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.

Marina

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.

Greytown

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.

Splash

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!

 

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.

Dotterel

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.

Dust

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.

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?

November 4, 2012 … spinning, milling and baking

It is clear to me that getting out of bed early pays dividends.

So does dieting and exercise, but neither of those is inherently attractive either. However, I managed the early rising thing yesterday,  if not the diet or exercise. Some of my club mates were planning to visit the lagoon at Centennial Drive in Palmerston North In the hope of getting good shots of the cygnets seen thereon. Psh! If you’ve seen one cygnet, you’ve seen them all,  I drove Eastward to the road known as the Pahiatua Track, and at its summit took a turn to the North, following a gravel road along three winding kilometres of Tararua ridges  to another summit.

Eastward across the Wairarapa from the summit of the Pahiatua TrackThere I was fortunate to see some excellent views to the East, and a clear view of a cluster of turbines in both directions along the ridge towards the Manawatu Gorge (recently re-opened after almost a year out of action after a massive landslide). The sun was present, but weakly, and the wind that was spinning the turbines so briskly, was chilling.This cluster of turbines was unusual in the area with two bladed rotors

Back at the conference, things were going well, and I had chosen “old industrial sites” for my field trip. That took us to a flour mill where we could wander among the interesting shapes of the old grain and flour silos.

Silos (1)Silos (2)

Our next stop was an ancient diesel-powered electricity generation plant which had two large marine diesel engines. They are run periodically for purposes of public display, but are no longer generating electricity. There is an unmistakable  aroma around large diesel engines and machine shops and this evoked memories of my late father who spent much of his life in the marine repair industry, in the engine rooms of big ships. He would have loved this.On the walkway beside the cylinder heads of a diesel generator

Our final stop was at the old and now disused Hoffman Continuous Kiln formerly used in the manufacture of bricks and tiles.Inside the remains of the Hoffman Kiln

It has been a good weekend and I have enjoyed the company of many talented and friendly fellow enthusiasts.

November 03, 2012 … unpredicted pleasures

I did warn you.

Just because I am out of town does not mean birds are off the menu. I got away from home a little later than I planned on my jaunt to Palmerston North. I had hardly gone any distance at all, in fact only as far as the Pauatahanui inlet on Gray’s Rd, when something caught my eye.

There is a large expanse of reeds or grassland at the head of the harbour and some piles or fence posts, the purpose of which is unknown to me. From the corner of my eye I saw something large and white on top of the nearest post. Nothing behind me, so I shuddered to a halt and backed up. It was a kotuku,  a white heron.White heron at rest

A few shots of him were caught and then he took off. So did I.

I had an uneventful trip as far as Foxton where I made a detour to the observation platform by the estuary at Foxton Beach. At first I thought the place was deserted, then I saw what I hoped to see. A pair of bar tailed godwits (Limosa lapponica) were striding through the mud in search of food. They are not spectacular birds to look at, but the sheer heroism of their almost 12,000 km migration lends them glamour. This one appears to be enamoured of its own reflection.Bar tailed godwit at Foxton Beach

Moving on, I got to Palmerston North where I was able to check in early. After lunch, I filled in time by driving through the recently re-opened Manawatu Gorge to Woodville, and back. I was very irritated in Ashhurst by the signs that point breathlessly to the wind farm viewing platform, only to find it was locked and inaccessible. Nevertheless I managed a shot from the nearby football field.Apiti wind farm near Ashhurst

After a brief nap back at the motel I checked in at the conference, enjoyed the opening session and got a shot of the fire spinners in action.Fire spinner at Palmerston North

More tomorrow