October 13, 2017 … around the region and further afield

Sometimes I have to work hard to find an image in otherwise drab circumstances, However, sometimes the effort pays off.

Harbour and CBD

A moody evening in Wellington

We have had a lot of grey weather recently, but even in such circumstances I love our city.

Waiwhetu

In the heart of Lower Hutt on the Waiwhetu Stream

Even in dull weather, as long as the wind is absent, I can usually find something worth a look. This is the Waiwhetu Stream on Riverside Drive, near Gracefield. Just out of view above the trees is the Wainuiomata hill with its busy traffic.

Exhibition

Hutt Camera club’s annual exhibition

Every year at about this time, the Hutt Camera club (of which I am president) holds its annual exhibition, and as I have done before, I made a panorama that includes all sixty images. Three of them are mine.

Drizzle

Early morning drizzle in the Hutt Valley

And on the subject of weather, or indeed any other obstacle to my photographic endeavours, sometimes it is an idea to photograph the obstacle itself.  This view from our house looks along High Street through morning drizzle to the Hutt Hospital.

Camborne

Towards the setting sun from the water tower at Camborne

Then the obstacle disappears, and we get what with tongue in cheek, we call “a typical Wellington day at last”. This image was a panoramic stitch made from a small hill in Camborne, looking out towards Mana Island.

Dotterel

Banded dotterel just below the swirling wind and sand

Then the wind returned and outside shooting was just plain uncomfortable. When I say wind, I mean a North Westerly blast in which standing up was actually difficult. I chose to follow the coast road from Wainuiomata to the South coast which was, in many ways a stupid idea. Wind of that strength picks up a significant portion of the sand on the beach and attempts to inject it into any opening, eyes, ears, nostrils, lenses. Nevertheless I struggled down the beach and then lay flat on my back in the lee of a small sand dune. I could hear the wind shrieking and feel the sand bouncing off the back of the hood on my jacket. I lay still and pointed the camera downwind and was lucky to catch this banded dotterel. It seemed unperturbed by the wind and may in fact have been small enough to be in a relatively calm boundary layer.

Otaki Forks

High water levels in the fast flowing Waiotauru River

A day or so later, Mary and I went to Otaki forks. It was a grey day with intermittent rain, but we arrived at Boielle flat in a period of little wind and no rain. Mary explored the beginnings of the Southern Crossing which, for the fit and well-prepared is a three-day hike across the Tararua range to Featherston in the Wairarapa. While she did that I fiddled with my camera to catch this view of the Waiotauru River.

Yachts

Good sailing days are not lost just because it rains

Later in the week we had one of those soft days. In fact it as the day on which I was  to lead the Wellington occurrence of Scott Kelby’s 10th annual Worldwide Photowalk through Newtown. In fact the day was more than soft, it was downright wet. But, since this is Wellington, local sailors were undeterred.

Mist

Though it’s time to go, I shall really miss this view

My last picture for this edition is from a viewpoint that must be familiar to long-term readers. We have lived here since October 1980 … our  five kids grew up here. There have been moments of celebration, of joy and of sadness as you would expect in any house you occupy for such a length of time. We have weathered various storms and remained shaken but not stirred through many earthquakes in the last 37 years, but now, recognising our changing circumstances, it is time to move on, and today we signed a contract with an agency to put our house on the market. We know exactly where we want to purchase, and  it is exactly in the middle of that river mist down in the flat part of the valley.

Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa’s famous “round barn” in July 2012 …. looking Westward in the late evening. The flat grey roof below the ridge was the Fountaingrove Inn. Both are now destroyed along with devastation to housing and lives lost. Ironically the red sky in this image was attributed to wildfires near Clearlake, CA.

Well, it was going to be the last image, but I can’t let this issue end without expressing my sympathy and grief for the people of beautiful Santa Rosa and other parts of  Northern California. In my past life, I spent many months on several occasions working with the New Zealand Dairy Board whose North American headquarters were in Santa Rosa. I spent a lot of time in the Fountaingrove Inn just below the historic round barn on the hill. A large part of this lovely town in the heart of the wine country is destroyed. Lives and homes have been lost and even from this great distance, I grieve with you.

 

 

 

July 13, 2012 … some days are like that

Logistically, yesterday was a nightmare.

Our journey was to Sacramento, the state capital. On the way, I had sneakily planned a visit to the superb Jimmy Doolittle Museum at Travis AFB, just out of Fairfield. What I hadn’t realised was just how complex it now is to do anything that involves entering a military base. The instructions are on their website, but in my opinion, any tourist attraction that requires you to “bring a valid drivers license, vehicle registration, current proof of insurance for each vehicle, and submit to a criminal background check. Be advised this is required for all vehicles regardless of type.” is doomed to a slow and lingering death.  After taking a number and waiting with about 20 others for 40 minutes in the visitor centre to be processed by one of two very bored and unhurried clerks, and then to be told a criminal check would take a further 25 minutes, we left, disappointed.

Sacramento was another hour to the North across shimmering flat land. The shimmering should have warned us. By the time we got there, the outside temperature was 104 deg F. We had lunch in yet another air-conditioned pseudo-Irish pub, walked through the local Westfield Mall where a security guard got huffy when I took a picture. We enjoyed a stroll in the air-conditioned coolness of the California State Rail Museum (recommended) and by then our parking had run out. The car’s thermometer now read 114 deg F (45.5  deg C). Tired and irritable we set out on the journey back to Santa Rosa.

Happily the temperature, and the social climate returned to normal on the way, and we enjoyed a cool drink in a Mexican restaurant in Sonoma, and then had a walk around the town square where a magnificent gelato (white chocolate and raspberry) just leapt up out of nowhere and tempted me. What could I do?

On the last leg of the journey home, on Highway 12 through the Valley of the Moon, we passed this magnificent mansion set behind some imposing gates. I swear despite the name on the gates, Bruce Wayne lives there with Robin Grayson, and a butler called Alfred.

The last straw on tough day was to arrive back at Santa Rosa to an email from United reminding us of our changed departure time for Denver. Just as well. For some reason we both had the impression that we were staying one more day.

Panic! Pack! I can tell you I am writing this from Boulder, Colorado.

July 9, 2012 … the council of elders

Splendour and majesty don’t begin to cover it.

The mighty coastal redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) is in a class of its own. Note, these are not the huge giant redwoods – Sequoiadendron giganteum – which have a diameter up to  23 feet in diameter, but top out at around 280 feet. There are examples of the giant redwood through which a road has been made.

Of the small remnants of the once plentiful coastal variety, most are in the far North of California, and we simply did not have the time to travel that far.   However just 32 km from our motel in Santa Rosa is the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. I have no language adequate for this experience. Within minutes of leaving the car park and the ranger station, the temperature has dropped by about ten degrees, and the dappled green light has removed the stresses of the world. It is a cathedral. There is an absolute stillness to the place (except when there is a noisy group near you on the trail, and we were usually moving more quickly than they were so we left them behind).

But the creatures we came to see, the tallest living things on the planet are awe-inspiring. The very tallest of them, named “Parson Jones” is 310 feet tall and 13.8 feet in diameter. It is estimated to be 1,300 years old. And it just goes straight up, seemingly forever. I have no idea how to capture that as an image, though I tried.Parson Jones, the tallest tree in the Armstrong Redwood SNR

Parson Jones is not the oldest. That honour goes to the Armstrong Tree which is two feet shorter, a foot wider, and a hundred years older. Another notable exhibit in the park is a cross-section salvaged from a vandalised tree. Various growth rings are tagged with the noteworthy events in human history which occurred when that particular ring was laid down. Eric the Red, William the conqueror, the black plague, the great fire of London, the arrival of Columbus.m the civil war, and the San Francisco earthquake are all marked.

"Fairy ring"When old trees eventually die, seedlings tend to propagate around the site of their fallen parent and create a “fairy ring”. The name seems trivial, but it was labelled thus on the adjacent sign board. Leaving the path and treading on the sorrel that surrounds the trees is simply wrong, so using my wide-angle lens, I set the timer on my camera, and reached as far into the circle as possible without leaving the path and then let it go.

And then I found the council of elders, which is my last image of the day."Council of Elders"

From there, we went down to the coast at Jenner, and turned South along the normal spectacular highway 1. I say normally, because yesterday it was wreathed in fog and being a winding road near sea cliffs caused more stress than pleasure. Even beautiful Bodega Bay (site of the Hitchcock movie “The Birds”) seemed lacklustre yesterday. I attempted some bird shots and saw a variety of unfamiliar (to me) gulls, a flight of brown pelicans, a lot of crows and numerous soaring buzzards.

The frustrating thing was that 10 minutes from the coast the sky was clear and the day warm.

But the forest made up for it all.

July 7, 2012 … forever in transit

What a gloriously chaotic extended day!

We started sorting final things out in the house at around 7 am. Then around  mid-day, I got a call from Air New Zealand to say that as a consequence of the fog in Auckland, our flight from Wellington to Auckland was one of the casualties. Cancelled! Would I like a refund or would I care to rebook? I pointed out that this was the first leg in a ticket they had arranged to get me to San Francisco. Oh yes!  Well, in that case,  we can get you on to another flight that leaves Wellington half an hour earlier.

That was more or less the worst moment of the day. All went well from there, until we got into the line for security at San Francisco and all the computer terminals being used by the agents seized up. Hundreds of people in the zig-zag lanes, infants crying, tired people, no one going anywhere. After about 10 minutes, that came right, so newly fingerprinted and photographed, we were turned loose.

We got the (driverless) BART train that goes to the Rental car hub, and got our first clear look at an unimpeded cloudless Californian sky.  The image is one of the few taken on the first day of our journey so it will have to suffice for this post. It was taken from the BART train, hence the reflections. You can see our lovely big blue and white koru at the right hand side of the picture. Nice for once not to cringe at the 737 amid all the jumbos on our shorter trips.San Francisco Airport from the BART train

We had a deal with the rental company Alamo, and it was a painless process. Even more surprising was the mode of allocating cars. We had ordered a “mid-size” car (expecting a Corolla).  We were told turn left and go to the mid-size block and choose any car that you like. We did. We got a beautifully presented near-new Corolla (we are both familiar with them) and off we went.

I was reasonably pleased with my recall of the route from SFO to Santa Rosa, except that I took the main highway 101 through Mission and all of the downtown hell of San Francisco traffic (should have done the bypass through the Presidio). Traffic was really heavy all the way through the city and across the Golden Gate with incoming fog. North of Sausalito, it was bright and clear, and the lovely North Bay landscape unfolded. My main hazard was the fact that the controls were all on the wrong side, and each time I wanted to change lanes, I let others know by turning the wipers on. And there was no cloud in the sky.  The temperature was climbing towards 33 deg C so we were glad of the air-conditioning in the car.

But we got there safely.  There was a brief period of chaos when the hotel ushered us into a room which had not been cleaned. The previous occupants were clearly not house-trained since the room smelled bad. They left the coffee pot and the TV running, and dirty clothes were strewn about. Ugh. The hastily arranged substitute was on the other hand clean and fresh, so once we had done some shopping we were set to begin our American adventure.

By now apart from dozing on the plane, we had been going for 28 hours so we had earned our first night’s rest.