November 23, 2018 … a weird mixture

Days of alternating weather have meant different styles of photography as the week has gone by, We have had some grey misty days and a few nice days and a few that did nothing for me at all.


White-faced herons are not as glamorous as their distant cousins the white heron, but they move with the same careful elegance

On one of the calm days, I went to the estuary and watched a white-faced heron doing its slow deliberate stalking through the shallow water, pausing now and then to spear a fish or crab.


Royal spoonbills seem to sleep on one leg with their extraordinary bills tucked among the plumage on their backs

Later the same day, I spotted a small flock of royal spoonbills  all dozing on one leg while a black swan cruised among them.

Hei tiki

The hei-tiki is an ornamental pendant made by the Maori. This is not one, but the similarity is there.

As I was climbing out of the estuary basin, I spotted something half-buried in the sand. My first thought was that I had found an intricately carved wooden hei-tiki, I was only mildly disappointed to discover that it was just a piece of driftwood, shaped by long immersion in the ever-moving sand.


Looking down the Hutt River from home with the Eastern hills getting a good soak

A few nights ago, as the sun was setting, there was a heavy rain cloud moving down the Eastern side of the valley. The combination of clear sky in the west and heavy cloud in the East produced some interesting light.


This plant is so common as to be almost a weed, Nevertheless it has at least three names: Hebe, Veronica or Koromiko 

The next day the weather was unhelpful, so I played about with some flowers in my dark box using my excellent macro lens and the technique of photo-stacking. I quite like this image of a sprig of Hebe.


Steel grey harbour

The weather changed several times and I liked the silver-grey view down the harbour.


Inbound heavy freighter

Today was pleasant and I found myself at Paremata at the entrance to the Porirua harbour. There was not much happening from a landscape perspective but I enjoyed the sight of bumble bees exchanging pollen for nectar on a bush that I later learned is Tree Mallow.

boat sheds

Paremata boat sheds

My final shot in this edition was made from the edge of the beach at the mouth of the Pauatahanui inlet. I wanted still water so opted for a long exposure. The boats moved with the water’s flow but the colours and forms of the boat sheds appealed to me.

That’s all for now

October 13, 2017 … around the region and further afield

Sometimes I have to work hard to find an image in otherwise drab circumstances, However, sometimes the effort pays off.

Harbour and CBD

A moody evening in Wellington

We have had a lot of grey weather recently, but even in such circumstances I love our city.


In the heart of Lower Hutt on the Waiwhetu Stream

Even in dull weather, as long as the wind is absent, I can usually find something worth a look. This is the Waiwhetu Stream on Riverside Drive, near Gracefield. Just out of view above the trees is the Wainuiomata hill with its busy traffic.


Hutt Camera club’s annual exhibition

Every year at about this time, the Hutt Camera club (of which I am president) holds its annual exhibition, and as I have done before, I made a panorama that includes all sixty images. Three of them are mine.


Early morning drizzle in the Hutt Valley

And on the subject of weather, or indeed any other obstacle to my photographic endeavours, sometimes it is an idea to photograph the obstacle itself.  This view from our house looks along High Street through morning drizzle to the Hutt Hospital.


Towards the setting sun from the water tower at Camborne

Then the obstacle disappears, and we get what with tongue in cheek, we call “a typical Wellington day at last”. This image was a panoramic stitch made from a small hill in Camborne, looking out towards Mana Island.


Banded dotterel just below the swirling wind and sand

Then the wind returned and outside shooting was just plain uncomfortable. When I say wind, I mean a North Westerly blast in which standing up was actually difficult. I chose to follow the coast road from Wainuiomata to the South coast which was, in many ways a stupid idea. Wind of that strength picks up a significant portion of the sand on the beach and attempts to inject it into any opening, eyes, ears, nostrils, lenses. Nevertheless I struggled down the beach and then lay flat on my back in the lee of a small sand dune. I could hear the wind shrieking and feel the sand bouncing off the back of the hood on my jacket. I lay still and pointed the camera downwind and was lucky to catch this banded dotterel. It seemed unperturbed by the wind and may in fact have been small enough to be in a relatively calm boundary layer.

Otaki Forks

High water levels in the fast flowing Waiotauru River

A day or so later, Mary and I went to Otaki forks. It was a grey day with intermittent rain, but we arrived at Boielle flat in a period of little wind and no rain. Mary explored the beginnings of the Southern Crossing which, for the fit and well-prepared is a three-day hike across the Tararua range to Featherston in the Wairarapa. While she did that I fiddled with my camera to catch this view of the Waiotauru River.


Good sailing days are not lost just because it rains

Later in the week we had one of those soft days. In fact it as the day on which I was  to lead the Wellington occurrence of Scott Kelby’s 10th annual Worldwide Photowalk through Newtown. In fact the day was more than soft, it was downright wet. But, since this is Wellington, local sailors were undeterred.


Though it’s time to go, I shall really miss this view

My last picture for this edition is from a viewpoint that must be familiar to long-term readers. We have lived here since October 1980 … our  five kids grew up here. There have been moments of celebration, of joy and of sadness as you would expect in any house you occupy for such a length of time. We have weathered various storms and remained shaken but not stirred through many earthquakes in the last 37 years, but now, recognising our changing circumstances, it is time to move on, and today we signed a contract with an agency to put our house on the market. We know exactly where we want to purchase, and  it is exactly in the middle of that river mist down in the flat part of the valley.

Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa’s famous “round barn” in July 2012 …. looking Westward in the late evening. The flat grey roof below the ridge was the Fountaingrove Inn. Both are now destroyed along with devastation to housing and lives lost. Ironically the red sky in this image was attributed to wildfires near Clearlake, CA.

Well, it was going to be the last image, but I can’t let this issue end without expressing my sympathy and grief for the people of beautiful Santa Rosa and other parts of  Northern California. In my past life, I spent many months on several occasions working with the New Zealand Dairy Board whose North American headquarters were in Santa Rosa. I spent a lot of time in the Fountaingrove Inn just below the historic round barn on the hill. A large part of this lovely town in the heart of the wine country is destroyed. Lives and homes have been lost and even from this great distance, I grieve with you.




Mana marina

Mana marina – water as I like it

Happy new year to all who persist in reading or viewing this blog. Here in Wellington on the 4th of January, 2017, I still await anything resembling a summer. Often enough I wake and all is still, but I am not fooled. I watch the flax leaves, and soon after sunlight comes, they quiver and begin to oscillate as the lightest of breezes escalates into a near gale and I know that there will be no stillness on the sea. But every now and then, the flax is still. I give it a while and if it persists will then gather my gear and head out to whichever coast is more likely to stay calm the longest according to the forecast. In this case, it was Mana Marina at Paremata

Mana marina

Setting out for a fishing trip from Mana

Days like this have been rare this season, so far. The Marina has been busy, and Mana has a reasonable percentage of people who actually live on their boats, some of which are quite big. It has been nice to see a few of the vessels being loaded up for a summer break in the sounds and then heading out to sea.

Down the coast from Paekakariki Hill

Down the coast from Paekakariki Hill

It was a fantastic morning so I went to Queen Elizabeth Park hoping to find dabchick chicks. Alas, none were found and they are perhaps a couple of weeks away yet. Oh well, I decided to return home via the Paekakariki Hill road with a pause at the lookout near the top. Out to the South West we see Arapawa Island and other features of the Marlborough Sounds across an unusually flat Cook Strait. It’s a long way down to the coast road below.


Spirit of Wellington on a damp grey day

Since then the weather has been grey, often windy and sometimes wet. Yesterday was grey and wet, but relatively calm so I tried the Evans Bay Marina. There I found the Coastguard vessel “Spirit of Wellington” being prepared for a training day. I got low and with the water so calm, the camera was within a few centimetres of the surface.

Again, happy New Year to all.


November 2, 2016 … stillness on the face of the waters

Much of the time, there is the whining of the wind rising and falling, and making life uncomfortable. Sometimes, though, the whining you hear is me, complaining about there being too much wind. For a couple of days in the week just past, there was a startling silence. Into the car, then, and off to find some still water.


Tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae) in the flax

At Mana Marina, in Paremata, though the wind had dropped, the water was not yet still so I watched the tui flitting from flower to flower on the flax bushes now in the early stages of flowering. The tui is a nectar feeder with a long tongue that extends far beyond is beak into the depths of the flower.  From a distance it is easy to mistake them for blackbirds, unless you see the white ruff at the throat, but up close, they wear a magnificent coloured plumage. In this season, they are so fixated on the nectar that you can often get very close.


Purple ragwort (Senecio glastifolius) at the roadside in Ivey Bay

A day or so later, I went to Mana Marina again, pausing in Ivey Bay to take a few shots of boats at their moorings. As I was returning to the car, my attention was caught by the prolific purple ragwort. This South African invader is absolutely everywhere along the roadsides, and especially on hillsides. Despite its status as a pest, the flowers en masse put on a wonderful seasonal display.


Mana marina with no wind

At the marina, conditions were near perfect, and despite popular belief, most photographers hope for a few clouds to relive the monotony of an empty blue sky.


A lovely warm evening at Seaview Marina

Maintaining the marina theme, I went to Seaview on Monday night. Odd to name a suburb “Seaview” in a city with so few places that don’t have a sea view.


Sunset reflection at Seaview

I lingered as the sun disappeared and despite having to tidy up a few flares caused by dust on the filter glass, was happy with the result. Perhaps I should stop whining, even though the wind is back.

May 31, 2016 … after the longest gap in my blogging history

Life has been a mixture of ordinary routine, and intense busy-ness. This does not excuse the long lapse in my blogging, and I shall try to rein that in.

Lake Wairarapa

Lake Wairarapa as the incoming weather from the South turns it grey.

My first image this time, was made in the South Wairarapa the weekend before last. It was a fine day in Wellington and Mary and I decided to explore a little of the Ocean Beach road. If you follow it (on foot or by bicycle), you come round the South Coast to Wainuiomata. We were less ambitious and planned a picnic near DOC’s Corner Creek camp site. Sadly the weather turned to custard, and by the time we were halfway down the Western shoreline of Lake Wairarapa, blue skies had yielded to unremitting grey. For the time being, there was no wind and I liked the gentle shades of approaching winter.


Makara in a stiff Nor-Wester

In the week that followed, I went to Makara where a strong Nor-Wester was tumbling the surf onto the growling pebbly beach. It was bleak and cold, and I was the only person there.


The Beehive at Sunset

The same day, I had been invited to drinks at the university to mark the departure of one of my erstwhile colleagues. At the conclusion of the event, as the day was fading into night, I noticed that the ensign on the flagpole of the Beehive (our parliamentary office complex) was floodlit. This is new.


Mist wreaths the foothills of the Tararuas as seen from the suburb of Belmont

Yesterday, the morning sky was blue, but there was a lot of low-level mist drifting about. I set out in search of places that might give a good view. The sun was my enemy in this enterprise as it was causing the mist to burn off quickly.


Taita Gorge in the morning

In the  shade of the Taita Gorge, it lingered a little longer but that was the last of my attempted mist shots.


Heron in the stillness

As I turned for home, I realized that the morning had transformed into a beautiful still Wellington day. A hasty diversion over Haywards Hill took me to Motukaraka point on the Pauatahanui inlet where I enjoyed watching a white-faced heron picking its elegant way through the shallows finding crabs. As you can see it scarcely disturbed the water.


“A typical Wellington day at last”

Because the day had become so picturesque, and because my scales tell me I desperately need the exercise, I went along the Camborne Walkway beside the inlet towards Paremata. Fluffy clouds reflected beautifully in the perfect waters of the inlet.


The boat sheds at Paremata

The boatsheds at Paremata are often photographed, and this is not the first time for me either. I love the random use of paint such that two adjacent walls are rarely the same colour. I hope not to leave it so long until the next edition.




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.

August 28, 2015 … what a magnificent day

When I opened the curtains yesterday there was a golden haze in the North East.


Into the golden haze, on SH2 just North of Naenae

Not a single cloud in the sky, not the slightest breath of wind  and all the signs were there that this would be one of those perfect Wellington days. Much earlier than usual, I set out for Pauatahanui, hoping to catch the mirror calm that had eluded me the previous day. Even on the road out there, that golden haze persisted, and I ducked off SH2 onto a little slip road called Hebden Crescent to try to catch the sense of the morning.


I am guessing that this is a dispute over mating. The bird in the air is trying to get away from the one below with its beak firmly clamped around the throat of its rival.

Over the hill and through the village on Gray’s road, there was a brief stop to watch the many pied stilts in their immaculate black and white uniforms  feeding, flirting, fighting and flying.


Breathless calm

Did I mention my hopes for a mirror calm day?  I made lots of panoramas, this one looking from Ration Point back towards Pauatahanui village and the Eastern edge of Whitby. It’s been a while since I enjoyed such a prolonged period of perfect windless calm at the inlet and it  was still calm when I drove home almost two hours later. Wonderful.


Kingfisher with crab

At Motukaraka Point, I took the Canon out for a walk and managed to catch some kingfisher action. I still need to get more practice. Each time a bird left the tree I had trouble picking it up in my autofocus system, and the bird had dived, got the crab and was on its way back with dinner by the time I caught it.


Perfect Paremata

From there, I lingered a little with the white-faced herons near the bridge and then went on to Paremata. This area is my happy place in circumstances like these.  I came home from the inlet with a couple of hundred images and spent a happy afternoon processing them. Normally that would be a good day, but it was not over yet.


The Lux festival at Frank Kitts Park

In central Wellington there is the Lux festival. In case you think of soap, the word Lux is Latin for Light. A cluster of lighting special effects is set up around Frank Kitts Park and crowds come to enjoy the show and to eat at the many ethnic food stalls set up for the occasion.


Crowds of people ignore the chill as they walk to the lux festival

The night was clear, but by now the wind had risen and the temperature had dropped to around 7 deg C . That didn’t deter the crowds strolling along, perhaps buoyed and still warmed by the perfect day behind them.

That will do for now.


August 22, 2015 … sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the days*

Another day almost done and another late-in-the-day panic-stricken search for images.


White-faced heron in calm waters

The afternoon was kind to me, as was the Pauatahanui inlet. At Motukaraka point, a white-faced heron was nicely silhouetted against a patch of still water. It’s not a monochrome image, but now and then nature presents itself in black and white. Close inspection reveals the green weed on the foreshore.


New Zealand Fur Seal pup dozing on the boat ramp

At the launching ramp of the Paremata Yacht club, there was a seal pup sleeping in the late sun, ignoring the ladies fishing a few metres along the dock. I moved with as much stealth as possible and put my camera within a metre of its nose. It opened a huge liquid dark eye, and went back to sleep.


Paremata at Sunset

By now the sun was getting low in the sky, and commuter traffic across the bridges was building up, though the noise was muted by distance.


Ivey Bay – a seven shot panoramic stitch

A hundred metres or so up the road, is Ivey Bay beach. The surface at low tide is a little treacherous with lots of vegetable matter in piles concealing soft muddy spots, but the panorama possibilities seemed worth the risk.

Another sunset.

*”Fiddler on the Roof” by Sheldon Harrick and Jerry Bock

February 1, 2015 … marooned for the day

That was a great day.


The last of our group comes ashore on Mana before the boat maroons us for the day.

Our camera club has a number of special interest groups, and the one specialises in landscapes is particularly active. Yesterday the group chartered a boat and twenty-seven of us went from Paremata across to Mana Island.


A pause while climbing the hill to take in both oxygen and the splendid view to the North

Most Wellingtonians are familiar with the flat-topped island offshore from Whitireia Park at Titahi Bay. It looks steep-sided but unremarkable. There are indeed some steep walls up to the plateau and I was breathing quite hard as we climbed. I was happy to take a few moments to construct a panorama on the way up.


A sea mist seems to surround Kapiti Island

Mana is not as large, nor as well covered with bush nor does it have quite the biodiversity of the larger Island, Kapiti, to the North. Unlike Kapiti, there is sufficient flat land on Mana that it was farmed for many years. It is in very recent years that it has been designated a predator-free reserve, and there has been a determined programme to re-establish native bush and to provide safe habitat for many endangered birds, skinks and geckos.

Wind farm

The West Wind wind farm on the hills above Makara

To the South the two wind farms, Mill Creek and West Wind can be seen clearly, though the day was so calm that the distant blades were just ticking over.


Takahe. That bill looks as if it could open tin cans

Of course, I mentioned birds, and there is considerable variety on the island, including whiteheads, tui, fairy prions, yellow-crested kakariki, tui, robins and a variety of seabirds. But best of all, the “back from extinction but still critically endangered” Takahe  (Porphyrio hochstetteri) is breeding on the island. There are now about 275 in the world. It is the largest living member of the rail family, and it weighs in at up to 4.2 kg. It is flightless,  so on an island this small there is a good chance of encountering one.


Takahe chick. What big feet you have.

We followed the outermost and longest of the several trails on the island for a total of over 7 km and arrived under clear skies and a hot sun back at the shoreline in plenty of time for the boat. To our great delight, some of us saw a takahe chick with its mother.


Cruising sting ray. This was perhaps 2 metres across and it was amazing how quickly it moved with so little disturbance

By now the sun was really heating us up so we clung to the shade but some of us got excited when we saw the tips of the wings of some quite large sting-rays cruising by at the water’s edge.

Tired but happy.

December 12, 2014 … getting the low down

Each new discovery is one I don’t have to make again.


Rising from the reeds a flock of white-faced herons


There seem to be an endless supply of discoveries to be made, but I think I am making progress. I took the new camera out for a walk yesterday, but the first thing I saw was a flock of white-faced heron. They were beyond the 200 mm range of my longest Fuji lens, so  I used the trusty Canon and was just in time to see them depart from the reeds.


Kate at anchor


On the other side of the inlet, I saw “Kate”. She has had a new coat of paint and the name is obscured, but Kate has been part of the Plimmerton scene for quite a while now. She’s a sturdy little boat, but I wonder what she is used for now.


Plimmerton speed restriction


Across the bay, the line of boat sheds made an interesting picture, with the speed limit sign pointing the way.  The light was a bit flat but it was useful to learn how this camera performs in these circumstances.


At the waterline


Down on the ramp of the Plimmerton Yacht Club, I used the flip-out viewing screen to try for a very low angle across the water. Still learning.

That’s all for now.