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.

adversity Art Birds flowers harbour Maritime Pukerua Bay Waves Weather Wellington

December 9, 2018 … how did we get here already?

Somehow, it is almost Christmas again. Surely the last one was just a few weeks ago? Of course the fickle weather patterns should have been warned me that Christmas was due.

Rain at the cemetery

When it rains I often think there might be a picture to be had. Early in the week, I somehow had in mind that there might be a shot from Pukerua Bay towards Kapiti. Unfortunately, I encountered a ferocious traffic jam near the Whenua Tapu cemetery so decided to slip up Airlie Rd and back down into Plimmerton. Then the heavens opened and since I was near the cemetery I decided to see if I could combine the falling rain with the colours of the various monuments and the many floral tributes.

I think it’s a little shag (identified by short beak)

The next day was almost perfectly still, so I hoped to find some dabchicks at Queen Elizabeth Park. Not a single dabchick showed itself, but the little shag made a nice contrast with the green reflections on the water.

It sometimes worries me that we make such extensive use of glass curtain walls in a seismically prone city such as ours

Later in the week, I attended a book launch. A friend has used 26 of my images plus a few from other photographers to illustrate his collection of autobiographical essays. As we were leaving after the event, I was taken with the reflections in the building across the road. The old Charles Fergusson Tower has been stripped to its steel skeleton and re-clad in dark mirror glass.

The Cobar Cat on its way to Matiu/Somes Island and Days Bay, despite the howling wind

And then the weather played up rough again. I saw wind speeds variously estimated from 60 to 140 km/h. At least in theory, I understand that the two catamarans that do the Day’s Bay ferry are supposed to stop when it gets to 4o km/h but given how hard I had to hang on to stand upright I think it was well above that as the Cobar Cat bounced along.

Wainuiomata River in the rain

The wind dropped but the rain came back so I went over to the Wainuiomata Recreation Reserve and walked one of the loop tracks . I loved it, and the bush was a glorious freshly washed  green.

Russian sage (pending an alternate identification)

The rain continued for most of the day so I shot a small cutting of a roadside plant from the morning’s walk. I believe it is Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)

A caravan being towed back towards solid ground across the slumping roadway

Yesterday, I went over to the South Wairarapa Coast heading towards Cape Palliser. The crumbling limestone cliffs to the South of Putangirua pinnacles are always a challenge to cross. The warning signs (Caution! Active Slip. Extreme Caution!)  give you little or no indication of what to do if the road actually moves beneath you. And the slumps in the road leave little doubt that it seriously could do just that.

Creeping wildflowers adorn the edges of a pool

Just out of Ngawi, I saw some coastal pools, perhaps a temporary product of recent heavy rain, but they were attractive with the wildflowers around their edges.

Agricultural layer cake

After a brief visit with the fur seals I turned for home and as I got close to Featherston, saw these interesting contrasts in crop colours.  I have no idea what the plants are, but the contrast was pleasing.

That’s all this week.

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.

Adventure adversity Maritime Pukerua Bay Reflections Weather

December 28, 2015 … winding down

When you have little to say, then it is wise to say little.

Jet ski
Jet ski racing around the Pauatahanui Inlet

Yesterday was an anticlimax after the flying the day before. I went looking for images in he afternoon, and though I pressed the shutter several times, achieved little that I am happy with. Others were out enjoying life in their own way.

Paddling to shore with a non-working motor

At Pukerua Bay, the beach was busy, and people were swimming, boating, or just soaking up the sun. I watched as a well equipped power boat towed a smaller boat to shore. The lesser boat had perhaps run out of fuel or suffered a mechanical failure, but a little offshore, it was cast off. The two young men used their oars as paddles to complete the last 100 metres to shore. A pair of kayakers passing by looked more capable.

Enough for now.

Adventure Animals insects Maritime Plimmerton Waves Weather

December 11, 2015 … weirdness abounds

Ugliness is not necessarily uninteresting.

Puriri moth (deceased) in extreme close-up

Indeed, not all images need to be “chocolate box” syrup. Today’s fist image is really an exercise in macrophotography. The puriri moth which I photographed two days ago was now, to borrow from the immortal words of John Cleese, an ex-moth. It was deceased, was no more, was bereft of life. Now I do not intend to make a habit of photographing dead things, but this gave me a chance to practise with the excellent Olympus 60mm macro lens, and the also brilliant Helicon focus-blending software. As a friend said, that lens is so sharp, it needs a safety warning.

Feral rabbit at Pauatahanui

Later in the day I headed West to Pauatahanui and Plimmerton where, for various reasons, I haven’t been for several weeks now. No easily accessible birds showed themselves at Pauatahanui, but there were an astonishing number of feral rabbits which made half-hearted attempts to seek shelter as I drove by.

A bouncy ride on a small boat

In Karehana Bay at Plimmerton, the sea was decidedly rough and a small launch coming in from the region of Mana Island was repeatedly disappearing behind the waves.

In the harbour mouth

Happily, the little boat made its way into the shelter of Whitireia Park where it came close to some bold wind surfers bouncing from wave to wave.

And that’s all I have today.

Birds flowers Landscapes Light Pauatahanui Plimmerton Weather

September 20, 2015 … finding it in the chill grey weather

Protracted grey cloud, rain and chill winds dampen the spirits.

Royal Spoonbills in a huddle

Nevertheless, until the end of the year, sat least one every day is still the rule. I hadn’t been to Pauatahanui for a while, so that’s where I went yesterday. You know the conditions are tough when the Royal Spoonbills huddle together in the shallow pond by the bird hide.

Enough promises already, where is the warmth of spring?

At Motukaraka point, the tide was out, but despite the somewhat bleak conditions, spring blossom is an antidote to the misery. I think this is an apple tree.

White faced heron dining on crab.

Around the corner of the point, a white-faced heron was silhouetted against the reflected light of the late afternoon sun. It was getting a lot of the small mud crabs that abound in the harbour.

View to Mana Island from Karehana Bay

Across SH2 to Plimmerton, the same late sun peering from behind a heavy cloud provided interesting conditions for a seascape from Karehana Bay.

That’s all today.

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.

Architecture Landscapes Light Normandale Pauatahanui Pukerua Bay Wellington

May 17, 2015 … through every passion ranging*

My life was spiced with photographic variety yesterday.

Morning light
The day began with a lovely golden light diffused through the clouds on the hills

In the morning, the upper valley was bathed in soft light, diffused through low cloud. Though I have shot the same landscape many times before I just liked the light.

Sacred Heart Cathedral, Thorndon

In the afternoon, I was roaming in the Thorndon area and turned into Hill Street. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart was completed in 1901, and like the now ruined Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Christchurch, has always taken second place in the public mind to the more traditional architecture of the nearby Anglican Cathedral. The word Basilica refers to the architectural form of a nave and two aisles with windows above the aisles.  It’s a handsome building in its way, but like many older buildings in the city, is in need of earthquake strengthening.

The Terrace
Looking South along The Terrace

Across the road, looking through the Pohutukawa trees along the fence of Parliament’s precinct, there was a hitherto unnoticed view up The Terrace. There are some significant buildings along this street, but when the wind is in the North or the South, it serves as the meanest wind-tunnel I know. Nothing is sadder than a rain-soaked civil servant struggling into the wind.

Sunset at Whitby

In the evening, Mary and I set out for Waikanae to dine with friends. The sun was setting with a warm golden light and across the Pauatahanui Inlet, and the suburb of Whitby was gleaming.

Last light
Last light at Pukerua Bay

At the bottom of the hill at Pukerua Bay I got Mary to stop to catch a very attractive sunset.

That’s the day.

*”A Wand’ring Minstrel I” from the Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan


Birds Geology Lower Hutt Maritime Plimmerton Waves

May 7, 2015 … around the edges

Lingering nasty weather imposes greyness.

Crowded mooring at Mana Marina

Unless the sea is either flat calm or spectacularly stormy, I tend to go elsewhere. Yesterday I broke that pattern by going to Mana Marina while the wind was blustery and the water was choppy. It helps to have a splash of colour on a day like this.

Empty bench

At the mouth of the inlet to Porirua Harbour, I paused for a while and watched the surf tumbling in. Any empty park bench spoke volumes about the weather. A lone sailboarder was racing up and down along the beach at Plimmerton, but at least from this side, there was no visible audience.

Little Black Shags

My homeward route took me along Grey’s Rd around the Northern edge of the Pauatahanui inlet. As I reached Motukaraka Point, a hangout” of Little Black shags was resting on the weed bed near the road. I parked and tip-toed to a place where there was a good view. They are fine looking birds and despite the plain plumage, show attractive patterns.

Sacred kingfisher in the dive

Since I was this close I went to the usual spot for Kingfishers and found one on the tree. I had left the big Canon at home so used the Olympus with a 300 mm zoom. It’s not a bad performance for a small sensor and a kit lens, but I suspect that serious birding will require the use of the heavier camera.

See you tomorrow