Architecture Evans Bay Maritime Seatoun Wellington

November 3, 2015 … next to nothing

I took a few shots yesterday, but by the end of the day I had little that satisfied me.

Olga Maersk
A great Dane with two kiwi pups

In Oriental Bay there was a view of the container ship, Olga Maersk easing into her berth assisted by the tugs Tapuhi and Tiaki holding her back against a nasty Northerly wind.  On a global scale, she is a modest ship with a capacity of just over 3,000 twenty-foot equivalent container units (TEU), she is far short of the largest ships with a capacity of 19,224 TEU. On the other hand, in our small but perfectly formed port, she takes up a lot of the available space. And anyway, that larger ship (MSC Oscar)  with its 16 metre draft would run aground in the harbour entrance which has a maximum depth of 11.3 metres at high water. I was intrigued that the Olga Maersk‘s port of registry is Kerteminde in Denmark. Curious I looked at Google maps and noted that this seems to have nothing more than a yacht marina, and there is no way she could ever visit her nominal “home port”.

Aratere (L) and Kaiarahi (R) and their high-visibility paint strips at the Wellington terminal.

Swinging around a few degrees, the two Interisland ferries Aratere and Kaiarahi were in port. They are roughly similar in configuration, though the Kaiarahi (formerly Stena Alegra)  is equipped for bow loading so she can approach the port directly without having to swing around and back in like her older sister.  I note the fluorescent paint panels above the bridge windows. It’s a great visibility aid in the haze of Cook Strait, and the Bluebridge ferries have a similarly garish blue strip.

Shelly Bay
Shelly Bay … an improbably defense force site

In Shelly Bay, the old RNZAF Structures are quietly decaying, though I believe that their days are numbered. There is a proposal to develop Shelly Bay after the style of Sausalito near San Francisco. I wonder if I shall live to see it.

Boat sheds
Are they beyond the point of no return?

On the Eastern side of the peninsula, in Breaker Bay, there is more decay. Three small boatsheds seem never to have recovered from the great storm in June 2013, and though there is evidence that someone designated it a construction site, I have seen no progress.

The wind is even more vicious today.

adversity Bay of Plenty Miramar Seatoun Uncategorized Weather Wellington

April 29, 2015 … ooooooh this is going to be hard

A friend and I left home at 8am this morning.

Point Halswell Light at High Tide

By three pm after a couple of brief stops, we were in Tauranga 520 km away, and getting involved in the 63rd annual convention of the Photographic Society of New Zealand.  So far so good, but I am exhausted after the end of the day and ready for bead and have done nothing with yesterday’s pictures. Here they come, ready or not, beginning at the Point Halswell Light.

Little Black Shags take shelter. They have not yet seen me.

A few steps around the corner, a small flock of Little Black shags were sheltering in the overhang of a tree hanging onto the shoreline. As far as I can tell, the Little Black is the only member of the shag family that hunts as a pack.

Weather from the South
Southerly threat

Near Seatoun, there was a somewhat ominous view to the South  which did not promise much at all for today’s travel.

I’m tired. Bed time.

Adventure adversity Landscapes Lyall Bay Maritime Miramar Seatoun South Coast Wellington

March 30, 2015 … wobbling heights

Seeking high places often gives some nice results.

Hutt Valley
The Hutt Valley as seen from home. Any movement blur in this seven image panoramic stitch will be the result of my knees knocking. You can see the scaffolding on the right.

Yesterday I gritted my teeth, and climbed up the scaffolding that currently surrounds our house as it is repainted. Like most scaffolding, this is a system that all locks together and at least in theory, nothing can go wrong. Of course, nothing did go wrong but given my oft-asserted fear of heights I was pleased to get up there, grab the shots I wanted and then hasten back to the blessed relief of being at ground level. The result is a panorama of the Hutt Valley on a moist morning. I am not sure it was worth the agony, but having endured the agony, I am not going to let it go to waste.

Miramar and Seatoun

I went up the road leading to Mt Crawford on the Miramar Peninsula. A little short of the old prison, there is a knoll on which there are two water reservoirs, and a mountain biking park. There are views in all directions. My first shot from here is down into the heart of Miramar which is nestled between two ridges and further South to the heights of Seatoun.

Across Miramar to the Airport and beyond

On the Western side of the Peninsula, on the isthmus, is Wellington Airport, the suburb of Kilbirnie and beyond that Lyall Bay and then the Cook Strait and the Pacific Ocean all the way to Antarctica. I liked the cloudscape.

I go quite a long way to avoid bumps in the road. These people seek them out.

As I turned to walk back to the road I had to dodge as I was perilously close to the designated mountain bike track.

Into Harbour
FPMC 20 and Kaitaki entering Wellington Harbour. In the background is Pencarrow Head and the two abandoned lighthouses

Having survived the near miss with the bike, I got back in the car and drove along the ridge towards Seatoun. As I did so, a tanker arrived from China carrying who knows what. It had the weirdly prosaic name “FPMC 20“. As I was lining up for the shot, the interisland ferry Kaitaki burst into view and proceeded to overtake the tanker. With the foreshortening effect of the long lens, it probably looks more dramatic than it really was.

See you tomorrow.


adversity Birds Evans Bay harbour Maritime Seatoun Weather Wellington

June 25, 2014 … the quality of mercy*

Even on the grey days, I love this city.

Oriental Bay
Oriental Bay in damp weather

Greyness was there in abundance yesterday. I set out to try those failed birdshots at Zealandia again, but even as I drove towards the city, the rain began to fall. It was a fairly dense drizzle rather than an unabashed rainstorm. I decided to see what the greyness might give me and set out around the harbour, with my first stop at Oriental Bay. No rain at the time, but the Hutt Valley was invisible, and I really liked the mood. Please click on each image to see the detail.

Evans Bay
Evans bay, with gull

On Cobham Drive near the airport, I got this shot back up Evan’s Bay … still no sign of anything in the North. I got a version with and without the gull and decided that the gull added something.

Hataitai in the rain

Around Shelley Bay Road, the view across the bay was interesting. The houses up in Hataitai were in the drizzle, while those at sea level were, for the moment at least, in the clear.

Wellington city catches a shaft of light … everything else is wet

At Point Halswell, I paused to construct this six-shot panorama of the view back towards the city. Compare it with the view from the same place in the edition from June 5 this year.

Halswell Light
Halswell Light and harbour

Swing round to the North, the lighthouse is sporting a fresh coat of paint, and you can see that immediate squall receding towards the Hutt Valley. Don’t worry, another was close behind.

Matiu/Somes Island

At Seatoun beach, again looking North, Matiu/Somes Island is silhouetted against the rain cloud. The Wainuiomata hill is on the right and Pt Halswell on the left.

That’s my lot today.

*” … it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven”  Shakespeare, “the Merchant of Venice”



adversity Seatoun South Coast Weather Wellington

October 15, 2013 … wild and woolly weather

You were warned.

Yesterday was always going to be about the weather. Wind gusts to 145 km/h were recorded and we lost power twice during the day. The second time was as I was about to put food in the oven for dinner, and it didn’t return until about 3:15 am.

During the first outage I went to the South Coast and attempted to catch the wind lifting the surface off the sea.

A howling northerly lifts the sea into the air
It was hard to stand in this wind

It was even more vigorous around the corner in Breaker Bay, and I had to watch the approach squalls so as to avoid salt spray on the lens.

The control tower on the ridge overlooking Breaker Bay is for Maritime traffic
A moment after I pressed the shutter, I had to turn my back to that racing squall

Back home in the early evening, I looked down the valley to the South and despite the lack of power in the house was glad not to be out in it.

A bleak view of the Hutt Valley looking Southward
That’s the Ewen Bridge in the foreground

Later still, as I went to bed, I stuck my camera out the window and took this shot of the same scene. Yes, the people on the valley floor had no interruption. I suspect that those of us who live on the hill get stronger gusts and more trees fall over.

IMG_8720The same scene at night
The storm rages on

Tomorrow, a change of scenery.

Animals Birds Cook Strait Hutt River Landscapes Lyall Bay Railway Rivers Seatoun

September 1, 2013 … wascally wabbits and wushing waters*

One month until daylight saving time starts … whoopee!

Yesterday’s photographic expedition amounted to a tour of the nearby region, trying to see, trying to extract the visual gems from a congested field of vision. Black backed gulls (Larus dominicanus –  named for the Dominican friars who also wear a  black and white habit) on rocks off the beach at Seatoun were my first shot.

Black backed gulls at rest
Birds similar to this seem to be spread around the globe

Carrying on around the coast road, and behind the airport,  I came to Lyall Bay where, as usual, there were surfers trying to extract the maximum enjoyment from a minimum of surf. It seems to me that there are few days of real surf each year, and the rest of the time is either flat calm or unusable from a surfing point of view. This may explain the chaotic state of many attempted rides in the brief period I was watching.

Surfers - Lyall Bay
I don’t get the impression I am seeing expert surfers here

In the afternoon, I made my nearly habitual trip to Pauatahanui and was disappointed that the birds were all far across the mudflats. Of course, if I had paid attention to the tide I should have expected that.  My disappointment was offset by the sighting of a bunch of “wascally wabbits” in the weeds near the exit to the point.

Rabbit browsing by the roadside on the shore of Pauatahanui Inlet
“Ooooh you wascally wabbit!” (Elmer Fudd)

Back in the Hutt Valley I came down the Eastern side, pausing at the Silverstream railway bridge where I decided to experiment with my variable neutral density filter. This allows a very slow shutter speed and in combination with a solid tripod allowed me to try for that silky look on the water. I was all lined up and started a long exposure when a train gate-crashed the party. In the end I quite like the effect.

Train crossing the Hutt River at Silverstream
Clattering gate-crasher

Further downstream in the Avalon region, I tried again for the silky effect. Not quite what I wanted but it’s a start.

Hutt River near Avalon
There is some of that silky effect … but look at the spring green colour in the riverside willows.

Something different tomorrow.

* Elmer Fudd



Birds harbour Seatoun

April 15, 2013 … happy snapper

It was a much better day.

Sunshine may account for some of that, but with a long winter still ahead of us, this might become a problem.

Anyway, I began my day at the Scorch-o-rama café in Scorching Bay. The terns were there, as I hoped. So were thirty or so chattering lycra-clad cyclists who apparently make this a regular feature of their weekend ride. I am not sure which colony was making the more noise, birds or bikers.

I ordered my coffee (long black) and a reprehensible Afghan biscuit and settled down to watch and photograph the birds.

White fronted terns at Scorching Bay
The birds come and go purposefully, but with no pattern that I can identify

When the birds are in such numbers, and on such a confused background as the guano covered rocks at Scorching Bay, it is sometimes difficult to isolate one or more birds to make a coherent image without the cut-off fractions of other birds around the edges. With so much coming and going, it is a challenge to deliberately choose a subject and to be aware of the background. Sometimes the isolated group is sheer luck.

White-fronted tern landing
If you wanted to give someone angel wings, you could do worse than to borrow these

Another aspect of this kind of shooting is that the long lens with an extender on a crop-frame camera such as my Canon 7D gives me a focal length of almost 900 mm. At this length, the depth of field is very shallow and the background goes out of focus to isolate the subject, assuming I focused correctly on the subject in the first place.

The terns move on as the tide and fishing conditions dictate, and so did I.

Walking on water
Stand Up Paddle Boarding looks seriously laborious


On my way home, I was struck by a large number of people apparently walking on water beside the motorway. I turned into the scruffy car park by the Petone Rowing Club and had a closer look. What I was seeing was the 13 km Stand Up Paddle Board event. It was supposed to be a round trip from Petone to the Interisland Ferry terminal and back, but stiff breezes forced a modified course involving two circuits around some buoys. Interesting to watch.

My final session for the day was made with the weather forecast in mind. It was still sunny as the day was coming to an end, but the rest of the week is scheduled to be wet. So I decided to see how well the bird hide really works. I set it up within three metres from the infamous and much photographed log. I took my iPad, a can of Coke, and the camera on its monopod and disappeared within. Not much happened for quite a while, but as the light was beginning to fail, I saw a pair of kingfishers. Unfortunately, they were visible through the mesh side vents.

The little rascals were taunting me by sitting beside, rather than in front of the hide. But I waited. And eventually there she was … a fine looking female, just a few metres away (see the slight orange-yellow on the underside of the lower bill). . She heard the shutter clattering as I grabbed a few bursts, but though she cocked her head in my direction, she resumed scouting for crabs. And soon she was bring them in one after the other.

Female kingfisher with crab
Kingfishers will probably get a rest for a while now

Nothing is perfect, but I am pleased with this and think I shall give the kingfishers a break for a while.

Birds harbour Maritime Seatoun South Coast Weather Wellington

April 11, 2013 … maritime melancholy

Alas no terns.

I must find out about their mysterious ways. One week there are hundreds of them, the next week, the rocks on which they usually roost were empty and bare. No trace remains unless you count the deposits they made while in residence.

At Scorching Bay’s “Scorch-o-rama” restaurant, mystified, I sat at the beach-side table with a coffee and a nibble. As if to console me, sparrows came to visit. Or was it that they hoped I would not eat all of my food?

Hopeful sparrow
Alas, there were no crumbs to give her.

It was a sunny day, though not warm. The sea was calm, and in the distance, the container ship “Josephine Maersk” was making her way through the heads. Then it dawned on me that forty-five years ago to the very day, on this very spot, the doomed interisland ferry Wahine came to grief on the rocks just South of where I sat.

Hopeful sparrow
Having delivered the pilot to the Josephine Maersk, the pilot launch now races back to base for morning tea.

Yesterday, the water was blue and comparatively still. Centreport’s nifty little pilot launch, “Tarakena” raced in ahead of the 30,166 Tonne monster following slowly in her wake. A huge stack of containers increased her apparent bul. She can carry 3,000 of them.

I went a little further South, through Seatoun and the Pass of Branda to Breaker Bay where the tragedy of the Wahine unfolded. White water was breaking on Barrett’s Reef where she first struck. What a contrast to that terrible day. Out towards the entrance, all three lighthouses were visible (Pencarrow upper and lower, and Baring Head).

View across the harbour entrance with Barrett's Reef in the middle
Pencarrow upper light, lower light, and Baring Head light are all visible here.

Down in front of me, a couple of young men were enjoying the waves which, despite the apparent calm were in the order of two metres or more. One of them was capable of standing up and achieving a wobbly run down the green slopes, but the other seemed not to have reached that stage and preferred to lie on his board … or perhaps it was just that type of board. My ignorance of surfing is profound.

Despite the overall calm sea, these waves carried some weight

It was a lovely day, tinged with sadness for the 53 people who died on that wild day 45 years ago.

Birds Hutt River Maritime Miramar Seatoun South Coast

March 29, 2013 … airborne elegance

Lunch in town often leads to other things.

If I have taken the car in to the city, as I did on this occasion, I feel obliged to maximise the value of the trip by doing other things. On this occasion, I took a leisurely drive out to Miramar and around the scenic drive to scorching Bay. It’s a narrow road, and because there are many pedestrians and cyclists, the speed limit is 40 km/h. That didn’t stop some person driving a car with the name of a well known used car dealer on the side from overtaking me at about 70 km/h and disappearing around the tight corners ahead.  I came round Point Halswell, and saw him taking off from a gravel patch to go back the other way. Much spinning of wheels spitting of gravel and he was out of sight.

Schadenfreude is never attractive, but I confess to a certain sense of justice served when, on the way back, I saw the car had missed a turn and parked at a 30 degree nose-down angle on the jagged coastal rocks beside the road. I checked that no one was hurt, and moved on. I should have resisted the temptation to capture the scene from the other side of the bay, but didn’t.

Unconventional parking
The driver of this car overtook me at high speed on a road that needs a great deal of care.

But I digress. The stumpy little inter-island ferry Straitsman  was passing, and if you look closely, you will see lots of white dots against her dark blue hull.   Many white fronted terns (Sterna striata) were in the vicinity.

Straitsman leaving Wellington bound for Picton
Look at the large version at the spots around the bow of the ship.

As well as my shots of the ferry, I tried to catch the birds in flight. One of the defining characteristics of the tern is its agility. It is lighter and more manoeuvrable than the more common red-billed gulls, and its flight path is less predictable. It “flits”, and I swear it can detect the autofocus mechanism and attempts to “sidestep”.

White fronted tern in flight
Terns are in my opinion, amongst the most beautiful of the seabirds around New Zealand


There were many more misses than hits, but I got some.

More terns
Three in one shot was a good outcome

Carrying around to Scorching Bay (where, despite the name, the water is always freezing), I did a face-palm. If the term is unfamiliar, “Google is your friend”. Since I first came to Wellington in 1966, I have known there was a tern colony in this bay. I had spent half an hour trying to shoot tern images with perhaps a 3% hit rate. There in front of me, adjacent to the tables of the nearby restaurant was a rocky outcrop with hundreds of terns coming and going. Wonderful.

Tern landing on the rocks of the colony
This colony has a table-service restaurant within ten metres

If you are a local and decide to go there, please do not disturb the colony. Maintain a respectful distance.

On the way home, I checked in at Hikoikoi and was astounded to see no fewer than twenty Royal Spoonbills all lined up on a mud bank.

Royal Spoonbills
On parade … I was lucky to catch a moment when there was a still reflective patch of water in front of the birds

It was a good day.


Architecture Aviation harbour Seatoun Travel Weather Wellington

December 19, 2012 … beneath the lowering cloud

Two more sleeps to the airport.

Yesterday’s weather made me nervous about that. The airport was closed for much of the day, and many flights were cancelled. Sometimes this stuff lingers for days, and I really want it gone before Friday. The most common cause of closure for Wellington Airport is fog or low cloud. Wind related closures are quite rare, but not entirely unknown. Either way, I would appreciate a fine calm clear day on Friday please.

I was in the city yesterday to have lunch with a friend, and later, to have a drink and dinner with my youngest son. We were on our way to see the Hobbit in 3D and fast frame rate at the Embassy theatre, since neither of our wives were enthusiastic. Between lunch and the late afternoon, I wandered around the city looking for ways to capitalise on the low cloud (no pun intended).

Basin Reserve ... home of cricket in Wellington ... but not todayFrom Mount Victoria, I got some interesting glimpses of the city through the swirling grey cloud.  My first image for the day is of the Basin Reserve, spiritual home of cricket in Wellington. The Basin stand, the older of the two main stands, with the dark grey roof,  has recently been declared “earthquake prone”. I am not sure whether I have captured the sense of the low cloud, or does it just look flat?

Courtenay Place, heart of the city's night lifeMy second shot looks down on Courtenay Place, heart of the entertainment district. The oddly angled cream building with the pink facing wall in the foreground beyond the trees at the lower left, is the splendidly refurbished Embassy theatre, amongst the first in the world to have Dolby’s new Atmos sound system installed. I greatly enjoyed the Hobbit there last night.

The national museum, Te PapaMy third take looks down on the national museum, Te Papa and the inner harbour. If you click to enlarge, and look between the roof of Te Papa, and the old Star Boating building (cream with an orange roof, you will see the sinister grey camouflaged colours of the Sea Shepherd vessel. Though I am opposed to whaling, I have no time for eco-terrorism which is how I regard them.

Where did my valley go? Looking North under low cloud from Seatoun.My last image for the day was taken from The Pass of Branda, looking North across Seatoun, to Matiu/Somes Island, and in the far right distance to Seaview, the only part of the Hutt Valley visible in these conditions. If you enlarge this image, enjoy the vivid splash of flowering pohutukawa  on the trees in the left foreground.

I could hear planes arriving and departing over the hill, so I am guessing this low cloud must have been right on the minima for operations.

Optimistic for Friday.