Cook Strait Landscapes Maritime Whitireia Park

January 1, 2014 … forced draft

Happy New Year to all.

And so the ride continues. A Facebook friend wondered what to do as a photographic project this year, but “not photo-a-day, I’ve done that.”  For me it’s different. I have been taking a photo a day since January 1, 2011, and am likely to continue with no foreseeable end in view.

Grasses whipping in the wind
The wind is the price for the view

Great views are all very well, but they come at a cost. If you can see the horizon, the horizon can see you, and if the horizon is where the wind is coming from, you can expect a draft. Thus it was atop the Northern point of the park. It’s an area to which I go when I am looking for skylarks. Yesterday I saw yellowhammers, but mainly I saw grass rippling under the relentless thrust of a strong Nor’Wester.

Round the headland
Mana Island is behind that rock on the right. The South Island is clearly visible beyond it

Down below the standpoint of the previous shot, there is a track that runs beside the sea. At the end of the track, a footpath takes you through a narrow gap that looks down into a pretty bay beyond. From there, if the weather is clear, you can see Mana Island and beyond it, Arapawa Island at the entrance to the Marlborough Sounds.

From the high point
Mana Island and Arapawa Island

On my way out of the park, I noticed a hill that has always been there. Somehow, in my previous visits I never thought to climb it. Yesterday, I did. The wind was buffeting strongly as I trudged up, but strangely was still at the summit. There is a good clear view from there to Mana, and across the Strait.

Titahi Bay
It’s a popular bay in the summer

Looking down from the same place you can see into Titahi Bay, which is home to a well known surf lifesaving club. The boatsheds around the curve of the bay have been the subject of many photographs.

That’s the last of my 2013 images. See you tomorrow.


Birds Light Pauatahanui Porirua Seasons Whitireia Park

March 25, 2013 … migratory photography

Sorry, birds again.

Maybe I ‘ll do something different in tomorrow’s edition, but no guarantees. Mary entered a walking event in Whitby yesterday, so I dropped her off at the start and arranged to pick her up at the end. This left me free to look for photographs. Despite being in a beautiful location, I failed utterly in my pursuit of landscape images.

With regard to landscapes, I have come to understand that only the sheerest luck will yield a good image when you happen upon an area with an interesting structure. Light, season and weather are all important factors. One of my landscape heroes, Andris Apse  is famous for seeing a landscape and visualizing it at other times of day, other seasons, other weather conditions. He then goes out into that country choosing the best viewpoint, and waiting for the right conditions to occur.  Visit his website and view the open edition prints  (and if you are feeling flush, the limited edition prints). I love all his work, but as a quick example, follow this link to his farmland images. These shots were not casually grabbed while driving along a nearby road. Serious work went into each and every image.

And that brings me to my point. If I want to do real landscape photography, I will need to get out on the road and spend a day or two in a neighbourhood in the season and weather conditions of my choice. That wasn’t happening yesterday.

Yesterday was about happenstance. I am here. What can I see and can I make it into a picture? And to be honest, that amounted to birds.  I began at a promontory on the North end of Whitireia Park, where I sat and ate my lunch and waited for the birds of that area to appear. They were getting closer and each time I was almost ready for them, someone in a car or mountain bike would charge through the scene and away they would fly.

Skylark doing something in the dust
The skylarks seem to love the long dry grass on Whitireia Park

I settled for this Skylark (Alauda arvensis) which was doing something mysterious in a hole in the track.

Goldfinch at the roadside
So many seeds in the park that I wondered why it came to the roadside to seek them out

Then there was this goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) with its brilliant splash of colour. It was fossicking about on the edge of the track, but  the interruptions from passers-by kept it at a distance, so this is a severe crop.

On my way to have a coffee with a friend in Porirua, I paused beside the Porirua harbour near Whitireia Polytechnic and caught this Caspian tern  (Sterna caspia) sitting on the shore amid a group of variable oystercatchers. It got nervous very quickly, and in this shot is spreading its wings for departure.

Caspian tern takes to the air
The oystercatchers were untroubled by my presence. The tern was much more wary


Finally, I tried for the kingfishers again. Unlike those at Napier, the ones here in Pauatahanui are very risk averse, and depart as soon as the detect human movement One day I shall get a hide from which to do real birding images. As I was taking this, I left my phone in the car, and thus missed the text from Mary that said she was ready to be picked up an hour earlier than expected. Whoops!

Kingfisher sets out to catch a crab
The kingfishers in the park are creatures of habit, and regularly visit a number of perches such as this stranded tree branch.


Today, a friend is lending me a 2x lens converter which will double the length of my big lens. I don’t expect it to be a panacea, but I am considering buying one. And am grateful for the opportunity to try one.

Who knows what today will bring, but it seems we have another brief interruption to the most beautiful summer in my memory.


Aviation Birds Kapiti Coast Pauatahanui Retirement Whitireia Park

November 22, 2012 … fur, flaps and feathers

If I had known the freedom conveyed by retirement, I might  have contemplated it sooner.

At least for now, I am free to get up when I wake, and to go out and pursue anything that interests me. Yesterday I went out to the Pataka Gallery in Porirua where the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition was on display. If you are in the region and like nature photography, don’t miss it. The thing that distressed me most was the quality of images submitted by young people (ten years and up). I hope to become as good as they already are.

On the Porirua Harbour near the turn-off to  Titahi Bay, a flock of fluffy ducklings were being shepherded by proud and anxious parents. At this stage of their lives they are at risk of sudden death from below (eels) or above (Black-backed gulls). Other water fowl tend to bully them and I saw geese chasing them away from food put out by nearby householders. Duckling squadron

Near Titahi Bay is Whitireia Park, the wild windswept Southern headland at the entrance to Porirua Harbour.  Most Wellingtonians will know it as the site of the old transmitter masts  for 2YA (Radio New Zealand National) and four other AM stations.

With the prevailing Nor’Westerly wind, it is a much loved site for the model aircraft community for the branch of the hobby known as slope soaring. In the right conditions, pilots can put their models out into the updrafts and fly them up and down the cliffs for as long as their batteries will allow.

Since it was a working day for most, there was just one flyer there yesterday. In the light breeze at the start of the day, he had launched a motor-assisted glider. When I say motor assisted, it had a folding propeller and electric motor in the nose. If he found himself in trouble below the lift on the cliff face, he just opened the throttle. The blades swung into life, and the aircraft shot into the air like an express elevator. This was a purchased model rather than a made one.Model glider descending rapidly with full brakes From the Czech Republic, it made extensive use of carbon fibre for the spars and leading edge, and was an impressive piece of technology. He kindly brought it down from the heights with flaps in air-brake setting, and then swung across the harbour entrance to give me a more interesting background. Very nice.Model glider near Plimmerton On the way home I went past the bird hide at Pauatahanui where I found a pair of pied stilts meandering about, but not much else.Pied stilt at Pauatahanui

A new day tomorrow