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March 13, 2021 … Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth*

I begin this edition with a tribute to a valued friend and long time reader who died last month. George Combs Berger, Lt Col USAF (Ret) died on 2 Feb 2021 aged 98. In my experience, George was the ultimate gentleman, and was a frequent and very generous contributor to the earlier versions of WYSIWYG News back when we paid an assistant to format the news. He and his late wife,Patricia had a particular affinity with New Zealand and most years he would attend the ANZAC ceremony at the Washington National Cathedral, and then post me the printed programme from the service. George told me the story of him flying a B47 Stratojet bomber across the Atlantic to the UK and having its generators fail mid-journey. He turned off everything that could be done without, and arrived at the RAF base with barely sufficient battery power to illuminate his navigation lights. My condolences to his family. He will be missed. Rest in peace, my dear friend.

Photographically it has been a mixed period. I was quite pleased with myself, almost smug in the previous issue. This time some of my shots have fallen back into the mediocre category but, what the heck, keep shooting.

Ferry and the fisherman

I have made similar shots to this one many times before. On this occasion Kaitaki was leaving the harbour, hotly pursued by a fisherman in a “fizz boat”. As with my similar prior shots, the attraction to me was the delightful “blue on blue” of the clear sky over a calm sea.

Surface confusion

Across the harbour on this near perfect day, a young couple were setting out fishing from Lowry Bay in their little boat. Across the harbour, anyone with a nostalgic connection with Victoria University of Wellington will see the red brick of the old Hunter building above the yellow buoy on the left.

An extremely rare selfie

It has long been part of our family tradition to make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. Our kids always loved this, and we are passing it on to the grandchildren, or at least those who live close enough to join in. This year, Mary had other commitments on the day so I brushed off long neglected skills. To my great delight, I had not lost the knack of tossing them from the pan, and contrary to the skepticism of some friends did not spoil or lose any. The device in my left hand is my iPhone which I used to trigger the camera on its tripod. Who says men can’t walk and chew gum at the same time?

Hawkweed flowers

I always thought they were dandelions. Apparently not. These are hawkweed or more scientifically, Hieracium. These examples were found on a riverbank in Wainuiomata

Days Bay Ferry

Unless the weather is really rough the two little catamarans, Cobar Cat and City Cat scuttle across the harbour on a regular schedule carrying tourists and commuters between the Queen’s Wharf terminal in the city and the jetty at Day’s Bay. They drop in at Matiu/Somes Island for people who wish to explore the island (highly recommended), and on a few trips, they divert to the jetty at Seatoun. One is seen here approaching Day’s Bay as observed from Lowry Bay.

Paremata Boat Sheds

In many parts of the world, it seems to be a tradition that any collection of boat sheds should be painted in motley colours. The sheds at Paremata follow this plan, and each owner seems to have had their own pot of leftover paint to use up. This is seen from across the inlet at the Pauatahanui Wildlife sanctuary.

Economy class

Over in Ivey Bay, there are some character-filled moorings where boats seem to sit and rarely move. I suspect that the owners have dreams of restoration that rarely come to fruition. I occasionally see the owners sitting on their deck beside the water, just basking in the pleasure of being there.

Military relics

Over the hill from Upper Hutt is the Mangaroa Valley where there are some old buildings which once served as part of the Maymorn military camp. If I understand correctly, they are long surplus to the needs of the defence ministry and have been given to the local iwi in part reparation for breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi. History hangs heavy on the buildings.It has been a long while since they saw any paint.

Moonlit bay

I rarely go out at night for photographic purposes. If conditions are still, I will carry my camera and tripod when I go to camera club and see whether there is anything worth shooting near the harbour after the meeting. On this particular night, I went down to Lowry Bay and looking to the North made this 40 second exposure. Despite the long exposure, the boat moved very little. Remember that boat. You might see it again.

Blue Globe Thistle

Our very good friends, Jane and Roy are superb gardeners and their home is often visited by the local garden circle. From my perspective, as one who avoids most forms of physical labour, I love their results but am unlikely to follow in their footsteps. I enjoy strolling around their property seeing all the unusual and interesting flowers. This specimen is a Blue Globe Thistle which I would not have known without the aid of which is right more often than it is wrong.

In stillness

It was a nice still morning at Petone, but I was struggling to find anything of interest. There is a set of small piles just to the Western side of Petone wharf. I speculate that they exist to hold an old stormwater outlet pipe in place. Anyway, I was intrigued by the multi-coloured weeds growing on the ancient timbers.

It’s that darned yacht again

A misty day in the city imposes a moody atmosphere. Not so much waves, but sharp ripples arrive on the beach at Lowry Bay. The mood was worth the effort, I think.

If you have no interest in aviation, please skip the next three images.


Last time I went to an airshow, I was disappointed and said I would probably not bother again. I backed down and joined my Son Anthony, daughter-in-law Sarah, and grandson Jack at the recent “Wings Over Wairarapa” airshow at Hood Aereodrome, Masterton. One of the highlights for me was the Yakovlev YAK-3U, a radial engined version of a Russian WWII fighter. It has a very powerful P&W R2000 engine and is extremely fast. In this shot you can see the condensate spiralling back from the tips of its propeller during a high speed run . The trails at the wingtips are made by oil burning.


The Yak pilot put on a masterful performance in a beautiful machine with an engine almost twice the power of the original. He zipped through the sky leaving smoke trails with which he made the most amazing patterns.

Age is no barrier

For the 2019 iteration of this air show, the US ambassador used his influence to persuade the US Air Force to do a fly-by with a B-52 on its way from its base in Guam to the much larger airshow at Avalon in Australia. Sadly, a mechanical malfunction meant that it didn’t arrive. So here we are again, and truth to tell, the promise of a B-52 was a strong influence in my decision to visit one more air show. It came from Avalon this time and was on its way back to Guam. The B-52 is notoriously smokey so its presence was visible long before the aircraft itself. They did three wide passes, including one with its bob doors open. I hope I am never beneath one when it does that in anger. I don’t want to glorify war or militarism, but this grand old machine is a tribute to its designers and builders, and to the brave crews that fly them.

When shall we three meet again?**

Mary has a sharp eye for things that might be photo-worthy. She saw the shed exo-skeletons of these three cicada nymphs all clinging to one little stick. Astonishing! I have never seen two together before, let alone three.

Help from the sky

This air ambulance was basking in the sun at Wellington Airport. Used mainly for the transport of patients between various specialist hospitals this Jetstream 400 makes a brave picture. Lurking behind it is the local search and rescue helicopter.

A rare visitor

Were this just a common white-faced heron, which is what I thought I had taken, I would have discarded this image. It wasn’t until I got home that closer examination showed I had caught a very rare reef heron. Apparently the total number of them in NZ lies between 300 and 500.

What, again?

Yes, it is that darned yacht again. The excuse for this image, however is that rainbow fragment behind it. You will be relieved to know that the yacht has since been moved from the open mooring into the nearby marina, so it no longer offers itself as a feature of the landscape.

The oil terminal

Sometimes, the light falling on the oil wharf lifts an otherwise banal structure and makes it quite attractive. I liked it anyway.

That will do for now. See you next time.

  • *High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, RCAF
  • **Shakespeare, Macbeth
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September 29, 2018 … to be in the same place but see it again

Since I last wrote, it has been a crazy couple of weeks. As an accredited judge for the Photographic Society of New Zealand, I get to view and assess entries for competitions held by other clubs. Now if only I could get my head together, I would not accept judging for three different clubs with results due all within the same three-week period.  I really must keep better records of what I have agreed to.  On the other hand, I get to see some superb work, and to be truthful, some work that is less  so.  So, an insanely busy period in which I still found time to go out and make a few images of my own.

New Zealand native wood pigeons (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae), or in Maori, kereru. If startled they depart with much thrashing of wings and clattering of broken twigs.

I didn’t have to go far for these two splendid wood pigeons who were busily demolishing a shrub a few metres from our front door. Part of the charm of these birds, apart from their irridescent feathers is their clumsiness on takeoff or landing. They seem to aim at a tree at full speed and stick out an arrester hook in the hope of catching a branch. Not so much a landing as a controlled crash is a phrase I have heard elsewhere.

One of the reflecting pools at the Supreme Court of New Zealand, stripped of distractions

A beautiful day in the city found me outside the Supreme Court building. I liked the reflecting pool but wanted the reflections without the passing traffic or pedestrians. I used the statistics feature of Photoshop. Basically this means taking several identical photos and then Photoshop extracts anything that is not present in all of the images. Thus the buses and the passers-by disappear. The only vehicle in the image was parked.

Litigants awaiting a hearing at the Supreme Court. Or perhaps they are just pigeons

I needed no such trickery for these two common pigeons sitting in the pool at the side of the same building.

George has come home for the season – welcome back White heron (Ardea modesta) or in Maori, kotuku

On the way home, I went to the Hikoikoi reserve at the Hutt River estuary where, to my great joy I renewed my acquaintance with “George”, our resident white heron returned after a long absence. I imagine that he has been down to their only known nesting colony in New Zealand at Waitangiroto near Whataroa. This is 450 km away  on the West Coast of the South Island. Welcome back, old friend.

Warp 5 Mr Sulu!

George is something of a character, and one of his favourite spots to rest as at the wheel of a derelict motor boat on a slipway in the reserve. If he had more flexible lips, I can imagine him at the wheel going “Brrrrrm, brrrrrm”.  Or perhaps he imagines himself as Captain Picard saying “make it so, Mr Data”

Wellington Botanic Gardens tulip display

It’s tulip time again. Although the gardeners are apologetic that the flowers are less than perfect this year, they looked fine to my eyes. One of the pleasures of retirement is the ability to visit the gardens at times when the crowds are small.

Flowering cherry display in the Aston Norwood Garden

A new discovery for me has been the Aston Norwood Gardens at the foot of the Remutaka Hill on SH2 just North of Upper Hutt. There has been a restaurant there for a long time, but the current owner has developed the gardens to a place of stunning beauty. Right now they are coming to the end of the cherry blossom season and I understand there are over 300 mature trees in the grounds. The result is magnificent.

Aston Norwood
Cherry blossom petals drift over the pond

I got down low, close to the surface of one of the several ponds on the property and with the aid of a neutral density filter made a long exposure (13 seconds) as the breeze pushed the fallen petals in interesting paths across the surface.

Aston Norwood
The Remutaka stream flows though the Aston Norwood Garden

The Remutaka stream runs through the property and again, the ND filter was used to good effect. I shall be visiting this place again (and again, and again)  as they have rhododendrons and camellias as well.

Finding another Dory – at Hikoikoi reserve

This little boat is a newcomer to the Hikoikoi reserve and I think it falls into the classification of a dory. I visited in the hope of seeing George, but he  was having an away day, so I looked for other subjects and was pleased to find this. It is a good example of going to a familiar place and seeing it with new eyes.  It’s a matter of pointing the camera at the bits of the landscape that constitute the picture you want to make, and leaving everything else out.

A breath of ice on a spring day

Despite all the signs of spring, the winter snow lingers on the tops of the Tararua range as seen here from Masterton in the Wairarapa.

And so

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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.


Adventure Animals Art Aviation Bees Birds Boggy Pond Children Cook Strait Festivals and fairs insects Lakes Landscapes Light Maritime Martinborough Masterton Masterton Rimutaka Forest park Rivers Sunset Upper Hutt Wairarapa Wellington

December 31, 2017 … closing the curtains on another year

I hope the year has been kind to you, as it mostly has for Mary and me.

From the lagoon – Wellington offers interesting views even n grey days

Since I last wrote, photographic opportunities have been variable, and there have been times when I have had to make my own luck. I prefer it if any water in the picture is not too ruffled. On this occasion the day was a bit drab so I went under the edge of the walkway bridge at the edge of the lagoon at Frank Kitts Park.

Defense HQ Demolition

Later in the day I had a coffee with our younger daughter Lena (long time readers will remember her as Helen) . Across the road from her place of work, the headquarters building for the Ministry of Defence is being demolished. It was supposedly strong enough to withstand a hit from a cruise missile. A Wellington earthquake was stronger so now, a year later, it is being reduced to rubble.

On Dry Creek Road – near Martinborough

Then there were days of such perfection that a road trip was needed. Over the Rimutaka Hill near Martinborough, conditions were very dry.

Royal spoonbills in mating plumage – Wairio Wetlands

A little further down the road from there, are the Wairio wetlands on the Eastern shore of Lake Wairarapa. There were a lot of Royal spoonbills browsing the ponds and they were wearing their breeding plumage.

Feliz navidad – the national flower of Christmas – the pohutukawa

Early in December, someone threw the switch that initiated the pohutukawa flowering season. Almost overnight, there were crimson blooms everywhere. I tried for a different take.

Ferries crossing – mid-strait

Another lovely evening with a golden sunset prompted me to go to Moa Point above the airport. The ferries Aratere and Kaitaki passed each other in the middle of the Cook Strait, and the Kaikoura ranges can be seen in the haze at the rear.

Hare’s Tail grass

Sometimes the simple things appeal. Backlit hare’s tail grass always catches my eye.

Unto us a child is born

Then it was Christmas. Mary and I like to attend the children’s Mass on Christmas eve, and this image is of our parish priest, Fr Michael carrying the statue of the Christ child to be installed in the crib. The sculptor was obviously unfamiliar with the actual dimensions and character of a newborn.


Passing through the city I caught a glimpse of the newly revealed  sculpture in the Pukeahu National War memorial. It is a gift from the people of Britain to the people of New Zealand, and is intended to represent the shelter formed as the royal oak and pohutukawa intertwine. It has had a mixed reception from the artistic community, but I quite like it.

Hutt River

And then another fine day in that lost period between Christmas and New Year. The Hutt River has a few interesting spots. This one is just on the corner near Totara Park in Upper Hutt.

slow and easy
Gladstone rush-hour

From there I went back over the hill to Gladstone, to begin with, where I encountered rush-hour traffic. This image is taken through the windscreen of my car which needed a clean.

Ripe Grain

I went from Gladstone via the back road to Masterton and was again attracted to a dry-looking field of ripe grain.

Sir Peter
BE-2C taking care not to run over the boss, Sir Peter Jackson – Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit … love the bare feet

As I was setting up my tripod for the grain, I saw some biplanes overhead and instantly knew that there was activity at the Vintage Aviator Limited, on Hood Aerodrome, Masterton. I drove there in all cautious haste and managed to wheedle my way onto the apron outside their hangar. It was apparently a private event for “friends of friends” so I was fortunate to be allowed inside the barriers. I got some shots I liked. This one captured the spirit of the event. A BE-2c taxiing slowly behind the boss, Sir Peter Jackson. He is the ultimate aviation nut and those of us who live near enough are grateful for the opportunities to see the magnificent work done by the Vintage Aviator Limited (TVAL).

Lake Wairarapa in a rare calm moment

From there I drove south via Boggy Pond and across the East-West link and then back up the Western Lake road where I caught this panorama of Te Moana Wairarapa (Lake Wairarapa). It was a stunning day.

Everything here has a sharp point … bee and thistle both

My last image for 2017 was captured at the Catchpool Valley in the Rimutaka Forest Park. We had to vacate the house while our real estate agent showed a potential buyer through. We think an offer may follow. Meanwhile, I saw a honey bee enjoying a Scotch Thistle.

And so the year is ended. Thanks to all who follow my somewhat self-indulgent rambling. Thanks to everyone who has offered supportive comments. Thanks for your company. Warmest wishes for a safe and happy new year in 2018. May it be your best year yet.



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February 1, 2017 … drifting without a rudder

A batch of competitors rush to the water in the Wellington Classic swim competition

Perhaps it’s the lack of a specific project, but I have made fewer images than usual in the week just passed. It was a while since I had done the South Coast so I went round Moa Point and the end of the airport and as I approached Lyall Bay saw a lot of people gathered on the beach. The coastguard vessel “Spirit of Wellington” was stooging around off the beach as were three surf rescue RIBs and several people on paddle boards. I stopped to look and realised it was some kind of swim event. Sure enough a signal was given and all these lemmings rushed into the water. It seems there is an annual event based at the Freyberg beach in the harbour, but the Northerly gale forced its relocation to Lyall Bay.

Pencarrow upper lighthouse

Around Palmer Head, I looked across the spry-covered harbour entrance to the upper Pencarrow light. This is the original one that was replaced for visibility reasons by the lower light which in turn was replaced by the light on Baring Head.

BE2c reconnaissance aircraft in its bleached Irish Linen scheme looks for all the world like a tissue-covered model

Later in the week, Anthony and I took Cooper over the hill to Masterton for an open flying day at The Vintage Aviator Limited. On these days, the pilots who want to keep or obtain type ratings on specific aircraft get to spend time flying the aircraft. It’s not specifically an airshow, but the joy of watching these museum class restorations and reproductions take to the air is amazing. Each aircraft is immaculate and presented as a specific aircraft at some verifiable moment in history.

The Clerget rotary engine at the front of a Sopwith Camel. Incredibly, the propeller is bolted to the engine and the whole engine spins around the stationary crankshaft which is fixed to the firewall. A bit of oil gets spread around, but all those drips will be cleaned off before it is tucked away for the night.

Cooper loved them all and spent the day wandering round with his notebook, writing down every marking and notice on each of the aircraft.

Architecture Birds Clive Masterton Weather

November 29, 2015 … to Hawkes Bay in the rain

Our niece is getting married today.

Old house
Farm building a little North of Masterton

As a consequence, we drove  to Clive, near Napier, yesterday. Unkind weather made the trip less pleasant than it usually is,but on the other hand offered some opportunities for mood shots. Most photographers at some stage have the “original” idea of photographing old farm buildings.So did I.

Hawk circling in the rain

Somewhere South of Dannevirke, I saw a distant possibility for a misty panorama. I took the shots, but was then distracted by a circling Australasian Harrier (Circus approximans) and decided it was a more interesting shot.


The temperature when we left Wellington was showing as 9 degrees on my car’s instrument panel. When we arrived in Napier, it was showing 29 degrees. A trip to the Clive Estuary was called for. Though there was less variety than I hoped for , I enjoyed an encounter with a New Zealand Pipit (Anthus novaeseelandiae).

White-faced heron in flight

White-faced herons were visible, but wary as always. This one made a rapid departure to the other side of the waterway.

More tomorrow.

Aviation Masterton

November 10, 2013 … age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn*

With some friends from the Camera Club, I went to two places yesterday.

I am going to write about only one of them. The school fair and Scarecrow festival at Gladstone in the Wairarapa was very nice, and in other circumstances would have got fair coverage. However the competition was the Remembrance Day Airshow put on by the Vintage Aviator collection at Hood Aerodrome in Masterton. And I offer more images in one day than in any previous edition. If aircraft are not your thing, please come back tomorrow.

The Allied lineup

You needn’t have been reading these for very long to know that I am a total aviation nut, so almost anything else takes second place. So, the airshow it is. This is an airshow like no other on earth. I seriously doubt that a similar specialized collection exists anywhere else.

The German lineup

The Vintage Aviator Collection consists of a mixture of restorations and reproductions of WWI aircraft. To the greatest extent possible, original parts are used, but where the originals are unavailable, they simply make new items to the original specifications. Their website outlines their many astonishing achievements.

I have a particular fondness for these. My grandfather, a cabinet-maker, spent the war making propellers for these and aircraft like it.

The line up outside the hanger is simply amazing. On the Allied side of the war, there are SE5As (3), a BE2c, BE2f, FE2b, Sopwith Pup, Sopwith Triplane, Sopwith Camel, Sopwith Snipe, Avro 504K, a Bristol F2B and a Nieuport Bebe.

Where else can you find six Fokkers like this?

On the German side, there are Fokkers galore. There Are DR1s (3), DVII and DVIII (2), as well as Albatros DII and Albatross DVas (2) and a Pfalz DIII. There is doped fabric, varnished wood and tight flying wires. There are authentic colour schemes exact replicas of famous aircraft flown by famous war heroes.

The propeller is behind the pilot and the gunner in front. All very well untill you were attacked from the rear

And lest we forget these are fighting machines with a lethal purpose. Young men went to war in machines just like these. The bombs and guns were not dummies and their intention was to kill the enemy.

This has the look of a hand crafted yacht rather than a fighting killing machine

At the start of the war, the aircraft were slender fragile objects By 1918, they had acquired some muscle and bulked up considerably.

Bristol F2B
Near the end of the war this very large fighter had a big V12 Rolls Royce engine and it was a joy to hear it overhead yesterday

To my pacifist friends, I am sorry, but the achievements in this field of endeavour have always fascinated me.

Albatross DVa
The moulded ply fuselage is a thing of great beauty

I have admiration for the engineering feats, for the problems overcome, for the imaginative use of materials. Above all, I have admiration for the astounding courage of those who flew these aircraft.

Sopwith Pup
Some aircraft did well but lacked the fame of others. The Pup was soon outclassed and was superseded by more powerful and agile planes

So many different solutions to the problems encountered resulted in a great variety of aircraft of differing shapes, sizes and purposes, but all required great courage to fly.

The BE2F
The F variant of the BE2 was more powerful than the C, but was no match for the agile German fighters

Some were agile and powerful others were slow and lumbering and needed protection by other aircraft.

FE2B escorted by SE5A
I liked the highlights on the wings

Even without the guns and bombs, these things could kill you if mishandled. I have read that more Sopwith Camel pilots died in training than were shot down by the enemy.

The Sopwith Camel
A deadly weapon with a skilled pilot, it was also the downfall of many less skilled aviators

It was almost impossible for the novice pilot to recover from a spin in a Camel, and at some stages of the war, the life expectancy of the pilots was such that most were novices.

Sopwith Snipe
Another 1918 aircraft, the Snipe replaced its older brother, the Camel

At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them“*

*Ode to the fallen, by Lawrence Binyon

Light Masterton Railway Trentham Weather

October 23, 2013 … wandering in the wet

Apologies. I wrote this on time, saved it in draft and then forgot to post it, so it’s a day late. The photos were taken on schedule, though. 

In wet weather, I went looking for images yesterday.

My wandering took me to Silverstream over Blue Mountains Rd to Whitemans’ Valley. Soft grey drizzle isn’t a total loss, and the wind had abated.

There are thousands of old and decaying buildings on farms around New Zealand. My guess is that it would cost more to remove them than any benefit gained. On the other hand, there must be many acres of otherwise useful land cluttered by the remains of old buildings. But how much less interesting would our landscape be, devoid of these charming references to our past? 

At the end of its days
This old farm shed serves no useful purpose any more

This old shed has finally succumbed to the ravages of time.  I have no idea if it fell or was pushed. As I was tidying the image up, I was tempted to remove that white blob in front of the shed. The closer I look, the more I think it is some kind of domestic rabbit – a large white rabbit with erect black ears.

Looking down on the prison
A regrettable necessity

Coming back over the hill I paused to look up the valley. Down below the Rimutaka Prison occupies a regrettably large part of the landscape, while the large green expanse in the mid ground is the Trentham racecourse.

Pretty Pinehaven
This little valley is isolated from the main transport corridors

Further down Blue Mountains Road, there was a view-window in the pines that looks out over the suburb of Pinehaven. It’s pretty to look at, but too much shade in winter, and too much fire-risk in summer for my taste.

Homebound commuters
It’s a long haul from Wellington to Masterton, but less stressful than driving over the hill


Following the road behind the defence area at Trentham, I came onto Ward Street at Wallaceville, just as the evening train to Masterton was approaching. The glint of its headlights on the damp rails caught my eye.

That’s the day.

Castlepoint creativity Landscapes Machinery Maritime Masterton night Trees Wairarapa

June 9, 2013 … there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing, is there?

The problem with a  photographic road trip is that you have to be careful what you wish for.

My trip with Brent, my co-conspirator, exceeded my expectations in many ways. Mary is away for a few days , so Brent and I planned a trip to Castlepoint, in the Wairarapa.

The sole purpose of our trip was to enable us to indulge our mutual passion for photography.  Other than the broad geographic target area, there were no pre-planned objectives. We set out early on Saturday morning and despite a shaky forecast for the weekend, enjoyed near perfect weather. Once over the Rimutaka Hill, we decided to take the long way, so went down to Martinborough and Longbush, to follow the picturesque back road to Masterton.

South Wairarapa landscape
Counting sheep is easy … count the legs and divide by four

This is lush farmland, and that which is not in grapes, is usually busy growing sheep or cows. If you have a look close at the first picture above, you will see an amazing number of sheep in one paddock. Odd seasonal droughts aside, there are few places in the world that can offer stocking rates to match this.

Cyclists near Gladstone
For people who ride for fun they are certainly dressed for the job

Near Gladstone, we encountered a friendly bunch of recreational cyclists, and they were amenable to being photographed. Brent used his long lens, while I got down very low with a wide angle.

After a coffee in Masterton, we headed East along the road to Castlepoint and Riversdale. We had not gone far when Brent spotted a narrow side road lined with elm trees in glorious autumn colour. With our trusty tripods we began to make the most of the opportunity, and then had to hastily get out of the way to allow a farm vehicle to pass. The driver invited us to proceed further down the road onto the private property at the end of the road where he said there were even more.

Golden carpet
Like all things it will decay and make way for the new season

Oh glory! I have never seen such an opulent carpet as the thick layer of golden leaves along this farm track. And even as we watched, gusts of wind kept causing showers of leaves to drop.

A farm track near Masterton
Pure natural magic

The farm itself was beautiful and beyond the trees offered magnificent sweeping landscapes.

In memory of times gone by
Horse drawn implement

To my great pleasure, just over a fence in the cover of the trees was a sturdy piece of machinery which I believe to be a horse-drawn disc harrow.

On the road to Castlepoint
Enchanted landscape

Moving on to the East, we passed through some beautiful countryside, though as we neared the coastal hills things got steadily more rugged. After  a pleasant lunch at Tinui, we arrived at last at Castlepoint, where the first order of business was to look around to identify other opportunities.

Self-propelled boat cradle
They make a lot of noise and move slowly but no one gets wet launch or retrieving boats

Almost immediately I was captivated by the big self-propelled launching cradles used by the cray-fishing fleet, and was delighted to watch one retrieve its boat from the lagoon.

Of course, it is necessary to ascend the track to the lighthouse and around the rocks. These must be among the most photographed scenes on the East coast, and it is hard to avoid the traditional post-card views. I failed miserably.

Castlepoint lighthouse
Almost everyone who has been there has taken this shot

As we came back to the beach, we spotted a young German tourist who was risking getting her posterior wet as she crouched over her tripod while photographing a clump of seaweed in the waves. All photographers are required to be a little mad.

Risking it all for the shot
Photographers love to see what other photographers are up to

After dinner at our hotel, we came back to the beach to capture some of the wonder of the clear dark sky. There is hardly any light-pollution in the area so the stars stand out as I have not seen them for a very long time.  This image is a compromise, since it capitalizes on a fortuitous visit by a passing car which illuminated one of the boats and the rocks that enclose the bay. Please click on this image or you will miss the magnificence of the night sky.

The milky way over the Castlepoint rocks
Please click to enlarge this image

This journey will be continued tomorrow.

Aviation Masterton

January 21, 2013 … glory, glory, glory

Aviation heaven!

(If you don’t like aircraft, come back tomorrow). There was a time when “Wings Over Wairarapa” was a small and slightly amateurish airshow at a tiny provincial airfield. That image was blown out of the water yesterday.

Of course, it’s still a tiny provincial airfield, but in all other respects, it was a world-class air show. In those earlier times, the fees were correspondingly low. This time, adult admission was $55 per day. Before I got there I thought it expensive. With hindsight I would have paid double for what we got.

There has been an enormous amount of publicity given to the wonderful restoration of the de Havilland Mosquito. Of 7,781 built, this FB 26 is now the only flying example anywhere in the world. And she is utterly gorgeous! Queen of the Skies ... Mosquito FB26This applies not only to her lovely lines, but also to the awesome howl of her two mighty Merlin engines at full throttle. I could rave on at length but if you want to know more, go here. Sadly, this was its last public flight in New Zealand before it is to be shipped to the United States to join its owner, Jerry Yagen in Virginia Beach, VA.

In such company as the Mosquito, anything else can expect to be overshadowed, and it was. However, there was another restoration of equal restoration value … that of an Avro Anson Mk 1 Bomber, the RAF’s first monoplane bomber with retractable undercarriage and internal bomb bay. This is the only flying example in the world, of the Mk1. Anson. Avro Anson Mk 1Amazingly, 8,138 of these light bombers were built. Like the Mosquito, this Anson is a superb restoration job, and I suspect it was done with far fewer resources than its more glamorous sister. It was a joy to watch.

Some old favourites were present, including the elegant Spitfire IX painted in the colours used by Kiwi ace, Al Deere. Supermarine Spitfire IX

Of course, Masterton is itself home to one of the world’s most amazing aircraft restoration industries, the astonishing “The Vintage Aviator Ltd”. They specialize in WWI aircraft, and it is truly amazing to look at a museum class reproduction that actually has drip-trays on the floor to catch the oil leaking from the engines since its last flight. Yesterday they contributed three SE5a fighters and three Fokker DR 1 triplanes, a Fokker DVII biplane, a Pfalz DIII as well as a Sopwith Triplane, an Airco DH5, and  Nieuport 11 Bebe, and of course the Sopwith Camel.  I cannot imagine any place on earth where there exists such a coherent collection of constantly airworthy aircraft of this era. SE5a and Fokker DR1 in a tiny part of a swirling dog fight And they are not shy about some seriously choreographed dogfighting.

Warbirds aerobatic teamMy least favourite part of airshows is the aerobatic teams. Yesterday this role was filled by a bunch of Harvards from the Warbirds based at Ardmore,  and the “Red Star” team with their Yak 52s. Against a mostly clear blue sky, they left some spectacular and picturesque trails.

The RNZAF participated with helicopters and transport aircraft. Except for anti-submarine and coastal patrols, we no longer have a military combat capability. Nevertheless, whenever the RNZAF bring one of their B757 transport aircraft to a show, they remember their fighter roots, and an aircraft flying at less than half of its maximum weight can really perform. RNZAF like playing fighters with their 757

There were other displays, including a formation of post war jets including the L39 Albatros, a pair of  de Havilland Vampires, and a Venom, and a BAe Strikemaster. But I have probably rambled too long. Anyone who would like to see more can follow this link (you don’t need to be a Facebook user to see this).A jet formation in the early stages of a loop

Just as the final fly past took place, my camera said “CARD FULL” … 1,600 images which required some ruthless culling.  It was an absolutely wonderful day which began cool, and ended in a blazing Wairarapa summer day with lots of sunscreen and water needed. The final flypast ... very moving indeed

Less excitement tomorrow.