Birds Family Light Maritime Weather Whiteman's Valley

June 17, 2016 … well seasoned

In this part of the world, we are just four days from the shortest day. Then follows the long climb back to warmer seasons. By the calendar we are firmly in Winter (June through August). Nevertheless, the unusually warm year has delivered a lingering tinge of Autumn.

Maple’s last defiant show of the season

In our front yard, a Japanese maple has been flaunting its stunning colour as if powered by batteries.

And then there were two

A bout of heavy rain and strong wind caused a sudden dumping of its remaining leaves and in the space of two days its branches are suddenly bare.

Fresh paint job

I am not sure if I have mentioned that I have a project in mind by which to submit a portfolio in pursuit of the Photographic Society of New Zealand’s associateship qualification. I don’t intend to reveal the specifics until I have a portfolio to submit, but in the mean time I have been prowling various places looking for images that match my vision. In Lyall Bay I found these garage doors on either side of a letterbox.

Civic colonnade


In the city, the colonnade outside the city council’s office provided a nice view.

Welcome back, George. I am not sure why a dear skull is part of this scene

Yesterday the wandering continued, and to my great delight, I found that my old friend “George” was back at the Hutt River estuary. At first I couldn’t see him, but he eventually peered over the cockpit coaming of his favourite boat. Soon he resumed his measured pacing around its deck.

Whiteman’s valley colour

Whiteman’s Valley is another place where autumn colours linger long after their allotted time.

Seaview Sunset

My photographic day ended when I had to drop my granddaughter Maggie at the gym where her cheerleaders squad practise. From there it is a short drive to the Seaview marina where the last light of the day continued to deliver autumnal shades.


Cook Strait Landscapes Light Upper Hutt Whiteman's Valley

May 16, 2016 … one foot after the other

There is much going on in my head. There are competitions to prepare for, and a portfolio to create. The weather has turned mean after a prolonged summer, but I keep trying.

From Tarakena Bay across the strait to the Kaikouras

Earlier in the week, I spent a little time on the South coast in Tarakena Bay where there was a view across the grey waters of the Strait.

Mysterious wreck, parked in the bush 21 km from the coast

Yesterday, I wandered around the Ian Poole Reserve in Wainuiomata, and in a patch of bush was astonished to find a quite large vessel that had been there long enough for trees to grow up between it and the access road.

It was a mean wind

From there, I went South down the coast road where the greyness was absolute, so I focused on the toetoe whipping around in the vicious wind.

The Upper Valley from the ridge at Wallaceville

This morning, I passed through Upper Hutt over the hill at Wallaceville. From there the view back towards Emerald Hill and beyond to the Southern foothills of the Tararuas was enhanced by the crepuscular rays sneaking through the crowds.

Whiteman's Valley
This little stream had no name that I could find, but it flows into the Mangaroa River

Over the ridge in Whiteman’s Valley, I found a stream that seemed worth a look.

And that’s all I have this time.



Akatarawa Animals Landscapes Rivers Whiteman's Valley

November 1, 2015 … hurrying slowly

Today, New Zealand won the Rugby World Cup.

The collapsed bridge at Birchville

This has nothing at all to do with me or my photography but I just had to share my pride in our mighty team. Returning now to normal service, I began my photographic day at the bridge off the Akatarawa road. The Bridge Street community within Birchville consists of about 70 houses accessible by a narrow bridge across the Akatarawa River just near its conjunction with the Hutt River. I have photographed the bridge earlier this year, back in May. In the thunderous river flows I mentioned a few days ago, the central support of the bridge was undermined and the bridge has subsided making it unsafe to cross. The only way in or out now is by way of a footpath beside the river, leading to the suburb of Totara Park. This is an hour-long trek to the Upper Hutt Shops. As a matter of urgency, earth moving equipment is being used to forma road that follows the path. It will break through this Friday and will require a further week to render the new road passable.  Water and gas supplies are also compromised, so the people of Birchville are having to rough it for almost two weeks.

The land is green for now, but as we get closer to summer, the forecasters are predicting drought conditions.

It was a pleasant afternoon, so I followed my nose through Mangaroa into Whitemans Valley where I attempted a pastoral landscape in the afternoon sun.

Bedford RL

Near the exit, I paused for another shot at yet another previously photographed subject, the old Bedford army truck which is slowly becoming as one with the Earth.

The snail was moving purposefully in a consistent direction. Not sure of its destination, but it was gone when I looked next morning.

Back at home, Mary pointed me to a snail crossing the back lawn. It was making slow but determined progress, and managed to navigate its way around obstacles such as the daisies in the grass.

Did I mention that the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup?

Architecture Whiteman's Valley

October 27, 2015 … in a parallel universe

One of the things I like about our region is the pockets of difference.

Almost in the nation’s capital

There are many places that, though they stay in close proximity, are somehow far from the mainstream existence nearby. Parallel to the Hutt Valley is Whiteman’s Valley, named for the Whiteman family who started farming there from 1871. Though just a ten minute drive overt the hill from the Hutt Valley, this place is almost a different country. There is a lot of rust-red corrugated iron and dry unpainted timber in the farm buildings.

Bottom farm has been replaced by top farm

Indeed some of the older dwellings are almost as quaint. This one at least is no longer inhabited. I met the former owner who had lived in the house for decades before building a new house further up the hill. Her description of the house definitely belonged to a different century.


On the road that crosses from the valley to Upper Hutt at Wallaceville, there is a set of farm buildings that are being slowly absorbed by the landscape. I have made pictures of it before but it has never seemed to have looked as frail as this, especially the middle building. You shouldn’t get the impression it is all hillbilly stuff over there. Many large expensive new houses exist, but they are less interesting.

The tree

From the same spot I looked over my shoulder and loved the tree I saw. It belonged in a Halloween setting, so I confess to adding a bit of “grunge” to heighten the illusion.

That’s all for now.

Animals Birds flowers Landscapes Mangaroa Valley mountains The Plateau Whiteman's Valley

September 12, 2015 … in a quiet valley

Business issues took me to the upper valley yesterday.

I wonder what prompts the gambolling … is it joie de vivre, and if so what causes them to lose it? Or perhaps something is biting them in sensitive areas.

Rather than going straight home, I went first to the Plateau a little to the North of Upper Hutt. Though some images were made there, nothing really ignited the creative flame for me, so I went round the back road to the Mangaroa Valley and from there South into Whiteman’s Valley. Both of these valleys are home to a mixture of small farms and so-called “lifestyle blocks”. Since they are not on the road to anywhere they are quiet places with lots of greenery and steep wooded hills to East and West. Here in the Southern hemisphere, spring is well and truly with us in everything but weather.  Bouncing lambs and lots of flowering trees tell us it is so.

Lapwings against the Tararuas

To the North end of the Valley, the great South Wall of the Tararua ranges dominates. Some late snow chills the view and makes the peaks more impressive than their benign summer face. I am not absolutely certain but I think the passing birds are masked lapwings (formerly spur-winged plovers) .

Old Man's Beard
Seed heads on the Old Man’s Beard

As I drove across a creek in the valley, I was a bit shocked to see an infestation of “Old Man’s Beard” (Clematis vitalba) choking up the less aggressive foliage.  In the 1980s, famed botanist David Bellamy was the front man for a nation-wide campaign with the catch-phrase “Old man’s Beard must go”. Clearly the message has been forgotten, and though this member of the clematis family is beautiful when in flower, it is an invasive pest plant. In this picture the seeds look a lot like cotton balls.


It is part of the picturesque charm of these valleys that generations of farmers have planted daffodil bulbs along the roadside and occasionally in random patches on the farm. At this time of year, their golden trumpets nod and bow in a lively dance as the spring breezes blow.

More tomorrow, I hope.


Cars Machinery Plant life Reflections Rivers Taita Whiteman's Valley

April 22, 2015 … red gold and green

The new camera (“Ollie”) is slowly becoming familiar.

Hutt River above the weir

That means that preferred settings come more easily to hand. I still have moments, however, where I have to stop and explore the various menu options and find how to achieve what I want. My first shot from yesterday was just behind the weir on the Hutt River at the Taita Gorge. I read a few days ago that there are two kinds of landscape image. Those that were taken using a tripod, and those that should have been. This is one of the latter.

Red gold and green leaves

My wandering took me through Silverstream and up Blue Mountains Rd through Pinehaven. There I found a stand of deciduous trees in their full Autumn splendour. They look different in kind to the beech trees behind Arrowtown, and they are much smaller in the area covered, so I had to line up carefully to get the trees, and nothing but the trees.

Bedford RL being swallowed by the trees

Over the hill into Whiteman’s Valley and I renewed my acquaintance with an old ex-army Bedford RL truck. I have photographed it before, but I am certain that it is slowly going back to the earth from whence it came. More and more foliage is becoming entangled in the chassis and emerging from the observer’s ring in the cab  roof. Rust is eroding the edges of the sheet metal work and the possibility of a restoration seems to recede each time I see it.

Land Rover suffering a similar fate

Quite close to the Bedford is an old Land Rover. It too is being overtaken by the surrounding weeds and shrubs, though it doesn’t look as far gone as the Bedford.

That will do for now.

Adventure Cars Landscapes Machinery Weather Whiteman's Valley

March 9, 2015 … mud and petrol fumes

Sunday was the day of the Deadwood Safari.

Hi revs, loud exhaust, mud and weeds, what’s not to like?

Each year, there is a National 4×4 Trials competition. Each leg comprises 30 short obstacle courses designed to challenge the ability of driver and co-driver to navigate their vehicle through it without taking out the marker pegs, and I think, without losing forward motion. Points are added for each peg run over or not passed. The objective is to get your front hubs past the end posts having lost no points. Zero is a perfect score. It is loud, spectacular and totally outrageous for those mindful of carbon footprints. It’s also a lot of fun. It attracts thousands each year to the farm in Whiteman’s Valley where the Wellington leg is hosted. I went last year and enjoyed the opportunity to take pictures close to the action, so I went again.

Thick sticky mud getting well and truly stirred up

After weeks of dry weather, there was a monumental downpour in the Wellington region on Saturday with 43mm of rain in the Hutt Valley. This contributed enormously to the mud obstacles. These seemed to have the consistency of overcooked porridge. Even so, when you have four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering and up to 500 hp, the porridge gets stirred vigorously and the marshalls and any spectators foolish enough to get too close share in the distribution of the mud.

This drone is smart enough to pull its lifting legs (landing gear) up out of the way thus giving the camera a clear view though 360 degrees

There were many photographers around the course, including a team driving a high-end drone which could get very close to the action without the operator getting dirty at all.

Fast approach
Many of the obstacles required a high speed approach with lots of wheel spin.

Some sections were more challenging than others and there were some that most got through with a lot of bellowing from the exhaust, and the occasional breakage. At least one tie rod snapped leaving the car with its front wheels pointing in opposite directions.

The canvas strop is attached to an ordinary far tractor which is easily dragging the vehicle and a wall of mud, out of the swamp.

Some obstacles became more impossible as the day wore on and the mud was stirred up. Each section had either a farm tractor or a hydraulic digger nearby to rescue stalled vehicles. It must be galling for the crew that a farm tractor just attaches a towing strop, engages a low gear and lets the engine idle the whole mess out of trouble. No bellowing exhausts or spinning tyres, just a relaxed “ponk! ponk! ponk!” from the exhaust and the crew and their car are plucked from trouble.

Cautiously over the top and down the bank

Not all of the obstacles were mud. Some were steep dry crumbly clay with short sharp pitches which required the co-driver to be really skilled on the four brake levers. Overall it was an enjoyable day assisted by many volunteers and the best $10 investment for ages.

Sleepy afternoon in the Judgeford Valley

Towards the end of the day I was coming over SH58 (The Haywards Hill) in golden afternoon light. It occurred to me that the view back down the valley from Mt Cecil Road  towards Judgeford was worth a look.

That’s enough for today.

Birds Mangaroa Valley Railway The Plateau Trees Whiteman's Valley

December 29, 2014 … bush at the edge of the city

We seem to have developed a new tradition.

Rata in bloom on the Plateau near Upper Hutt


Mary makes a picnic lunch and then I drive us to a surprise location. Yesterday’s trip was a bit constrained by fears of holiday congestion on the main roads. I went over the hill to Whiteman’s Valley, up through the Mangaroa Valley and up Plateau Rd to Tunnel Gully. Tall bush at the foot of the road up to Mt Climie was spectacularly lush. Several magnificent Rata were in bloom, a burst of dusky red against a sea of green.

Emerging from the Mangaroa tunnel on the downhill side


Our destination was chosen because, despite the number of time I had been up to the Plateau area, I had never seen the Mangaroa tunnel. We followed a well-formed path from the picnic area into the bush and within a minute or two were at the mouth of the old railway tunnel. Though we could see the other end quite clearly, the 221 metre tunnel is long enough that it is very dark inside. The tiny light on my key ring is designed to illuminate keyholes and was quite useless against the unrelenting blackness. A young woman running behind us with her two dogs told as she passed that the biggest hazard in the tunnel were the horse droppings. We emerged blinking at the other end.

Dense stand of mature pines


Birdsong was all around us and I could hear tui, bellbird, fantail, blackbird and grey warblers at least. Unfortunately the bush was so dense that the birds were able to be heard, but rarely seen. The trail led relentlessly downhill towards Maymorn, and I always think that downhill tracks have to be repaid if you want to get back to where you left the car. The path passes through a dense stand of pines and Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” came to mind.

A random bush shot on the ridge


At Maymorn station, we turned back and instead of passing through the tunnel chose the track up over the very ridge that the tunnel is designed to avoid. The quality of the bush os outstanding and we count ourselves fortunate to have such easy access to such a treasure.

That’s all for today


Upper Hutt Weather Whiteman's Valley

July 30, 2014 …. a very ordinary day

A dose of ordinariness is probably a good thing now and then.

Mangaroa Valley
The Mangaroa River

Sadly, “ordinary” at present seems to be grey, wet and cold. Such a day yesterday led me to the upper end of Whiteman’s valley where it merges with the Mangaroa Valley. The Mangaroa river snakes its way across the valley floor and in so doing creates some  places that are very pleasant to be in, though probably better in summer.

Winter aspect of some old trees

In this area there are a lot of old trees, and some that may be dead. Or perhaps it is just that they are deciduous and it is winter.

Mangaroa Valley
Mangaroa Valley and misty hills

The further up the valley I went the murkier the weather became. I have a weakness for those receding shades of grey but the cloud on the hills was a bit too abrupt and cut things off quite sharply.

Hutt and Managroa
The two rivers come together

Rejoining the main Highway at the Plateau road, I parked and followed the trail down to the shingle river bed where the Mangaroa and the Hutt Rivers came together. There are more spectacular confluences but this is the one I had.

That’s it for today.


Architecture Whiteman's Valley

March 13, 2014 … seeing the wood from the proverbial

It was another day when inspiration was slow in coming.

A row of pines is felled
They were only some scruffy pines, but the scruffiest pine is much superior to the most elegant stump.

Perspiration had to be the substitute. I am not convinced that merely pressing the shutter enough times will necessarily deliver a good result. On the other hand, I always argued that the solution to writer’s block is to put your hands on the keyboard and press some keys. Some words on a page are easier to work with than a total blank page. Likewise, any basically competent image can usually be improved even if it is unlikely to be a great piece.

Old farm building (1)
Odd choice of doors

Whiteman’s valley was the scene of yesterday’s attempts. I suppose most people who own a camera, whether or not they think of themselves as photographers, are tempted by the lure of old farm buildings. Each of us has, at some stage, had the innovative thought, “I should make a collection of pictures of old farm buildings! I bet no one else has thought of that!” Ignoring the common sense notion that old farm buildings are a photographic cliché, and mindful that if it was not this, I had nothing else, I took this one. I found it interesting because it was clearly more of a working environment than a homestead, yet the doors and windows suggested otherwise.

Old farm building (2)
Propped up

Around the corner, near Wallaceville, another old building in a state of collapse looked interesting. I have shot this before but still find it attractive as a subject.

Old farm building (3)

From the end wall you can see the extent to which the building is slowly leaning earthward. External weeds and creepers have found their way inside.

That’s all for today.