Architecture Art Bees Birds insects Landscapes Light Maori Maritime Paremata Plant life Weather Wellington

November 23, 2018 … a weird mixture

Days of alternating weather have meant different styles of photography as the week has gone by, We have had some grey misty days and a few nice days and a few that did nothing for me at all.

White-faced herons are not as glamorous as their distant cousins the white heron, but they move with the same careful elegance

On one of the calm days, I went to the estuary and watched a white-faced heron doing its slow deliberate stalking through the shallow water, pausing now and then to spear a fish or crab.

Royal spoonbills seem to sleep on one leg with their extraordinary bills tucked among the plumage on their backs

Later the same day, I spotted a small flock of royal spoonbills  all dozing on one leg while a black swan cruised among them.

Hei tiki
The hei-tiki is an ornamental pendant made by the Maori. This is not one, but the similarity is there.

As I was climbing out of the estuary basin, I spotted something half-buried in the sand. My first thought was that I had found an intricately carved wooden hei-tiki, I was only mildly disappointed to discover that it was just a piece of driftwood, shaped by long immersion in the ever-moving sand.

Looking down the Hutt River from home with the Eastern hills getting a good soak

A few nights ago, as the sun was setting, there was a heavy rain cloud moving down the Eastern side of the valley. The combination of clear sky in the west and heavy cloud in the East produced some interesting light.

This plant is so common as to be almost a weed, Nevertheless it has at least three names: Hebe, Veronica or Koromiko 

The next day the weather was unhelpful, so I played about with some flowers in my dark box using my excellent macro lens and the technique of photo-stacking. I quite like this image of a sprig of Hebe.

Steel grey harbour

The weather changed several times and I liked the silver-grey view down the harbour.

Inbound heavy freighter

Today was pleasant and I found myself at Paremata at the entrance to the Porirua harbour. There was not much happening from a landscape perspective but I enjoyed the sight of bumble bees exchanging pollen for nectar on a bush that I later learned is Tree Mallow.

boat sheds
Paremata boat sheds

My final shot in this edition was made from the edge of the beach at the mouth of the Pauatahanui inlet. I wanted still water so opted for a long exposure. The boats moved with the water’s flow but the colours and forms of the boat sheds appealed to me.

That’s all for now

harbour Landscapes Light Lower Hutt Maori Maritime night Wellington

October 25, 2016 … some variety

Artist at work applying ta moko to the face of a young man in the kapa haka group at Hutt Valley High School

This week started out differently. The Kapa Haka group at Hutt Valley High School wrote to the camera club and asked if anyone was willing to take individual and group images of their members at an annual event. I have mixed feelings about people asking for freebies. As a general principle, it undercuts the local professionals and also tends to place low value on the time and talent of the amateur. I will never do pro bono jobs just for the “recognition”. I don’t need recognition. On the other hand, some causes are worth supporting. You would not meet a finer bunch of young people than this anywhere,  and HVHS and the local community should be very proud of them. I was intrigued to see the process by which the temporary tattoos or moko are applied. Latex stencils are inked with rollers an applied carefully in the appropriate position. I think there were seven pieces for each boy’s face, but it was quite a production line. Just one stencil in the chin for each girl.

Island Bay
Island Bay. Notice that the water in the bay is photographed with a long slow exposure, while the breaking water in the foreground is an instantaneous shot

A spell of almost reasonable weather on Saturday made it worth looking at the South Coast. I experimented with some long exposures and then had the idea to merge with conventional shots, Not sure whether it was entirely successful, but it works in principle.

Lower Normandale

In the afternoon, Mary coaxed the grandchildren and me to walk down the road  to “Minoh House” and from there I saw a potential panorama. Eight shots were merged to make this view looking South towards the harbour entrance from the lower slopes of Normandale.

Still but sombre mood

Stillness on Sunday evening drew me back to the marina, and though the sunset didn’t live up to its promise, I liked the mood and the tones in the water.

Wellington Harbour from Maungaraki

Maggie had left her bag at our house, so on the way home from the marina, I dropped by their house to return it. They have a priceless view across Petone and Matiu/Somes Island and straight down the mouth of the harbour. As I arrived there, the day was coming to its glorious close.

Splendid sunrise across the valley

Mornings are not my thing, but the colour of the light through the gape in the curtains triggered something. I got up and caught this moment as the glory was just past its peak. It’s a pretty good way to start the day.


Birds Haywards Hill Landscapes Light Lower Hutt Maori Maritime sunrise Weather Wellington

August 16, 2016 … lovely light regardless of the weather

I really want some serious storm weather for a project I have in mind. However, all I am getting is a range of weather that is neither one thing nor the other.

Magical mystical morning in the Hutt Valley

Nevertheless, sometimes the variable weather can present a dramatic face to the world.

The Snow-capped Tararua range provides a lovely backdrop for the early morning traffic on SH2 near the Haywards Hill

There have been some very nice days, and the view to the North East in the mornings is particularly spectacular. This view from a pedestrian overbridge near Naenae nearly came to grief as I slipped on the ice on the wooden boards.

Magic in Mana Marina

From there I went to Paremata where a perfectly still morning made the Mana Marina very attractive.

Stillness at the Paremata boat sheds

Across the road to Ivey Bay I spotted another patch of very still water, with some interesting boats behind it. The Neutral density filter and a long exposure helped to make it a better image.

Keeping the place warm for the boss

A day or so later, I was on my way to town for lunch with some former Dairy Board colleagues and called by the Hutt Estuary in the hope that our friendly white heron, George might be there. He wasn’t, but two of his cousins, the white-faced herons were keeping his spot warm.

Inner harbour from Mt Victoria

As is my custom, I was in town well ahead of the appointed hour, so went up to the Mt Victoria lookout from where our beautiful city was at its sparkling best.

Ceremonial waka rehearsal

Back down at sea-level, near the entrance to the lagoon at Frank Kitts park, I saw this waka (canoe) with a trainee crew practicing for ceremonial paddling. The waka was a fibreglass replica rather than the real thing, but even so, the rhythmic chanting raised the hairs on my neck.  See you again soon.

Maori Maritime Wellington

July 31, 2015 … at the water’s edge


Lunch with a friend ensured that I went in the direction of the city.

Waka coasting to a stop ready to back on to its beaching trolley

Wandering around the waterfront ahead of the lunch appointment, I was sitting with a coffee at the Karaka cafe in the Wharewaka (the house built to house some ceremonial waka or maori canoes). Foolishly, my camera was still in the camera bag. I heard chanting and saw a waka coming into the lagoon. The white paddles were flashing in unison and I scrambled to undo the clips on the bag. By the time the camera was out, the waka was coasting to a stop. This is a glass fibre waka with floatation chambers and none of the mystique or history that usually go with a genuine carved waka. Nevertheless the teamwork and discipline required to use it are the same, and it turned out that this was a group of people from a large corporate, and to my great surprise, one of them was my son-in-law, Vasely.

Hikitia in the morning sun

Winter sunshine looked better than it felt with the temperature around 8 degrees C. The old steam crane Hikitia was sitting alongside the Taranaki St Wharf, where she is undergoing a long restoration project.

Weeds on the wharf piles

There are large buffer beams separated from the wharf by piles, and despite my woeful anxiety about standing near edges, I peered down into the water. There was a lot of suspended matter in the water but the colours of the weed and the water were really lit up by the bright sun overhead.

Geometry in the water

In another area of the wharf, there is a gap with a platform from which people could fish or whatever. Reflections of the surrounding piles reminded me of the geometric paradoxes painted by M.C. Escher.

That’s all for now


Cook Strait Geology Landscapes Maori Pukerua Bay Weather

January 24, 2015 … facing the sea from a rocky shore

Again that wind was deceptive.

Kapiti Island across the blue water, is even more rugged than the shoreline in the foreground.

Ruffled water at Pauatahanui spoiled the shots I planned there, so I kept going. Before I knew it I was on SH1 in the early stages of the rush traffic on a Friday afternoon. This was not good, so I baled out at Pukerua Bay. That too was more difficult than I expected. It was a lovely warm sunny afternoon on the last day of the school holidays so the beach was crammed with families parked on every free spot. I finally found a space at the far end, and set out along the coastal trail.

Te Ana Puta – the Marble Arch

Beyond the first kilometre or so, the track leaves the beach behind and becomes savagely rocky and strewn with tangled driftwood. A little way along the track is that huge rock with the hole in it which is known in Maori as Te Ana Puta.

Geology near Wairaka Rock

Nearing Wairaka Rock the track becomes more rugged and the rock structure is more shattered and broken.

Uplifted layers

Looking around, it is possible to see the uplifted layers of rock. This would not be a kindly place to be shipwrecked.

Pou Tangaroa at Pukerua Bay. There are many Pou Whenua which make a statement about the relationship between the local people and the land. There are fewer Pou Tangaroa which tell of the relationship with the sea.

The return journey offers slightly different views and as the car park nears, the Pou Tangaroa takes centre stage. This carving in honour of Tangaroa, god of the sea was made by master carver Hermann Salzmann.

Tomorrow, we begin a road trip.

Architecture Maori Petone

October 14, 2014 … the old town

Petone is where it all started for Wellington in January 1840.

Price's Folly
Price’s Folly embodies all kinds of moulded or sawn wood fittings of the kind that Mr Price sold to the early builders. Today the building contains some apartments, and a manufacturer of children’s clothes

From a Maori perspective it could be regarded as the primary infection site. Back then, it was known to the Tangata whenua (people of the land) as Pito-one, and was a swampy area backed by heavy forest. But the settlers were made welcome by the great chief Te Puni. Now it is a quirky suburb of Lower Hutt City, characterised by many old working class villas in varying states of disrepair or restoration. Here and there, there are rather grander establishments, the home of ambitious and successful early settlers. Thomas Price arrived in 1842 and became a successful sawmiller and timber merchant. He built his rather grand home in 1901, not only to house his family, but also to showcase all the products his business could supply. Ill-health forced him to move to Wellington a year later and the place acquired the name “Price’s Folly.”

Alexandra buildings have clean lines that remind me of my early career as a draftsman

However, the main attraction for most visitors to Petone is its main street, Jackson Street.  It runs parallel to the foreshore, two blocks back from the beach and is lined with shops and restaurants. Unlike the carefully managed balance of the malls, Jackson Street has a surfeit of odd, sometimes eccentric shops. There are a great many coffee shops and fast food outlets. A bookshop that specialises in cookery books, a knife shop, a candle shop, a few too many second-hand shops, none of which would match the polished templates of mall management.  Many of the old buildings, however have been carefully restored to a condition often exceeding their original glory.

Once an old-fashioned hardware store, now the Sprig and Fern Tavern

A favourite shop when we first came to the area was Rayner and Woodward. It was an old-fashioned hardware store. It was the kind of shop where you told the assistant what you wanted and he (it was always a he) went out the back and returned with a selection form which to choose. The building has been restored and converted to a tavern. Even that is a little unconventional since the owners encourage you to bring your own food if you wish, though they have a reasonable menu of their own.

Going rapidly, with an intriguing roof structure

Every effort is made to preserve and restore the old, but now and then demolition is necessary when the risk in this earthquake-prone land is deemed too high to be economically mitigated.  This building, next to the old town hall clock is being taken down, and I am trying to find the history that required that large clear span. (Update: a friend had seen a reference to the old “State Picture Theatre” and there is a picture in the National Library archives that show it in its glory days … follow the link)

Back streets
Back street sheds and workshops

In the side alleys of the industrial area, there are many little garages and storage sheds and of course they are a target for the ubiquitous spray cans.

Sorry to have been late.

Industrial Maori Seaview

December 8, 2013 … places of final repose

Catching up at last, my camera club newsletter has gone.

Owhiti urupa at Gracefield
An oasis of peace and stillness, surrounded by thundering trucks and the crash of steel and other industry

Life resumes at a less hectic pace.  Yesterday I raced out as the sky was darkening, and went to the Gracefield area. There I peered over the fence of the Owhiti urupa (cemetery). I am particularly intrigued by this cemetery, surrounded as it is by light industry.

What became of the people who lived here in earlier days? What was the Owhiti pa like? Did they fish in the Waiwhetu stream before it became the valley’s septic drain? Where are their descendants?

As a last resting place, it seems untouched by its ugly surrounds. Perhaps the tupuna dream of day when the area was unspoiled

Fuel tanks make uneasy neighbours for the tupuna (ancestors) who would scarcely recognise what has become of their home. I am aware that for Maori, the urupa is an especially tapu or sacred place, so I was careful to stay outside. These images are offered with the utmost respect, in memory of those who came before.

A small mountain of scrap steel
I look at these piles, recognise fragments of vehicles and wonder whose pride and joy has ended up here.

Moving on into the Seaview area, I came to a scrap metal merchant that I have visited before. Since it was Saturday, the gates were locked, but there was an aperture in the fence that was just big enough to slide the lens through.  The texture of the steel, and the rust colour continue to draw me back

Ready for crushing
Someone spent hours washing and polishing those cars in that past, took their families on holidays, or sat by the beach with a lover watching the sun set

There was also a pile of vehicles awaiting their turn for the crusher and they have a texture of their own.

Up to date now, no more excuses!

Architecture harbour Maori Maritime Weather Wellington

January 4, 2013 … avast, ye lubbers

Wellington’s waterfront on a good day is magical.

Yesterday was a pretty good day, though the wind was strong. Lunching outside at “Mac’s Brewbar” with a friend, I was a bit astonished when the lady at the table next to us had a full heavy glass of coke (with ice) blow over and shatter on the table. It wasn’t cold at all, and there were a large number of people strolling along the wharf. Nevertheless, the steady breeze was such that  I had to use my camera as a rather expensive paperweight to keep the table number visible for the delivery of our lunch order (an excellent “lambburger”).

Architectural detail of the Wharewaka on Wellington waterfrontBefore arriving at the pub, I had wandered around  the “Wharewaka” (Boat house) which was completed just before the Rugby World Cup in 2011. It is of striking design, though a little geometrical for my taste. As well as housing two ceremonial “waka taua” (Maori war canoes) it is home to a café and function centre.The prow of one of the two waka taua (war canoes) in the Wharewaka

Another kind of war canoe was near by. The Bob Barker, on of the Sea Shepherd fleet of anti-whaling vessels was berthed near by. I am opposed to whaling myself, but am also strongly opposed to eco-terrorism and violent means to solving this issue. In my opinion this ship should not have been here.Sea Shepherd's "Bob Barker" berthed at Wellington

Despite that, I admire the courage and resolution of her crew. The vessel itself was a mean and purposeful looking ship, and her sinister décor as a pirate vessel was convincing.

An interesting day.


creativity harbour Light Maori Petone Seaview Weather Wellington

August 27, 2012 … from a different standpoint

On the other hand …

There is always another way of looking at things, always another place on which to stand. When I am not off in some other part of the world, you may have noticed that I keep coming back to old familiar places in Wellington or the Hutt Valley.

What might this place look like, if seen from somewhere else? In Te Reo Maori, there is a wonderful word which ought to be adopted by every photographer as part of the toolkit. The word “turangawaewaeis “the place on which I stand”. My choice of place alters my view of the world.

Every human situation needs to be explored so that we see how it looks from someone else’s point of view. (I love it that such a widely understood concept has its roots in the graphic arts).

Photographically speaking, very small movements in standpoint can yield very different images. Low angle, high angle, wide angle narrow angle, or indeed a completely different start point, all alter the way in which I see the world. And for me, I have to keep asking “what would this look like from over there?”

Sometimes this is a problem. There are places that simply cannot be accessed for photography. It frustrates me that there are so many views in and around our city where it is simply unsafe, or even illegal, to stop.

Some of yesterday afternoon, I spent in the car and on foot, looking for different viewpoints over the Hutt Valley and the Harbour. The roads around Korokoro (on the Western Hills above Petone) are very narrow, with few safe parking spots.  I saw several nice views as I explored, and on each occasion, parked the car at the first available space. Then, with camera and tripod on the shoulder, I walked back to the place where the view could be seen.

This sometimes meant that the front legs of the tripod were on the outside of a safety rail above a very steep drop, and the rear leg had to be hastily “sucked in” each time a car approached. Happily the traffic is light up there, and I don’t think I was in grave danger. A few drivers audibly lifted their foot off the accelerator as they passed (thanks), but I don’t think I impeded anyone’s progress.

Looking down on Petone past the big house on the hillThe first image looks down on the commercial (Western) end of Petone, with the tank farms at Seaview at the other end of the beach. The house on the left has intrigued me for a while. From below, around the area of the Petone railway station, it appears to be on the edge of a very risky precipice, so I sincerely hope that its owners had a competent engineer to design the foundations.  I also hope that rustic wagon wheel is securely fastened. It would be an unwelcome arrival in the houses below to the South.

My second image is an unusual angle on Matiu/Somes Island (in the shade), and Ward Island catching the only visible shaft of sunlight.  The golden island ... Ward island in the Sun, Matiu/Somes in the shadeI really must make a visit out to Matiu/Somes sometime soon.

Light Maori night Petone

July 6, 2012 … launch day

Today the adventure begins.

And already, I have had a call from Air New Zealand to tell me that our flight from Wellington to Auckland has been cancelled to the complications arising from the, fog in Auckland, and would I care to re-book or would I like a refund? Yeah right!!!!

So we are now flying to Auckland a little earlier on a non-disrupted service. All Air New Zealand jets (as opposed to turboprops) are capable of Category III operations in fog, which means they can do instrument landings in fog. I am guessing that the logistics of moving passengers from other services has caused a re-juggling of aircraft.

However, that aside, nothing will spoil my mood. This morning’s mail brought me a letter from the IRD informing me of an unexpected refund. Excellent. (Note, this was a letter on IRD letterhead, not an email with dubious phrasing).

On the other hand, packing, writing club newsletters, finishing off the marking, has been a little hectic and I had to go out in the rain last night looking for something to photograph.  In Te Puni St, at the Western end of Petone I came across the Te Puni Urupa … the historic Maori cemetery which was used from 1870 – 1976. It is the last resting place of Honiana Te Puni, a notable warrior, a signatory to both the Treaty of Waitangi and the Port Nicholson purchase.  There is also a memorial to the Maori killed in the land wars.Te Puni Urupa, Petone

It sits, sad and run-down in between industrial buildings in a  backstreet, with crumbling, and in some cases, vandalized memorials. Even the peacefulness of night is denied to these graves as light from the adjacent tower block spills out.

Next report will be from Santa Rosa, California. Unless there are further cancellations!