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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
More still life – guess what the weather was doing. These walnuts have sat in the bowl for several months now.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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).
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is the third and final in a three part series describing our road trip to the Waikato and back. Part I covered the trip from Wellington to Mangakino Part II covered our trip from Mangakino to Wingspan and now we cover the journey from Mangakino to Horopito, to Whanganui and home.
In one sense, our spontaneous adventure away from home was a trip to nowhere. With all due respect to its 1,200 inhabitants, Mangakino is scarcely a tourist destination. On the other hand, having spent six years as a single man in nearby Tokoroa back in the late 1960s, I was familiar with the region. I knew and loved the rhythms of life in the area at this time of year. Sharp frosts, river mists, clear days and dark brittle starlit nights characterised the early yeas of my working life. The smell of logs burning in open fireplaces so familiar back then was still familiar now, though no longer acceptable in most other places.
Our last two days in Mangakino after our memorable trip to Wingspan were characterised by soft but steady rain. That was OK by me. I had lots if image processing to do and Mary seemed happy reading or knitting when she wasn’t managing the fire or organising excellent meals for us.
There was a break in the weather on Sunday, our last day in the region, so I made one last expedition back upriver to Atiamuri and thence to Lake Ohakuri. This was new territory to me. I don’t know how I had never been to Lake Ohakuri before, but like the other lakes on the river, it seems to enjoy a sheltered situation and its surface was glassy calm. No one else was visible. I had this vast beauty all to myself. However, we were due to leave for Whanganui the next morning and there was packing to be done, so it was back to Mangakino to enjoy one last log fire.
We left Mangakino in drizzle conditions and headed Westward on SH30 towards Benneydale and Taumarunui. My love of the South Waikato landscape has been expressed several time in recent blogs. Even in these soggy conditions I find it attractive. Pouakani is not a place I have previously heard of. Nor, as we pass through it, is it a place I am likely to remember. However, according to Google Maps, the picture above was made there.
Maniaiti/Benneydale is a town in the Waitomo district that is home to about 180 people. When I lived and worked in Tokoroa in the mid 1960s, we thought of it as a frontier town on the Western edge of forestry country. It was in fact a coal mining town between the years of 1931 and the early 1990s. That has now ended. Until 2018 Benneydale was the only town in the King Country that did not have a Maori name. Local iwi applied to the Geographic Board to remedy that and it is now Maniati/Benneydale despite considerable local opposition. I photographed this same derelict house last time I came this way in 2016. Back then the green tree was just beginning to appear through the roof.
The King Country is an interesting area. While you can draw it on a map, it has no existence as a governance entity. For that, it falls partly within Waikato, and partly within Manawatu/Whanganui region. All of this is merely of passing interest, as we headed down a backroad from Benneydale to join SH4 at Ongarue. The region is heavily forested and very hilly. The only clue I have about where I made the image above through the windscreen is that it is somewhere North of Taumarunui.
We made a rest stop and had an excellent morning tea in Taumarunui. Then it was Southwards through Raurimu and National Park, heading purposefully for Horopito, home to Horopito Motors. This place is known globally as “Smash Palace” and was the setting for the 1981 Roger Donaldson film of the same name.
The last time I was there was in 2013. Back then in return for a gold coin donation, they allowed photographers and tourists to enter the 5 or so hectares and wander at will among the thousands of rusting cars.
On that occasion, we arrived early in the morning and there was no one in the office. The gate was open so I made the expected donation and began wandering about and making pictures. Mary sat in the car and knitted while I was in photography heaven. After I was done, I started to thread my way out of the maze only to be confronted by a man with a rifle and a bunch of distinctly unfriendly dogs. Awkward. He had been hunting and was a bit late back and was startled to find a wandering photographer on the premises. We resolved our differences peaceably.
This time things were done properly, and I paid the now required $10 admission fee at the office and spent a blissful hour looking at rusty textures and the shapes of cars as they used to be in my youth. There may be a pattern or system to the way in which cars are placed when they come in, but if so I could not work it out. It definitely is not brand, year, nor even the era from which the car was made. I am told that if you need a part for your old car, the staff can nevertheless tell you whether they that or a similar model.
At first I was a bit disconcerted that, near the front gate, there were many cars of recent manufacture that still had visible full-coloured paint and chrome work. I presume they were recent crashes or simple mechanical failures. They were not what I had come for, so I avoided them as much as possible.
There are estimated to be about 5,000 cars on site. As I wandered about I saw many that I have not laid eyes on for years. Mostly these would be British cars that are rarely on our roads any more. There were a few continental models , but by far, most were from Dagenham, Cowley, Solihull or the like.
“Austin of England” was the brand emblazoned on the boot of cars with that grill. There are very few bearers of that brand still running in New Zealand. And yet they remind of of a sunny childhood and I retain a certain affection for them. We once even owned a lovely three litre A110 Austin Westminster.
It was fun testing my ability to identify some of these old wrecks Across the back, a Ford Zephyr, a Ford Prefect sitting on a Standard Vanguard, a Hillman or Singer wagon. In the front row, I suspect the one on the left might be a Renault, and then a Fiat Bambina in front of who knows what.
I said there was no apparent organisation to the placement of cars. This pile seems to be an exception as there are at least three Morris Minors here. I struggle to imagine that there are many useful parts in these cars, or what economic model makes them worth keeping. I imagine that these were once someone’s pride and joy, and were probably washed and polished weekly. Now there are few if any body panels that would be of any use.
If you have seen enough rust by now, I would not hold it against you should you choose to skip this and the following two images and go straight to Whanganui. For my part, I see interest in the different patterns and textures in each image. And I wonder at the story behind each vehicle. A quote from Casablanca comes to mind: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world, she walks into mine”. There is no way that all these vehicles belonged to families or businesses in the nearby towns. So how did each car come to be here, so far from any significant centres of population?
Not only the individual vehicles, but the way in which they are scattered around the vast property is fascinating. Occasionally you can see that an attempt has been made to group like vehicles together. It never seems to have lasted though. Three or four Morris Minors together might be the start of something and then a Ford Consul Classic 315, a Trekka, a Wolseley 6/110, a Vauxhall Velox, a few Holdens, a Bradford and an Alfa Romeo throws the pattern into confusion.
Always, the harsh climate, rain, snow and sun are breaking down the once polished paint, and red rust becomes the dominant colour. The odd car puts up a longer resistance. Or perhaps it came into that part of the plot at a different time to its neighbours. Why is that Ford Prefect in the shot above still blue? Why is the paint on the back corner of that car the only bit that hung on?
The land on which the cars are stored is uneven and though there are many flat areas, there are gulleys and small hills. Cars are strewn close together over almost all of it. The tracks left clear for access form a maze of sorts, and often you come to a dead end. Though you can see the home buildings on the other side of the stack, there is no way to get there without risking an avalanche of sharp rusting steel. And so you retrace your steps, dodging the deep puddles in the soggy ground.
Every path you take reveals a different view and models you hadn’t noticed when you came the other way. A person of my vintage keeps seeing models familiar in my younger days but not seen on the roads for many a year. The Armstrong Siddley Star Sapphire, the Vauxhall Cresta, The Ford Pilot, the Morris Oxford, the Triumph Mayflower, the Rover 3500, the Lanchester. It’s not the cars themselves that arouse the emotion, but rather the way they trigger recollection of happy times, youth, friends and family members long gone.
Enough wallowing in maudlin sentimentality. To my photographic eye, the place is a delight in any weather. Regardless of the memories, the stacks of rusting remains provide fascinating set of opportunities to capture shapes and colours, though rust is dominant. After an hour of photography, I decided that though the cars in front of me were different, I was making the same image over and over again, just with different cars. Time to resume our Southward journey.
We had an excellent picnic lunch beside the Makotuku River in Raetihi during a break in the drizzle. Then it was down the winding 95km of the Parapara. In case you didn’t know it, SH4 runs parallel to the Whanganui River from Raetihi to Whanganui and is known as the Parapara. It is notorious for its treacherous greywacke landscape. It is magnificent to look at but prone to crumbling landslips and washouts, potholes and floods. When the Parapara is closed as it is at least a few times in most winters, then it is a very long detour down SH1 to Bulls, or even around Egmont and through New Plymouth. I think I dozed off on this part of the trip.
Fortunately I wasn’t driving, and soon enough we were crossing the Dublin St bridge in Whanganui on our way to our Airbnb in Castlecliff.
The owner of our Airbnb advertised it as “quirky”. I must remember to avoid any described as such in future. Fortunately we were there for just two nights. Whanganui, along with most of the North Island was fairly wet during our brief stay. Peat Park was looking more like Park Lake. We drove up to Waverley to visit my brother and sister-in-law and that trip was even wetter. And then it was time for the journey home.
Wetness persisted all the way to Wellington. We broke the 190 km trip home with morning coffee and a magnificent cheese scone at the excellent Riverstone Cafe at the South end of Otaki. Then the final leg home is much quicker than it ever was in the past. The expressway starts at Pekapeka just North of Waikanae and from there it’s motorway all the way home. I asked Mary to drive the last bit because I wanted to snatch an image of the bush near the summit of Transmission Gully.
Just before the Southbound summit on Transmission Gully there is a forested valley on the left side. Each time I have crossed that road, I have wanted to catch it. Most of the surrounding hills are covered in pines, but here is a remnant of the native bush landscape as it once was. Not possible to photograph if you are driving, of course.
And here at last we are at the foot of the Haywards Hill, emerging into the sunshine of the Hutt Valley and Wellington and home. The distant hills are the Miramar peninsula and the prominent tower block is the former TV studios at Avalon.
I hope you have enjoyed my rambling and the images related to our trip. Now it is done. I continue to post photo-blogs on this site on random topics every two or three weeks. I advertise infrequently so if you care to, you could check back every few weeks to check for the latest. Or you can subscribe to have it emailed to you. Thanks for keeping me company, and special thanks to all who sent kind comments which warmed my soul.
Mary and I recently celebrated fifty two years of marriage. Wow! How did that happen? I have to say, I got lucky. Very lucky.
I recommend, as always, that you click on each image to see a larger version.
This edition was scheduled for 4 April, but various distractions held me up. Now it is Good Friday. To those who celebrate the season with me, I wish you a Happy Easter.
Oriental Bay Marina on a very nice morning. The boat sheds are reflected in the still water and a young couple come striding past with their dog.
Our neighbours have a trio of yucca plants at their front gate. They are spectacular during their all too brief flowering season.
From Lowry Bay looking across the harbour on a beautiful morning. The two kayakers in mid-harbour were taking advantage of the conditions and fishing. I am always surprised that the kayak is a sufficiently stable platform for this, especially if the fish is a big one.
Sitting in my car in the automatic car wash, I was intrigued by the patterns in the soap bubbles through which a far-flung outpost of Colonel Sanders’ empire was visible.
When the weather turned unpleasant I decided to play with some still life. I enjoyed this one. I wasted the minimum possible amount of wine, transferring it to the glass with an eye-dropper
The weather was a bit up and down, so whenever the water was still I seized the opportunity, even though I have done the same scene many times before.
Way back in 1951, during the great waterside strike, there were over fifty ships in port, with perhaps 20 of them alongside the wharves. Back in those days there was much more usable wharf space. These days, four modest sized ships seem to constitute a near full port.
Another weather opportunity grabbed. In Oriental Bay I liked the view back past the Carter Fountain. The red monstrosity in the lower centre is the “boat cafe”. It grieves me because it was once a very fine and powerful steam tug, the Aucklander, built on the Clyde in 1958. She supplemented the William C Daldy and the Te Awhina in guiding the big ocean liners of the day for the Ports of Auckland. She must have been amongst the last of the tugs powered by triple expansion reciprocating steam engines. My Dad took me down in her engine room and I was hugely disappointed that they were both cased in sheet steel with no visible moving parts and lacked the elegance of the visible castings of earlier years.When its time was up, the Auckland Harbour Board sold it to a Wellington business and now it’s a darned restaurant. Bah!
The hedge outside our kitchen window was recently trimmed, thus depriving the various bees of access to the flowers. Despite this, the bees were able to locate the few remaining blooms and I could locate the bees through the open kitchen window with a long lens.
A recent series of still foggy mornings allowed me to catch spider webs covered in the morning dew. There are so many varieties of web and this was my favourite on the day.
The Point Howard Marina was just perfect from my perspective. The water was a perfect mirror and the sea mist hid the city and its hills.
This little fizz-boat with its two 90hp Evinrudes scarcely ruffled the surface as the owner set out on his trip.
It’s hard to categorise the images gathered for this edition. I like some. Others not so much. Nevertheless, these are what I regard as my best shots since I last posted.
I urge you to click on each image to see the a larger version of the picture.
In the South West corner of the Pauatahanui Inlet, is Ivey Bay and Dolly Varden Beach. It is a sheltered area popular for swimming with children. On this occasion I liked it because the still water reflected the blue doors of the boat sheds so well.
The bird hide at Queen Elizabeth Park wetlands has some hatches that swing up to give a clear view over the water. Despite the high usage of the hides, I can guarantee that the industrious spiders have almost always used the frames to spin their webs since the last visitor. Normally, if there had been birds to see I would have cleared the openings, but on this occasion, I chose to photograph the web itself. The randomness of the web fits nicely with that whole wabi-sabi thing I mentioned last time
Test drills in theWellington Harbour have been happening for at least a couple of years now. What they are doing is looking for the flow of fresh water in the strata below the harbour bed. The intention is to access aquifers close to the city that can be accessed with out crossing the fault lines as all present supplies do. I loved the colourful reflections below the platform despite the fact that the bright pink and green came from the two “portaloo” cabins.
This temporary art work will sit in Whairepo lagoon until 20 March. It is an inflatable piece, by Auckland artist, Lisa Reihana as part of the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of Arts. Art seems to take a different form each year. In this case it is of the giant inflatable octopus. It represents Te-Wheke-a-Muturangi which was chased and killed by the legendary warrior, Kupe.
Our neighbour allowed me to make images in her garden. I suspect she was surprised that I spent time on this spiny succulent which I think is a spiral aloe. Light was the key to its attraction for me.
Just North of Featherston, there is a memorial park that is on the site of a major army camp of WWI. At its peak, it was home to 60,000 trainees, many of who died on European battlefields It was also the site of a WWII prisoner of war camp that held up to 800 Japanese soldiers. It now serves also as a memorial for the deaths of 48 Japanese soldiers who were shot by their New Zealand captors during an altercation over being required to work. One New Zealand soldier also died from a ricochet fired by his fellow guards. The site today is small, and has a beautiful grove of flowering cherry trees and several memorial plaques. As we walked Mary spotted a cluster of fungi at eyelet on the trunks of some of the beech (?) trees. They looked to me like common mushrooms, but I firmly believe that unless you are 100% sure, leave them be.
We had been to Foxton Beach and Mary was at the wheel as we drove home. I love the orderliness of the market gardens in the Otaki region. A large proportion of the farmers in this area seem to be of Chinese ethnicity, and at the risk of perpetuating stereotypes, I observe how long and hard they work. The rubbish fire at the foot of the hills added interest to this image which was taken through the open window of the moving car.
The tiny flowers that propagate down in the lawn are attractive, but increasingly harder for me to get close to with the camera. I got down really low for this image of the self heal flower (weed). It took me much longer to get up than it did to compose and make the picture.
Rarely do I venture out in the evenings to make pictures, but this evening was just so perfect that I asked for a leave pass and went down to the beach at Petone. I was lining up for a low angle shot across the harbour when a young woman decided to launch her paddle board right beside me. I took that as permission to include her in the photograph that I was obviously about to make. Her skill in getting up and paddling was admirable.
There are various arachnids and even some insects that get called “daddy longlegs”. I think this one is Pholcus phalangioides. I was in the smallest room and spotted it climbing up the edge of the door. After the necessaries were done, I grabbed my camera and got close, by which time it was almost at the top of the door Happily it stayed still while I got it in frame.
Nice neighbours occasionally provide flowers to Mary who looks after their cat when they are away. I get to take advantage and attempt some floral portraits. I think the white flowers are Cosmos and the red one a dahlia variety, as is the quite different pink flower.
Looking North towards Evans Bay beach from around the Western edge of the Bay and I noticed a gaggle of kite surfers. If I am on the beach I am too close and thus unable to get them and their kites in a useful image. It’s still a squeeze but three kites in one shot is satisfying.
I collected a posy of dandelion seed heads during the week just ending. Of the seven heads collected, five were persuaded to dump their seeds by the stiff Southerly on the way into the house. Not pleased.
One of the landscape photographers whose weekly vlog I follow said this week that some weeks are flat. He doesn’t always have good weeks. I agree with him. The last two weeks have not been great but we do what we can.
The remains of tropical cyclone Dovi was battering Wellington as I began to write. Summer feels more like winter today, despite the 15°C temperature. A howling Southerly was blasting rain against the windows and the Cook Strait ferries were cancelled. Add to that the burgeoning covid numbers, and the ridiculous protest at parliament, and the world seems to have gone mad. Nevertheless, I am still taking pleasure from the small things I find nearby, and have begun getting interested in the simplicity to be found in the world around me. And everything is so much clearer after the two recent cataract procedures.
We have lived in Normandale since 1980. In all that time we have never been troubled by ants. That might be about to change. I suspect that these are not the common black ants. They are probably the invasive Argentine ants. I found them difficult to photograph. These were revealed when a small rock was turned over and they were scurrying all over, moving quickly in and out of my focus zone.
This weird alien was given to me as a possible photographic subject. I was baffled, having no idea what it was. Happily my preferred plant identification app (https://identify.plantnet.org) took a shot and suggested that it might be the seed head of a plant called Alpine avens. That ID seems unlikely since the object was found in Normandale and that is a truly alpine plant, but I am reasonably confident that it is indeed a seed head of some kind.
A buzzing noise on the front corner of the house caught the attention. It seems that the bumble bee had flown too close to the spiders web. The bee was putting up a valiant fight, trying to position its sting towards its foe. The spider however was agile and aggressive dancing all around the bee, gradually wrapping the bee in more and more silk. Eventually the bee subsided and was dragged into the spider’s lair.
Mid summer is not behaving well at all. I was in Oriental bay looking back up the harbour towards the Hutt Valley where there were heavy clouds delivering a downpour on the washing we had hung out under almost clear skies an hour earlier. When we got back to the valley everything had been thoroughly rinsed, and the drying process had to start all over.
Lovely green insect. It took me a while to get the identification but it is a Katydid. It was moving around vigorously so it spent a little time in the fridge and that slowed it down significantly. I got several shots in while she was slowed down, but the effects soon wore off and I had to turn her loose outside.
Mary has a cluster of lavender plants in a pot at the back door . I see them in various lights from dawn to dusk, and in wind sun and rain and always find them attractive. I decided to arrange a parade.
The old myth about bumble bees is that they have insufficient wing area to fly according to conventional aerodynamic theory, but since they can’t read they go ahead and fly anyway. The reality is that they flap their wings forward and backwards and generate some powerful vortices … yes I have explained it inadequately but it will do for this purpose. There have been a lot of bumble bees around recently including this one on a rose in the Wellington Botanic Garden.
While I was having a recent period of downtime from driving, a kindly neighbour gave me one of her dahlias. It seemed so perfect and so delicate that I had to give it a shot. My prior experience with dahlias is that tend to be quite heavy and substantial flowers. This one was quite translucent in the lightbox.
The local birds get well cared for with the provision of fruit and wild bird seed. however, their table manners leave a lot to be desired and a lot of the seed gets dropped. Thus we have a couple of self-sown or bird-sown sunflowers. They are not spectacular specimens but pretty enough in their own way.
l have recently started to enjoy the Japanese idea of “Wabi-Sabi” In photography terms this is usually manifested in terms of minimalist images of transience and beauty. Imperfection and decay are common themes. In this instance, I used the newly emerged branch of a maidenhair fern against a porcelain bathtub.
This little chap has spun a minimal sort of web across the mouth of a yellow plastic bucket. Unfortunately he/she is hanging beneath the web so the image is of the arachnid’s underside.
This character-filled statue of Francis of Assisi belongs to Mary. I love its gentle simplicity and thought the candles add an attractive ambience. The long exposure didn’t treat the flames kindly, but it will do for now.
I was at Seatoun Beach on my way around the peninsula when I saw two kite-surfers enjoying the stiff Nor’Wester. I was amazed at how high this young lady got when she decided to leave the water.
There was a significant pod of dolphins in Lyall Bay last week. Perps a hundred of these magnificent creatures were stirring the bay into a froth. And then out of the South nine of so dolphins came bouncing across the bay in unison and I speculate that they were herding a school of fish towards the larger part of the pod.
That will do for this week. See you next time. Don’t forget to click on the images for a larger view.
Warmest greetings to any who still read my ramblings. I am honoured and pleased that you still visit my page. There have been a few memes in circulation that bid a scornful farewell to 2021 and wish for a better year in 2022. My immediate response was “blessed are they that wish for nothing, they shall not be disappointed.”
As I enter my 78th year, I am aware that I have not done a good job of keeping fit as some my friends and colleagues of similar years have done. My fault, no one else is to blame. I hate and resent being nagged, so my nearest and dearest have backed off unless there is an immediate danger or I really annoy them. In short I take each day as it comes.
Some days I feel it’s worth getting my camera out. Other days not so much. Given the somewhat mixed weather in the last month I am starting the year with fewer images than I would usually hope to share.
Let’s see what we have.
In the days before Christmas, Mary was very busy baking for family, friends and neighbours. She does superb shortbread, both plain and with ginger. She also does excellent ginger biscuits (in the British use of the word). On one of those wet days back then, her baking served as a substitute subject for my camera. They tasted as good as they looked, though I risked life and limb getting in the way of the baker.
This has been a strange approximation of summer, and on many days only the numbers on the calendar looked like summer. If we get serious wind for several days, then the ocean swells become worth a look. In this instance the view is across the harbour entrance
Transmission Gully has been almost ready, it seems forever. It is still almost ready, and the current narrative is that it is stalled while issues with stormwater drains are resolved. I suspect that we may be able to drive on it by Easter or perhaps mid-year. In case you are away from home, Transmission Gully runs from just North of Paekakariki, up through the hills behind Battle Hill Farm Park and down to Pauatahanui Village where there is an exit that joins the Haywards Hill road to get to the Hutt Valley, or continues on behind Porirua to rejoin the old SH1 at Tawa.
I have recently become fascinated by the many tiny but beautiful flowers/weeds that grow around home. This particular pest is called Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris) … lawn enthusiasts hate it. When you get close, it is quite pretty. We have deduced that the birds are at fault. They spill the seeds that Mary puts out to encourage their presence.
Way back in 1954 when my family first migrated to New Zealand, it was unusual to see other than British cars. There were a few American cars, the odd Ford V8, the big Chevrolets and a Chrysler or two. Europe was represented by the Volkswagen and the odd Mercedes and Citroen, but the very idea of a Japanese car was completely novel. Most private cars were British. There were Austin, Morris, Hillman, Humber, Vauxhall, Riley, Wolseley, Jaguar, Armstrong Siddley, Allard, Bristol, Ford, Land Rover and so on. This weed covered wreck on the Wainuiomata coast road is a 1948 Hillman Minx. It had an 1,100cc motor and in its prime could accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in about 55 seconds. They were gentler and slower times.
A visit to our green-fingered friends in Waikanae gave me access to this beautiful wall of blue. If my identification app is correct, this is “Mealy sage”, a member of the Salvia family. I like blocks of solid colour.
My gifted assistant (Mary) found this snail at the door. We placed it on a lettuce leaf which may not have been to its taste, because it immediately began to leave. Not sure what it would have preferred. Sadly it kept moving, waving its various stalks so it was hard to get everything sharp.
Just as the shape of cars has evolved, so too have styles in marine architecture. I mourn the disappearance of the beautiful curving sheer lines on big ships, and the disappearance of the graceful curves on pleasure craft. This sad old yacht in the Clyde Quay marina looks long neglected. On the other hand, with a good suit of sails she would still look like a racer.
A near calm day at the West Wind wind farm saw the turbine blades just ticking over, and probably not generating any useful output. I decided not to make a single long exposure, but rather to make several exposures with the blades in different parts of their cycle. I then merged them at home. The result is not perfect but at least interesting.
That’s all for the first post of the year. A nice slow start as in times gone by. Constructive feedback is always welcome. As always thanks for being with me, and I wish you all the happiest of new years.
Another year reaches a conclusion, and what a year it has been for the world, and for our country, for my family and for me. Despite the fact that I try to live with hope in my heart, I look forward to 2022 with trepidation. On the personal front, I seem to crumbling at the edges. As well as the cataract, I have now been fitted with hearing aids, and hope to become accustomed to them. Then, following some sort of event that resulted in double vision, vertigo and nausea (unconnected with the cataract procedure), I ended up in hospital for a couple of nights undergoing a CT scan and MRI. No clear causes identified, but nothing sinister found. And thank heavens for free public health care which was superb for me. Nevertheless, with the vertigo and visual disturbances, my doctors say I am not permitted to drive for four weeks. Grrr.
Christmas has passed and family is scattered in Melbourne, Brisbane, Queenstown and Gisborne. Happily youngest son Anthony,, his wife Sarah and our lovely grandkids Maggie and Jack are at home nearby, so we spent some of our Christmas with them. OK, enough with the babble, what images did I get this round?
Fine days have been rare in recent times, so when one occurs, I select from one of my preferred locations. On this occasion , it was Hokio Beach (again). Since the whitebait season is ended, it was peaceful with no whitebaiters to deter the bird life. In fact, we had the beach entirely to ourselves. Mary went for a walk along the beach to the South while I lay back on the water’s edge and waited. In just a few minutes, I was blessed with a visit from one of my favourite birds, the black-fronted dotterel. These tiny creatures move very quickly and their legs are almost invisible in motion. They appear to hover across the sand and water. Just beautiful.
Also present at Hokio were the bar-tailed godwits, champions of long distance flight. They fly to tidal estuaries in New Zealand from Western Alaska in epic non-stop flights lasting 8 to 9 days. Barring the great albatrosses, they are the olympic athletes of the bird world. And they are handsome birds, aren’t they?
It was a great trip. Dotterels, godwits and even dabchicks. In this visit, the chicks have grown too big to be carried around on the parent’s back any longer. In fact they seem even bigger than the parents now, Nevertheless, they are still dependent on the parents for food. As always, the water in the Wetlands at Queen Elizabeth Park is reasonably sheltered and echoes the deep green of the surrounding bush.
On another damp but windless day, Mary drove me up to the regional waterworks at Kaitoke. I was delighted to spot a small cluster of female Californian quails browsing in the lawns there beside the road. The males are more spectacular, I suppose, but the females as seen here are beautiful in their own way.
Stick insects are always problematic for me. They are interesting but very hard to make an attractive image with. They seem to need a context, so in this case it was moving slowly among the flax and lavender at the back door. It’s the first time I have seen a stick insect with a face.
It drives me nuts that, every year, the mainstream media are surprised to discover the existence of Metrosideros excelsa aurea. Breathless headlines about “rare yellow pohutukawa” appear without regard that they used the same story last year and the one before that. To be fair, I probably make the same complaint about them each year too. The yellow variety is definitely less common than the more familia crimson variety, but I think they are far from rare. There are plenty of very fine yellow specimens in the Wellington region.
This little Hebe moth is, like many others quite spectacular when up close. Mary drew it to my attention on our stairwell, so I switched to my trusty macro lens and got really close. Do click on the image to see it in the larger version. It reminds me of some of the more spectacular weaving that I have seen, though I think it would be a talented weaver indeed who could produce work as beautiful as this.
Like the pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) , the rata (Metrosideros robusta) is a member of the myrtle family and of the genus metrosideros. The flowers are, to my eye, indistinguishable from those of the pohutukawa. If you get close, the leaves of the pohutukawa are larger and a darker green, and have small hairs on the underside. Rata leaves are smaller, glossy on both sides and have a notch on the tip. A good friend alerted me to the spectacular colours of the rata trees in bloom in the rain up at Kaitoke. He was right.
Most people think of somewhere else when Waterloo Station is mentioned. Our local version would probably fit in the cafeteria of the other one. Nevertheless, it is a locally important interchange between the Upper Hutt/Wairarapa railway line and the Hutt Valley bus services. The wind-shelters in the station are an interesting and necessary feature. As I said before, I am not permitted to drive until early January so I decided to use public transport and roam around the region by train and bus for the day.
On arrival at Wellington railway station, I made this image. It occurred to me that not much has changed since the first time I passed through here in February 1954. Well, there are no steam locomotives, and the electric units have advanced through two generations. And then there are the face masks, and the cell phones. And the women wear trousers and the men don’t wear hats. No-one is smoking. Apart from that, nothing much is different
Part of my day wandering the region by public transport was to take a trip from the railway station to Island Bay by double-decker bus. Like the schoolboy I sometimes am, I grabbed the front row seat on the top deck, and enjoyed the different perspective from up there. A feature of the city at this time of year is the proliferation of pohutukawa trees in magnificent bloom. This specimen is about midway along Kent Terrace.
On my return from the Southern suburbs, I decided to take the train out to Upper Hutt and thence back to Petone Station from where I would catch a bus back up the hill to home. This was all for the pleasure of riding the rails and seeing our city from different points of view. I paused for a pizza lunch in the station before heading North. Since I wasn’t driving, a glass of Pinhead Supercharger IPA helped that go down.
Through the train windowI was intrigued by the extent of the “Bob Scott Retirement Village”. This was built on the site which was once Hutt Valley Memorial College and before that Petone Technical College. In its latter days as it was rotting, graffitied and increasingly vandalised, it suffered an arson attack and was totally destroyed. It has taken several years but the retirement village that stands in its place is now complete. Despite its somewhat forbidding appearance, I know many people who enjoy living there, and liken it to living on a cruise liner. I am happy for them, but the lifestyle does not appeal to me.
I am very blessed that Mary works so hard to compensate for my driving prohibition and she made a picnic lunch and drove us over the hill to Lake Wairarapa. We also visited Boggy Pond and had our lunch on the shores of Lake Onoke at Lake Ferry.
Time was when the trip over the hill was a long and arduous journey, especially with kids in the car. Now you wonder why it was such a big deal back then. Heck there was even a greasy spoon cafe at the summit to break the journey. Obviously the places have not got closer together, but modern cars are more powerful, more comfortable and more reliable. The journey from Te Marua to Featherston is a mere 25 minutes. My favourite spot is a corner just to the North of bridge number 6 where there is a bank of trees down a steep ridge. There is no footpath and no safe space to stop to get my desired view. This shot is not what I desired. I should have waited until we got to where that next car ahead is, but it will do as a grab shot. As a passenger I can stick the camera out the window and point it in the right direction.
That is my last blog post for the year. I hope the festive season treated you kindly and you all had a great time. For any who are locked down or constrained by Covid, my sympathies. I look forward to your company in 2022. I enjoyed a cartoon I saw (but can’t find) which depicts the occupiers of 2021 cowering behind a corner in a dark corridor, reaching out tentatively with a very long pole to nudge open the door to 2022. I would like to hope for a much better year than this has been for the world, and I wish all the very best for the new year to all those who share my journey in this blog. Thank you for being with me and for the kind words from so many of you.
What kind of photographer am I? I don’t think it matters. Looking at the images I offer in this edition it is clear that my preferred subject matter is whatever I happened to belooking at when I pressed the shutter release. What is less clear, is why. My current thought is that what I am doing is enjoying the process of crafting a pleasing and/or interesting image based on whatever I was looking at when I pressed the shutter release. I scanned the candidates for inclusion in this edition and deleted two because they were less pleasing and/or interesting. Perhaps I can intensify this process.
Placid water is magnetic as far as I am concerned. It grieves me that there are so many wonderful but inaccessible viewpoints on the Hutt Road which would provide magical views. Sadly the police would take a dim view if I stopped there to make the picture. So I occasionally pop into the car park at the InterIslander ferry terminal and walk along the footpath by the loading area to get the view. The ferry Kaiarahi has been laid up since about September and will be for several more months with gearbox issues.
I love the elegant lines of classic yachts. Combine them with a glassy calm harbour and I can’t go past it. There is some debate as to whether clear blue skies make for a good picture. I prefer some cloud interest.
At breakfast, I glanced out the window and spotted the small birds lining up on the kowhai tree for access to the feeder that Mary keeps filled. Since I was eating alone, my camera joined me at the table, literally. Among the horde of passerines, these four waxeyes provided a lovely opportunity with the sun glinting off the Japanese Maple in the background.
One morning starts with sunshine, and the next dawns wet. I love the way the rain beads on the maple leaves, but I have to try various angles to see the droplets clearly.
There are some nice viewpoints on the winding roads in Wadestown. This one is above the long disused Kaiwharawhara station. I made a deliberate slow exposure (1.3 seconds) to capture the sense of rush as traffic enters and leaves Wellington.
At this time of year, the roadsides are alive with wildflowers as well as domestic flowers deliberately set loose. These cinerarias present a fine display
At Whairepo lagoon (known to some as the Star Boating Club Lagoon), a female mallard was surrounded by a cluster of ten ducklings. I got too close so they set out across the lagoon in line astern. I was terrified that with the various predators underwater the ducklings would disappear one by one. Happily the convoy crossed the lagoon intact.
It intrigues me that so many of the flowers in Wellington at this season seem to be a shade of purple. Further investigation shows many of them to be South African in origin. I am convinced that there is an orchestrated plan by one or more homesick expatriates to spread them. They are pretty enough, but rend to aggressively displace the natives.
Apologies to any arachnophobes. Mary found this tiny fellow on some flax flowers . With the help of the NZ Bug Identification group on Facebook, we learned that it is a flower crab spider. I love the bright yellow translucence.
I mentioned recently that the Oriental Bay Beach is regularly refreshed with sand shipped inform Golden Bay to replace that swept out to see by the harbour currentsA digger and a dump truck spent about a week dispersing the new sand along the beaches on either side of the rotunda. I assume that after wading through a metre or so of salt water the truck gets a thorough wash down.
Is it a cliché? Probably. Do I like it? Yes. So what’s the argument?Mana Marina, like most such places gives limited access to the viewpoints on the harbour. There was a time when anyone could stroll along the pontoons. Now, you need to know the pass code to open the gate to each wharf. I suppose if I had heaps of money invested in one of these floating palaces I would want to protect it from risk.
On the notoriously narrow and winding Akatarawa road that runs across the rugged hills between Upper Hutt and Waikanaethere is a sign that points to the Jock Atkins Waterfall.This pretty but somewhat trivial fall is named for Jock Atkins, a roadman who worked on this road for 50 years keeping it open with never a sick day. He rode the length of the road with his shovel, clearing the frequent minor slips. He died in 1997 aged 88.
I love it that Mary finds treasures on her frequent walks and brings them home for me to photograph. This was the holdfast of a clump of seaweed from Petone Beach. Look at the colours and textures. Nature is surely the master weaver.
As with the little yellow spider, this too is small, perhaps 20 mm in span. When you get close to see the hooked jaws (chelicerae) he looks fierce. It can give a painful bite but is rarely a threat to humans.