Queen Elizabeth II was a remarkable women who became queen in my 9th year. Despite my distaste for the notion of monarchy in general, Queen Elizabeth has served all her peoples with grace, dignity and unswerving commitment over seventy years. I do not intend to enter into debate with anyone on these matters, but it seems appropriate to acknowledge such a span of service.
Meanwhile, life continues at the coal face. Sometimes I find the routines of life a little uninspiring, and even depressing. Still, I love the process of making images. On the other hand, if I am not seeing or finding the images that bring me joy, the mood barometer swings downward again.
Mary and I had driven up to Palmerston North in the hope of finding birds or signs of spring. While I enjoyed travelling with Mary, the day was photographically, a bust. Then, as she was serving our evening meal back at home, Mary said “look out of the front window!” I begged a slight delay in the meal and grabbed my camera and a wide angle lens and went out onto the front lawn. Ever the sign of hope, the rainbow made up for much that we had missed earlier.
It’s slightly weird when I am lamenting a down mood, that I can take pleasure in heavy clouds and grim outlooks. From Balaena Bay across Evans Bay to Point Halswell and the Miramar peninsula, I was attracted to the imposing cloudscape.
At the back door, Mary grows various flowers and herbs. They are just so ever-present that I often fail to see them. Now and then, they catch my eye. In this case, the rosemary’s blue flowers took some time on an otherwise damp and dismal day.
Evans Bay is a frequently visited site that occasionally yields a nice image. The still patch of water near the shore was disrupted by a row of incoming waves. Why do these waves differ from the chop on the water further out?
As I often do, I arrived too early for an excellent yum char lunch with friends and former colleagues in Courtenay Place. I filled the time by exploring nearby laneways. This image was made in Forresters Lane and is the front of a cocktail bar called “Love Bite”. Foreign territory to me.
Although I have done it many times before, I can’t resist still water in Oriental Bay marina.
Despite the number of trips I make to Queen Elizabeth Park wetlands, I have not been rewarded with the hoped for birdlife in recent months. The only capture on this trip was this Australasian shoveller.
Wellington’s Botanic Gardens are full of little surprises. This little waterfall is perhaps only a metre high, but adds to the music of the garden.
It’s tulip time again. Sadly it’s all too brief , but the gardeners always manage to arrange a good display of tulips for a few weeks. I got there the week prior to the annual tulip festival, so was limited as to the available colours.
I find it hard not to love tulips, singly or en masse.
Here is Kaiarahi (formerly Stena Alegra) just back in Wellington after many months sitting in Picton with a broken gearbox. The required parts were finally installed and here she is ready to resume service.
A splash of colour at the head Evans Bay. Urban forest’ (2008) by Leon van den Eijkel and Allan Brown is a stack of cubes designed to spin in the wind, of which there is plenty at the site. Sadly it fails often and just sits. Nevertheless, it is interesting and nine metres high.
See you next time, I hope.
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One of my favourite mentors, Alastair Benn this week asked his subscribers what makes a good photograph/photographer. Any of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that this is a sure way to trigger all my anxieties and self doubt. He also asked whether we thought it was feasible to judge your own work.
Solely in relation to my own work, I regard a good photograph as one that I like, that I am pleased to have made and one to which my first reaction is not how much better it could have been “if only I had done something else.” In my view, although I love to get affirming opinions from others, the vital component is that I like it myself. I take it for granted that the image is made competently. After that it is a matter of what I saw and how I extracted that seeing from all that was in front of me.
So here follows the usual collection of images made since the last edition of this blog. I like some of them. Others not so much.
Winter mist on the harbour and all is blank beyond Pt Halswell. The Hutt Valley is probably still out there, though there is no evidence of it.
I like the little black shags. Their plumage is beautifully patterned but not coloured. This one was hanging the wings out to dry in whatever thin substitute for sunshine was available.
Misty conditions appeal to me, though the resulting images rarely match the vision I had when I made them. This was on the road South to the Wainuiomata coast. Silhouettes against the mist always appeal to me.
Now and then I get the urge to go up Wright’s Hill at the Western end of Karori. The problem with geographic lookouts such as Wrights Hill, is that they are constraining. Every time I go up there, I end up in the same place looking at the same view. Only the light, time of day and the weather change. I need to get more inventive.
Unlike Wright’s Hill, Evans Bay offers myriad different vantage points. Some face East, some West. Some look into bays, others look out. I liked this view because it is an angle not often seen.
As far as I can tell, this caterpillar is going from left to right. I will further venture that this is probably a white cabbage butterfly seen here hanging under a parsley plant. Two aspects caught my eye. A droplet of water on the caterpillar’s back was interesting because I have no idea where it came from. The other thing that drew my attention was its pointy little feet.
A seemingly perfect day seemed to promise a spectacular sunset. Sadly, it didn’t happen. Instead, a wall cloud developed to the West and we had a fairly ordinary sunset. The only consolation were the glittering reflections in the Hutt River and the Waiwhetu Stream.
Ivey Bay is a frequent haunt of mine. Among other things, I like it because of the character of the boats moored there. As I have observed before, these are not plastic “gin palaces”, but rather, honest working boats, probably built by the original owner.
Looking from the top of the Wainuiomata Hill across the Cook Strait, there is usually a splendid view of the Kaikoura mountains. Tapuae-o-Uenuku is always magnificent, especially considering that summit is 130 km away.
Here is the new kid on the block. This is Tākina. It is the almost finished Wellington Convention Centre. I quite like it, though birders are not pleased with so much glass that could injure the birds.
Aquilla is one of the local fishing trawlers seen here returning from the Cook Strait with a swarm of sea birds hovering hopefully in her wake.
Porirua Harbour has its moments. I especially like it when there is no wind, and that is much more often than you might think. This is a multi-image panoramic stitch made between two trees near the Whitireia Polytchnic.
Mary had a birthday recently and the family turned up and provided morning tea at a local cafe. Jack (15) arrived with a bunch of tulips for the occasion. Flowers for the win!
And that’s another edition in the can, though I had a repeat of that sudden loss of editing. I might have to see if there is something more reliable than WordPress.
Winter solstice was in the week just ended. Spring seems so far away. And yet there are signs already. We have had a few bright winter days but for the most part, strong winds, cloud and rain. I try to convince myself that there is beauty to be found even in bad weather, but some days do not encourage me to venture out with the camera.
Nevertheless, I do get out in rough weather now and then, especially if there is the hope of large swells on the South or West coast. If, however the water is merely ruffled, and the weather is grey and bleak, I stay home. I seem to have got out reasonably often since my last posting.
Pukerua Bay normally offers a view across the water to Kapiti Island. On this day a howling Nor’Wester was driving swells in excess of 4 metres directly towards the beach. I chose to make my images from inside the car, using the passenger window as my portal to the storm, and the width of the car to protect my lens from the spray. I got some reasonable wave shots, but my favourite of the day was this image taken after I rolled the window back up. And that’s when I found that the passenger seat was absolutely soaked!
Aaaghhh! I had finished typing this edition when WordPress suddenly decided to stop saving and to go back four days and lost everything from here forward. Everything from here on is a rewrite.
Another dull day and my attention turned to the birds in the tree just outside our dining room window, Common house sparrows were doing battle over access to the birdseed bell that Mary had hung out there. They are messy eaters so if there any viable seeds on that thing, there is a strong likelihood of something exotic growing from fallen seeds around the tree. Last season, it was sunflowers. Who knows what next.
The observant among you may notice the red light on the right hand end of the locomotive’s buffer beam. Yes, this is the back of the train. Steam Inc were running out and back trips between Paraparaumu and Manakau. If you look closely or click to enlarge, you will see a vintage diesel locomotive down the other end. The diesel hauls the train in the Southbound trips, and the steam locomotive leads the way back North. It burned 5 tonnes of coal in the two days on which the excursions were running.
In contrast this ship, La Richardais was burning no fuel except by the generators. She had lost power a few hundred km off the coast of New Plymouth and had been under tow ever since. The large tug is MMA Vision which normally spends her time as a tender to the Taranaki oil fields, and was released to tow La Richardais first to New Plymouth and then to Wellington. They are seen here arriving in Wellington assisted by the two local tugs, Tiaki and Tapuhi. They spent a week in Wellington. I suspect that no local firm was equipped to achieve a repair so the tow resumed. MMA Vision will take her to New Caledonia and another tug will take her onwards to Singapore and presumably a repair.
Long long ago, when I almost understood such things, I did an applied mathematics course at the University of Auckland. I bandied around terms like amplitude, frequency and period and knew a few formulae on how to find one of those if I had the other two. I have a lingering sense of the importance of those characteristics of a wave. The ones that impress me the most are the amplitude (Height from trough to crest) and period (the time between successive crests). I know I am in for a visual spectacle if the amplitude is greater than 4 metres and the period is greater than 10 seconds. This image was made at Pukerua Bay.
In a different set of circumstances, I was at Owhiro Bay when the view across the strait was crisp and clear. Mighty Tapuae-o-Uenuku was soaring skyward up into the clouds hovering around its peak. The Interisland ferry Kaitaki which seems sorely in need of a paint job passed at speed across the face of the mountain., heading towards Tory Channel and Picton.
Even as Kaitaki was heading West, the competing ferry Straitsman emerged from Tory Channel. She has recently had a major overhaul, and her crisp clean paint job was quite a contrast.
From Oriental Bay, the high-rise blocks of Wellington’s CBD are eye-catching. The Deloitte building is especially so. Recent seismic losses were undoubtedly in the minds of the architects when they used such a thoroughly triangulated structure. I imagine that those angled tubular columns are a nuisance in the building’s interior, but offer some reassurance whenever the earth moves, as it often does in Wellington.
I have no idea which site is served by this crane, but the way it was picked out of the late afternoon gloom by that shaft of sunlight made it an image worth taking.
As I mentioned earlier, the weekend of running up and down between Paraparaumu and Manakau consumed 5 Tonnes of coal. This produces a lot of ash, much of which remains in the firebox and the rest is carried through the boiler tubes and falls to the base of the smokebox. There are access hatches in the sides of the locomotives, but that is the only concession to convenience. After that, it is shovelled by hand from the collection area into a wheelbarrow, and then wheeled to a tipping area behind the locomotive shed. It is a tedious task, but these members of the crew laboured away until the job was done
Crepuscular rays are a magnet for most landscape photographers. This view from Oriental Bay looking North conceals the usual view of the Tararuas. It’s a full colour image that could easily pass as monochrome. The steel grey colour of the harbour is probably a good indicator of just how cold the day was.
I am sure there is someone who could dispute the botanical identity of this seed head. I don’t care. It walks like a dandelion and quacks like a dandelion, so … I struggle to choose an exposure that does justice to the outer sphere, and to the spectacle of the inner parts where each seed attaches to the plant.
Kelburn Park fountain is perhaps outclassed by the Carter Fountain in Oriental Bay, despite its spectacular coloured lighting at night. Nevertheless, it is worth a look. It wasn’t until I got home that I saw that I had caught a gaggle of sightseers the lookout platform atop Mt Victoria 2,240 metres away.
The Kakariki is less than a year old, and her paint reflects that. The only significant marks are those left by the black rubber buffers on the nose of numerous tugs assisting her into her berth.
That will do for this edition. I hope to see you again soon.
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Sadly, the very last exhibition of the now defunct Hutt Camera Club closed this week. Sixty one years of comradeship and photographic endeavour came to an end. No one was willing to stand for any of the essential offices at the AGM, and so it was agreed to dissolve the club. Its assets were distributed to a photographic charity and to other clubs. The bureaucratic rituals were followed, and it is no more.
And that leads me to wonder at the significance of this to my own photography. Even when the club was still in existence, I tended to be a solitary photographer, and rarely participated in field trips with fellow members. I enjoyed their company at club meetings, but kept to myself while making pictures. Though I admired the superb artistry of many of my friends, I was not inclined to mimic their work.
In short, though I am sad to see it go, it has relatively little impact on my artistic endeavour. My style is to be in the world and experience it as best I can. I look for compositions shapes and colours that, in my opinion, might make an attractive image. The result to other eyes is possibly a bit weird or at least eclectic. So, what do I have to share this time?
This lovely little cactus was a gift on the occasion of our recent wedding anniversary and it came with some deep thoughts about the nature of marriage. I love it.
We have some kindly neighbours who often share the beauty of their garden with us. These Cosmos flowers are beautiful, though their splendour is all too brief before the petals fall off
I am not sure how it came about, but I seem to be making more images of botanical subjects recently. Perhaps it’s that the trees and flowers move more slowly and are less evasive than the birds that I also love. Anyway, this was in a public garden on Oriental Parade at the foot of Point Jerningham. I went looking to see what was currently in bloom and loved the deep blue of the lavenders. Then came the butterfly. People malign the social media but I get much benefit from the various groups in which I participate. My bug identification group told me it is a long-tailed pea-blue butterfly (Lampides boeticus).
Pulling away from the garden mentioned above, I ran straight into some road works and had to wait for the stop/go person to allow us to progress. I was taken by the noble pose of the dog in the car ahead of me. S/he seemed to be in a state of mild contempt over the strange antics of the humans.
On a warm Autumn afternoon, I was on my way home from the far side of the valley, along Waterloo Rd. As I crossed the railway bridge, I realised that our house was directly ahead of me. It is above the car ahead of me and to the right of the middle light on the left. It’s hard to make out the shape and extent of the house through the haze, but that’s home.
In downtown Wellington just outside the central library (which remains closed pending resolution of the need for seismic strengthening), I was taken by the contrast between the old “Dominion Building” and the “Majestic Centre” behind it. I have mixed feelings about the trend to add one or two extra storeys onto the grand old ladies of the city. This building was once home to reports and editors (remember them?) and clattering linotype machines and thundering presses. Who knows what people get up to in the newer building.
A beautiful Autumn afternoon in Eastbourne and I was looking for shots across the harbour in the golden light. The Bluebridge ferry, Strait Feronia sailed in from Picton and presented a pleasant view of herself.
Without doubt, the white heron is the head of the preference chain for bird photographers in New Zealand. I am not sure why, but the Royal Spoonbill seems to come a long way down the pecking order. It is visually similar to the heron in most respects except for the extraordinary cartoon-ish bill. These were part of a cluster that seem to have made the Pauatahanui wetlands home.
Just to the North of Makara, is Mill Creek wind farm. It is a modest sized installation with 26 turbines along the coastal hills. On this day there was a light breeze, and I needed to use a neutral density filter to get the exposure down to 0.5 seconds for the blur on the slowly spinning blades.
There are many variations on the recipe for “mouse traps”. I love the ones Mary makes, though she has a lightning approach (never the same twice). This batch had sweet chilli sauce, ham, cheese, spring onions, and bell peppers. I had just started eating lunch when I realised their photographic potential. Mary has seen that look on my face countless times before, and she allowed me to interrupt the meal to catch the shot.
The gem squash does not appeal to me as food, though I like the symmetry and colours. These were taken in my “dark box” and I saw a certain astronomical aspect. Weird.
The honey bees have been busy in recent times and I was pleased to catch this one in between two lavender flowers.
Mary and I recently celebrated fifty two years of marriage. Wow! How did that happen? I have to say, I got lucky. Very lucky.
I recommend, as always, that you click on each image to see a larger version.
This edition was scheduled for 4 April, but various distractions held me up. Now it is Good Friday. To those who celebrate the season with me, I wish you a Happy Easter.
Oriental Bay Marina on a very nice morning. The boat sheds are reflected in the still water and a young couple come striding past with their dog.
Our neighbours have a trio of yucca plants at their front gate. They are spectacular during their all too brief flowering season.
From Lowry Bay looking across the harbour on a beautiful morning. The two kayakers in mid-harbour were taking advantage of the conditions and fishing. I am always surprised that the kayak is a sufficiently stable platform for this, especially if the fish is a big one.
Sitting in my car in the automatic car wash, I was intrigued by the patterns in the soap bubbles through which a far-flung outpost of Colonel Sanders’ empire was visible.
When the weather turned unpleasant I decided to play with some still life. I enjoyed this one. I wasted the minimum possible amount of wine, transferring it to the glass with an eye-dropper
The weather was a bit up and down, so whenever the water was still I seized the opportunity, even though I have done the same scene many times before.
Way back in 1951, during the great waterside strike, there were over fifty ships in port, with perhaps 20 of them alongside the wharves. Back in those days there was much more usable wharf space. These days, four modest sized ships seem to constitute a near full port.
Another weather opportunity grabbed. In Oriental Bay I liked the view back past the Carter Fountain. The red monstrosity in the lower centre is the “boat cafe”. It grieves me because it was once a very fine and powerful steam tug, the Aucklander, built on the Clyde in 1958. She supplemented the William C Daldy and the Te Awhina in guiding the big ocean liners of the day for the Ports of Auckland. She must have been amongst the last of the tugs powered by triple expansion reciprocating steam engines. My Dad took me down in her engine room and I was hugely disappointed that they were both cased in sheet steel with no visible moving parts and lacked the elegance of the visible castings of earlier years.When its time was up, the Auckland Harbour Board sold it to a Wellington business and now it’s a darned restaurant. Bah!
The hedge outside our kitchen window was recently trimmed, thus depriving the various bees of access to the flowers. Despite this, the bees were able to locate the few remaining blooms and I could locate the bees through the open kitchen window with a long lens.
A recent series of still foggy mornings allowed me to catch spider webs covered in the morning dew. There are so many varieties of web and this was my favourite on the day.
The Point Howard Marina was just perfect from my perspective. The water was a perfect mirror and the sea mist hid the city and its hills.
This little fizz-boat with its two 90hp Evinrudes scarcely ruffled the surface as the owner set out on his trip.
Warmest greetings to any who still read my ramblings. I am honoured and pleased that you still visit my page. There have been a few memes in circulation that bid a scornful farewell to 2021 and wish for a better year in 2022. My immediate response was “blessed are they that wish for nothing, they shall not be disappointed.”
As I enter my 78th year, I am aware that I have not done a good job of keeping fit as some my friends and colleagues of similar years have done. My fault, no one else is to blame. I hate and resent being nagged, so my nearest and dearest have backed off unless there is an immediate danger or I really annoy them. In short I take each day as it comes.
Some days I feel it’s worth getting my camera out. Other days not so much. Given the somewhat mixed weather in the last month I am starting the year with fewer images than I would usually hope to share.
Let’s see what we have.
In the days before Christmas, Mary was very busy baking for family, friends and neighbours. She does superb shortbread, both plain and with ginger. She also does excellent ginger biscuits (in the British use of the word). On one of those wet days back then, her baking served as a substitute subject for my camera. They tasted as good as they looked, though I risked life and limb getting in the way of the baker.
This has been a strange approximation of summer, and on many days only the numbers on the calendar looked like summer. If we get serious wind for several days, then the ocean swells become worth a look. In this instance the view is across the harbour entrance
Transmission Gully has been almost ready, it seems forever. It is still almost ready, and the current narrative is that it is stalled while issues with stormwater drains are resolved. I suspect that we may be able to drive on it by Easter or perhaps mid-year. In case you are away from home, Transmission Gully runs from just North of Paekakariki, up through the hills behind Battle Hill Farm Park and down to Pauatahanui Village where there is an exit that joins the Haywards Hill road to get to the Hutt Valley, or continues on behind Porirua to rejoin the old SH1 at Tawa.
I have recently become fascinated by the many tiny but beautiful flowers/weeds that grow around home. This particular pest is called Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris) … lawn enthusiasts hate it. When you get close, it is quite pretty. We have deduced that the birds are at fault. They spill the seeds that Mary puts out to encourage their presence.
Way back in 1954 when my family first migrated to New Zealand, it was unusual to see other than British cars. There were a few American cars, the odd Ford V8, the big Chevrolets and a Chrysler or two. Europe was represented by the Volkswagen and the odd Mercedes and Citroen, but the very idea of a Japanese car was completely novel. Most private cars were British. There were Austin, Morris, Hillman, Humber, Vauxhall, Riley, Wolseley, Jaguar, Armstrong Siddley, Allard, Bristol, Ford, Land Rover and so on. This weed covered wreck on the Wainuiomata coast road is a 1948 Hillman Minx. It had an 1,100cc motor and in its prime could accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in about 55 seconds. They were gentler and slower times.
A visit to our green-fingered friends in Waikanae gave me access to this beautiful wall of blue. If my identification app is correct, this is “Mealy sage”, a member of the Salvia family. I like blocks of solid colour.
My gifted assistant (Mary) found this snail at the door. We placed it on a lettuce leaf which may not have been to its taste, because it immediately began to leave. Not sure what it would have preferred. Sadly it kept moving, waving its various stalks so it was hard to get everything sharp.
Just as the shape of cars has evolved, so too have styles in marine architecture. I mourn the disappearance of the beautiful curving sheer lines on big ships, and the disappearance of the graceful curves on pleasure craft. This sad old yacht in the Clyde Quay marina looks long neglected. On the other hand, with a good suit of sails she would still look like a racer.
A near calm day at the West Wind wind farm saw the turbine blades just ticking over, and probably not generating any useful output. I decided not to make a single long exposure, but rather to make several exposures with the blades in different parts of their cycle. I then merged them at home. The result is not perfect but at least interesting.
That’s all for the first post of the year. A nice slow start as in times gone by. Constructive feedback is always welcome. As always thanks for being with me, and I wish you all the happiest of new years.
Somehow, this has been the most protracted miserable spring I can remember. I don’t want to be one of those people whose first and only topic of conversation is always the weather. On the other hand, for a landscape photographer, most of the best images are made in conditions governed by the weather.
Likewise, Covid-19 should not be the focus of my thinking. Nevertheless, the restrictions imposed for our protection have undoubtedly changed the way we live, the places we can go and the people we can visit. I don’t resent the measures one little bit. Indeed I am grateful for what I regard as a government that has been among the best in the world in terms of the care taken for us. They have made mistakes, but which government hasn’t?
So where is the focus of my thinking (inadvertent pun)? As far as I can tell, it is to encounter the world in the places where I live and to celebrate its beauty. I seek it even in the ordinariness of everyday life. This means many of the images I make are mediocre, and in my judgement relatively few are high quality images. So be it.
Misty mornings in calm conditions offer striking views. The harbour entrance is framed by Pencarrow on the left and Miramar Peninsula on the right, with Ward Island in the middle. The sharp line of the horizon contrasted with the incoming weather adds beauty.
The boat sheds at the Hutt River estuary don’t often catch my eye from the Eastern side. Mist on the Western Hills make for a different background. The old familiar workboats, JVee, Sandra II and Maria sit placidly at their moorings.
After the rain, nature adds a cascade of sparkling jewels to the early spring leaves on our Japanese Maple. This particular maple is somewhat confusing as it offers red leaves in Spring and again in Autumn.
The sweeping lines of Tanya Ashken’s “Albatross” fountain have always been pleasing to my eye. Whether or not the fountain is in action, the sculpture is appealing. When it is not flowing, and if there is no wind, it provides some interesting reflections of the various light standards.
Oriental Bay is a popular spot on Wellington’s waterfront. It has sandy beach imported from Golden Bay by means of barges and diggers. The current sweeping around the bay tends to scour the sand so that it must be replenished each year. Happily, Golden Bay has lots of sand. When the sun shines, the bright young things work on their tan there, or perhaps play beach volleyball. On this day, the sun was making a partially successful attempt to light the scene, but the the mist on Te Ahumairangi Hill was catching my attention.
I always hope that misty conditions will result in better images than I achieve. I shall keep trying. Somehow, I hope that the grey conditions will speak. Sadly, it is not always true.
Up the hill behind the parliamentary precinct is the suburb of Thorndon. One of the city’s oldest suburbs, Thorndon was built when easy pedestrian access to the city centre was more important than ease of vehicle access, or even cheap construction costs. The little enclave to the North of Bowen Street is a village in its own right. Its occupants know the instant an outsider is in their neighbourhood, and perhaps understandably, scowl at photographers.
We had a few rough days recently with ocean swells in the region of six or seven metres. The authorities asked people to avoid the South Coast where large rocks were being hurled up on the road. A few days later, I ventured out when I judged it was safe to do so and not posing a nuisance to clean-up efforts. At the harbour entrance, the container ship Nefeli was heading for the shelter of the harbour mouth.
One of my favourite forms of bad weather is when the sea produces long slow swells. It reminds me of my long forgotten lessons in Physics 101 concerning wavelength, velocity and frequency. I know the sea will be spectacular when the time between wave tops is around ten seconds
The people walking along Petone Beach had thrown a stick into the harbour, and their large German Shepherd was faithfully retrieving it. In the background, the murky weather was canceling anything further than Matiu/Somes Island
As I said at the outset, I am hopeful of better weather soon, though the ten day forecast is mediocre at best. This view towards the city shows Miramar Peninsula on the left and Mt Victoria hazily in the middle. It seems to be raining in the city. So be it.
Alaster Benn is a softly spoken Scot who is a passionate musician as well as a superb landscape photographer. He makes his living at least in part by teaching photography. I purchased and downloaded a course from him with the improbable title of “Dodging and Burning Masterclass”. I crudely summarise this course as about reacting to the landscape, and about steering your audience towards sharing your experience.
You can find him on YouTube where, as well as his many tutorials, he has produced an excellent series of interviews with other great landscape photographers. The interview series is called “Vision and Light”. There are at least 32 episodes in this series. If you have a hankering to make landscape images, I recommend you seek out his work on YouTube. He has helped me greatly.
I should add that because of the recent Covid lockdown, the images I am offering in this edition are mostly not landscapes. Any shortcomings in these pictures are mine and mine alone and should not reflect badly on Alaster or any others from whom I have taken guidance. Besides, I have so far watched just six of the twenty six chapters in this particular course.
Spring has arrived in Wellington according to the calendar and as shown by nature. Daffodils give me pleasure, in the elegance of their trumpets, and in their spectacular choice of colours. I seem to make similar shots at this time most years. Having done this before, should I refrain from doing it again? Or do I try to capture anew, the pleasure I take in this year’s encounter with an old friend?
I almost passed this by. It was Mary who saw it and drew it to my attention. The turkey tail fungus (Trametes versicolor) was hiding in plain sight. They seemed at first sight to be brown. I came back the next day with the intent to see what I might achieve with the shapes of the fungus. And then through the viewfinder, I saw the colours. How had I not seen this the first time round? Pointing the camera at things that excite you is a rewarding exercise, and it paid off this time.
The fungus in the previous image was found in the Rhododendron Dell in the Belmont Recreation Reserve. Though not yet at the peak of their season, the rhododendrons in the dell are quite spectacular, and are accompanied by a happy display of daffodils.
Certain kinds of weather discourage landscape photography. The light is flat and uninteresting, and the conditions are unpleasant outside. If the the light was interesting, I might brave the chill and damp. It wasn’t so I played with some of Mary’s collection of ornaments. It’s not a great image, but I like it, and had fun creating it, and that’s why I pick up the camera in the first place.
As the unpleasant conditions continued, I stretched even further in my search for photographic opportunity. This is a pottery candlestick holder, with a lit candle providing the somewhat sinister light through holes around the eyes and the beak. So the question I need to ask is, do I like the image, and additionally, why do I like or dislike it? That might boil down to “should I have made it?” Well I had fun making it. It’s not an image I would hang, but I quite like it. And that opens my eyes to the idea that photographic value is not a binary condition. Images can give some pleasure without having to be a masterpiece.
There was a time when Lower Hutt took enormous pride in its public gardens and every berm and traffic island in the CBD was covered with superbly laid out gardens. As each batch of flowers reached the peak of its display, the city gardeners would be planting the next species for a completely different and equally brilliant display. And then the city administrators placed a higher value on the cost than on the enormous pleasure and pride that the gardens brought. Suddenly our city looked bleak and brutal. In recent times, there has been a loosening of the grip and I am seeing some interesting planting around the CBD and especially near the civic buildings. This splash of lurid green attracted my attention, though I didn’t know what it was. It turns out to be Euphorbia. Colour and form make it appealing to me.
Riddiford garden has been a feature of the civic area near the town hall of Lower Hutt since 1923, so for almost a century. There was a half-way reasonable day so I decided to meander through it looking for any eye-catching views. There were many individual plants that I liked , but this tree on the Eastern side of the garden had real character.
Another rough day and I was not inspired to venture outside. Still life is often an excuse for lack of willingness to face discomfort. Anyway, we have this little brass bell that belonged to my mother. She used it to summon help in her last days at home. I polished it up and placed it on a silver tray.
In downtown Wellington, on the site of a former petrol station, a new headquarters building is being erected for BNZ. It will replace the other brand new headquarters building that was irreparably damaged by the Kaikoura earthquake in November 2016. The predecessor was demolished in the last year after sitting unusable for some years. Anyway, as I walked down Featherston Street, I stopped to watch frames for the new building being lifted from the deck of the truck on which they came. My eye was caught by the cab of the tower crane doing the big lifts. That’s not a clumsy vignette on my part. There is a streak of cloud aligned with the crane’s boom.
Bluebridge operate two ferries between Wellington and Picton in competition with the Interislander line which currently runs three. I was coming back to my car on Customhouse Quay and saw the Strait Feronia arriving from Picton. By the time I got in position, she was moving backwards at a smart clip ready to lower her stern ramp. I was intrigued at the almost total absence of any visible turbulence from the propeller.
I looked down on the city from the parking lot in front of the Cotton Building at Victoria University of Wellington. The Carter Fountain in Oriental Bay added some brightness to an otherwise chill Spring morning
In the North East Corner of the harbour is the Seaview Oil Terminal where various tankers call to offload petrochemicals and other more scary chemicals to be piped into the tanks at the various terminals around Seaview. I like the curve of the deck and the blue sky is OK too.
So endeth another edition. I really must make progress with the course.
It has never been my intention to have ponderous photographic aspirations. Instead, I want to understand what moves me and why, and photograph it well. Like most people who want to be creatives, I get pleasure when my family and friends, or others who I respect express approval of my efforts. On the other hand, before I share my work with you, it needs to meet my own expectations first.
I have been casting an eye on what images I have chosen to share with you recently. To nobody’s great surprise they have been mostly landscapes in the Wellington Region, ships, the sea when it is either flat calm or wild storm, birds or flowers. It’s a very rare occasion that I shoot people. I never do glamour, and very rarely do abstracts. I often have lively curiosity about the subjects I shoot, and like Alister Benn’s idea of pointing the camera at things that excite me.
Why those topics, you might ask. The only answer I can give, is that that’s who I am. Those genres appeal to me. If I get better at making those kinds of image, I’m happy. So let’s see how I did in this edition.
Mid July and the weather has been up and down. We had a wonderful string of calm days and some really rough ones. On this morning, things had calmed down and the freighter Ken Jyo was anchored in the harbour waiting for a place at the berth where they load logs. I loved the glittering sea in contrast to the solid bulk of the ship.
An unexpected visit from our middle son Drew came with a nice bouquet to mark Mary’s birthday. To my eye, it was a very attractive arrangement, though, as always, the greatest joy was having our son home, however briefly.
The Tui is a native honeyeater from New Zealand. At first sight it looks black apart from the white ruff which caused the colonists to name it “the parson bird”. But it is not black. Its plumage is a glorious irridescent mixture of brown, blue and green with flecks of white.There was a time when they were relatively rare. I think a careful management programme has resulted in a significant boom in their numbers.I love to see them as they have a beautiful song of their own as well as being capable of mimicking cell-phones or reversing trucks.
The Daphne is a pretty shrub, popular with gardeners around the world, including in New Zealand. Unfortunately, I struggle to make appealing images of it, even when its flowers are in good condition. I decided to try using it in conjunction with a sheet of florist’s tissue. It helped, after a fashion, but not one of my better shots
The Waiwhetu Stream winds its way down pleasant suburban landscapes on the Eastern side of the the Hutt Valley from the slopes above Naenae until it reaches the light industrial area at Gracefield. Once it passes under Seaview Road it is contained within concrete embankments and the charm evaporates. Except for a hundred metres on the Southern side adjacent to the Owhiti Urupa (cemetery). The black swan added to the appeal of this view of that stretch. I was astonished to learn that after being almost eliminated from New Zealand, they were deliberately reintroduced from Melbourne in the 1860s, presumably as game birds. There are now about 50,000 of them in New Zealand.
After assisting the coastal tanker Matuku to its berth at the oil terminal, the two local Damen 2411 tugs Tapuhi (nurse) and Tiaki (carer) then set out on the return journey to their home berth in the city. Tiaki is seen here hurrying along the coast of Matiu/Somes Island . My friend and well know photographer Simon Woolf expresses the view that a significant patch of red in an image is usually a positive influence on the opinion of a photographic judge. Having stepped down as an accredited judge myself, I am less interested than I used to be in the opinions of judges, but I think he is right.
This one is hands down my favourite shot in this edition, I don’t know if it is the best shot, but it is the one I like the most. And that, my friends is what I believe counts the most. So why? Firstly, the camera is pointed at a subject that is of interest to me. Secondly, the scene is still and the image is sharp. Thirdly the image is simple and unambiguous. We can all see what the subject of the image is. Yes, I like it.
Across the inlet from Ivey Bay are the boat sheds on the Camborne walkway. The poet, Sam Hunt lived in one of those at some time. The walkway behind them goes from the beach at Camborne around the shoreline to Grays Road on the Northern shore of the inlet. It is a favourite walk for dog owners though the rules about leads are often flouted. On days such as this one I find the scenery to be magical, and it’s not often I look at it from the other direction.
During a brief stay in Dammam, Saudi Arabia some thirty years ago, I encountered the story of a British expatriate who came close to being strangled by his compatriots because he greeted them at the bus stop every morning with “well, I see it’s turned out nice again!”. In case you are unaware, almost every day in Saudi Arabia “turns out nice again”. Nevertheless, I understand the obsession with the weather because the weather governs the light, and light governs photography. So, we had some weather recently. Strong Southerly winds and even snow in the Remutakas made for interesting conditions. Heavy swells breaking across the road in Lowry Bay make commuting interesting.
The New Zealand fantail is a favourite, perhaps because it flits so close to people walking. I believe this is because they chase the insects that are stirred up by the passing of humans. They are pretty little songbirds. This one seemed to be hiding behind the dead stalk of a nearby flax bush.
A feature of the Queen Elizabeth II Park at Mackays Crossing is the memorial to the members of the United States Marines who were based there in transit to the war in the Pacific. These little profiles represent the hundreds of huts that stood on this ground almost eighty years ago.
That will suffice for this edition. I might see you next time.
After some mysterious point, the ageing process suddenly starts forcing certain changes. No longer can I hop confidently from rock to rock. Nor can I clamber down steep slopes. The only way in which my spatial awareness has improved is in my knowledge of the direction and distance to the nearest public toilet.
These gradual changes have made their presence felt in my photography. I started thinking about this after a consultation with a health practitioner recently. She suggested I might be losing my enthusiasm for photography. I rejected that idea vigorously, but realised that the kind of the images that I observe are being brought about by the gradual changes brought on by age. Most obviously, I find myself treading old familiar paths and more rarely finding the energy or enthusiasm for long trips to new places.
When the sky is clear and blue and the water mirrors it back, Oriental Bay has a special charm. I prefer the openness of the old Clyde Quay Boat Harbour to the regimentation of the Chaffers Marina on the city side of the wharf. On this particular day, I was tempted to hang my camera underneath the tripod as close to water level as possible. I know that the green algae on the concrete ramps down to the water has an evil reputation for being slippery. In keeping with the increasing caution I mentioned earlier, I was edging gingerly towards the water when a janitor called out and warned me that two others had already slipped and come close to taking an unexpected swim that morning. I find that the heightened risk awareness limits my mobility even further, so I didn’t quite make it to the water’s edge. Incidentally, if you want to moor your boat there, the annual fee is NZ$1,293.
The next image was made without leaving home.This magnificent bird was munching happily on the fresh leaves of a kowhai tree less than two metres from our front door. I saw it through the window so very quietly unsnibbed the front door and let it swing slowly open. I stayed well back from the door and used the long lens to get close to a bird that was very near to begin with.
Again, close to home I went over the Wainuiomata Hill and down the coast road to the beach. It was a frosty morning, which happens less often than it used to in my opinion. Anyway, on the way, a small herd of alpaca was casting long shadows and defrosting patches of grass.
Certain weather patterns raise the idea of going to places that have been previously successful in similar weather. Mist suggests a trip to the Wairarapa, or perhaps the upper valley or maybe Evans Bay. Calm water prompts me to go to the Hutt estuary, Pauatahanui, Oriental Bay or again Evans Bay. Strong Southerly wind takes me to the beach on the Wainuiomata Coast, or anywhere along Wellington’s rocky South coast.I suppose that the region’s folded landscape constrains human access to places where roads can more easily be made, leaving the ridge lines free to be farmed or to remain in native bush. And so it is that the number of accessible photo sites is fewer than the overall land area might suggest. On this occasion, the stillness took me to the Hutt River estuary. There, I struggled to to make an image different to those made in my many previous visits. Down low and select just one of the small boats, perhaps. A splash of red is always worth having.
High tide or low, I love the Pauatahanui Inlet. Of course, I prefer it when there is no wind, and the water is totally still as it was on this day. Well done to the Porirua City Council and its various sponsors who now have a well made walkway beside the water along the entire length of Grays Road from Pauatahanui Village to the Camborne Walkway. Even when the bird life is modest, I love the reeds that lend such colour to the landscape.
A trip to the Waikanae Estuary brought me close to this kingfisher. It was sitting on a branch beside the road. I didn’t even have to get out of the driver’s seat to make the image. Apparently this fellow is well known locally and is not as skittish as most kingfishers I have encountered.
Pauatahanui is not only a place that you have to pass through on your way north up SH1 from the Hutt Valley, but also a site worthy of visitation in its own right. Apparently there is a flock of royal spoonbills who hold a similar view. For them, the attraction may be the small mud crabs which number in the thousands per square metre. Not for me though, to deny them the enjoyment of the visual beauty of the place.
At Paremata on the South Western end of the Pauatahanui inlet where the water passes under the motorway and rail bridges to the Porirua Harbour, is Ivey Bay. It provides sheltered moorings for some of the old classic motor launches. From Camborne on the opposite shore, it provides a lovely view of the little known suburb on Moorhouse Point. I knew murky weather was imminent, so had to take advantage of conditions such as these. Blue skies are well enough, but the quilted effect of the clouds really appeals to me.
And then came the rough weather. I stayed home. Perhaps this is part of that decreasing appetite for discomfort and adventure. Happily, Mary had recently celebrated a birthday and I got very close to the inner workings of a lily which was part of a bouquet she had received. Not being gifted with a green thumb, I have not bothered to familiarise myself with the reproductive organs of flowers, but the lily is quite spectacular. I know that the anthers (the rough brown bits) leave a vicious almost indelible stain on fabrics. Handle with care.
After the worst of the storm passed, the weather was still murky, and it was utterly unappealing to wander out. So this image was shot from the front door looking across the valley along High Street towards Naenae.
If memory serves (and it doesn’t always) this old girl (NZ7004) entered RNZAF service in 1969. As with the rest of the five-strong fleet, it underwent major life-extension upgrades in the first few years of the new century, and is now fated to be replaced by much more capable C130J aircraft beginning in 2024. I love the condensation around the tips of its massive propellers in the moist conditions as the captain pushes the throttle levers forward.
A very pleasant lunch with friends in Waikanae allowed us to see early daffodils. I always regard them as one of the first portents of spring. In mid-late July, this is perhaps a bit optimistic, and there is probably plenty of rough weather to come before the season of lambs and new growth. These flowers from the garden of our friends are of the King Alfred variety.
Back to where we began, though from the other end of that little harbour. Last Friday Wellington was still and bright though a little hazy. Again, I was very cautious about walking on the green algae at the water’s edge so this image was made from a higher viewpoint.
Rear Admiral Victor Montagu apparently proposed this design as a standard workboat for the Royal Navy in 1890. Originally there was no engine housing inboard, nor was there a mount for an outboard hanging off the stern as on this one. Sailing was done with a fore and main mast, and rowing was with six oars and a coxswain at the tiller. They served with the navies of Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand in these roles until as late as 1970, and to this day remains in use by many youth organizations. I have always loved the elegant simplicity of the design. This one in the Clyde Quay Boat Harbour and the one in Evans Bay have been shot by me on many prior occasions.
And then came the calamity. It was, as you can see, a beautiful morning so I began crossing the carpark on Clyde Quay Wharf to see whether there might be some useful reflections in Chaffers Marina. With my eyes fixed firmly on the boats ahead, I missed the fact that there were some barriers on the ground to stop cars from banging into the electric charging stations. Whoops! I crashed to the ground and to add to my pain, I heard the camera and tripod bounce beside my head.
I lay there for a minute or so before some other seniors came rushing over to my rescue. To be honest, I needed their assistance to get up. I was assisted to a seat nearby where I gathered my scattered wits and checked the hardware. As the old cliche has it, ageing is not for sissies. Be assured that I am well, though going to a physiotherapist this afternoon. Photos will continue to be made.