Adventure Bayou Birds Lakes Landscapes Light Maritime Paremata Reflections Rivers Trees Wairarapa

July 1, 2019 … celebrating the stillness

This edition appears earlier than I intended because I am scheduled for a surgical procedure on Wednesday. Nothing unusual for a man of my age, nor is it particularly sinister, but it will apparently slow me down for a few weeks. Some might ask how much slower can I go 🙂

Since the last edition, there have been more still days than not. Yes, in Wellington! In fact every one of the images in this edition was made in conditions of flat calm. I love this, but I need to avoid slipping into a wind-dependent rut.

In fact, having been asked for a photograph of a particular topic, I did a quick skim-browse through about 100,000 images in my back catalogue. The way in which my photographic style has changed over the last decade was very noticeable. I also decided that I have a lot of very diverse images that I really like, and that would benefit from current post-processing techniques. That’s something that I might start on during my recovery period. I seem to have narrowed my range of subjects in recent times.

A cluster of Pukeko

My youngest son Anthony and his wife Sarah had been cycling on the Hutt River trail and drew to my attention, a park and lake that none of us previously knew. Just to the West of SH2 where the River road rejoins Fergusson Drive in Upper Hutt, is beautiful Te Haukaretu Park.

It is probably little known because it is at least 500 metres in either direction from the nearest vehicle access. The small lake is a delight and is enriched by the presence of many ducks, geese, pigeons and pukeko. The pukeko is an iridescent blue swamphen (Porphyrio melanotus) which seems to fly only as a last resort. There were a dozen or so at the lake when Mary and I visited. Look at the massive size of their feet. Perfect for walking on the weed that covers many swamps.

Trees in the lake
Some of the trees in and around Te Haukaretu Park

I am unsure what the trees are, that sit in the lake, but their wide bases reminded me of the visit Mary and I made to the Louisiana bayous back in 2012 Neither alligators nor Spanish moss here, but I had that fragmentary reminder of a very pleasant memory, with no noisy airboats or garrulous tour guides to spoil the peace.

Little blacks
Little black shags

On some calm days, I am prompted to revisit old familiar haunts. In this case I went around Port Road in Seaview where there is a substantial dead tree that has drifted downstream until it wedged in the Waiwhetu stream. It is a much used resting place for shags of all kinds. On this day, two little black shags (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris) in breeding plumage were whispering sweet nothings to each other. The green and gold reflections from the toetoe grass on the far bank helped to transform an ordinary scene into something special.

White-faced heron
White-faced heron browsing at Pauatahanui

Though I hope for the local re-appearance of the kotuku, the white heron, its smaller cousin matuku, the white-faced heron shares the same elegant form. They are numerous in the Pauatahanui Inlet. They move with grace through the shallows. One step after another, they stir the mud with the free foot and spear anything that is dislodged or is foolish enough to move. If they are provoked into flight, their slow deliberate departure is pure poetry to watch.

Unknown boat
A work boat at Paremata

Ivey Bay seems not to be a familiar name to many people. Wellingtonians drive through it often without registering its name. It is that little corner of the Pauatahanui inlet where SH58 meets SH1 at the road and rail bridges. It has some colourful boat sheds and character-filled work boats that have long since been adapted as pleasure boats. I haven’t found a name for this boat (above), but it is my current favourite for its honest workman-like simplicity.

Ivey Bay (1)
The boat sheds at Ivey Bay

Though it is less picturesque in rough weather, Ivey bay is just gorgeous when the conditions are right. It combines a beautiful natural environment with a quirky human settlement and some interesting old boats. The mudflats that appear when the tide is low do not spoil it.

Ivey Bay (2)
Some people are lucky enough to live here

The Eastern end of Ivey Bay has a Kindergarten on the beach and a number of rather nice houses along its steep banks with some of the best views in the region. Certainly their sunsets must be spectacular.

Whitby reflections

I don’t often venture into abstraction, but the reflections of Whitby on the inlet just begged to be used. When Mary and I moved back to Wellington in 1980, Whitby was much more sparsely populated. Now it is a densely packed area of relatively upmarket dwellings. Whereas it is not an area in which I would choose to live, the houses offer some interesting patterns on the water.

Foggy lake
Lake Wairarapa in the fog

And then came the foggy day. Somehow that rarely carries to the Western side of the Haywards hill so I stayed on SH2 through Upper Hutt and over the Remutaka hill to Featherston. In the Wairarapa, the fog was a bit selective. It came down the Tauherenikau River and followed the Western side of the Lake leaving the East bathed in sunlight. I wanted the fog so I began my exploration at the Lake Reserve near Featherston. There, the only things visible from the shore were the sad rusty piles that are the sole reminder of the Wairarapa Yacht Club’s long defunct Hansell’s Jetty.

Old jetty
The jetty’s sad remains

I have made other images of the derelict jetty in other conditions, but different light makes different pictures. I have a weakness for delicate blues and greys and this one really seemed to fit. Apart from a few black swans in the hazy distance there was nothing to see beyond the end of the piles.

The old 180° trick

Whenever I think I have exhausted the possibilities in one direction, I need to remember to look behind me. There is often something to see in the other direction. On this occasion the trees across Barton’s Lagoon offered a ghostly appearance which I liked.

Karapoti in the frost

Just a little to the East of Upper Hutt on the Akatarawa road is the Karapoti forest. It is much loved by cyclists for its mountain bike trails, and disliked by the ambulance crews for the same reason. Considering how close it is to Upper Hutt City, Karapoti is a really wild and rugged area. It even seems to have its own climate.

As I drove towards the park where the trail begins it was nearing mid-dayand there was still thick frost in the shaded areas. Across a farm paddock, there was smoke rising from a small building and the unmistakable smell of frying bacon The occupant certainly knew how to ward off the cold. Luckily, Mary had made a delicious lunch to help me on my wandering. she’s a keeper.

All going well I should publish another edition in two or three weeks. See you then.

Art creativity flowers New Orleans

September 4, 2012 … post-processing rant

In photographic circles there is much debate as to what constitutes a photograph.

Indeed, when I went to the New Orleans Museum of Art, it was to see an exhibition entitled “What is a photograph?” (If you click on the link, you can browse some of the images from that exhibition on the Museum’s Flickr site).

The curator(s) of that exhibition were more open to new possibilities than many who debate the topic locally. The word means drawing with light.  Nowhere is it engraved on tablets of silver or blocks of gelatin that such a drawing must be accomplished using a camera only, and with a single exposure taken at a particular moment in time.

Nevertheless, there are many who are quite precious about requiring a photograph to be the picture exactly as it was seen through the lens at the moment the shutter was opened.

Frankly I don’t understand it. I can think of no other graphic art form whose followers are so intolerant of an image being constructed in several stages.   So let me add yet another “bah humbug!” zone.

I have no qualms about using “post-processing” techniques to produce images. Is it cheating? It would be if I were using the image in a way that attempted to misrepresent a constructed scenario as an experienced reality. There are many examples in which people use Photoshop™ to insert impossible or improbable elements … a giant shark leaping out of the water attempting to devour a helicopter, for example.

On the other hand, if the sole purpose of the exercise is to create a pleasing image, then as long as it is original, how it is achieved should be nobody’s business but the artist’s. I have friends who are painters. Nobody challenges them as to the processes by which the finished image was made, so why this strange double standard?

All of this came from musing on my remark in yesterday’s post “it is very difficult to do a straight shot of a flower and achieve any kind of wow factor in photographic circles” … I wondered what could I do with a single flower? An orchid was extracted from the bouquet, and several macro images were made with different backgrounds. Then, using Photoshop™, I added some radial blur to the background, and inverted the colours. Orchid in blue

It won’t win any prizes. It doesn’t purport to represent a new kind of flower.

I find it interesting, and had fun making it. So there!

Art Food Louisiana New Orleans Travel

July 26, 2012 … weighing in, in the bronze corner

This will be a short post because today got out of hand.

We got an email yesterday from Delta to tell us that they had moved the departure time forward, so we were waiting for the airport shuttle at 6:30 am this morning. It’s now 10:45 and 94 deg F.

Back to yesterday. I had two goals in mind for yesterday. One was to try the famous beignets with coffee as described so well in the detective novels of James Lee Burke. The other was to visit an exhibition called “What is a photograph” at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA). A bit of Googling suggested the appropriate place to go was the Café du Monde, which, according to Google Maps, is at 1 Poydras St. Well it’s not. It’s on Jackson Square , about a mile further East.

We sat waiting for a streetcar and an engaging old gentleman detected that we were from out of town, and won favour by telling us we didn’t have to buy the already cheap $1.25 per ride on buses and streetcars. Instead, for just $3 each we could get an all day pass, covering as many rides as we liked. So we took the streetcar to NOMA. We saw the exhibition, and enjoyed it.

We admired the sculpture garden, and parts of the botanic garden, before deciding we needed relief from the sun. Another streetcar to the lower end of Canal Street and then along the narrow streets of the French Quarter to the Café du Monde. I have ticked beignets off my bucket list and need never consider them again. They tasted well enough, despite being buried in at least half a bag of icing sugar, but perhaps their taste was spoiled by being served by someone who clearly hated her job, her customers or both, or perhaps it was just the sheer guilt of deep-fried choux pastry dipped in white icing sugar.

Anyway, photos for the day include some water lilies at NOMA. It takes more than a good lens to replicate the work of Monet, But here’s my lily shot.Water lilies in the pond at NOMA

My other shot is of a statue in the sculpture garden. I thought if I included the placard, I wouldn’t need to remember the sculptor or the name of the piece, but unless this pieces is called “please do not climb on sculpture”, I have no idea. I can only surmise that the model lived on a diet of beignets. Unknown sculpture by unknown artist at NOMANormal service should resume tomorrow from Washington DC. Good night.


Animals Bayou Birds Landscapes Louisiana Plant life Travel Uncategorized

July 25, 2012 … farewell to the bayou

The very word “swamp” has a dismal connotations.

My preconceptions were of gloom, mud, gas, frogs and reptiles. Well some of those are true, but it never occurred to me that they could come together in such a beautiful package. Having done the airboat trip the previous day, we elected to take a different, and slower tour.

As before, the bus was late, but this time, the driver had personality. She was an absolute character. Think Whoopi Goldberg on speed. She had us all attempting to pronounce New Orleans as she did … “N’ahlins” and, “it ain’t no ‘Loo-easy-anna’, it’s ‘Loooozy-anna’”. She filled the 40 minute trip with non stop chatter and hilarious and outrageous banter, and earned her tip.

We took a different route to the previous day, and arrived at a jetty in a different place than before, but as we looked across the canal, we were looking at the base for yesterday’s trip, just 200 metres away.  This was not really a problem because, unless you grew up here, you go into a bayou and you can’t tell whether you have been here before or not. Each visit is an entirely new experience.

By the way, I was really impressed at the navigational skills of the “salty old sea-dog, descendant of Jean Lafitte” guides, until I spotted the GPS on the binnacle of yesterday’s boat.

The slow boats are basically rectangular boxes with rows of bench seats down each side and in the centre, a canopy overhead, and two stonking great 175hp outboards on the back behind a control binnacle. Off we went.

This guide was more laconic than yesterday’s airboat skipper, but no less knowledgeable. He took us to different and quieter places, though all too often the quiet was shattered by the bellow of a passing airboat popping out of the trees nearby and across the opening we were in. Thunderous intrusion - airboat passingThe only consolation is that there is no way for an airboat to sneak up on you. By the way, the wearing of ear-defenders is supposedly mandatory, so any ill-effects or hearing damage suffered by the people in the front row of this boat are self-inflicted.

There are boats all over the swamp, and when you are on an airboat the sound of your own propeller tends to deafen you to others nearby.  On the slow boat with well muffled engines it’s like navigating through a beehive.

There are wonderful moments of blessed silence, however.  On such occasions you can see the other inhabitants of the swamp such as this red-eared slider turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans) basking on a logRed-eared slider turtleHowever, even though our boat was relatively quiet, many swamp dwellers leapt hastily into the water as we approached, or as in the case of this beautiful “Great blue” heron (Ardea herodias), took to the air.Great blue heronThough I was disappointed not to encounter the mammals of the swamp, especially the raccoon and the nutria, we did get a goodly interaction with several alligators of varying sizes (Alligator mississippiensis). I liked this one’s bright smile. Never smile at a crocodile, don't be taken in by his welcome grin ... (I know he's an alligator)

Tomorrow we leave for Washington DC so just one more report from New Orleans to come.

Animals Bayou Birds Plant life Trees

July 24, 2012 … alligators and egrets

Great shrouds of Spanish moss, cool shaded trees, deep dark water, snowy white egrets, and cold dispassionate eyes peering up through the weed assessing your value as a potential meal.

Oh how magical are the swamps and bayous of Louisiana.

Sure the tourism operation is as cynical and opportunistic as any you will encounter, but for all that, the tour guides have an engaging personality, though even that is probably aimed at enhancing the likelihood of a generous tip.

The afternoon in downtown  New Orleans was sullen, with thunderstorms and periodic rain. The bus was late, and the transit from there to Jean Lafitte, reputedly the base for the legendary (or infamous, depending on your cultural alignment) pirate was rapid, bordering on the uncomfortable, with a minimalist commentary.

At the town of Jean Lafitte, we boarded our airboat with a family from the Netherlands, and went out into the waterways and bayous around the Eastern side of Lake Salvador. The airboat is a quick and effective way of getting around the swamps, but it is not a comfortable vehicle. It offers no shelter from the hot Louisiana sun, gives a bumpy ride in areas of choppy water, and forces you to wear ear defenders when the throttle is open. And when the throttle is open, the noise is truly an unbearable roar. The tour guide had to reduce the throttle to idle or shut down altogether whenever he wanted to communicate.Airboat opens up the throttle

Personality is the stock-in-trade of a tour guide, and ours had it aplenty. Furthermore, he was intimately familiar with his surroundings and the wildlife so he was able to show us a variety of wildlife.

As you know I love herons and all their relatives, and the bird we know in New Zealand as the White Heron or kotuku is merely the “common egret” here. But in a lovely setting such as this it is still a truly majestic bird, but quick to flee with a bellowing airboat approaching. Egret departs as noisy new neighbours arrive

Of course, every tourist expects to see alligators, and our guide knew where to find them. Some were quite tame, bordering on the “well-trained” as the guides throw them marshmallows which they seem to love. Anyway, the alligator seems to come to the call of the guide. Most of those we saw were quite small compared with a big salt water crocodile from Queensland, but sinister enough anyway.

AlligatorJust cruising by

We saw turtles, and the odd squirrel, and a reasonable variety of wading birds, but regardless of the wildlife, I think the real beauty is in the swamps themselves. Spanish moss is as much an unwanted misguided transplant here as gorse and blackberry and rabbits were in New Zealand. But it lends an undeniable charm to the bayou.

Beautiful bayouSpanish moss is everwhere

If you get to New Orleans the swamp tours are highly recommended. We enjoyed the airboat but for tomorrow decided to do the slower cruise.

Architecture Food New Orleans Travel

July 23, 2012 … it’s hard work having fun

Somehow, I feel I am not the target demographic for the City of New Orleans.

This is a party town. It  is food and booze, and even the most respectable of institutions carry unsubtle advertisements for “gentlemen’s clubs”. I don’t mean to sit in judgement on those who seek such things, and heaven knows food is the favourite thing I eat, and I like a drink.  But this is a place for the young, or the very rich.

For those more conservative souls like me, the architecture is fascinating, and swamps, bayous and plantations near the city are all worth looking at. But it does seem to me to be an exploitative city. Even the sacred places (perhaps especially the sacred places) seem to know how to turn a buck. And am I being squeamish when I turn away from the “Katrina Tours”? I just don’t do “disaster tourism”. How would we Kiwis feel about “Pike River Tours”?   Or “Red Zone” tours? (Oh wait …)

Like I said, I am not the target market for most of their product.  So what did we do yesterday? We started out by walking past the Piazza d’Italia which seems to be a combination of public space, fountain, art work or whatever. It was an oddity that served little useful purpose that I could see, but it did provide some sheltered crevices in which some homeless people could stack cardboard boxes to sleep for the night. A young tourist also found the fountain useful to wash his shirt and then spread it to dry on one of the bench seats.Piazza d'Italia, New Orleans

We walked on into Canal Street to see the Audubon Society’s Insectarium, the culmination of which is a live butterfly exhibit. A butterfly in the InsectariumI know the butterfly is sitting on an artificial flower, but I liked the insect. After that it was off to the Imax theatre to see a movie about the impact of Katrina on the bayou (and yes, I do see a difference between this and disaster tourism).  Well worth the visit if you can get there before the crowds.

From there we had lunch on Decatur Street … jumbo shrimp stuffed with crabmeat was very nice indeed.  Then we walked though the French Quarter, admiring the quaint buildings, the expensive artisan shops, and the many many restaurants and bars. We also caught glimpses of elegant but secluded courtyards. A glimpse into an elegant courtyardIn the treacle-thick heat of the afternoon, we felt sorry for the mules pulling multi-seat carriages full of tourists, and smiled at the sight of a police officer whizzing by on his heavy-duty Segway.Mobile policing in New Orleans

We admired the architecture of the city’s Catholic cathedral, but felt it was outshone by the delicacy of the lesser known St Patrick’s church on Camp St.St Patrick's Church, Camp St, New Orleans

By then we were thoroughly “knackered”, to put it bluntly, so we ate at home and went to bed, exhausted.

Aviation Louisiana New Orleans Travel

July 22. 2012 … in a different land

Louisiana is different.

Or at least New Orleans is. Humidity seemed so high when we arrived, you could cut chunks off it with a knife.  Our departure from Denver was uneventful, and the much discussed security processes, while tedious, were simply routine. Mary forgot she had a jar of Marmite in her backpack (she’s normally a Vegemite girl, but we haven’t found a source of supply for that yet), and of course that raised the issue of more than 100ml of any liquid or gel. Somehow she managed to negotiate that before all the bells went off, and then we had a pleasant flight on Frontier Air’s Airbus to New Orleans. A lot of cloud on the way prevented a clear view of the vast landscape below us.Somewhere over Kansas, Oklahoma, or perhaps Arkansas

I was surprised at the both the huge scale of the Denver airport, and the comparatively small scale of New Orleans. It seemed about the same size as Christchurch’s airport. We got a shuttle bus to our hotel. Try as I might I could see no sign of a speed limit on the freeway into town, and if there was one, I am certain the driver ignored it. The little bus obviously had a huge engine and fairly flew into the city, overtaking most other traffic and took corners in a style that would make any rally driver proud.  We got our first sight of the back streets of the city as the driver negotiated the multiple hotel drop-offs for his passengers. Noteworthy from the moment we left the freeway was the density of restaurants and bars, though at 4pm, most had not yet opened. I rather liked this reflection of our shuttle in the window of one such restaurant as we passed.Reflecting on the restaurant trade

At our hotel, we were delighted to be given a “complimentary upgrade” to a good-sized suite. For dietary reasons we have booked places where we can do our own cooking all the way. We have found that most hotels which advertise “full kitchen” don’t really mean it. In Santa Rosa and Boulder, it was two hotplates and a microwave. This one has a huge full-sized stove with a four plate hob and a microwave. As before, they don’t take self catering seriously, or expect anyone to actually use the facilities. There was just one frying pan and one pot (no lid). The moment a steak hits the frying pan, the smoke alarm starts screaming.

The nearest supermarket is vast and stocks thousands of things I would have no idea what to do with.  And huge amounts of food that I would love to try. The city thrives on tourism and the prices probably reflect that.  In Colorado every pedestrian crossing (crosswalk) had a prominent sign reminding motorists that “STATE LAW” required vehicles to yield to pedestrians.

In Louisiana, I suspect there is a bounty on pedestrians because, despite marked “crosswalks” there is no facility for pedestrians to activate a safe crossing period, and no certainty at all that anyone will stop while you cross, regardless of what the lights say. And if you do survive the crossing, the chaotic post-Katrina state of some sidewalks will snap your ankles anyway.

All that said, we look forward to exploring the city and its attractions before we leave for Washington on Thursday.