaka Forest Park – Catchpool Valley

New Zealand’s bush typically seems much more dense, twisted and tangled than the ancient forests of the Northern hemisphere. Most of it lacks the grandeur of tall parallel tree trunks. So be it. I still love being in the bush, enjoying the shelter it gives from the wind and the pleasure I take in so many shades of green. This short track in the entrance to the Catchpool valley surprised me for the amount of dead leaves on the ground amongst what I thought were predominantly evergreen trees.

Mana Island on a beautiful day in Plimmerton

This picture of Mana Island was made by getting down low, or at least by getting the camera low, hanging inverted off the tripod centre post. Because the water was almost flat calm, it was almost touching the surface.

If you click to enlarge, and look at the gap between the furthest incoming wave and the island, you will see the neck and beak of a shag which popped up as I pressed the shutter. It’s as if it knew I was here, and was checking to see whether I was a threat.

We have had a string of beautiful calm Autumn days. They go some small way towards compensating for the miserable wet windy summer we had in Wellington this year.

Another lovely day in Plimmerton

The local yacht club was racing at Plimmerton despite the apparent lack of wind. As you can see in the picture, some of the yachts are heeling despite the light breeze. They certainly progressed around the course at a reasonable pace, and I liked the metallic effect given by the translucent sailcloth.

Ferry berth

Anyone who understands the term “depth of field” instantly knows that this picture could not have been made with just one exposure. Loosely, depth of field is the distance between the nearest “in focus” point, and the furthest. Most lenses have a relatively shallow depth of field so either the ship or the flower would be sharp, but not both. Many photographers delight in a usually expensive lens with a shallow depth of field and the artistic effects it produces. Others, like me, seek more extreme depth and achieve this by “focus stacking”. In its simplest form, and in this example, that means taking a photo in which the flower is sharp and another in which the ship is sharp. Then the two images are merged and the sharp bits from each are retained. This was possible back in the days of the darkroom, but is much easier now that we have PhotoShop.

If you think this is somehow “cheating”, then avert your eyes now because I don’t care.

I have consistently said that the art is in the final image, no matter how it was achieved.

Sacred Kingfisher

If you have been a WYSIWYG reader for any length of time, you will know that birds are among my favourite subjects. Nevertheless, I lack the patience and skill to stalk and capture the fastest and sneakiest of birds. Some of my friends make superb images, bordering on the impossible. I lack the patience and the willingness to get down in the mud and make the images they do. Now and then, I get lucky. Kingfishers typically fly at about 45 km/h.

From home

I have often presented this viewpoint, from my bedroom window and I justify it on this occasion for the special early morning light. I am grateful every day for the splendour of this view.

From the control bar

Mary and I went to Whitireia Park in Porirua where we intended to have a picnic lunch. While I looked for images, Mary walked the Onepoto Loop Track. As I wandered, a man in a wet suit was setting up to go kite-surfing. He got the kite airborne while he was still on the beach and I cheekily got down near his feet and caught his view of the canvas.

A stranger in a strange land

On one of my many trips through Evans Bay and around into Oriental Bay, I was astonished to encounter this old Seagrave fire appliance. As per the signage, it once belonged to the Los Angeles Fire Department. Made in 1960, it was retired in 1990 and gifted by the City of Los Angeles to the City of Auckland in recognition of their sister-city relationship. Since then it has been on display at Auckland’s Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT). This is an articulated 100 foot ladder machine that has a driver in the front, and another at the rear steering the trailer wheels. As you can see it is designed for the Los Angeles climate. The well wrapped crew drove this down from Auckland to Wellington in cool Autumn weather and were on their way to Invercargill for a charity fundraising event. They are going to have to raise quite some funds as it goes through $500 to $600 of fuel a day plus the ferry fares in each direction.

Sisters

Another of those days when, despite the overcast, the glittering sea was relatively still. East-West ferries have two catamarans with which they operate a commuter service that runs from downtown Wellington across the harbour to Days Bay, with stops at Matiu / Somes Island and occasionally at Seatoun. It is marginally quicker than the trip around the harbour by bus, but infinitely more pleasant. They even have a bar on board. Anyway, there I Was as Cobar Cat came in from the right after refuelling at Chaffers Marina, and City Cat approached from across the harbour.

Lavender blue

Simple things sometimes need complex treatment. This little cluster of lavender, growing in a pot at our back door, is captured with another focus stack. You can see that the background trees are well beyond focus as I intended them to be. However there are four different images of the lavender stalks. This only works in windless conditions because if the plants are in different positions as they wave, they can’t be merged.

Abstraction

I was having a coffee with my youngest son, Anthony (Ants) at the Seaview Marina. It was a beautiful morning with the sun smiling on the yachts and lovely reflections in the water. Then a ripple from elsewhere in the marina did interesting things with the reflected masts and rigging.

We had a guest speaker in the camera club about a week ago, and she explained very well how she went about making a wide variety of abstract images. I grasped the “how” well enough, but remain mystified by the “why?” Anyway, here I am offering an abstraction. This is a single shot, as seen by the camera

A rare selfie

I almost never take selfies. Usually I would prefer to make an image of the place or thing that I saw, rather than a picture of myself in the place or with the thing I saw. This image is an unintentional selfie. I saw a trailer which was a bitumen tanker. It had an engine chugging away underneath, presumably powering the burner that keeps the bitumen in its liquid state while the tractor was elsewhere. What caught my eye was the polished stainless steel cladding and I liked the grassy reflections therein. Regrettably I could find no way to exclude myself from the reflection. Though I am substantially built, I am nowhere near the proportions in that distorted reflection.

My favourite kind of day

Among my favourite places in the region are various spots around the shores of Lake Wairarapa, especially on those days when the lake is glassy calm. Whenever I come over the hill to Featherston, I usually start at the Lake Domain Reserve and see whether there is a new image to be had. The rusty steel piles of the yacht club’s old jetty make a nice feature.

Wairio Wetlands

Some thirty km to the South on the Eastern side of the lake, are two sets of wetlands beloved of many of my photographic for their prolific bird life and for the intrinsic beauty of the places. I chose the Wairio Wetlands rather than Boggy Pond on this occasion. Whereas Wellington has had a wet summer, the Wairarapa is officially in drought. This wetland still has water, but the level is lower than I have ever seen it before. There were plenty of birds there, though they were cautiously placed some distance from the walking tracks. If you click on this image to enlarge, and have a close look at the most distant of the birds, at about one third in from the right, there is a white heron (kotuku).

Low and fast over the road

As I came back up the Western side of the lake, I heard a whistle and a roar and saw a top-dressing plane shoot over the road and into the hills to the West. I was ready for it as it came round a second time and was pleased that it was a venerable Fletcher FU-24 950. The basic FU-24 design has served New Zealand agriculture since 1954. No fewer than 297 of them were built and in the later years many were fitted with powerful turbine engines. Sadly many bold Fletcher pilots didn’t get to be old Fletcher pilots because they over-estimated their skill at avoiding high-speed contact with the ground.

That is sufficient for this edition.

I am going to borrow my farewell from Radio New Zealand’s Suzie Fergusson who said at the end of a session the other day, “Wash your hands, keep calm and carry on. Ka kite anō au i a koutou (see you all again).