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Architecture Birds Butterflies Cook Strait flowers Landscapes Light Maritime mountains Paremata Porirua Rivers Sunset

July 17, 2022 …

One of my favourite mentors, Alastair Benn this week asked his subscribers what makes a good photograph/photographer. Any of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that this is a sure way to trigger all my anxieties and self doubt. He also asked whether we thought it was feasible to judge your own work.

Solely in relation to my own work, I regard a good photograph as one that I like, that I am pleased to have made and one to which my first reaction is not how much better it could have been “if only I had done something else.” In my view, although I love to get affirming opinions from others, the vital component is that I like it myself. I take it for granted that the image is made competently. After that it is a matter of what I saw and how I extracted that seeing from all that was in front of me.

So here follows the usual collection of images made since the last edition of this blog. I like some of them. Others not so much.

Cape Halswell Light in the mist

Winter mist on the harbour and all is blank beyond Pt Halswell. The Hutt Valley is probably still out there, though there is no evidence of it.

Little Black Shag hanging the laundry out to dry

I like the little black shags. Their plumage is beautifully patterned but not coloured. This one was hanging the wings out to dry in whatever thin substitute for sunshine was available.

Misty on the Wainuiomata Coast Road

Misty conditions appeal to me, though the resulting images rarely match the vision I had when I made them. This was on the road South to the Wainuiomata coast. Silhouettes against the mist always appeal to me.

A constrained view from Wright’s Hill

Now and then I get the urge to go up Wright’s Hill at the Western end of Karori. The problem with geographic lookouts such as Wrights Hill, is that they are constraining. Every time I go up there, I end up in the same place looking at the same view. Only the light, time of day and the weather change. I need to get more inventive.

Evans Bay looking inland

Unlike Wright’s Hill, Evans Bay offers myriad different vantage points. Some face East, some West. Some look into bays, others look out. I liked this view because it is an angle not often seen.

White cabbage butterfly

As far as I can tell, this caterpillar is going from left to right. I will further venture that this is probably a white cabbage butterfly seen here hanging under a parsley plant. Two aspects caught my eye. A droplet of water on the caterpillar’s back was interesting because I have no idea where it came from. The other thing that drew my attention was its pointy little feet.

Sunset over the Hutt Valley

A seemingly perfect day seemed to promise a spectacular sunset. Sadly, it didn’t happen. Instead, a wall cloud developed to the West and we had a fairly ordinary sunset. The only consolation were the glittering reflections in the Hutt River and the Waiwhetu Stream.

On Ivey Bay (again)

Ivey Bay is a frequent haunt of mine. Among other things, I like it because of the character of the boats moored there. As I have observed before, these are not plastic “gin palaces”, but rather, honest working boats, probably built by the original owner.

Tapuae-o-Uenuku

Looking from the top of the Wainuiomata Hill across the Cook Strait, there is usually a splendid view of the Kaikoura mountains. Tapuae-o-Uenuku is always magnificent, especially considering that summit is 130 km away.

Tākina – the Convention centre

Here is the new kid on the block. This is Tākina. It is the almost finished Wellington Convention Centre. I quite like it, though birders are not pleased with so much glass that could injure the birds.

Aquilla coming home

Aquilla is one of the local fishing trawlers seen here returning from the Cook Strait with a swarm of sea birds hovering hopefully in her wake.

Porirua Harbour

Porirua Harbour has its moments. I especially like it when there is no wind, and that is much more often than you might think. This is a multi-image panoramic stitch made between two trees near the Whitireia Polytchnic.

Tulips

Mary had a birthday recently and the family turned up and provided morning tea at a local cafe. Jack (15) arrived with a bunch of tulips for the occasion. Flowers for the win!

And that’s another edition in the can, though I had a repeat of that sudden loss of editing. I might have to see if there is something more reliable than WordPress.

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Adventure Animals Birds Mangakino Rivers Rotorua Waikato

25 May, 2022 … Waikato road trip (part II) … Wingspan

This is the part 2 of our three part road trip story. Part one ended after visiting the magnificent reserve and wildlife sanctuary at Maungatautiri. With my diminishing fitness and agility, I didn’t do Maungatautiri justice. It is a wonderful wildlife reserve well worth the visit for anyone of average mobility.

Mangakino continued to be a total delight. Morning mist on the river and bright blue afternoons and cool nights with log fires were just magic.

Having damaged my lightweight Olympus camera, I was slowly re-learning how to use the big Canon cameras after having left them idle for a year or two. Meanwhile, Mary was enjoying walking on the Waikato River trails while I enjoyed not walking the same trails. You can see how I did so poorly at Maungatautiri.

I have previously quoted Scott Kelby’s rule for making good landscape images: “first go somewhere where there is a good landscape”. There is no excuse for not finding good landscapes in the beautiful South Waikato.

This second part of our road trip is mostly about our adventure from Mangakino across to the truly wonderful Wingspan Bird of Prey Centre in Rotorua. If you are in the region, do not miss it (Monday to Sunday). If you are not in the region, go there. This is the best hour or 90 minutes a birder can spend.

Mangakino mist

We had learned that Wingspan had a school visit on the Thursday , so we deferred our booking until Friday. Kids should of course be encouraged to visit, but we preferred not to have to compete with them for access to the front seats. So it was that on Thursday Mary set out on the three hour walking trail from Mangakino to Whakamaru while I drove around looking for the magic of the mist. This tree appeared at just the right distance from the road.

Waikato river at Dunham’s Point

Then I went the 16 km back to Dunham Reserve where, sadly, there was no mist whatsoever. As I said last week, if you don’t capture the scene when you first see it, it is unlikely you will see the same conditions or light again. So, back to the Whakamaru Dam where I met Mary and we enjoyed a picnic lunch in the sun beside a small pond near the dam.

Arohaki in flight

Then came the day of our visit to Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre. (Check that link) They specialise in conservation, education and research for birds of prey. They also put on a superb hour long public display at 11:30 am every Thursday through Sunday. Seats are limited so book before you go.

We drove across the fondly remembered countryside from Mangakino to Atiamuri and then across SH30 to Rotorua. From there we went North on SH5 to Wingspan’s big new display area on Paradise Valley Rd in Ngongotaha. It was a beautiful morning and with our promised front row seats, we watched the show with perhaps twelve others.

The MC was Shannon, a young lady from Lower Hutt. She did an excellent job, and filled in all the gaps when the unpredictability of the birds disrupted the programme. The first bird to appear was Arohaki, a male NZ Falcon with his trainer, Heidi who is also from the Hutt Valley. Arohaki has obviously been doing this performance for quite a while, and settled himself on the wooden post set up in the field for that purpose.

Arohaki

Arohaki sits with a haughty demeanour and the certainty that, despite weighing a mere 300g, he can take on almost any bird in the neighbourhood. After chasing and catching a number of lures, he was brought closer to the audience and saw no problem in flying to perch on the head of the visitor at the end of the front row. Those are sharp claws so I advise visitors to wear a hat.

Ribbon dealing with a bait

The falcons are unapologetically and exclusively carnivores. Like me they have not developed a taste for broccoli or kale. They make short work of any chicken or duck on offer. They are not delicate eaters and quickly shred the morsels that the trainers offer for tasks achieved.

The second avian star of the show was “Ribbon”, a female who was displayed by the amazing Noel Hyde MNZM. Noel received that honour for services to wildlife conservation and research taxidermy. Ribbon weighs in at about 500 gm, almost half as much again as Arohaki. Foolishly, I went along to the end of the row for a different photographic perspective and next thing I knew was that Ribbon was sitting on my hat. It’s a lightweight fabric hat so I can testify that her claws are very sharp. Not only that, but with a long lens, its impossible to photograph a bird on your own head.

The staff brought the falcons along the row of audience seats and allowed people the opportunity to get really close. Another member of the audience caught the moment with Ribbon on my sitting on my hat as I had done for him with Arohaki on his hat, so we swapped images. I had not intended to include these two, but what the heck, it was all part of the delight in the day.

Mary gets to handle Ribbon (I think)
Ribbon sitting on my head – photo courtesy of Denis Came-Friar
Robo-magpie

The staff at Wingspan take great care for all aspects of each bird’s welfare and ensure that they get appropriate and sufficient exercise. One way they contribute to this is by the use of the “Robocrow” which was invented by the internationally renowned expert in falconry, Dr Nick Fox. Of course we don’t have crows in New Zealand so the wingspan version is dressed as a magpie. Basically it is a simple polystyrene radio controlled model aircraft, powered by an electric ducted fan, or as trainer Heidi says, a “hair dryer”. Here we see Heidi launching the Robo-magpie for Ribbon to chase.

Ribbon defeats the noisy enemy

As soon as Ribbon saw the robo-magpie, she was off. There ensued a vigorous pursuit around the skies above us, with Ribbon getting ever closer, and Heidi trying to evade capture. Ribbon won and Heidi throttled back, whereupon Ribbon took her capture up the hill into the scrub to eat the bait that was strapped to the robot’s back. Heidi and Noel had to trudge quite a way up the hill to retrieve both.

Jarli

Forgive me if I get a bit excited now. Wingspan has acquired an Australian Barn Owl whose name is Jarli. Yes, it is an Australian, but Barn Owls have been breeding here since 2008, and according to the experts at Wingspan, have thereby become our newest “native owl”. The Morepork and the Little Owl are the only other owl species in NZ and even they are not often seen. Isn’t she beautiful?

What did you say?

One of the many things that fascinate me about owls is the flexibility of their necks. If I heard correctly they can rotate through 270º so it should be hard to sneak up on them.

Totally silent flight

Surprisingly (to me), owls are receptive to training in similar fashion to the falcons. Jarli put on quite a show under the guidance of Heidi. In this image, she is launching off the pole that is at the centre of the displays, and on her way to receive a reward for a job well done.

If you are squeamish, I recommend you skip the next two shots. There were a few squeals of horror from other audience members on the day, but dinner was already dead and felt no pain.

We all enjoyed this except the mouse

Apparently Jarli can swallow three or four mice a day, and it was a somewhat gruesome spectacle, even though the mouse was already dead. Well at least it was not struggling. I saw these birds described as hyper-carnivores. Their food in the wild is exclusively of other small birds and animals that they catch and occasionally carrion.

Mmmm… bliss!

I framed this image way too tightly, but couldn’t resist showing it. The expression on the bird’s face is of sublime satisfaction … a bit like me after a dozen Bluff oysters. I am sure that I am guilty of anthropomorphism, and perhaps I just caught her as she blinked. I still think she looks satisfied.

Star

Our final performance was by “Star” under the guidance of the remarkable Debbie Stewart, NZM. Debbie is the Director of Wingspan and a major force in its founding. She received her MNZM “for services to birds of prey and raptor conservation.” Jarli was theoretically the last official performer of the day, but Debbie wanted to give star, a recently acquired bird, some training time, so we got a free extra display.

Star in pursuit mode

No complaints from me. I could watch them all day. Here is Star launching from that same pole in pursuit of a lure being towed across the paddock attached to a winch. I had hoped to see Noel’s Harrier Hawk, Fran fly. Alas, Noel noted that her plumage was not in good condition on the day.

As on my previous two visits, the display was an absolute joy. I can not recommend a visit highly enough.

Pohaturoa

After a pleasant lunch on the shores of Lake Rotorua in perfect weather, we headed back towards Mangakino. I was still buzzing from Wingspan, so no lakeside images.

Like many thousands of motorists every day, we drove past Pohaturoa near Atiamuri. Did you know, as you drove unthinkingly past, that this rock is up to 500,000 years old? Or that there is a long history of fierce inter-tribal battles on the hill from about the year 1400 onwards. Its one of those landmarks that tells an old Tokoroa boy that you are near what once was home.

Pohaturoa again

As we drove beside the river towards Whakamaru, I noticed a different view of Pohaturoa in the mirror, so we paused for the last photograph of the day. And that will do for part II.

The next and final part in this three part series will take us through Benneydale and National Park to Horopito and Raetihi and thence to Whanganui and Home. Perhaps I’ll see you then.

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Adventure adversity Architecture Birds Boggy Pond Family Hokio Beach Lower Hutt Otaki Plant life Rivers Waikanae Wairarapa Weather Wellington

December 28, 2021 … what lies ahead?

Another year reaches a conclusion, and what a year it has been for the world, and for our country, for my family and for me. Despite the fact that I try to live with hope in my heart, I look forward to 2022 with trepidation. On the personal front, I seem to crumbling at the edges. As well as the cataract, I have now been fitted with hearing aids, and hope to become accustomed to them. Then, following some sort of event that resulted in double vision, vertigo and nausea (unconnected with the cataract procedure), I ended up in hospital for a couple of nights undergoing a CT scan and MRI. No clear causes identified, but nothing sinister found. And thank heavens for free public health care which was superb for me. Nevertheless, with the vertigo and visual disturbances, my doctors say I am not permitted to drive for four weeks. Grrr.

Christmas has passed and family is scattered in Melbourne, Brisbane, Queenstown and Gisborne. Happily youngest son Anthony,, his wife Sarah and our lovely grandkids Maggie and Jack are at home nearby, so we spent some of our Christmas with them. OK, enough with the babble, what images did I get this round?

Black fronted dotterel

Fine days have been rare in recent times, so when one occurs, I select from one of my preferred locations. On this occasion , it was Hokio Beach (again). Since the whitebait season is ended, it was peaceful with no whitebaiters to deter the bird life. In fact, we had the beach entirely to ourselves. Mary went for a walk along the beach to the South while I lay back on the water’s edge and waited. In just a few minutes, I was blessed with a visit from one of my favourite birds, the black-fronted dotterel. These tiny creatures move very quickly and their legs are almost invisible in motion. They appear to hover across the sand and water. Just beautiful.

Also present at Hokio were the bar-tailed godwits, champions of long distance flight. They fly to tidal estuaries in New Zealand from Western Alaska in epic non-stop flights lasting 8 to 9 days. Barring the great albatrosses, they are the olympic athletes of the bird world. And they are handsome birds, aren’t they?

Feed me mama!

It was a great trip. Dotterels, godwits and even dabchicks. In this visit, the chicks have grown too big to be carried around on the parent’s back any longer. In fact they seem even bigger than the parents now, Nevertheless, they are still dependent on the parents for food. As always, the water in the Wetlands at Queen Elizabeth Park is reasonably sheltered and echoes the deep green of the surrounding bush.

Californian Quail

On another damp but windless day, Mary drove me up to the regional waterworks at Kaitoke. I was delighted to spot a small cluster of female Californian quails browsing in the lawns there beside the road. The males are more spectacular, I suppose, but the females as seen here are beautiful in their own way.

Stick insect

Stick insects are always problematic for me. They are interesting but very hard to make an attractive image with. They seem to need a context, so in this case it was moving slowly among the flax and lavender at the back door. It’s the first time I have seen a stick insect with a face.

Gold

It drives me nuts that, every year, the mainstream media are surprised to discover the existence of Metrosideros excelsa aurea. Breathless headlines about “rare yellow pohutukawa” appear without regard that they used the same story last year and the one before that. To be fair, I probably make the same complaint about them each year too. The yellow variety is definitely less common than the more familia crimson variety, but I think they are far from rare. There are plenty of very fine yellow specimens in the Wellington region.

Coat of many colours

This little Hebe moth is, like many others quite spectacular when up close. Mary drew it to my attention on our stairwell, so I switched to my trusty macro lens and got really close. Do click on the image to see it in the larger version. It reminds me of some of the more spectacular weaving that I have seen, though I think it would be a talented weaver indeed who could produce work as beautiful as this.

Rata in the rain at Kaitoke

Like the pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) , the rata (Metrosideros robusta) is a member of the myrtle family and of the genus metrosideros. The flowers are, to my eye, indistinguishable from those of the pohutukawa. If you get close, the leaves of the pohutukawa are larger and a darker green, and have small hairs on the underside. Rata leaves are smaller, glossy on both sides and have a notch on the tip. A good friend alerted me to the spectacular colours of the rata trees in bloom in the rain up at Kaitoke. He was right.

Waterloo railway Station, Lower Hutt

Most people think of somewhere else when Waterloo Station is mentioned. Our local version would probably fit in the cafeteria of the other one. Nevertheless, it is a locally important interchange between the Upper Hutt/Wairarapa railway line and the Hutt Valley bus services. The wind-shelters in the station are an interesting and necessary feature. As I said before, I am not permitted to drive until early January so I decided to use public transport and roam around the region by train and bus for the day.

Wellington commuter traffic

On arrival at Wellington railway station, I made this image. It occurred to me that not much has changed since the first time I passed through here in February 1954. Well, there are no steam locomotives, and the electric units have advanced through two generations. And then there are the face masks, and the cell phones. And the women wear trousers and the men don’t wear hats. No-one is smoking. Apart from that, nothing much is different

Top deck

Part of my day wandering the region by public transport was to take a trip from the railway station to Island Bay by double-decker bus. Like the schoolboy I sometimes am, I grabbed the front row seat on the top deck, and enjoyed the different perspective from up there. A feature of the city at this time of year is the proliferation of pohutukawa trees in magnificent bloom. This specimen is about midway along Kent Terrace.

Back to the station

On my return from the Southern suburbs, I decided to take the train out to Upper Hutt and thence back to Petone Station from where I would catch a bus back up the hill to home. This was all for the pleasure of riding the rails and seeing our city from different points of view. I paused for a pizza lunch in the station before heading North. Since I wasn’t driving, a glass of Pinhead Supercharger IPA helped that go down.

Once was a high school

Through the train windowI was intrigued by the extent of the “Bob Scott Retirement Village”. This was built on the site which was once Hutt Valley Memorial College and before that Petone Technical College. In its latter days as it was rotting, graffitied and increasingly vandalised, it suffered an arson attack and was totally destroyed. It has taken several years but the retirement village that stands in its place is now complete. Despite its somewhat forbidding appearance, I know many people who enjoy living there, and liken it to living on a cruise liner. I am happy for them, but the lifestyle does not appeal to me.

A favourite corner

I am very blessed that Mary works so hard to compensate for my driving prohibition and she made a picnic lunch and drove us over the hill to Lake Wairarapa. We also visited Boggy Pond and had our lunch on the shores of Lake Onoke at Lake Ferry.

Time was when the trip over the hill was a long and arduous journey, especially with kids in the car. Now you wonder why it was such a big deal back then. Heck there was even a greasy spoon cafe at the summit to break the journey. Obviously the places have not got closer together, but modern cars are more powerful, more comfortable and more reliable. The journey from Te Marua to Featherston is a mere 25 minutes. My favourite spot is a corner just to the North of bridge number 6 where there is a bank of trees down a steep ridge. There is no footpath and no safe space to stop to get my desired view. This shot is not what I desired. I should have waited until we got to where that next car ahead is, but it will do as a grab shot. As a passenger I can stick the camera out the window and point it in the right direction.

That is my last blog post for the year. I hope the festive season treated you kindly and you all had a great time. For any who are locked down or constrained by Covid, my sympathies. I look forward to your company in 2022. I enjoyed a cartoon I saw (but can’t find) which depicts the occupiers of 2021 cowering behind a corner in a dark corridor, reaching out tentatively with a very long pole to nudge open the door to 2022. I would like to hope for a much better year than this has been for the world, and I wish all the very best for the new year to all those who share my journey in this blog. Thank you for being with me and for the kind words from so many of you.

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Adventure Animals Architecture Art Castlepoint flowers History Lakes Landscapes Light Moon night Reflections Rivers sunrise

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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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Adventure Architecture Arrowtown Birds Children Family Kawarau Gorge Lakes Landscapes mountains Queenstown Queenstown Rivers Waves Weather

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.

Categories
Adventure Animals Architecture Birds Cook Strait Forest Landscapes Machinery Maritime Masterton mountains Rivers Wairarapa Waves Weather Wellington

August 8, 2020 … strange weather, but I’ll take it

For almost two weeks now, we have had consecutive days of calm fine weather. In that period, I count some still grey days in which the harbours were still. Wellington has a reputation for its mean winters. According to the calendar, this one has plenty yet to come, but so far it has been a delight.

Centre of bureaucracy
Down to the centre

High in the suburb of Northland is the Te Ahumairangi Hill lookout which affords a view over the bureaucratic centre of New Zealand. The tower block with the green top is the Business School of Victoria University of Wellington. The flat building in front is the high court and then the grey roof of parliament and the “beehive” which houses parliamentary offices. To the right of the beehive is the law school in the old wooden building and behind that the IRD. On the extreme right is Bowen House which contains the overflow for all our pariamentarian’s offices. Oh, and the brick building behind the business school is Wellington railway station.

rapids
Tumbling down the gorge

The Ngaio Gorge carries the Kaiwharawhara stream through lovely Trelissick Park from Ngaio at the top of the hill down to the harbour. It’s a modest stream but I liked the little rapids seen here.

Kayak
Sustained stillness.

A lovely morning at Pauatahanui Inlet and I decided to follow the Camborne walkway around its North West corner. The water was glassy and a bright red kayak entered the frame. As I lined up for my shot, the kayaker put his paddle across the cockpit and became a photographer himself.

Demolition

A long delayed casualty of the Kaikoura Earthquake (14 November 2016), the almost new BNZ building on Centreport’s land near the railway station is finally being demolished. Unlike most demolition work in the city, they recovered as much of the building materials as possible. Now it is down to the sadly compromised concrete skeleton, and the big crane is nibbling away at the remnants.

Kereru

We’ve been here before. The kereru is perched in the small kowhai shrub on our front lawn and was nibbling new shoots as efficiently as a motor trimmer. Somehow the shrub always recovers

Seaview Marina

Seaview Marina is a favourite place when the water is still. I was down at water level with the camera hanging inverted on the tripod centre-post just above the water to get this view. I heard my name called and there was Mary taking her lunch break between volunteer roles. We enjoyed our lunch together on a lovely mid-winter day.

Tapuae-o-Uenuku

If you have read my blog for any length of time, you will have seen Tapuae-o-Uenuku many times before. I always love to see it clear and proud across the strait. It’s weird to know that distant Kaikoura is just near the foot of Manakau, the mountain on the left. In case you were unaware, Manakau is the highest peak in the Seaward Kaikoura range while Tapuae-o-Uenuku is the highest in the Inland Kaikoura range. Despite the apparent calm, waves were slapping against the rocks with some force.

Waingawa River

Mary and I went over the hill into the Wairarapa and up the road to Holdsworth lodge. A lot of people had the same idea and the beautifully formed tracks in the lower parts were quite busy. The Waingawa river was tumbling down the hill to join the Ruamahanga river and thence via Lake Onoke to the sea.

Pied shag

Zealandia wildlife reserve gives the visitor access to a great variety of birdlife as well as providing opportunities for close encounters with Tuatara and various other lizards. This pied shag is enjoying the calm of the nest but keeping a wary eye on the tourists

North Island robin

Also in Zealandia is this lovely little North Island robin. They enjoy the insects stirred up as people walk by, and come very close, even to the extent of perching on the toe of your shoes to get the best harvest. They seem quite unafraid.

Lowry Bay

It has been an extraordinary run of weather, with two weeks in mid-winter with almost no wind, and mostly sunny days. In Lowry Bay, the usual fleet of moored yachts is down to just one at present.

Little black shag

Inside the breakwater of the Seaview Marina there are a few rocks that serve as a resting place for shags. This Little Black shag is airing its laundry .

Seaview Marina (2)

And still, day after day the eerie calm continues. Overcast weather I can live with but I do prefer conditions such as these that give reflections.

Jetski

As I write this edition, the weather has broken with rain and wind. It would be churlish to complain after so long. This image was made a few days earlier as a jet-ski rider was heading out to make noise and spray in the open water of the harbour.

That will do for now. See you next time.

Categories
Arachnids Bees Birds flowers insects Light Rivers Weather

May 22, 2020 … birds and bees

The weeks since my last post have been strange. Despite the easing of our lockdown status to level 2, life feels markedly different to the way it was before the restrictions. Perhaps it’s just the onset of winter weather.

As you will see from the pictures I display this time, I have not been to many places that afford a long view. Traditional landscape shots have been hard to come by. In fact, under the rules of level 2 lockdown, domestic travel is now permitted but I still feel obliged to stay close to home.

WARNING: The penultimate image in this edition is of a spider, so if spiders upset you, approach with caution.

Vivid colour

I was walking down the walkway beside Te Mome Stream near the Shandon golf course in search of our old friend “George”, the white heron. I never did find George on that trip, but these bright pegs (US = clothespins) seemed to make a picture.

Graffiti in the bush

On the same walkway, I encountered this shed tucked into the bush beside the track. I have no tolerance at all for graffitists who I regard as the equivalent of dogs marking their territory. Nevertheless the overall effect was interesting.

Hi, George

A few days later, I finally found George. More precisely, Mary found George while she was out on one of her long walks and texted me as to where she had seen him. I then drove to a street nearby and tip-toed into the area. There he was standing in a place where a storm-water drain empties into the Te Mome stream. I had to engage in a combination of sneaky approach and weird contortions to get a clear shot of him. So nice to see him again.

To see the world in a grain of sand

One of Mary’s treasured pieces of driftwood suddenly revealed the surface pattern that I had been looking at but not seeing for a long time. The Lockdown seems to have developed that skill a little. Please do click to enlarge in order to see the pattern.

A white-faced heron

This image was made at the Hutt River estuary while I was checking to see whether George had returned to his old haunts. George had gone elsewhere, but his smaller cousin, the white-faced heron was standing in the an area of sunlit water, producing an interesting high-key effect.

Madonna

Even as we came out of the level three restrictions, we had some less than pleasant weather. So, back inside for still life shots. Mary has a small sandstone madonna about 75 mm (3″) tall. I used my light tent and made this high key image. It was fun to do.

Pukeko

Still in pursuit of George, I prowled the banks of the Te Mome stream and encountered this handsome pukeko. The pukeko (Porphyrio melanotus) is a member of the swamphen family and there are numerous joke recipes for preparing it for the table. It usually goes, boil with an axe head until the axe head goes soft then discard the bird and eat the axe head. Regardless of its suitability for eating it is a fine looking bird with a vivid red shield on its head and beautiful blue and purple plumage. Did I mention that it has huge feet?

white on white

This flower was part of a bouquet that Mary received recently. As far as I can tell, it is one of the fleabane family and as you might guess, is related to daisies. I rather like the idea of high key images (usually very bright images with minimal shadows). So the faithful light tent was pushed into action again and I think it did a good job displaying the purity of the petals.

Bumble-bee resting

I was hanging washing on the line in our back yard when Mary drew this bumble bee to my attention. It was clinging to a down-pipe on the outside of the house, and looked as if it were about to die. I raced inside for camera and tripod and made images from several angles while it obligingly stayed very still. Then I completed my domestic duties and when I next looked, it had flown away.

Sandra II

Before the lockdown, I used to visit Hikoikoi quite often and am familiar with the working boats that are usually moored there. Sandra II is a sturdy little fishing vessel that, I suspect, rarely goes beyond the harbour limits. Nevertheless, I have seen her owner unloading good hauls of fish. On this occasion he seemed to be preparing to go out.

The elusive George

Another day searching for George and I found him, lurking among the reeds beneath some trees overhanging the stream. He certainly doesn’t make it easy. When I got to close he departed for distant places.

Glass

Another wet day and more indoor work. I am not sure how to describe this piece, but I suspect it to be a bas relief. It qualifies by virtue of no undercutting, but it is inverted, carved into the back of the glass block. Again about 75 to 100 mm tall.

Imperial gaze

This statue of Queen Victoria was cast it’s steely gaze over Kent and Cambridge Terraces since it was moved there in 1911 to make way for the trams in its original location in Post Office Square, It’s a fine statue, but the panels on the plinth were controversial because the Scottish artist had a rose-tinted view of the signing of the Treaty of Waiting.

Vagrant spider (Uiliodon albopunctatus)

Mary spotted this large black spider in the upstairs bedroom. It was moving pretty fast so she yelled for me to bring my camera. She then caught it in a glass jar and put some cling film to secure the beast. Neither of us was aware of it at the time but Uiliodon albopunctatus has a reputation for being aggressive and capable of inflicting a nasty bite. Like almost all New Zealand spiders, its bit is non-toxic. An hour in the fridge slowed it down considerably and I was able to pose it on a sheet of white paper and make my images. As it started to warm up and show signs of animation, I released it unharmed into the garden where it might normally live.

Leucanthemum (I think)

This flower is growing on a large shrub in a neighbour’s somewhat overgrown piece of undeveloped land. Botanical identification is quite difficult to me and often a flower seems to match at least five or six candidates.

That will suffice for this round. I look forward to your company in a few weeks.

Categories
Academic Birds Cook Strait Family flowers fungi Landscapes Light Maritime Plant life Rivers Tararuas Waves Weather Wellington

April 4, 2010 … everything is changed … a locked down but nevertheless golden celebration

This week marks a special occasion which you can read about under the final image.

When I last wrote, everything was more or less normal here in New Zealand. I no longer know what “normal” means. Back then, there was little indication of the changes to come. Now we are in lockdown, and since Mary and I are both in the over 70 age group, society is taking special care of us. We are not even supposed to go to the supermarket because we are apparently especially vulnerable to catching the infection.

When I first heard the lockdown regulations, I formed some preconceptions as to how this would play out and where I would still be able to go for photography. Reality is a little different and rather more restrictive. The basic rules are:

  1. Stay at home
  2. Wash and dry your hands frequently.
  3. Stay within your own domestic “bubble”
  4. Stay at least two metres from anyone from outside of your bubble
  5. You can leave home for essential purposes such as visits to supermarket, or a doctor unless you are over 70 in which case you need to get someone else to shop for you because you are more vulnerable
  6. Go back to rule 1 … rinse and repeat

Despite rule 1, it is permitted to exercise in your own neighbourhood by walking, running, cycling etc, as long as you remain close to home and don’t come closer than two metres to anyone else. More adventurous exercises such as hiking, surfing etc are not permitted because if you need assistance you endanger others.

So, with all that in mind let us explore the images I have made since last time, in chronological order.

Spoonbills in the river
Browsing the mud in the Pauatahanui inlet

A pleasant morning and the likelihood of some bird shots resulted in Mary packing a lunch and the two of us setting out in the direction of Waikanae. Remember, this was when things were still “normal”. On Gray’s Rd around the Northern edge of the Pauatahanui Inlet, we saw the spoonbills. I thought that the cluster of them dredging for crabs in the soft mud of a serpentine creek might make a picture. I like the wandering path made by the creek, but the spoonbills were less prominent than I hoped for in my mind’s eye. I think, if you click to get the enlarged image, you will see the grey teal in between the two nearest spoonbills.

Juvenile dabchick
Still dependent on its parents

In Queen Elizabeth II Park at Paekakariki, I checked out the US Marines memorial Wetlands and was delighted to find that the dabchick families were still in residence. This one still wears the black and white facial markings of a juvenile bird, and indeed it was still being fed by its parents. I have to say I always enjoy the deep green colour of the QEII wetlands as they reflect the surrounding bush.

Yachts in the marina at Oriental Bay
In Oriental Bay

It needs to be acknowledged that Wellington is a small city, and there are relatively few parts of it that I have not yet been to in search of picture opportunities. The obvious consequence is that there are some places that I have used over and over and over again. My excuse is that they are attractive or interesting spots to begin with, and different days present different conditions, and thus different pictures.

This image was made from inside the breakwater on the Eastern side of the Clyde Quay Wharf (formerly known as the Overseas Passenger Terminal). As you can see, the conditions were calm.

Northward view across Oriental Bay Marina
The other direction

On the same day as the preceding image I crossed in front of the boat sheds, to catch the stillness of the day. Many leading photographers tell us that clear blue skies are boring, I still make blue sky images if the scene appeals, but I do enjoy grey skies if the clouds have textures. On this occasion, I liked the patterns and their reflections in the remarkably still water. So far, life is still normal.

Purple water lily
Water Lily

If I had known that my photographic activity in the near future would be almost exclusively based on still life, I might have gone elsewhere. However, the Begonia House in Wellington’s Botanic Garden offers some visual pleasure, even in normal times. There were some nice shots of orchids, and begonias to be had, but the vivid purple of the water lilies made this an image of power for me.

Pauatahanui looking moody but still
Pauatahanui Inlet

Another place I visit often in normal times is the Pauatahanui Inlet. I have over 3,000 images in my catalogue from there. So many different moods, but always my favourites are when the water is still and offering reflections.

The Hutt Valley was misty so I had hoped there might be similar conditions at Pauatahanui. Sadly that rarely happens, and I am guessing that the exposure to the sea air on the Western side of Haywards Hill prevents the mist forming. Anyway. I regret that E.L.James seems to have captured the phrase “shades of grey”as I love these conditions (the meteorological ones).

Swells on Wellington South coast
South coast

There are days when, even though conditions are calm, the South Coast still gets heavy swells. The sheer majesty of a big slow moving wave and the weight of water thudding into the rocks never fails to move me. I could watch those green walls coming in for hours.

View across Cook Strait from Makara
The day before it all changed

And now the change begins. The New Zealand Government implemented a series of conditions numbered 1 through 4 each with increasing levels of control measures to manage the spread of Covid-19. It opened at level 2, and then on March 24 went to level 3 with the warning that it would be at level 4 for at least four weeks from the following day.

Careful to minimise contact with others, Mary and I made the last of our final day of freedom for a while and drove first to Makara and then on to Plimmerton for a picnic lunch. On the way, we visited the West Wind wind farm. There standing beside one of the big turbines, we enjoyed this view across the Cook Strait to Arapawa Island and parts of the Kaikoura ranges.

I wholeheartedly endorse the government’s management of this crisis even though it means that for at least the next four weeks, we are required to stay home except as required to obtain the necessities of life. All businesses except those providing essential goods and services are firmly closed. People over 70 (you may be surprised to learn that that includes us) are instructed fairly firmly to stay at home and rely on others to shop for them. So here we go.

Sea Urchin shell
Sea Urchin shell

Day one of the lockdown. While taking that last walk on the beach at Plimmerton the previous day, Mary found this lovely little sea urchin shell. It’s rare to find an intact one and this is a very small one … about 50 mm (2″) in diameter … I was unaware of its beautiful colours until after I made the picture.

Fly Agaric toadstool
Amanita muscaria or Fly Agaric

Mary is a walker. There are few days indeed when she doesn’t walk briskly around the hills or along the riverbank for 90 minutes or more. I on the other hand, am a couch potato. Mary knows that a four week lockdown is going to be hard for me as an obsessive photographer. Bless her heart, on the first day of lockdown, she gathered a bunch of objects that she knows will make interesting still life images. The common fly agaric toadstool is quite toxic, but also presents a striking appearance. My darkbox is going to get used often, I suspect. Focus stacking may also be used for this kind of image.

Collected sea shells
Memories of beaches past

Not only is she good at gathering things while walking, but Mary also has a large collection of small mementoes gathered on various trips over many years. And so, I was allowed access to her box of small sea shells. The background in this picture is a glass drinks coaster with etched concentric circles.

Kiwi feathers
Genuine honest to goodness kiwi feathers

Back in 2014, our local hospice was involved with the Department of Conservation in a fundraising exercise involving the naming and release of a young kiwi. Mary and granddaughter Maggie got to handle the young bird, and even walked with the DoC rangers to release it in the hills behind Wainuiomata. The bird left some of its feathers behind and they found their way into Mary’s souvenir tin.

Beach souvenirs
Indoor beach

On day five of the lockdown, I was given access to some of the larger beach memories. I borrowed the sand from my long forgotten mini Zen garden and spread it in the floor of my lightbox. A couple of starfish, some sponges and some interesting shells were arranged over the sand and thus we have instant beach though no water was involved. While attempting to return the sand to its proper space, I managed to spill some on the carpet. Vacuum cleaner duty!

Dandelion and reflection
On reflection

Another of Mary’s finds (isn’t she a gem?) was this dandelion. I decided against the straightforward ‘head and shoulders” portrait since I have done it so many times before. A paper plate was filled with water to a depth of one or two millimetres. The dandelion was then drooped until I had a clear reflection.

Early morning view up the Hutt Valley
A landscape day and I am trapped at home

Landscape images are very much harder to arrange now that we can not go anywhere in the car. The best I can manage is shots of the valley from the front yard. Happily, different day, different light, different weather means a different picture. On this day, river mist coming down from the upper valley made a difference.

Starling in the bird bath
The Spin Cycle

We have a bird bath on the front lawn, and it is well used. Sometimes five or six sparrows splash about in it, sometimes a huge kereru fills it to overflowing. On this occasion a starling was taking heed of the instruction to wash frequently and thoroughly. This was taken through the glass window of our dining room, but I enjoyed the scene.

More fly agaric specimens
More found treasures

A bunch of fly agaric toadstools were in Mary’s latest collection so I arranged them in some compost from one of our pot plants. I know they are toxic, but as far as I know that refers to ingestion, and anyway, the hand washing regime should take care of everything else.

A personal celebration

Mary and I on the day before our golden wedding anniversary
Fifty Wonderful Years Together

On April 4, 1970, Mary and I got married in St Patrick’s Church in Patea. We had a Nuptial Mass celebrated by the late Father Brian Sherry from New Plymouth. Being so long ago, some details of the day are hazy in my memory. However, one thing is clear, this was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Together we have five amazing children of whom we are extraordinarily proud. They in turn brought their spouses into the family and gave us six wonderful grandchildren who light up our lives, even though, in the present circumstances visitation is not possible.

Mary does not like to be the centre of attention, and I shall probably catch it for what follows, but something has to be said on such an occasion, so here goes …

She is a woman of deep faith who believes her purpose in life, her calling, is to serve others, especially those in most need. I have never met anyone who better understands the true meaning of the word “vocation”. I and my kids have benefitted enormously from this. Mary was a registered nurse for fifty years and in the last decade or so of her employment was a social worker helping patients and their families in Te Omanga Hospice.

She also volunteered for various good causes. Since her retirement in 2017 she has become busier than ever, volunteering for an organisation that offers care and assistance to young mothers, and another that supports the partners of people who have dementia. She is the most selfless person I know. It is a matter of some grief to her that, being over 70, the lockdown rules prohibit her from carrying on those tasks until it is over.

Mary has been there for me and for all our family throughout our fifty years of marriage. We have shared many joys and a few tough times. I particularly admired the way she supported me when I lost the plot and undertook to do a PhD late in life. Even more, she allowed me to leave a well paid management role in industry for a job as a university lecturer on literally half the salary.

Mary is a wise and loving woman who I am privileged to have as my wife. She is nevertheless real, and each of us occasionally does things that drive the other nuts. (I really should exercise more and eat less) But she is also a forgiving woman so here we are together still, and if my luck holds, we will continue to be so until the end of our days. Our planned celebration with the family is of course cancelled, and alas, not even the florists are open.

Thank you Mary for all that you have done, and for all that you are. You are a beautiful person and the light of my life.


Categories
adversity Birds Children Family flowers Food Maritime Plant life Reflections Rivers Weather Wellington

October 13, 2019 … what did I see?

I suppose that a useful technique for improvement might be to ask myself questions about the images that I like. Why did I make this image? What appealed? Now that I’ve made it, what might I have done better? Let’s have a look.

Mallard drake on green water
On seas of green

Just to the North of Upper Hutt is Haukaretu Park with a large pond that, in most circumstances, is sheltered. As you might know, I love still waters. This image includes a mallard drake crossing the luminous green waters of the pond. I love the syrupy texture of the water, the green reflection of the surrounding bush and the lovely colours of the bird itself. It might have been a better image if I had achieved a better result of focussing exactly on the bird’s eye.

Wellington in the rain with passing car raising spray
Wonderful weather for a photographic walkabout

Last weekend, for the sixth successive year, I was the leader of the Wellington part of a world-wide photowalk. Because the idea is that the walk takes place on the same day all around the world, postponement for bad weather is not an option. So, we were a small group of just seven doing a somewhat damp photowalk with about 900 other groups involving more than 10,000 photographers. Did I mention that it was raining? I made this shot as a record of the conditions. It was hand-held and intended to catch the spray kicked up by passing cars. I didn’t want to pan (swing the camera with the car) because I wanted to get the wet background of lower Taranaki St. I needed a much faster shutter speed to “freeze” the car. One member of our group normally participates in the walk in his native Manila. This year he was working as a staff member on the cruise liner “Radiance of the Seas” so he joined our walk. What a miserable day for the passengers to spend in Wellington.

The cruise-liner Majestic Princess reflected in a puddle
What a difference a day makes

The very next day, another large cruise liner was in and enjoyed much better weather. Here I have caught “Majestic Princess” reflected in a puddle left over from the previous day. These reflection shots rely on a suitably placed puddle and a wide angle lens. I could only just catch the full 330 metre length of this vast vessel. I would have preferred a puddle that allowed a full broadside shot, but this was the best I could find. I really liked the sheer scale of the vessel.

Red tulips
Luminosity

Tulip season in the Wellington Botanic Gardens is always worth a look. However it is a challenge to do more than capture a snapshot. You should understand that, in photographic circles, “snapshot” is a pejorative word. Somehow, the mere record of being there needs to be transformed into something with artistic merit. The gardens are laid out more or less the same each year, so it is necessary to select a different viewpoint or find lighting conditions that make a difference. I liked the vivid lighting in this bed of red tulips.

Rangiora tree flowers
The Rangiora

This has been a season of prolific growth for many of our spring-flowering trees and shrubs including the Rangiora (Brachyglottis repanda). I decided to get up close to the the flowers on a small branch. I need to find other ways of interpreting such flowers. I tend to put the camera in front of the flowers and press the button. It works but it fails to add that artistic dimension that I so desperately seek.

Hutt River rapids

Just a little to the North of the Upper Hutt CBD near Maoribank on the Western side of River Road, the Hutt River comes in from the West and is forced into a sharp turn to the South. I made this a long exposure. It may have been a mistake. The creamy streaking of the water does not match what we expect running water to look like. Sometimes you can get away with it but I am not so sure of this one.

Tree trunks in the pond at Te Haukaretu
Stillness

The duckpond in Te Haukaretu Park in the same area is a delight to my eye. It offers still water and some spectacular trees which reflect beautifully in the green water. And if you are quick, you can catch a shot without the wake of a passing duck. This image appealed to me for the shape of the trunks, and the green of the moss on the trees and in the reflections. Next time I might try a wide angle lens to include more of the trees.

Mary provides a rainbow cake to help celebrate Jack's birthday
Jack’s 13th birthday

You may have noticed that I rarely make images of people. But our grandson Jack turned 13 this week. He is a really great kid and we love him dearly, as we do all of our six grandchildren. He came to have lunch with us the day before his birthday and Mary provided a rainbow cake to finish things. This image is more of a record shot than an attempt at the photographic art.

Willis St and Manners Street corner
On Willis St

When I first came to Wellington, back in the 1960s, this spot on the corner of Willis St and Manners St was universally known as Perret’s Corner. It was named for the pharmacy that occupied the corner that is behind and to the right in this view. There were tram lines in all directions back then. The name has faded into history and few Wellingtonians know it now. The image catches the narrowness of Wellington’s pre-eminent shopping precinct. I have friends who disagree with me, but now that the trolley wires are gone, I love being able to see an almost clear sky between the tower blocks.

And that will suffice for this week.

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September 5, 2019 … road trip

Mary and I are just back from a South Island road trip. We decided that our youngest grandson, Otis’s ninth birthday was a good reason to go, and so we did.

Kaiarahi
Kaiarahi was standing in for the larger Kaitaki which was in Australia for an overhaul

After several weeks of ugly weather, the day we crossed the strait dawned clear and still. How lucky is that? We arrived nice and early but to this day I have never figured whether there is science or merely mysticism in how the crew decide the loading sequence. Of course it doesn’t really matter, the ship never leaves until the doors close behind the last person with a ticket. Nevertheless, I hate it when they let all the &@#$%@# motorhomes out onto the highway ahead of me.

We spent two pleasant nights at an AirBnB in Greymouth. I was disappointed that recent weather patterns and some dire forecasts prevented fishing vessels from crossing the notorious Greymouth Bar as they present a spectacular sight when they do so in big swells. Likewise, the weather was not conducive to birdwatching on Cobden Lagoon. But our accommodation was warm and dry and sufficient for our needs.

Magical Lake Ianthe

Our next destination was Tarras, just a little out of Wanaka so that meant a long drive from Greymouth with rest breaks here and there for photographic purposes. One of my favourite lakes in the South Island is Lake Ianthe about 55 km South of Hokitika. It is a smallish lake with few access points, but when it is still, it is just perfect. There are others such as Brunner, Mapourika, Mahinapoua, Kaniere, and each is beautiful in its own way.

Roadside wetlands as we neared Haast

It’s a long and seemingly endless 480 km from Greymouth to Tarras, and as the signs say, New Zealand roads are different and you should expect to take longer. The road has its charms, and where it was possible to stop safely we did. I rather liked the various wetlands on the road between Fox Glacier and Haast.

Towards Hawea from Tarras

Our accommodation in Tarras was a modern cottage with all of the usual facilities and to Mary’s delight, a log burner for warmth. The next morning, looking back towards Lake Hawea, the rising sun lit up the snow capped peaks. I am unsure which range this might be, but is is a spectacular view to wake up to.

Sunset at Lake Hayes Estate

We got to our son’s house in Lake Hayes Estate without incident and settled in. A spectacular sunset was experienced on our first night. This view is to the South West. I am guessing that those peaks are Ben Lomond and Bowen Peak in the range behind Queenstown township.

Opposing forces

I rather liked Andrew’s chess set which is apparently modelled on the one used in a Harry Potter movie. I don’t play the game myself, so my interest was purely aesthetic.

Murky weather on the Remarkables

As the ski season winds to its close, most of the schools in the region seem to spend some time up on the ski fields. Both grandchildren had two full days up there in each of the last two weeks. Otis spent his school day up there on this particular day, but in conditions like these, it was apparently not very pleasant. I suppose that is a good lesson to learn in itself.

Lake Wanaka

I was turned loose with the car and my cameras so I spent the day going over the Crown Range to Wanaka, then along Lake Dunstan to Clyde and then back through Cromwell to Queenstown. I came within a few hundred metres of “the tree” at Wanaka but chose to ignore it. The lake was still, so I spent some time there. I was a little sad to see the intensive development happening to the town since I last looked.

Look the other way

I have mentioned before, the 180˚ rule … if there is something interesting in front of you, don’t leave without checking behind you. A spectacular sunset over Queenstown was nicely reflected in the clouds over the Crown Range to the North East.

Near Glenorchy

The kids were at school, Andrew was at work, so Mary and I went along the Glenorchy road. We did a bit of a walk along the track towards Bob’s Cove and then carried on to Glenorchy itself. The spectacular mist in the far corner of the lake behind Pig and Pigeon Islands would appear to be sand from the Dart River delta being picked up by a vicious wind. In fact I struggled to open my car door against the wind to make this image.

At Lindis Summit

All too soon, it was time to leave Queenstown, so we set out early in the morning to our next booked accommodation in a farm stay near Rangiora. We took the route through the Kawarau Gorge and Cromwell, across the river to Tarras and over the beautiful Lindis Pass. I had been anxious that conditions might require snow chains. Happily that didn’t happen.

Across Lake Pukaki to Aoraki/Mt Cook

It was great weather for travelling and the view across Lake Pukaki to Mt Cook was irresistible even if the image has been made a million times before by almost every tourist who passed this way. Aoraki/Mt Cook is New Zealand’s highest peak at 3,724 metres (12,218 ft)

On the road from Fairlie to Geraldine

South Canterbury’s lovely landscape was nicely displayed on the road from Fairlie across to Geraldine. We paused there for lunch and resumed the journey to Rangiora.

Terra Cotta and Rust

We enjoyed two nights at the farm stay before completing the journey home from Picton. Regrettably I seem to have acquired an outbreak of pre-patellar bursitis which happens from time to time and is uncomfortable rather than dangerous. It tends to limit my mobility but “this too shall pass”