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November 11, 2022 … slowing down

Indifference is destructive. Occasionally, I need to kick myself in the butt to re-activate my creative enthusiasm. All too often recently, unkind weather has quashed the urge to venture out in search of photographs. No remorse was felt. I do not need this to become a burden rather than a pleasure.

Evans Bay sailing lessons

People who freely give their time to coach youngsters in their chosen sport or hobby deserve the utmost admiration. Here on Evans Bay, the local yacht club is working with a group of juniors helping them to learn the basics of controlling their yachts.

Garden snail

For some reason, I see snails less frequently than I used to. Perhaps it’s that I no longer have any vegetable crops for them to attack.

Tiny spider

Not sure who this little guy is, but I loved the translucence of its legs.

Ants

We came to Normandale from Auckland in 1980. We were astonished that there were no ants. This year, we have started to see small signs of ants in the garden. Not the common black ant, but rather these glossy brown guys. Still trying to identify their species.

Wisteria

Wisteria in Riddiford gardens behind the Hutt City offices

Rangiora

Rangiora is a tree as well as a South Island town. It flowers in profusion.

Wellington Hospital

Wellington Hospital as seen from the ridge to the West. The new children’s hospital is the green building at the left. “Benefactors Mark Dunajtschik and Dorothy Spotswood contributed $53 million to the new facility. The Government contributed another $53 million and a further $10 million was raised by the Wellington Hospitals Foundation” (One News)

The old Dominion Museum

Way back in time, this was the National Art Gallery and Dominion Museum. It was replaced in these roles when Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa) opened in 1998. It is currently leased to Massey University as part of its Wellington Campus.

The Man with the Donkey by Paul Walshe

In front of the old Dominion Museum building is the National War Memorial (currently closed until its seismic weaknesses are resolved). In from of that is this rather nice sculpture by Paul Walshe of Private Richard Henderson of the New Zealand Medical Corps who, along with the Englishman John Simpson Kilpatrick serving in the Australian Army Medical Corps, won fame for their courageous rescues of many wounded soldiers at Gallipoli.

The Tomb of an Unknown New Zealand Warrior

The tomb of New Zealand’s unknown warrior. It is a place of honour and respect, though it is not accorded the same quasi-religious reverence accorded to the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington

Fountain

Part of the Pukeahu NationalWar Memorial Park is some classical statuary. This pool and the lion fountain caught my eye.

Whakaruruhau

Among the newer statuary at Pukeahu is this gift from the British people to honour the joint sacrifices of the two nations over many years. It is about 5 metres tall and represents a merger of the British Oak and New Zealand’s pohutukawa. It was designed and installed by Weta Workshop for the British High Commission in 2017. It was unveiled by Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Boris Johnson. Its name is Whakaruruhau … as I understand it, this translates to protection, shield and shelter.

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You probably already know that I rarely resist the temptation of a still morning at the Oriental Bay Marina. I am having to be more cautious these days. The concrete pad in front of the boat sheds is usually covered in slippery green algae and is a known hazard. My ability to lose my balance and do a full height face-plant is increasing with age, and I have managed it twice in the last month. The humiliation, physical injury and damage to cameras and glasses means I take less pleasure in such places than before. As they say, ageing is not for sissies.

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In one of the gardens at the foot of Pt Jerningham, this spectacular two-metre tall flower spike caught my eye. With the aid of the excellent Pl@ntNet app, I was able to identify it as the Chilean Puya.

That’s all this time. If you would like these blogs posted to your email address, fill in the box below.

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October 15, 2022 … Lightly seasoned

It’s strange that we are already past the vernal equinox, and yet we have had very little of the warm weather that the meteorologists have been promising. Mary and I have taken several opportunities in recent weeks to drive into the Horowhenua or the Manawatu whenever the weather has been even halfway decent.

This first image is of flowering cherry blossoms in the Featherston area. When this image was made, the nearby memorial garden was reluctant to burst into bloom, so I asked a friend who is resident in Greytown to report on progress over the next week or two.

Cherry blossoms – Featherston

On this day, we we drove up through the Wairarapa, seeing more and more signs of spring. A little block a bit North of Masterton was just a delight. As well as the profusion of daffodils and kowhai, there was a rabbit lurking in this picture. You might need to click to see it in the big picture.

Horowhenua Springtime

Since the closure of the Manawatu Gorge, the Pahiatua Track is one of only two roads that cross from the Wairarapa to the Manawatu. It’s an interesting road that traverses the Tararuas in among the huge wind turbines. On this first trip, I somehow missed the entrance to North Range Rd which allows the public a view of some of the many turbines along the Northern end of the range. Never mind. We ended up in Palmerston North where we enjoyed our picnic lunch beside Hokowhitu lagoon. From there we headed South on SH57 towards Levin. However, we got stopped by the glimpse of flowers in the grounds of Massey University. The flowering cherries were in glorious display.

The magnificent cherry blossoms on the Massey Campus

We weren’t the only ones enjoying the spectacle. There were lots of tui gathering the nectar and singing their hearts out. Such a shame that the Sakura season is so very short.

Tui enjoying the nectar

Spring is diverse nevertheless, and the next week, after prolonged rain, I wandered the Eastern side of Lower Hutt where I encountered mother duck guiding her brood across the road. It was quite funny watching the ducklings each taking their turn to breast up to the kerb and take several attempts to do a standing jump up onto the berm.

Motherly guidance

When the bad weather persists I turn to the late Sir Charles Norwood. He was founder of Dominion Motors, founder of the Wellington Free Ambulance, and the donor of the Lady Norwood Rose Gardens among other things. The Lady Norwood gardens include the rose gardens and the hothouses at the botanic gardens. Among the many varieties of begonias and orchids on display, there are some lovely water lilies.

Water lily

The orchids in the hothouses are each lovely in their own right, though they are often difficult to frame as an image with any artistic merit. I am reluctant to do any significant manipulation with Photoshop or similar, so am quite happy with this shot.

Orchids

A damp drizzly day in Breaker Bay and I was rewarded with this lovely blue shrub, Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans). The jewellery added by the soft rain lifts the picture substantially.

Pride of Madeira

Ika Rere (flying fish) is claimed as the first all electric ferry in the Southern hemisphere. I hate that statistic. It usually means they checked Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, Sydney Melbourne and perhaps Perth. We take it for granted that there is nothing worth checking in Cape Town, Buenos Aires, Montevideo or Sāo Paulo. Anyway, it is a pioneering vessel, and has entered the Days Bay ferry service. Unfortunately, it suffered an embarrassment when it ran out of power in the middle of the harbour, and had to be rescued by the police launch.

Ika Rere in service from Days Bay to Wellington

Tulips are a favourite for me, so I was delighted to encounter a wonderful crop of them at Mangaroa Farms in Whiteman’s valley. My first encounter was on a misty day with clouds of rain drifting across in the background.

Tulips in the rain

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Tulips in sunshine

A week later the weather dried out, so with permission from the farm owner, Mary and I revisited the farm and got a bit closer. I really liked being close to the flowers without the crowds of people you encounter in Wellington’s Botanic Garden.

Dark tulips

I love the dark varieties when it comes to Tulips. Sadly they were few in number.

My collection of annual photographic books

I have been getting up to date with my photo annuals. Each book is about 100 pages. and each page is fully covered with images. When you take into account the various image formats, that means about 120 images per book. I have books from 2011 to 2021. The company that produces them does a good job, though not cheap. One copy is typically NZ$60. Subsequent copies are inexplicably twice the price, So each of my books is the only copy.

Hutt Valley sunshine

Heading North on SH2 out of the Hutt Valley, I am always impressed by the view of the South wall of the Tararuas. Unfortunately, like many of the best views in the region, there is no place where you can legally park. Fortunately, Mary was driving.

Memorial garden to the Japanese prisoners of war in Featherston

Back in the memorial garden in Featherston, this time, the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. Various people were making images there, including a long time friend from the days of the now defunct Hutt Camera Club.

Cherry blossoms

Honey bees provided the sound track , though I caught none of them in this image. Nevertheless. I thought the blossoms made a nice image.

Wind farm on the Tararuas above Pahiatua

We went up over the Pahiatua Track again, and this time, I remembered to follow North Range Rd along the ridge. There are a number of different wind farms clustered along the Range. Some are quite old, perhaps charcterized by two-bladed turbines, while others are bigger, brighter, newer and have three bladed turbines. I think they are amazing devices.

That’s it till next time.

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September 2, 2021 … sometimes I think too much

Lockdown provides time for thought. I think about many things, but the thinking that I choose to share here is mostly, though not exclusively, about making pictures. The essential photography question for me seems to be: why?

It’s a question I can ask at several levels. Why do I like making images at all? Why do I choose to make images of the kind that I do? Why do some images turn out better than others? Why does a particular image work, in my judgement? Why do I like the images made by others? And why do I insist that I am “making” images rather than “taking” photographs?

To start with the last question, I regard what I do as making art. It’s not great art, but it’s my art. I could make images with oils or pastels. Perhaps I could carve them in wood and no one would dispute that I “made” the image. However, there are those who still think that there are rules as to what is or is not photography. In their view, the image must be a truthful and literal capture made exclusively with a camera, of whatever was in front of the lens at the instant when the exposure was made. If that’s what you want to do, then good luck to you. For my part, the initial digital capture is merely the basis of the ever-changing recipe from which I attempt to make my images. The only factor that governs inclusion or exclusion of other elements is whether or not it appeals to me.

The only thing on which I accept judgement is the finished image. How I made it is nobody else’s business, and I utterly reject the idea that there is some pure form of photography. Photo-manipulation is as valid as any other tool in image making. And in the immortal words of Forrest Gump, “that’s all I have to say about that.”

In the images that follow, I shall try to explain some of the “why” questions that I posed above,

Bucket fountain, Cuba St

There can’t be a Wellingtonian alive who doesn’t know the Cuba St bucket fountain. Erected in 1969, the kinetic sculpture fills each bucket until the balance point moves outside the pivot point and causes the bucket to spill most of its contents into the bucket below. I was walking down Cuba St into the noonday sun and noticed that the backlighting offered possibilities. I made some conventional images with the whole fountain and its urban context, but saw and liked the strong colours of the buckets and the contrast of the dark street shadows and the backlit water.

Pauatahanui Landscape

From Motukaraka Point on the Northern side of Pauatahanui Inlet, still water and attractive clouds enhanced an otherwise conventional landscape image. This one appeals to me for its vertical symmetry, and for the beauty of those puffy cumulus clouds. The colours of the day as winter reaches its end were also appealing. I chose to leave the leaves in on the left to avoid being slave to the symmetry.

Darwin’s Barberry

Often when I first encounter an attractive plant, I discover that it is an unwanted intruder that is classified as a pest. Almost as surprising is the frequency with which the plant originated in South Africa. To quote Ian Fleming in Goldfinger, “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.”. I have several lovely South African friends, and they are definitely not enemies. On the other hand, the emergence of so many beautiful South African flora is clearly suggestive of a deliberate introduction, perhaps as an act driven by nostalgia. Anyway, as to the image, I made it in the mouth of my “dark box” with natural light from the window. I have a tendency to crop too close but gave this one room to breathe. The vibrance of the colours are what appealed most to me.

Memento

Such sculptures were , and perhaps still are something of a pop art cliché. My one is about 12 cm tall and was received in a “secret Santa” gift exchange with a $10 limit at work. This was one of the rare times I got a gift by this means that I liked. So why did I make the picture? We were not yet in lockdown for the pandemic at the time, so it must have been the weather. Anyway, I find the curves of the piece aesthetically appealling and as with the previous image, used the dark box to attain the desired contrast.

Goldfinch

It was raining. Mary had been to the back door for something and called me to come quietly. There is a clump of lavender that sits immediately up against the glass of the conservatory at the back door, and there, pecking away, was a beautiful little goldfinch. I tried shooting through the glass but as it was raining quite steadily that was never going to work. I went to the front door and engaged stealth mode to sneak around the house to the back in the rain. Amazingly, the bird ignored me. This was perhaps due to the rain, but either way, I was happy with the outcome.

Tui gathering

There was a time when the tui numbers were in severe decline. Not now. These boisterous nectar feeders are present in greater numbers than I have ever seen. It’s funny watching them at Mary’s nectar feeder. An inverted wine bottle full of sugar water feeds into a shallow dish. The birds drink until the level allows air into the bottle and the water is released until it stops the flow. It’s like watching a heliport with no air traffic control. Each bird seems to fly onto the platform without regard to fact that it is already occupied. The displaced bird flutters around squawking indignantly and rejoins the circuit to repeat the process. I tried to get all of the local flock but managed only six of the eight. Why did I make this image? Because I love birds, so if they are distracted so that I can get close, then I’ll be there.

Yellow admiral caterpillar

A photographic friend who is superb at macro photographs of all forms of wildlife is blessed with a young daughter who is superb at finding specimens for him to photograph. Mary is almost as good in that capacity for me. One day recently she came home from her morning walk with this colourful caterpillar. With the aid of fellow enthusiasts it was identified as the caterpillar of the Yellow Admiral (Vanessa itea, or in Maori, kahukowhai). Oddly they feed almost exclusively on nettles, and I was unaware of any growing nearby. This one was found on common groundsel. The photograph was made with a macro lens using panoramic stitching techniques. This caused some odd digital artefacts but gave a good picture of the caterpillar.

Camellia japonica

Mary has a lot of friends, many of whom know that her husband is an eccentric character who is always taking photographs. Some of them very kindly give her things that he might use to make photographs. This lovely camellia came from our neighbours and was photographed with a ceramic vase as a backdrop. The glaze was metallic so it creates a somewhat confusing context for this almost perfect flower.

Proverbs 31: 10-13

I rarely photograph people, and even more rarely photograph Mary mostly because she doesn’t like it. Now and then, I get away with it. Our kitchen is small, and I had the camera on the tripod opposite the oven, and triggered the camera remotely from the doorway behind that. Amongst other things, Mary makes a great variety of muffins. I get some, and neighbours and family get some, and sometimes people who volunteer in the same places that Mary does get some. Half of this batch was filled with lemon curd and as an experiment, the other half was flavoured with ginger marmalade. I can testify that both were delicious. The image is made with natural light and I was pleased to get way with it. Though I have a couple of flash lights, I rarely use them.

Seaview Marina

Covid lockdown regulations have eased very slightly in areas outside Auckland, This means I can travel strictly within my local area for exercise. Well, a fine day and a hint of permission were all I needed. Why did I make this image? It contains boats, moorings, the sea and some reflections. No further encouragement was required. It’s not a great photo, but just being there near the boats brought me pleasure.

Spinster

Way back in 1982, I had the great pleasure of spending six weeks at Eindhoven in the Netherlands. During a weekend break in Amsterdam, I purchased this small pewter figurine as a memento for my late mother-in-law who was herself an expert craftsperson in all forms of fibre. Anyway, a wet day had me looking for an image to make, so I gave this a shot. I decided to apply some “radial blur” to the wheel to create the impression of the spinning wheel in motion. I quite liked the effect.

Last light of day

This is a kereru, the New Zealand native wood pigeon. It’s a large bird, at least the size of a good chicken. This one was sitting in the small kowhai shrub on our front lawn. It was being illuminated broadside on by the setting sun down the Northern side of our house. It knew I was creeping up on it, but had not identified me as a threat. I find this image pleasing, mainly because I got the bird in focus and the light is beautiful.

That will suffice for this edition. I hope to see you next time.

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July 5, 2021 … first go somewhere where there is a good landscape

Oh Lordy how time flies. What with involvement with the medical profession and a very enjoyable trip to the Eastern Central areas of the North Island, my photographic collection has grown erratically. In this edition, I am offering more images than usual, and even so, I have culled it to about half of my initial candidate images

Cuba Street top to bottom

It began in Wellington. I needed to visit an auto-electrician at the top end of town, and while he was doing his job, I wandered around the neighbourhood. I realised that from the intersection with Webb Street, I had a good view down the entire length of Cuba Street.

109 tons of raw power

Mary and I were out and about with a picnic lunch and to my great pleasure I spotted the tell-tale plume of smoke and steam at Paekakariki station. Steam Inc were running shuttle rides back and forth between Paekakariki and Paraparaumu. Northwards, it was hauled by the steamer Ja127i. The return trip was hauled by the vintage diesel Da1410, built by General Motors in Ontario in 1955

Crossover

As we neared Queen Elizabeth Park (Mackay’s Crossing) the presence of rail fans at the crossing suggested that the steam locomotive was approaching. We paused and I got lucky to see the South-bound commuter unit passing the North-bound steam excursion. I loved the contrast

Jubilee Park, Normandale

A day or two prior to our road trip, I went for a walk in the bush reserve immediately in front of our house. It’s several years since that last happened. The tracks have been upgraded since my last visit, but there are still spots where the path slopes the wrong way and my footing felt more insecure than it used to. Nevertheless, the charm of the bush seemed worth the risk.

Heavens to Betsy we’ve got us a convoy

Mary and I made our road trip, staying in places at Tokaanu, Ohope and Haumoana. Bear in mind that this took place over the Southern Winter Solstice so the weather wasn’t always kind. As we were getting close to Waiouru which is close to the Army Training Group, we became aware an increasing number of army trucks. My heart went out to the soldiers huddled miserably in the back of the unheated canvas sided troop carriers.

Mighty Ruapehu

Onto the Desert Road and the weather became even more bleak. As we travelled North, the approaching weather swallowed up the mountain and everything turned grey. Oncoming trucks passed in a shower of spray and road grit.

Old Tokaanu Wharf

Weather on the central plateau was unkind throughout our two day stopover at Tokaanu, though arguably, there is beauty in the mist and drizzle over the lake. Thank heavens for the geothermal hot pools at the motel. As I already suggested, I lack the confidence on my feet that I had when I was younger, so I trod very carefully along the somewhat slippery planks of the old Tokaanu wharf.

The hydro scheme

From Lake Rotoaira tunnels through Mount Tihia carry water with sufficient energy to power the 360MW Tokaanu hydro generating scheme and deliver water from the tailrace into Lake Taupo. What a debt we owe to all those Italian and other tunnellers who produced those tunnels back in the early 1970s.

Whakatane River

From Tokaanu, we drove through Taupo, Waimangu, Murupara, Galatea, Aniwhenua. Awakeri, and Whakatane to an Airbnb in Ohope. It was right on the waterfront near the surf club. Ohope sells itself as “NZ’s favourite beach”, and in the summer months it may well be. During our mid-winter stay it was visually appealing but I was in no way tempted to swim. Instead, we explored the area with me watching for landscape possibilities. A favourite of mine was the mouth of the Whakatane River.

All roads lead to …

One of our several day trips took us up the coast to Maketu and back. Maketu is the ancestral home of the Te Arawa iwi, and landing place of the great Arawa canoe (around 1350 AD). It has developed a lot since I visited there as a young man, especially in terms of horticulture. On the other hand the settlement itself seems to retain much of the honest simplicity that it always has, save only for the satellite receivers everywhere. On the return journey we crossed the Rangitaiki River where the view to the sea encountered Moutohora Island, locally known as Whale Island. It’s amazing how many roads seem to lead straight to it.

Alas, no more

Another day trip took us to Rotorua and back, and since Mary had never seen it before, we diverted via Kawerau. Sadly, we passed by in the very last week of the mill’s operation and the week we came home, the mill shut down forever. I recall visiting there at the peak of its activity when the labour force exceeded 5,000. I shall be surprised if there are 1,000 full time jobs in the district now.

The Urupa (cemetery)

Thirty km to the North East of Kawerau is the old Whakatane Board Mills which have made kraft board and cardboard since prior to WWII if my memory is correct. It has staggered along on the edge of closure for the last few years, but just last month, found a new buyer who has apparently saved the 200 or so remaining jobs. Just outside the mill is an old Urupa (Maori cemetery) and the sad derelict remains of the Pupuaruhe Church, formerly Hato Aneru (St Andrews).

On the Way Home

Lovely Lake Aniwhenua is a little known beauty spot, well off the beaten tourist tracks about 30 km South of the Matahina dam and about 20 km North of Murupara. On our homeward journey, we arrived there in foggy conditions just as our recently acquired Hybrid Honda decided to throw a dire looking warning light in Japanese. In fog, 65 from the nearest Honda dealer at Whakatane or 100 km from the one at Taupo, I began to panic. Then I remembered the translate app on my smartphone. The message said “Soon it will be time for service”!!!!

At Aniwhenua

While my panic levels subsided, I looked around the lake and enjoyed the serenity if the Rangitaiki River flowing Northward into the lake which is, by the way, part of the small local 25 MW hydroelectric generation scheme upstream of the 290 MW Matahina Dam.

Waikato River

Misty conditions continued down through Murupara and the mighty Kaingaroa Forest. It stayed with us as we crossed the Waikato River on SH5 about 8km South of Reporoa. Mary was driving at that point so I had to seek her patience to catch the nice light in the fog on the water.

Geothermal Hyperbolid

Some people encounter the cooling tower at Ohaaki for the first time and immediately suspect the New Zealand has been hiding a surreptitious nuclear plant. No, sorry, it is a simple natural draft cooling tower as used all over the world to cool exhaust gases from all kinds of processes dealing with hot gases. This is the only such tower in New Zealand and it is located at the 104 MW geothermal Ohaaki power station. It looked especially sinister in the fog.

Maraetotara Falls

After a long trip across the bleak and chilly Napier Taupo highway, we stayed for a few nights at another Airbnb, this time situated in an apple orchard at Haumoana in Hawkes Bay. Day trips were again the order of the day and one that I had never done before was to the Maraetotara falls in the hills 16 km to the South of Havelock North.

Clive – Dowstream

We needed some groceries in Meanee near Taradale, we so drove through Clive and over the bridge where the serenity of the river drew me back for a photograph,

Clive – Upstream

In such calm conditions, the Clive River was beautiful in both directions and as usual. Mary sat and patiently read her book while I tried to capture the mood of the morning.

Sunrise in the orchard

As our holiday came to an end with predictions of dire weather for our journey home and the week ahead, Hawkes Bay left us with a magnificent sunrise.

Home is always great to come back to.

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February 19, 2021 … happier days

This is a rare occasion. I can say that on the whole, I am pleased with this edition’s images. And did you notice that I didn’t feel the need to add the usual semi-apologetic disclaimer?

Being a photographer in the way that I am is perhaps parallel to being a general practitioner. Unlike the specialist portrait makers, I rarely use artificial light. Though I dabble in the mystic arts of architectural images, I don’t have the experience or the right tools for the highest levels of achievement. I am much too introverted to engage in portrait or street photography, so my natural habitat includes elements of landscape, nature and still life, with a strong preference for water. Of the fourteen images in this edition nine include the sea. So let’s have a look.

Black-fronted dotterel

I suppose it is natural to return to the places where I have had good results before. Hokio Beach is situated at the estuary of the Hokio stream that runs to the Tasman Sea a little to the South of Levin. On weekday mornings, if the conditions are right, it is a place of serenity and sea birds. It is always a delight to encounter the black-fronted dotterel. Somehow it is almost invisible against the dark West-coast sand. I find it necessary to sit down among the driftwood and wait. Eventually a tiny patch of grey fluff will scuttle across the beach in a away that catches the eye. Once the target is acquired, it resolves itself into this beautiful tiny bird. It is very cautious and tends to stay on the far side of the stream away from the occasional passing vehicle. They delight me.

Kaitaki leaving port

Conditions such as this are all too rare. When the trees outside my window are still, I look out the other side and look for reflections on the river and harbour. I love to get my camera close to water level and find a suitable target across the water. In this case, the ferry Kaitaki on the 9am service to Picton is about to pass between Ward Island and Point Dorset on her way to the harbour entrance and a turn to the West.

Ancient piles

Truth to tell, nothing man-made in New Zealand is really ancient. The original Petone wharf was erected in 1883 and I guess some of the inshore piles may date from then. Some recent earthquakes caused five of the piles to slump and the wharf was deemed unsafe. This much loved structure is currently closed to the public while repairs are effected, I was walking on the beach and looking at the reflections and saw this. Many of the piles are riddled with marine worms, so it’s a little scary to know that there are three or four trucks and a substantial crane on the deck overhead.

The Port of Wellington

Nicholson Road, Khandallah, is a narrow winding road that twists its way along the East-facing hills above the harbour. It provides few places to stop safely but offers some splendid views down into Oriental Bay and the port area. When I made this picture the harbour was still and the Singaporean registered Kota Lembah was exchanging containers and the Panama registered Pan Gloris was loading logs. Note the thousands of logs waiting on the wharf, mostly bound for China.

Cowgrass Clover

Our lawns were overdue for mowing and this cluster of cow grass clover had popped up on its edge. I decided that since the weather had delivered an ugly day I would have a closer look. My “dark box” was used with reflected light from the window to illuminate the plants.

Brisk Northerly

It was a clear but windy day , and it seemed that the view from atop Brooklyn Hill might be worth a look. On the way up the access road I saw the rapidly spinning turbine at the top of the hill and with the aid of a neutral density filter slowed the blades a bit.

Food for thought

Our son Anthony, his wife Sarah and our Grandchildren Maggie-May and Jack joined us for dinner recently and Mary delivered what the kids refer to as her signature dessert – lemon meringue pie. Pure magic, though it does nothing to diminish my shadow. As you can see if the conditions don’t lend themselves to outdoor photography, then I will point my camera at anything I can find.

Seeking the light

Summer, such as it has been, is withdrawing. A lovely sunset and a relatively calm sea persuaded me to to dash down to the harbour’s edge at Petone. Alas, to photograph the best moments, it is necessary to be there waiting for them. In the ten minutes or so that it took to get to the beach, the glory I had seen was gone. What saved the day for me was the sudden emergence of the Kaitaki from the shadow of the Miramar peninsula into the last glorious rays of the setting sun. The sudden explosion of light demanded a hand-held grab shot so as not to miss it.

Little red tugboat

As I often do, I was driving around the Miramar Peninsula and saw CentrePort’s two Damen 2411 ASD tugs crossing the harbour to assist the departure of an oil tanker from Seaview. I think this is Tapuhi which was built in China.

Citizens’ Tribute

While the peninsula, I chose to walk up to the Massey memorial which sits atop Point Halswell. Our 19th Prime Minister, William Ferguson Massey served from 1912 to 1925 and died in office. The memorial and mausoleum was funded largely by public subscription, despite his controversial right wing politics.

By land and sea

As I drove around Karehana Bay in Plimmerton, I noticed people fishing from boats in the bay as well as from the yacht club’s wharf. I am a very bad fisherman and always end up snagged on the rocky bottom.

Old school

Some of the upmarket marinas are filled with modern plastic vessels filled with electronics and appliances. In the older mooring areas such as Ivey Bay, it is more likely to encounter older vessels with planked wooden hulls and not a radar aerial to be seen. These appeal to my sense of marine aesthetics.

In need of attention

Sadly, many of these old boats are laid up with the best of intentions and then nothing happens. The planked hulls do not take kindly to neglect. I am not suggesting that the boats in the image are neglected but they do have that forlorn appearance that comes from a long time without attention.

Scouting

In Evans Bay, there is a troop of sea scouts. Many of my previous shots of the area have included the blue vessel pictured here moored and without the masts stepped. What a pleasure to see her sailing briskly with a crew all well equipped with life jackets. Another seas scout crew is sailing the clinker built cream coloured boat with the number 45 on her sail.

That will do for this edition . I hope to improve in the next edition.

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December 9, 2020 … the song that never ends

Almost every long car trip featured our kids mischievously singing “The Song that Never Ends” … you know the one … Wikipedia describes it as “self referential and infinitely iterative”. Though the calendar tells me that it is December, and we could normally expect the year to end soon, I fear that it might refuse to yield office to 2021. There is still room for some new unpleasantness to raise its head. Leaving aside the world events which have dominated our thinking, my photographic world has been dominated by grey and overcast images.

If and when a new year does take office, I hope that I seize every opportunity to make better use of the brighter days. Meanwhile, let us see what crossed my lenses recently.

Monumental masonry

Whenua Tapu cemetery is on SH1 between Plimmerton and Pukerua Bay. My decision to wander through it was not based on any morbid fascination with cemeteries, but was purely motivated by the patterns of the monumental masonry. This particular area of the cemetery is devoted to the Greek community which has a strong presence in Wellington.

Boutique port

Centreport is the successor to the old Wellington Harbour Board. It is a private company that runs the business of the harbour. It is jointly owned by the Wellington Regional Council and the Horizons (Whanganui and Manawatu) Regional Council. Wellington is not one of the country’s major ports as designated by the big shipping companies. In fact its container activity has just two cranes. From Point Halswell, I looked across to the empty container berth and saw them both parked and looking tidy.

At the end of a lovely day

Camera club meetings start at 7:30 pm and are usually all done by 9 pm. On this day, as I was driving away, I was struck by the lovely light in the sky to the South and West. As always I had my camera and tripod on board so I set out for the Petone foreshore. Ten minutes later with the light fading rapidly I set up to make a panorama. Seven shots at 30 seconds each had to be done as fast as possible since the light difference between the first and last was significant. The bright light along the beach and on the driftwood was from the street lights on the Esplanade. I suppose I could have tried to dim it in the computer.

Spoonbills in shelter

I like high key images. The royal spoonbills at Pauatahanui almost provided one The brilliant white plumage and the silver grey water provide a nice contrast with their black bills. The spoonbills were huddled in the lee of the dune, staying below the mean-spirited Northerly wind.

Ready for the lunch crowd

Portofino is an Italian restaurant on the Wellington waterfront. As I walked past their back window, I was taken by the neatness of the glass and silverware. With the kind permission of the manager I made an image from the back of the restaurant looking over the tables and across the harbour to Roseneath.

Tui at the wine bar in the rain

The tui and other nectar feeders are enjoying Mary’s regular supply of sugar water. An inverted wine bottle into a plastic bowl is all it takes. The tui claim first rights and any lesser birds just get knocked off as the tui lands on the perch, whether or not it is occupied. They are usually wary of humans and you can see this one giving me the evil eye.

Coaching in the Mist

Soft rain and low cloud put Mt Victoria and Roseneath into the mist. Just offshore from Petone beach a rowing eight was getting some apparently forceful coaching from the man in the inflatable. The harbour was blessedly calm.

And then the wind blew

Somehow, I missed the worst of it, but the next day the wind came up and swells of about 4.5 metres started battering the South coast. Here, the Bluebridge ferry, Strait Feronia is starting to lift into the swells on the open water of Cook Strait. I don’t envy the open part of their trip.

Pure gold

Most people are familiar with the pohutukawa, the member of the myrtle family famous for it’s glorious crimson flowers every Christmas. Many are surprised to discover the gold variety. I have to say that I prefer the traditional crimson.

Rubber ducky

While driving along Riverside Drive in Lower Hutt, I spotted some little yellow objects floating down the river. So help me, I was convinced I was seeing plastic toy ducks. Then one of them reversed course and went upstream. What? I got my long lens out and good grief, they were a flock of mallard ducklings. I believe the current word of the day is diversity. Beautiful, and a lift to the spirits in these days of persistent grey cloud and rain.

See you next time

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November 20, 2020 … Persistence

One hundred and ten years ago, G.K. Chesterton wrote “a thing worth doing is worth doing badly“. I find this famous paradox resonates with me in the context of my photographic aspirations. It’s not that I think my photographs as especially bad. Rather, it’s that many of them are simply not as good as I would like them to be. When I like what I see in the viewfinder, I press the shutter. Sadly, when I see the image on the screen at home, it is often less pleasing than I hoped it would be. Life is full of those little disappointments.

Nevertheless, the process of making images still gives me much pleasure. The essence of it, for me, is using the viewfinder to frame the subject of my picture. Whether by means of a zoom lens, or by walking closer or further away, I try to ensure that the viewer knows exactly what was supposed to be in or out of the picture. It sounds so simple, and yet seems so difficult.

Atmospherics

Heavy cloud and strong winds have characterised the last few weeks. This image was made near the wind turbine at the top of Brooklyn hill in Wellington. As you will see from the green grass at the bottom, this is not a monochrome image.

From Makara to Mana and Kapiti Islands

On this day, the sea and sky were hazy, but I rather liked the mystery quality that the weather gave to Mana and Kapiti Islands to the North while I looked from the car park at the West Wind windfarm at Makara.

Celebrating the failure of a terrorist plot

Back in 1605, in London, England, a terrorist/patriot attempted to blow up the King James I in House of Lords, but was discovered with the stash of gunpowder before it could happen. The conspirators were executed. Guy Fawkes Night has been celebrated in former British territories ever since. It is fading in New Zealand in favour of Matariki, the Maori new year which comes with the rising of Pleaides in Late May or early June. Some people still do Guy Fawkes and can legally purchase fireworks between November 2 and November 5 if they are over 18. I suspect that in future, fireworks will be restricted to professional licensed displays.

Chris Church in Taita

Occasionally, my wandering takes me through the Eastern Hutt Road , Taita, where I pass Christ Church, the oldest church in the Wellington Region. It was completed in 1853 (we are a young country). These days it is still a consecrated church and serves both as an historic place and venue for weddings, baptisms and funerals. The sexton is a real gentleman who, on seeing me photographing the exterior unlocked the back door and kindly gave me access to the interior.

Rain

When the weather outside is miserable, I often resort to still life. In this case, a yellow rose which our kindly neighbour allows Mary to hijack. Roses lose their perfection all too quickly, and even at their peak, there are flaws. Even so, the rose always brings me pleasure.

Into the rain

When the weather outside is miserable, I sometimes go the other way and defy the conditions. On the day this image was made, there was some steady rain. For some reason, I like rain shots so I went around Tarakena Bay along Moa Point Road and saw the Strait Feronia leaving the harbour mouth on its way to Picton. The wall of rain she was heading into was sufficient to blot out Baring Head and the background hills.

Sparkling

Spring leaves should not be on the tree and not on the ground. However, a strong gale ripped a few off the Japanese maple. The wind died away a little so as I went out I was attracted by the glistening drops of water on the fallen leaf.

Downtown architecture

How much the waterfront architecture has changed since first I came to Wellington in the mid 1960s. This building was completed last year, and is quite distinctive. To the best of my knowledge, it features very advanced earthquake resistant engineering. To my eye, it looks best during daylight hours. In the evening hours when the cleaners are at their busiest, the geometry of the structure disappears and the illuminated interior divisions make it quite untidy. This intersection on the corner of Customhouse Quay and Waring Taylor St is always busy, so I made multiple shots and then used the statistics feature of Photoshop so that anything that was not present in most images simply disappears. No traffic!

Knitted blanket

Looking for some still life options, my eye fell on one of Mary’s current projects. Mary enjoys knitting as a way of retaining mobility in her wrists and fingers, and she always has at least one item in progress. This is a baby blanket.

Nature’s knitting

The wetlands in the Pauatahanui Wildlife reserve reminded me of Mary’s knitted blanket, with seemingly random splashes of colour. I was disappointed with the image which I had hoped to achieve with focus stacking. Unfortunately, the stiff breeze moved everything about, so I chose to focus on the Royal spoonbills having a siesta in the pond.

Escort duty front and rear.

At the back of the pond nearest Gray’s Road is a bird viewing hide, donated by the Thorpe family. I am grateful to them, and have spent many happy hours there, watching various waterfowl enjoying the pond. Canada geese are increasing in numbers and watching these proud parents escorting their brood of six cygnets I can see why.

Old school boating

Mary was walking from Pauatahanui village around to Paremata via the Camborne Walkway so I was looking for images in the Ngati Toa domain until it was time to pick her up. The local scout group had hauled their dinghies out ready for some old fashioned rowing with heavy oars.

Young pups 🙂

Our youngest son, Anthony and his family have just acquired a puppy. It is a golden retriever/poodle cross which is apparently called golden doodle. It doesn’t seem so long ago that I held Ants with that same big grin. The puppy is called Rascal.The other one answers to “Ants”.

See you next time, people.

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December 1, 2019 … summer is (theoretically) here

To the best of my knowledge, I don’t suffer from any verifiable form of clinical depression. Others may have a different opinion. Nevertheless, my enthusiasm for various aspects of life, even my beloved photography, has its swings and roundabouts. I suspect that my current photographic passion depends on how long it is since I last made an image that I am pleased with. Or maybe it relates to how many days in the last week or so that I found calm water and reflections. An upturn seems imminent even though the first day of summer is cold, grey and blustery.

A rhododendron
Rhododendrons in green glass

Mary does a lot of volunteer work, so quite often there are flowers in the house from people who are grateful for her help. I get to benefit because I can use them to make pictures. I liked the rhododendrons but particularly liked the drama added by the green glass

A goldfinch in the grass
Another goldfinch

It was just the last edition of this blog that I used a goldfinch image. However, this one allowed me to get quite close, so I couldn’t resist another picture.

Ovation of the Seas berthing in Wellington
Softly softly …

A grey but reasonably calm day … one I can live with. As I was coming down SH2 towards Wellington, I noticed the vast bulk of Ovation of the Seas positioning itself to berth, so I left the motorway and went up into Wadestown. I found a viewpoint and watched as the port’s two tugs helped to ensure that 168,666 gross tonnes do not arrive alongside the wharf too quickly. It was fascinating watching the pulsing of the ship’s thrusters and the restraining efforts of the tugs. And then there was the good old fashioned mooring gang who received the thrown weighted top and than hauled the enormous hawser ashore and put it on the bollard. The ferries Kaiarahi and Aratere were dwarfed by Ovation of the Seas.

Dry Fennel
Delicacy

Otaihanga is on the Southern side of the Waikanae estuary and I enjoyed a walk down the riverside path. I wasn’t seeing much apart from a few grumpy whitebaiters, but I liked the morning light on these dried out plants. I am not entirely sure, but think they are fennel.

Roy al spoonbills sleeping
Royal spoonbills enjoying a royal siesta

There was a time when we first returned to Wellington when the royal spoonbill was a rarity … truly exotic. Now, they are relatively common in the Hutt Estuary and around the Porirua Harbour. Around Grey’s Road I counted eleven at Ration Point and another thirteen at the Kakaho stream, and no, they were definitely two different flocks.

Locks on a fence at Paekakariki
Held captive by the view

The Paekakariki hill lookout offers spectacular views, though I find it difficult to present an image that catches it in a new way. I noticed that the wire fence that keeps tourists from falling over the steep drop down the hill has suddenly acquired an infestation of “romantic” padlocks. They don’t thrill me and they usually cause the wire to rust, but it gave me a different view over the coast.

Sunflower
Yellow

On days when I am disinclined to venture out, I often find something inside to attempt a still life shot with. I always find sunflowers to be spectacular, and the the florist who provided this one wrapped it in bright yellow paper. I taped it to the window and started shooting. Definite possibilities there.

An RNZN sea sprite helicopter hovering over the Endeavour replica
Seasprite and Endeavour

For the last month or so, a flotilla of sailing ships called Tuia 250 has been sailing around the country commemorating the first arrival of Captain James Cook, The flotilla includes the replica of HMS Endeavour, the sail training vessel, Spirit of New Zealand, and three double-hulled pacific sailing waka. They have been escorted by HMNZS Wellington. I am aware that there are political sensitivities around this commemoration since, for some, it marks the beginning of colonisation. I acknowledge that many injustices followed on from the arrival of pakeha and that many of these need still to be rectified. On the other hand, this marks the beginning of the process from which modern New Zealand evolved.

I love the ships for their own sake and to my great joy, I was on Petone beach when the flotilla did a sail-by. And they did it with sails set. I envied the RNZN photographer who had the ultimate photographic accessory .. a Seasprite helicopter.

Sail training ship Spirit of New Zealand
Spirit of New Zealand

The Spirit of New Zealand is a reasonably frequent visitor to Wellington, but all too often, she travels under power with bare poles. On this occasion she had a good number of sails set and presented a pretty picture.

That will do for now. See you next time.

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October 31, 2019 … bright lights and variable scenes

Wellington’s legendary wind lived up to the very worst of its reputations over the last two weeks. I cannot recall a period in which I have been so disinclined to go out looking for photographs. There have been a few reasonable days but mostly there has been blustery wind and nasty rain. Summer must be coming. Please let it be coming.

Black and white wading birds
Pied stilts

In one brief interval of calm, I went to Pauatahanui Inlet where there is a considerable colony of pied stilts. They are attractive birds to watch, Their clean black and white plumage and their very long legs make them attractive to watch as they wade the shallows looking for insects and other invertebrates.

Grey sea and sky
Oriental Bay marina

Despite my lament about the persistent wind, it is a calm day when I can make a 4 second exposure on the Oriental Bay marina without the yachts’ masts whipping about. I rather like the metallic grey tones and only that yellow cabin-top near the middle gives away the fact that this is a full colour image.

The Hutt Light Festival

It seems that each year, at or near Labour Weekend at the end of October, Lower Hutt City stages a festival of lights. I found myself behind the public library the day before the festival opened. Of course this is most spectacular with the thousands of spectators, but I like the comparative calm.

Hutt War Memorial Library

I wandered around catching the lights in juxtaposition with the somewhat brutal architecture of the Hutt War Memorial Library.

Inflatable sculptures

Part of the displays were some inflatable sculptures in the form of giant fungi. It was all very clever.

Starling in Carlucci Land

Near Owhiro Bay on Wellington’s South Coast, is Carlucci Land. It is a quirky mini-golf course, characterised by lots of strange shapes made of old machinery and rusting scrap steel.

Naval cadets … 550 of them.

At the end of the road, I saw a ship on the horizon with a distinctly naval profile. As It came closer, it’s pennant number (83) came into view and it revealed itself as the Chinese Navy’s training vessel Qi Jiguang which was making a five day goodwill visit to Wellington. It was a clean and well-presented vessel.

Cape Palliser … Wind

Mary and I drove over the hill to the Wairarapa and around the coast to Cape Palliser. I am always apprehensive about the road sign that says “Caution, Active Slip! Drive with Care”. I never know how I should drive to prevent the road dropping down the cliff-face to land on the beach. We ate our picnic lunch in the car near the seal colony at the cape . I had the car parked nose to the wind, and I suspect if I had done it otherwise, we would have been sent tumbling into the sea. I have never had a picnic in such a vicious wind before.

The festival of light final fireworks

I thought the wind might make it unsafe to release of fireworks on the last night of the festival. Despite what I regarded as a quite stiff breeze, the pyrotechnics were set off and everybody seemed happy.

I was especially happy to have sold some images of the event.

And if you want to see the standard of photography to which I aspire, see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvOSQhDucvQ

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May 27, 2019 … keep on keeping on

Introspection is a mixed blessing for any artistic endeavour. As you might recall if you read my post from May 15 , I seem to spend a lot of time doing it. What I keep hearing from other photographers, however, is that self-assessment is better than being driven by the responses on social media. And so I continue to articulate my internal warfare for your entertainment. I really appreciate the constructive feedback I get from some of you, so please keep providing it.

Just like social media, lots of posts don’t necessarily lead anywhere.

Whitireia Park is a large area of hilly grassland on the South headland of the Porirua Harbour. Even if they don’t know the park, most Wellingtonians will know it as the place where the old YA and YC station radio aerials are. The day I visited there recently was characterized by relatively flat light and some haze. After some fruitless wandering, I settled on the wooden posts used to prevent cars from entering the grasslands as my subject. And then I saw the separation between the green grass of the park and the background hills.

Near the corner of Abel Smith and Cuba Streets

Exploring the area of the city where I walk less often, I encountered this fence. With a limited view of the yard behind it, I formed the opinion that the owner was deliberately playing up to the Bohemian character of the Cuba St precinct. This was shot from across the street so I had to time the exposure to give a view of the fence in between passing cars and pedestrians.

At a recent camera club night, I heard a fellow member exclaim in delight that someone had shown images with people in them. It wasn’t me. I am sure those who have been watching for a while have noticed that I rarely “do people”. I like people (in small numbers) but don’t like the necessity to meet their expectations in my images. Anyway, in my unpopulated shot above, I enjoyed the quirky design, and the careful colour-matching.

Burgers and Coffee served from a bus

Ekim Burgers is a popular coffee and burger stop on the the intersection identified in the street signs. The old Valley Flyer bus has been converted to serve as a kitchen and customers sit in the chaotic courtyard. It’s a colourful place with partial shelter that seems to do well in better weather.

No lions here

After a few days of ugly windy weather in which I was not motivated to go out, there came a still patch at the end of the day. I went North to see if there might be some reflections on the lake in the newly refurbished playground at Fraser Park. There were, and even better, this rather lovely tree posed against a rosy sky. I adopted a low angle to make the playground equipment as inconspicuous as possible. I rather liked the quasi-safari atmosphere.

… to dungeons deep and caverns old*

Stillness is a relative thing. I had hoped for better on the South Coast on this particular evening, but had to settle for a slight chop on the sea. However, as I looked across the strait to Tapuae-o-Uenuku (2,885m), I was taken by the light and texture on the Seaward Kaikoura range. Click on the image to enlarge and look at the the hills below and left of the high peak. I also liked the dramatic contrast of the rocks off Sinclair Head, one of which seems to be pointing up the Wairau Valley which runs from Blenheim to St Arnaud. Despite the ruffled water, I got an image.

And then, it was still

When true stillness comes at last, I apparently get a look of longing on my face which prompts Mary to say ” oh go on, you know you want to get out there”. And so I go, burdened with guilt, but rejoicing in my good fortune. From a lookout on Mulberry St in Maungaraki , the view South to Antarctica is a constant joy. The dark shadow on the horizon suggests that the stillness might be brief.

Lingering stillness

I thought this patch of weather would move on quickly, but to my delight it lingered for several days. From Petone Beach, I had spotted a fleet of yachts engaged in a very slow race. The wind was so light that they were not able to spread as far as they might in stronger conditions. However, I also wanted to capture the beauty of the harbour in these conditions, so I pointed my camera at Ward Island 7km away in the entrance to the harbour.

Then from the corner of my eye, I spotted a waka ama approaching from the East. The ancient outrigger canoe has been transformed into a fibreglass racing class, and this crew were out practicing. They certainly shot across my viewfinder much faster than any of the yachts.

Fast water

A change of pace was made when I went to the weir on the Hutt River at Silverstream. There was a moderately fast flow across the weir and the water was tumbling over the downstream rocks in the late-afternoon sun. This image was made in full colour, but with the aid of a neutral density filter to get a silky look on the flowing water from an 8 second exposure.

Welcome swallows by the lake

That elusive stillness seemed as if it might have moved to Lake Wairarapa, so I crossed the hill to Featherston where the water was just as ruffled as it was in Wellington. I really need a Wairarapa correspondent who can flick me a text when the conditions are right, either dead calm or misty. Anyway, I settled for this shot of a pair of Welcome swallows (Hirundo neoxena). They were adjacent to a pond sparkling in the sun hence the bright spots in the background which I quite like,

Embrace**

I walked up the track to the Massey Memorial on the Miramar peninsula and saw something in these tree roots. My thought was that since the earth had crumbled away from them in front, they were having to hang on to each other for dear life. I hardly ever shoot monochrome, but decided to try it in this instance. I am unlikely to change.

And then it rained

Mary has a small potted anthurium that has been very prolific this year, and vivid in its colour. I always struggle to do anything useful with an anthurium plant. Despite my preference for simplicity I added a cut-glass fruit bowl against the window in the background. I like it, I think.

Into the distance

A pleasant afternoon at Eastbourne led me to Burdan’s gate beyond which only pedestrians and cyclists proceed as a general rule. There are exceptions. It’s a few years since I last walked this trail out to Pencarrow lighthouse or beyond. Either of the prevailing winds can make the inward or outward journey less comfortable. And if you are really unlucky, an untimely wind change can give you a headwind in both directions. I liked the appearance of two walkers on one of the very many headlands.

That will do until I have gathered another dozen or so images that I like. See you later.

*Misty Mountains Cold – the Hobbit J.R.R Tolkien

**Thanks Michael Witbrock