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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.


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.


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).

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November 14, 2019 … time slides by

Somehow, though it seems just yesterday that 2018 ended, another year is coming to an end right before our eyes. Despite all my grand intentions, I have achieved very few of my photographic aspirations. There have been a few images that I liked, but far too many that were merely mediocre. I suppose I have left it far too late in life to begin the search for mastery, but I believe it is never too late to begin the search for improvement. So that is my intention for the year ahead. I want to combine improvement with the maximum of enjoyment. It has to be fun.

Pine trees at Cross Hills
Cross Hills, Kimbolton

Last week, Mary and I drove up SH1 and then through Feilding to Kimbolton to visit the wonderful Cross Hills Gardens. This expansive garden park in the Manawatu has a vast collection of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, and somehow the spectacle is overwhelming. I find it difficult to extract a pleasing image from such a vast expanse of colour. I chose this image in a stand of pines instead.

Kinetic art work
Stainless wind sculpture

We ate our picnic lunch in the park near a rather odd art work. It took some while to realise that it was a kinetic work, but a puff of wind started it spinning and it changed shapes and colours. I discovered that it is called “Stainless wind art” and is created by Charlie Jaine from Ashburton and is yours for only NZD$3,500.

Rolls Royce
Classic perfection

A few days later, I drove to Southwards Car museum near Paraparaumu. Their collection of more than 400 cars is superb and, just as with the gardens, it is necessary to focus on parts in order to avoid being overwhelmed by the whole.

The unmistakeable “Spirit of Ecstasy” hood ornament atop the classic radiator of the Rolls Royce Phantom was worth a close look. I did have to polish some grubby tourist fingerprints off the chrome surfaces.

Red sports cars
Red is for go fast

I have mixed feelings about the role of curators in museums. The ways in which they group and display the artefacts can often seem at odds with the the items on display. In this case, a line-up of red sports cars works very well, and illustrates nicely the old joke that all sports cars are red, no matter what colour they are painted.

Automotive grandeur
Grandeur from a bygone age

Across the aisle from the sports cars is a display of conspicuous wealth. I love the superb engineering and the elegant styling, though I recoil from the ostentatious consumerism. This group of British cars speaks of class distinction on a grand scale. The Mercedes cars further on are no better.

Beech trees in the Remutaka park
In the Remutaka State Forest

After a few days of grey cloud and increasing rain, there was a break in the weather . For some reason, I thought there might be some opportunities in the Remutaka State Forest Park. I parked my car in the Catchpool valley car park and it was the only vehicle there. I decided it would be unwise to go very far or to leave the main trail since there was no one else about. Happily, the forest presented an attractive face quite early on the track.

Reflections in a puddle

A few metres further along the trail, I found what I hoped for … some puddles. As I have observed before, if I get my lens close enough to the surface, almost touching it in fact, then a very small puddle will provide some nice effects.

Sitting back, he thinks I can’t see him

A day or so later, I was at the Marines Memorial Wetlands in Queen Elizabeth Park near Paraparaumu, hoping to see some dabchicks on the water. I didn’t. On the track towards the ponds, I got lucky with some colourful passerines. For some reason they are very shy in this area, but this little yellowhammer thought he was invisible while sitting in the tree.


Once I got to the water, I was disappointed at the small number of birds there. I didn’t see a single dabchick. There was a solitary scaup or black teal. The yellow eyes suggest it was a drake. I am always taken by the intense green reflections on these ponds.


One way to find and photograph a bird is to come across another photographer with a long lens and see what they are pointing it at. I acknowledge Carol for having this goldfinch in her sights. I hope she forgives me for stealing it.

So ends another edition. I look forward to talking to you again soon.

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February 2, 2018 … all good things come to an end, eventually

January has been a month of mixed fortunes. Weather-wise, from my photographic point of view, it was great, with sun, little wind and lots of warmth. That has now been replaced by a severe gale suddenly lashing central New Zealand. And I could have done without the catastrophic engine failure I experienced during a trip to the Wairarapa last week.

I often wonder at the wisdom of glass-curtain architecture in such a seismically threatened city as Wellington. I like the appearance though.

The week began hot and fine. I spent time wandering the waterfront, trying to look behind the obvious, to find the image-worthy subjects. On the waterfront near the TSB arena I saw a reflection in the tower block on the other side of Jervois Quay, and liked its contrast with the Norfolk pine nearby.

Evening rush on Jervois Quay …stop, go, stop, go …

Later that day, in the afternoon, I was crossing the bridge from the waterfront as the evening rush hour began. My camera has an interesting feature intended to build high-resolution composite images by taking eight images in rapid succession, each with the sensor moved in very small steps to left or right, up or down and then combining them to a single 40 megapixel file. It is intended for still subjects, but I wondered what it would make of the traffic below. As you can see the road, the building and the trees are all shown as they should be. The rendering of the moving vehicles is interesting and to my mind, as I hoped, catches the sense of the slow-moving step by step progress towards home.

The transmission tower atop Otahoua Hill to the East of Masterton is a visible landmark for miles around.

Then came my day of madness. Despite a forecast temperature of 33ºC, I crossed the hill into the Wairarapa and just a little to the East of the town is the Te Ore Ore – Bideford Rd. You can guess the names of the two localities it connects.  Otahoua hill overlooking a large expanse of somewhat dry-looking grain caught my attention.

Somewhere between Ihuraua and Alfredton, there was birdsong and the hum of bees and the thermometer was nudging 33ºC

The road from there, through to Dannevirke, though picturesque, is long, winding and narrow, and in places quite rough. My car chose that remote spot to start sending me distress messages via the temperature gauge. I stopped for a while to set up this North-facing panorama of the wild and lonely countryside in the area. Click on the image to get a better sense of the emptiness of the area. The road I was following runs along the edge of that pine plantation and winds on to Dannevirke perhaps 50 km further to the North West.  Very little traffic on the road though I did have to wait until a convoy of motorcyclists thundered past. Then I resumed a cautious slow drive to Dannevirke where I sought assistance. I did eventually get home, but perhaps should have stayed. It is either a cracked cylinder head, or a leaking head gasket. Either way, the engine in the car is wrecked and the cheapest repair option was a replacement used engine.

Beyond that blue horizon there is absolutely nothing until you reach the Antarctic ice

The next day, back in Wellington, using a courtesy car provided by my dealer’s service department, I went to explore yet another day of magical warmth and stillness. An old man got in his dinghy and rowed out from Petone beach to tend his fishing nets. That’s Matiu/Somes Island to the right and in the haze on the left is that drilling platform looking for a fresh-water aquifer below the sea bed.  Next to that is its attendant tug, Tuhura.

Haze so early in the day suggests a hot day ahead

Yet another day dawned hot and hazy and this view from my bedroom window promised at least one more day of summer. After that, all bets were off. A tropical storm brought wind at 130 km/h and rain, lots of rain. The delicate people amongst us cheered as they temperature dropped from consistent 30ºC to nearer 20ºC. It seems so long since we had a real summer that I would have liked it to continue a while. Of course, farmers and gardeners were delighted. According to media reports this was Wellington’s hottest January in 150 years of temperature records.  I have loved it.


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1 March, 2017 … oh what a week it has been

Looking North along Himatangi Beach at the end of a beautiful day

Most of my week was centred on the RNZAF’s celebration of their 80th year with an airshow at Ohakea. If you have no interest in aviation skip to the end. The last shot is worth it, in my opinion.
Mary and I booked accommodation at Himatangi Beach for three days so as to avoid the peak traffic coming and going. We arrived on Friday evening and Mary persuaded me to walk to the beach to observe the sunset.

As the sun sinks towards the horizon, Taranaki is visible 155 km away to the North

The weather was most promising for a good day for the airshow the next day and Taranaki stood proud and clear in the distance.


I was caught quite unawares by a pair of RAAF F/A-18 Hornets streaking low and fast down the coast, presumably as a rehearsal for the next day. The sun was moving considerably slower and so I caught that without trouble.

Sunrise somewhere near Oroua Downs on the way to the airshow

Next morning, show day, I was up early and on the road in the dark, soon after six. During the 37 km drive, the sun made its first appearance and revealed a ground mist which I feared might disrupt things. It didn’t.

Before the crowd built up – an F-15SG from the Singapore Air Force and a Boeing KC-767J of the Japanese Self Defense Force

Despite my early start, there were several hundred cars in the park ahead of me, and a couple of hundred camper-vans on site. We lined up waiting for the gates to open. The advertised time was 7 am, but they didn’t admit us until 0740. It was good to get access to the aircraft in the static displays with the sun at a low angle and relatively few people around compared with later in the day.

Lines to get inside the big aircraft

There were fighter aircraft from Australia (F/A-18), Singapore (F-15SG) and the USA (F-16). There were transport aircraft from the UK (A400M), France (CASA 235), Australia (C-17) and New Zealand (C-130), Japan (KC-767J) and the USA (KC-135, C-17).

Inside the mighty C-17 of the RAAF

We lined up for a look inside and I was mightily impressed by the vast cavernous fuselage of the C-17, and a little surprised at the exposed ducting in the roof.

RNZAF C-130 taking off, leaving spirals behind the props.

Flying commenced at 10 am and I had missed a trick by not claiming a spot on the flightline. Nevertheless, the planes are big enough to make themselves seen.

100% of the RNZAF’s long-range VIP transport capability

Some of the earlier movements were simply logistics associated with the show. The RNZAF owns two converted Boeing 757 aircraft which are pressed into service as VIP transports. It’s relatively rare, outside of their home base, to see them both together.

An improbable but impressive formation of heavies

Among the morning’s displays were a lot of “heavies” and one such flight was a formation flight involving one B757, one Lockheed P3C Orion and two C130 Hercules. They passed over Ruapehu which was sparking clear in the morning sun and then swung in from the South at which time the two C-130s peeled off.

TBM Avenger restored in the colours of “Plonky”, the aircraft flown by NZ aviation personality, Fred Ladd

Some historic aircraft were involved, and as well as the inevitable Spitfire there was a beautifully restored Grumman TBM Avenger.

Beautifully restored DH104 Devon

One that I remember form my days in the Air Training Corps was the De Havilland DH104 Devon which was used in the RNZAF as a light transport and a Navigation trainer.

USAF F-16 creates some pressure at low altitude

In the afternoon, came the fast movers which, in reality amounted to the USAF’s F-16 and the Australian F/A-18

RAAF F/A-18 puts its wheels away before starting its show routine

The thunderous crackle of a fighter at full throttle is surely as effective as a bowl of prunes for curing certain ailments and I enjoyed the sheer power of the displays. While all this was happening, Mary , who has scant interest in airshows, walked from Himatangi Beach to Foxton Beach and back (a mere 22 km round trip). I got out before the end of the airshow because I have no real interest in formation aerobatics which was the final event.

On the sandbank in the river at Foxton Beach

Next day we spent enjoying the rural quiet apart from the distant thunder of the airshow’s second day in the distance, a mere 20 km away as the crow flies. We drove down to Foxton Beach where there was abundant birdlife on the sandbar. Oystercatchers, pied stilts, bar-tailed godwits, red-billed gulls, black-backed gulls, and lesser knots were all crowded into one small space.

Her majesty, the Queen – Asian Paper Wasp

Later in the day, Mary and I were walking and she spotted the nest of the Asian Paper Wasp, so of course I got up close and personal. I think, from the described behaviour, that this is the queen.

Tararua ranges under morning cloud near Levin

The next day, with all the airshow traffic having dissipated we made the leisurely drive back down SH1 to home, pausing for a shot of the Tararua Range near Levin.

Boat sheds at Pauatahanui

Yesterday, officially the last day of what we have laughingly called “summer”, was perfect. I went for a wander to Pauatahanui and Queen Elizabeth Park.

Dabchick with chicks

The long-sought dabchick chicks were at last visible. As you can see the parents often carry the chicks nestled deep within their own plumage, but as the youngsters get older they become more independent and often branch out on their own.

Herons reflecting

My last shot in this extended edition, is possibly my best shot of the year to date. Two white-faced herons perched on a piece of driftwood, reflected in the mirror-calm waters. I am pleased with this.


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November 16, 2016 … the earth moved and then it rained

It was an ordinary week, to begin with. I went about my business, muttering about the sustained bad weather and looking for things to photograph in such circumstances.

Old St Pauls
Old St Paul’s is a jewel in Wellington’s architectural treasury. It is de-consecrated and is now merely a historic place.

On Wednesday, I went into town, prowling. Old St Paul’s caught mu eye. There were no cars outside and the open flag was waving. so I decided to try to capture the golden glow of some wonderful wooden architecture. Barely had I unpacked my tripod when not one, but two busloads of tourists pulled up and they came in chattering and blocking the view. Several of the Chinese tourists thought I would make a good prop for their travel photos so I found myself grinning inanely with my new best friend for several photographs. As you can see there is still a cluster of the Americans getting the tourist guide speech up the front.

The lovely stillness lasted an hour or two

Saturday started out well enough, and by now you know me well enough that I dashed down to the marina while the water was still.

On Sunday with more rough weather in prospect, and recognising the signs of cabin fever,  Mary instigated a “just because” road trip. We drove up SH1 to Palmerston North, through a few heavy bursts of rain, and had a picnic lunch beside the Centennial Lagoon. We came back via the Manawatu Gorge. I paused briefly on one of the very few lay-by parks on that spectacular road and made an unspectacular image or two. I had just resumed driving when a steam whistle blew and there, across the river was a steam locomotive hauling an excursion train. Many expletives needed to be deleted. If I had stayed parked for another two minutes I would have had some great shots.

Shed at Greytown

At Woodville, we turned South and headed towards home through Mangatainoka, Pahiatua, Ekatahuna, Masterton, and Carterton. There is an old shed at the Northern end of Greytown  which has been photographed far too often, but the newly planted maize made it tempting this time. We carried on with a diversion through Martinborough and then through Featherston and over the Rimutaka Hill to home.

I was in bed that night when the earth moved for me. It moved for something over 2 minutes and registered 7.5 on the Richter Scale. It was a violent lurching and rolling which I hope never to experience again. A little later, a friend of Mary’s rang. Her apartment in downtown Lower Hutt had twisted and flexed  to such an extent that all her windows blew out, so like many in Wellington that night, we acquired a refugee. We sat and drank a medicinal whisky before returning nervously to bed. Aftershocks have continued since. Most of them are thankfully small and distant but every now and then there is a bump that pushes the scale over 5.5 and I clench everything ready for fight or flight.

Flooding under the Ewen Bridge in Lower Hutt. The driver appears to not care that his wake is inconveniencing others and what’s that he is holding to his ear?

On Monday I stayed home, processing images and contemplating the meaning of life. To add to the drama facing our city, we were struck with a gale and heavy rain. As well as damaged buildings we had flooding to contend with. Every main road in and out of Wellington was closed by slips or floods, and we had to feel sorry for the rest of the country which was now cut off from us.

Contained flood
The Hutt River has burst its normal banks, inundated the car parks but is still within the stop banks

The Hutt River is normally a small placid river. Yesterday it flexed its shoulders and burst its banks. The riverside car park disappeared from view  but the stop banks did their job and protected most of the city and suburbs. The lesser Waiwhetu Stream was not so well contained and a few houses were inundated on the Eastern Side of the valley. Things eased off today and the rivers have subsided but there is another gale forecast for tomorrow. Bah, humbug!


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February 3, 2016 … they are not the hills of home*

When I last wrote, we were still in Whakatane.

Pohaturoa with river mist creeping around its shoulders at Atiamuri

From there, in the wet darkness of Thursday morning, we set out for New Plymouth via Rotorua, Atiamuri, Te Kuiti  and Mokau. At Atiamuri, beside the Waikato River, the rain had stopped but there was a lingering mist around Pohaturoa. This rocky outcrop reaches 240 metres over the river and is a homecoming landmark for the residents of Tokoroa and Taupo, depending on the direction pf travel.

Someone once lived here. The nearest “town” was Benneydale

We drove beside the river where to my strong regret, I ignored some magical reflection shots on the river. We crossed the Whakamaru dam and followed the road towards Te Kuiti, pausing at Benneydale to record this abandoned pioneer cottage.

New Plymouth
View from my bedroom over New Plymouth Port

At Mokau, it was lunch time, and I could not resist the stunning whitebait fritters for which the restaurant is famous. And then on to New Plymouth. The house we rented was not in the first flush of youth, and I suspect a safety inspector might have some reservations, but it met our needs, and was splendidly located near the port. I woke very early the next  and wondered if I could catch the view over the port at work.

Between a rock and a hard place … the port on one side and this magnificent mountain on the other

Breakfast the same morning caused me to look in the opposite direction and from the deck we had a good view of the mountain.

Len Lye
Detail of “Four Fountains” by Len Lye

In New Plymouth there is a new art gallery dedicated to the works of the late Len Lye. As I understand it, he gifted a significant collection of his work to the City of New Plymouth in trust for the people of New Zealand. Though I enjoy some of his kinetic works, I have the same reaction here as I did in the Guggenheim, in New York. I admired the architecture more than the artworks on display.  This image , part of the “Four Fountains” was a thirteen second exposure attempting to catch the slowly rotating bundles of illuminated swaying rods. Tripods were prohibited for reasons that the person on the desk could not articulate, but which she somehow associated with copyright. Ah well, I wedged the camera on a chair and blocked it up with keys, a wallet and anything else I could find.

Cladding n the Len Lye Centre on Devon St, New Plymouth reflects nearby buildings

As I said the building itself is interesting, though much of its clever design is overshadowed by the immaculate polished stainless steel cladding on the Southern and Eastern walls.

The waterfall at the Festival of Lights kept changing colour

That same evening, we went to Pukekura Park to visit the “Festival of Lights”. Though less densely presented than in previous years, the festival as worth a visit, and lots of families were walking, riding and rowing around and across the lake as thee chosen mode of travel dictated.

Offshore oil rig – about 10 km away

The next morning, while Mary visited her aunt, I went to the mouth of the Waitara river where I saw the oil rig ENSCO 107 about 10 km offshore.

Just a little faster than walking pace – a 1905 Fowler traction engine

And then, the next morning, we were homeward bound. On the long hill don into Whangaehu, we passed two steam traction engines, clattering their way from Whanganui to Feilding. They had left Whanganui at 9 pm and took just on twelve hours to cover the 65 km to Feilding. I sat in the long warm grass to get the angle, and was rewarded with a toot from the steam whistle as each engine passed.

Clover in bloom

At Bulls, there was a paddock that caused me to stop. A field of pure clover is not as common as it used to be, so I thought it was worth a shot.  It was a wonderful journey, eight days in all. We saw lots of beautiful landscapes but as the late Andy Stewart sang, “they are not the hills of home”*.

So now we are back in Wellington, and who knows what comes next?

  • The Scottish Soldier by Andy Stewart
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August 30, 2015 … further afield

How blessed I am that after 45 years of marriage, I enjoy my wife’s company.

Lenticular cloud over the Tararuas to the East of Palmerston North

Mary suggested a trip to the Cross Hills gardens near Kimbolton in the Northern Manawatu  region. It seemed like a good idea despite the somewhat dubious weather forecast. She is smart enough to bring a book to read and/or some knitting. We set out in the morning and went up through Shannon, and then took the back roads through Rongotea towards Feilding. A little North of Shannon, there was a recently ploughed paddock and in the background a ridge-line full of wind turbines. Above them there were lenticular clouds which give some indication of why that was a really good area for the turbines. Please click for a clearer view

My version of the Golden Valley

North of Feilding there is the tiny settlement of Kimbolton (pop. 250) and North of that again the road follows a ridge above the valley where the little town of Apiti sits. If you ever saw the movie “Shadowlands” in which Anthony Hopkins played the part of C.S. Lewis, this would be my candidate for the “Golden Valley.” Some snow remains on the high peaks of the Ruahine range in the background.

Patient angler in the ornamental pools

Inside the gardens, we and one other couple had the whole vast space to ourselves. In peak season it is often very crowded, but yesterday it was still dressed as for winter, though a few early blooming rhododendrons and azaleas were putting on a show. We went to the ornamental ponds which were a bit greener than usual, perhaps due to an absence of visitors to press the button to start the waterfalls. Never mind, Froggie was still patiently waiting for a fish though his chances were small.

Japanese flowering quince

In that same part of the garden there were a few flowers in bloom, so here is what I think is a Japanese quince (Chaenomeles japonica) .

Japanese Andromeda … each little bell is perhaps 8 to 10 mm long. I love their waxy texture

The gardens are divided into themed blocks so the adjacent tree was the Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica). In order to get as much as possible in focus, this a blend of five separate images in the process called focus stacking. It takes forever to blend in Photoshop, but I am happy that it worked.

Guess which way the prevailing wind blows

On the way home, as we were getting near Shannon, I caught this row of trees  that tend to confirm again that this is a good area for a wind farm.  I liked the Indian ink on wash background look.  Mary read the book that she carries when we are out together while I performed my routine with the tripod.

That’s all for now.


Animals Birds Foxton Beach Horowhenua Palmerston North

March 24, 2014 … a two horsepower journey to see the birds

The deferred plan mentioned in the previous post came to pass yesterday.

horse-drawn tram
The tram operates from 10 am to 4 pm most Sundays

Mary had planned a picnic and asked where might be suitable (photography was allowed). I had chosen Foxton Beach, in the hope that some godwits might be still present before their long trek to Siberia. A pause in Foxton township gave us the opportunity to take a ride on the horse-drawn tram. Two big  Clydesdales hauled the rubber tyred tram along at a brisk clip around a surprisingly long circuit and I have to say that it was a pleasant experience.

Out on the mud
Dedicated “twitchers”

Down at the sandbar near the river mouth, there were indeed godwits, though they were a considerable distance away across an expanse of very sticky mud. There were others interested in their presence, and a pair of “twitchers” were out on the mud with their big tripod-mounted spotting scopes. They told me when they came back that they had counted thirty-seven of them. I never really got close to the godwits, since I was reluctant to disturb them by getting that far out on the mud.

Banded dotterels
There is something very appealing about such tiny fragile birds

However, to my surprise and delight, there were lots of banded dotterels (Charadrius bicinctus) sitting on the sandbank, quite close to me. They were quite tolerant of me as long as I moved slowly, and not too obviously in their direction. These birds are extremely vulnerable to all kinds of threat since they choose to nest on open sand with nothing more than a little scraping in the beach for shelter.

The legs do move but they seem to glide across the beach

The some birds hop, some walk, the dotterel seems to have no visible means of movement and seems to glide across the beach like a small hovercraft. Their tiny legs move very quickly and it is hard to do them justice.

Farmers are starting to talk about drought relief.

After lunch, when the tide had come in and inundated the areas we were watching we headed across the Manawatu plains to Shannon and then North to Palmerston North. The land was very dry, with a great deal of sun-bleached grass and in some cases a lot of dust.

Australian coots
It’s hard to imagine that the chick will one day look like its mother.

At the Hokowhitu lagoon, there were signs of seasonal confusion. Some Muscovy ducks were trailing a small team of tiny fluffy ducklings, and this one of a pair of Australian Coot chicks (Fulica atra). The chicks are spectacularly ugly, though as always, a mother’s love is blind.

That was the day.

Architecture Manawatu Moon Tararuas Wairarapa

May 26, 2013 … road trip

We did a big round trip yesterday in search of some specific subjects.

I didn’t really find them, and will do the same trip again soon, with a better idea of where to look.  It is well known that I rarely see the sunrise, and it is even less likely that I will see the moonset, especially if it happens before the dawn. Yesterday I caught it, mainly because it was illuminating a bank of cloud flying in from the North behind the ridge at Maungaraki. The “star” just below the moon is a street lamp on Cypress Drive.

Moonset over Maungaraki
Those clouds were whizzing by

But, on with the road trip … we were on SH1 near Foxton when I saw this sad old lady decaying in a paddock. I confess to trespassing since there was no obvious dwelling or entry to the farm to ask permission.  As a young man, I thought the Rover 2000 was a beautiful car. And so it was in its heyday, back in the mid sixties. This old girl is past her best, though I imagine a dedicated restorer could salvage her.

Rover 2000 slowly returns to the earth
Sad end for a fine lady

Nearby, an old house was decaying at a glacial pace. The former occupier lived next door and he gave me permission to go in to the paddock to make some pictures. He was kind enough to suggest that without decent boots, I was going to get wet in the shin-high crops.  I put my boots on.

Decaying house near Foxton
The broken windows add to the pathos

As we neared Bulls, an aircraft flew overhead. My jaw dropped and I pulled to the side and grabbed my long lens at full stretch. A Grumman TBM Avenger! It did turn round and commenced an approach for runway 33 at RNZAF Ohakea.  There are very few still flying anywhere, and this would certainly be the only one in New Zealand.  The distance was too great for a good shot, but here it is anyway.

Grumman TBM Avenger landing at Ohakea
Just for the record …

From there, we went through Feilding and then along the back road to Ashhurst. This little town is one of those places which has a love/hate relationship with wind turbines and there seem to be hundreds of them nearby. The Te Apiti Wind farm adjacent to the town has 55 turbines, and they all seemed to be spinning well yesterday.

Looking down on Ashhurst from the road to Feilding
Some of the wind turbines are on that ridge in the background

From there, we chose the Pahiatua Saddle road which is very scenic, if somewhat narrow and twisting road. During the recent landslide-enforced closure of the Manawatu Gorge this normally quiet road carried thousands of heavy vehicles every day. We paused at the top, and looked out to the East where some welcome rain was drenching those hills.

Rain on the hills to the East of Pahiatua
It felt cold and bleak up there

Down at the bottom of the hill near Mangamaire  (South of Pahiatua, North of Ekatahuna) this old dairy factory (I think) was being repurposed as a storage shed for firewood and hay.

A deserted dairy factory
At the height of local dairying there were over 400 individual dairy factories in New Zealand

It was an interesting round trip which may bear fruit eventually.




Birds Camera club creativity Palmerston North

November 5, 2012 … birds, birds, and more birds

What, if anything, did I learn at the conference?

Apart from the stunning work by a  graphic artist using Photoshop to the greatest extent possible, not much. What I did see, though, was some splendid work by people who provided superlative examples of things I already know about, and that was inspirational.

On the other hand, seeing other people’s work in the salon (where I gained two acceptances, by the way) is always inspiring and thought-provoking. Seeing other photographers at work is also a great and humbling learning experience. For example, I mentioned the Hoffman Kiln and offered a shot from inside the kiln. Then I saw a shot taken by my friend Neil Gordon whose shot of the whole building captures perfectly the architecture of this important building, and the weather that prevailed on the day. He applied HDR techniques, but the thing I loved about this shot was that he found a viewpoint that so perfectly captured the scene, and excluded the suburban surroundings.

Yesterday, apart from the trip home, was spent almost entirely at the Chalet and at Caccia Birch, two buildings adjacent to the Hokowhitu lagoon in Palmerston North.  Various talks and demonstrations were given, and the catering was splendid. Out on the lagoon, life was in  full swing with a great many waterfowl on the water. Ducks, geese, black swans and Australian coots were all there. The swans had a brood of grey fluffy cygnets, and there were at least two broods of coot chicks, and more on the way. Cygnets on the lagoon Swans, duck and geese are relatively common, the Australian coot (Fulica atra) less so. The distinctive white bill and shield, and smaller size make it obviously different from the various ducks. To my way of thinking, the most obvious characteristic is the spectacular ugliness of the chicks. But even at this very early age, they are accomplished swimmers and look at the size of that foot in the water!coot chicks

Parents of both sets of young worked hard at gathering weed from the lake bottom for the family. The swans just stick their long head under water and point their bottoms at the sky to reach the weed. For the much smaller coot, however, it requires a serious diving expedition (see those feet, again).coot returning to the surface after diving for weed

Both sets of parent devote most of their energy to caring for the young, and it made for attractive, if somewhat obvious images.

Coot and chickBlack swan and cygnets

I had intended to back off the bird life for a while but when so much is thrust under your nose, what choice is there?