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March 1, 2022 … diversion from the serious stuff

An old joke asks “what am I doing in this hand basket, and where am I going?” Recent world and local events seem to reflect this theme. I lack the kind of spirit that might cause me to be personally involved, other than expressing my opinion. (Putin is a war criminal and the local anti-mandate protest movement is based on culpable disinformation.) And so I divert myself by seeking the beauty around me. Mostly, I find it in small scale things. For sure, New Zealand has a lot of beauty on a grand scale, but this is not the time to be travelling and among crowds of people. In recent times, the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi has appealed to me. Crudely summarised, it seeks beauty in imperfection. Imperfection is a specialty of mine 🙂

Word of Mouth

Out in the Pauatahanui inlet there is a resident flock of royal spoonbills. They are wabi-sabi personified. While its cousin the white heron is undeniably beautiful, the spoonie wears a clown costume. The grotesque bill is efficient at dredging the mud for food, but makes it hard for me to take them seriously. Watching a pair squabbling is akin to seeing two people engaged in a duel using salad servers.

Black Swans

Near the yacht club at Foxton Beach, Mary and I were enjoying a picnic lunch on the stop bank when a flight of black swans came over low and slow. I grabbed my camera and lined them up but even so, they were past me when I finally got them in the viewfinder and in focus. If you thought the black swans were all black, then this shows otherwise.

Bumble bee with sweet pea

There was a clump of sweet peas beside the lookout platform at Foxton Beach. It was being visited by a number of bumble bees. To my surprise, they were not all of the common black and yellow bumble bee variety (Bombus terrestris). There were several others and various expert groups have suggested that the strangers were the large garden bumble bee (Bombus ruderatus). This is narrower, and is more black and white than my old familiar friend.

Wairarapa Moana

It is a rare visit to Featherston that I don’t divert down Murphy’s Line to the Lake Domain Reserve. I am often disappointed. On this occasion, the lake was perfect, and reflected the silvery blue clouds beautifully. The rusting steel piles of the old Hansell’s jetty make a delightful focal point for the photographer. Yes, I have made similar shots before, but I take joy in beauty no matter how often I encounter it.


The lovely blue chicory flower seems to spread along the roadside grasses of the back country roads in the South Wairarapa. How does it get distributed? I assume that somehow the slipstream of passing vehicles is involved in the spreading of the seeds.

Lowry Bay in the mist

Misty weather is always interesting to me, and I always imagine a more romantic picture than the one I capture on the day. One day I shall get the picture that I envisaged when I pressed the shutter.

Waves of bark

Wabi-sabi means different things to different people. For some, it involves simplicity and beauty, akin to minimalism. Other interpretations include age and decay, and the deliberate inclusion of imperfection. I thought I saw elements of it in this sheet of fallen bark that Mary brought home for me.


There was a time when I went to the city library every two weeks and would take home a bag of eight or ten adventure novels. If I finished them all before the fortnight was up, I would refresh my stash ahead of time. Now I find I lack the necessary attention span to deal with books at that rate. Instead I load books into the Kindle app on my iPad/iPhones and read my preferred styles of adventure as and when the mood takes me. I can divert to YouTube if I wish, and go back to Kindle when I am ready to resume.

Newtown barber

As I walked the streets of Newtown, I passed the open door of a traditional men’s barber shop. I think the barbers are of middle Eastern origins, judging by the posters with Arabic script on the walls. Whatever, the shop was immaculate and attractively presented. I walked on by and then thought, if I don’t ask, how can he say yes? So I went back, scanned the QR code at the door and went in. I asked permission to shoot from the door. Both he and his client consented and here we are.

Old style greengrocer

Newton is a place of magical diversity. As well as the middle Eastern barbers, there are specialist shops and restaurants from many different countries. In the few shops nearest me in this image we have a Mexican restaurant, Mr Bun (a Chinese-owned bakery and coffee shop, a Halal butcher, a (Japanese) sushi shop, and the ever colourful Jimmy’s Fruitmart. Jimmy’s is an old school greengrocer that, as well as the fruit and vegetables with which I am familiar, sells many interesting items that are welcomed by the people of the varied ethnicities that make Newtown so special.

The graveyard

I always suggest that Ngawi, on the South Wairarapa coast is where the bulldozers of the world come to die. Despite their decrepitude, almost all of the bulldozers on this beach are hitched by a very long drawbar to a large steel trailer, crudely welded out of girder stock and on large rubber tyres. These trailers are backed down the steep shingle beach into the sea to launch and retrieve the owner’s fishing vessel. No matter how rusty and run-down these tractors, they all seem to fire up on demand and trundle down to the sea. When it finally dies, it is replaced soon enough by another of similar condition.

The iconic OLB

The most common truck of my childhood years was the Bedford OLB. I have an affection for them, though now they are either beautifully restored by enthusiasts, or else quietly rotting in rural situations. In their prime, they looked just how I thought a truck should look. This old girl is near the bulldozers in Ngawi and is slowly being absorbed by the trees growing up around and through it.

New Zealand Fur Seal pup

If you drove the 120 or so km from Lower Hutt to Ngawi, then it would not be sensible to not drive the extra 5km to visit the New Zealand fur seals nursery at Cape Palliser. There is a sheltered pool among the vicious rocks where the new season’s pups frolic and splash. They are a joy to watch if you can get close to them. The limiting factor is the protective mothers. Mostly they snooze in the lee of the rocks, but if you come between them and the sea, or worse, between them and their pup, expect trouble. A large boulder with halitosis and big teeth suddenly turns into a raging matriarch, and you had better run. This wee pup is probably a few weeks old and is curious about the guy with the camera.

Mother and child

This pup scuttled to its mother’s side when I got too close (sorry, pup!) Mother was a bit irritated to have her siesta disturbed, but make no mistake she was aware of my presence and swift action might have followed had I got closer.

Thanks for visiting. I always appreciate any constructive feedback.

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February 01, 2019 … turning up the heat

Before I start my regular blog this week, I want to pay tribute to a former colleague.

When I first joined Victoria University of Wellington as an academic rather than a student, it was as a member of a very small group called Communications Studies. It ran a postgraduate programme leading to a Master’s degree in Communications. It was led by Professor John Tiffin, ably assisted by the stylish and colourful Dr Lalita Rajasingham (also recently deceased), a technical specialist, the late Mr John Baber, and our remarkable secretary, Mrs Paddi Wilson. Paddi was a delight, with an impish sense of humour and a heart of gold. She had a sense of how things ought to be run and did her utmost to make it so. And woe to anyone who was perceived to be critical of her colleagues. Paddi died on 12 December, and typically, she left instructions that there was to be no funeral. And so it was. Thanks Paddi for being an important part of my introduction to the academic life. Rest in Peace.

The week just ending was a busy one. My youngest son and his family returned from a six-week tour of Thailand and Vietnam. My eldest son and his family flew home to Brisbane after an all too brief stay. And then came the heat. To be classed a s a heat wave, a weather pattern must be 6°C or more above the seasonal average for at least five days. Some parts of New Zealand did indeed experience a heatwave and the rest of us came very close. A good Wellington Summer day might usually reach 26°C, so days when it got to 31°C stirred things up. Elsewhere in the country there were times when it reached 37°C and considering we are a small narrow country surrounded by sea, that is unusual.

Strolling on Petone Wharf in the evening

At the beginning of the week, with Mary away and the family all gone, I went down to the Petone foreshore as the day was coming to an end. Conditions were hazy but warm, despite a breeze blowing the grasses around. I liked the silhouetted people at the end of the wharf. I don’t think I got the skyline right.I wanted to echo the long low line of the jetty but perhaps I would have been better to crop down to eliminate the white sky altogether. I struggle too, with the grass. If I had the grass in focus, the jetty might have been to blurred. Focus stacking might have worked if the wind had not been moving the grass so vigorously  I shall give this some thought, as  I think there is a better image to be had. I did like seeing the glint of the fishing lines at the end of the jetty. (Click to enlarge).

Spinning at the carnival

At the Western end of the beach there was a transient carnival. You wouldn’t get me on one of these things since I suffer from acrophobia, but I am willing to exploit the spinning and the lights. I quite like this image, but later, saw another image of the same scene which caught the motion in a completely different way. It always fascinates me that two photographers can stand in the same position and see the world very differently.

Still warm but offering a grey face

Wellington was exempt from the extremes of the passing hot spell and had some grey patches though still warm. I spent some time in Oriental Bay and was intrigued at the gentle tones of the city in its morning mood. I suspect this is Wellington before the first coffee of the day.

Still blue

Two days later in approximately the same location, the day was so much brighter, though there was a lot of mist rolling down from the Hutt Valley.  Given that this is a five second exposure to give them smooth sea, I am impressed at how relatively still the masts stayed. This was a five-image panoramic stitch. Note the stream of fog down the Western side of the harbour.

Eagle rays
Eagle rays in Oriental Bay

Walking back to my car, I chose to walk along the edge of the Oriental Bay Marina, in front of the picturesque boat sheds. To my great delight I came across a shoal of eagle rays. These are a little smaller than the more familiar sting ray, and have a more rounded profile. The picture is not great, but I include it as a  record of an unusual event.

Evening swimming – Lowry Bay

Beaches are not the first things that come to mind when people think of Wellington. When the mercury started heading towards 30 degrees and with sunset not until nearly 9 pm, Wellingtonians found every accessible strip of seashore  and went swimming to cool down. This shot, at Lowry Bay was made at 7 pm, and every beach from Eastbourne to Petone was crowded. Again, this is more of a record shot than a good image.

Lake Ferry
Pastoral landscape on Lake Ferry Rd

I was on my way to Cape Palliser via Lake Ferry and I spotted the trees against the dry grass on the hill. The four trees appealed to me, and I might revisit them at some stage.

The nursery at Cape Palliser

The Fur-seal colony at Cape Palliser was just booming. I have never seen so many pups frolicking in the nursery pool before. There may have been upwards of a hundred of them variously swimming, basking or attempting to feed. It’s a delightful spot.

Launching and boarding

Ngawi is a small fishing village near Cape Palliser. I think it’s where all the old bulldozers come to die. The steep rocky beach is overcome with large wheeled cradles connected to a bulldozer by means of a long steel towbar. The bulldozer backs the cradle into the water until the boat is afloat, then the driver locks everything in place by lowering the blade. In this case, he them walked confidently down the tow bar, onto the cradle and clambered aboard the boat. All very practiced.

Sunset at Moa Point

My last shot this issue was made last night as the heatwave came to a shuddering halt. A nasty Nor’Wester dropped the temperature by six or more degrees, but the setting sun continued on its way. This shot is from Moa Point near the airport and looks across the strait to the Kaikouras.

That’s all for this edition.





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November 24,2016 … so much to be thankful for

Thanksgiving as an organized  festival, is not part of New Zealand’s history or culture. Nevertheless, as we emerge from that nightmare of a week with earthquakes and flooding, it is impossible not to be grateful for all that we have. When the Earth stops moving and the sun shines again, we look around and rejoice in the beauty of our land, in the caring of our people for those in trouble, and the comparative sanity and representative nature of our system of government.

Rolling over the top – the Hutt Valley

It took a while for the weather to clear and there were some surly looking clouds for a while.

Four of the five ships. From near to far, they are HMNZS Te Kaha, HMCS Vancouver, HMAS Darwin and HMNZS Endeavour. The USS Sampson is just out of view

Meanwhile, down in Kaikoura, there was a concentrated effort to bring relief to those most affected by the earthquakes. One praiseworthy effort was that ships from the US Navy, the Canadian and Australian Navies joined HMNZS Te Kaha and HMNZS Endeavour in making their helicopters and cargo handling expertise available. When that task was done, the five vessels sailed as a flotilla back to Auckland which was their original destination to celebrate 75 years of the Royal New Zealand Navy. They stopped in Wellington  en route presumably for PR purposes.

Wellington Harbour from Lowry Bay

That night, I went around the Eastern Bays to see if I could catch a shot of the flotilla. Sadly the haze from a beautiful day rendered them almost invisible with their battleship grey paint. Never mind, it was a beautiful afternoon.

Derelict farm-house on Lake Wairarapa

On Monday, Mary and I did a day trip into the Wairarapa, driving down the Western side of the lake. The remains of a once grand farm-house caught my eye.

NZ Fur Seal

The lake itself was not in a photogenic mood, so Mary suggested we go along the coast to Cape Palliser.  Just near the cape, there is a set of rock pools which is used by New Zealand Fur Seals as a nursery and it is a pleasure to watch the pups and their mothers frolicking in the sheltered pools.

The mountain is just to the right of centre

On the way back, at Mangatoetoe, there is a proliferation of wild flowers so I tried a low angle to capture Tapuae-o-Uenuku across the flowers and the strait.That summit is 153 km away.  My next post will be from Brisbane.




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December 30, 2015 … the seals of approval

And still the great weather persists.

One of the smaller tractor-trailer combinations hauls a small fishing boat from the water at Ngawi

Yesterday (Tuesday), we took our grandchildren over to Martinborough where their parents David and Rowena have rented a holiday cottage for a few days. Ants and Sarah came too, in their own car since we had insufficient seats for everyone. Then, in a three-car convoy, we set out to Cape Palliser. A candidate for the most photographed place in the Wairarapa must be the fishing village of Ngawi where the boats are launched and retrieved on the steep pebbled beach by means of heavy welded trailers, each towed by its own bulldozer.

Bigger rig
A bigger rig hauls a catamaran up the beach.

The trailer wheels look as if they are salvaged from old earth-moving machines. The trailers are made from old girders welded to make massively over-engineered cradles into which the boats drive at some speed until they can lash themselves to the sides. Then the big diesels open up and the long draw-bars haul the whole arrangement up to the roadside where family wait with plastic fish-baskets and ice to carry the haul away to a chiller. On previous visits, most of the fleet was out of the water. On this occasion, the fine weather resulted in a lot of retrievals as I watched.

New Zealand fur seal

From there, we  carried on through the village and beyond to Mangatoetoe and over the ford, around the rocky foreshore road to the seal colony at Cape Palliser. After a happy lunch, we went looking for the seals.

Bad breath

The New Zealand fur seals are not hard to find, and sometimes almost too easy. You know you are in trouble when a seemingly innocent rock proves to have fishy halitosis and rears up to suggest you choose another route.

Pups in the nursery

Cape Palliser is one of three major colonies around the South Coast and we were fortunate to see a school of pups playing in the nursery pool.

Caribbean ID
Caribbean ID bound for Tauranga

The family decided to do the climb (253 steps up and down)  up to the lighthouse while I went looking for images at a lower level. The vessel on the skyline may be “Caribbean ID” bound from Wellington to Tauranga to collect more logs.

It was a wonderful day.




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September 27, 2015 … mixed outcomes

A visit to the South Wairarapa seemed like a very good idea.

Each fishing boat in Ngawi has its own bulldozer for launching purposes

Weather wise, it was a gamble with the forecast suggesting it could go either way. Sure enough, it did. We went over the hill and down through Martinborough, and Pirinoa until we were on the road towards Cape Palliser.  Near the end of the road is the little fishing village of Ngawi. This is where all the old bulldozers come to die. Actually, they are put into service pushing and pulling the big crudely welded launching cradles for the fishing boats down, and back up the steep shingle beach in any weather.

Cape Palliser
Mary and Paul descent from the lighthouse.

We went as far as the Cape Palliser Lighthouse where Mary and her brother Paul climbed the 253 steps yo the top. I heroically volunteered to stay at the bottom to get a photographic record of their attainment. In this image they have just started the descent.

Amazing eyes

We ate our lunch near the seal nursery and enjoyed the company of a large number of soulful New Zealand fur seal pups with the biggest most liquid eyes imaginable.

Kupe’s sail

From our chosen spot, despite the intermittent rain we had a good view of “Kupe’s Sail” an extraordinary sandstone outcrop near the tiny settlement of Mangatoetoe. From this angle, the layers are visible. From the West, the huge triangular sail is visible.

South Wairarapa in the rain

On the return journey we took the road through Kahutara to the East of Lake Wairarapa. It is lovely pastoral landscape, and in the odd lighting with the Rimutaka range as a backdrop, it was very dramatic in places.

Over the hill

From there we passed through Featherston, and into some dreary weather for the remainder of the journey home.

That’s all for today.


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June 2, 2014 … another brilliant day

There was a soft start to the day.

Lower Hutt
From our front door, looking down on the mist-shrouded city below

River fog curled down the valley from the headwaters of  the river.  Our house is far enough up the hill that we can look down on such happenings, and enjoy the beauty of the sun on the mist. Those who live at lower altitudes are less pleased when it happens, and their world goes grey.

Perfect conditions at the Ruamahanga River

We could see that the day was going to be a good one, so Mary had packed a splendid picnic lunch (Who can find a good wife, for her worth is far above rubies. Prov 31:10) and we decided to go to Ngawi and Cape Palliser. We took the back road from Featherston towards Lake Ferry, bypassing Martinborough. This took us across the Ruamahanga River which was putting on a display of tranquility worthy of a chocolate box.

Invasion force? Duck Hunters?

As I was folding up my tripod on the road bridge, a puttering below signalled the passage of this improbable group. Were we being invaded, I wondered? The DPM camouflage suits suggested a military operation, but common sense prevailed … it was a duck-shooting party with brush strapped around the boat so as to create a floating hide. I am told that the duck shooting season starts in the first Sunday in May and lasts for three months.

Seal pups playing in the nursery pool

We drove along the beautiful South Coast, through picturesque Ngawi and Mangatoetoe to the rocky outcrops near the Cape Palliser Lighthouse. There, to my great delight we found the resident colony of New Zealand Fur Seals (Arctocephalus forsteri) . This is one of several nurseries where the females raise the pups until they are ready for the sea. The rock pools were full of seal pups swirling, frolicking, fighting, playing or sleeping. There was a lot of splashing and barking, and I like to think, the seal equivalent of childlike laughter.

Seal pup
Who can resist those eyes?

Despite the jagged rocks the pups clambered to the most improbable places and were very curious about these strange creatures around the edge of their pool.They seem to present a variety of appearances and in this case, the largest most liquid brown eyes I have ever seen.

Seal pup (2)
Sleeping seal pup dreaming pleasant dreams

In other phases they seem less sleek and when they are just snoozing in the sun. they are still a delight to watch.

Surf at Onoke Spit
Powerful waves and kids taking risks

After our most excellent lunch, we drove back to Lake Ferry and Onoke Spit. Despite prominent signboards about the unpredictability and danger of large waves on the steep coast, these youngsters were playing tag with the crashing waves. If the worst had happened, who would be blamed? We drove up to Martinborough and enjoyed a good coffee in one of the many coffee houses in the town, and then joined the traffic back over the hill to home.

It was an excellent day.