Academic Architecture Camera club Light Social Weather Wellington

November 8, 2014 … sunshine in the city and speeches at the convention

The brevity regime is still in force.

The parliamentary office building known as the beehive.

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend and former colleague from university. On the way there, “the Beehive”, inspired if not actually designed by the architect, Sir Basil Spence was in front of me. A little twist of the zoom ring during a low exposure produced an interesting result.

It seems appropriate that this fleet of black and yellow bumblebees should park so near the Beehive

I was a little early so my friend invited me to wait in his office while he dealt with some university administration. He has a good view over the harbour, and a somewhat quirky view onto the Wellington Bus terminus. As I said earlier this week, I like the block colours.

Stout St
A bright day in Stout Street

After a pleasant lunch, I was returning to my car and the architecture on Stout Street seemed worth a look. That blue sky was great too.

Welcoming speech by the president of the PSNZ. The fluoro jackets are worn by members of the convention committee.

In the evening, I was at the opening of a regional convention for the Photographic Society of New Zealand. Ours was the host club, and I am happy to say it has got off to a fine start, though the people staying in the on-site accommodation were disconcerted by the lack of hot water in their showers, The conference venue had forgotten to turn the water heater on. A friend from Karori who is a regular reader originally appeared in this image but I cropped it to protect his privacy.

More from the convention tomorrow.

Architecture Children Food harbour Petone Social Weather Wellington

March 14, 2014 … old friends and stately buildings

Old friends in town  from far-away places are a sufficient excuse for a trip to the city.

The National Library of New Zealand
In another country, one might suspect that the outward form of our foremost repository of knowledge looks like the headquarters of a secret police service.

My friend Yogesh lives and works in Basel, but occasionally comes home. When we worked in the dairy industry, all those years ago, Yogesh and I travelled together to places like Bahrain, Dubai, Dammam, Jeddah, Santa Rosa Ca, and Singapore and enjoyed working on some interesting projects, as well as sharing good food and wine when off duty. It’s great to catch up with him and other friends from that era. As always, I arrived ahead of schedule, so spent a little time wandering around Thorndon, looking for images with my standard lens.

St Paul's Cathedral
The facade is at the South end of the church.

Across the road from the National Library is the Anglican Cathedral of St Paul. From the outside, it gives the impression of having been designed on a very strict budget and has very few redeeming features (no pun intended). Nevertheless, the people involved with the cathedral go out of their way to make it a welcoming place, so I went inside to explore.

Exploring the choir
The chatter of small children was not at all obtrusive

A bunch of young children were being shown around the choir and looking at the sanctuary. Behind the altar, the dossal, or wall hanging is very impressive and was created for this church by Beverley Shore Bennett in 1990.

The sanctuary as seen from the chor stalls
I like the architect’s use of light.

Despite my misgivings about its external form, there is a tranquility and ethereal light inside, especially in the sanctuary area.

Old St Pauls is up to the right of the larger tree
In the foreground is the National Archive, and storage place of the Treaty of Waitangi

But time was fleeting, and I went and enjoyed some drinks and a catch up with Yogesh and other friends. On the way back to my car afterwards (having been careful to stay within appropriate bounds of consumption), I looked up Murphy Street, and there, hidden among the taller modern buildings, is the spire of the Old St Paul’s Cathedral, deconsecrated, and now merely a historic place. Designed by Frederick Thatcher and built in the Gothic style, entirely of native timbers, it is a stunning piece of architecture, well worth a visit.  But not last night.

Sunset seen from Petone
We are about to get some ugly weather, so I was determined to enjoy this sunset as I ate my fish and chips on the foreshore

As I reached Petone on the way home, I paused to construct this panorama of the rosy sunset,

My big lens is fixed, and should be back with me next week. Yay.


adversity Birds creativity Lower Hutt Social

December 7, 2013 … on the green before the storm

Oh woe, oh misery!

Now I am getting in a tangle and though I am taking the images each day, I am not doing them justice and I am not getting them out on time.  My excuse is that I have been editing the camera club newsletter, and somehow it has turned out to be my largest edition yet (19 pages).  Anyway here are the images from Friday 6 December.

At the 18th
Finishing the round before that storm comes

I am not a golfer. I go round in about 119, and the second nine would be even worse. However, on friday I was photographing a hospice event that was catered in the local golf clubhouse. Knowing the sensitivity of those images I attempted to grab a few images for general purpose use on the way. Based on its proximity to the club house, I am guessing that this is the eighteenth green. As you can see the weather was threatening. As it turned out, it was no idle threat, and despite the warm temperatures and high humidity a Northerly gale followed soon after this.

At the 19th
After a few Heinekens who remembers the scorecard?

During a lull in proceedings at the hospice event I looked outside and saw a well established group enjoying their time at the 19th. You could take the addition of a radial blur as my attempt at social commentary.

Tui gathering nectar
A bit “grainy” sorry

After the event finished it was back home to the task of editing the 110+ images and then back to the newsletter, but as I got there another tui in the flax presented itself.

I hope to be back to normal soon

Machinery Silverstream Social Trentham Upper Hutt Vehicles

November 19, 2013 … white ribbon special

Being surrounded by scary looking people with shaggy beards, dark glasses, helmets, heavy boots and black leathers with “gang patches” can be intimidating.

Leaving the Orongomai Marae
Taken though the less than sparkling rear window of a police patrol car, this shot doesn’t convey the sound of so many big bikes

Not these guys. Though they had all the trappings of gang culture, and huge noisy motorbikes, they were mostly people of deep religious conviction on a mission.  They were participating in a “white ribbon day” observance to share their belief that violence against women is wrong. The ride had come down the length of the North Island from Whangarei to Upper Hutt. They were visiting schools (by pre-arrangement) and would arrive en-masse with much thundering of engines.

Arriving at Upper Hutt Primary School
The police facilitated all intersections and access points


The format of the event was a “rolling haka” … at each school, the pupils would welcome the riders with a haka. The riders would speak about their abhorrence of violence against women, and invite the children to join them in promising not to commit, condone, or remain silent about violence to women. They would conclude each visit with a return haka and then depart with more thundering.

A fierce haka at Upper Hutt Primary
Varying degrees of cultural competence on display here

The police were heavily involved as part of their own support for the anti-violence message. They ensured the smooth flow of the procession through the morning traffic. As one of the two photographers involved, I got to ride in a patrol car as we each leap-frogged the other to get to the next venue to record the proceedings.

Kids making the promise with the bikers
“I promise not to commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women”

Sports commentators, especially English ones whose rugby team has just been beaten by the All Blacks, tend to dislike the performance of a haka, probably because they regard it as a sporting ritual designed to confer mystique on the team and to intimidate the opposition. It’s true that sports teams use it that way.

Hutt International Boys' School
A rousing haka from Hutt International Boys School  to welcome the visitors

In the Maori culture, a haka is about giving and receiving respect. There would be few New Zealand schools where the pupils did not know at least one haka (and there are many of them, so please don’t buy into the notion of “the haka”)

Haka in response
As visitors, the bikers always did their haka in return

The kids were fascinated by the bikers and their huge rumbling machines, and after the ceremonies mingled happily with them.

Technology in use at Silverstream
iPads  everywhere in schools now

An aspect of the school visits that fascinated me was the nearly universal habit of using the classroom iPads to record proceedings.

making the promise
Another group joins the bikers in promising to abstain from violence

There was a great turnout at each of the four schools visited in the upper valley,  and the kids seemed appreciative of their visitors.

Leaving Silverstream
Ear-shattering noise

Though I am not in the same spiritual place as these bikers, I was very happy to be a part of their journey yesterday. Who, after all, can be opposed to campaigns to eliminate violence?

And that’s it for today.

Architecture Lower Hutt Social

November 8, 2013 … grand ceremonies

An official opening of a new facility, Cooper Cottage, at the local hospice occupied most of my time yesterday.

Cooper Cottage at Te Omanga Hospice
I am impressed that they managed to retain so many trees

After an old cottage was demolished as an earthquake risk, a new cottage has been built to provide working spaces for the various therapists and social workers who are an essential part of the Te Omanga team.  Though the old building was much loved, I think the new building is a much nicer place than its predecessor.

The Associate Health Minister makes the official opening speech
Staff in the background against the wall. Hospice co-founder, Marion Cooper is the silver-haired lady in dark green

The associate Minister of Health, the Hon. Jo Goodhew came to do the official honours, and to unveil the plaque dedicating the building to Marion Cooper and her late husband max Cooper, co-founders of Te Omanga. After a traditional karanga welcoming visitors, there was a blessing by the chaplain, and then speeches followed by a pleasant morning tea.

The Minister and Marion Cooper admire the plaque which they have just unveiled together
The blue on the plaque is a reflection of the balloons hung on the rails

In the afternoon, many of the families who interact with the therapists came to a barbecue in the grounds and toured the new cottage. Our grandchildren were there, and young Cooper was most impressed that his name was everywhere. Privacy sensitivities prevent my sharing the images from that part of the day, so I leave you with this lovely rose from the grounds of the hospice. As you can see there had been rain.

Unknown rose
Someone did tell me its name but I forgot it almost immediately.

That’s all for today.


Birds Botanic gardens flowers Social

October 3, 2013 … colour in the gardens

On Saturday I shall have the privilege of leading a photowalk.

It is one of 1,231 photowalks involving 26,206 walkers around the world. Organised by well known American photographer and educator Scott Kelby, each walk is limited to 50 registered walkers, and is scheduled to take about  two hours culminating in a social gathering in a local establishment. Having “talked the talk”, I thought it would be wise first to “walk the walk”. With my almost seven-year-old grandson Cooper, I set out from the top of the cable car in Kelburn. We went down through the gardens, pausing so that Cooper could sample the various apparatus in the children’s playground before proceeding on down through some of the lovely tracks to the tulip beds near Tinakori Rd. This old tree trunk on the way was interesting.

A slice of history
What was happening when those rings were being laid down?

The tulips were a premature wreck as a result of some wild weather, but other more sheltered areas were still in splendid bloom. From there, our path took us up over a ridge to descend into the Lady Norwood Rose Gardens, and on the way, this little Chaffinch was bold enough that I got this close with a standard lens.

Nice colours

On the path down into the rose gardens, there is a delightful bank of lavender that presented magnificent blocks of colour which I can best describe as  … well, lavender.

Lavender beds
They put on a fine show

Surrounding the rose gardens proper are some smaller gardens delineated with buxus  and planted with poppies. Given that they seem every bit as fragile as tulips, I was surprised that they had survived so well.

Poppies surrounding the rose garden
Riotous colour

Our path then goes down through the Bolton St cemetery, across the motorway and then across Bowen Street into the parliamentary precinct. From there, it will go down to the waterfront and along to a pub on the Taranaki St Wharf. I am looking forward to it.

That’s all for today.

Birds hobbies Pauatahanui Social

June 11, 2013 … mud and feathers

Routine is no bad thing.

I must get one sometime.  Much of yesterday was spent processing images from the Wairarapa trip over the weekend. Mary was still away (must remember to go to the airport  to collect her this afternoon), so domestic duties got relegated.

I still found time to get out to the Pauatahanui inlet where I found almost a full gathering of the kingfisher fanatics in progress. There were at least eight kingfishers and five of us. I think we are gaining on them. Short of a rugby test match, you would not normally see so many large lenses in such a small space. I have some very fine equipment, but with these guys I am the poor cousin. Pure envy.

Anyway, we did more talking than photography and I enjoyed their company enormously. It was amazing though, how each one of us had an eye on the surroundings and when something of avian interest occurred, the conversation stopped instantly, mid-sentence. An Australasian harrier hawk (Circus approximans) flew over and suddenly there where five big white barrels following it, and burst-mode shutters firing off  as they do at a political conference. One of our number had a Canon 1DX which can fire off 14 frames per second, and in that brief overhead passage, he shot 52 pictures.

Australasian harrier hawk (Circus approximans)
They are a beautiful bird

Birds high in a bright sky tend to appear as black silhouettes so I was quite pleased at how well my version turned out despite it being a small fragment of the frame.  During a lull in activity, two of our number, with reckless disregard for spousal approval, worked their way across the mudflats hoping to get closer to the dotterels they had spotted.

Big lenses, muddy boots
That really is sticky mud.

My footwear was inadequate for the conditions so I stayed on firm ground and was lucky to catch this quartet.

Barber shop quartet
…. actually they are lousy singers

On the way back towards Pauatahanui Village, I paused by the ponds to see who was home. This pair of stilts made a pleasant picture.

Pied stilts

I hope to see you tomorrow, but I had better put the house in order first.

flowers Social Trees Upper Hutt

September 13, 2012 … suburban splendour

Wellingtonians (those who live in the city rather than the region) tend to flinch from the idea of living in the satellite cities, Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt, Porirua or Kapiti Coast.

Altogether too suburban for some. However, each of those places has much to commend it.  It is not often I have occasion to visit Upper Hutt, but I did so yesterday to have a convivial beer with a former colleague and fellow retiree. We enjoyed swapping stories and having a drink together. However, on my way out there, I was reminded how extraordinarily beautiful Upper Hutt can be in spring. It’s long main street, Fergusson drive (“Fergie drive” to its friends) is especially spectacular. Some far-sighted, or perhaps homesick, person planted lots of flowering trees. The pink and white blossoms of the pip and stone fruits of Europe mingle with the vivid yellow of the native Kowhai tree. (In Te Reo Maori, Kowhai is both the name for the tree, and the word for yellow).

I paused on my way to our meeting place to capture the contrast. Mindful of the fact that a recent coroner’s report had to deal with the dreadful consequences of a retired photographer walking backwards into the path of an oncoming vehicle, I was careful about my position on the road, and the whereabouts of any visible traffic. Kowhai and apple blossom in Upper Hutt

As well as its purely decorative value, the Kowhai seems to be a magnet for nectar eating birds, especially the Tui.



Academic Birds History Landscapes Social Trees Virginia

July 30, 2012 … the cradle of the civil war*

Yesterday was different.

Some very kind friends (from the days of Usenet groups,, and the old WYSIWYG News) took us out into the Virginia countryside. They had asked what we would like to see. I suggested that it would be nice to see something of the state beyond the city. Since they are both ironmen and serious bike riders, they are familiar with the beautiful byways of the surrounding states.

And so our tour began with a visit to the State Arboretum of Virginia at Boyce. Proudly displaying over 8,000 trees, the arboretum is based on the Blandey farm which encompasses the ante-bellum estate “the Tuleyries”. The grand mansion with its splendid facade sits discreetly among the trees."The Tuleyries", Boyce, VAThe former slave quarters are now part a working research farm run by the University of Virginia.  This is situated in a wonderful pastoral landscape of gently rolling hills, interrupted here and there by outcrops of limestone. Fields are mostly bounded by beautifully crafted stone walls.

The arboretum apparently has examples of about half of the world’s conifers and is collaborating with attempts to make the almost  extinct American Chestnut resistant to chestnut blight which reportedly killed over 3 billion mature trees in less than a century. Experimentation among the oaks and chestnuts at the Arboretum

Birds and insects abounded. A huge wasp like creature deserved a respectful distance, and I would not want to meet it if it was angry. I have tentatively identified it as Cicada killer (Sphecius speciosus). This butterfly is (I think) a Black Swallowtail  (Papilio polyxenes Fabricius).Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes Fabricius)

In addition to trees and birds, there were extensive wildflower beds and herb gardens (I can’t bring myself to drop the “h”) and some real splashes of colour. Wildflowers in the arboretum After a pleasant hour or so in the Arboretum, our hosts took us to Millwood, a tiny and exquisitely beautiful settlement about three miles further East where we enjoyed a delightful lunch from a local deli in the open air. Lunch concluded with a collection of cookies, one of which had the delightful name of “snickerdoodle”. As our hosts observed, it’s impossible to say the name without smiling. And it was delicious.

Just across the road from us was the “Burwell-Morgan grist mill”, built in 1782, and powered by a water wheel, this mill remained in operation until 1943. It is now a tourist attraction, but what caught my eye was the flag, the original stars and stripes with just thirteen stars of the first states arranged in a circle.Burwell-Morgan grist Mill, VA

From there, our wandering journey took us along route 50, through picturesque villages like Middleburg and Aldie. I know that when Paul Simon sang of “the cradle of the civil war”* he was referring to Mississippi, but near here is Manassas close to the site of the famous battle of Bull Run, and the Shenandoah Valley where it all began.  Mark is an academic who teaches writing and he has a strong personal fascination with the civil war and its battles. He was able to speak knowledgeably of the battles that took place in the area and added enormously to the enjoyment of our tour.

It was a wonderful day and Mary and I enjoyed the scenery, as well as the generosity and excellent company of our friends.

* Graceland by Paul Simon (1986)

Lower Hutt Social

July 1, 2012 … a steamy night party

Children’s birthday parties are not as I remember them.

Our two local grandchildren were invited to a birthday party at Huia Pool in Lower Hutt. Since we were looking after them while their parents were briefly elsewhere, it fell to me to go to the pool to observe the jollities and to bring them home afterwards.

I have never been a good swimmer, and I liken my style in the water to that of a combine harvester in full flight that has been dropped over a cliff*. There is lots of motion and splash, but little progress. Perhaps for that reason, or perhaps because the pool has always had a reputation for being excessively chlorinated, I have never been fond of Huia, though heaven knows, our own five kids all spent a lot of time there.

But, there I was again, for the first time in many years. It was a dark winter evening, and little had changed. Both the children’s pool, and the main pool had been hired out for two unconnected parties, one for the six and seven year olds where my grandchildren were, and the other for a group of young teenage girls. The noise in each space was astonishing. Shrieking is the new conversation.

The outside temperature must have been about 6 degrees C. Huia is a heated pool, and the temperature inside may have been around 22 degrees C. The instant I came through the doors, my glasses and the lens and viewfinder on my camera all fogged up. Happily, I had a good quality lens cloth with me, so a wipe every few minutes or so gave me at least partial vision for most of the time. And eventually the camera acclimatized and the problem diminished.

Pools are more than a place for athletes to do laps, it seems. The main pool had a huge inflatable obstacle course which the youngsters could walk along or jump from. In the children’s pool, the main excitement was provided by a flying fox ( … a rope on a pulley sliding down a stretched wire). there were, of course, slides, fountains, and floating things, and kids make their own fun.

Wet arrivalMy image for today is of an unknown (to me) child just after the moment of splash-down on the flying fox.

Regardless of my slightly curmudgeonly view of all this, the forty or fifty kids at the party had a lot of fun, and were filled up with lots of sugar laden fizzy drink, and at the end of the evening, were each sent off with a cup cake and a bag of sweets (candies for those in the US). Oh joy, kids bouncing off the walls for the rest of the night.

Five sleeps till lift-off.

*acknowledgement to a long forgotten edition of Reader’ Digest