December 1, 2019 … summer is (theoretically) here

To the best of my knowledge, I don’t suffer from any verifiable form of clinical depression. Others may have a different opinion. Nevertheless, my enthusiasm for various aspects of life, even my beloved photography, has its swings and roundabouts. I suspect that my current photographic passion depends on how long it is since I last made an image that I am pleased with. Or maybe it relates to how many days in the last week or so that I found calm water and reflections. An upturn seems imminent even though the first day of summer is cold, grey and blustery.

A rhododendron
Rhododendrons in green glass

Mary does a lot of volunteer work, so quite often there are flowers in the house from people who are grateful for her help. I get to benefit because I can use them to make pictures. I liked the rhododendrons but particularly liked the drama added by the green glass

A goldfinch in the grass
Another goldfinch

It was just the last edition of this blog that I used a goldfinch image. However, this one allowed me to get quite close, so I couldn’t resist another picture.

Ovation of the Seas berthing in Wellington
Softly softly …

A grey but reasonably calm day … one I can live with. As I was coming down SH2 towards Wellington, I noticed the vast bulk of Ovation of the Seas positioning itself to berth, so I left the motorway and went up into Wadestown. I found a viewpoint and watched as the port’s two tugs helped to ensure that 168,666 gross tonnes do not arrive alongside the wharf too quickly. It was fascinating watching the pulsing of the ship’s thrusters and the restraining efforts of the tugs. And then there was the good old fashioned mooring gang who received the thrown weighted top and than hauled the enormous hawser ashore and put it on the bollard. The ferries Kaiarahi and Aratere were dwarfed by Ovation of the Seas.

Dry Fennel
Delicacy

Otaihanga is on the Southern side of the Waikanae estuary and I enjoyed a walk down the riverside path. I wasn’t seeing much apart from a few grumpy whitebaiters, but I liked the morning light on these dried out plants. I am not entirely sure, but think they are fennel.

Roy al spoonbills sleeping
Royal spoonbills enjoying a royal siesta

There was a time when we first returned to Wellington when the royal spoonbill was a rarity … truly exotic. Now, they are relatively common in the Hutt Estuary and around the Porirua Harbour. Around Grey’s Road I counted eleven at Ration Point and another thirteen at the Kakaho stream, and no, they were definitely two different flocks.

Locks on a fence at Paekakariki
Held captive by the view

The Paekakariki hill lookout offers spectacular views, though I find it difficult to present an image that catches it in a new way. I noticed that the wire fence that keeps tourists from falling over the steep drop down the hill has suddenly acquired an infestation of “romantic” padlocks. They don’t thrill me and they usually cause the wire to rust, but it gave me a different view over the coast.

Sunflower
Yellow

On days when I am disinclined to venture out, I often find something inside to attempt a still life shot with. I always find sunflowers to be spectacular, and the the florist who provided this one wrapped it in bright yellow paper. I taped it to the window and started shooting. Definite possibilities there.

An RNZN sea sprite helicopter hovering over the Endeavour replica
Seasprite and Endeavour

For the last month or so, a flotilla of sailing ships called Tuia 250 has been sailing around the country commemorating the first arrival of Captain James Cook, The flotilla includes the replica of HMS Endeavour, the sail training vessel, Spirit of New Zealand, and three double-hulled pacific sailing waka. They have been escorted by HMNZS Wellington. I am aware that there are political sensitivities around this commemoration since, for some, it marks the beginning of colonisation. I acknowledge that many injustices followed on from the arrival of pakeha and that many of these need still to be rectified. On the other hand, this marks the beginning of the process from which modern New Zealand evolved.

I love the ships for their own sake and to my great joy, I was on Petone beach when the flotilla did a sail-by. And they did it with sails set. I envied the RNZN photographer who had the ultimate photographic accessory .. a Seasprite helicopter.

Sail training ship Spirit of New Zealand
Spirit of New Zealand

The Spirit of New Zealand is a reasonably frequent visitor to Wellington, but all too often, she travels under power with bare poles. On this occasion she had a good number of sails set and presented a pretty picture.

That will do for now. See you next time.

March 2, 2016 … improve each shining hour*

Despite the long gaps, I am not being totally idle.

leaf

I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree**

Images are being made, selected, worked on or discarded. Sometimes they arise by chance, and sometimes I set out with determined intent. Mary and I went to a local outdoor art show which has, in the past had some good work. The best thing I saw this time was the light on the leaves of the trees in the grounds.

Monarch

The image doesn’t show how those hard heavy fronds were thrashing in the wind.

There had been some butterfly chrysalises on a fence that I had decided to keep an eye on. Of course, I missed them. On the other hand, Mary spotted one of the newly minted monarchs risking its life and its scarcely dry wings in some flax plants in the garden. I say this because there was a near gale, and the bush in which it took shelter was lashing around and the butterfly was in constant danger of being crushed. I was happy to get a shot before the perfect symmetry of its wings was destroyed.

cicada

Chorus cicada

Yesterday, a friend alerted me to the presence of some dabchicks with chicks in the wetlands of Queen Elizabeth Park to the North of Paekakariki. He gave me directions which I, of course got wrong, so I walked the 45 minute loop through a delightful forest remnant where the song of the cicadas was deafening.

fantail

The most delightful companion in the bush

Further along the winding trail, there was a spot where there must have been eight or ten fantails flitting about. Fantails are a joy and a nightmare to photograph. Getting them still is relatively easy. Catching them in flight is a challenge that I failed completely this time.

Dabchicks

Dabchick with chick.

And then I came to the pond. Sure enough there were the dabchicks. One parent was acting as an aircraft carrier for the chicks, allowing them to nestle in his or her own feathers while its partner went diving for whatever it is that dabchicks eat.  Every now  and then the chicks would disembark and the parent would be free to accompany its mate in the constant search for foods, while the two little chicks were blown across the surface of the pond like tumbleweed in a desert. These chicks must be at the extreme limit of size for being carried around. Their markings are extraordinary.

Yes, I am having a lot of fun.

* How doth the little bee by Isaac Watts

** Trees by Joyce Kilmer

 

 

July 8, 2015 … grey and chilly mood

Winter is becoming real.

Kapiti

Kapiti Island from the Paekakariki Hill Road lookout

The phrase “icy blast” is appearing in the media more often. Of course, by North American standards, our winter storms are mild. Nevertheless, our winters can be miserably uncomfortable. The combination of damp and wind suck much of the joy out of life. I went seeking birds yesterday, and found nothing that I wanted to photograph, so I looked instead for landscapes along the Paekakariki Hill Road. Dismal grey drizzle and few places to stop the car safely suggest that wasn’t a great idea in the circumstances. Nevertheless I got to the lookout above Paekakariki and was rewarded with a moody view towards Kapiti Island, dark and brooding in the distance.

Strait

The Northern part of the Cook Strait under a threatening sky

For a brief moment, the sun broke through the clouds to the West and the sea lit up nicely for me. Of course the wind was still cold, but the view was warming.

Paekaakariki

Paekakariki to Waikanae with the South Taranaki Bight beyond.

Three shots from the same spot is more than I usually expect, but the view to the North was unexpectedly clear.  Paekakariki is in the foreground, while Paraparaumu and Waikanae jut out to the top left.

Creek

Ration Creek

I decided to return the same way rather than mixing it with weekend traffic on SH1 and saw Ration Creek glittering under a striking tree as I got near to Pauatahanui. I stopped at the first available piece of roadside gravel  and had to walk a long way back to get the view I first saw.

Enough for now.

April 2, 2014 … birds and buses

For reasons yet to be disclosed, family are gathering.

kingfisher

High in the tree, the kingfisher prepares to beat the crab into submission before eating it

Ants, Drew and Abbey were going to spend a few days in a borrowed bach (pronounced “batch” and translated as holiday home) at Waitarere Beach an hour or so up the coast. They invited me to pop up and see them and share lunch with them, so I meandered up their way. I checked in at Pauatahanui on the way and was happy to see a few kingfishers about.

White-fronted tern

Clearing a landing space on a crowded edge

Then, as I paused at a roadside lookout near Pukerua Bay, I enjoyed the sight of white-fronted terns resting on the edge of the sea-wall.

trolleybuses

Three trolleybuses not faring well in the open air

A little further up the line, there is a place which was formerly used as a distribution centre for new cars being shipped to dealers. Since the place has been identified as part of the new Transmission Gully road, it has ceased to be used in that way, but is temporarily providing a space for a group of bus enthusiasts to store their collection while they search for a permanent home and a place to create a bus museum.

buses

Five diesel buses, all from Wellington

Their collection is mainly comprised of buses from the Wellington region, and some of them are not faring too well in the salt-laden open air at Paekakariki.

Thorneycroft

A Thorneycroft bus in the livery of the NZR Road Services … going to “Nai Nai”

The Jewel in their crown is a Thorneycroft of about 1928 vintage. This sits under a temporary shelter rigged between two sipping containers. The great revelation to me was the way the name of the suburb of Naenae was once spelled.

I had a good time with the young people and came home again.

 

April 14, 2012 … various shades of black

Proximity often turns into opportunity.

Yesterday I was on my way to the opening of an exhibition by four very talented photographers. Shona Jaray, Neil Gordon, Peter Beddek, and Katie Beddek have an exhibition called “Near and Far” and it is open (with images for sale) at “Future Framing and Gallery” in the Lindale Tourist Complex,  111 State Highway One, Paraparaumu,  from 13th April to 13th May (not Mondays).   If you are in the area, go and see it.

As I was approaching Paekakariki with plenty of time to spare, it occurred to me that this would be a good time to visit the workshop of Steam Incorporated if they would permit it.  I was alone in the car, so I did not have to impose my enthusiasm for mechanical things on anyone else.

Just North of the Paekakariki station are the old locomotive sheds. Long ago, Paekakariki was as far South as the mainline Steam locomotives, or even diesel locomotives would go. There they were swapped for  one of the stumpy but powerful electric locomotives that would complete the journey through the many tunnels between there and  Wellington, thus sparing the passengers the discomfort of coal smoke or diesel exhaust in the tunnels. ‘

Travellers on the now defunct overnight trains had to wait at Paekakariki  early in the morning for the swap to occur.  As the electric train whined off to Wellington, the main line locomotives would idle over to the sheds to be lubricated and refuelled in readiness for the long return journey that evening.

Today, the remaining sheds are the workshops of Steam Incorporated. This is a group dedicated primarily to the restoration and preservation of New Zealand steam locomotives. It has three paid employees and a large pool of volunteer labour.

I approached the open door tentatively and saw no one. I looked across the nearby siding (not active)  and found a man making tea in the old staff tearooms. He was remarkably relaxed and invited me to wander round the workshop as I chose. What really delighted me was his warning … “it is a workshop, with inspection pits and heavy things, be careful”. How delightful, in this era of “protectivism”, to be allowed to make my own adult choices, and to be responsible for my own safety.

The sheds were very dark, with a few widely spaced fluorescent tubes,  and  some light through translucent panels in the roof. I took a few hand-held shots but the settings required were so extreme that I had to get out my trusty tripod and remote wireless trigger to achieve what I wanted.  Restoration of steam locomotives at PaekakarikiVery long exposures (in the order of two seconds) were required.

Here you can see two locomotives being overhauled. On the right is Ka 945 (built at the Hutt workshops, 1939). The Ka-class, at 145 tonnes, were the ultimate expression of steam power in New Zealand, and were still in service when my family came here in the early fifties. This example was finally retired from official NZR duties in December, 1967.  The boiler on the left, propped up on some random bogies, belongs to the much lighter (84 Tonnes)  and older (built at Addington, Christchurch in 1915) AB 608. In active service she proudly bore the name Passchendaele in comemoration of the railwaymen who lost their lives in WWI.

The images I got were dominated by black paint and rust, apart from the red paint on the buffer beam and the brass of  the number plates.  The feature that finally made me choose this image was the stack of springs, links and washers sitting in the passageway, under a notice that says “clean and paint”. This is tedious work which will be done cheerfully and well by the volunteer army.

Trains are not my major enthusiasm these days, but I still have a soft spot for them, and wish all power and success to those who give their time to their preservation.

Thank goodness for volunteers

April 13, 2012 … lunching with old friends

Once every two or three months, I get the privilege of having lunch with a group of former colleagues  from a job I had back in the eighties.

We have been friends for a long time now, and tend to talk about politics, science, religion, philosophy, morality, food, family, and all the other myriad topics that interest us. All but one of our number are retired, and enjoying it.

Yesterday, our chosen venue was the Fisherman’s Table just south of Paekakariki. It was selected more as a geographic compromise than for particular gastronomic excellence.

Their style of food has been unchanged for about thirty years. They specialise in sea food with an “all you can eat” salad accompaniment.  They have a limited but adequate wine list on which all bottles are a very modest $29.95 (few other restaurants in Wellington sell bottles for less than $40, even if you can buy the same brand on a supermarket special for under $10).

Wellington and the Hutt Valley had been grey and drizzly when we left, but at Pukerua Bay we drove into warm weather and sunshine. The temperature was noticeably warmer.  We had been unable to contact the one remaining “worker” in our group, so we just had to hope that he would remember, and come independently. He did, and he did. On a big 900cc Triumph Sprint motorcycle. He has a while to go before retirement, so  I speculate that he is getting these experiences in while he still can.

The really terrifying thing about our choice of venue was that as we looked around, we were the youngest people in the room. Of course that meant we could get to the salad bar quicker than the people on walking frames, but it also tends to say something about the cuisine.

In fairness to the restaurant, the fish was impeccably presented, but the choices were pan-fried, deep-fried, or mornay. Accompanying all dishes are fries or potato croquettes (or half and half). And of course the salads.  I suppose “cheap and cheerful” would sum it up, and it has a magnificent view across the water  to Kapiti Island. I enjoyed it.

Triumph Sprint 900  acceleratingMy image today was one of the few I took yesterday at the end of our lunch.                      My friend departs at high speed on his blue rocket. I am still practicing those panning shots, and this is not quite there yet, but will have to suffice for the day.  The grey streaks in the background are trees by the roadside.

I am too accustomed to the comforts of three litres and air-conditioning to hanker after a bike now.