Birds Evans Bay Geology Haywards Hill Hokio Beach Kapiti Island Landscapes mountains Pukerua Bay Reflections Rivers Sunset Waves Weather Wellington

June 7, 2019 … thanks for your many kindnesses

Since I last wrote, the region has had more than its fair share of wild and downright ugly days. If I were a depressive personality this would be getting me down. Happily, I can sometimes use the bad days to my advantage. And in any case, many of you have sent me kind and affirming messages which have been balm to my soul. Thank you to those kind people who take the trouble to send messages.

A month or so ago, WordPress changed their default editor, and I didn’t notice that images no longer provided a “click-to-enlarge”. I have corrected that as of this issue and may eventually get back to the issues that were affected. Please do click for a much bigger image

A Little shag (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos) flying in close formation with its reflection at Pauatahanui

When I look up from my keyboard and notice that the trees outside are not moving, I check on the other side of the house for confirmation, and unless domestic courtesies require otherwise, head for the nearest body of water likely to deliver attractive reflections. On this occasion, I went to the Pauatahanui Inlet where the bright blue sky and the gold reeds provided a nice contrast with the Little Shag. “Little” is not a casual adjective here. That is the formal name of the species, as distinct from the Little Black, the Pied, the Spotted and about half a dozen more common types in New Zealand.

Reflections don’t always depend on still water. This architectural study is on The Terrace

Very occasionally I will turn my attention to the structure of the city. I have probably commented before that, for a seismically risky city, Wellington has a large number of buildings with glass curtain frontages. Leaving aside the question of what happens when the earth moves, these buildings present some nice reflections. In this case, the building at 155 the Terrace is reflected from a tower block down on Lambton Quay. I took care to line the framework as well as possible, and cropped and trimmed the last bit in the computer.

It takes sustained high wind to generate lenticular clouds of this magnitude

On the Haywards Hill one evening two weeks ago, I just had to pull over to the side of the road to catch this spectacular formation. I was on my way to act as judge for another camera club’s competition, otherwise I might have lingered longer to catch the brilliant orange colour which came with the setting sun. Dozens of my photographic friends produced stunning images of this event.

Pukerua Bay Lookout offers a fine view towards Kapiti and then a challenge to get back into the North-bound traffic

Mary and I were driving to Waikanae the next day to enjoy lunch with some friends of very long standing. Despite the clear blue sky and the glitter on the water, the thing that caused me to stop at the Pukerua Bay lookout was the impression of relentless power from the waves being driven in from the Tasman by that strong Nor’Wester. The other thing that lookout offers is the challenge of forcing your way back into the North-bound traffic.

Williwaws swirling up Evans Bay

The wind did not abate, and if anything it started to get serious. According to the TV news, it peaked at 121 km/h the next day. I went looking for waves, but found little of interest. That proves that I was not looking clearly because some of my friends produced some great wave shots. However, the wind coming into Evans Bay after its journey across the harbour produced some interesting effects. The swirling williwaws lifted their spouts a hundred metres or more from the surface, and I had to work hard to keep my lens dry. I loved the dark sky over the Western hills.

Downtown glassware

I know that modern architects work really hard to ensure that all the bits of the building remain attached even when the earth moves. Nevertheless, recent demolitions pursuant to the Kaikoura earthquake (14 November 2016) tend to suggest that there are some factors that even the best of them didn’t think of. I love the shapes, colours and textures of a modern cityscape. On the other hand I see hundreds of tonnes of sheeet glass seemingly just hanging on the outside of the building, and I imagine it falling as a huge guillotine. As long as the fixing methods perform as expected I am happy.

Wellingtons winds suck and blow North West then Southerly, most of the time.

If we are lucky, after we have endured a few days of sustained wind, we get a break for a day or two before it all comes roaring back in the other direction. I like the Southerlies for the spectacular waves they deliver on the coast between the harbour entrance and Owhiro Bay. Jagged rocks which are typical of our Southern shoreline help to break the incoming waves and sometimes create astonishing explosions of water. A technique advocated by one of my photographic idols is to be deliberate about the tonal relationships between various elements of the image. Notice the clarity of the rocks and the successive reduction in tonal intensity as we progress to the mountains across the strait.

Pied stilt – Pauatahanui Inlet

And just like that, the new day dawns still and golden. Mary recognises the signs and packs a lunch for me to take on my wandering. I know how lucky I am. Unlike the preceding image, this one presents a clear sharp day and a relatively short distance between near and far, so the tonal range need not be an issue. I really love the golden tones of the reeds at Pauatahanui and the comparison with the formal attire worn by the stilt/.

It has been a long time between kingfishers

One of my photographic friends tells me I lack the patience to be a real bird photographer. She is probably right, and she has it in abundance. On the other hand, I get lucky now and then. Just below the big tree that most of my birding friends know, I spotted this sacred kingfisher hovering for a moment before it dived. In my experience they rarely signal their intentions so I was lucky to have time to point the lens at the ring of water. A moment or so later and it emerged, but without the crab that I assume it was seeking. A real bird photographer would have been lined up before it hit the water and made a dozen images with the shutter set fast enough to freeze the wings. Even so, I like the image. The bird’s eye is sharp and much can be forgiven if you achieve that.

Mighty mountains across the strait

A few consecutive days of stillness are a joy. Not all still days are equal. As I headed to Lyall Bay, the weather was overcast and the light was flat. I drove around the coast towards Owhiro bay and got a suddenly clear view of the great peaks of the inland Kaikoura range. And there’s that tonal range problem again. The mountains were startling in their clarity considering that they are over 120 km distant. I hoped the cloud would clear itself from the peak of Tapuae-o-Uenuku but took the shot while it was there. The typically red rocks of Wellington’s South Coast provide a lovely foreground.

The only constant is change

Drizzle and streamers of mist are not necessarily a disaster in my opinion. I drove down the Wainuiomata coast road and back up again. These receding hills caught my eye. A friend said he wanted to cut along the dotted line. I suspect he is referring to the row of bee hives beneath the nearest tree.

Some real rarities

Another packed lunch day developed and I was motivated to go to Hokio beach on the West coast just South of Levin. To my great joy when I parked for lunch on the estuary of the Hokio Stream, I found a patch of relatively still water and there scurrying back and forth, were a lot of black-fronted dotterels. I love the dotterels for their delicate beauty and the black-fronted variety is especially attractive to my eye. In the picture above, the bird at the back is a banded dotterel which seems to a little bigger than its cousins. I counted ten of them all racing around pecking at some food source in the sand. They it worth the journey.

That’s sufficient till I gather more images. I hope you got some pleasure from my random wanderings and as always, if you have constructive criticism please let me know.

Airport Animals Birds Kapiti Island Landscapes Light Pukerua Bay Railway Sunset Weather

November 25, 2017 … it has been a crazy busy month

As you might have noticed, my busy-ness did not extend to keeping up with the blog for quite a while. Both Mary and I have had dealings with the heath system (good outcomes all round, we think). And then there is the business of selling the house. We have been packing, discarding, giving away, and all the while, trying to retain a semblance of tidiness for the recurring “open homes” that our real estate agent has been running. This too, shall pass. Christmas is looming with just one month to go. But every now and then, I have managed to get out and make images.

This is Mokopuna, the small island at the North end of Matiu/Somes in Wellington harbour. It was on this island that a Chinese immigrant who was wrongly suspected of having leprosy was quarantined, and where he died.

I like stillness. When the sun comes through the curtains in the morning, my heart lifts. When I draw the curtains back and see that the leaves on the flax bush are perfectly still, my heart soars and I know that I must go. Sadly there have been few such days in the last month, though some days were better than others.

The Western sky near Wellington Airport

During the month we have had some spectacular colour in the evening sky, though I suspect that is often attributable to the amount of wind-blown sea salt in the air.

Heroes, firefighters, extreme walkers arrive at the Westpac Stadium after walking 170 km from Palmerston North to raise funds for MND

Annually, the Motor Neuron Disease Association (US = Lou Gehrig’s Disease or ALS) conducts fund-raising activities. Mary is involved on the local committee so I got roped in to make images of the proceedings. Most striking event of the day for me were the five extreme walkers of the New Zealand Fire Service who had walked the entire distance from Palmerston North , 170 km, in full fire-fighting gear with breathing apparatus in return for sponsorship.

Commuter trains get little usage in the weekends

While I was at the stadium, I was struck by the patterns on the roof lines of rows of electric commuter trains at rest over the weekend.

Kapiti Island as seen from Pukerua Bay

And then we had some real Wellington weather, of the kind on which Wellington can’t be beaten. This shot was made at Pukerua Bay, and yes, that is the stormy Tasman sea at its benign best. Kapiti is the island in the distance.

Pied shag drying its wings at Pukerua Bay

If you look closely at the rock in front of the right hand (Northern) end of the island you will notice a shag drying its wings.  I decided to look more closely.

Jeremiah was a bullfrog …

From there I went to Queen Elizabeth Park just North of Paekakariki, and there, the wetland area was just alive with the call of frogs who have not yet discovered Tinder. I’d like you to meet Jeremiah. He’s a very good friend of mine


Adventure Birds Cook Strait Kapiti Island Landscapes Maritime Paekakariki Paremata Pauatahanui Porirua Pukerua Bay Waves Weather

April 11, 2016 … filling in time

Reading is dangerous. It fills your head with strange ideas. Likewise, listening to people whose photography you admire is disruptive. I am becoming accustomed to not feeling guilty if a day or three go by with no images made. On the other hand, I am much harder on myself if I tolerate mediocrity in the images I decide to keep. By this time last year, I had almost 5,000 images. This year to date, I have 1,061, and that is a massive drop. I am trying harder to see images that are worth taking, and to walk away if there is nothing there.

Admittedly a surplus of black swans, but I also see Caspian terns, royal spoonbills, pied stilts, masked lapwings, shags, ducks and gulls

I still love photographing birds, but lack the patience of some of my birding friends who will lie on the belly in mud and shells for hours trying to sneak up on rare birds in their nest. For my part, I tend to arrive at a location, and shoot what I can see, from where I can see it. Naturally that process is a lottery. When I arrived at Pauatahanui on Saturday, I thought I had won the big one. I have never seen so many waterfowl there before.

Hasty dispersal – they were having a stilted conversation anyway.

A significant gathering of pied stilts at the pond looked like a group of men dressed for a white-tie dinner and they seemed to spend a lot of time admiring their own reflections. A passing jogger on the walkway caused them to scatter.

Many a homesick South Islander has stood on this beach and gazed across to the hills of the Marlborough Sounds

The next day Mary wanted to do the new 10 km walkway that runs along the steep escarpment from Paekakariki to Pukerua Bay. It is advertised as a four-hour walk across some steep and narrow tracks with 490 steps and a couple of wire swing bridges. The brochure says “not for those who suffer vertigo or fear heights”. I drove Mary to the beginning of the track and agreed to be close to the other end three hours later, so I was free to wander. I began under a sullen sky at Paekakariki Beach, looking across the calm Strait to the South Island.

Kapiti Island looking dark and moody in the distance

From the same spot, with a 90 degree swing to the right, there was a nice view of Kapiti Island. That little spot on the water near the Northern (right) end of the island is a man on a stand-up paddle board.

Kate and friend
Long term residents at their moorings in Ivey Bay. The white spots are bubbles emerging from crab holes as the unusually high tide flows quietly across the sand

From there, hoping to find a post office open at Porirua, I went South. On the way I paused at Paremata where an extraordinarily high tide put the idea in my head that I should get the camera as close to water level as possible for a different view of an often seen subject.

A splash of red is always welcome

The camera was sitting on a miniature tripod with its feet in the water, and I was operating it remotely through my mobile phone. At that moment I spotted a man in a bright red kayak paddling across my field of view. In the few seconds I had, all I could control was the focus so I tapped the screen to focus on him and took the shot and he was gone.


I got to Porirua where the post office was shut. A shag which my birding friends agree to be an immature pied shag was sitting on a stick  in the harbour reflecting on life on a calm day.

And then it was time to head back towards Pukerua bay where I thought to browse through the splendid Archway Books for an hour or so. I just pulled up and heard my name called as she walked up the hill having completed the “four-hour traverse” in 2:45:00. Crazy woman. I never even got into the bookshop. But, having just celebrated our 46th anniversary, I remain fiercely proud of her.

adversity Cook Strait flowers Kapiti Coast Kapiti Island Landscapes Paekakariki

October 15, 2015 … up the coast

A fine morning in the Hutt Valley suggested a trip further afield.

The lesser periwinkle at the roadside.

It’s a while since I traversed the Paekakariki Hill Road, so that’s the way I went. I was just a little past Pauatahanui when I saw the bright blue of the Lesser Periwinkle (Vinca minor).

Landscape – Battle Hill Farm Park

Just up the road from there is the Battle Hill Farm Park. Much of it is currently closed since it is a working farm and it is currently lambing season.  Despite that, I could get far enough in to enjoy the landscape.

The Kapiti Coast and Kapiti Island from the Paekakariki Hill lookout

Then it was up the narrow winding road to the lookout above Paekakariki. As I said, it was fine in the Hutt Valley, but as I went North the cloud cover increased. Generally, clear skies and warm sunshine engender a sense of well-being. Some photographers prefer cloudy skies as offering more interesting images. Personally, I lean towards the blue sky and warmth. Despite the increasing cloud, the sea was almost flat calm and Kapiti Island was looking nice despite the mist wreathing its summit. Paekakariki township is at the foot of this hill, and Paraparaumu is at the top of the picture.  It is a matter of great distress to me that the bush on he hills is used by some as a rubbish dump. A washing machine tipped over the steep edge to land in the trees below is simple laziness and contempt for our beautiful country.

Kapiti Island was the lair of the famous Maori chief Te Rauparaha who with his warriors paddled across to the mainland to attack whoever he was fighting at the time.

Down at the coast line there is a better indication of just how calm the normally unruly Tasman Sea was.  Instead of the normal tumbling surf, gentle waves lapped at the foot of the sea wall.

OK, I am up to date again, so that will do for now.


flowers Kapiti Island Landscapes Maritime Plant life Pukerua Bay Seasons Weather

June 5, 2015 … wrapping up for winter

Until now, the transition has been gradual, almost teasing.

The suddenness with which the leaves were dumped was amazing. All too soon that glorious colour will be just brown earth.

But now, without a doubt, it is winter. We shall still enjoy the occasional calm sunny days as often as  they may occur, but the new ordinary for the months to come is cold, wet, grey  and windy. As I was setting out in search of yesterday’s image, I was stopped at the front steps by the dramatic change in our little Japanese Maple tree. Overnight, two-thirds of its red autumnal leaves just jumped overboard. By the end of the week, it will be bare, and just the decaying leaves on the ground will remind us of the season ended.

Winter light at Kapiti

I prowled to the West and the North, looking but not seeing, and after an unproductive diversion through Plimmerton and up the winding bush-clad Airlie Rd, found myself close to Pukerua Bay. I decided if I found nothing there, I would return home. At the top of the steep road down to the beach, I saw something in the bleak seascape towards Kapiti Island. I had to push hard against the wind to open the car door, and to stand behind the car for some partial shelter from the buffeting. Gleaming sunlight on a sullen sea with the island almost disappearing in the salt haze all said something to me.

Take me to your leader … an alien emerges from the sea

Back in the warmth of the car, I carried on down to the beach road. It’s a quirky little community, not unlike Makara, with houses in various states of upkeep, and often decorated with things cast up by the sea. It seems to be a community that rejoices in its isolation from the community at large. A somewhat sickly tree by the roadside was turned into a n art installation by careful draping with the remnants of a fishing net.

Its time has passed

An old dinghy parked on the bank by the road is slowly being absorbed into the landscape. The hole in the hull and the rot around the bow suggest that it will never float again.

Enough for now.

Cook Strait Kapiti Coast Kapiti Island Landscapes Light Paekakariki sunrise Sunset

July 6, 2014 … from sunrise to sunset

Something woke me early

Red sunrise
Crimson sky … ancient wisdom suggested bad weather … it didn’t happen

I never did find out what, but through the gap in the curtains there was an interesting colour in the Eastern sky. The spectacular cloud colours lasted a very short while, and then were gone.

Pukerua Bay
Backlit surf – Pukerua Bay

Later in the day, I went Northward, first to Pukerua Bay. It was late in the afternoon and the low sun was back-lighting the waves quite nicely.

Kapiti Coast
Looking North at Sunset

It had been a while since I ventured onto the Paekakariki Hill Road and from the lookout at the top, looked at the sweep of the waves in the bay and the shadow of Kapiti Island off the shore.

Cook Strait sunset
Across Cook Strait to the Sounds

To the South, the islands of the Marlborough Sounds were getting the mistiness of evening and the light was fading.

Last light
Good night

The sun approached the horizon, dipped, and was gone.

So am I.

adversity Birds Kapiti Island Landscapes Pukerua Bay

September 3, 2013 … a rugged coastline

Battling technical issues is not conducive to good writing or photography.

I did something weird which caused me to lose all my e-mail contacts and my archive of messages. Still working on it, so today’s post will be brief.

Pukerua Bay is a place most Wellingtonians pass though on their way into or out of the city and they never really see it. The road down to Pukerua Bay beach is steep and narrow but the visit is worth the effort. As well as splendid views across the water to Kapiti island and the Marlborough sounds, there is a high likelihood of seeing interesting seabirds.

Large rock with passage - Pukerua Bay
If the floor were not so rough, you could drive a small truck through that opening

As it happens the  seabirds were fairly ordinary  on this occasion, so my pictures relate to things observed on the walkway around the coast.  First this interesting rock with the passage through it. I like the horse that I can see in it.

Interesting structure of uncertain origin
Many a pirate ship must have been spotted from here.

A bit further on, this splendid structure of driftwood and rope catches the eye. Who built it, and why? I imagine a scout group, but perhaps just some imaginative local kids are behind the construction.

Wind-blasted trees - Pukerua Bay
The hill is directly exposed to the prevailing Nor’Wester

As the path progresses to the West, the hillside gets steeper and the vegetation on the exposed face looks ever more rugged and interesting.

Waiwhetu Stream (with duck)
Slow exposure

At the end of the day, back in the Hutt Valley, I was over on the Eastern side, and experimented a little more with that Neutral Density filter to see what I could do with some of the quieter parts of the Waiwhetu Stream

That’s it, now to try to fix my problems.

adversity Birds Kapiti Coast Kapiti Island Landscapes Light

July 23, 2013 … light in the gloom

Pffft! It was an uninspired day.

Or to remove any ambiguity, I failed to find inspiration. Famously narrow and difficult, the Akatarawa road delivered no great inspiration. A bridge well to the West of Staglands crossed a small fast flowing stream but the light was a bit leaden. A very slow exposure was the best way I could find to put some life into the image.

A rushing stream somewhere in the Akatarawas
Looking down from a road bridge

At the crest of the hill, overlooking the Tasman Sea, a pair of wood pigeons were relatively unconcerned by my presence though they did move rather ponderously into an adjacent tree.

New Zealand wood pigeons
Handsome but clumsy birds

With daylight fading and traffic increasing, I followed SH1 down to Paekakariki and then up the Paekakariki hill to the lookout at the summit. The sullen clouds added atmosphere to the shot looking up the coast to Paraparaumu and beyond. Kapiti Island sits dark and mysterious off the coast.

Kapiti and the South Taranaki Bight
Down below, the Paekakariki village

Looking Westward, I could see no trace of the south Island, but  the random spray of sunlight added interest.

Sombre clouds pierced by sunlight
Perhaps indicative of enlightenment to come

That’s it for now.

Cook Strait History Kapiti Island Landscapes Pukerua Bay

June 7, 2013 … taking the long view

Landscapes are a matter of personal taste.

Of course, the same is true for most art forms, but I find landscape photography puzzling at times. I don’t always like the images that win prizes in landscape competitions. They strike me as the visual equivalent of a Pinter play … gloomy, gritty, but talented nonetheless.

On the other hand there are stunning landscapes that lift the spirit. Sadly, none of my images today reach those lofty heights.  My start point is on Airlie Road which climbs up from the beach at Karehana Bay, in Plimmerton, and winds through the bush to emerge on SH1 near the Whenua Tapu cemetery.  From it’s high point, there is a window in the bush that gives a nice view back down the coast to Ohau Bay and the hills on the South West corner of the North Island. If you enlarge the image, you can see two or three of the wind turbines at the “West Wind” wind farm below that distant hill.

IMG_8831South from Karehana Bay
The wind was cool but it was a pleasant view

Next, I visited the beach at Pukerua Bay. It’s an interesting little suburb, especially the community down at the beach which seems to be a village all of its own. It is separated by that steep slope from the more ordinary parts of  Pukerua Bay. It must be an interesting place to be in a North-Westerly gale (note to self …. Visit there next time there is one).

On the beach at Pukerua Bay
Clouds gathering

From Pukerua Bay, the dominant feature of any landscape image has to be the brooding bulk of Kapiti island from where the wily rangatira (chieftain)  of the Ngati Toa people, Te Rauparaha staged raids on his enemies. Yesterday, the water was almost flat calm. The rocks in the foreground are more usually covered in swirling foam or even green water.

Kapiti Island from Pukerua Bay
Once a fighting fortress, now a wonderful bird sanctuary

That’s it for today