One of the characteristics of the present day, is the vast and formless pool of expertise available on almost any topic imaginable. Photography is no different, and in my preferred genres of landscape and nature, there are many people offering to accompany me to Iceland or to South Georgia or wherever, and to teach me all they know in exchange for some eye-watering sums of money. Sadly, my aforementioned eye-watering sum just went to the coffers of the service department of my car dealer for a replacement engine after the disaster that befell me in the Wairarapa as described in the last edition. I have the car back now and life will necessarily resume without the personal intervention of any of these experts. On the other hand, even if I had not had the breakdown, I would have put the money to better use.
Meanwhile, during the last week, I got out and about. In all our years in Wellington, Mary and I had never spent any time in the Battle Hill Farm Park which is on the Paekakariki Hill Road. On the day we visited, there was a pony club enjoying a bit of a trek, and one rider cantering about jumping obstacles.
The Eastern Hills of the Hutt Valley seem to provide the perfect barrier on which the Nor’Westerly winds form lenticular clouds.
A still day in the city and I wandered around Taranaki St and spotted the Carillon reflected in the window of a small commercial building.
Just around the corner from there is the most recent war memorial art work. It was commissioned by the British Government from Weta Workshops and apparently represents the mingling of the oak and the pohutukawa trees.
For a few days we had some stillness and this image was taken near Paekakariki looking towards Kapiti Island
And then we had a couple of days of solid fog, and the airport was shut down. I like these days for the mysterious views the offer. In this case, from a promontory in Maungaraki looking towards Karori the fog was coming and going
There was a dinner in town for my friend, PhD supervisor and former colleague, Emeritus Professor Pak Yoong to mark the occasion of his retirement. Several of us who were successfully navigated by him to our doctorates gathered to honour his dedication to our success. It was a delightful occasion.
As always, I arrived early, so to fill in time went up to Kelburn and made some landscape shots from the top of the cable car. This image is looking up the harbour to the Hutt Valley. My home is just around the corner of the hill on the left.
On Saturday, for the fourth year in a row, I was the leader of the Wellington Worldwide Photowalk. Each year, up to 50 photographic walkers in any one location gather and walk for somewhere between one and two hours around a route planned by the leader, making images and enjoying each other’s company. We usually conclude our efforts in a hostelry and share the successes and failures of the walk. This year, the numbers were down with just 18 registered, but those of us ho walked, despite grey and damp weather had a good time anyway. One of my shots, taken at the starting point on Abel Smith St, was of a bus that has been converted to a coffee shop.
The customer seating inside the fence is just as quirky as the bus.
From there, we walked along to the national war memorial at Pukeahu Park on Buckle St. I had timed this walk to be close to sunset, knowing that this was the first weekend of Daylight Saving Time, and anticipating warm sunshine and interesting shadows. Sadly, the strongest colour came from the red stone of the Australian contribution to the memorial. It had rained before we started and again, heavily after we finished, so I suppose we should count ourselves lucky.
The greyness continued for a few more days , and I decided to try the new adapter I had acquired to allow me to use my ND filters on my wide angle lens. As you can see, I wasn’t kidding about the grey.
A visit was made to Queen Elizabeth II Park, on the Kapiti coast, in the hope of finding dabchick chicks. I found dabchicks and a few ducklings but no chicks.I did get a slightly different view of the memorial to the United States Marines, in honour of the 15,000 or so young men who camped and trained here before setting out to fight and in many cases die, in the famous battles of the Pacific War. This particular memorial is n the form of profiles representing the little huts that typified the camps.
A train bound for Waikanae held up the exit from the park. The track curves, here, so be assured I was taking no foolish risks. Look closely at the waves in the tracks. I saw a similar perspective in a shot of a high speed train in Germany recently and was struck by the absolute precision of their tracks. A fast train would go airborne on this kind of engineering.
Oh my goodness! I am embarrassed that I let more than two weeks slide by without posting, and I am now determined to get back on a regular schedule of publication. I aim to publish weekly on Wednesdays hereafter. However, to catch up, there are thirteen images today. I hope you like them.
Meanwhile, I have been out there enjoying myself enormously with the camera. While I am the staunchest defender of Wellington, it does have a slight reputation for occasionally elevated levels of breeziness. Well for almost two weeks now, there has been no significant wind, and for days on end, the sea has been flat calm. I know that, regardless of early cloud, it’s going to be a good day when it starts with slowly drifting mist in the upper valley.
If you have been with me for more than a month or two, you know that I am a sucker for mirror-calm water. This has made the local marina almost a second home in recent weeks.
No matter how often I go, I seem to find a new angle, and I loved the simplicity of the Southern part of the enclosed area.
The tanker in the preceding image departed a few minutes later and as I was driving along the esplanade I saw the port’s two tugs bustling (why do tugs always “bustle”?) back towards their base. Note that we are seeing them across the broad expanse of the harbour, and note that the water is flat.
Some days later, I was wandering on a wharf near the operating base of the tugs and pilot boats, when my attention was again caught by the surface of the water in the basin. The NZ Post Headquarters building was interestingly reflected in the slow syrupy slop.
Back at Seaview, I was looking for images to be part of a new project so the continued stillness was a joy.
A yacht returning to base under power created scarcely a ripple as she approached her berth, and the low cloud in the background obscured the Western hills, adding to the nice mood of the image.
I am soon to lead a photographic walkabout in Wellington, and was walking around the route when I spotted a lovely magnolia tree showing off. Magnolias almost always have inconvenient branches that impede a clear view of those lovely flowers. I was forced to overcome my fear of heights and to climb up on a precarious perch to get a clear view.
A few days ago, Mary and I chose to drive up to see if the dabchicks at Queen Elizabeth Park. At the approach to Paekakariki, an unmistakable plume of smoke suggested that one of the steam locomotives there was being fired up. Sure enough, the mighty Ja1271 was being readied for its annual boiler test, prior to running the Daffodil Express to Carterton on September 11, a few weeks from now.
I have never hidden my geekiness, and I love engineering in all its forms. The latter days of steam are particularly interesting to me, and the Ja class locomotives are a fine example of the era.
Moving on to the wetlands at QEII park, my hopes or chicks were not realised. However, there was a dabchick lurking under some overhanging flax and clearly trying to avoid discovery, so I shall visit again in the near future.
Mary and I enjoyed a stroll around the wetlands loop and heard a huge variety of birdsong. Most things moved too quickly for me, but one small fantail obliged with a pose on a nearby branch.
My last piece of overcompensation in this extended issue is back at Seaview Marina where, from time to time, a group called “Sailability” provide sail training or perhaps just the enjoyment of sailing to people with different abilities. The marina seemed flat calm, but there was sufficient light air to fill the sails and move the brightly coloured yachts around.
Clearly the ad hoc approach to publishing doesn’t work for me, so I have set up a reminder to publish each Wednesday until further notice.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A fine morning in the Hutt Valley suggested a trip further afield.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Sunshine, as I have observed previously lifts the spirit and fills the soul with hope. Various possibilities on the Kapiti Coast came to mind, so I set out mid-morning, and, as usual, passed through Motukaraka Point at Pauatahanui. There were kingfishers, and the water was still, though the tide was further away that I might have liked. Nevertheless still water is more forgiving to photographers than a choppy surface, and this kingfisher flying back to its branch was better than I hoped for.
As I passed through Paekakariki, I spotted a plume of smoke at the north end of the locomotive shed. I noticed that Ab608 (Passchendaele) was out of the shed. I stopped and discovered that the smoke was not from the locomotive but rather from a heater in the shed. There was a lot of dust around Ab608 and I heard shovelling and the sound of ashes falling to the track underneath the locomotive. Some poor soul was inside the firebox scraping out the clinker. Anyway I think she is a thing of beauty.
I peered inside the shed, and lurking behind the Da diesel locomotive currently under restoration, was the sad shell of the once mighty Ka945, waiting its turn at the front of the queue. I know that Steam Inc work mightily and often literally, on the smell of the proverbial oily rag (I used the world “literally” quite deliberately. You are unlikely to find more oily rags anywhere than in a locomotive shed). I hope the funding and the volunteers are found.
On a completely different topic, I visited a good friend in Waikanae who grows, among other things, the Nepenthes plant. Also known as the pitcher plant, it is one of the carnivorous plants that entices insects into its large cup and once they enter, there is no going back.
The heated shed in which they are grown is a very crowded space and it was something of a struggle to manoeuvre the camera on its tripod into the right place to get the most useful angles, and to avoid the background clutter. I had to ask for a stool to get high enough to look down on this plant which had managed to acquire four or perhaps five ants. Fascinating though they may be, I have mixed feelings about them.
Some people never grow out of their childhood fantasies.
So it was that when I was driving past Paekakariki yesterday and I saw the steam locomotive Ja 1271 sitting outside, I had to stop. She was cold and there was a weather shield on top of the smokestack. Hmmm … something must be taking priority in the limited shed space.
But first I had to look in the footplate. The firebox doors were wide open and all the dials were on zero. The footplate was tidy but not spotless … there are some little pieces of coal and a spanner on the floor.
So what was inside the shed? It was the Ab class locomotive, Ab 608, the one named Passchendaele, that proudly carried the commemorative plaques on each side of its boiler in memory of the railwaymen who died in the battlefields of World War 1. She has just emerged from a major rebuild.
She is a Pacific class locomotive, a handsome example of her type though when she is in the shed it is difficult to get a view that catches the characteristic wheel arrangement. She has undergone an amazing back-to-basics rebuild and two weeks hence will pull a train up the line on a shake-down cruise.
It will be good to see all those driving rods and valve-gear whirling about once more.