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24 August, 2022 … mostly birds and botanicals

I can’t recall a more miserable winter than this one. Not in the sense of a Northern hemisphere snowy winter. Rather, it has been a season of persistent rain and sustained strong wind. Not a season to encourage much in the way of landscape photography in my opinion. And so it has been that I have made fewer images, and that the images were constrained by the subjects available, and by the often unkindly light of bleak wet winter’s days.

Apart from that, I somehow let time slip by, so I have accumulated a few more images than usual.

Little black shags getting ready for a hunting foray

The little black shag intrigues me. As far as I know, it is is the only shag that hunts in packs. All of the others are solitary hunters.

The flock in pursuit of a shoal of fish

It fascinates me to watch the flock herding a shoal of fish into the shallows where they can feast on the fish which have no escape route.

Winter weather in Island Bay

I mentioned the winter weather. One aspect of it that I rather like is the Southerly swells. Big slow moving waves with long intervals between each crest are so impressive. This is at the Western end of Island Bay.

Weight of water

Huge swells (by local standards) seem to glide almost silently towards the coast. Of course, the wind is shrieking but that seems separate from the water.

Welcome swallow

We’ve met this guy or one of his relatives before. For whatever reason, the wetlands at Queen Elizabeth Park have not had the usual variety of bird life. No coots or dabchicks have been seen in my recent visits. It’s a really tough day when there are no Welcome swallows. The flax branch just outside the bird hide is a favourite resting spot for them, and if I am lucky, it is open to the occasional shaft of light.

Tui in the rain

The tui was named Parson bird by early colonists because the white throat tufts have the look of a clerical collar. It is a member of the honeyeater family. Many people tend to think that its plumage is dark, almost black. If you catch it in the light, however, you find that its coat is an iridescent blend of blues and greens, brown and white. It seems to be increasing in numbers over recent years and that brings me joy, despite its bullying behaviour towards the smaller passerines.

Hard to keep the lens dry in such squalls

Somedays it sucks and then it blows. Though it’s warmer than the Southerlies, the Northerly wind can produce miserable conditions. Here we are in Evans Bay as the strong Northerly squalls rip the top off waves on Wellington Harbour.

Tui tries exotic foodMana

Another tui shot, with the clerical collar in full view. As I said above, it is a honey eater, and likes any source of nectar. I was surprised to see this one slurping on a banana that Mary had placed there for the waxes.

Mana marina

One of my struggles is to find different ways of looking at the broad scenes in front of me. In this case, I was at the Mana Marina. Normally I would choose a wider angle that reveals more of the boats, but on this occasion I liked the pattern or texture of all the boat bows nosed into the marina gangway.

Flowering cherry appeals to the tui

I promise this is the last tui in this edition. Spring is with us next week, but some of the flowers are ahead of the officially approved timetable. As I said, this is a nectar feeder so the sudden outbreak of new flowers is a delight to it.

The answer is always on the web

I think I have done this before. The bird hide at Queen Elizabeth park is not always productive, and I fill in time by making images of the spider webs around the view ports. I suppose the existence of the webs suggests that not much photography has happed here in recent days.

Pride of Madeira

There are some cliffs near the Seaview Marina, and as I was driving past, I spotted a beautiful splash of deep blue. Later investigation identified it as a member of the borage family called Pride of Madeira (Echium fastuosum) . Anyway, I snaffled a single bloom and photographed it in my dark box and quite liked it.

Sea shells from the sea shore

Wet windy weather persisted. Mary had braved the weather to walk Petone beach and she found some shells. OK, still life is good practice. I have no idea which particular mollusc this is but I liked the translucence.

Nuts

More still life – guess what the weather was doing. These walnuts have sat in the bowl for several months now.

Graffiti colours

I despise most forms of graffiti, especially the ones that are the equivalent of a dog marking its territory. Now and then, the colour choices catch my eye, as in this case in Lyall Bay.

Beautifully flat landing

I was eating my lunch in my car on the corner of Lyall Bay near the airport when this Pilatus PC12 approached the South end of the runway. It’s not a great shot of this fine little 9 seat aircraft, but I paid attention because it was making the perfect three-point landing without the usual nose-high flare more commonly seen. OK, so I’m a nerd.

More graffiti … I wonder how much this paint cost

More graffiti. This example is on one of the water reservoirs at the top of the Haywards Hill. If I had my way, the manufacturers and distributors of spray cans would be taxed annually based on the estimated square footage of external private property that is covered in their product. That includes every rail wagon and every wall defaced.

Elizabeth St, Mt Victoria

I don’t often look at Wellington from the East. This is from Elizabeth Street on the lower slopes of Mt Victoria. Those who know the city will recognise the Hunter building at Victoria University across the valley.


Pou Whenua

Further up Mt Victoria, near the summit lookout, is this fine pou whenua. I suppose a pou whenua is roughly equivalent to a totem pole. It is a statement of heritage by the tangata whenua (the people of the land).

Central city

Somehow, I find panoramic images are rarely satisfying, yet I keep attempting to make them. This one is a stitch of eight or nine images. I knew something was different in this one and struggled to identify it. It was only as I was checking that the stitching between images had worked that I realised there was no scaffolding on the Post Office headquarters building (extreme right). Scaffolding has surrounded this building since before I retired in 2011. Apparently apart from many other issues, this has involved asbestos remediation.

And so ends another edition. Sorry for the long gap this time. The weeks slip by ever faster. If you want your copy emailed, please subscribe below

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July 3, 2022 … winter is upon us

Winter solstice was in the week just ended. Spring seems so far away. And yet there are signs already. We have had a few bright winter days but for the most part, strong winds, cloud and rain. I try to convince myself that there is beauty to be found even in bad weather, but some days do not encourage me to venture out with the camera.

Nevertheless, I do get out in rough weather now and then, especially if there is the hope of large swells on the South or West coast. If, however the water is merely ruffled, and the weather is grey and bleak, I stay home. I seem to have got out reasonably often since my last posting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pukerua Bay normally offers a view across the water to Kapiti Island. On this day a howling Nor’Wester was driving swells in excess of 4 metres directly towards the beach. I chose to make my images from inside the car, using the passenger window as my portal to the storm, and the width of the car to protect my lens from the spray. I got some reasonable wave shots, but my favourite of the day was this image taken after I rolled the window back up. And that’s when I found that the passenger seat was absolutely soaked!

Seed spreaders

Aaaghhh! I had finished typing this edition when WordPress suddenly decided to stop saving and to go back four days and lost everything from here forward. Everything from here on is a rewrite.

Another dull day and my attention turned to the birds in the tree just outside our dining room window, Common house sparrows were doing battle over access to the birdseed bell that Mary had hung out there. They are messy eaters so if there any viable seeds on that thing, there is a strong likelihood of something exotic growing from fallen seeds around the tree. Last season, it was sunflowers. Who knows what next.

Steam excursion

The observant among you may notice the red light on the right hand end of the locomotive’s buffer beam. Yes, this is the back of the train. Steam Inc were running out and back trips between Paraparaumu and Manakau. If you look closely or click to enlarge, you will see a vintage diesel locomotive down the other end. The diesel hauls the train in the Southbound trips, and the steam locomotive leads the way back North. It burned 5 tonnes of coal in the two days on which the excursions were running.

Under tow

In contrast this ship, La Richardais was burning no fuel except by the generators. She had lost power a few hundred km off the coast of New Plymouth and had been under tow ever since. The large tug is MMA Vision which normally spends her time as a tender to the Taranaki oil fields, and was released to tow La Richardais first to New Plymouth and then to Wellington. They are seen here arriving in Wellington assisted by the two local tugs, Tiaki and Tapuhi. They spent a week in Wellington. I suspect that no local firm was equipped to achieve a repair so the tow resumed. MMA Vision will take her to New Caledonia and another tug will take her onwards to Singapore and presumably a repair.

Weight of water

Long long ago, when I almost understood such things, I did an applied mathematics course at the University of Auckland. I bandied around terms like amplitude, frequency and period and knew a few formulae on how to find one of those if I had the other two. I have a lingering sense of the importance of those characteristics of a wave. The ones that impress me the most are the amplitude (Height from trough to crest) and period (the time between successive crests). I know I am in for a visual spectacle if the amplitude is greater than 4 metres and the period is greater than 10 seconds. This image was made at Pukerua Bay.

Kaitaki bound for Picton

In a different set of circumstances, I was at Owhiro Bay when the view across the strait was crisp and clear. Mighty Tapuae-o-Uenuku was soaring skyward up into the clouds hovering around its peak. The Interisland ferry Kaitaki which seems sorely in need of a paint job passed at speed across the face of the mountain., heading towards Tory Channel and Picton.

Straitsman bound for Wellington

Even as Kaitaki was heading West, the competing ferry Straitsman emerged from Tory Channel. She has recently had a major overhaul, and her crisp clean paint job was quite a contrast.

Throw no stones

From Oriental Bay, the high-rise blocks of Wellington’s CBD are eye-catching. The Deloitte building is especially so. Recent seismic losses were undoubtedly in the minds of the architects when they used such a thoroughly triangulated structure. I imagine that those angled tubular columns are a nuisance in the building’s interior, but offer some reassurance whenever the earth moves, as it often does in Wellington.

Spotlight

I have no idea which site is served by this crane, but the way it was picked out of the late afternoon gloom by that shaft of sunlight made it an image worth taking.

Ash clearance

As I mentioned earlier, the weekend of running up and down between Paraparaumu and Manakau consumed 5 Tonnes of coal. This produces a lot of ash, much of which remains in the firebox and the rest is carried through the boiler tubes and falls to the base of the smokebox. There are access hatches in the sides of the locomotives, but that is the only concession to convenience. After that, it is shovelled by hand from the collection area into a wheelbarrow, and then wheeled to a tipping area behind the locomotive shed. It is a tedious task, but these members of the crew laboured away until the job was done

Steel grey

Crepuscular rays are a magnet for most landscape photographers. This view from Oriental Bay looking North conceals the usual view of the Tararuas. It’s a full colour image that could easily pass as monochrome. The steel grey colour of the harbour is probably a good indicator of just how cold the day was.

Dandelion

I am sure there is someone who could dispute the botanical identity of this seed head. I don’t care. It walks like a dandelion and quacks like a dandelion, so … I struggle to choose an exposure that does justice to the outer sphere, and to the spectacle of the inner parts where each seed attaches to the plant.

Kelburn Park

Kelburn Park fountain is perhaps outclassed by the Carter Fountain in Oriental Bay, despite its spectacular coloured lighting at night. Nevertheless, it is worth a look. It wasn’t until I got home that I saw that I had caught a gaggle of sightseers the lookout platform atop Mt Victoria 2,240 metres away.


Pineapples and Bananas

The Kakariki is less than a year old, and her paint reflects that. The only significant marks are those left by the black rubber buffers on the nose of numerous tugs assisting her into her berth.

That will do for this edition. I hope to see you again soon.

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Architecture Birds Day's Bay flowers harbour Industrial Landscapes Light Lowry Bay Lyall Bay Machinery Paremata Reflections Seasons The Plateau Waves Weather

June 12, 2022 … back to normal

With the road trip behind me, my challenge now is to keep the photographic flame alive. That can be hard while living an everyday life in suburbia. Many times before, I have referred to seeing familiar things in a different way. Some of my photographic friends have the gift of “finding a different place” to stand when making pictures of things that I see every day. What I need to do in my search for something worth photographing is to pause, and to not make the picture until I have considered other ways of looking at it. This might be to go round the other side. It might be to include (or exclude) another element. Perhaps it is looking at the subject through a different lens. The wide angle offers a different picture to that made by the telephoto. Anyway, for now at least, we are at home on the Western Hills of Lower Hutt and Winter has officially begun.

Before I totally forget the road trip, many thanks to all the nice readers who sent kind words and affirmation. Your messages were greatly appreciated.

Fizz

A crranberry flavoured tablet made a spectacular fizz. I tried to catch it in my lightbox. That went OK, but I wondered whether a dark box might give a better image. The illusion of a reflection is createrd by the simple trick of standing the glass on the base of an identical glass inverted.

Receding planes

One trick for seeing a view differently is to make a part of the scene substitute for the whole. Looking from Oriental Parade up the harbour, Wellingtonians are familiar with the view of the hills to the North. I have tried to present that view differently. The dark mass in the foreground is Matiu/Somes Island. Behind that are three folds in the Eastern hills of the Hutt Valley and I suspect the highest visible hill through the haze is Mt Climie behind Upper Hutt. A popular track with runners runs 6km from Tunnel gully to the summit. Masochism at its finest.

Depth charge?

Big swells on the South coast tend to attract the surfing community to Lyall Bay. It also attracts photographers. I am not sure why. Though the surfers may be different, it’s essentially the same picture each time. The only thing that rescues such an image from being the same as last time is the extent to which the light conditions or the waves are different. In this case I think the explosive burst of a big swell on the breakwater at the end of the airport runway makes a difference.

Royal spoonbills

Recently a flock of Royal spoonbills has taken to spending time on the Pauatahanui wetlands. It is often the case that, even when the rest of the inlet has a bit of a chop on the surface, the wetlands are perfectly still. These birds are still not quite the equal of the white heron, but they run a close second.

Morning glory

On Ivey Bay, there is often a variety of shore birds. In this case, a pied shag is proclaiming dominance over the bay. Across the inlet, the hills to the North of Grays Rd tower above the foreshore. I mainly liked the light.

Ivey Bay anchorage

That same morning, the water was perfect and one of the classic older wooden boats in the bay served as a focal point for my image making. I have no idea which boat it was, but as with previous captures, I have a preference for the simple old-fashioned working boats.

Swells in Owhiro Bay

We have been blessed with a relatively mild winter thus far. No deep cold, no sign yet of snow on the Tararuas. The only real symptom of winter has been a few heavy swells from the South. I like to try to catch these big waves, and hope to convey the weight of water behind each one. I am fascinated by their slow ponderous advance. I know conditions will be interesting when the gap between each wave is about ten seconds.

Lodden Lily

In the grounds of St James Church, Lower Hutt, shared by the public library except on Sundays, there is a lot of history and a great deal of horticulture, mostly carried out at the expense of the Lower Hutt City Council. I spotted these little beauties and thought they were some kind of spring flower that got confused. These Loddon lilies, however, are a winter flower so they were perfectly on schedule and it was only me that was confused.

Abandoned

Unilever has been part of Petone’s scenery scenery since 1919. The big factory building with its constantly steaming exhaust stacks came much later, sometime mid-century. At its peak, about 600 people worked there. Automation in the latter years apparently reduced the on-site numbers to about 30. The distinctive glass office block was built in the 1980s. In 2014, pursuant to global restructuring, Unilever transferred its New Zealand operations to Australia and the Petone factory fell silent. Some of the lesser buildings at the Eastern end of the 5 hectare property seem to have been leased or sold to small businesses. The office block remains dark and reflects the equally still factory block.

Wet feet

A long-proposed cross-harbour pipeline will improve resilience of Wellington’s water supply. The present sole pipeline runs alongside the main highway and crosses known seismic fault lines in several places. Construction began on the new line this year and is expected to be complete in 2025. A barge with some heavy machinery has been in Lowry Bay for several months now and has established some piles. I saw these two intrepid workers being lowered on a work platform to inspect one of the piles. I got the impression that they were controlling the crane themselves. If so, they were not afraid to get their feet wet.

So many still days lately

I shouldn’t tempt fate with a caption like that. We have endured some vile weather in recent days. No surprise then, that when conditions are good, I seize the day. This image is from the walkway beside the marina below Pt Howard. You can see traces of the morning mist dissipating over the Western Hills.

May I urge you to click on any image that appeals to you to see a larger version.

I don’t know why I didn’t discover it earlier, but WordPress has a feature that allows its readers to sign up to receive each new edition of a blog by email. Simply enter your email address once in the space below. Once only and not if you are already getting it by email.

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March 13, 2021 … Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth*

I begin this edition with a tribute to a valued friend and long time reader who died last month. George Combs Berger, Lt Col USAF (Ret) died on 2 Feb 2021 aged 98. In my experience, George was the ultimate gentleman, and was a frequent and very generous contributor to the earlier versions of WYSIWYG News back when we paid an assistant to format the news. He and his late wife,Patricia had a particular affinity with New Zealand and most years he would attend the ANZAC ceremony at the Washington National Cathedral, and then post me the printed programme from the service. George told me the story of him flying a B47 Stratojet bomber across the Atlantic to the UK and having its generators fail mid-journey. He turned off everything that could be done without, and arrived at the RAF base with barely sufficient battery power to illuminate his navigation lights. My condolences to his family. He will be missed. Rest in peace, my dear friend.

Photographically it has been a mixed period. I was quite pleased with myself, almost smug in the previous issue. This time some of my shots have fallen back into the mediocre category but, what the heck, keep shooting.

Ferry and the fisherman

I have made similar shots to this one many times before. On this occasion Kaitaki was leaving the harbour, hotly pursued by a fisherman in a “fizz boat”. As with my similar prior shots, the attraction to me was the delightful “blue on blue” of the clear sky over a calm sea.

Surface confusion

Across the harbour on this near perfect day, a young couple were setting out fishing from Lowry Bay in their little boat. Across the harbour, anyone with a nostalgic connection with Victoria University of Wellington will see the red brick of the old Hunter building above the yellow buoy on the left.

An extremely rare selfie

It has long been part of our family tradition to make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. Our kids always loved this, and we are passing it on to the grandchildren, or at least those who live close enough to join in. This year, Mary had other commitments on the day so I brushed off long neglected skills. To my great delight, I had not lost the knack of tossing them from the pan, and contrary to the skepticism of some friends did not spoil or lose any. The device in my left hand is my iPhone which I used to trigger the camera on its tripod. Who says men can’t walk and chew gum at the same time?

Hawkweed flowers

I always thought they were dandelions. Apparently not. These are hawkweed or more scientifically, Hieracium. These examples were found on a riverbank in Wainuiomata

Days Bay Ferry

Unless the weather is really rough the two little catamarans, Cobar Cat and City Cat scuttle across the harbour on a regular schedule carrying tourists and commuters between the Queen’s Wharf terminal in the city and the jetty at Day’s Bay. They drop in at Matiu/Somes Island for people who wish to explore the island (highly recommended), and on a few trips, they divert to the jetty at Seatoun. One is seen here approaching Day’s Bay as observed from Lowry Bay.

Paremata Boat Sheds

In many parts of the world, it seems to be a tradition that any collection of boat sheds should be painted in motley colours. The sheds at Paremata follow this plan, and each owner seems to have had their own pot of leftover paint to use up. This is seen from across the inlet at the Pauatahanui Wildlife sanctuary.

Economy class

Over in Ivey Bay, there are some character-filled moorings where boats seem to sit and rarely move. I suspect that the owners have dreams of restoration that rarely come to fruition. I occasionally see the owners sitting on their deck beside the water, just basking in the pleasure of being there.

Military relics

Over the hill from Upper Hutt is the Mangaroa Valley where there are some old buildings which once served as part of the Maymorn military camp. If I understand correctly, they are long surplus to the needs of the defence ministry and have been given to the local iwi in part reparation for breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi. History hangs heavy on the buildings.It has been a long while since they saw any paint.

Moonlit bay

I rarely go out at night for photographic purposes. If conditions are still, I will carry my camera and tripod when I go to camera club and see whether there is anything worth shooting near the harbour after the meeting. On this particular night, I went down to Lowry Bay and looking to the North made this 40 second exposure. Despite the long exposure, the boat moved very little. Remember that boat. You might see it again.

Blue Globe Thistle

Our very good friends, Jane and Roy are superb gardeners and their home is often visited by the local garden circle. From my perspective, as one who avoids most forms of physical labour, I love their results but am unlikely to follow in their footsteps. I enjoy strolling around their property seeing all the unusual and interesting flowers. This specimen is a Blue Globe Thistle which I would not have known without the aid of https://identify.plantnet.org which is right more often than it is wrong.

In stillness

It was a nice still morning at Petone, but I was struggling to find anything of interest. There is a set of small piles just to the Western side of Petone wharf. I speculate that they exist to hold an old stormwater outlet pipe in place. Anyway, I was intrigued by the multi-coloured weeds growing on the ancient timbers.

It’s that darned yacht again

A misty day in the city imposes a moody atmosphere. Not so much waves, but sharp ripples arrive on the beach at Lowry Bay. The mood was worth the effort, I think.

If you have no interest in aviation, please skip the next three images.

Atmospherics

Last time I went to an airshow, I was disappointed and said I would probably not bother again. I backed down and joined my Son Anthony, daughter-in-law Sarah, and grandson Jack at the recent “Wings Over Wairarapa” airshow at Hood Aereodrome, Masterton. One of the highlights for me was the Yakovlev YAK-3U, a radial engined version of a Russian WWII fighter. It has a very powerful P&W R2000 engine and is extremely fast. In this shot you can see the condensate spiralling back from the tips of its propeller during a high speed run . The trails at the wingtips are made by oil burning.

Scribbles

The Yak pilot put on a masterful performance in a beautiful machine with an engine almost twice the power of the original. He zipped through the sky leaving smoke trails with which he made the most amazing patterns.

Age is no barrier

For the 2019 iteration of this air show, the US ambassador used his influence to persuade the US Air Force to do a fly-by with a B-52 on its way from its base in Guam to the much larger airshow at Avalon in Australia. Sadly, a mechanical malfunction meant that it didn’t arrive. So here we are again, and truth to tell, the promise of a B-52 was a strong influence in my decision to visit one more air show. It came from Avalon this time and was on its way back to Guam. The B-52 is notoriously smokey so its presence was visible long before the aircraft itself. They did three wide passes, including one with its bob doors open. I hope I am never beneath one when it does that in anger. I don’t want to glorify war or militarism, but this grand old machine is a tribute to its designers and builders, and to the brave crews that fly them.

When shall we three meet again?**

Mary has a sharp eye for things that might be photo-worthy. She saw the shed exo-skeletons of these three cicada nymphs all clinging to one little stick. Astonishing! I have never seen two together before, let alone three.

Help from the sky

This air ambulance was basking in the sun at Wellington Airport. Used mainly for the transport of patients between various specialist hospitals this Jetstream 400 makes a brave picture. Lurking behind it is the local search and rescue helicopter.

A rare visitor

Were this just a common white-faced heron, which is what I thought I had taken, I would have discarded this image. It wasn’t until I got home that closer examination showed I had caught a very rare reef heron. Apparently the total number of them in NZ lies between 300 and 500.

What, again?

Yes, it is that darned yacht again. The excuse for this image, however is that rainbow fragment behind it. You will be relieved to know that the yacht has since been moved from the open mooring into the nearby marina, so it no longer offers itself as a feature of the landscape.

The oil terminal

Sometimes, the light falling on the oil wharf lifts an otherwise banal structure and makes it quite attractive. I liked it anyway.

That will do for now. See you next time.

  • *High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, RCAF
  • **Shakespeare, Macbeth
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Architecture Art Butterflies Family flowers Landscapes Maritime Railway Waves Weather Wellington

January 30, 2021 … the road goes ever on and on*

I occasionally evaluate my reality. Mary and I are retired, living in leafy suburbia in a small city (pop 104,700) adjacent to our small capital (population 215,100) in a small peaceful and politically stable country (pop 5 million) in the bottom right hand corner of the world (population 7,794,798,739). We have so much to be grateful for.

From my perspective as a photographer, while other parts of the country may offer more spectacle, even the region in which I live offers many opportunities within an hour’s drive and even more within a four hour round trip. So why, you might ask, have I been so grumpy of late? Well, I continue to claim the right to grumble about almost two solid months of grey dismal blustery weather, but remain hopeful of some semblance of summer weather in the remainder of the season. I know I should be more appreciative of what I have. The landscape and seascapes around me have good bones. When the weather precludes those shots, there are interesting possibilities in the close up.

Tree Mallow

Sometimes I encounter a plant or flower and identify it confidently. Then I find that I have been wrong for years. In the certain knowledge that this flower was a hollyhock, I submitted the image to my favourite plant identifying site looking for the scientific name. It seems that this is in fact, a tree mallow. Pride cometh before a fall.

Monarch butterfly

Mary came in from her walk in bleak and blustery conditions, carefully nursing something very delicate. A monarch butterfly! It was unwilling to sit still and fluttered about until it settled on a piece of foliage I had been using for other purposes. Snap. Then it flew away.

Unexpected stillness

A promised and long awaited calm day appeared, and brought some mist with it. I can live with that. My wandering took me to Hataitai Beach in Evans Bay. I loved the appearance of the distant yachts sandwiched between the cloud above and the glutinous sea below. The tiny wavelets lowered themselves almost silently onto the gravel beach.

Paint and varnish, masts and rigging

The conditions in Evans Bay allowed me to narrow the focus onto a few of the yachts. I like these “old school” yachts, with no sign of moulded plastic or meaningless shapes. These are the shapes taught by the sea, shapes that have served generations of mariners well. I suspect that these will still be here even as the plastic gin-palaces crumble to dust.

Van Gogh Alive (1)

At the instigation of Mary’s brother Paul and his wife Robyne, we went together to see the “Van Gogh Alive” at an exhibition centre on the Wellington Waterfront. I used the word “see” … perhaps I should have said “experience”. This was an immersion with beautifully selected elements of Van Gogh’s art projected on the multiple surfaces at various angles all around us. If this exhibition comes near you, don’t miss it. It is a joy.

Sunflowers

The final element of the Van Gogh exhibition was a mirrored room filled with artificial sunflowers. The effect was truly spectacular. As I said, don’t miss it. That pink sunflower against a black background in the back centre is not a sunflower. It is me. A rare but inadvertent selfie.

The city railyard on a public holiday

An actual fine day came as a surprise, so I drifted along the less travelled roads around the city. It was Wellington’s provincial anniversary day and a public holiday, so the town was quiet. I paused at a gate on Thorndon Quay where I had a view of the railyards and many commuter units sitting dark and quiet in orderly rows.

In Wellington

That same public holiday, I was walking around the inner city and found myself at the intersection of Willis Street, Manners Street and Boulcott Street. Across the street, the little old house, now a pub, was long known as “The House of Ladies” due to its time as a massage parlour. It was physically relocated from a little to the right, to make way for the 116 metre “Majestic Centre” tower block behind. The spot from which the image was made, used to be known as Perrett’s Corner. It was so named for the Chemist shop which was a significant landmark through most of the early twentieth century, and I have added a link to a fine National Library photograph.

Italian grace

I had a brief flirtation with the idea of buying upmarket cars as a photographic portfolio topic. I had no intention of buying such a car. With the dealer’s permission, I made several trial images and decided that I was less excited than I expected to be. Nevertheless, this Maserati does embody my expectations of Italian automotive style. The idea is paused rather than abandoned.

A cliche but a good one

No matter how often I drive from Evans Bay around Pt Jerningham to Oriental Bay, my breath is always taken away by the great Southern Wall of the Tararua ranges. On days such as this when the morning light makes layers the view is especially wonderful.

On Bowen Street

Behind the parliamentary precinct, Bowen Street curves up the Thorndon gully to Tinakori Rd. It passes through some of Wellington’s oldest and most picturesque dwellings. To my regret, the government (I presume the State Services Commission) seems to be transforming the area into an administrative precinct. Whereas I think the old houses are protected by legislation, glass and steel are changing the nature of the area.

Wild Onshore Wind

There have been ugly blustery winds for most days over several weeks. I shall be glad when they depart. On the other hand, the kite surfers at Lyall Bay reveal in the conditions.

See you again in a week or two. Stay safe. Keep recording your locations and observing your local protocols to avoid the virus.

*J.R.R. Tolkien The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings

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September 1, 2020 … a change of pace

Oh my goodness, time has slipped by and it has been almost a month since my last post. I have no clue how many regular readers still remain, but if you are one, thank you.

Winter morning – Oriental Bay – August 1

I know that August is generally the kindest of our winter months, but this one was extraordinary. According to the books, Spring is now with us I shall not be surprised if we now get some of the rough weather that we missed in winter. Even as I write, we have a howling Norwester with rain. On this morning, at the beginning of August, my attention was caught by the black-billed gulls at rest on the water at the Eastern end of Oriental Bay. That, and I am always intrigued by the textures of the cityscape from here.

Looking good for 112 years – August 4

At the intersection of Lambton Quay, Mulgrave St and Thorndon Quay this grand old lady has stood in various states since 1908. As the engraved letters attest, this was once the headquarters of the long defunct Wellington Corporation Tramways. Indeed I remember being here in the early sixties when the trams were still operating. My memory is of a constant stream of uniformed drivers and “clippies” coming and going through those doors. The rooftop amendments are not entirely to my liking but I suppose they could have been worse.

Off-peak storage – August 5

Just behind the spot from which I made the image of the old tramways building is a stairway that leads to the concourse of the city’s Sky Stadium. It is a featureless flat concrete walkway that crosses the railyards. This image was made just after 10 am., long after the morning commuter rush is over. I liked the moody atmosphere and the glittering tops of the Korean-made commuter units as they wait for the rush to resume in the afternoon.

At Te Haukaretu Park, Upper Hutt – August 6

The duck pond in Te Haukaretu Park, Upper Hutt is sheltered from the wind and often provides a peaceful scene. I particularly like the form of the trees in the pond.

Atrium – Wellington Station – August 9

Having seen some of the truly great rail terminals of the world, I know that Wellington railway station is a relatively small competitor. Nevertheless it has a handsome and well proportioned main atrium. It lacks the stalls and shops that you might find in Washington or New York, but on the other hand it has a mere 30,000 passengers per day compared with 750,000 in New York.

At Pencarrow Head -August 10

I have the privilege of being allowed to accompany a group of conservationists who specialise in the care and observation of the dotterel population along the South East coast of Wellington harbour. This gets me to Baring Head and beyond in comfort in a car as opposed to the four hour return walk. We saw few dotterels on this day, but I enjoyed the view across the harbour entrance. I should acknowledge that this was one of the few windy days in August.

Pipit – August 11

A second trip to Baring head was also a bust as far as dotterel sightings went, but I enjoyed the company of this New Zealand pipit (Anthus novaeseelandiae). They characteristically bob their tail up and down as they walk.

Dabchick at QEII park – August 15

When there is little or no wind, the wetlands at Queen Elizabeth Park in Paekakariki are a favourite place for me. The still dark waters reflect the green of the surrounding bush and provide a lovely contrast for the water fowl that visit. In this case, the dabchick is moving quickly to escape the photographer.

Pauatahanui Inlet – August 17

Some calm days are better than others. In this case, the water on the Northern side of Pauatahanui Inlet was just perfectly still. I rather liked the pattern made by the rocks.I almost wonder whether I should have cropped out everything above the sandbar.

Shoveler ducks – August 17

I am always fascinated by the Australasian Shoveler duck (Anas rhynchotis). It is the duck equivalent of a baleen whale. It feeds by filtering water through a curtain of fibres in its extraordinary bill to catch plankton, seeds and other edible material. This was also made at QEII park.

Puzzle time – August 20

I mentioned a change of pace. We had long planned trips to see our more distant grandchildren. Sadly the virus has taken away the possibility of a visit to Brisbane any time soon. However, since New Zealand is at alert level 2, domestic travel is possible, so we could fly to Queenstown in time for our youngest grandson’s tenth birthday. For that journey I love to get a Westward facing window seat, and Mary always generously yields it to me. I look for interesting land forms below. I can usually identify the larger settlements and geographic features, but I have fun with the smaller places, grab the shot and try to match it against Google Earth when I get home. In this case, the river caught my eye and then the little township sliding into the view at bottom left. It took me a while to identify the town as Luggate and the river as the Clutha.

Lake Hayes Estate – August 22

Our middle son Andrew lives in Lake Hayes Estate which can be described as a dormitory suburb about 15 km to the North East of Queenstown. I was intrigued by the oak trees that lined many of its streets,. The leaves had turned colour and died many months ago, but refused to let go. Spring in New Zealand is generally regarded as the months of September through November, so we are still seeing Autumnal brown even as nature starts applying some green to the landscape.

Wild Irishman – August 22

Despite the severe economic impact of the covid virus on Queenstown’s tourist industry, there is still a great deal of development to provide new housing. At the Southern end of Kelvin Heights, on the narrow part of the isthmus just beyond the golf course, a large patch of land has been cleared for development. Among the few plants remaining was a sturdy example of the matagouri (Known in colonial times as Wild Irishman). Happily, it is relatively rare in the North Island. It too will go to be replaced no doubt by upscale housing.

Para-penting in Queenstown – August 22

Before anyone gets too excited, no I did not lash out the $219 required for a tandem jump. I don’t do heights, remember. We were at the base of the gondola to the skyline complex where the young folks were about to have a ride on the luge when this pilot and his passenger caught the light as they passed in front of the gondolas.

On Lake Hayes – August 23

I can’t visit Queenstown without spending time at Lake Hayes. I mean the lake itself which seems to enjoy a lot of shelter from the wind. The bird life is interesting and varied. I always hope to see and get close to the crested grebe which we just don’t see in the North. Alas, I saw coots and scaup, oystercatchers and a huge variety of ducks but no grebes. This common mallard drake gets the call because it was bold enough to take centre stage.

Rushing in Arrowtown – August 23

Down below the historic huts in which Chinese miners lived, Bush Creek tumbles through the bush to join the Arrow river. I liked the little waterfall. The light was low enough that I didn’t need a neutral density filter. The rushing effect is conveyed well enough with a mere 2 second exposure.

Clyde Bridge – August 26

Andrew was at work, and the children were at school so Mary and I did a tour through the Kawarau Gorge and Cromwell to Clyde, Earnscleugh and Alexandra looking for whatever the landscape might reveal. After a great morning tea in Dunstan House, Clyde, we drove over then under the historic Clyde Bridge to catch this view of the Clutha.

Rock of ages – August 26

When we reached Earnscleugh, I made a fortuitous turn into Conroy’s road (recommended) and up through the scientific reserve where the rocks are shaped in fantastic ways. This view from near Black Ridge Winery includes one such formation and then looks beyond across the Manuherakia Valley to the Dunstan Mountains in the background. Somehow, the plentiful birdsong did not spoil the silence of the magnificent landscape.

Coronet Peak – August 27

Family trips always come to an end and so we were homeward bound. Mary gave me her window seat again, and as we left Queenstown we passed over Coronet Peak where the ski-field operators were desperately trying to wring the last out of a virus-ruined season. The snow guns were working hard overnight to keep the popular trails useable. We loved our time with the family, and as always, loved coming home.

I am Groot – August 29

Our amazing spell of benign weather was obviously coming to an end so we looked for a walk that kept us out of the boisterous wind. I suggested the Catchpool Valley area of the Remutaka Forest Park. Mary set out on a brisk circuit of the various tracks while I explored the beech forest areas.This tiny shoot, growing out of a dead log tickled my fancy. The title of the image is borrowed from the movie “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Remutaka Forest Park, – the Five Mile Loop Track – August 29

That tree root in the foreground is fairly obvious so I crossed it without incident. I failed the test on the next one which was concealed in the leaf mould, and did a face-plant. I landed on my camera which ripped my recently repaired macro-lens in two pieces. Waaaahhhhh! No significant personal injury, so I returned to the car park to await Mary.

I hope to post again after a shorter time lapse.

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Adventure Animals Architecture Birds Cook Strait Forest Landscapes Machinery Maritime Masterton mountains Rivers Wairarapa Waves Weather Wellington

August 8, 2020 … strange weather, but I’ll take it

For almost two weeks now, we have had consecutive days of calm fine weather. In that period, I count some still grey days in which the harbours were still. Wellington has a reputation for its mean winters. According to the calendar, this one has plenty yet to come, but so far it has been a delight.

Centre of bureaucracy
Down to the centre

High in the suburb of Northland is the Te Ahumairangi Hill lookout which affords a view over the bureaucratic centre of New Zealand. The tower block with the green top is the Business School of Victoria University of Wellington. The flat building in front is the high court and then the grey roof of parliament and the “beehive” which houses parliamentary offices. To the right of the beehive is the law school in the old wooden building and behind that the IRD. On the extreme right is Bowen House which contains the overflow for all our pariamentarian’s offices. Oh, and the brick building behind the business school is Wellington railway station.

rapids
Tumbling down the gorge

The Ngaio Gorge carries the Kaiwharawhara stream through lovely Trelissick Park from Ngaio at the top of the hill down to the harbour. It’s a modest stream but I liked the little rapids seen here.

Kayak
Sustained stillness.

A lovely morning at Pauatahanui Inlet and I decided to follow the Camborne walkway around its North West corner. The water was glassy and a bright red kayak entered the frame. As I lined up for my shot, the kayaker put his paddle across the cockpit and became a photographer himself.

Demolition

A long delayed casualty of the Kaikoura Earthquake (14 November 2016), the almost new BNZ building on Centreport’s land near the railway station is finally being demolished. Unlike most demolition work in the city, they recovered as much of the building materials as possible. Now it is down to the sadly compromised concrete skeleton, and the big crane is nibbling away at the remnants.

Kereru

We’ve been here before. The kereru is perched in the small kowhai shrub on our front lawn and was nibbling new shoots as efficiently as a motor trimmer. Somehow the shrub always recovers

Seaview Marina

Seaview Marina is a favourite place when the water is still. I was down at water level with the camera hanging inverted on the tripod centre-post just above the water to get this view. I heard my name called and there was Mary taking her lunch break between volunteer roles. We enjoyed our lunch together on a lovely mid-winter day.

Tapuae-o-Uenuku

If you have read my blog for any length of time, you will have seen Tapuae-o-Uenuku many times before. I always love to see it clear and proud across the strait. It’s weird to know that distant Kaikoura is just near the foot of Manakau, the mountain on the left. In case you were unaware, Manakau is the highest peak in the Seaward Kaikoura range while Tapuae-o-Uenuku is the highest in the Inland Kaikoura range. Despite the apparent calm, waves were slapping against the rocks with some force.

Waingawa River

Mary and I went over the hill into the Wairarapa and up the road to Holdsworth lodge. A lot of people had the same idea and the beautifully formed tracks in the lower parts were quite busy. The Waingawa river was tumbling down the hill to join the Ruamahanga river and thence via Lake Onoke to the sea.

Pied shag

Zealandia wildlife reserve gives the visitor access to a great variety of birdlife as well as providing opportunities for close encounters with Tuatara and various other lizards. This pied shag is enjoying the calm of the nest but keeping a wary eye on the tourists

North Island robin

Also in Zealandia is this lovely little North Island robin. They enjoy the insects stirred up as people walk by, and come very close, even to the extent of perching on the toe of your shoes to get the best harvest. They seem quite unafraid.

Lowry Bay

It has been an extraordinary run of weather, with two weeks in mid-winter with almost no wind, and mostly sunny days. In Lowry Bay, the usual fleet of moored yachts is down to just one at present.

Little black shag

Inside the breakwater of the Seaview Marina there are a few rocks that serve as a resting place for shags. This Little Black shag is airing its laundry .

Seaview Marina (2)

And still, day after day the eerie calm continues. Overcast weather I can live with but I do prefer conditions such as these that give reflections.

Jetski

As I write this edition, the weather has broken with rain and wind. It would be churlish to complain after so long. This image was made a few days earlier as a jet-ski rider was heading out to make noise and spray in the open water of the harbour.

That will do for now. See you next time.

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Academic Birds Cook Strait Family flowers fungi Landscapes Light Maritime Plant life Rivers Tararuas Waves Weather Wellington

April 4, 2010 … everything is changed … a locked down but nevertheless golden celebration

This week marks a special occasion which you can read about under the final image.

When I last wrote, everything was more or less normal here in New Zealand. I no longer know what “normal” means. Back then, there was little indication of the changes to come. Now we are in lockdown, and since Mary and I are both in the over 70 age group, society is taking special care of us. We are not even supposed to go to the supermarket because we are apparently especially vulnerable to catching the infection.

When I first heard the lockdown regulations, I formed some preconceptions as to how this would play out and where I would still be able to go for photography. Reality is a little different and rather more restrictive. The basic rules are:

  1. Stay at home
  2. Wash and dry your hands frequently.
  3. Stay within your own domestic “bubble”
  4. Stay at least two metres from anyone from outside of your bubble
  5. You can leave home for essential purposes such as visits to supermarket, or a doctor unless you are over 70 in which case you need to get someone else to shop for you because you are more vulnerable
  6. Go back to rule 1 … rinse and repeat

Despite rule 1, it is permitted to exercise in your own neighbourhood by walking, running, cycling etc, as long as you remain close to home and don’t come closer than two metres to anyone else. More adventurous exercises such as hiking, surfing etc are not permitted because if you need assistance you endanger others.

So, with all that in mind let us explore the images I have made since last time, in chronological order.

Spoonbills in the river
Browsing the mud in the Pauatahanui inlet

A pleasant morning and the likelihood of some bird shots resulted in Mary packing a lunch and the two of us setting out in the direction of Waikanae. Remember, this was when things were still “normal”. On Gray’s Rd around the Northern edge of the Pauatahanui Inlet, we saw the spoonbills. I thought that the cluster of them dredging for crabs in the soft mud of a serpentine creek might make a picture. I like the wandering path made by the creek, but the spoonbills were less prominent than I hoped for in my mind’s eye. I think, if you click to get the enlarged image, you will see the grey teal in between the two nearest spoonbills.

Juvenile dabchick
Still dependent on its parents

In Queen Elizabeth II Park at Paekakariki, I checked out the US Marines memorial Wetlands and was delighted to find that the dabchick families were still in residence. This one still wears the black and white facial markings of a juvenile bird, and indeed it was still being fed by its parents. I have to say I always enjoy the deep green colour of the QEII wetlands as they reflect the surrounding bush.

Yachts in the marina at Oriental Bay
In Oriental Bay

It needs to be acknowledged that Wellington is a small city, and there are relatively few parts of it that I have not yet been to in search of picture opportunities. The obvious consequence is that there are some places that I have used over and over and over again. My excuse is that they are attractive or interesting spots to begin with, and different days present different conditions, and thus different pictures.

This image was made from inside the breakwater on the Eastern side of the Clyde Quay Wharf (formerly known as the Overseas Passenger Terminal). As you can see, the conditions were calm.

Northward view across Oriental Bay Marina
The other direction

On the same day as the preceding image I crossed in front of the boat sheds, to catch the stillness of the day. Many leading photographers tell us that clear blue skies are boring, I still make blue sky images if the scene appeals, but I do enjoy grey skies if the clouds have textures. On this occasion, I liked the patterns and their reflections in the remarkably still water. So far, life is still normal.

Purple water lily
Water Lily

If I had known that my photographic activity in the near future would be almost exclusively based on still life, I might have gone elsewhere. However, the Begonia House in Wellington’s Botanic Garden offers some visual pleasure, even in normal times. There were some nice shots of orchids, and begonias to be had, but the vivid purple of the water lilies made this an image of power for me.

Pauatahanui looking moody but still
Pauatahanui Inlet

Another place I visit often in normal times is the Pauatahanui Inlet. I have over 3,000 images in my catalogue from there. So many different moods, but always my favourites are when the water is still and offering reflections.

The Hutt Valley was misty so I had hoped there might be similar conditions at Pauatahanui. Sadly that rarely happens, and I am guessing that the exposure to the sea air on the Western side of Haywards Hill prevents the mist forming. Anyway. I regret that E.L.James seems to have captured the phrase “shades of grey”as I love these conditions (the meteorological ones).

Swells on Wellington South coast
South coast

There are days when, even though conditions are calm, the South Coast still gets heavy swells. The sheer majesty of a big slow moving wave and the weight of water thudding into the rocks never fails to move me. I could watch those green walls coming in for hours.

View across Cook Strait from Makara
The day before it all changed

And now the change begins. The New Zealand Government implemented a series of conditions numbered 1 through 4 each with increasing levels of control measures to manage the spread of Covid-19. It opened at level 2, and then on March 24 went to level 3 with the warning that it would be at level 4 for at least four weeks from the following day.

Careful to minimise contact with others, Mary and I made the last of our final day of freedom for a while and drove first to Makara and then on to Plimmerton for a picnic lunch. On the way, we visited the West Wind wind farm. There standing beside one of the big turbines, we enjoyed this view across the Cook Strait to Arapawa Island and parts of the Kaikoura ranges.

I wholeheartedly endorse the government’s management of this crisis even though it means that for at least the next four weeks, we are required to stay home except as required to obtain the necessities of life. All businesses except those providing essential goods and services are firmly closed. People over 70 (you may be surprised to learn that that includes us) are instructed fairly firmly to stay at home and rely on others to shop for them. So here we go.

Sea Urchin shell
Sea Urchin shell

Day one of the lockdown. While taking that last walk on the beach at Plimmerton the previous day, Mary found this lovely little sea urchin shell. It’s rare to find an intact one and this is a very small one … about 50 mm (2″) in diameter … I was unaware of its beautiful colours until after I made the picture.

Fly Agaric toadstool
Amanita muscaria or Fly Agaric

Mary is a walker. There are few days indeed when she doesn’t walk briskly around the hills or along the riverbank for 90 minutes or more. I on the other hand, am a couch potato. Mary knows that a four week lockdown is going to be hard for me as an obsessive photographer. Bless her heart, on the first day of lockdown, she gathered a bunch of objects that she knows will make interesting still life images. The common fly agaric toadstool is quite toxic, but also presents a striking appearance. My darkbox is going to get used often, I suspect. Focus stacking may also be used for this kind of image.

Collected sea shells
Memories of beaches past

Not only is she good at gathering things while walking, but Mary also has a large collection of small mementoes gathered on various trips over many years. And so, I was allowed access to her box of small sea shells. The background in this picture is a glass drinks coaster with etched concentric circles.

Kiwi feathers
Genuine honest to goodness kiwi feathers

Back in 2014, our local hospice was involved with the Department of Conservation in a fundraising exercise involving the naming and release of a young kiwi. Mary and granddaughter Maggie got to handle the young bird, and even walked with the DoC rangers to release it in the hills behind Wainuiomata. The bird left some of its feathers behind and they found their way into Mary’s souvenir tin.

Beach souvenirs
Indoor beach

On day five of the lockdown, I was given access to some of the larger beach memories. I borrowed the sand from my long forgotten mini Zen garden and spread it in the floor of my lightbox. A couple of starfish, some sponges and some interesting shells were arranged over the sand and thus we have instant beach though no water was involved. While attempting to return the sand to its proper space, I managed to spill some on the carpet. Vacuum cleaner duty!

Dandelion and reflection
On reflection

Another of Mary’s finds (isn’t she a gem?) was this dandelion. I decided against the straightforward ‘head and shoulders” portrait since I have done it so many times before. A paper plate was filled with water to a depth of one or two millimetres. The dandelion was then drooped until I had a clear reflection.

Early morning view up the Hutt Valley
A landscape day and I am trapped at home

Landscape images are very much harder to arrange now that we can not go anywhere in the car. The best I can manage is shots of the valley from the front yard. Happily, different day, different light, different weather means a different picture. On this day, river mist coming down from the upper valley made a difference.

Starling in the bird bath
The Spin Cycle

We have a bird bath on the front lawn, and it is well used. Sometimes five or six sparrows splash about in it, sometimes a huge kereru fills it to overflowing. On this occasion a starling was taking heed of the instruction to wash frequently and thoroughly. This was taken through the glass window of our dining room, but I enjoyed the scene.

More fly agaric specimens
More found treasures

A bunch of fly agaric toadstools were in Mary’s latest collection so I arranged them in some compost from one of our pot plants. I know they are toxic, but as far as I know that refers to ingestion, and anyway, the hand washing regime should take care of everything else.

A personal celebration

Mary and I on the day before our golden wedding anniversary
Fifty Wonderful Years Together

On April 4, 1970, Mary and I got married in St Patrick’s Church in Patea. We had a Nuptial Mass celebrated by the late Father Brian Sherry from New Plymouth. Being so long ago, some details of the day are hazy in my memory. However, one thing is clear, this was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Together we have five amazing children of whom we are extraordinarily proud. They in turn brought their spouses into the family and gave us six wonderful grandchildren who light up our lives, even though, in the present circumstances visitation is not possible.

Mary does not like to be the centre of attention, and I shall probably catch it for what follows, but something has to be said on such an occasion, so here goes …

She is a woman of deep faith who believes her purpose in life, her calling, is to serve others, especially those in most need. I have never met anyone who better understands the true meaning of the word “vocation”. I and my kids have benefitted enormously from this. Mary was a registered nurse for fifty years and in the last decade or so of her employment was a social worker helping patients and their families in Te Omanga Hospice.

She also volunteered for various good causes. Since her retirement in 2017 she has become busier than ever, volunteering for an organisation that offers care and assistance to young mothers, and another that supports the partners of people who have dementia. She is the most selfless person I know. It is a matter of some grief to her that, being over 70, the lockdown rules prohibit her from carrying on those tasks until it is over.

Mary has been there for me and for all our family throughout our fifty years of marriage. We have shared many joys and a few tough times. I particularly admired the way she supported me when I lost the plot and undertook to do a PhD late in life. Even more, she allowed me to leave a well paid management role in industry for a job as a university lecturer on literally half the salary.

Mary is a wise and loving woman who I am privileged to have as my wife. She is nevertheless real, and each of us occasionally does things that drive the other nuts. (I really should exercise more and eat less) But she is also a forgiving woman so here we are together still, and if my luck holds, we will continue to be so until the end of our days. Our planned celebration with the family is of course cancelled, and alas, not even the florists are open.

Thank you Mary for all that you have done, and for all that you are. You are a beautiful person and the light of my life.


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February 8, 2020 … articulation

A random post on Facebook last week caused me to think about the processes and mechanisms of human thought, and especially my own. The writer was a person who thought verbally and was shocked to learn that there were people who think in other ways such as in images. This came as a shock to me too, but from the other side of the fence. Somehow, until now I had never understood the difference between verbal and visual thinking. I seem to be a visual thinker.

There is nothing linear, logical or even verbal in my usual thought pattern, as far as I can tell. Nothing that remotely resembles a coherent verbal sentence in my native language. Though I don’t suffer from synesthesia, I can sense that this moves in that direction. Whatever is on top at the moment can be displaced in an instant by something triggered by a smell, a sound, a taste, a touch or something glimpsed out of the corner of my eye. If someone asks what I am thinking about, it takes quite some effort to put together a coherent answer. This can be frustrating to those who want to know what I am thinking, when I am unable to respond. I am not being difficult, I just have nothing useful to give them.

It makes me wonder how, in Heaven’s name, I ever completed my post graduate degrees which obviously required lots of linearly evolving verbal exploration of the topics. If I were to choose a word to describe my thinking processes, it would be “scatterbrained”. Now these are matters for me to explore in more depth and in some other arena. However, I wanted to see how all this impacts on my photography and how it affects my sense of what is art. So this week, you may notice a slight change in the style of the purple prose.

Varnish

On the city side of Wellington’s Clyde Quay is Chaffers Marina, characterised by a generally upmarket fleet of glossy yachts. On the other side of the quay, nearer to the Freyberg Pool is the Oriental Bay marina where the moored boats are much more humble. I made this picture for a number of reasons. First, there is that boat with its lovely juxtaposition of red/gold varnish and white paint. Second, the hull is reflected nicely in almost calm water. Finally, this is an honest-to-goodness home-built yacht, Look at the uneven seams between the planks clearly visible on its side.

While I try not to be rule-bound in making my compositions, I also know that some time-worn conventions help make a better image. For example, I try to avoid having eye-catching material intruding at the edges of the picture. I also try to ensure that it is clear to the viewer what the subject of the picture is.

Seeds of an idea

Mary came into the house with a beautifully symmetrical dandelion seed head and thought I might like to make a picture. At first, I was not enthusiastic, but conditions outside were uninviting, so I set up the camera with tripod, macro lens and my “dark box”. To be clear, the seed head was positioned outside the box, and was illuminated by light from the window. I rarely use artificial light. I use the box to provide a totally black background behind the subject.

This image is made using a technique called focus stacking . It consists of about eight images, the first focused on the nearest point, in the front centre of the subject and each successive image is focused a little further back until the last one reaches the “equator” of my little globe. The images are then merged in Photoshop (which is not a bad word, nor is it in any way “cheating”). The software takes the in-focus sections of each image and if I made enough images produces a fully focused whole. I have attempted this several times before, but I think this one is the most successful to date.

Giant dragonfly

In the Pauatahanui Wildlife Refuge, I was walking along the trail to the Thorpe Family bird hide when my peripheral vision was captured by a transparent blue thing flitting about. To be honest it was not until it paused on a bush that I got a clear view and could identify it as a dragonfly. Later inspection of the picture suggests that it is the New Zealand bush giant dragonfly (Uropetala carovei) or in Maori, kapokapowai. I had the long lens on ready for birds so had to step back to be able to focus … and the darned thing instantly zipped off on its erratic zig-zag course. However, it didn’t stray far from where I first saw it so I stood patiently and attempted a shot each time it paused. The autofocus systems on modern cameras are wonderful in many circumstances, but not in this case. The camera doesn’t know whether I want to focus on the third stalk of grass, the eighth, the insect or anything else that might be in the direction I am pointing it. Most of the images I took were not as sharp as I hoped for but I got lucky with this one. Isn’t nature beautiful? I would have liked to miss the shiny blade of grass across the lower left, but I’ll take it.

Dabchicks with a dabchick chick

Many of my favourite photographic gurus counsel against setting out with a photograph or even a plan in mind. Rather they advise keeping an open mind and waiting until something grabs your attention. This is consistent with my erratic way of thinking as discussed earlier. However, I am prepared to make an exception for dabchicks. The New Zealand dabchick (Poliocephalus rufopectus) is a member of the grebe family and it holds a special charm for me. This is especially true when they have chicks. In the first week or two the chicks ride on the back of one or other parent, hidden in the plumage except when they stick their heads up to be fed. By three or four weeks they are too big to be carried. They are still fed by the parents for up to ten weeks after which they make their own way in the world. Their legs are very far back on their body and the feet are much better for propulsion in water than walking on land. Scientific naming conventions are rarely as direct and prosaic as in this case – Poliocephalus rufopectus translates as grey head, red breast.

Near the end of the free ride

Here we see two chicks on the back of the left parent, hoping that the other parent will dive to the bed of the pond to get food. What they may not know is that the success of the almost constant feeding will make them too big to be carried after about two weeks. To my eye, the appeal of the two dabchick images above is more in the story than in any artistic value or composition. This tends to confirm the advice that it is often better to shoot what catches the eye than to make a preplanned image.

Soft shades

Most of my photography is a solitary activity. I don’t mind being in my own company. On this occasion, I had a friend with me and after visiting the dabchicks together, we went up over the ridge into the Maungakotukutuku Valley where there seemed to be some swirling mist about the tops. Well, when we got down into the valley, no swirling mist, just soft but steady drizzle. It was different to the effect I expected to find, but I am always a sucker for receding layers of landscape in soft shades of grey. Sadly, they tend not to do well in the eyes of other judges. On the other hand, I don’t care. I like them.

The Prancing Pony

In Oriental Bay, I pulled in to a rare empty car park slot with the intent to get a shot across the harbour. My butterfly brain was instantly distracted by this beautiful Ferrari California in the adjacent slot. Pininfarina was a design genius, and the underlying machinery is amazing also. I am torn between admiration for the sheer beauty of the thing and my revulsion for the ostentatious consumerism. Despite being a ten year old car, these things sell for about NZD$160,000. A new one would go for double that. I would never spend more than a tenth of that on a car.

Hanging in there.

After I made the image of the seed head earlier, I neglected to clean up after myself. A day or three passed by and the poor thing began to droop. It was in a water-filled vase, so it fought the good fight for a while before it began to droop. Finally remembering that I needed to put things away, I went back to the dandelion, and loved the beautiful curve that I saw. A few seeeds had dropped so the head was not quite as symmetrical as it had been, but close enough that it still made a nice image. Since I had not yet put the dark box away, it was pressed into service again, and another image was made before the dandelion was finally discarded. This is still in natural light from the window.

Lindanger is not in danger

A hazy morning with no wind tempted me down to the harbour in Lowry Bay where the tanker Lindanger was emerging from the mist near Miramar. CentrePort’s two tugs, Tiaki and Tapuhi emerged from the mist behind Matiu/Somes Island and made fast at the designated tug-safe areas. As the trio approached the Seaview oil terminal, the red paint became more obvious. A friend who is both a professional photographer and an experienced photographic judge once told our camera club that any image that contained a large clear splash of red had a significantly greater chance of being accepted by other photographic judges. As an accredited judge myself, I suppose there is some truth in this, but usually I want more than just a splash of colour. In this case the reason I made the image was the separation from the bank of mist in the background.

White fronted tern getting rest while it can.

My many encounters with terns always reinforce the delight I take in their delicacy, the sheer elegance of their presence whether in flight or at rest. If the red-billed gulls are weight-lifting gymnasts, then the white fronted terns are a ballet troupe. They tend to come ashore in times of sustained strong wind and find a place where they flatten themselves below the flow of the wind. The whole flock usually weathercock into the wind. In this case, the flock was on the crumbling jetty near the remains of the old patent slip in Evans Bay. I was amused at the way they merged with the guano-mottled concrete of the wharf.

Wind, wind, and more wind

When the wind is strong enough to be annoying and nothing else comes to mind, I often choose to follow the Wainuiomata Coast Road down to the Southern shore near Baring Head. On this occasion, though the wind was not all that strong, I saw some fairly forceful waves near Turakirae. I love watching long slow waves. If the waves are more than ten seconds apart they tend to be worth watching. Slow majestic walls of water advance towards the rocky beach and arrive with a thump that you can feel in the ground through your feet. The white wind-whipped wave crests contrast beautifully with the deep green wall of each succeeding wave.

One of many stairways in Wright’s Hill Fortress

A few days ago we observed Waitangi Day, New Zealand’s national day. After attending morning observances I drove to the South side of Karori intending to look for landscape opportunities from the top of Wright’s hill. When I got to the top, I discovered that the people who manage the old World War II fortifications were having an open day. The fortress is an extensive network of tunnels and gun emplacements under the upper part of Wright’s Hill. Though I am not fond of enclosed spaces, I had never visited before so I paid the $8 to the restoration society and set out along the tunnels. There were lots of other visitors but the extensive nature of the tunnels meant that I could easily get images without other people in them.

The Engine Room in Wright’s Hill

In the 1940s when the complex was built, it was necessary for the facility to have its own power to enable all the activities associated with the two big 9.2 inch guns installed there. To the great sadness of the restoration society, the two Ruston Hornsby 6VCR diesel generators which provided power for the guns are both missing major vital parts. Ruston Hornsby is long defunct, so spare parts are no longer an option, and any replacement bits will likely need to be made from scratch. The smaller 4VRO provided lighting and forced air for the facility and it has recently been restored to running order. Why did I make this image? My dad spent much of his life working in ships’ engine rooms and I was often allowed to clamber down the oily companionways to inspect the mighty machinery. Engines like these hold a place in my heart and remind me of my Dad.

That is all for this issue. I am not sure whether my thoughts about thinking make sense to anyone else, but they may explain the scattergun approach to subject selection.

Categories
Adventure Airport Birds Cars Cook Strait Evans Bay Forest Landscapes Machinery Maritime Waves Weather Wellington

January 10, 2020 … happy new year

Hello! Happy new year to all who read this. I hope 2020 will be your best year yet. I also hope that it will see an improvement in the images and stories that I offer you. So, let’s begin this new year.

When shall we three meet again, in thunder lightning or in rain?

New Year’ day produced no images. The second of January dawned fair and blue, so I went to the Hikoikoi reserve with the ever-present hope of seeing a white heron. Sadly, none were found. On my way out, my attention was caught by the row of pohutukawa trees along the ridge that protects the sport field from the encroaching dunes on the beach. Their precise spacing and similar sizes suggest that they were deliberately planted, perhaps as a part of Project Crimson. This was a project commenced in 1990 to reverse the loss of coastal pohutukawa. I selected three of the thirty or so trees, and liked the fact that the middle tree was at the peak of its flowering season.

Trans-Tasman haze

At the other end of the Petone foreshore the next day, I attempted to capture the very visible haze blown across the Tasman Sea from the Australian bushfires. We have experienced this many times in the past though never as intensely or for so long as now. The prevailing winds carry the smoke from the fires approximately to the South East where it makes landfall on the West Coast of the South Island. The intensity of the smoke and the ash that it carried was such that it discoloured our alpine glaciers, leaving them coated with a thick orange layer of ash rather than the expected pristine white snow. Here in Wellington, local winds diverted the cloud our way, and we are occasionally experiencing quite intense haze. This shot from Petone Beach shows the Wellington hills obscured by it. Our hearts go out to our Australian cousins.

Kereru … the native Wood Pegeon

There have been stories of fewer kereru (native wood pigeon) around Wellington this year. I have to say that I have not noticed this around home, despite the presence of two pairs of nesting New Zealand falcons nearby. Despite being twice the size of the falcon, the kereru just explodes in a shower of feathers when caught mid air by the deadly little raptor. On a very warm day, this kereru was obviously thirsty so it perched on Mary’s birdbath which was obviously designed with smaller birds in mind.

Demolitions on hold

Much of New Zealand goes on summer vacation from just before Christmas to about mid or late January. This is often exaggerated and scorned by the media, but the line of idle demolition machines tends to reinforce the notion. I was unable to get inside the wire fence but the neat row of hydraulic diggers was worth a shot. I often wonder what is the capital value of all the agricultural and engineering machines that are sitting idle at any given time.

Crossing at the horizon

On one of those days when the blue of the sea and the sky to the South are almost the same, I caught a shot of the ferry Kaiarahi inbound, and the Kaitaki outbound. They were far enough away for there to be optical distortions at the waterline.

Airport

On some days, the conditions tempt me to seek high viewpoints, On this occasion, I went up to Newlands from where there are great views to the South and East. There are many opinions among landscape photographers as to which lenses are most appropriate. Most often, conventional opinion suggests a fairly wide angle. Several of the people whose work I most admire will often go the other way and choose a long lens. In this case, I used my 300 mm zoom which, because of the micro four thirds crop factor, gives the same angle of view as would a 600 mm lens on a full frame camera. So here, from 9km across the harbour is a close view of Wellington airport. To the left, moored near the Miramar cutting, is the research vessel, Tangaroa. On the runway is an Air New Zealand Link Bombardier Q300 just touching down from Napier. To the South, nothing until Antarctia.

Long green

Five days into the new year, and the weather is already variable. Mary decided she wanted to walk the Eastern Walkway from the Pass of Branda in Seatoun, down to Tarakena Bay. I dropped her off at the pass, and went to Tarakena bay to await her arrival, and watched the waves rolling in. I love it when the waves are long and slow with a period of 10 seconds or more between each crest. They may look slow, but their power is undeniable. Even better when they are backlit, and the deep green looks like the stained glass of a cathedral. The spray ripped off the tops by the offshore wind adds to the spectacle.

Shabby Chic

I was wandering around behind our national museum, Te Papa, when I spotted this sad old lady. She is a 1974 Citroen Super D. I remember when these beauties first appeared and they were the wonder of the age. The complexity of their systems was such that one reviewer warned potential owners not to suffer a breakdown in Taranaki because “you might as well ask the mechanic for a valve-grind on a flying saucer”. If the car had been in showroom condition, I might still have made the picture, but the rust and the mis-matched panels made this especially interesting to me. A fellow photographer coined the phrase “shabby chic”. In many jurisdictions this car would not be allowed on the road, but it seems to have a current warrant of fitness.

Defying the laws of physics

Walking around Chaffers Marina with a friend, I came across this young man who was practicing some derivative of the Afro-Brazilian martial art of Capoeira. It seems to involve repealing the law of gravity. From a standing start on the grass he seemed to simply levitate. Of course that fanciful description is nothing like the reality. It involved a violent flick of one or more limbs and using the momentum to carry the rest of him into the air. The landings were as amazing as the lift off and flowed into an astonishing sequence of routines. I hope to see him again at some time and use different settings to get better results .

The day does not begin until after my first coffee

With the same friend, I went Staglands on the Akatarawa Rd. Sadly (for us) the place was filled, indeed over-filled, with hundreds of small children, and this would not result in the photographic opportunities we hoped for. So we abandoned the tour of the park and settled for a pleasant lunch in the cafe. We then spotted this rooster picking over the leftovers on the tables. I was surprised at what it deemed appropriate food. It explored every opportunity.

Leaf contrast

From Staglands, we carried on to the West across the narrow winding Akatarawa road towards Waikanae and as we neared the coast, out of the corner of my eye, I saw this little tree.On its own, it was not spectacular, but in contrast with the dark pines I liked it very much.

So ends the first post of 2020. I hope to have your company as the year goes on.