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November 29, 2021 … with new eyes

That’s a fairly heavy handed reference to my cataract operation scheduled for later today, for which I have high hopes. So, for now, let’s see whether my metaphorical new eyes are making progress:

Improve each thing hour … (Isaac Watts)

Wellington’s Botanic Garden is always worth a visit in my opinion. Some seasons are more spectacular than others, but there is always something to see. I was too late for the tulips, but a few prolific Rock Rose shrubs were displaying nicely. and were attracting the Honey bees.

Primulaceae

There are seasons of the year when certain flowers have dominance. I love it when there are tulips or poppies for example. At other times, there are random displays of less spectacular species such as a cluster of primulas just above the duckpond. This particular bed of flowers contained a lovely variety of colours arranged in small geometric clusters.

Upstream

Just a little upstream from the duckpond, the creek runs between some stepping stones and the creates little rippling ladder of water which, to paraphrase the words of Alfred Lord Tennyson, sparkles out among the fern and bickers down a valley.

Love’s Labours Lost

Beside the steps to our front door, there is a collection of shrubs most dominant of which is the kowhai much loved by the kereru. As I get older, I find my gaze is directed downwards more. This is a self-defence mechanism to avoid trip hazards. It has the advantage that I spot treasures that, in the arrogance of my youth, I would have passed by. I have no clue which bird lost this egg, nor whether its loss was by accident or enemy action. However it came about this is as I found it under the kowhai shrub.

I’m called Little Buttercup

The weather has prevented lawn mowing for a week or two and consequently our lawn is rich with a splendid crop of buttercups and daisies. I am so glad that the American notion of the Home Owners’ Association (HOA) has never been a thing here. Buttercups have always presented a photographic challenge to me. I suspect this might be overcome by the use of a polarising filter to tame the reflections in the flowers. On this occasion I managed to get the surface of the petals reasonably exposed without the aid of the filters. I was a bit surprised after all these years on the planet, to learn that they are poisonous to humans and many animals.

Your best guess?

Many people wondered why I made pictures of new potatoes. If it helps, these little objects are about 1mm x 1.5mm x 2mm and in this case are firmly stuck to the painted surface at the top of a bedroom door. With no idea of what I was looking at, I posted this image to the FaceBook group, “NZ Bug Identification – Spiders, Insects etc”. Within minutes someone said those are the eggs of a Gum Emperor Moth. We have no gum trees nearby so I was baffled. We reasoned that if a gum emperor had laid them, it would be still in the room somewhere, so we started a more thorough search. Mary found it on a window sill

Gum Emperor Moth (female)

The Gum Emperor is among the most spectacular of the New Zealand Moths. This was a moderate example with a span of about 120 mm (about 4.75″). She was absolutely flawless, Like many moths she emerges with neither mouth parts nor waste disposal. Her sole function is to mate, lay eggs and then die. Sadly she found no male so the eggs duly withered and died and a few days later, so did she.

The source

We wondered where our Gum Emperor moth had come from , and the penny finally dropped. Mary had found a fallen eucalyptus branch which had a cocoon on it, and she thought I might wish to photograph it. I had forgotten about it, and in the meantime, the moth had emerged, laid eggs and died. Nature is so extravagant.

Treasure Flower

The wind was howling across the valley and I was waiting outside the War Memorial Library in Lower Hutt for Mary to collect a reserved book. This flower caught my eye and when I found an example that was in a relatively sheltered spot, set up to make the picture. I had no idea what it was, but should not have been surprised that it is yet another South African immigrant. It is Gizania riggers, or more commonly, Treasure flower.

Australian Shoveler

I need scarcely tell you that a favourite place is the wetlands at Queen Elizabeth Park near Paekakariki. I had been looking for the dabchick carrying its young on its back. I was unsuccessful on this particular day, but did catch this handsome Australian shoveler drake. Look at the length of that extraordinary bill.

Welcome Swallow

This image has a comic back story. Again I went to the bird hide at the Queen Elizabeth park wetlands. Although the door is normally closed with heavy magnetic catch, I couldn’t get in. I administered a hefty kick which should have opened it. It didn’t. Then a voice from inside asked me to wait a moment. There were sounds of hasty rearrangements followed by the bench being dragged away from the door. A few moments later an embarrassed young couple emerged red-faced and made themselves scarce. I felt guilty that I had interrupted them, but it gave me access to this view of the Welcome swallow which is beautifully coloured.

Ripples

The longest arm of the wetlands is surrounded by dense bush and when the water is relatively still, it reflects the green of the bush beautifully. This black shag cruised rapidly across and completed the picture for me. The closely spaced ripples made a beautiful background of black and green.

Parental duty

Then came the sight I hoped to see. The dabchick or weweia is a member of the grebe family. It is apparently rarely found in the South Island. Despite the glossy brown colours of the adult, the chicks are born with dark stripes on a white background. They are carried about in the plumage on the adult’s back until they get too big

Manuka

A visit to the home of daughter Lena and son-in-law Vasely let me see a beautiful manuka specimen. The intensity of the colour attracted me to make the image

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A small pine in the pot next to the manuka had what appeared to be prolific flowers. Closer inspection identified them as tin seed cones.

Before the eclipse

Last week there was the partial eclipse. We got lucky with relatively clear skies over the Hutt Valley. Early in the evening, the red moon rose in the North East and I made this image. Perhaps because I don’t have the very high quality optics and thus rarely do one of those amazing moon shots, I always like to capture some foreground. In this case we can see both sides of Stokes Valley and in the background, the foothills of the Tararuas. Later in the evening when the eclipse proper occurred, the moon was higher in the sky and was obscured by clouds at our place.

That’s all for now. Might see you again in a few weeks.

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October 2, 2021 …just enjoy the process

Why, is the recurring question. Why do I persist in creating this blog, even when others are declaring that the age of the blog has passed?

I am not musical, but I think I have the heart of a troubadour, or perhaps like Gilbert and Sullivan’s Nankipoo, I might be a wandering minstrel. My aim is to be a story teller. Some do it in song, some in poetry. My chosen style is in a mix of prose and pictures. My principal aim is to take pleasure in making the pictures and using them to tell the story

Botanic Garden, Wellington

I went to the Botanic Garden in hope of tulips. There were some tulips, though fewer than usual and less well presented. Happily, the surrounding gardens possessed a glory of their own. The bands of colour, the shape and splendour of the trees and even the sculpture all give me pleasure.

Gladstone derelict

In my judgement, the back road from Martinborough to Masterton through Gladstone offers some of the most beautiful pastoral landscapes you will find anywhere. And tucked away, here and there, are a few much loved relics of earlier times that are slowly dissolving into the landscape. This old house near Gladstone is one that few photographers will pass by without a pause to make yet another picture. Of course it is a cliche, but I don’t accept that beauty is diminished by multiple viewing.

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Mary had been gifted a voucher for a two night stay at an historic cottage in rural Wairarapa. India Cottage is situated between Castlepoint 40 km to the NE and Riversdale 22 km to the SE. It is part of the ICA station from which the Whareama Coastal Walkway is managed. We had little idea of what to expect, and were surprised and delighted by the beauty of the place. Water is a significant problem throughout the Wairarapa so the estate has a storage pond surrounded by reeds. Someone introduced the Australian green and golden bell frog. so the visual beauty was enhanced by the unceasing chorus from the frogs. Magic!

Oaks

Pioneering farmers had little regard for our native trees and yearned for the beauty of the great trees of their various homelands. And so it comes about that we have stands of magnificent oaks and other deciduous aliens. They are indeed beautiful trees. but so are the natives of this land which were cleared to make way for them.

Perfect stillness

If you have been with me for a while, you will know that morning and I are usually strangers. Here in deepest Wairarapa, with no Internet access, I woke early. No sound save the froggy chorus and the bawling of occasional cattle in the distance. No wind, and no clouds. I arose early and took my camera and tripod outside and caught the sun peering through the trees at the end of the pond.

A fine specimen

Another of those exotic trees … I didn’t pause to identify it but didn’t think it to be an oak. With the sun behind it I thought it made a nice image.

Breakfast

Over the fence, a classic pastoral scene as the sheep munch steadily on the dew-soaked grass. Rim-lit by the rising sun, I thought these were the quintessential “gilt-edged investment”.

Day 1 of Daylight Saving

Our last evening at India House coincided with New Zealand’s annual shift to daylight saving. Since the clock went forward, I expected to wake an hour later than usual. Perversely, I woke almost an hour earlier by the clock than usual. A still starlit morning prompted me to get dressed and tip-toe outside, being as quiet as possible. As you can see this long (56 seconds) exposure was illuminated by the stars and a bright moon. No artificial light. And you know it is still when an exposure this long shows no disturbance in the reflections. I returned to the cottage and Mary asked why I made so much noise when I went out!

Crux

The same scene from a different angle catches the Southern Cross, the much loved constellation emblematic of the Southern hemisphere. With the exception of my bedroom window all light in this image comes from the moon. In case you are unfamiliar with it, the cross in in the upper left quadrant of the picture. The head is down and to the left, and the foot is top right. The pointer Beta Centauri is sending its light 391.4 light years from just above the edge of that cloud.

Pink rock orchid

Back home after a delightful break, the weather forced me indoors. I placed a tiny orchid in my light box. Multiple flowers on a single stem are a bit of a challenge. It is conventional wisdom amongst those who enter competitions, that simple flower images rarely do well. I am getting away from the competition mindset, and the question is did I have fun making it, and does the finished product please me. The answer is yes and yes.

Wind

Wellingtonians are the butt of much joking about the city’s notoriously windy climate. It’s not easy to photograph wind. The best you can hope for is to catch things being moved about by the wind. Waves and trees, birds and rain are all possibilities. These reeds at the boat ramp in Lowry Bay seemed worth a try and another opportunity to use the neutral density filter. I put the camera on its tripod inside the car, and opened the downwind passenger window. Thus, the camera and tripod were not buffeted by the gusting wind. I love the texture of the windblown clumps of reed.

Customhouse Quay

Wellington’s skyline changes at a relatively slow pace. The last time I visited Melbourne, there must have been at least twenty tower cranes each presiding over a new high rise building site. Wellington has three or four. Of course, Melbourne has a population of 5 million compared with 417,000. This view along Customhouse Quay looking South shows the crane on the site of the new BNZ headquarters being built to replace the one destroyed by the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake.

They take a bottle

The nearer (yellow) crane is on the waterfront across the road from the red one on the BNZ site. This one is assisting a generic office building which will be available for lease. The answer to the unspoken question most people have in respect of the people who operate these machines in solitary splendour is that they have a bottle. I guess that their privacy could be compromised by people with long lenses.

And that’s another edition. I think I am coming to terms with the idea that I can make images for the pure joy of participating in the process. I don’t have to meet anyone else’s expectation. Of course I share them with you in the hope that you will take pleasure in what you see. Until next time.

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Academic adversity Architecture Art Birds creativity flowers Landscapes Light night Sunset Weather Wellington

October 31, 2020 … push on through

Let me begin by saying that I am experiencing an artistically flat period. There are days when I make no pictures, and it doesn’t seem to matter to me at the time. I can identify no cause and offer no explanation. Perhaps it is the photographer’s equivalent of writer’s block. Back when I was supervising PhD students, my advice to them was put your hands on the keyboard and press some keys. Even if the output is rubbish, you at least have something to work with and to improve upon, which is better than the terrors of an empty page. I suppose I should apply the same logic to making pictures. Press the darned shutter! And so it shall be until such time as the muse re-appears. In the meantime, here are twelve images from a creatively dry October.

Statue of Mohatma Gandhi
Mohatma Gandhi

In the forecourt of Wellington Railway Station, there is a statue of Mohatma Gandhi. Made by the sculptor Gautam Pal, the statue was gifted to the people of New Zealand by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations on behalf of the Indian people. I believe that about 35,000 people trudge past the statue daily, and I hope at least some of them give a moment’s thought to his humility and his concern for others.

Tulips
A fleeting season

Frequently, I look back at the pictures I was making at the same time last year, and wonder whether I can do it better this year. Early to mid-October is the time for the carefully planned display of tulips in the Wellington Botanic Gardens. In reality, nature, aided by the gardeners, does most of the creative work. All I can do is try to make better use of the available light for making pictures. Let me revise that. I can try to be there when the light is better. Thank you, gardeners.

Evans Bay yacht race
Evans Bay

Speaking of better light, I pass through Evans Bay often, and see yachts apparently racing as part of what I take to be a training school. As with the tulips, light makes all the difference and with the sun behind them, the sails light up nicely. I am often frustrated that , between the time I first see them and the time I am safely parked and ready to shoot, the fleet has turned about, and the light I saw is no longer there. Or worse, their race is over and they are dropping their sails as they return to the ramp.

Tui in the rain
I know how he feels

Our little kowhai tree on the front lawn is a favourite feeding station for sparrows, waxes, starlings, song thrush, finches, blackbirds, kereru and bellbirds. On this wet day the tui just sat glumly and tolerated the steady drizzle. Perhaps that is a reasonable analogy for my state of mind at present.

Sorrento Bay
In Sorrento Bay

I really like the days of silver grey when there is no wind and the sea is flat calm. This picture was made in Sorrento Bay just between Pt Howard and Lowry Bay. The rocks are a favourite roosting spot for the black-backed gulls, though few were visible at this time.

Purple ragwort
Purple Ragwort

Every year from August to December, our hills turn purple as the invasive weed, purple ragwort breaks into flower. The effect on the landscape is spectacular, but it is poisonous to stock and takes over large areas of land. It is spread on the wind, and I suspect that accounts for its presence along the highways as vehicle slipstreams pick up the seeds. I read that each plant produces something in the order of 50,000 seeds.

Construction
Remediation

In 2016, the Kaikoura earthquake revealed some serious weaknesses in the local movie theatre complex in Lower Hutt’s Queensgate Mall. The theatres had to be demolished in the interest of public safety. After a long period of inactivity, their replacement is being erected. I was walking nearby last week and spotted the two tower cranes silhouetted against the Western skyline. It seemed worth a shot.

Raindrops
After the rain

Steady rain, not heavy but consistent, offers some opportunities in the form of puddles or droplets. The clothes line outside my office window carried a splendid display of jewels.

More ragwort
Did I mention that it is invasive?

Not long ago, the place where this image was made was bare yellow clay. Now the purple ragwort has filled in the vacant spaces while the more diffident native species get no chance. I confess that they are quite attractive and come in various shades from pale pink to dark purple.

Kina sculpture
Waterfront sculpture

One of the nicer features of the Wellington waterfront is the frequent placement of art works, mostly in the form of sculptures. These are funded by the Wellington Sculpture Trust. Many of them are fragments of poetry by people who love Wellington, rendered in bas-relief on placques on walls or in the walkways. This particular work is “Nga Kina” by Michael Tuffery. Kina shells would have been a significant part of the midden of the old Kumutoto pa (village) which once stood near this spot where the Kumutoto stream ran down to the sea. His sculpture evokes the memory of how this area used to be.

Whairepo lagoon
Under an ominous sky

Whairepo lagoon is a much loved small lagoon in downtown Wellington. It was known for a while as Frank Kitts Lagoon, in memory of a long-serving mayor, however, it has had its original name restored. Whairepo is the Maori word for the eagle ray which is often seen browsing its rocky floor. Despite Wellington’s evil reputation as a windy place, I often see it in conditions of flat calm and when I do, I try to capture it in a different way than before.

Aotea Quay
The other side of the coin

The foot of the vertical white pillars of the walkway is where I stood to make the previous image. Since I rarely if ever make selfies, I chose to move before I made the shot in the other direction.

That will do for this time. Regardless of whether or not I have broken out of the doldrums, I hope to be back in two weeks or so. Stay safe, and may the world be a better place next time we meet.

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October 13, 2020 … interesting times

We are in the last week of New Zealand’s electoral cycle, and on Saturday, it will be all over. That combined with the disruptions of our various stages of Covid-19 lockdowns have made the last few weeks some of the fabled “interesting times”. It is not my intention to use this as any kind of excuse for photographic shortcomings, so here’s what I got, and in keeping with our long-running meme, what you see is what you get.

Cornflowers and lavender

After a particularly beautiful August, we have endured a fairly dire September. Rain and gales resulted in a lot of indoor photography. Our neighbour has the cornflowers growing in their garden and they are generous in giving me access to them. I seem to recall that blue is perhaps the least common of the colours in nature, so I am always delighted by the intensity of the cornflowers.

Springtime in Upper Hutt

As in the last two years, Mary and I paid a visit to Aston Norwood Gardens at the foot of the Remutaka hill road because it is cherry blossom time. This year, with the region recently out of lockdown and with some judicious publicity, the place was insanely crowded. On the weekend of peak flowering, some 5,000 people paid to go through the gardens each day. There was about half of the required parking space.

Such brief glory

Somehow, despite the hordes of people making selfies, I managed to get some people-free shots. As the image shows, we visited height of blossom season. The gardens are situated in a gully such that it seems to be sheltered from the wind whistling down from the Tararuas. The petals were falling but there remained plenty of colour.

Spring in the city

Despite my grumbling about the boisterous Spring weather, we got a few rather nice days, though the temperatures were not especially warm. Nice to look at but not yet swimming weather. Soon after this image, there were heavy machines replenishing the sand brought in from the South Island each year.

I love those lemon muffins

Mary is very generous with her baking and shares it with neighbours and friends. I get to smell the good smells, and view the golden textures and even get to eat one or two. I am always available for testing purposes.

Smooth sailing

Some seemingly nice days have a mean streak. The view across the strait was sharp and clear, but the breeze had a very nasty bite. Still, I liked this view of Tapuae-o-Uenuku as the ferry Kaitaki passed in front of it on the way to Picton.

Seasons come and seasons go

My colour printer died on me. Canon NZ pointed me to an agency that undertakes repairs, and it was located in the light industry area in the South of Porirua. Happily, the repair depot was able to resuscitate the purge pump (whatever that is) at a modest cost since the printer was several years out of warranty. On my way there, I spotted the lovely contrast between spring flowers and a red corrugated wall.

Weather

Amidst the days of unpredictable weather we had several days of sustained heavy rain. This shot was maid at night through a rain splattered wind. I do love our view from up on the hill even in such turbulent weather as this.

Search and Rescue

They say you are getting old when policemen look young. Our youngest son Ants has just resigned after 21 years as a police officer and has taken up a new career as an apprentice builder. Ants spent most of his police career in search and rescue duties, and in the latter years, as sergeant in charge of the Wellington region’s land rescue activities. He was also a disaster victim identification specialist, and I couldn’t be more proud of him. Among the gifts bestowed at his leaving ceremony was this pewter figurine of a search and rescue person. It’s about 30 cm tall and weighs 5 kg. Ants is now happily learning to be a builder.

Across the harbour

Erratic weather continues and suddenly there was bright sunshine and flat calm. I got low on Petone Bach and looked across the harbour to Wellington City.

Pied stilt

Pauatahanui Inlet has some areas defined as wildlife reserves, of which my favourite is the ponds near Grays Rd. The most common inhabitants of this pond are the pied stilts which usually nest there. They are handsome birds, though a little aggressive. In nesting season they will dive-bomb anyone near their nests or the chicks.

The old bird

The C130 Hercules entered service with the RNZAF in 1965. Who would have thought that they would still be in service 55 years later. Or indeed that they would be replaced by the C130J-30 Super Herculese in 2024. Meanwhile, the old birds soldier on.

That’s all for now. See you after our election.

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January 24, 2020 … making lots of images

Challenging weather in the last few weeks has been a mixed blessing. There have been days which offered little inspiration. When the light has been reasonable, it has made me look more closely at whatever is in front of me. It has made me actively seek shapes, patterns, colours and ideas.

Steel and grease

Mary and I took a friend who is a train enthusiast up to Paekakariki to the sheds where Steam Inc work on their locomotives. It was a gloomy overcast day and there was nowhere that offered the space to see any of the locomotives in full. Instead, I selected part of the valve linkage to represent the whole. The sheer weight of metal, the array of nuts and bolts and the heavy coat of oil all speak of the power of this mighty machine (Ja1271 for anyone wondering).

Giant Bush Dragonfly

At the wetlands in Queen Elizabeth Park in Paekakariki, I looked in vain for any dabchicks, so settled for this large dragonfly. Despite its name, it is much smaller than the enormous ones I remember seeing in Colorado. Nevertheless, since they rarely sit still I was pleased to get this one. hovering in one spot. I also got lots of shots which were blurred or contained no dragonfly.

Reeds

There’s something about the various reeds in the wildlife reserve in the Pauatahanui wetlands that just demands attention. They sway and swirl, and seem to change colour through a spectrum of brown green and gold. It’s quite a small area, but one that I love very much.

Sleeping on Parade

Also in the Pauatahanui wetlands, I found group of Royal Spoonbills sleeping together with remarkable military precision. Not only were they arrayed in a straight line, but were evenly spaced. I am intrigued that they always seem to pull one leg up and fold their bill along their back when they sleep. Still water gave nice reflections.

A pied stilt chick

While I was in the hide making spoonbill pictures, I was aware of a noisy pied stilt squawking at anything that moved. It was chasing other birds and clumsy humans away, circling around and diving towards any intruder, regardless of size. Then I saw her chick. Against the sandbanks, it seemed like a small clump of wind-blown fluff. Not until it went into the water did I realise what I was seeing. I suspect that much of its mother’s squawking was telling it to look out for the many dangers.

Bombus terrestris – the heavy lifter of the bee world

I am unsure what the flower in this picture is, though it seemed to be coming to the end of its season. Like a heavy-lift helicopter the bumble bee came in slowly, hovering above the flowers to gather nectar and I could feel the energy transferred by its wings to the air that supported it. I had been about to attempt a long-range landscape shot, so I already had the long zoom lens on the camera. It worked quite well allowing me to focus on the insect just a few metres away.

Passion vine hopper – nymph

I get easily confused by the developmental stages of various insects, and as far as I can tell, this is the nymph stage of the passion vine hopper (Scolypopa australis). Surprisingly for the scientific website I used, I learned that the nymphs are universally known as “fluffy bums”. This particular example was at most, 4 mm long (5/32 inch). The fibres at the rear are apparently extrusions of wax, the purpose of which is not known.

The odd couple

I have always loved ships. Though I mourn the passing of the ships I kew in my youth, with their graceful curved sheer line, I am slowly becoming accustomed to their modern replacements with huge apartment block accomodation sections that look as if squeezed from a toothpaste tube before being chopped off to selected length. Cruise liners tankers and container ships are all straight lines these days. The two in this image are both relatively small ships. They are the Seabourn Encore (604 passengers) and the Seven Seas Explorer (700 passengers) . If they don’t look small compare them with the Ovation of the Seas (see later in this edition) which comes with 4,900 passengers.

Skylark

Whitireia park is a large open area which occupies the Southern headland of Porirua Harbour. Most people who know Wellington will recognise it as the place near Porirua where the old AM radio mast for station 1YA was. It is characterised for most of the year by long grass. Large areas of open grass are attractive to skylarks, though they are usually quite shy. For some reason, this one was bolder than most so I got down low and pointed the camera at it. It looked indignant and flew away.

Glassware

My son and daughter-in-law live near our house. They have a magic view across the harbour and out through the heads towards Antarctica. Looking at that view through a large glass bowl on their table just appealed to me. I don’t feel the need to justify it further.

Le Laperouse

The French were in town. Ponant Cruises boutique luxury liner Le Laperouse is small enough to be able to berth at Queens wharf right on the edge of downtown. She is a fine looking vessel, though I suspect her small size means she might be more lively in a big sea. She carries just 264 passengers so does not instil the sense of dread that comes when I contemplate the giant liners. From Oriental Bay I thought she fitted well with the glass and steel textures of the tower blocks across the road.

From small to oh my goodness

Monday this week was a a lovely day with clear skies and no wind. As well as Le Laperouse mentioned above, there were two large cruise liners in port and Ovation of the Seas, the larger of the two, was scheduled to leave at 8 pm, much later than usual for most cruise liners. Bearing in mind the disruption to our evening domestic routines, I asked to be excused and went out into the golden evening to capture her departure. I settled down to wait at Point Halswell. She eventually left her berth and headed towards the harbour entrance. I then found a suitable viewing spot literally at sea level on the Eastern side of the Miramar Peninsula. Soon enough in the beautiful golden light, she came ghosting past. I remain astonished that a ship of 168,600 Gross Tonnes and powered by 67,200 kW (over 90,00 hp) could move so quickly and in almost total silence. The pilot launch Te Has made more noise. There was remarkably little wake from this huge ship.

In the golden West

By the time the Ovation of the Seas had dropped the pilot and resumed her journey towards her next port, there was a lovely light in the sky and the mountains of the Kaikoura ranges were nicely silhouetted. Bonus!

Evans Bay

Fully content with my photographic adventures that evening I set out on the homeward journey through Evans Bay. Oh, oh, oh! The stillness was just beautiful. Out with the tripod again and I set up a long exposure to catch the tail of the blue hour.

That will suffice for this edition. Somehow I am feeling less insecure this week than in recent editions. I think it is that I am trying to be satisfied with an image if it pleases me, regardless of how I think others might judge. See you next time.

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Adventure adversity Architecture Art Aviation Bees insects Light Lower Hutt Masterton night Reflections Rivers Weather Wellington

February 24, 2019 …. if you haven’t grown up by now, you don’t have to

This somewhat belated edition is slightly longer than normal because, well, there was an airshow. If you have been reading my ramblings for any length of time, you know that I love a good airshow.  But first, let’s get some random images out of the way. Truth to tell, they are not all that random. They follow the trajectory of my wandering, but the subject matter is fairly random.

Architecture
Architectural quirkiness in Eastbourne

Sometimes my search for artistic form gets a bit desperate. I grit my teeth and clench my fists, hold my breath and strain to see something attractive hidden in the ordinariness around me. It rarely works. Now and then I am rewarded by an image which may not be great, but which pleases me. This architectural detail is on the main road into Eastbourne. I am not sure how practical the house is for its owners but I liked the shapes and proportions of the towers.

Stream
The stream above the ford on the Waiohine Gorge Road

When the members of the family were here from Brisbane recently, we went up the Waiohine Gorge road just North of Greytown in the Wairarapa. As we were coming back, we crossed a ford and from the corner of my eye, I glimpsed a tree-shaded steam  which ran across the road and down into the Waiohine River below. Holiday traffic on the dusty road made it impractical to stop. A week or so ago, I went back there on a quiet week-day morning, to try again. The ford was dry and I thought I had missed the opportunity. Happily the stream was still there and the residual flow goes under the road. You might wonder why the reflected leaves seem blurred. The answer is that there was a strong wind overhead and the highest parts of the canopy were thrashing around.

Bridge
ANZAC Memorial Bridge – Kaiparoro

On the same day after some fruitless wandering in the South Wairarapa,  I was on my way home  via SH2 and had just passed through Ekatahuna when I arrived at the ANZAC Bridge at Kaiparoro. In all the years I have been passing this, I have never stopped to look. The bridge was built in 1921 to cross the previously unbridged Makakahi River, and to serve as a memorial for the six men from the district whose lives were lost in the first world war. I made this picture from beneath the much larger bridge that now carries the busy SH2 traffic over the stream. The old bridge is no longer connected to any roads and its sole remaining purpose is as a memorial.

Cicada
Discarded shell of cicada nymph

Mary likes to be in the garden. I like to look at gardens but rarely participate, except when Mary finds something. This discarded shell of a cicada nymph seemed worth a look. The image is a stacked composite of about seven images to ensure every part is in focus.

Harbour
Wellington Harbour Entrance

At the top of Mt Crawford on the Miramar peninsula sits the deserted but still  grimly locked Mt Crawford Prison. Looking down from its Eastern wall, there is a lovely view of the harbour entrance. In the foreground is Miramar. Seatoun is behind that, and across the water you can see the upper and lower lights at Pencarrow. If you have sharp eyes you can see the Baring Head light to the left of the upper Pencarrow light. Baring Head is the only one of the three that is still operational. If you use your imagination and squint really hard, the Antarctic ice shelf is just 3,200 km over the horizon.

Night
Looking down on Lower Hutt

Earlier this week, there was a super moon, and I tried to catch it rising over the Eastern hills. Sadly heavy cloud obscured its rising and I had to be satisfied with a night shot of the valley below. The darkened tower block in the centre is Hutt Hospital on High St.

Khandallah
It’s always good to find a new viewing platform

I found a new view window down onto the port that provides a more broadside view of the vessels berthed there. On this occasion I caught the Ovation of the Seas and the US Coast Guard icebreaker, Polar Star. Apparently this is the only operational icebreaker left in US Cost Guard service, and she is the first coast guard vessel to visit New Zealand since the suspension of the ANZUS treaty in 1984. Welcome back.

Sunset
It had been a miserable windy overcast day and then this happened

Sometimes I see a sunset only because there is a rosy tint on the Eastern hills. On this night the colour was so intense that I mounted a grab and dash mission. Click for a better view of this image which I caught from the slopes of Maungaraki.

The following images are from the Wings Over Wairarapa airshow held at Masterton this weekend, so if it’s not your thing, skip to the end.

LAV III
A heavier than air machine at the Air show

No matter how fast it goes down the runway, this General Dynamics LAV-III will never take off. Belonging to the Queen Alexandra’s Mounted Rifles regiment, it was part of the NZ Defence Forces contribution to the show. Apparently it just fits inside a C-130

Agricola
A beautifully restore piece of history

This ugly duckling is the world’s last surviving Auster Agricola. The prototype of this aerial topdresser was flown in 1955 but no more than ten were ever built. It was good at its job, but the Auster company were not good at selling it to the world. Pity.

PC-12
Horsepower … it would need some serious power to spin that five-bladed propeller

Much more glamorous than the Auster is the Pilatus PC-12 seen here on display at the show. If you click to enlarge, you will see a honey bee sitting on the apex of the spinner, I didn’t see it when I made the image, and was about to tidy up what I thought was a photographic flaw.

Yak 3
Full Noise – a Yak-3

As I have written elsewhere, the airshow was a disappointment to me, with a very limited selection of serious warbirds on display or in action apart from the superb WWI machines belonging to The Vintage Aviation Limited (TVAL). There were lots of Yak-52 trainers and this excellent Yak-3. It has made its presence felt at the Air Races in Reno, racing under the name “Full Noise”. But missing were any real Spitfires, Mustangs, Corsairs or Kittyhawks.

PBY
PBY-5a Catalina rumbles off the runway

The other piece of real hardware on display was this lovely PBY-5a painted in the WWII colours of XX-T of the RNZAF’s number 6 squadron. An aviator and dear friend wrote of them that they took off at 90 mph, cruised at 90 mph and landed at 90 mph.

And now we come to the bit about growing up. After all these years, I got bored at an airshow, and left long before the end. The entry fee was triple what I expected to pay and the aircraft on display were far less varied than in previous years. They would need to up their game by a very long way to get me back to the Wairarapa show. If my Saturday Night Investment Plan (SNIP) ever pays off, I might consider a trip to Oshkosh, but I fear my days at airshows could be in the past.

 

Categories
Airport Architecture Cook Strait Evans Bay harbour Landscapes Light Maritime night Petone Reflections Weather Wellington

January 19, 2019 … Wellington, my “Tūrangawaewae”

I love the Maori concept of Tūrangawaewae. Literally, it translates as the standing place on which you plant yourself. More specifically, it is the place of special significance to you, the place of empowerment, your place in the world.

A friend recently wondered how I could keep shooting images of Wellington. The answer is both simple and difficult. It is simple in that it is where I am most of the time. It is difficult in the way that it challenges me to see it with new eyes each time I look. So this week I explore some images that I hope capture various moods of Wellington, my Tūrangawaewae.

Paper Tigers
Paper Tiger catamarans lining up for a racing start

In Evans Bay, there was a fleet of small one-person catamarans in a neat line. I learned later that I was seeing a heat in the national championships of the “Paper Tiger” class. What caught my attention apart from their neat line, was the glitter of their translucent sails against the dark green of the bush.

Last week, I spent of lot of time discussing aspect ratios. The long line of yachts demanded a long narrow treatment and I had to crop downwards to avoid the suburbia above. I wanted the attention to be on the yachts.

Linesmen
I am sure there were many safety features at work, but watching these guys handling live wires was scary

We had received notification at home of a planned power outage. It seemed that some poles, insulators and cross members need replacing. In the week prior, poles were laid on the ground, and a fleet of specialised trucks assembled. On the day, the crew were afflicted with a wind gusting around 50 km/h. They went ahead anyway. I regard these guys as heroes, strapped to poles amidst a swinging tangle of high-voltage wires. I tried to get as many of them in frame as possible but could get no more than a third of the crew,. I wish I could have captured the way everything was swinging in the wind.

Terrace
Office blocks from here to there

My younger daughter showed me the place where she works, and I was delighted to catch this previously unseen view of The Terrace in Wellington. The Terrace is a street of corporate offices where I used to work before the years of academia. Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera with me, so had to make do with the iPhone 7 which I rarely use as a camera. As they say, the best camera in any situation is the one you have with you.

Shelly Bay
To Mt Victoria from Shelly Bay

It’s always an occasion of great joy when any of our family come to stay. David and Rowena came from Brisbane with Grace and Isaac, and it was my task to collect them from the airport. Inbound flights from Brisbane tend to arrive at around 00:30 so I decided to capitalize on the still night by making some night shots. This shot was made from Shelly Bay on the Eastern side of Evans Bay. Night shots are fun, but in my opinion, require a sturdy tripod and a remote trigger. I knew I would need a long exposure, but with the lovely crescent moon in the sky, I had to compromise as it moves quite a long way in a short time. This image was made with the shutter open for 64 seconds which was a bit too long, but on the whole, I almost got away with it. Do click to enlarge to see the detail on the water

Mt Vic
The heart of the city from the Mt Victoria Lookout

The same night, I went up to the lookout platform on Mt Victoria. The reflections tell how relatively still the night was. The image might give some sense of why this city is so special to me.

Tugs
The little tugboats that could

A day or two later, I was in Oriental Bay and noted the splash of bright colour across the bay. The tug boats Tiaki and Tapuhi have maintained the tradition established by their three predecessors of a bright red colour scheme. And then, behind them was the red brick of the former harbour board offices, now upmarket apartments. Above them to the right is the parliamentary library building, and above and centre is the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, currently closed for remediation of seismic risk factors. This image was given the horizontal chop treatment to emphasise the strong lines of the buildings.

Houghton Bay
Houghton Bay from Te Raekaihau Point

I mentioned at the beginning, a place on which to stand. It’s always nice to find a new one. As I was leaving Lyall Bay, I went up Hungerford Rd and spotted a sign that referred to a walkway. I parked and followed it to the top of Te Raekaihau Point which is the Western tip of Lyall Bay. I just loved the view along Houghton Bay to Taputeranga Island which is the centrepiece of Island Bay. In the very far distance, 130 km away, the summit of Tapuae-o-Uenuku can be seen peering above a solid cloud bank.  I shall visit here again in different light and different weather. The ferry Kaiarahi is in the distance, inbound from Picton.

Hare's-tail
They are an invasive weed, but very pretty when the sun catches them

The family went to the Marlborough sounds for a few days and I volunteered to collect them from a late-evening ferry. Once more it was a reasonably still night, so I set out to have time to make images. I had shot some from Petone Beach looking to the harbour entrance and was coming back to the car when I spotted the light of the setting sun on the Hare’s-tail grass. I set the camera on its tripod so as to catch the sun at the level of the seed heads and was pleased with the result. I have been agonising over whether to get rid of that rogue stalk.

sunset
Petone Beach sunset

A few moments later from a little further along the beach, the view across the harbour called for a further record of the sunset. It’s a well-worn path, but each time I see a scene like this, I try to see it as a  new event to be seen in a new way.

Aratere
Aratere prepares to swing around for berthing

I had some photographic fun at the ferry terminal, catching the comings and goings of various vessels, until at last the Aratere came round Point Halswell and began to position itself to reverse into the berth. By now it was well past twilight and I had to boost the ISO setting all the way to 2500 to catch this shot. Since the vessel was still moving at a fair clip, I could not use a long exposure and stretched my luck at 0.4 seconds without too much motion blur. I enjoyed the reflections on the water, but am baffled by the vertical green streak. I presume that it must be from the starboard navigation light, but the light itself is obscured  by the superstructure. Nevertheless, I’ll take it since it adds to the pleasure of the arrival.

That’s all this time. As always your feedback is welcome.

 

 


Categories
Adventure Birds Lakes Landscapes Light Music night Reflections Wairarapa Waves Weather

October 25, 2018 … here we are again

A busy time since the last post.

Seaview
The sun has gone to bed and so must I

Out in the gloaming (do people still use that word?) and I just loved the colours in the Seaview Marina. I was a bit nervous about this long exposure because I was standing on a floating pontoon, and the risk of movement was high.

Kimbolton
Ornamental pond at Cross Hills Gardens, Kimbolton

Mary and I drove to Cross Hills Gardens near Kimbolton in the Manawatu district. The gardens specialise in rhododendrons and azaleas. I made lots of images but the one I liked best was of the ornamental pond.

Falcon
NZ Falcon in Lower Hutt

My youngest son is a police officer in charge of land search and rescue operations in the region. He was out looking for a missing person and got dive-bombed by a pair of New Zealand falcons. My ears pricked up because a pair of falcons defending a territory suggests nesting is happening. I visited the area and sure enough the pair came in very fast and low. I sat down and they sat above me just a few metres away.  Love these birds.

Brass
A blare of trumpets

On my way to a function in Tinakori Rd, I passed the open door of a shop that sells brass and wind instruments. I was impressed by the array of brass on the display board and with permission took a few shots.

Onoke
Onoke Spit – all closed off

A day or two later I was in the South Wairarapa at Lake Ferry. To my surprise, the outlet where Lake Onoke flows to the sea was closed off and the Onoke Spit went all the way across from East to West.  To my even greater surprise, the ocean swells were coming up over the spit and  sliding down the inland slope to the lake. I got wet shoes out of it.

Tapuae
Mighty mountain across a green sea

The view from the spit across the strait to Tapuae-o-Uenuku was spectacular, and I have not adjusted those colours

Korokoro
Fast flowing stream – Korokoro

There was a gap of a few days and then I went wandering up the Korokoro stream track. When I first encountered this stream in 1980, you crossed the stream and got wet feet 23 times. The track is now so developed that all the crossings are bridged and the socks remain dry.

Hutt River
The Hutt River near Upper Hutt

In Upper Hutt, one beautiful morning early this week, I had to stop to catch the Hutt River flowing down past Totara Park.

Wairarapa
Across Lake Wairarapa to the Aorangi Range

From there, it was over the hill again to Lake Wairarapa where the conditions were nearly perfect.

Patterns
Dancing patterns

On Monday night this week, was the final night of Lower Hutt’s Carnival of Lights. Despite the coincidence of timing, there was no overt connection between this and the festival of Diwali. Anyway, as we arrived, there was a young woman dancing with what I can only describe as illuminated hula-hoops. I opened the shutter for a long exposure as she twirled and danced and got this.

Noise
Noise and smoke

The young people were gathered around a sound stage from which a group was performing. Nothing that sounded like my idea of music, but it was a good visual spectacle.

fireworks
Fireworks closing ceremony

The night concluded with a fireworks display, and again the long exposure allowed the sequence of fireworks to paint patterns in the air.

Categories
Airport Architecture Camera club Cars Cook Strait Festivals and fairs harbour Landscapes Light Maritime night Reflections Seasons Weather Wellington

July 21, 2018 … some nice opportunities

Most of this week’s images depict nature in human settings. I rarely photograph people, and concentrate on things that, in my judgement, work well for me. But you can be the judge of that.

Hutt
Sunlight through the valley mist

At the end of last week, I delivered Mary to the airport as she flew to Queenstown to be with our son and grandchildren for some of the school holidays. It was an odd sort of day, with patches of mist, cloud and sunshine. With Mary safely despatched to the South, I went up Hungerford Rd to the hills overlooking the airport and looked back across Evans Bay to the misty Hutt Valley. The Tararuas were obscured, but I was attracted to the trees and the odd tall building peering through the mist.

Rainbow
When you see something like this, you stop and take the picture now, in case it is not there in a minute or two

From there I went around the Miramar Peninsula and screeched to a halt when I reached Point Halswell. If I were a gambling man, I might have carried on around the corner to catch the full arc of the rainbow, but in my experience, every time I delay taking a shot, it evaporates when I eventually get to it. This was the most intense rainbow I have ever seen, and if you look closely there is a second one outside it.

Fireworks
Matariki Fireworks from Oriental Bay

In recent years, New Zealand has begun to adopt the celebration of Matariki. This is the time when the star cluster Pleiades appears above the horizon each year. Many Maori iwi (tribes) regard this as the start of their year. In Wellington City, the mayor has ceased to provide funding for fireworks to mark Guy Fawkes, and has instead diverted it to a display for Matariki, arguing that it is more appropriate to celebrate a New Zealand event, than a failed political assassination plot in the UK. I agree with him.

Island Bay
Island Bay fishing fleet under a dramatic sky

I had intended to do a road trip during Mary’s absence, but the weather forecast was unpromising, so I confined myself to day trips. Some of them were to old familiar haunts such as this one in Island Bay on Wellington’s South coast. I liked the clouds.

Sunrise
Sunrise artistry

Sunrise and I are very loosely acquainted. Sunsets are no problem, but I am not normally a morning person. Sometimes, if I haven’t closed the curtains properly a flare of red will grab my attention as it did on this day.

Maersk Jabal
When I first joined camera clubs in the 1960s, this would have been called a “contre jour” (against the day) photograph. Happily the pretentious adoption of French phrases is less common now. Maersk Jabal leaves Wellington bound for Napier

Most landscape photography experts advocate that photos are best made in the golden hour (the hour following sunrise or before sunset) or even the blue hour (the hour prior to sunrise or after sunset). I agree that some superb images can be had in those times, but I see no reason to put my camera away in the rest of the day, or even at night. This image from the summit of Mt Victoria was made at 1 pm. It catches the container ship, Maersk Jabal in silhouette against the glittering waters of Wellington Harbour.

Wadestown
Winter traffic

I tend not to venture far at night. However, Mary was still away so without worrying her, I went into Wadestown on the Western Hills above the ferry terminal and made a long exposure on a still (but moonless) night.  It was still early enough to catch the tail-end of the two-way rush hour.

Fountain
The Carter Fountain in Oriental Bay

That same evening, I went to Oriental Bay. The Carter fountain was playing and the water was still. I used a feature of my camera that allows me to make a composite image over an extended period. The coloured floodlights changed several times during the 18 seconds of this exposure. I expected that the additive result might be a muddy colour, but was delighted at the way it separated three of the colour phases.

Nightlights
Waterloo Quay all lit up

From the same vantage point, I turned 90 degrees to the left and loved the night cityscape. The building on the left presents an obsidian black face during the day, but with the lights on at night, all is revealed. As much as I love nature, I also love the colours and textures of of the city.

See you next time

 

 

 

Categories
Adventure Animals Birds Lakes Landscapes Light Maritime night Reflections sunrise Weather Wellington

July 12, 2018 … wanderlust strikes again

When I wander, it is rarely any great distance, and most often is either to the Wairarapa or Horowhenua districts. This is logical as they are the only two provinces which are contiguous with Wellington. In short, I can drive there. Sometimes this is a bit of a trial as it means passing through large tracts of familiar territory. On the other hand, someone just reposted the famous quote from Marcel Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”  I am working on it. Meantime, may I remind you that the images you see are but thumbnails, and to get the full detail, you are urged to click on the image for a full view.

Ruamahanga
Lake Wairarapa near the Ruamahanga River

At the flood barrage at the Southern end of Lake Wairarapa, I was entranced by the dramatic cloudscape and its reflection.

Lake Wairarapa
Lake Wairarapa on the Western Lake side

From there, I followed the East-West bypass road to Western Lake road where I paused at a favourite resting spot to admire Lake Wairarapa in its most beautiful still state. All too often the surface is ruffled but on this visit, it was perfect.

Mangaroa
The Mangaroa lifestyle

A day or so later, with an interesting morning mist at play, I went over into the Mangaroa Valley to the East of Upper Hutt. A pair of horses with a cycle escort came over a ridge towards me.

reflections
Disrupted reflections

 

Days alternated between spiteful wind and chilly stillness. At the edge of the Waiwhetu stream, I was attracted to the reflections of a corrugated warehouse wall, and then got “photo-bombed” by a little black shag surfacing in the middle of the intriguing patterns. The random splashes of colour are from the signs on the building.

Night
Wellington by night

A few days in which I neglected my camera led to a dose of cabin fever. I could tell that the wind had abated so I went out into the cold night and caught reflected city lights from Petone Beach.

Whale
The rare visitor, a Southern Right Whale in the harbour

 

A very rare visitor to Wellington Harbour became a major talking point in the region, and a target for every photographic device in town. A Southern Right Whale spent almost a week frolicking in the harbour, occasionally breaching and sometimes just waving his tail.  He has since left the harbour, but I hear that he is still nearby just off the coast near the airport.

Rain
And the rain came down

 

And then the rain came. I decided to make a feature of it and was driving along Grays Road at Pauatahanui when the sky really opened up. Sadly it eased off before I could find a safe place to stop, but I hope this image conveys a sense of the day.

Sunrise over the valley

Yesterday morning offered another of those breathless misty starts and the sunrise was a thing of beauty. The day lived up to its promise, and that will suffice for this edition.