Arachnids Family Food Industrial insects Whitireia Park

February 23, 2016 … and now it has gone

Time slips through the fingers. Before I know it, it’s nine days since my last blog. I must set myself an automated reminder to ensure regular action. Nevertheless, I remain convinced that the decision to abandon the daily commitment was the right one.  Before I go on, I should warn those of a timid disposition that my last two images today are of the creepy crawly variety.

Whitireia Park
Climbing through the slippery wet grass looking for a good vantage point. Most of these people checked the weather before they left home. I didn’t.

Last week, the taller of the remaining transmission masts at Whitireia Park in Titahi bay was demolished. A friend who works for the company doing the job alerted me to this opportunity, so in the early hours of Tuesday morning, I set out to record the event. We had a week of wonderful summer weather, and the forecast was for more of the same. Dressed, therefore, in shorts and a tee-shirt I was shocked to arrive in Titahi Bay in drizzle and a chilly gusting wind. The park had been closed to the public, except for a hillside  area reserved for spectators which had been roughly mowed to provide easier access through the long dry summer grass.  Of course, it was now wet and slippery.

Until its demolition, this was the second highest structure in New Zealand. The demolition was effected by explosive cutting of the Southern guy wires.

Having found a suitable position, I wrapped myself and my cameras in the cold nylon groundsheet which was the only thing I had in the car to protect myself from the weather.  Then I sat and waited.  The low cloud swirled around the mast and there was no sigh of activity. It was a somewhat miserable two hours.

Composite falling shot.

My vision for the event was to capture a sequence of shots as the mast fell. I had practiced and decided that the camera would get enough shots at the slow setting of five frames per second, to cover the entire arc of its fall, before the camera’s buffer filled. I was wrong. Obviously I had not practiced enough.  My grand vision was, alas, only partially met and then the camera  stopped to think for a while. If I had waited until I saw movement, instead of starting from the explosion that severed the guy wires, I might have got the complete arc. Or if I had selected a slightly lower resolution.  This is a composite of 28 images. I am told that the tip of the mast was doing 350 km/h when it hit the ground in a shower of dirt and a formless tangle of rusted steel.

Across Wellington to Victoria University on the hill – from the old quarry

During the days that followed, I found a new lookout spot in an old quarry at the top of Ellice Street near the Western entrance of the Mt Victoria tunnel. I really thought I had found most of the good vantage points in the preceding five years, yet new ones keep emerging.

Mandarin Bavaroise at Cobar restaurant. I enjoyed every wicked calorie.

For the last few days we have had the parents of our Brisbane daughter-in-law as house guests, so we took them to one of our favourite restaurants on Sunday. Cobar in Day’s bay is a rarity that has both a superb view and wonderful food. Usually, you have to choose between view and food quality. I could have done yet another sunset from our table, but chose instead to capture the delightful Mandarin Bavaroise dessert. Recommended.

WARNING: Creepy Crawlies ahead. Avert your eyes now if you are squeamish.


Vagrant spider

Mary encountered a large spider under the steps into her place of work. I think it is a vagrant spider (Uliodon albopunctatus).

Wellington tree weta – a gentle creature despite appearances

My next guest is a fine male specimen of the Wellington tree weta (Hemideina crassidens). They are nightmarish creatures to look at, and can inflict a nip with those big mandibles, but are generally shy and gentle creatures. Or so I’m told.

See you soon.


Birds Children Family Festivals and fairs Food Titahi Bay Whitireia Park

December 26, 2015 … a day to treasure

Christmas Day in Wellington, 2015 was one to treasure.

Mary’s pavlova before the addition of cream

It was fine, warm, and clear. We had family gathered, and held those who couldn’t make it in our hearts. All six grandchildren were with us for brunch , as were two of our five children and three daughters in law. Food was eaten, gifts exchanged, fun was had and all was right with the world. In the evening, we were a smaller group for dinner, though we enjoyed the company of a friend. Mary produced an excellent pavlova with fresh Wairarapa berries and cream for those who needed it.

For the skylark, Christmas is just another day

During the day, after a pleasant siesta, I judged that I was superfluous to requirements and took myself off for some photographs. At Whitireia Park, there are usually skylarks hidden in the long grasses that cover its hills.

Titahi Bay
From Titahi Bay beach looking across the strait to the South Island

Heading homeward, I stopped briefly at Titahi Bay and the scene there was just idyllic, people in the water, on the beach, having picnics, having fun as you would when Christmas comes at midsummer.

Sand castle
A bigger than usual sand castle

Of course a family trip to the beach is a great opportunity for sand castles.

Christmas Day was great.

Birds harbour Hutt River Landscapes Rivers Weather Whitireia Park

October 1, 2015

Wasn’t it Christmas just last week?

Skylark (Alauda arvensis) was looking for food but then realised it was being watched so the crest goes up

October already seems impossible. However, yesterday saw September go out with a burst of fine spring weather. I decided to go to Whitireia Park because it was the kind of day that could see lots of skylark activity. I did find skylarks but mostly hopping along on the ground. They are shy birds that erect their crest when they are alarmed.

Transmission tower, Whitireia

Near the entrance to the park there is a nice view to the North East across rolling parkland and the old transmission mast which is, I believe, the third highest structure in the country.

I lack the balance or the fearlessness to do this

In the afternoon, I meandered around Seaview and the Eastern Bays. This fisherman on the outer edge of the breakwater at the mouth of the Hutt River has much better balance than I.

Little Black shags

In Lowry Bay, there were a number of Little Black shags preparing to roost on the rocks. The sea was calm enough for me to get down low.

Enough for now.

Birds Plimmerton Porirua Waves Weather Whitireia Park

June 13, 2015 … wild winds and fluffy bundles

I enjoyed a light lunch with a friend yesterday.

Welcome swallow , behaving more like a fantail, flitting about but staying close.

We met in a small cafe near his home in Whitby up on the hills overlooking the Pauatahanui inlet. Whitby town centre has a pair of ornamental lakes, so after lunch, we walked around the lower lake, having first taken care to wrap up well against the gale-force wind that was coming in from the North West. For such a  small man-made lake there was a plenty of bird life including shags, mallard ducks, Australian coots, and Welcome swallows. My first shot from here is of a small fluffy Welcome swallow. These are normally sleek, fast, agile and very wary of humans. This one was plump, slow and quite friendly. I suspect it was a juvenile, sheltering at the Northern end of the lake because the wind out in the open was just overpowering. Never before have I had one sit so still and so close for a portrait.

Smart mallards choose a place where the guns can’t get them

A handsome pair of mallards swam on the ruffled surface, no doubt taking advantage of the immunity from the duck hunting season granted by the proximity to people. The duck season ends this weekend at least for mallards and shovelers.

That rock on the left is the tip of Whitireia Park at the entrance to Porirua Harbour. They were fairly solid waves

After we parted company I went down to the Plimmerton fire station because I had heard rumours of black-fronted terns in the neighbourhood. I didn’t see any, but the force of the gale blowing in from the Tasman was impressive.

Pied stilts take shelter near the road. I took this through the open window of the car (while parked).


Homeward bound, via Gray’s Road around the Northern side of the inlet, I found a cluster of pied stilts huddled close to the road, sheltering from the buffeting of the wind.

That’s all for now.

Airport Aviation Cook Strait Landscapes Weather Wellington Whitireia Park

May 26, 2015 … a chilly start to a bright cold day

The forecast from the previous day had predicted snow in the morning.

An unusual coat of snow on the hills behind Wainuiomata, as seen from my bedroom window. The lights on the hill are on the Wainuiomata road.

We looked out at the clear starry sky and thought they had it wrong. Next morning, I looked out of my window and saw the hills behind Wainuiomata.

The unmistakable “wop wop wop” sound of the three Iroquois approaching cut across all other airport sounds

Despite the heavy clouds to begin with, the day cleared rapidly, and blue skies saw the light dusting of snow disappear quite early. The thermometer didn’t rise much though.  I went out to Lyall Bay where the RNZAF were conducting a farewell tour for their venerable fleet of Iroquois helicopters. Three of them were at the airport giving short flights to carefully selected people with air force connections. The problem with airports these days is the wretched wire fences that block the view. I don’t know if the C130 was part of the farewell tour or just there as part of the regular shuttle service between defense bases up and down the country, but two of the three helicopters are coming in over its wings.

It was bitterly cold standing with my camera lined up on the holes on the airport fence. I bet it was even colder in the cabin of the helicopter with its doors wide open.

As a design, the Iroquois has stood the test of time. They first flew in 1956, and the RNZAF acquired the first five of its fleet in 1966. The 13 remaining will be sold by tender to eager commercial users and that is a testament to ts durability. The distinctive sound of the Iroquois has signalled both danger to those facing the gunship models, and rescue to the many thousands airlifted to safety in its rescue mode.

Across the Strait to the South Island

From there I went to Whitireia Park near Porirua where the low temperatures persisted in a stiff Southerly wind, despite the bright clear conditions. It was a brittle cold and I had to hold my camera firmly against the concrete survey point on top of Whitireia to maintain stillness. It was a very clear view across Mana Island to Arapawa Island 40 km away at the North Eastern edge of the South Island.

That will suffice for today.


adversity Architecture Art Birds Camera club Landscapes Light Maritime Pauatahanui Reflections Whitireia Park

August 10, 2014 … this ole house*

Once a month it’s time for the camera club newsletter.

“This ole house was home and comfort as (they) fought the storms of life”*

It’s a real time-sponge and my weekend tends to disappear  when it’s due. I depend greatly on the goodwill and tolerance of my dear wife. Add to that the need to get out and make a few images and things get really squeezed. We were booked to go to a concert by Orchestra Wellington in the evening so the window of opportunity was very small.  My first shot was taken on the road from Johnsonville to Tawa … this old house is sandwiched between the railway line and a steep ban You can see the catenary wires passing under the dormer windows. I am not sure when it was last occupied, but I believe it was not so long ago.

Glittering sun on a silver sea

My next shot was at Whitireia park where I caught the afternoon light reflecting on the Tasman sea in a remarkably benign mood.

Pied stilt browsing

By now I was too far from home with too little time to do anything useful, so I counted myself lucky to see a collection of pied stilts on the ponds at Pauatahanui. The reflections were a delight.

Reeds at Pauatahanui

Even if the birds had not been present, I would have enjoyed the reflections of the wonderful grasses that cover much of the Eastern end of the inlet.

The concert was fantastic.

*”This ole house” by Stuart Hamblen (1954)



Birds Cook Strait Maritime Weather Whitireia Park

June 16, 2014 … wind in the wires

Wicked winds insinuated themselves through every crevice.

Titahi Bay
Transmission mast, Titahi Bay … a mackerel sky and a bitter wind whining in the guy wires

Somehow this resulted in a visit to Whitireia Park at Titahi Bay. A mackerel sky to the West looked worthy of attention, but I thought it needed something more. Perhaps the Radio New Zealand transmission mast (I always think of it as the 2YA mast)  would be worth including. Difficult to tone down the contrast between the mast’s tracery and the light sky.

From Whitireia/Mt Couper looking South

Braving that mean-spirited wind, I climbed up to the little hill known as Whitireia/Mt Couper where the wind got even more spiteful. From there the view down on Titahi Bay and South across the Strait was spoiled for me by the chop on the water. The ND filter and a slow exposure helped change that.

Cook Strait
Across the strait to the Sounds …. Mana Island on the Right

Across the Strait, a coastal tanker was making its way up the East Coast. If you look closely, it’s pretty much in the centre of the picture, but you will have to click to enlarge it.

Eurasian skylark (Alauda arvensis)

My last choice for the day is one of the many Eurasian Skylarks that abound throughout the grassy coastal areas around Wellington. The fly up when disturbed, and in the normal course of events climb, circling and singing. When the music stops they descend rapidly and seek food. This one I believe to be a juvenile.

That’s all for now.



Cook Strait Landscapes Light Porirua Whitireia Park

May 11, 2014 … Tevye could sing this*

Sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the days … *

Hutt Valley sunrise
Wondrous start to the day, with dramatic rays piercing the dark landscape

It’s a rare day indeed that I photograph both the sunrise and sunset, Yesterday was such a day. I pulled the curtains back and gaped at the light I saw. Then, risking life, limb, knees, and other joints I crashed downstairs, grabbed my camera and raced back to the bedroom window, terrified that the fleeting moment would be gone.

Near sunset
Late afternoon at the entrance to Porirua Harbour

With that behind me, shower, clothes, breakfast were next, and most of the rest of the day was spent on my keyboard, preparing the latest edition of the camera club newsletter. As the day was nearing its end, and sick of word processing, I went out to the West. I had intended when I left home to go towards the Akatarawa road, but at the last minute some worm in the brain persuaded me to go over the Haywards Hill towards the setting sun. A brief flirtation with the beaches at Karehana Bay and Titahi Bay yielded nothing, so I went for altitude.

At the foot of the cliffs
The Tasman Sea in one of its calm moments

There is a spot at the Northern end of Whitireia Park before the road dives down to the shore again, that offers a good view across the entrance of the Porirua Harbour, and across the Strait to the Marlborough Sounds. From there, many views present themselves. I could see that a very nice sunset was possible, though it was perhaps half an hour away. I filled in time by making slow exposures of the sea as it swirled idly around the rocks at the foot of the cliffs below.

rehearing for the final act
Night is almost upon us

Two photographers from another club turned up and we exchanged amiable conversation as the setting sun prepared to put on a show.

Boom! What a magical moment, what a wonderful gift to watch this glory unfold

I almost left too soon, but I felt well rewarded with this capture. It may be a cliché, but I like it. Mana Island is on the left, and the islands of the Sounds can be seen on the horizon. Tevye sings “one season following another, laden with happiness and tears”*

Goodnight all.

* “Sunrise, Sunset”, from “Fiddler on the Roof” by Sheldon Hamick and Jerry Bock