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June 18, 2020 …seize the day

“Up we go! Up we go!’ till at last, pop! his snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.” (Kenneth Grahame, Wind in the Willows)

Like Mole, I feel I have emerged from the darkness and am enjoying the world with new eyes after the long weeks of lockdown. Even as I visit familiar haunts, I seem to see them differently now. Whether or not this results in new or better images is open for discussion. Either way, I am having fun.

Distand land under a grey sky

How many times, I wonder, have I shared an image of the Tararuas from our front lawn. From a photographer’s perspective each set of light conditions and cloud formations creates a scene different to the many times I have seen it before. The bones of the landscape are unchanged, but the season, the light and the weather add flesh to the view. I am always tempted by those receding layers of hills leading to the great South wall of the Tararuas.

Superb craftsmanship

I have recently made a friend in New Plymouth whose hobby and passion is carving wildfowl in wood to life-size. I know nothing about this hobby except that Wayne Herbert is a master of his craft. For various reasons, the bird he is entering into a global competition this year is in the possession of a near neighbour, so he asked me to make photographs of it. Yes, that beautiful tui really is made of wood.

Morning mist

River mist changes the character of the landscape. Most mornings it disperses fairly quickly and the day turns out well. The tower block in the background is the former TVNZ studios and office block at Avalon. It’s hard to figure out what it’s used for these days. The trees in the mid-ground are on the Boulcott golf course.

Premature symbols of spring

Folklore is fun, but often implausible. There is a fable to the effect that a sure sign of spring is when there are six daisies on the lawn that you can cover with your hand. Well here we are. But how can this be a sign of spring with the winter solstice still a a few days in the future? And why are there early jonquils in flower? I suspect spring may not actually come early, but our warming planet may show us things that, in previous times, were not seen until much later in the year.

Nature – the jeweller

The Japanese maple beside the path to our front door is now bare. The last living leaves have fallen and so begins the long wait for the new season. Or perhaps it won’t be such a long wait. A day of soft rain decorated the branches with sparkling droplets.

Hansa Freyburg departs for Nelson

Several viewpoints around the region afford a good view of the Kaikoura ranges. I was at the lookout at the top of the Wainuiomata Hill road and admiring the view of snow-tipped Tapuae-o-Uenuku when I noticed the container vessel Hansa Brandenburg and the pilot launch Te Haa emerging from the port. I had to wait a few minutes to catch it in front of the mountain. That peak is 2,885 metres high and 140 km from my standpoint.

Autumnal carpet

The flaming Autumn colour of our Japanese maples made a small but spectacular showing and then, in the space of a few days, the colour was all on the ground. Mary’s moss covered driftwood contrasts nicely with the various reds of the dying drying leaves.


In Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” (which I have never seen or even read) there is a well-known monologue that outlines the seven ages of man. The words that always resonated with me were “And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel And shining morning face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to school“. In the days when I still commuted to work, I loved to watch the people getting off the train or bus with expressionless faces trudging towards whatever new misery fate might deliver to them today. Rain or shine the expressions never changed as they trudged unwillingly to work. I was aiming to catch the reflection of the portico in the puddle, but I think the two pedestrians capture the day perfectly.

Petone foreshore

At the Western end of the Petone esplanade, is a park which is commonly used by people bringing their dogs for exercise. Its formal name is Honiana Te Puni Park though I doubt that many know it as such. It seems that the car park surface is far from horizontal, judging by the puddles that form after a little rain. I am always happy to find large still puddles as they present an opportunity for reflection shots and in this case a minimalist image. The bollards are there to prevent motorists driving across the narrow strip of grass and over the sea wall into the harbour.


A Canadian photographic group that I joined proposed “Red” as the theme of the week. A strip of florist’s ribbon and a macro lens (just before it died) allowed my to produce this image. It might make more sense if you click on it to see the larger version. Or not. The lens has gone to the maker’s agent in Christchurch and is awaiting the arrival of a replacement barrel with the electronics. Ouch! $450.

A sea horse?

Some of the beaches on the West coast of the North Island are wild and lonely places characterised by black iron sand and lots of driftwood. The long smooth beaches are popular with drivers of off-road vehicles and the occasional equestrian. This picture was captured at Hokio Beach, a little to the South of Levin. There was a heavy swell and the sea was glittering in the afternoon sun. The young lady was clearly enjoying her time with the horse.

Sandra II

Sandra II has featured in many other shots, though usually at her mooring in the Hikoikoi reserve. I saw the two gentlemen preparing for their trip and then they cast off and headed out into the harbour. It seems to have a permanent list to port. It made me think of the old Picton ferry Tamahine (1925 – 1963) which also had a permanent list that gained her the nickname “Tilting Tam”

Deceptive weather

On the South coast near Island Bay, the sun was shining brightly and the sea state was quite moderate. However, the temperature was about 9°C and the spiteful Nor’Westerly wind was ripping the tops off the incoming waves. In the background, the lighthouse on Baring Head gleamed in the morning sun.


Early mornings are not familiar territory for me. Nevertheless the rosy glow through the curtains caught my attention. This view from my bedroom window is to the North and the lights on the hills on the left are at the entrance to Stokes Valley. The dark patch in the right foreground is the Boulcott golf course with Naenae and Avalon beyond. Despite ancient warnings about red skies it was the first of several flawless days.

Lake Wairarapa at Featherston

Another lovely day and Mary and I decided to take a picnic lunch to the Southern Wairarapa. Flat calm conditions in Featherston led me to hope that the lake might present opportunities. We got off to a late start so I was pressing my luck. Nevertheless, at 11 am the water was still unruffled. I hung the camera inverted on the centre pole of the tripod and got it close to the surface of the water and looked to the South. A reader commented that she was accustomed to the lake seeming always brown and scruffy. Happily, a smooth surface reflects the colour of the sky above so we have a nice blue lake. I noticed with some regret that the two rows of rusting steel piles that were once a jetty for the yacht club had been removed.

Pole dweller

As we were pulling away from the lake, I saw this white-faced heron perched on the only surviving steel pile and reflecting nicely in the water below. I rolled the window down and shot this from the driver’s seat. There was no other traffic on the road.

I hope the new vision continues and look forward to seeing you next time/

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January 24, 2020 … making lots of images

Challenging weather in the last few weeks has been a mixed blessing. There have been days which offered little inspiration. When the light has been reasonable, it has made me look more closely at whatever is in front of me. It has made me actively seek shapes, patterns, colours and ideas.

Steel and grease

Mary and I took a friend who is a train enthusiast up to Paekakariki to the sheds where Steam Inc work on their locomotives. It was a gloomy overcast day and there was nowhere that offered the space to see any of the locomotives in full. Instead, I selected part of the valve linkage to represent the whole. The sheer weight of metal, the array of nuts and bolts and the heavy coat of oil all speak of the power of this mighty machine (Ja1271 for anyone wondering).

Giant Bush Dragonfly

At the wetlands in Queen Elizabeth Park in Paekakariki, I looked in vain for any dabchicks, so settled for this large dragonfly. Despite its name, it is much smaller than the enormous ones I remember seeing in Colorado. Nevertheless, since they rarely sit still I was pleased to get this one. hovering in one spot. I also got lots of shots which were blurred or contained no dragonfly.


There’s something about the various reeds in the wildlife reserve in the Pauatahanui wetlands that just demands attention. They sway and swirl, and seem to change colour through a spectrum of brown green and gold. It’s quite a small area, but one that I love very much.

Sleeping on Parade

Also in the Pauatahanui wetlands, I found group of Royal Spoonbills sleeping together with remarkable military precision. Not only were they arrayed in a straight line, but were evenly spaced. I am intrigued that they always seem to pull one leg up and fold their bill along their back when they sleep. Still water gave nice reflections.

A pied stilt chick

While I was in the hide making spoonbill pictures, I was aware of a noisy pied stilt squawking at anything that moved. It was chasing other birds and clumsy humans away, circling around and diving towards any intruder, regardless of size. Then I saw her chick. Against the sandbanks, it seemed like a small clump of wind-blown fluff. Not until it went into the water did I realise what I was seeing. I suspect that much of its mother’s squawking was telling it to look out for the many dangers.

Bombus terrestris – the heavy lifter of the bee world

I am unsure what the flower in this picture is, though it seemed to be coming to the end of its season. Like a heavy-lift helicopter the bumble bee came in slowly, hovering above the flowers to gather nectar and I could feel the energy transferred by its wings to the air that supported it. I had been about to attempt a long-range landscape shot, so I already had the long zoom lens on the camera. It worked quite well allowing me to focus on the insect just a few metres away.

Passion vine hopper – nymph

I get easily confused by the developmental stages of various insects, and as far as I can tell, this is the nymph stage of the passion vine hopper (Scolypopa australis). Surprisingly for the scientific website I used, I learned that the nymphs are universally known as “fluffy bums”. This particular example was at most, 4 mm long (5/32 inch). The fibres at the rear are apparently extrusions of wax, the purpose of which is not known.

The odd couple

I have always loved ships. Though I mourn the passing of the ships I kew in my youth, with their graceful curved sheer line, I am slowly becoming accustomed to their modern replacements with huge apartment block accomodation sections that look as if squeezed from a toothpaste tube before being chopped off to selected length. Cruise liners tankers and container ships are all straight lines these days. The two in this image are both relatively small ships. They are the Seabourn Encore (604 passengers) and the Seven Seas Explorer (700 passengers) . If they don’t look small compare them with the Ovation of the Seas (see later in this edition) which comes with 4,900 passengers.


Whitireia park is a large open area which occupies the Southern headland of Porirua Harbour. Most people who know Wellington will recognise it as the place near Porirua where the old AM radio mast for station 1YA was. It is characterised for most of the year by long grass. Large areas of open grass are attractive to skylarks, though they are usually quite shy. For some reason, this one was bolder than most so I got down low and pointed the camera at it. It looked indignant and flew away.


My son and daughter-in-law live near our house. They have a magic view across the harbour and out through the heads towards Antarctica. Looking at that view through a large glass bowl on their table just appealed to me. I don’t feel the need to justify it further.

Le Laperouse

The French were in town. Ponant Cruises boutique luxury liner Le Laperouse is small enough to be able to berth at Queens wharf right on the edge of downtown. She is a fine looking vessel, though I suspect her small size means she might be more lively in a big sea. She carries just 264 passengers so does not instil the sense of dread that comes when I contemplate the giant liners. From Oriental Bay I thought she fitted well with the glass and steel textures of the tower blocks across the road.

From small to oh my goodness

Monday this week was a a lovely day with clear skies and no wind. As well as Le Laperouse mentioned above, there were two large cruise liners in port and Ovation of the Seas, the larger of the two, was scheduled to leave at 8 pm, much later than usual for most cruise liners. Bearing in mind the disruption to our evening domestic routines, I asked to be excused and went out into the golden evening to capture her departure. I settled down to wait at Point Halswell. She eventually left her berth and headed towards the harbour entrance. I then found a suitable viewing spot literally at sea level on the Eastern side of the Miramar Peninsula. Soon enough in the beautiful golden light, she came ghosting past. I remain astonished that a ship of 168,600 Gross Tonnes and powered by 67,200 kW (over 90,00 hp) could move so quickly and in almost total silence. The pilot launch Te Has made more noise. There was remarkably little wake from this huge ship.

In the golden West

By the time the Ovation of the Seas had dropped the pilot and resumed her journey towards her next port, there was a lovely light in the sky and the mountains of the Kaikoura ranges were nicely silhouetted. Bonus!

Evans Bay

Fully content with my photographic adventures that evening I set out on the homeward journey through Evans Bay. Oh, oh, oh! The stillness was just beautiful. Out with the tripod again and I set up a long exposure to catch the tail of the blue hour.

That will suffice for this edition. Somehow I am feeling less insecure this week than in recent editions. I think it is that I am trying to be satisfied with an image if it pleases me, regardless of how I think others might judge. See you next time.

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May 24, 2017 … turbulent times

Fewer images this week, pursuant to a brief stay in hospital for some small remedial surgery and the subsequent recovery time. All seems well (thanks for asking). When I finally did get out and about again, I spent my time looking at weather on the Southern coast.

The weight of that water is just amazing. Pencarrow upper light in the background

There was a strong Southerly which raised the sells in the Cook Strait to somewhere well above six metres and shut down the ferries for a few days. By the time I was mobile again, the worst had passed, but there was still significant wave action.

Wild horses on the Wainuiomata coast

The next day the sun was shining and in a typical example of Wellington’s suck/blow climate, there was now a strong Northerly.  I took the long and winding road through Wainuiomata to the South Coast where the residual swell was being blown back out to sea.  For some reason, as I look at the right hand side of this image, I am hearing  Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” in my head.

Evening light in the Wainuiomata valley

On the way home from the coast (it was late afternoon), I got lucky with the light in the valley beside the Wainuiomata stream.  Beams of light over the edge of the hills to the West picked out a cluster of trees in a way that I just had to stop and photograph.

Normal service is expected to resume next week.

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January 25, 2017 … how did we get to here already?

I may have mentioned that we are seeing a lot of our grandchildren in this period between start of school and end of parental holiday entitlement. Cooper is ten and has a (passing) fixation on World War I and biplanes, so told his parents that he wanted to build one with me.

Cooper and his ridiculously complicated chuck glider. He was happy

I should have talked him down a bit, and of course I did. We went from a large radio-controlled scale model with guns to a chuck glider more in keeping with a beginner. However, I gave him a reference book and the one he liked was the Bristol F2B fighter.  I sketched out a simplified caricature of the F2B but the odd characteristic of this big fighter is that neither of its wings mount directly to the fuselage. A degree of complication quite inappropriate for a total beginner. Thank heavens for cyanoacrylate glues. It flies when thrown, but is fragile so a more sensible choice will be made next time.

Tiger Moth
ZK-AJO was among the very first top-dressing planes in the world, serving with James Aviation from around 1948

Later in the week, we visited Te Papa, our National Museum. Frankly, as a museum, it mystifies me, and I have probably said before, I regard it as more of theme park than a true museum, The thing that is most on display seems to me to be the art of curatorship, rather than the artefacts used to make the displays. Still, the Tiger Moth was worth a look.

The wind flattened the waves inshore, though there were apparently some large waves out in the strait.

On Thursday last week, we had a forecast that suggested swells of up to six metres might be expected. It occurred to me that huge slow swells rolling in might make an interesting image in the first light of day. Sadly, the huge swells didn’t eventuate, though the wind was gusting at up to 150 km/h, so I gave it my best shot anyway.The surface of the water in the harbour mouth was buried beneath a layer of flying spray into which the ferry Kaitaki was battling to enter harbour. The loom of Baring Head can be seen behind the lights of the ship.

Sparrow in the spin-cycle

On Friday, there was a brief period of calm, with bright warm sun. A sparrow in a puddle caught my eye as it used the fresh rain water to cleanse its plumage, rotating its moving parts so rapidly that I called this image “the spin cycle”

Flowering gum near the parliamentary precinct

It’s that time of year when the pohutukawa blossoms are almost done, but the lurid color of the Australian flowering gum (Corymbia ficifolia) takes its place, so I tried to place the flagstaff on the Beehive as a backdrop. The flag is not at half mast, but there is a lightning conductor atop the mast itself which can give that impression



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December 8, 2015 … I have tried in my way to be free*

My journeys sometimes remind me of  a Roomba.

Houghton Bay.
Houghton Bay. That’s Tapu te Ranga island on the right, and I think Arapawa Island across the Strait in the distance.

Have you ever watched one of those things in action? They wander from point to point with no discernible plan. They bump into things and change direction, and eventually cover the whole room. If I were a Roomba, some parts of Wellington would be cleaner than others because bounce my way there much more frequently.  Like the South Coast, for example. Houghton Bay was yesterday’s standpoint, with a slow exposure to still the waves.

Kaiarahi leaving port

In the other direction, the ferry Kaiarahi (formerly Stena Alegra) was emerging from the harbour entrance on its way to Picton. Those rocks look sharp.

Looking South through the harbour entrance

Later in the day, I was on my way to visit a friend prior to going out for a pizza when I found a new viewpoint in Maungaraki with a clear view down the harbour mouth. It’s a long view with nothing South of here until you hit the Antarctic ice. It was momentarily busy with the ferries Strait Feronia and Aratere inbound. The vehicle carrier, Adria Ace was outbound, heading to Lyttelton, and the pilot launch Tarakena just to the right of Strait Feronia was scrambling along behind, ready to pick up the pilot.  I think the white blob to the right again, is foam breaking over a rock.

Like a bird on a wire …* Wood pigeon or Kereru

At home, as I parked the car, I noticed a pair of wood pigeons perched on the wires across the road. One departed immediately, but the other lingered for a moment or two.

That’s all for today.

  • Like a bird on a Wire by Leonard Cohen
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December 4, 2015 … I like not this news*

… bring me some other news!*

Going back for more

I read in the Dominion Post this morning, that Wellington’s summer, far from the sunny promises of a month or two ago, will be characterized by wind and drizzle. It has been thus throughout Spring, and I had hoped for a significant improvement. Yesterday was typical with some heavy rain in the morning, fading to drizzle in the afternoon, and wind persisting throughout the day. Bah! Our house guests moved on so I went out through Wainuiomata to the South Coast. No great inspiration was found, but I reached the beach as the coastal tanker Torea was passing by on its way back to Whangarei on its way to the refinery for another load.

Wainuiomata River from the bridge at Holmdale

On the way back through Wainuiomata, the Wainuiomata River at Holmdale was worth a look. Wellington Harbour is on the other side of the hills in the background.

Silent evermore – the factory reflected in the administration building

In Petone, I noticed that the old Unilever factory was still and quiet, no steam emitting from its stacks. As I understand it, the factory is now permanently closed, and it will be interesting to see what becomes of the site. I saw a reflection in a window, and inspired by a similar shot by my friend and fellow club member, Helen Westerbeke, tried to catch the essence of the place.

Someone turned on the Christmas decorations early


Applying the 180 degree rule, I was rewarded with an early flowering pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa)

The greyness continues


*Brian Blessed as King Richard IV in Blackadder Series 1

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November 15, 2015 … on the South side

For some reason, when I am in doubt, I go South.

Weeds they may be, but they can be spectacular en masse

This is a mixed blessing. A friend said to me the other day that my images provided a great regional resource, and that there were few places I hadn’t been. There is a grain of truth in that, especially in respect of Wellington’s Southern suburbs.  Nevertheless, it is still a surprise and delight to see something I haven’t noticed before. In this case there were two very large patches of purple ragwort. It is a pest and an invasive weed, but where there are great patches of it, the effect can be striking. These two infestations were on the steep slopes on the Western side of Happy Valley Rd, near the Owhiro Bay School.

Nous pleurons avec la France

At Island bay, one of the fishing fleet was flying the Tricolor in solidarity with the people of France after yesterday’s act of barbarism. Flags tend to get tangled in brisk winds such as ours and this one was wrapped around its halyard.

Voyaging under a cloudy sky

In the far distance, the Bluebridge ferry Strait Feronia was making its way across the horizon towards Wellington under an interesting set of clouds.

Shimmering seeds

At home as I was lugging my kit up the steps form the garage to the house I noted a weed in the garden. I am pretty adept at not noticing weeds, but this one was different. It had those shimmering little seeds and Mary and I suspect it is probably a survivor from the birdseed that she scatters for the birds.

That’s all today.

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October 3, 2015 … meteorological oscillations

I am sure that oscillations will have a specific technical meaning in meteorology.

A particularly handsome wood pigeon in repose

All I intended to imply is that it is up and down, and yesterday was on the down cycle. Strong Northerly wind and mottled grey sky, suggested that I follow the Wainuiomata Coast Road. I the Catchpool Valley of the Rimutaka Forest Park I found more of our splendid native wood pigeons, the kereru. This one looked as if it had done eating for the day and was on the verge of a siesta.

The great race – Strait Feronia leads Kaitaki into port

Down at the exposed rocky beach on the South Coast, there wasn’t a lot happening, but out to the West where a random burst of sunlight created a glowing haze I could see two ferries racing towards the entrance to Wellington Harbour. The glittering water made it look as though they were above rather than in the water. Not so much the ships, but rather their emergence from the haze, evoked thoughts of the great tea clipper races. The great clipper ships would compete to bring the first new season’s tea from China to London thus to get the best price for their cargo. Ships like Ariel, Thermopylae, and of course, Cutty Sark sprang to mind. These two, the Strait Feronia and the Kaitaki could carry more and faster than those great ships, though with far less grace.

Petone form the Wainuiomata Hill

Coming back over the hill from Wainuiomata,  the sky darkened again, and presented a moody view of the harbour near Petone.

Enough for now.

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October 2, 2015 … from the gallery to the shore

It is that time of year, again, when our camera club has its annual exhibition.

A segment of the exhibition. Two of mine are in this shot … the butterfly (third from left) and the early morning view of the Tararuas just to the right and below the butterfly.

Our opening on Tuesday evening was a very happy occasion, and I am very proud of the work on display, both the individual images, and the exhibition as a whole. I am pleased to have four of my own images on display.

The exhibition as a whole. Click for a closer look

It occurred to me while I was taking a series of record shots in the gallery to wonder if I could do a panorama of the whole room and show every one of the 71 images in its context. I took nine high-resolution 40 megapixel images and then used the photomerge to panorama feature of Photoshop to create the finished image. The original image is huge at almost 1.5 Gigagbytes.  The room is a simple rectangle and this composite includes about 320 degrees, showing everything except the entrance door.  Whether it works or not is for you to decide. I like it.

ANL Echuca and Tarakena butting into a stiff Northerly at the harbour entrance

Later in the morning the siren song of the sea drew me to Palmer head just as the container ship ANL Echuca was arriving and taking on the pilot. A stiff Northerly was whipping the wake of the pilot vessel Tarakena away to the South.

Turbulence in Lyall Bay

In Lyall Bay, the same North/South conflict was occurring. I have always liked the way the waves adapt themselves to the curve of the bay giving images of the wave crests seemingly at right angles to each other.

That’s all for today.

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September 30, 2015 … rockpools and waves

School holidays are upon us.

Maggie explores the beach looking for sea horses

Maggie and Cooper spent a couple of nights with us, and yesterday we went to the South Coast , and specifically  to Houghton Bay. Mary has hopes of finding a sea-horse to add to her collection of coastal memorabilia and she wanted to enlist the kids in searching the beach and rockpools. Maggie wandered up and down looking.

Cooper (in the blue top on the left) explores the pools with his newfound friends

For his part, Cooper got sidetracked and had soon made friends with a punch or random strangers and joined them in a fantasy world around the rock pools.

The waves beyond the rocks were moderate, but enough to cause the water to surge in and out

For my part, I believe I have a better chance of winning Lotto than finding a sea-horse, so I documented the project in my usual fashion, but like Cooper, I am easily distracted, so I put the ND filter on and watched the water surge in and out of the pools.

The tide was coming in, so the small pools we saw to begin with soon became part of something bigger

Waves are endless fascinating, so I spent quite some while looking at the surging sea from different angles. No sea horses were found.

That’s it for today.