Airport Maritime Pencarrow Weather Wellington

May 3, 2015 … waiting for the plane

Yesterday was airport pickup duty.

I don’t tire of the Carter Fountain. It presents many moods in all weathers and lighting conditions

On the way to the airport I drove as always, via Oriental Bay where I stopped to record the drifting plume of the Carter Fountain as it mingled with the soft rain on a grey harbour.

Breaker Bay
Breaker Bay and that miserable pebble beach. I liked the unusually calm water though, and the curve round to Point Dorset and then across the harbour entrance to Pencarrow

With an hour to spare before Mary’s flight was due, I wandered around Breaker Bay. I love the landscape, but that fine pebble beach is the worst walking surface imaginable.  The deep footprints from those who had gone before should have warned me. Still I stumbled along it, but found it hard going.

The hole in the rock

Half way around the curve of the bay is a small cave, of the “hole-in-the-rock” variety. The tiny pebbles are there too, so no respite in passing through.

Tapu Teranga
Tapu Teranga Island from the Western side of Lyall Bay

With still time to fill I went through Lyall Bay  and caught a nice angle on Tapu Teranga Island, the sentinel of Island bay. Sweeping rain in the middle of the strait made a nice background.

Something different tomorrow.


adversity Architecture Birds Models night Pencarrow sunrise Wellington

April 20, 2015 … from dawn into the night

Well that was a long and interesting day.

A clear morning and mist from over the hill

Morning mist spilling over the hill from Wainuiomata was a good beginning and hinted at a clear calm day ahead.

Fantail launch

So it proved for most of the day. I took myself out to Pauatahanui in the hope of seeing a kingfisher which my friend Toya seems to be seeing in large numbers. Just one bird in the distance that flew away. I looked up and by way of consolation, a fantail performed a near perfect spread. Pity about the intervening branches.

A New Zealand soldier projected onto the carillon

In the evening, Mary and I went to Pukeahu park. For old Wellingtonians who don’t know where that is, it is a newly formed large open park which embodies a war memorial  in front of the carillon near the former Dominion Museum. The road from the basin Reserve now passes through the Arras Tunnel beneath the park and re-emerges on Taranaki Street and carries on to the motorway entrance at Willis Street. From now until ANZAC day (April 25th) there is a repeating sound and light show projected onto the carillon and onto the old museum. This is to commemorate the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign.

A waterfall of poppies

There were several hundred images cycling onto both structures and some of them were very moving indeed. A sequence that I liked began with a name and a poppy scrolling down the building, then more names and poppies in increasing intensity until there was just a cascade of poppies, one for each fatality.

Part of the Belgian Village inside the 1914 space

Inside the former museum, Sir Peter Jackson has set up a series of spaces, one for each year of the war. Inside each space are artefacts, models and representations appropriate to the progress of the war. A village in Belgium is the opening scene for 1914.

Horse drawn supply wagon buzzed by a Belgian plane

As the war progresses through the spaces, the representations become more bleak and takes us closer to the front. These figures and related props are life-sized. I am not 100% sure of my identification, but I think the Belgian aircraft is a Caudron of one sort or another.

In the trenches

Some of the scenes represented are quite hard to look at, but the craftsmanship and the respect with which everything is presented are superb. A recurring feature in each of the years is a representation of Sir Peter’s own grandfather who survived the war, but lost an arm in 1918.  The closing scene is of a very young Peter Jackson standing with his grandfather against a background of poppies and wounded heroes. The whole thing is magnificently done, and will be on display (with free entry) until 2018.

That’s all for now.

Camera club Children Landscapes Light Pencarrow Weather

October 13, 2014 … celebrations and taking the wider view

Birthdays are fun when you are eight.

Cooper rips away the wrapping on his gift

Cooper managed to have several celebrations as youngsters often do these days. Mary and I visited their house to deliver his birthday gift. What a delight it is to watch the flying hands and shredded gift-wrap.

What concentration as he makes perfect even cuts to produce regular servings

Two sets of grandparents definitely demands a cake in reserve, and Cooper blew some candles out in the usual style, but the impressive skill was the efficiency and precision with which he sliced and diced the cake. His sister Maggie is watching on in case her advice was needed, but he did a superb job.

Pauatahanui wildlife reserve

I had been busy all morning baby-sitting the camera club’s annual exhibition, and then after visiting Cooper, back again to help pack up the display. Afternoon light was low by the time I got out to try a photograph. I saw no birds of interest and the water was ruffled anyway. I went up the hill to Silverwood and looked down on the wildlife reserve at the Eastern end of the Pautahanui inlet. A very large proportion of my favourite bird shots have been made in this area.

This panorama is a stitch of 15 different images looking over Whitby and the Pauatahanui Inlet

I went for the grand landscape. The people who live on this ridge are going to enjoy a magnificent view when their house is built.

That will do for today

Birds harbour Maritime Pencarrow Petone Seaview Weather Wellington

March 15, 2014 … as the storm gathers

Bad weather looms.

Grey clouds in the South
The weather is not yet here

It may not be as severe as the media have suggested when it gets here, but time will tell. I noticed a cloud coming in from the South, though the remnants of tropical cyclone “Lusi” are approaching from the North. This low level shot is from the Eastern end of Petone Beach looking out through the heads to the South. As you can see, Pencarrow is buried in the approaching weather.

Tanker at Seaview
Ominous sky

A little further around the bays and there was a view from Lowry Bay of the Seaview Oil wharf where the tanker “Ardmore Seafarer” was unloading against an ominous looking background.

Terns getting ready for the weather
White-fronted terns at Lowry Bay

Terns probably don’t watch television, but they knew the weather was coming and as is often the case were gathering in a place that would give them some shelter from the storm. They tend not to need much, and often it is just a ridge to hide behind. They were coming in, in some numbers. I still don’t have my big lens so you can guess that they were approaching despite my presence and came within four metres or so.

Immature black-fronted tern
I love the soft grey of its waistcoat

The flock was comprised of white-fronted terns (Sterna striata)  … except for one little fellow who looked out of place. It looked like a juvenile, but had different colouring to the white-fronted juveniles. Birding friends have confirmed that this one bird in the flock was a black-fronted tern (Sterna albostriata).

Black-fronted tern at rest
Note the red feet and the bill seems shorter than those on the other variety

It seemed quite at home among the other terns yet moved independently. What a pleasure it was to see this bird, far less common in this area than the white-fronted variety.

Time to batten down the hatches.

Birds harbour Landscapes Light Maritime Pencarrow South Coast Wellington

July 16, 2013 … tempest passed

A day late and a dollar short is not part of the New Zealand idiom.

Nevertheless, we get what it means and it captures perfectly my attempts at storm images for the weekend just ended.  By the time I finally got myself out of my warm bed, the storm was subsiding and the South Coast was wild, but not abnormally rough.

By way of consolation, I found some nice light on my way to see what the situation was. From Oriental Bay, the dark morning sky was contrasted with a blaze of light that really needed a trumpet fanfare to accompany it. Though the Southerly was dying, it was still cold and strong, and carried  more than a hint of rain. Out on the silvered water, the little Singapore-registered LPG tanker, Miyake was anchored and provided a nice focal point. A Facebook friend and fellow photographer,  Sean Gillespie, got a great shot of this little tanker in the storm see

After the storm has passed

Around at Palmer Head on the Western side of the harbour entrance, Pencarrow’s lighthouses were dramatically contrasted against the dark hills and the darker sky above, as the residual waves crashed on the rocks nearby.


Looking North East from  there, Point Dorset was not quite included in the shaft of weak winter light that silvered the waters of Breaker Bay. Despite the very dark cloud, no hint of thunder was heard.


Later in the day, when I was partially thawed from my morning visit to the coast, I decided to try to capture the bird life in the hedge outside our dining room window.  This little waxeye (Zosterops lateralis) was less than two metres from the camera. To avoid scaring the birds away, I lurked in the shadows on the far side of the room and triggered the shot with my wireless remote.


In the same series, this female chaffinch (Fringilla celebs) was eager to find the bird seed I had scattered in the hedge (sneaky, huh?)


Sun shining, no wind. What will this day bring?

Birds harbour Maritime Pencarrow Petone Weather Wellington

January 1, 2013 … the last of the old from the first of the new

Happy New Year to all.

May 2013 exceed all your hopes and dreams.  Here in Wellington, we awoke to grey skies and a full gale which is predicted to last throughout today and tomorrow. Well, as the saying goes, any day you haven’t lived before is a good day. So regardless of the weather, it is a good day.

Yesterday (New Year’s Eve) was a brilliant day for photography. The wind which afflicts us now had already begun to blow, but the sun was shining and the sky was clear. As I was setting out to post a parcel, the strong breeze was causing the dandelions and other weeds to thrash about. Since the lawn had not been mowed for over a week, they were in full unrestrained bloom and I wondered if a picture would work . You be the judge.Dandelions and sheep's sorrel thrashing in the wind

My preferred courier company had closed its Lower Hutt Branch, so I had to go all the way to the Ngaio Gorge Road in Ngauranga.  Despite the inconvenience, this had the benefit of taking me down the motorway beside our spectacularly beautiful harbour which was wearing its best summer dress.

Small high speed power boats were tracing arrow straight slashes of white foam across the deep blue of the water, and I knew where I would have to go on the return journey. The parcel was sent and I went back to the parking area by the rowing club shed in the Northwest corner of the harbour.

My first subject was a somewhat hesitant water skier who kept collapsing in a ball of foam and flailing arms and legs. He was persistent, though, and I managed to catch him at modest speed in one of his longer runs.Water skier finding his feet

I sat on the tumbled pile of broken concrete slabs used to reinforce the seawall and railway lines, and looked out to the heads. The Day’s Bay ferry was heading across to the city and out in the harbour mouth, the Bluebridge ferry “Straitsman” was heading for Picton. The “white horses” attest to the wind strength.The lighthouses at Pencarrow look down on the Straitsman as the Day's Bay ferry heads to the city

A sudden snarl from a very large well tuned outboard motor signalled the return of the  boat that caught my eye in the first place. I am open to correction, but I think this is a Thundercat racing RIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) . Obviously not a working boat, it’s sole purpose is joie de vivre, expressed through speed across the water. The two people on board seemed to be enjoying themselves. This image shows the boat ripping across the harbour with the Pass of Branda and Seatoun in the background.   The thing that intrigues me is how little of the boat is actually in the water.  Racing RIB at speed

After catching a few passes, my attention was drawn to a flock of white fronted terns. Terns in flight are astonishing. Gulls wheel and soar ponderously, terns flit. There is a wonderful delicacy to them and they are very beautiful birds to watch. I went around onto the beach at Petone and was photographing them taking great care not to disturb them. To my disgust, a thoughtless elderly couple with an unrestrained dog strolled straight through the nesting flock. They gave me opportunities for flight shots but I would have preferred a more sensitive approach. As you can see, some are in breeding plumage (black caps) and others are not. White-fronted terns in flight

The birds did come back after a while, and my final shot in this first offering for the year is of a white fronted tern (Sterna striata) in breeding plumage, returning to shore with a fish. The red-billed gulls (Larus novaehollandiae) seemed uninterested. White-fronted tern in breeding plumage brings home the bacon

I look forward to hearing from you as the year progresses. May it be a good one.

Maritime Pencarrow Wellington

June 14, 2012 … “my ship is so small”*

Big Southerly swells on the South coast.

That’s what my friend Brent said, when he phoned me yesterday morning.  Oddly the wind seemed quite moderate around home, and the harbour looked quite placid, so it seemed improbable. However, from the upstairs window I could see a streak of white foam where Barrett’s reef might normally be visible.

Camera, lenses and tripod, were loaded into the car and off I went. Using the road between the Miramar golf course and the airport, I emerged on the South Coast at Moa Point.

Sure enough, the waves were spectacular. Thanks, Brent, for the alert. The black rocks off the coast are normally well clear of the water, but yesterday huge waves were shattering over them and hurling plumes of spray high in the air.

I went further  East to Te Raekaihau point, the promontory that separates the harbour entrance from Houghton Bay. One or two others were out there with the same idea, but they seemed content to stay in the car park. I walked along the path out onto the point (well clear of any water) and took shots of waves.  I was using the burst mode capability of my Canon 7D and was firing 8 frames a second every time I saw something I liked.Waves in the entrance to Wellington Harbour

That little white thing above the waves to the right is the upper Pencarrow lighthouse on the other side of the harbour.  Despite my earlier impression from home, there was a vicious wind down there, hurling the tops of waves back the way they came. I love that phenomenon.

Then I noticed the chunky little “Straitsman”  … one of the interisland ferries owned by Strait Shipping, operating under its brand name of Bluebridge.  I say small, though she is almost 14,000 gross tonnes. She is almost as tall as the competing Interisland ferry “Kaitaki” but perhaps half its length and less than half its weight. She is an oddly proportioned ship, which came from Denmark after serving in that region as the “Dueodd“.  She looks as if they started building a big ship and then ran out of money. But there she was, turning towards the harbour entrance.

Despite large waves, perhaps in the order of 4.5 metres,  she seemed remarkably solid and stable. She was rising and falling as the swells passed, but I saw little evidence of pitching or rolling.

Nevertheless, she kept disappearing from view mainly because the waves passing by were taller than I am, and were obscuring my sight lines. Straitsman in large swells

As I said, I was using burst mode, so ended up with well over 400 images. Thank heavens electrons are free.  I spent a lot of time editing, cropping and deleting, and ended up with 34 images.

That is a better ratio of originals to keepers than I would normally aspire too, but when nature puts on a show, you have to be there.

*Fisherman’s prayer: “Dear God, be good to me; your sea is so wide and my ship is so small”

Island Bay Pencarrow Weather Wellington

January 14, 2012 … flight operations are suspended

We Wellingtonians love our city. We defend it fiercely against criticisms,  even of its much maligned climate. Some days, however, just live up to all the worst stereotypes of “Windy Wellington”. Yesterday was such a day.

Our airport is rarely disrupted by mere wind. It is closed by fog far more often than by wind, and the two seem to be mutually exclusive. The airport didn’t actually close yesterday, despite winds gusting in the region of 130 km/h. Apparently the biggest risk in such circumstances is of ground handling equipment such as baggage trolleys or passenger stairs being hurled against fragile aircraft skins with very expensive consequences.

Our day staTaputeranaga island in the bright blue waters of the Cook Straitrted with a combination of gale force Northerly winds and extremely heavy rain. During the morning, however, the rain cleared for a while, though the wind continued unabated. In the early afternoon, I went out to Island Bay  on the South Coast.  The sea was a stunning deep blue, with frothing whitecaps giving it luminosity  as the short pitched waves had their tops torn off by the force of the  wind.

Within Island Bay, sheltered by the suburban hills to the North, and Taputeranga island to the South, the small domestic fishing fleet tugged nervously at its moorings, and none were silly enough to be out in the Cook Strait.

On the steep rocky beaches to the West, entire flocks of gulls hudRed billed gulls find comfort as black backed gulls shiverdled low, sheltering in the lee of the hills and houses. I imagine there was a raucous gull announcement somewhere: “Ladies and gentlemen, gulls and buoys (sorry, couldn’t resist), Jonathan Livingston Seagull Airways regret to announce that, for your safety,  all flight operations are suspended until the extreme weather conditions ease. Please do not leave the beach pending further announcements”.

And sure enough,  two separate flocks were gathered, each universally aligned into the wind … the smaller red billed gulls were snugly parked in a sheltered depression in one part of the beach, seated comfortably, close together, with their undercarriages retracted.They were in the business class lounge. The larger flock of mostly  juvenile black-backed gulls stood miserably, rocking in the wind on a higher and more exposed part of the beach to the West.

As I scanned the Southern horizon, I saw a Qantas Boeing 737-800 coming in from Australia, with its landing lights glittering in the distance. Its broad wings were visibly rocking from side to side as the flight crew struggled to stay on the glide path at the right speed and in the right attitude. Inside that gleaming white hull, I could imagine 170 pairs of white knuckles, and many sets of eyes watching the vortices off the shuddering wing flaps as their aircraft bounced and rocked towards the short runway, across foaming sea and hungry red rocks.

Above the wind’s noise, a sudden roar told me that the pilot in command felt the approach was not working, and a good kilometre short of the apron he pointed the nose to the sky  and took his aircraft and its precious cargo to the safety of higher altitude.

He returned about  twenty minutes later, during a comparative lull, and landed very firmly indeed, a very long way down the runway. It was the kind of landing that often results in a spontaneous round of applause in the cabin as passengers put their sweaty palms together in appreciation of having cheated death again. (I was intrigued to see that an aircraft flying under the proud banner “Spirit of Australia” bore the name of that most patriotic of Kiwis, Sir Edmund Hillary. On the other hand,  despite the white kangaroo on the big red tail, it was New Zealand registered aircraft, operated by Jet Connect, on behalf of  Qantas). Qantas QF47 Inbound from Sydney

A little further round the coast to the East, in Breaker Bay, there was a lovely, if somewhat salt stained view across the harbour entrance to the two lighthouses at Pencarrow.  As a historical note, the upper lighthouse has long been disused. It proved ineffective in the foggy conditions that often prevailed. The lower one still works, but is totally automated.

The waves weren’t huge, but the screaming wind was making a visible white impact on the choppy waters as squalls hurled the salt spray into the air.  Just look at that white patch in the mid foreground. The forecast for today is fine, but with continued high winds.A fierce wind gust turns the water white between Breaker Bay and Pencarrow

(Personal note: generally I shall normally try to accompany my writing with one image, or sometimes two. Today there are four because I wanted to see if you think I described the scene accurately. The colours in these shots have not been enhanced. Despite the gale, the sea and sky were as vivid as you see here)