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September 1, 2020 … a change of pace

Oh my goodness, time has slipped by and it has been almost a month since my last post. I have no clue how many regular readers still remain, but if you are one, thank you.

Winter morning – Oriental Bay – August 1

I know that August is generally the kindest of our winter months, but this one was extraordinary. According to the books, Spring is now with us I shall not be surprised if we now get some of the rough weather that we missed in winter. Even as I write, we have a howling Norwester with rain. On this morning, at the beginning of August, my attention was caught by the black-billed gulls at rest on the water at the Eastern end of Oriental Bay. That, and I am always intrigued by the textures of the cityscape from here.

Looking good for 112 years – August 4

At the intersection of Lambton Quay, Mulgrave St and Thorndon Quay this grand old lady has stood in various states since 1908. As the engraved letters attest, this was once the headquarters of the long defunct Wellington Corporation Tramways. Indeed I remember being here in the early sixties when the trams were still operating. My memory is of a constant stream of uniformed drivers and “clippies” coming and going through those doors. The rooftop amendments are not entirely to my liking but I suppose they could have been worse.

Off-peak storage – August 5

Just behind the spot from which I made the image of the old tramways building is a stairway that leads to the concourse of the city’s Sky Stadium. It is a featureless flat concrete walkway that crosses the railyards. This image was made just after 10 am., long after the morning commuter rush is over. I liked the moody atmosphere and the glittering tops of the Korean-made commuter units as they wait for the rush to resume in the afternoon.

At Te Haukaretu Park, Upper Hutt – August 6

The duck pond in Te Haukaretu Park, Upper Hutt is sheltered from the wind and often provides a peaceful scene. I particularly like the form of the trees in the pond.

Atrium – Wellington Station – August 9

Having seen some of the truly great rail terminals of the world, I know that Wellington railway station is a relatively small competitor. Nevertheless it has a handsome and well proportioned main atrium. It lacks the stalls and shops that you might find in Washington or New York, but on the other hand it has a mere 30,000 passengers per day compared with 750,000 in New York.

At Pencarrow Head -August 10

I have the privilege of being allowed to accompany a group of conservationists who specialise in the care and observation of the dotterel population along the South East coast of Wellington harbour. This gets me to Baring Head and beyond in comfort in a car as opposed to the four hour return walk. We saw few dotterels on this day, but I enjoyed the view across the harbour entrance. I should acknowledge that this was one of the few windy days in August.

Pipit – August 11

A second trip to Baring head was also a bust as far as dotterel sightings went, but I enjoyed the company of this New Zealand pipit (Anthus novaeseelandiae). They characteristically bob their tail up and down as they walk.

Dabchick at QEII park – August 15

When there is little or no wind, the wetlands at Queen Elizabeth Park in Paekakariki are a favourite place for me. The still dark waters reflect the green of the surrounding bush and provide a lovely contrast for the water fowl that visit. In this case, the dabchick is moving quickly to escape the photographer.

Pauatahanui Inlet – August 17

Some calm days are better than others. In this case, the water on the Northern side of Pauatahanui Inlet was just perfectly still. I rather liked the pattern made by the rocks.I almost wonder whether I should have cropped out everything above the sandbar.

Shoveler ducks – August 17

I am always fascinated by the Australasian Shoveler duck (Anas rhynchotis). It is the duck equivalent of a baleen whale. It feeds by filtering water through a curtain of fibres in its extraordinary bill to catch plankton, seeds and other edible material. This was also made at QEII park.

Puzzle time – August 20

I mentioned a change of pace. We had long planned trips to see our more distant grandchildren. Sadly the virus has taken away the possibility of a visit to Brisbane any time soon. However, since New Zealand is at alert level 2, domestic travel is possible, so we could fly to Queenstown in time for our youngest grandson’s tenth birthday. For that journey I love to get a Westward facing window seat, and Mary always generously yields it to me. I look for interesting land forms below. I can usually identify the larger settlements and geographic features, but I have fun with the smaller places, grab the shot and try to match it against Google Earth when I get home. In this case, the river caught my eye and then the little township sliding into the view at bottom left. It took me a while to identify the town as Luggate and the river as the Clutha.

Lake Hayes Estate – August 22

Our middle son Andrew lives in Lake Hayes Estate which can be described as a dormitory suburb about 15 km to the North East of Queenstown. I was intrigued by the oak trees that lined many of its streets,. The leaves had turned colour and died many months ago, but refused to let go. Spring in New Zealand is generally regarded as the months of September through November, so we are still seeing Autumnal brown even as nature starts applying some green to the landscape.

Wild Irishman – August 22

Despite the severe economic impact of the covid virus on Queenstown’s tourist industry, there is still a great deal of development to provide new housing. At the Southern end of Kelvin Heights, on the narrow part of the isthmus just beyond the golf course, a large patch of land has been cleared for development. Among the few plants remaining was a sturdy example of the matagouri (Known in colonial times as Wild Irishman). Happily, it is relatively rare in the North Island. It too will go to be replaced no doubt by upscale housing.

Para-penting in Queenstown – August 22

Before anyone gets too excited, no I did not lash out the $219 required for a tandem jump. I don’t do heights, remember. We were at the base of the gondola to the skyline complex where the young folks were about to have a ride on the luge when this pilot and his passenger caught the light as they passed in front of the gondolas.

On Lake Hayes – August 23

I can’t visit Queenstown without spending time at Lake Hayes. I mean the lake itself which seems to enjoy a lot of shelter from the wind. The bird life is interesting and varied. I always hope to see and get close to the crested grebe which we just don’t see in the North. Alas, I saw coots and scaup, oystercatchers and a huge variety of ducks but no grebes. This common mallard drake gets the call because it was bold enough to take centre stage.

Rushing in Arrowtown – August 23

Down below the historic huts in which Chinese miners lived, Bush Creek tumbles through the bush to join the Arrow river. I liked the little waterfall. The light was low enough that I didn’t need a neutral density filter. The rushing effect is conveyed well enough with a mere 2 second exposure.

Clyde Bridge – August 26

Andrew was at work, and the children were at school so Mary and I did a tour through the Kawarau Gorge and Cromwell to Clyde, Earnscleugh and Alexandra looking for whatever the landscape might reveal. After a great morning tea in Dunstan House, Clyde, we drove over then under the historic Clyde Bridge to catch this view of the Clutha.

Rock of ages – August 26

When we reached Earnscleugh, I made a fortuitous turn into Conroy’s road (recommended) and up through the scientific reserve where the rocks are shaped in fantastic ways. This view from near Black Ridge Winery includes one such formation and then looks beyond across the Manuherakia Valley to the Dunstan Mountains in the background. Somehow, the plentiful birdsong did not spoil the silence of the magnificent landscape.

Coronet Peak – August 27

Family trips always come to an end and so we were homeward bound. Mary gave me her window seat again, and as we left Queenstown we passed over Coronet Peak where the ski-field operators were desperately trying to wring the last out of a virus-ruined season. The snow guns were working hard overnight to keep the popular trails useable. We loved our time with the family, and as always, loved coming home.

I am Groot – August 29

Our amazing spell of benign weather was obviously coming to an end so we looked for a walk that kept us out of the boisterous wind. I suggested the Catchpool Valley area of the Remutaka Forest Park. Mary set out on a brisk circuit of the various tracks while I explored the beech forest areas.This tiny shoot, growing out of a dead log tickled my fancy. The title of the image is borrowed from the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Remutaka Forest Park, – the Five Mile Loop Track – August 29

That tree root in the foreground is fairly obvious so I crossed it without incident. I failed the test on the next one which was concealed in the leaf mould, and did a face-plant. I landed on my camera which ripped my recently repaired macro-lens in two pieces. Waaaahhhhh! No significant personal injury, so I returned to the car park to await Mary.

I hope to post again after a shorter time lapse.

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April 28, 2016 – Autumn in Central Otago

To the best of my knowledge, I have never posted sixteen images in one post before. On the other hand, this edition covers a whole week in a photographer’s paradise. It began on Wednesday 20th April when I flew from Wellington to Queenstown to attend the 64th annual convention of the Photographic Society of New Zealand. My son and daughter-in-law very kindly offered me accommodation for the week I would be in Queenstown, even though they are yet to finish unpacking after their move to their brand new house.

Hayes
At the Bendermeer reserve on Lake Hayes before the sun has fully risen

On my first morning there, I woke to a lovely still morning that hinted at a golden day ahead. I borrowed a car and drove the 5 km to my favourite spot on Lake Hayes.

Queenstown
Even in the commercial centre of the town there is Autumn colour

Later in the day, I went into town to meet my son, and enjoyed some excellent tacos in the restaurant which, with his wife, he owns. I am more than a little cynical about tourist towns, but the stunning natural beauty of the place, even downtown, makes it hard not to walk about with a smile on your face.

Remarkables Rd
Lake Hayes mirrors the sky perfectly. This was taken from very high up the Remarkables Road. The back-end of Lake Hayes Estate is at bottom left, and Arrowtown is at top right.

In the afternoon, with my grandchildren Billie and Otis, he drove me up the Remarkables Road. The amazing vistas before me were just breathtaking. I made many images up there, but I particularly enjoyed the view of Lake Hayes from up there.

Kawarau
Kawarau jet races upstream on the Kawarau River

Far below us, the Kawarau Jet was carrying a boatload of tourists down the Shotover River and then up the Kawarau, under the bridge onto Lake Wakatipu and back to Queenstown.

Kenwood.
My beautiful Queenstown grandchildren, Otis and Billie supervising the mixing of the cookie dough.

The next morning was Friday and before the registration for the convention opened, I watched Billie making biscuits (US = cookies) for a fundraising activity for her guide troop. Of course, Otis had to help (he licked the excess dough from the beater).

Gardens
At the lake in the Queenstown gardens

Then it was time for the convention itself. We had some fantastic, world-class guest speakers of whom the most memorable for me were Andris Apse, Jackie Ranken, and Mike Langford. They gave some wonderful talks and led superb field trips. On Sunday Morning, Jackie and Mike led a field trip into the magnificence of the Queenstown Gardens, offering help and guidance to all who asked for it.

Trees
Tree worship?

Autumn leaves were a particular focal point, and at one stage, my fellow conventioneers looked like some new cult of tree-worshippers offering their cameras in sacrifice.

Skippers
“Then sings my soul …”

In the afternoon, I went into the grandeur of Skippers Canyon on a trip led by Andris Apse. In such surroundings it would be impossible for any landscape enthusiast to not have a good time, though my well-known fear of heights gave me a few interesting moments as our driver took us within inches of some very long drops to the river far below. I gritted my teeth and kept shooting.

Pines
Dead wilding pines. The tiny patch of beech on the lower part of the picture is indicative of how the pines overwhelm everything else.

At the end of the road, near the old Skippers School, a stand of wilding pines caught my eye. Like so many in the area, they have been poisoned, and left standing. Apparently the cost of extracting the timber is greater than any value in the trees. If the poisoning is not carried out, Central Otago would lose its magnificent beech and poplar trees, and the fast-growing pines would overwhelm everything else. The policy is controversial.

Shotover
If you get to Queenstown, do not miss a ride on the Shotover Jet. It is expensive but worth it.

After the convention had run its course, I still had a day and a half in Queenstown, so while Andrew was at work in the restaurant, I borrowed his truck and went looking for shots.

Fountain
Back in the gardens … the bright tree across the lake is the same one that was surrounded by all those photographers earlier

Queenstown gardens, this time without all the other photographers seemed like a good idea.

Earnslaw
Earnslaw has been plodding backwards and forwards to Walter Peak for 103 years

Near the harbour, that grand old queen of the lake, the Earnslaw was making her smokey way back to the wharf.

Hydro attack
Hydro Attack in action

From a different era entirely, came the little high speed “Hydro Attack” shark was taking a customer out for a fifteen minute high-speed thrill ride. This thing is capable of 80 km/h and can submerge, and leap into the air. I can feel myself going green thinking about it.

Panorama
Panorama from Crown Range to the Remarkables

Before we went out for dinner that night, Andrew took me up the road towards Coronet Peak from where I compiled this panorama looking towards the Remarkables, and the Crown Range in the last light of a lovely day.

Ahuriri
The Ahuriri River, a little South of Lake Ohau

And then it was time to go home. Having cunningly booked a seat on the Western (left) side of the aircraft, I got some spectacular views. The sun glittering in the sinuous course of the Ahuriri River gave me a lot of pleasure.

Sounds
Over the Marlborough Sounds

As we neared Blenheim and aircraft begin its turn towards Wellington across the strait, I enjoyed a splendid “receding planes” view of the  hills behind the Marlborough Sounds. And just like that the adventure is over. What a week.

 

 

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November 22, 2015 … a stranger in a strange land

Queenstown was inundated yesterday with people in Lycra.

Arrow
The Arrow River in Arrowtown

It was the running of the annual marathon, and there were over 9,000 participants in the various stages from 10 km, half and full marathons. I am told that 80% of the competitors were from out of town, so the sudden influx of visitors with their companions put a huge strain on everything. The race itself required significant closures of various roads and tracks, so I looked in the other direction for my images. I went to Arrowtown, where the race started, since they had all long since gone South, and went to the Arrow River and Tobin’s Track.

Tobin's
Looking down Tobin’s Track through unremitting greenery towards the Arrow River

In April, the area is ablaze with Autumn colour, but for now, everything is still a luscious green.

flower
Pretty flower that soon becomes a pest

I am unsure what the tree is with the little white flowers, but it seems to release what seems like puffs of snow or cotton wool. The roadsides gutters are full of the white remains.

Matagouri
The mean-spirited matagouri in blossom

Later in the day, Mary persuaded me to come out for a walk with Otis to see another flowering tree she had found, with vicious spikes. I was baffled, but my Internet friends soon enlightened me. Any Southerner is probably familiar with the matagouri (Discaria toumatou) or “Wild Irishman”. It is reputedly the only native plant with thorns. And what thorns they are.

Otis
Otis with all the joy that a five year old boy has on a wild ride down a gravel track

This bush was growing on a popular path leading from Lake Hayes Estate towards the lake itself. Otis was scooting along with us on his bicycle, and he really enjoyed the hairy downhill ride from the shrubs back to the valley floor.

And that is enough for this edition.

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Arrowtown Otago Plant life Queenstown Seasons Trees

April 25, 2013 … the cheapest attraction in the region

Unless we see something even more spectacular on other parts of the journey, this will be the last of my “Autumn colours” kick.

In the many valleys and back roads in the Queenstown and Arrowtown district, there are areas that would just break your heart to look at right now. In Wellington, as I have said elsewhere, some individual trees or even small copses put on an Autumn display, but nothing compares with the spectacular, almost garish exhibition staged by this region. A friend yesterday commented that some of the images looked “staged”. I am willing to believe that the cluster of trees opposite Puzzleworld in Wanaka was planted with the deliberate intention of creating a localised splash of amazing colour. As for the rest, the area is simply too vast to be a deliberate act of colour design.

Arrowtown hill in the morning ... with the mist still on the hills
No staging here

My images today were made in Arrowtown yesterday at various times of the day. The hill behind the town is just magnificent,  and it is small wonder that an art class was being conducted within the town.

Art class -Arrowtown
How do they capture such amazing colours?

 

What subject matter they have to work with, and what wonderful palettes to copy.

Simple colours can still be beautiful
Oak leaf carpet

Oddly, one of my favourite samples from yesterday was the russet carpet around the trunk of a very large oak tree.

But to celebrate the glory of the season and the region, here is one more  colour “test pattern”. There were tourists everywhere, with everything from iPads to Hasselblads. I am sure the local industry is trying to figure out a way to charge for this.

Magnicent colours
Possibly the last word …

It is bleak and grey in Invercargill.