Adventure Architecture Landscapes Machinery Makara Petone Weather

December 17, 2015 … after a long absence

My granddaughter Grace had a list of things to see and do.

The diameter of this turbine is about the same as the wingspan of a Boeing 747

She wanted to see a wind farm, since there are none near her home in Brisbane. We went out to Makara and drove up to the West Wind recreational area. The wind farm was suitably impressive, but a bigger shock might have been the mean-spirited wind that held the temperature to a miserly 11 degrees. We walked anyway to the one turbine that the public can get close to.

Mill Creek
Mill Creek wind farm seen from the West Wind recreation area

The view from West Wind across to the Mill Creek wind farm showed twenty or so of the 28 turbines there.

In the immortal words of Gandalf the wizard, “You shall not pass*

Then Grace was interested in exploring the local “Op-shops” for pre-loved clothing. While she was in one at Petone, I wandered around and found a shed that according to the sternly worded signage implied that trespassers would find themselves on whatever is our equivalent of Guantanamo Bay.  I suspect they use it to park surplus vehicles. However, I saw patterns in the razor wire that were intriguing.

And that will do for today

  • Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Landscapes Machinery Makara Rivers

November 7, 2015 … avoiding the crowds

Crowds are not my favourite thing.

In the Takarau Gorge

Thus, when it came to going into town to join the throng celebrating the triumphant parade of the victorious All Blacks and/or the royal visit by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, I chose to go elsewhere. The day was near to perfect, pleasantly warm with little or no wind and clear skies. I chose to drive along the Takarau Gorge towards Makara. The Gorge is still recovering from the flooding back in May, and many of the roadside wire fences are still festooned with rotting weed draped there by the racing torrent. It’s a narrow road and the few places where parking is possible require a good walk to places that give the best views. I am suitably cautious and get on the other side of the barrier if a car approaches.

West Wind
Getting close to West Wind

Up at the West Wind wind farm, I took a slow shot of the blades spinning. Because the breeze was so light, the turbines were really just drifting around.

Mill Creek
The Mill Creek facility

At the crest of the hill, the view to the North takes in the newer “Mill Creek” wind farm where the 26 turbines add almost 60 megawatts to the national grid. If you look closely at the furthest hills, you will see that they are the Tararuas with some residual snow still gleaming.

More of the West Wind turbines

Behind me, 19 of the  Northern-most turbines of the West Wind’s 62 turbine wind farmer were ticking over, except for the one that was undergoing maintenance.

Similar weather today, but more wind.

Architecture Landscapes Lower Hutt Makara Waves Weather Wellington

September 13, 2015 … weird and wonderful mixture

Hail, wind and sunshine mingled.

Illuminated rain cloud just beyond Hutt Hospital

When I unveiled the day, I was confronted a localized band of heavy rain moving across the Eastern side of the valley with bright sun shining through it.

Mill Creek Wind Farm … they were drifting lazily when I drove in. All were at a standstill when I left.

In the afternoon, with pleasant sunshine and little wind, I heard Makara calling, so I went out through Karori. On the road that winds down into the Ohariu Valley, there are views of both the West Wind and the newer Mill Creek wind farms. The turbines were dancing in slow time, but a touch of Neutral density filter allowed me to slow my exposure to convey their movement.

Idyllic surf casting weather at Makara

At Makara, with the sun low in the afternoon sky, there was very little wind, and the sea was unusually near calm.Nevertheless, even the little swells were imparting a fierce  growling rattle to the stones on the steeply shelving beach.  The lady on the blanket was watching the rod for her partner who was busy attending to his other two rods.

red roof
Red roof

Heading back out of Makara towards the Takarau Gorge and Johnsonville on the way home, a bright red roof caught my eye. I suppose it has been there for a while, but the low angled light made it pop.

That’s all for today


adversity Landscapes Light Machinery Makara Weather

July 3, 2015 … a day of sombre tones

Heavy grey cloud and strong winds yesterday have not improved today.

Wind farm
“West Wind” wind farm earning its keep under a heavy sky

I had some pictures to deliver to Makara yesterday, so of course I had to try for some shots out there, regardless of the drabness of the day. I began up the hill at the West Wind turbines. I was curious about the one stationary turbine, then I realised that the hatch at the rear of the nacelle was open, so maintenance was probably in progress.

Up the coast. Note the spinning turbine a little way up the track

From the same spot, in the other direction, the view up the coast towards Mana and Kapiti was made more interesting by the glittering light on the sea.

In the Takarau Gorge

I chose to go home via the Takarau Gorge and that is always frustrating because of the lack of places to park. One day I shall walk through it, but that has its perils too since there is no footpath between the narrow road and the farm fence. I did a slow exposure. Hard to realise that just over a month or so ago, the water was roaring through here three or four metres higher.

More tomorrow.

Adventure Birds Landscapes Light Makara Rivers Weather

May 27, 2015 … sunlit interlude

Technically it’s not yet Winter here.

Good morning world.

Lately, however, we could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Yesterday broke the mould. Sunshine always inspires a sense of wellbeing in me, even if there is frost on the ground. Some mist around the Eastern hills made the start of the day very attractive.

Looking South towards Makara

I had recently obtained permission to enter a farm in the Ohariu Valley so it seemed like a perfect day to try it out. As I said there was ice on the ground, especially in the shady spots, so I trod cautiously as I climbed the small hill to get my first view looking back towards the West Wind wind farm. If you click to enlarge the image, you will see the spinning turbines on the ridge.

Ohariu Valley Wetland

On the other side of the hill is a pretty little wetland which seems to be well populated by waterfowl, of which the most visible and audible were the Canada Geese. The frost is visible in the background.

Glittering morning

My sense of balance is not what it used to be, so I relied heavily on the support of my photographic tripod as I waded into the middle of the stream for the next shot which was a slow (8 second) exposure.  Just tn days earlier this was the scene of raging floodwaters. How innocent it looked yesterday.

Something else tomorrow.

Architecture Birds Landscapes Makara Maritime Waves Weather

May 24, 2015 … living at the margin

Makara is an interesting little community.

Interesting structures at Makara

Though it is just twenty minutes from Wellington, and is indeed part of Wellington City, it seems like another country. Many of the homes, at least as seen from the outside, are rustic, and in some cases eccentric. The casual visitor might get the impression that some occupiers don’t spend a lot of money on maintenance. Of course it is fully exposed to the incoming salt spray in the prevailing Nor’Westerly wind, so paint does not last long.

Even in a modest swell such as this, the beach grows as the rocks surge back and forth. It’s not a beach for family swimming.

But it is the bay itself that is the essence of Makara. A steeply shelving rocky beach has an unending sound track of growling rocks surging back and forth in the swells from the Tasman Sea .

I suppose it might have floated if the bottom were not rusted through

Last week’s torrential rains caused the river to rise so I wandered upstream a little to see what changes had been wrought since my last visit. It is clear that there was a massive surge of water as all of the fences down the Takarau Gorge had debris draped over every wire from bottom to top.The gorge must have been a fearsome sight at the peak of the flow.  Down at the bay, however, apart from a solid coating of mud, things were pretty much as usual. How the sad old wheelbarrow got there is beyond me.

“Point of order mister chairman!” Shags meeting in their roosting tree.

I walked a little way back upstream to the well known shag roost tree. I think the shags were conducting their annual general meeting. It was good to see a number of juveniles up there.

That’s my lot for today.

adversity Birds Landscapes Makara Sunset Weather

May 11, 2015 … the sun before the rain

Rain is hammering on my window.

Wind farm
Over the ridge from Karori to the wind farm on the hill

The forecast for the week ahead is for more of the same. Strong winds, heavy rain. I wonder what Winter will be like. Happily, yesterday was much nicer. There was a stiff Northerly, but bright sunshine makes up for many other shortcomings. In the morning, Mary had persuaded me into a longish walk, so by the time I came to photography, the sun was low in the sky. I went into the city and out through Karori over the hill into the Ohariu Valley. The turbines of the West Wind generation area were spinning briskly on the skyline.

Makara sunset

Makara is always an interesting place to visit, situated as it is at the mouth of the stream in a narrow valley arriving at a small North-facing bay on the West Coast.  Glittering waves were tumbling directly onto the very steep beach.

Walking the coastal track

There is a walkway around the coast that passes through a narrow gap a little way off, and just as I focused on the gap, two people appeared in it. A very positive photo-bombing.

Shags in silhouette

As I usually do, I chose to return via the Takarau Gorge and Johnsonville. I love the stream that twists its way through the gorge, but it requires a lot of walking to get to the best spots since there are very few safe places to park a car. I think I missed the best light and the valley was now essentially in shadow. However a group of shags were nicely silhouetted in a pine tree.

Last light
Last warm light

Nearer to Johnsonville, there is a nice view of the hills at the back of Khandallah and though I usually hate power wires in a landscape, the high voltage DC lines from the Cook Strait Cable to the rectification system at Haywards Hill seem symbolic of the valley.

Out into the rain now.

adversity Birds Landscapes Makara Rivers Seasons Waves Weather

February 4, 2015 … wild winds and dry grass

The rain stopped but the wind blew.

Makara surf
It was hard to keep the lens clean with the salt spray blowing straight at me. The island peering around the corner is Mana and I was sitting there just a few days ago.

Oh how it blew. The sun was shining to I took myself to Makara where I had trouble opening the car door against the force of the wind. The waves were coming in and sucking hungrily at the rocky beach, making a fearsome growl  as they retreated before the next one.

Oystercatcher on a mission to see off competitors

The oystercatchers on the beach were unperturbed by the crashing water a metre or so behind them, and carried on their territorial squabbles.

Pukeko and chick

I took the road to the North through the Takarau Gorge and spotted a small black fluffy bundle. A Pukeko chick. I was as stealthy as I knew how, but mother is a very wary bird and she spotted me and they were on the other side of the stream before I could get closer.

Dry hills
Dry hills in the Ohariu Valley … and yes, the picture is properly horizontal

Carrying on towards Johnsonville, it is hard to avoid seeing just how little rain there has been, despite the downpour the previous day. It’s hard to believe that the suburbs of Khandallah and Johnsonville lie just over that ridge.

The mast to the right of the hill is Mt Kaukau behind Khandallah

Despite the desperate dryness, the valley was looking very attractive.

And the wind continues to howl.

Birds Landscapes Light Makara Waves Weather

August 3, 2014 … that’s enough water for now

This business of looking out the window in the morning is getting to be a habit.

Morning view from Normandale towards Stokes Valley

Heavy overcast with distant beams of sunlight around the Taita area greeted me yesterday. I took several shots but arguably one of these a day is sufficient.

This old shack in the Ohariu valley is slowly being overtaken by the bush

Then the rain set in and showed little sign of abating, so by mid-afternoon, I set out anyway. There was a strong Northerly wind and I decided that the closest place to catch some onshore waves might be Makara. On the way. I passed an old shed I have seen many times before. Since I seemed to be the only one mad enough to be out in these conditions, I paused briefly on the narrow road and shot through the open window. If you look closely at the top left corner, you can see the angle of the rainfall (about 30 degrees).

Shag roost

Near the village at Makara, the river is close to the road and there seems to be a persistent colony of pied shags, and as usual, many of them were making use of a driftwood log.

Tumbling turbulence at Makara

Down at the coast, the waves were not huge but it’s an unfriendly beach at the best of times, and this would not be a day to be tangled in that surf.

That’s another day over.

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June 6, 2014 … mixed meanderings

Hard to describe yesterday’s weather.

Ohariu valley
A tortured tree … it belongs with Ichabod Crane and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow

It was a strange mix of grey overcast, stiff breeze, patches of sunshine, and the occasional mean-spirited drops of rain. Of course I went looking for images more in hope than expectation. This tree in the Ohariu Valley was a bit desperate, a way of having something in the camera that I could work with if nothing else turned up.

Ohariu to Makara
One of the wider spaces in the Takarau Gorge

A little creek tumbles through the Takarau Gorge beside the narrow twisting road that runs from Johnsonville to Makara. When we moved back to Wellington in 1980, it was still a gravel road and the ruts and bumps were guaranteed to give the underside of your car a good beating. The road is sealed now, from end to end, but there is no cure for its narrowness. There are a number of shots that would make interesting pictures, but there is simply nowhere safe to stand.  I waited until I found a slightly wider spot (a farm gate is always useful in this regard)  and took a long exposure of the creek across the road. Most of the creek is narrower and wilder than this.

Pied shags at Makara

Near Makara village there is an extensive colony of pied shags and a cluster of them were sitting on this stranded log.

Makara Surf
Onshore wind at Makara

Down at the beach the low sun and the tumbling surf put a lot of salt spray in the air, but there was little visible bird life.

Homeward traffic crossing the Melling Bridge in the early darkness as winter comes/

Returning to the Hutt Valley I remembered that the contrast between the blue lights decorating the Melling Bridge and the red tail and brake lights of its rush hour traffic had some potential.  This is one of several options I played with.

That’s all for today