Queen Elizabeth II was a remarkable women who became queen in my 9th year. Despite my distaste for the notion of monarchy in general, Queen Elizabeth has served all her peoples with grace, dignity and unswerving commitment over seventy years. I do not intend to enter into debate with anyone on these matters, but it seems appropriate to acknowledge such a span of service.
Meanwhile, life continues at the coal face. Sometimes I find the routines of life a little uninspiring, and even depressing. Still, I love the process of making images. On the other hand, if I am not seeing or finding the images that bring me joy, the mood barometer swings downward again.
Mary and I had driven up to Palmerston North in the hope of finding birds or signs of spring. While I enjoyed travelling with Mary, the day was photographically, a bust. Then, as she was serving our evening meal back at home, Mary said “look out of the front window!” I begged a slight delay in the meal and grabbed my camera and a wide angle lens and went out onto the front lawn. Ever the sign of hope, the rainbow made up for much that we had missed earlier.
It’s slightly weird when I am lamenting a down mood, that I can take pleasure in heavy clouds and grim outlooks. From Balaena Bay across Evans Bay to Point Halswell and the Miramar peninsula, I was attracted to the imposing cloudscape.
At the back door, Mary grows various flowers and herbs. They are just so ever-present that I often fail to see them. Now and then, they catch my eye. In this case, the rosemary’s blue flowers took some time on an otherwise damp and dismal day.
Evans Bay is a frequently visited site that occasionally yields a nice image. The still patch of water near the shore was disrupted by a row of incoming waves. Why do these waves differ from the chop on the water further out?
As I often do, I arrived too early for an excellent yum char lunch with friends and former colleagues in Courtenay Place. I filled the time by exploring nearby laneways. This image was made in Forresters Lane and is the front of a cocktail bar called “Love Bite”. Foreign territory to me.
Although I have done it many times before, I can’t resist still water in Oriental Bay marina.
Despite the number of trips I make to Queen Elizabeth Park wetlands, I have not been rewarded with the hoped for birdlife in recent months. The only capture on this trip was this Australasian shoveller.
Wellington’s Botanic Gardens are full of little surprises. This little waterfall is perhaps only a metre high, but adds to the music of the garden.
It’s tulip time again. Sadly it’s all too brief , but the gardeners always manage to arrange a good display of tulips for a few weeks. I got there the week prior to the annual tulip festival, so was limited as to the available colours.
I find it hard not to love tulips, singly or en masse.
Here is Kaiarahi (formerly Stena Alegra) just back in Wellington after many months sitting in Picton with a broken gearbox. The required parts were finally installed and here she is ready to resume service.
A splash of colour at the head Evans Bay. Urban forest’ (2008) by Leon van den Eijkel and Allan Brown is a stack of cubes designed to spin in the wind, of which there is plenty at the site. Sadly it fails often and just sits. Nevertheless, it is interesting and nine metres high.
See you next time, I hope.
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With the road trip behind me, my challenge now is to keep the photographic flame alive. That can be hard while living an everyday life in suburbia. Many times before, I have referred to seeing familiar things in a different way. Some of my photographic friends have the gift of “finding a different place” to stand when making pictures of things that I see every day. What I need to do in my search for something worth photographing is to pause, and to not make the picture until I have considered other ways of looking at it. This might be to go round the other side. It might be to include (or exclude) another element. Perhaps it is looking at the subject through a different lens. The wide angle offers a different picture to that made by the telephoto. Anyway, for now at least, we are at home on the Western Hills of Lower Hutt and Winter has officially begun.
Before I totally forget the road trip, many thanks to all the nice readers who sent kind words and affirmation. Your messages were greatly appreciated.
A crranberry flavoured tablet made a spectacular fizz. I tried to catch it in my lightbox. That went OK, but I wondered whether a dark box might give a better image. The illusion of a reflection is createrd by the simple trick of standing the glass on the base of an identical glass inverted.
One trick for seeing a view differently is to make a part of the scene substitute for the whole. Looking from Oriental Parade up the harbour, Wellingtonians are familiar with the view of the hills to the North. I have tried to present that view differently. The dark mass in the foreground is Matiu/Somes Island. Behind that are three folds in the Eastern hills of the Hutt Valley and I suspect the highest visible hill through the haze is Mt Climie behind Upper Hutt. A popular track with runners runs 6km from Tunnel gully to the summit. Masochism at its finest.
Big swells on the South coast tend to attract the surfing community to Lyall Bay. It also attracts photographers. I am not sure why. Though the surfers may be different, it’s essentially the same picture each time. The only thing that rescues such an image from being the same as last time is the extent to which the light conditions or the waves are different. In this case I think the explosive burst of a big swell on the breakwater at the end of the airport runway makes a difference.
Recently a flock of Royal spoonbills has taken to spending time on the Pauatahanui wetlands. It is often the case that, even when the rest of the inlet has a bit of a chop on the surface, the wetlands are perfectly still. These birds are still not quite the equal of the white heron, but they run a close second.
On Ivey Bay, there is often a variety of shore birds. In this case, a pied shag is proclaiming dominance over the bay. Across the inlet, the hills to the North of Grays Rd tower above the foreshore. I mainly liked the light.
That same morning, the water was perfect and one of the classic older wooden boats in the bay served as a focal point for my image making. I have no idea which boat it was, but as with previous captures, I have a preference for the simple old-fashioned working boats.
We have been blessed with a relatively mild winter thus far. No deep cold, no sign yet of snow on the Tararuas. The only real symptom of winter has been a few heavy swells from the South. I like to try to catch these big waves, and hope to convey the weight of water behind each one. I am fascinated by their slow ponderous advance. I know conditions will be interesting when the gap between each wave is about ten seconds.
In the grounds of St James Church, Lower Hutt, shared by the public library except on Sundays, there is a lot of history and a great deal of horticulture, mostly carried out at the expense of the Lower Hutt City Council. I spotted these little beauties and thought they were some kind of spring flower that got confused. These Loddon lilies, however, are a winter flower so they were perfectly on schedule and it was only me that was confused.
Unilever has been part of Petone’s scenery scenery since 1919. The big factory building with its constantly steaming exhaust stacks came much later, sometime mid-century. At its peak, about 600 people worked there. Automation in the latter years apparently reduced the on-site numbers to about 30. The distinctive glass office block was built in the 1980s. In 2014, pursuant to global restructuring, Unilever transferred its New Zealand operations to Australia and the Petone factory fell silent. Some of the lesser buildings at the Eastern end of the 5 hectare property seem to have been leased or sold to small businesses. The office block remains dark and reflects the equally still factory block.
A long-proposed cross-harbour pipeline will improve resilience of Wellington’s water supply. The present sole pipeline runs alongside the main highway and crosses known seismic fault lines in several places. Construction began on the new line this year and is expected to be complete in 2025. A barge with some heavy machinery has been in Lowry Bay for several months now and has established some piles. I saw these two intrepid workers being lowered on a work platform to inspect one of the piles. I got the impression that they were controlling the crane themselves. If so, they were not afraid to get their feet wet.
I shouldn’t tempt fate with a caption like that. We have endured some vile weather in recent days. No surprise then, that when conditions are good, I seize the day. This image is from the walkway beside the marina below Pt Howard. You can see traces of the morning mist dissipating over the Western Hills.
May I urge you to click on any image that appeals to you to see a larger version.
I don’t know why I didn’t discover it earlier, but WordPress has a feature that allows its readers to sign up to receive each new edition of a blog by email. Simply enter your email address once in the space below. Once only and not if you are already getting it by email.
An old joke asks “what am I doing in this hand basket, and where am I going?” Recent world and local events seem to reflect this theme. I lack the kind of spirit that might cause me to be personally involved, other than expressing my opinion. (Putin is a war criminal and the local anti-mandate protest movement is based on culpable disinformation.) And so I divert myself by seeking the beauty around me. Mostly, I find it in small scale things. For sure, New Zealand has a lot of beauty on a grand scale, but this is not the time to be travelling and among crowds of people. In recent times, the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi has appealed to me. Crudely summarised, it seeks beauty in imperfection. Imperfection is a specialty of mine 🙂
Out in the Pauatahanui inlet there is a resident flock of royal spoonbills. They are wabi-sabi personified. While its cousin the white heron is undeniably beautiful, the spoonie wears a clown costume. The grotesque bill is efficient at dredging the mud for food, but makes it hard for me to take them seriously. Watching a pair squabbling is akin to seeing two people engaged in a duel using salad servers.
Near the yacht club at Foxton Beach, Mary and I were enjoying a picnic lunch on the stop bank when a flight of black swans came over low and slow. I grabbed my camera and lined them up but even so, they were past me when I finally got them in the viewfinder and in focus. If you thought the black swans were all black, then this shows otherwise.
There was a clump of sweet peas beside the lookout platform at Foxton Beach. It was being visited by a number of bumble bees. To my surprise, they were not all of the common black and yellow bumble bee variety (Bombus terrestris). There were several others and various expert groups have suggested that the strangers were the large garden bumble bee (Bombus ruderatus). This is narrower, and is more black and white than my old familiar friend.
It is a rare visit to Featherston that I don’t divert down Murphy’s Line to the Lake Domain Reserve. I am often disappointed. On this occasion, the lake was perfect, and reflected the silvery blue clouds beautifully. The rusting steel piles of the old Hansell’s jetty make a delightful focal point for the photographer. Yes, I have made similar shots before, but I take joy in beauty no matter how often I encounter it.
The lovely blue chicory flower seems to spread along the roadside grasses of the back country roads in the South Wairarapa. How does it get distributed? I assume that somehow the slipstream of passing vehicles is involved in the spreading of the seeds.
Misty weather is always interesting to me, and I always imagine a more romantic picture than the one I capture on the day. One day I shall get the picture that I envisaged when I pressed the shutter.
Wabi-sabi means different things to different people. For some, it involves simplicity and beauty, akin to minimalism. Other interpretations include age and decay, and the deliberate inclusion of imperfection. I thought I saw elements of it in this sheet of fallen bark that Mary brought home for me.
There was a time when I went to the city library every two weeks and would take home a bag of eight or ten adventure novels. If I finished them all before the fortnight was up, I would refresh my stash ahead of time. Now I find I lack the necessary attention span to deal with books at that rate. Instead I load books into the Kindle app on my iPad/iPhones and read my preferred styles of adventure as and when the mood takes me. I can divert to YouTube if I wish, and go back to Kindle when I am ready to resume.
As I walked the streets of Newtown, I passed the open door of a traditional men’s barber shop. I think the barbers are of middle Eastern origins, judging by the posters with Arabic script on the walls. Whatever, the shop was immaculate and attractively presented. I walked on by and then thought, if I don’t ask, how can he say yes? So I went back, scanned the QR code at the door and went in. I asked permission to shoot from the door. Both he and his client consented and here we are.
Newton is a place of magical diversity. As well as the middle Eastern barbers, there are specialist shops and restaurants from many different countries. In the few shops nearest me in this image we have a Mexican restaurant, Mr Bun (a Chinese-owned bakery and coffee shop, a Halal butcher, a (Japanese) sushi shop, and the ever colourful Jimmy’s Fruitmart. Jimmy’s is an old school greengrocer that, as well as the fruit and vegetables with which I am familiar, sells many interesting items that are welcomed by the people of the varied ethnicities that make Newtown so special.
I always suggest that Ngawi, on the South Wairarapa coast is where the bulldozers of the world come to die. Despite their decrepitude, almost all of the bulldozers on this beach are hitched by a very long drawbar to a large steel trailer, crudely welded out of girder stock and on large rubber tyres. These trailers are backed down the steep shingle beach into the sea to launch and retrieve the owner’s fishing vessel. No matter how rusty and run-down these tractors, they all seem to fire up on demand and trundle down to the sea. When it finally dies, it is replaced soon enough by another of similar condition.
The most common truck of my childhood years was the Bedford OLB. I have an affection for them, though now they are either beautifully restored by enthusiasts, or else quietly rotting in rural situations. In their prime, they looked just how I thought a truck should look. This old girl is near the bulldozers in Ngawi and is slowly being absorbed by the trees growing up around and through it.
If you drove the 120 or so km from Lower Hutt to Ngawi, then it would not be sensible to not drive the extra 5km to visit the New Zealand fur seals nursery at Cape Palliser. There is a sheltered pool among the vicious rocks where the new season’s pups frolic and splash. They are a joy to watch if you can get close to them. The limiting factor is the protective mothers. Mostly they snooze in the lee of the rocks, but if you come between them and the sea, or worse, between them and their pup, expect trouble. A large boulder with halitosis and big teeth suddenly turns into a raging matriarch, and you had better run. This wee pup is probably a few weeks old and is curious about the guy with the camera.
This pup scuttled to its mother’s side when I got too close (sorry, pup!) Mother was a bit irritated to have her siesta disturbed, but make no mistake she was aware of my presence and swift action might have followed had I got closer.
Thanks for visiting. I always appreciate any constructive feedback.
Another year reaches a conclusion, and what a year it has been for the world, and for our country, for my family and for me. Despite the fact that I try to live with hope in my heart, I look forward to 2022 with trepidation. On the personal front, I seem to crumbling at the edges. As well as the cataract, I have now been fitted with hearing aids, and hope to become accustomed to them. Then, following some sort of event that resulted in double vision, vertigo and nausea (unconnected with the cataract procedure), I ended up in hospital for a couple of nights undergoing a CT scan and MRI. No clear causes identified, but nothing sinister found. And thank heavens for free public health care which was superb for me. Nevertheless, with the vertigo and visual disturbances, my doctors say I am not permitted to drive for four weeks. Grrr.
Christmas has passed and family is scattered in Melbourne, Brisbane, Queenstown and Gisborne. Happily youngest son Anthony,, his wife Sarah and our lovely grandkids Maggie and Jack are at home nearby, so we spent some of our Christmas with them. OK, enough with the babble, what images did I get this round?
Fine days have been rare in recent times, so when one occurs, I select from one of my preferred locations. On this occasion , it was Hokio Beach (again). Since the whitebait season is ended, it was peaceful with no whitebaiters to deter the bird life. In fact, we had the beach entirely to ourselves. Mary went for a walk along the beach to the South while I lay back on the water’s edge and waited. In just a few minutes, I was blessed with a visit from one of my favourite birds, the black-fronted dotterel. These tiny creatures move very quickly and their legs are almost invisible in motion. They appear to hover across the sand and water. Just beautiful.
Also present at Hokio were the bar-tailed godwits, champions of long distance flight. They fly to tidal estuaries in New Zealand from Western Alaska in epic non-stop flights lasting 8 to 9 days. Barring the great albatrosses, they are the olympic athletes of the bird world. And they are handsome birds, aren’t they?
It was a great trip. Dotterels, godwits and even dabchicks. In this visit, the chicks have grown too big to be carried around on the parent’s back any longer. In fact they seem even bigger than the parents now, Nevertheless, they are still dependent on the parents for food. As always, the water in the Wetlands at Queen Elizabeth Park is reasonably sheltered and echoes the deep green of the surrounding bush.
On another damp but windless day, Mary drove me up to the regional waterworks at Kaitoke. I was delighted to spot a small cluster of female Californian quails browsing in the lawns there beside the road. The males are more spectacular, I suppose, but the females as seen here are beautiful in their own way.
Stick insects are always problematic for me. They are interesting but very hard to make an attractive image with. They seem to need a context, so in this case it was moving slowly among the flax and lavender at the back door. It’s the first time I have seen a stick insect with a face.
It drives me nuts that, every year, the mainstream media are surprised to discover the existence of Metrosideros excelsa aurea. Breathless headlines about “rare yellow pohutukawa” appear without regard that they used the same story last year and the one before that. To be fair, I probably make the same complaint about them each year too. The yellow variety is definitely less common than the more familia crimson variety, but I think they are far from rare. There are plenty of very fine yellow specimens in the Wellington region.
This little Hebe moth is, like many others quite spectacular when up close. Mary drew it to my attention on our stairwell, so I switched to my trusty macro lens and got really close. Do click on the image to see it in the larger version. It reminds me of some of the more spectacular weaving that I have seen, though I think it would be a talented weaver indeed who could produce work as beautiful as this.
Like the pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) , the rata (Metrosideros robusta) is a member of the myrtle family and of the genus metrosideros. The flowers are, to my eye, indistinguishable from those of the pohutukawa. If you get close, the leaves of the pohutukawa are larger and a darker green, and have small hairs on the underside. Rata leaves are smaller, glossy on both sides and have a notch on the tip. A good friend alerted me to the spectacular colours of the rata trees in bloom in the rain up at Kaitoke. He was right.
Most people think of somewhere else when Waterloo Station is mentioned. Our local version would probably fit in the cafeteria of the other one. Nevertheless, it is a locally important interchange between the Upper Hutt/Wairarapa railway line and the Hutt Valley bus services. The wind-shelters in the station are an interesting and necessary feature. As I said before, I am not permitted to drive until early January so I decided to use public transport and roam around the region by train and bus for the day.
On arrival at Wellington railway station, I made this image. It occurred to me that not much has changed since the first time I passed through here in February 1954. Well, there are no steam locomotives, and the electric units have advanced through two generations. And then there are the face masks, and the cell phones. And the women wear trousers and the men don’t wear hats. No-one is smoking. Apart from that, nothing much is different
Part of my day wandering the region by public transport was to take a trip from the railway station to Island Bay by double-decker bus. Like the schoolboy I sometimes am, I grabbed the front row seat on the top deck, and enjoyed the different perspective from up there. A feature of the city at this time of year is the proliferation of pohutukawa trees in magnificent bloom. This specimen is about midway along Kent Terrace.
On my return from the Southern suburbs, I decided to take the train out to Upper Hutt and thence back to Petone Station from where I would catch a bus back up the hill to home. This was all for the pleasure of riding the rails and seeing our city from different points of view. I paused for a pizza lunch in the station before heading North. Since I wasn’t driving, a glass of Pinhead Supercharger IPA helped that go down.
Through the train windowI was intrigued by the extent of the “Bob Scott Retirement Village”. This was built on the site which was once Hutt Valley Memorial College and before that Petone Technical College. In its latter days as it was rotting, graffitied and increasingly vandalised, it suffered an arson attack and was totally destroyed. It has taken several years but the retirement village that stands in its place is now complete. Despite its somewhat forbidding appearance, I know many people who enjoy living there, and liken it to living on a cruise liner. I am happy for them, but the lifestyle does not appeal to me.
I am very blessed that Mary works so hard to compensate for my driving prohibition and she made a picnic lunch and drove us over the hill to Lake Wairarapa. We also visited Boggy Pond and had our lunch on the shores of Lake Onoke at Lake Ferry.
Time was when the trip over the hill was a long and arduous journey, especially with kids in the car. Now you wonder why it was such a big deal back then. Heck there was even a greasy spoon cafe at the summit to break the journey. Obviously the places have not got closer together, but modern cars are more powerful, more comfortable and more reliable. The journey from Te Marua to Featherston is a mere 25 minutes. My favourite spot is a corner just to the North of bridge number 6 where there is a bank of trees down a steep ridge. There is no footpath and no safe space to stop to get my desired view. This shot is not what I desired. I should have waited until we got to where that next car ahead is, but it will do as a grab shot. As a passenger I can stick the camera out the window and point it in the right direction.
That is my last blog post for the year. I hope the festive season treated you kindly and you all had a great time. For any who are locked down or constrained by Covid, my sympathies. I look forward to your company in 2022. I enjoyed a cartoon I saw (but can’t find) which depicts the occupiers of 2021 cowering behind a corner in a dark corridor, reaching out tentatively with a very long pole to nudge open the door to 2022. I would like to hope for a much better year than this has been for the world, and I wish all the very best for the new year to all those who share my journey in this blog. Thank you for being with me and for the kind words from so many of you.
Alaster Benn is a softly spoken Scot who is a passionate musician as well as a superb landscape photographer. He makes his living at least in part by teaching photography. I purchased and downloaded a course from him with the improbable title of “Dodging and Burning Masterclass”. I crudely summarise this course as about reacting to the landscape, and about steering your audience towards sharing your experience.
You can find him on YouTube where, as well as his many tutorials, he has produced an excellent series of interviews with other great landscape photographers. The interview series is called “Vision and Light”. There are at least 32 episodes in this series. If you have a hankering to make landscape images, I recommend you seek out his work on YouTube. He has helped me greatly.
I should add that because of the recent Covid lockdown, the images I am offering in this edition are mostly not landscapes. Any shortcomings in these pictures are mine and mine alone and should not reflect badly on Alaster or any others from whom I have taken guidance. Besides, I have so far watched just six of the twenty six chapters in this particular course.
Spring has arrived in Wellington according to the calendar and as shown by nature. Daffodils give me pleasure, in the elegance of their trumpets, and in their spectacular choice of colours. I seem to make similar shots at this time most years. Having done this before, should I refrain from doing it again? Or do I try to capture anew, the pleasure I take in this year’s encounter with an old friend?
I almost passed this by. It was Mary who saw it and drew it to my attention. The turkey tail fungus (Trametes versicolor) was hiding in plain sight. They seemed at first sight to be brown. I came back the next day with the intent to see what I might achieve with the shapes of the fungus. And then through the viewfinder, I saw the colours. How had I not seen this the first time round? Pointing the camera at things that excite you is a rewarding exercise, and it paid off this time.
The fungus in the previous image was found in the Rhododendron Dell in the Belmont Recreation Reserve. Though not yet at the peak of their season, the rhododendrons in the dell are quite spectacular, and are accompanied by a happy display of daffodils.
Certain kinds of weather discourage landscape photography. The light is flat and uninteresting, and the conditions are unpleasant outside. If the the light was interesting, I might brave the chill and damp. It wasn’t so I played with some of Mary’s collection of ornaments. It’s not a great image, but I like it, and had fun creating it, and that’s why I pick up the camera in the first place.
As the unpleasant conditions continued, I stretched even further in my search for photographic opportunity. This is a pottery candlestick holder, with a lit candle providing the somewhat sinister light through holes around the eyes and the beak. So the question I need to ask is, do I like the image, and additionally, why do I like or dislike it? That might boil down to “should I have made it?” Well I had fun making it. It’s not an image I would hang, but I quite like it. And that opens my eyes to the idea that photographic value is not a binary condition. Images can give some pleasure without having to be a masterpiece.
There was a time when Lower Hutt took enormous pride in its public gardens and every berm and traffic island in the CBD was covered with superbly laid out gardens. As each batch of flowers reached the peak of its display, the city gardeners would be planting the next species for a completely different and equally brilliant display. And then the city administrators placed a higher value on the cost than on the enormous pleasure and pride that the gardens brought. Suddenly our city looked bleak and brutal. In recent times, there has been a loosening of the grip and I am seeing some interesting planting around the CBD and especially near the civic buildings. This splash of lurid green attracted my attention, though I didn’t know what it was. It turns out to be Euphorbia. Colour and form make it appealing to me.
Riddiford garden has been a feature of the civic area near the town hall of Lower Hutt since 1923, so for almost a century. There was a half-way reasonable day so I decided to meander through it looking for any eye-catching views. There were many individual plants that I liked , but this tree on the Eastern side of the garden had real character.
Another rough day and I was not inspired to venture outside. Still life is often an excuse for lack of willingness to face discomfort. Anyway, we have this little brass bell that belonged to my mother. She used it to summon help in her last days at home. I polished it up and placed it on a silver tray.
In downtown Wellington, on the site of a former petrol station, a new headquarters building is being erected for BNZ. It will replace the other brand new headquarters building that was irreparably damaged by the Kaikoura earthquake in November 2016. The predecessor was demolished in the last year after sitting unusable for some years. Anyway, as I walked down Featherston Street, I stopped to watch frames for the new building being lifted from the deck of the truck on which they came. My eye was caught by the cab of the tower crane doing the big lifts. That’s not a clumsy vignette on my part. There is a streak of cloud aligned with the crane’s boom.
Bluebridge operate two ferries between Wellington and Picton in competition with the Interislander line which currently runs three. I was coming back to my car on Customhouse Quay and saw the Strait Feronia arriving from Picton. By the time I got in position, she was moving backwards at a smart clip ready to lower her stern ramp. I was intrigued at the almost total absence of any visible turbulence from the propeller.
I looked down on the city from the parking lot in front of the Cotton Building at Victoria University of Wellington. The Carter Fountain in Oriental Bay added some brightness to an otherwise chill Spring morning
In the North East Corner of the harbour is the Seaview Oil Terminal where various tankers call to offload petrochemicals and other more scary chemicals to be piped into the tanks at the various terminals around Seaview. I like the curve of the deck and the blue sky is OK too.
So endeth another edition. I really must make progress with the course.
Well yes, I have. Without over dramatising, I had a carcinoma removed from my scalp. Then the skin graft intended to cover the site didn’t do as well as expected and a second surgery was required. Now I look as if I lost a battle with the zombies. I still have a bunch of staples holding me together and a very unpleasant experience that is. However, that too shall pass in the week ahead. I can report that the biopsy was clean and I believe all is good around the operation site.
I have been a stranger to my camera f0r several weeks, and had little or no interest in my keyboard. And so eight weeks have passed. Let me dip my toes gently into the water.
That may not have been a well chosen metaphor. At the end of summer, even such a mediocre one as we had, water is not plentiful in the Wairarapa.Golden grass will turn white unless rain falls soon.
Wellington’s port is much less busy that it was in my early memories of it. The most numerous visitors these days seem to be the various bulk carriers that take a never-ending stream of logs to China to be processed. The log carriers seem to be the only vessels that have to wait for a berth in the port.
It’s received wisdom in camera club circles that no matter how beautiful the flower is, the image will not do well unless the treatment by the photographer has added something to the image beyond the flower itself. I liked the flower anyway, and shot it in front of some mottled green tissue paper. My fellow judges may not give it much credit, but I liked it.
Anyone who loved the British sitcom, “Blackadder”, will remember Baldrick’s battlefield poem:
Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!
Titan Cranes have their depot down in Seaview, and on this day, they had a selection of their cranes on display to demonstrate differing capabilities to visiting clients.
As I drove along Grays Rd at Pauatahanui, I saw an artist working at his easel making a landscape down on the mud flats beside the creek. I stopped and, with his permission, made my own image of the scene.
A trip to the Horowhenua in search of shore birds was disappointing. On the other hand a visit to the beautiful replica of a Dutch windmill in Foxton was rewarding as it had sails set and was spinning briskly.
Whairepo Lagoon has a bridge that crosses over the entrance and like so many other places has that grid that allows those unoriginal people to lock a small padlock through the grid. Sadly the interaction between the various metals causes some regrettable corrosion.
Hikitia was launched in 1926 in Glasgow. She travelled all the way from Glasgow to Wellington and despite a few trips for maintenance, is still working to this day. Her original coal boilers were replaced by an oil fired boiler in 1963 and then replaced again by modern package boilers in 1980. She is still licensed to lift large tonnages somewhere in excess of 100 Tonnes. Wow!
I seem to have let things slip for a few weeks. Ah well, the solution is to pick them up again.
Stillness speaks louder than the strongest gale. It demands my attention. The first thing I do every morning when I pull back the curtains is check whether the fronds on the ponga tree are waving or still. If they are still, life speeds up and after shower and breakfast, I head out. If they are waving I spend time at the keyboard. This still moment occurred at the end of the day and I was driving through Naenae. The duck pond in Fraser park was free of ripples and I was able to get low enough to separate the tree from the background.
On several mornings recently, we have experienced river fog drifting slowly down the valley. It doesn’t always follow the river exactly and takes a shortcut through Naenae. The various heating equipment at Hutt Hospital contributed to scene and showed the generally Southbound movement,
There was a mist in Evans Bay. The ex-naval whaler owned by the Sea Scouts was in need of a good baling out. but was still afloat, and separated from the other nearby boats by the fog.
It was an unusually thick fog, so I went around Shelly Bay road to see what opportunities might arise. I was setting up my tripod for a shot across the bay when two cyclists emerged out of the mist behind me and were disappearing away to the North. I swung the camera and seized the moment.
Back to the view across the harbour and the old jetties at the former Air Force flying boat base. I got the shot I wanted and within thirty minutes the fog had lifted and the view across Evans Bay was back to normal
Mary and I chose to spend four nights away recently. We looked at the various AirBnB opportunities and settled on Opunake on the Taranaki coast. It’s about half an hour North of Hawera and 50 minutes South of New Plymouth. I had driven through it before but had spent no time there. Just getting there fulfils the first rule of landscape photography: first go somewhere where there is a good landscape.
The weather was variable while we were in Taranaki but we had a few memorable sunsets. Though there was a chill Southerly breeze, the sky was clear apart from some haze on the horizon. This shot was made in Middleton Bay, just North of Opunake beach.
A nice thing about Opunake is the number of interesting places that are with less than an hour’s drive. One such is Dawson Falls at the edge of the tree line high on the South Eastern side of Taranaki. The day we went up there was complicated with low cloud, and though I made some shots of the snow and glimpses of the summit, the mountain was not displayed to best advantage. I was happy however, to see this delightful little North Island tomtit (Petroica macrocephala). It was happy to see me too since my passing by stirred up insects for it to catch.
While we were in Taranaki, we visited our friend Wayne Herbert. I posted an image of his tui last edition. This is one of an American hawk . What a gift this man has. I swear I can see life in the eye of this wooden carving.
One of my favourite places near New Plymouth is Lake Mangamahoe. We stopped in there on our way back to Opunake. It was a grey overcast day, but colour was provided by the extensive growth of red hot poker (Kniphofia uvaria) along the lake’s edge. And then there were the lovely waxeyes browsing among the flowers, presumably for insects.
Steam Inc, at Paekakariki was having an open weekend recently and I happened to be driving past when I spotted the plumes of steam as the locomotives were being fired up for the event the next day. There were two locomotives out in the sunshine. One was Ja1271 and the other was Ab608 “Passchendaele”. Both were hissing gently and occasionally blowing steam.
On Petone Beach late this week, I saw a dog-walker with nine or ten “clients” which he had walked oolong the stormwater outlet. Several of his dogs were off the leash and he seemed to be calling them to heel with varying degrees of success.
That will suffice this time. Stay safe and well everyone. I look forward to catching up in two weeks or so.
Since I last wrote, there have been a lot of days that were, at best grim and uninviting as far as photography goes. It’s officially Spring, and that has brought grey skies and bitter winds. Of course there have been exceptions and I have made some images that I quite like. Let’s have a look.
The Hutt River estuary is a place I have photographed on many occasions, usually looking at either the birds or the boats on the water. On this occasion I was sitting in my car at the back of the boat sheds waiting for Mary to meet me at the end of her six or seven kilometre walk down the river bank. I spotted a puddle on the gravel road and started thinking about the recent trend towards low-level wide-angle reflection shots. It seems that almost any pool of still water bigger than a dinner plate will work for this technique. Putting that idea together with the bold paint on the sheds it seemed worth the experiment. It seems that, no matter how banal the subject, the addition of its reflection improves the image.
The kereru, or NZ Native wood pigeon is a regular subject of mine. They are reportedly fewer in number around Wellington this season. Nobody seems to have passed the word to the ones that visit our little kowhai bushes and this one was about 3 metres from our front door. Whereas the Tui is a nectar feeder that looks for the liquid in the flowers, the kereru is the avian equivalent of a motorised hedge trimmer. It chops young shoots and flowers indiscriminately. Their iridescent plumage is a delight to my eye so I forgive their greedy habits..
Wellington’s Botanic Gardens puts on a splendid display of tulips each year at about this time. Since they use the same beds each time, it gets harder and harder to find a different way to capture their splendour. Using the “less is more” principle, I aimed at the glow of some side-lit blooms. The contrast with the distant hedge worked nicely. I thought.
I was driving Eastward from Owhiro Bay towards the airport when I spotted a man on the roadside with a long lens shooting at something on the beach. I paused and was surprised and delighted to see a young leopard seal had hauled itself out of the water. I am told that this is an immature male, but even so, I too used a long lens so as not to come too close to an animal with such fearsome reputation for aggression. It was obviously there for a rest, and apart from yawning a lot, it did little while I was there.
On SH2 at the foot of the Remutaka hill, there is a cafe and function centre called Aston Norwood Gardens. It has a delightful formal garden that is worth a visit in most seasons of the year, but especially when the cherry blossoms are on display. The main catch is that you sometimes have to wait for other visitors to the garden to move out of the way before you get a clear picture. Of course cherry blossoms and reflections make nice images but always on the edge of cliche.
While I have a strong preference for nature, I also love the way that the colours and textures in our cities catch my eye. In this case, I used the “low-wide” technique in the reflecting pools at the front of the Supreme Court building. This picture was made in the weekend so this end of Lambton Quay was untypically quiet. I was particularly attracted to the patchwork quilt effect of the two light-coloured buildings.
In Sladden Park, Lower Hutt, there is a lovely grove of mature kowhai trees near the Hospice Garden of Remembrance. It is a favourite haunt of many tui when the kowhai is in flower. I suspect that there is something of a competitive courtship ritual taking place as the birds whistle and honk melodically in the hope of impressing a mate.
I was driving somewhat aimlessly though Oriental bay not seeing anything until those lenticular clouds registered on my brain. I am often drawn to patterns in subtle shades of grey and those well defined layers just demanded attention.
At the Western end of the Pauatahanui Inlet, the water was pleasantly still, though the cloud on the far side suggested that change was on its way. It certainly was, since there was a heavy, but brief downpour soon afterwards.
Sometimes I drive down the Wainuiomata coast road in the hope of seeing something worthy of shooting. The forest park, the seascape, or sometimes, the beautiful dotterels which nest on the shingle beach. It can be an uncomfortable place, with bitter winds blasting the sand at you. Sometimes, I get all the way to the coast and find nothing that makes me want to press the shutter button. On this visit, I was greeted by a lovely dotterel pulling the old diversion trick … “follow me, follow me, nothing to see over there”. Ideally I want to get down at the bird’s eye level, but I have to confess that sometimes getting up afterwards is a challenge.
Often when I am on the coast at Wainuiomata, the salt haze prevents a clear view of the mountains in the South. On this trip, there was startling clarity and the mountains stood clean and proud. But what caught my eye most was the spray ripped from the wave crests. It gives a sense of how bleak the conditions were on the beach. I must remember to keep a warm jacket in the car. It’s no fun on that beach if the clothing is too light.
On the way home, I paused at the Seaview Marina and noticed a stack of the old cast-iron fence posts saved from the city wharves. I have no idea what fate awaits them, but they seemed worth a shot.
That will do for now. I wonder what the weeks ahead hold.
I am happy to report that I am restored to near normal after a period of recuperation. This restoration seems to have coincided with a a particularly mild period in what would normally be a bleak winter month. I am enjoying it immensely.
Mild weather does not necessarily mean every day is fully fine. On a recent wet Sunday, I set out to practice a skill demonstrated by a photographic friend … that of using rain puddles to get symmetrical reflections. I hadn’t understood the trick as I made this image outside the Dowse Museum in Lower Hutt, but it worked, after a fashion. I enjoyed a human sideshow as a mother and father tried to persuade their small boy to join them in the museum cafe. For his part, stamping in every available puddle was much more fun.
While I was taking things easy, Mary was attempting to lift my spirits by fetching home various items that she thought I might like to use for still life images. Bless her. What we see here is a double exposure comprised of a sprig of manuka over a small (but photographically enlarged) sheet of bark. I quite like the result.
There were a few days in quick succession in which we enjoyed blazing sunrises and sunsets. This image was made literally at our back door step, looking Westward towards Maungaraki. The wonderful colours lasted for about 15 minutes and then faded to grey and died.
It’s great when the penny finally drops and you learn at last how your friends achieve their results. The trick to those lovely reflections is to use a wide angle lens and to have the camera so low that it is within millimetres of actually touching the puddle in which you seek the reflection. The puddle need be no bigger than a dinner plate and no more than a few millimetres in depth.
Getting down so low is not so much a problem as getting back up again. However, I have trick for this too. I hang the camera upside down on the centre-post of my tripod and lower it until it is almost touching the water. Then I use my iPhone as a remote trigger and can see on its screen what the camera sees. Thus these low shots are made with me standing comfortably upright. The building in the centre is the former offices of the Wellington Harbour Board. Now it contains the gallery of the Academy of Fine Art and some rather nice apartments.
Most people who have a passing acquaintance with our city associate it with wind rather than fog. And yet, for three successive days this week, our mornings have begun with flat calm and varying degrees of fog. I love such days. This image is taken from the Wellington waterfront looking back towards Lambton Quay. It’s a rare day that you can look West from downtown Wellington and see no hills.
The same morning was just paradise for me. Oriental bay was perfectly still and provided an enchanting background for the boats moored in the marina. The old marina on the Eastern side of Clyde Quay is typically home for elderly wooden vessels with fewer of the plastic gin-palaces that seem to abound in Chaffers Marina to the West of the quay. I hold that blue naval whaler in the foreground in particular affection.
Round in Evans Bay, the fog was still present but rapidly thinning. The sun was breaking through and the colours were just breathtaking. My use of a wide-angle lens in this shot made it harder for me to see it as I was composing the image, and it wasn’t until later that a meteorogically expert friend drew to my attention the “fog-bow” in the backround at the right. Apparently fog-bows are caused in the same way as rainbows, as the sunlight works on the tiny droplets in the fog to produce the white arc.
I am sure I have caught this yacht several times before, but its bright red in contrast with the blue-grey of the sea and fog was irresistible. The simplicity of the shot just worked for me. Normally you would see the Northern end of the airport behind her.
More fog the next day seemed different in character to that of the previous day. This shot was made from the front door of our house as I was setting out in the hope of more fog at sea level. It is looking slightly East of North and on a clear day, we would see the Avalon tower block in the distance.
To my regret, the fog around the harbour was already thin and disappearing. At Seaview, the tanker “British Cadet” was preparing to leave after delivering its load. At the same time as two Greenpeace protesters were climbing the face of the Majestic Centre in Willis street to attach an anti-oil banner, here was a 46,000 Tone carrier of the product not only delivering oil and chemicals, but emitting visible exhaust fumes. While I have some general green tendencies, I sincerely hope that those protesters who want there to be no more oil exploration anywhere, ever, walked to the site, and climbed using ropes with only natural fibres. As a society we are irrevocably dependent on petrochemicals.
As I wandered still hoping to find effects of the fog. I enjoyed the presence of this pied shag which created rings on the still surface, and dived every time I pointed the camera at it. It always has to come up somewhere, and this time, I was ready for it.
Despite the early disappearance of the fog, Evans Bay was sparkling and worthy of an effort to capture it. It is almost the same shot as this week’s image number seven. Though people often get excited about blue skies, I think the clouds make the image more interesting.
Those days when the sea is so calm that it seems to develop a skin are always pleasing. This little pier adjacent to the Coastguard base just begged to be photographed. I think this looks better if you click to enlarge.
My last image this time is back in the Waiwhetu stream near Seaview. The log swept downstream from who-knows where has jammed itself into a state of permanence, embedded in the stream floor and has become a favourite resting spot for a variety of shages.
That’s my lot for now. Constructive criticism is, as always, welcome.
Our time of innocence is ended. For a very long time, New Zealand has been blessed to be largely free of hate crimes. Yesterday, Friday 15 March, a deluded white supremacist burst into a mosque during Friday prayers. In an act of supreme cowardice, he opened fire with an automatic weapon aiming at men women and children. When he and his cowardly accomplices were done, there were 49 dead and 48 seriously wounded. Our collective heart is broken. We want no part of his so-called racial purity. He awaits trial, and I hope a very long time in prison.
I have relatively few images to offer this week, but let’s begin with this shot taken from the main street of Eastbourne on a wet and misty day. There are tracks up through the bush to the ridge, and over to Butterfly Creek. This might not have been the best day for it, but I always like misty conditions.
A day or so later, we got one of those “blue-on-blue” days, and I got lucky as one of Centreport’s bright red tugs scooted across the horizon on its way to assist a tanker about to leave the oil terminal. The red against the blue is quite striking I think
A grey day later, I was at Shelly Bay, a one-time flying boat base of the RNZAF. The city has dithered over the future of the base for as long as I can remember, and all the while, the old jetties are slowly collapsing.
Out at Pauatahanui, the works associated with the Transmission Gully motorway are becoming increasingly visible. This crane has a 400 Tonne lift capacity and is seen here placing bridge beams in place. The moody sky adds to the image.
One of the on-line photographic tutorials that I watched this week referred to magic light. It classified this as when the light picks out the subject of your image and leaves everything else in the shade. This view of downtown Wellington as seen from Lowry Bay comes close to that light.
The cruise season is almost at an end with perhaps just a few weeks more to run until next spring. Today, we had Golden Princess in port. Though I yearn for the grace of ships from an earlier era, I was impressed by the sheer grandeur of this vessel.
That’s all from me this week as I join my country in mourning the disgusting act of violence.