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October 2, 2021 …just enjoy the process

Why, is the recurring question. Why do I persist in creating this blog, even when others are declaring that the age of the blog has passed?

I am not musical, but I think I have the heart of a troubadour, or perhaps like Gilbert and Sullivan’s Nankipoo, I might be a wandering minstrel. My aim is to be a story teller. Some do it in song, some in poetry. My chosen style is in a mix of prose and pictures. My principal aim is to take pleasure in making the pictures and using them to tell the story

Botanic Garden, Wellington

I went to the Botanic Garden in hope of tulips. There were some tulips, though fewer than usual and less well presented. Happily, the surrounding gardens possessed a glory of their own. The bands of colour, the shape and splendour of the trees and even the sculpture all give me pleasure.

Gladstone derelict

In my judgement, the back road from Martinborough to Masterton through Gladstone offers some of the most beautiful pastoral landscapes you will find anywhere. And tucked away, here and there, are a few much loved relics of earlier times that are slowly dissolving into the landscape. This old house near Gladstone is one that few photographers will pass by without a pause to make yet another picture. Of course it is a cliche, but I don’t accept that beauty is diminished by multiple viewing.


Mary had been gifted a voucher for a two night stay at an historic cottage in rural Wairarapa. India Cottage is situated between Castlepoint 40 km to the NE and Riversdale 22 km to the SE. It is part of the ICA station from which the Whareama Coastal Walkway is managed. We had little idea of what to expect, and were surprised and delighted by the beauty of the place. Water is a significant problem throughout the Wairarapa so the estate has a storage pond surrounded by reeds. Someone introduced the Australian green and golden bell frog. so the visual beauty was enhanced by the unceasing chorus from the frogs. Magic!


Pioneering farmers had little regard for our native trees and yearned for the beauty of the great trees of their various homelands. And so it comes about that we have stands of magnificent oaks and other deciduous aliens. They are indeed beautiful trees. but so are the natives of this land which were cleared to make way for them.

Perfect stillness

If you have been with me for a while, you will know that morning and I are usually strangers. Here in deepest Wairarapa, with no Internet access, I woke early. No sound save the froggy chorus and the bawling of occasional cattle in the distance. No wind, and no clouds. I arose early and took my camera and tripod outside and caught the sun peering through the trees at the end of the pond.

A fine specimen

Another of those exotic trees … I didn’t pause to identify it but didn’t think it to be an oak. With the sun behind it I thought it made a nice image.


Over the fence, a classic pastoral scene as the sheep munch steadily on the dew-soaked grass. Rim-lit by the rising sun, I thought these were the quintessential “gilt-edged investment”.

Day 1 of Daylight Saving

Our last evening at India House coincided with New Zealand’s annual shift to daylight saving. Since the clock went forward, I expected to wake an hour later than usual. Perversely, I woke almost an hour earlier by the clock than usual. A still starlit morning prompted me to get dressed and tip-toe outside, being as quiet as possible. As you can see this long (56 seconds) exposure was illuminated by the stars and a bright moon. No artificial light. And you know it is still when an exposure this long shows no disturbance in the reflections. I returned to the cottage and Mary asked why I made so much noise when I went out!


The same scene from a different angle catches the Southern Cross, the much loved constellation emblematic of the Southern hemisphere. With the exception of my bedroom window all light in this image comes from the moon. In case you are unfamiliar with it, the cross in in the upper left quadrant of the picture. The head is down and to the left, and the foot is top right. The pointer Beta Centauri is sending its light 391.4 light years from just above the edge of that cloud.

Pink rock orchid

Back home after a delightful break, the weather forced me indoors. I placed a tiny orchid in my light box. Multiple flowers on a single stem are a bit of a challenge. It is conventional wisdom amongst those who enter competitions, that simple flower images rarely do well. I am getting away from the competition mindset, and the question is did I have fun making it, and does the finished product please me. The answer is yes and yes.


Wellingtonians are the butt of much joking about the city’s notoriously windy climate. It’s not easy to photograph wind. The best you can hope for is to catch things being moved about by the wind. Waves and trees, birds and rain are all possibilities. These reeds at the boat ramp in Lowry Bay seemed worth a try and another opportunity to use the neutral density filter. I put the camera on its tripod inside the car, and opened the downwind passenger window. Thus, the camera and tripod were not buffeted by the gusting wind. I love the texture of the windblown clumps of reed.

Customhouse Quay

Wellington’s skyline changes at a relatively slow pace. The last time I visited Melbourne, there must have been at least twenty tower cranes each presiding over a new high rise building site. Wellington has three or four. Of course, Melbourne has a population of 5 million compared with 417,000. This view along Customhouse Quay looking South shows the crane on the site of the new BNZ headquarters being built to replace the one destroyed by the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake.

They take a bottle

The nearer (yellow) crane is on the waterfront across the road from the red one on the BNZ site. This one is assisting a generic office building which will be available for lease. The answer to the unspoken question most people have in respect of the people who operate these machines in solitary splendour is that they have a bottle. I guess that their privacy could be compromised by people with long lenses.

And that’s another edition. I think I am coming to terms with the idea that I can make images for the pure joy of participating in the process. I don’t have to meet anyone else’s expectation. Of course I share them with you in the hope that you will take pleasure in what you see. Until next time.

Architecture Camera club Castlepoint Landscapes Light sunrise

June 9, 2014 … in pursuit of this thing called morning

The day started impossibly early.

First light at Castlepoint
Before sunrise, the sky is colouring nicely. Down below the lighthouse,you can see the light-trail left by a cray-fishing boat heading out for the day’s work.

There were seven of us staying in the house, and some of our number apparently get excited about an incomprehensible concept called “morning”. I stumbled out of bed grumbling as the herd moved about and went outside. They went down to the lighthouse to catch the sunrise. I had the burden of the club newsletter due that day so stayed close to the house. I decided that the view from the house would not only catch the dawn (whatever that is), but would also include the lighthouse itself which is hard to do if you are alongside it. Cunning, eh?

Castlepoint lighthouse
Nature’s palette … two of my fellow club members can be seen with their tripods near the lighthouse. They can’t include the lighthouse in their shot of the rising sun.

The sun was not scheduled to make its appearance until 7:30 am, but the rosy light in the sky was painting the lighthouse and everything else red.

Cape Turnagain
Cape Turnagain

To the North, Cape Turnagain was in silhouette against that magnificent sky. The cape was named by Captain Cook in 1769 and marked the point where he turned back to the North.

And so the day begins

Finally, on schedule, the first golden beam of the new day inserted itself between the dark horizon and the few clouds lurking about. The wonderful colour faded and the day had begun.

I did get the newsletter done.


Birds Camera club Castlepoint Landscapes Masterton

June 8, 2014 … magnificent autumn scenery

Some fellow club members organized a field trip to Castlepoint.

Autumn avenue
On the farm near Masterton

I usually regard myself as a solitary photographer, or at best, one who prefers very small groups. I had to persuade myself to participate, and I am so very glad I did. We left Lower Hutt at the very leisurely hour of 9 am and drove up to meet the rest of the group in a nice coffee shop in Featherston. The forecast for the weekend was rough, so we were pleasantly surprised at how good things were in the Wairarapa. Just out of Masterton, the three of us in our car stopped to capture the Autumn leaves at the spectacular Maungahina Stud. We visited here on our last trip to Castlepoint, and it was as we remembered it, though the leaf-shedding was a bit further advanced this time.

Rolling green hills in the Wairarapa … I wonder where that road goes

The rolling green landscape of the Central Wairarapa is a joy to behold, and there are so many roads and paths that invite further exploration.  While we got sidetracked on the farm, the others had pressed on and phoned us from Castlepoint to ask what was taking so long. Guiltily we resumed the journey.

From the front door of the rented house at Castlepoint

When we arrived at the rented house, we could scarcely believe our luck. The view of the lighthouse from the street was wonderful, and  in November or December with that Pohutukawa in flower it would be even more so.

Castle rock
Also from the front door – Castle Rock

Looking back down the street there was a splendid view across a small patch of intervening farmland to Castle Rock. After we had settled in and chosen rooms and beds, we went down to the beach.

This guy was in the water for at least an hour while we were there … very hardy in chilly water

Despite the chilly temperatures, there were surfers catching the waves in the gap at the Southern end of the lagoon.

Castlepoint lagoon
Across the lagoon at Castlepoint … the lighthouse is there, just to the right of the trees

Some of my friends chose to climb Castle Rock. I stayed low and played with the ND filter to try for a less usual view of Castlepoint.

NZ Pipit … has a very comical high-speed running style

While we were there and the others were up the hill, a small bird came fluttering out of the grass at the back of the beach and began running around pecking around the rocks. It ran everywhere at high speed, rather than hopping. I guessed that it was  New Zealand Pipit (Anthus novaeseelandiae). A Facebook friend thought it might be a Dunnock, but the majority view was with the Pipit.

We ended the very satisfying day with a good steak dinner in the local pub watching a very poor performance by the All Blacks who came perilously close to losing to England.


Castlepoint Landscapes Light Maritime sunrise Wairarapa Weather

June 10, 2013 … let the day begin

At this time of year, it is cold before dawn.

Nothing too extreme, you understand, but it was close to frost at Whakataki. Brent and I had agreed to get up early to be at Castlepoint to capture the sunrise over the familiar lighthouse and the rock on which it sits.

Loading provisions for the day
A crayfish boat is prepared for a long and bumpy day at sea

At the beach, the sky was just beginning to get lighter in the East, but the only significant illumination was from the lights around a crayfish boat being readied for its day’s work. That, and of course the lighthouse itself.

We stood for a while on the sandbar that separates the bay from the North facing beach, knowing that the sky would soon light up.

The sky reveals the day ahead
Castlepoint Lighthouse at dawn

Colour was an unexpected bonus. It was a red sky morning consistent with a forecast for bad weather later in the day. To the east the reef and the lighthouse were now visible.

Castle Rock at first light
People apparently climb this but there is a very sheer drop at the top.

Behind us the great bulk of Castle Rock was also given a delicate  rosy wash of colour, but the main action was still over the lighthouse

Time to climb to the top again
The long (1.6 seconds) exposure renders the sea nicely

By now, we decided that the only place to see the actual sunrise would be on the high viewing platform above the lighthouse.

IMG_9178The classic view, though few seem to see it at this time of day
A faint blush in the colour

Then the sky exploded with colour, yet still the sun lingered below the horizon.


An explosion of colour
What a way to start the day

Finally it appeared, and just like that, the magic was washed away. We went back to the hotel at Whakataki to thaw out and enjoy a good old-fashioned cooked breakfast (a total novelty for me as I usually breakfast on muesli and fruit).

Rock formations at Whakataki
Very rough on the ankles

Our last side trip after breakfast took us out along the Mataikona road where we paused to capture some of the astonishing rock formations. A friend tells me that what we are seeing here is “Alternating Miocene sandstones and Mudstones of the Whakataki Formation in the Wairarapa”. I can testify that it was very difficult to walk on.

Of course we saw much more on the homeward journey but I can deal with just so many images a day.

Castlepoint creativity Landscapes Machinery Maritime Masterton night Trees Wairarapa

June 9, 2013 … there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing, is there?

The problem with a  photographic road trip is that you have to be careful what you wish for.

My trip with Brent, my co-conspirator, exceeded my expectations in many ways. Mary is away for a few days , so Brent and I planned a trip to Castlepoint, in the Wairarapa.

The sole purpose of our trip was to enable us to indulge our mutual passion for photography.  Other than the broad geographic target area, there were no pre-planned objectives. We set out early on Saturday morning and despite a shaky forecast for the weekend, enjoyed near perfect weather. Once over the Rimutaka Hill, we decided to take the long way, so went down to Martinborough and Longbush, to follow the picturesque back road to Masterton.

South Wairarapa landscape
Counting sheep is easy … count the legs and divide by four

This is lush farmland, and that which is not in grapes, is usually busy growing sheep or cows. If you have a look close at the first picture above, you will see an amazing number of sheep in one paddock. Odd seasonal droughts aside, there are few places in the world that can offer stocking rates to match this.

Cyclists near Gladstone
For people who ride for fun they are certainly dressed for the job

Near Gladstone, we encountered a friendly bunch of recreational cyclists, and they were amenable to being photographed. Brent used his long lens, while I got down very low with a wide angle.

After a coffee in Masterton, we headed East along the road to Castlepoint and Riversdale. We had not gone far when Brent spotted a narrow side road lined with elm trees in glorious autumn colour. With our trusty tripods we began to make the most of the opportunity, and then had to hastily get out of the way to allow a farm vehicle to pass. The driver invited us to proceed further down the road onto the private property at the end of the road where he said there were even more.

Golden carpet
Like all things it will decay and make way for the new season

Oh glory! I have never seen such an opulent carpet as the thick layer of golden leaves along this farm track. And even as we watched, gusts of wind kept causing showers of leaves to drop.

A farm track near Masterton
Pure natural magic

The farm itself was beautiful and beyond the trees offered magnificent sweeping landscapes.

In memory of times gone by
Horse drawn implement

To my great pleasure, just over a fence in the cover of the trees was a sturdy piece of machinery which I believe to be a horse-drawn disc harrow.

On the road to Castlepoint
Enchanted landscape

Moving on to the East, we passed through some beautiful countryside, though as we neared the coastal hills things got steadily more rugged. After  a pleasant lunch at Tinui, we arrived at last at Castlepoint, where the first order of business was to look around to identify other opportunities.

Self-propelled boat cradle
They make a lot of noise and move slowly but no one gets wet launch or retrieving boats

Almost immediately I was captivated by the big self-propelled launching cradles used by the cray-fishing fleet, and was delighted to watch one retrieve its boat from the lagoon.

Of course, it is necessary to ascend the track to the lighthouse and around the rocks. These must be among the most photographed scenes on the East coast, and it is hard to avoid the traditional post-card views. I failed miserably.

Castlepoint lighthouse
Almost everyone who has been there has taken this shot

As we came back to the beach, we spotted a young German tourist who was risking getting her posterior wet as she crouched over her tripod while photographing a clump of seaweed in the waves. All photographers are required to be a little mad.

Risking it all for the shot
Photographers love to see what other photographers are up to

After dinner at our hotel, we came back to the beach to capture some of the wonder of the clear dark sky. There is hardly any light-pollution in the area so the stars stand out as I have not seen them for a very long time.  This image is a compromise, since it capitalizes on a fortuitous visit by a passing car which illuminated one of the boats and the rocks that enclose the bay. Please click on this image or you will miss the magnificence of the night sky.

The milky way over the Castlepoint rocks
Please click to enlarge this image

This journey will be continued tomorrow.