April 26, 2017 … help I am drowning!

So many beautiful places to see, so many images to make and process. Of course, I am loving every minute of it, but it is a bit overwhelming.

A house by the railway line in Warrington

On Friday I went with our middle son, Andrew (Drew to his friends), from Queenstown to Dunedin. While he attended to his appointment in the city I wandered and made pictures. Then he chose to return home via “the Pigroot”  (yes, that is how it is spelled) and the stunning Ida Valley. On the way, at my request, he passed along the coast road through Warrington where there was a house that I had regretted not shooting last time.

Ida Valley

Mountains … perhaps the Raggedy Range from the Ida Valley

The Maniatoto must surely be among the most beautiful places on Earth, especially during the late afternoon on a fine day such as we had. I can’t possibly show all my images so this one was among my favourites. Emerging from the Ida Valley near Poolburn, we are looking to the South West.


Balloon descending in front of the Morven Hill near Arrowtown

Then it was time to leave Queenstown. Despite a dismal forecast, we had a fine day for travel, and as we climbed the Crown Range road towards Hawea, we enjoyed watching hot air balloons descending near the Morven Hill for a landing site close to Arrowtown.


Reeds on Lake Ianthe

Our next accommodation is in Pukekura which claims to be the smallest town in NZ with a population of two.  Our holiday home is near the Bushman’s Centre in the midst of some spectacular West Coast rain forest. Pure magic and still the weather holds for us. We retraced our steps a little to stop in at lovely Lake Ianthe, perfectly still and shrouded in mist.


Okarito Lagoon

Okarito is another contender for my favourite places and we were there sufficiently early to catch the lagoon while the water still had that lovely unruffled surface.


Past its best

Our temporary home has a gate guardian … an ancient Fordson Tractor, and as you can see the main wheels are past repair, and the flanged front wheels look to have been borrowed from a rail wagon.

Ianthe (2)

Lake Ianthe in the morning

The next day was ANZAC day, the day on which New Zealand and Australia remember their dead of various wars, and especially those who died in the disastrous Gallipoli campaign. We went to the ceremony at the tiny town of Hari Hari  (pop. 348) but left early enough to catch Lake Ianthe in all its sun-bathed glory.


ANZAC Parade in Hari Hari

The ceremony was led by a small contingent of the New Zealand Army from Burnham. They commandeered the main road through town and were quite unabashed at blocking traffic during the most sacred moments of the this remembrance.


Blocked chimney

Finally this week, I spotted this old house on the way back to Pukekura. I have a weakness for old houses but have yet to see a house more in need of a chimney sweep than this one.

Posted in Adventure, Architecture, Lakes, Landscapes, Light, Machinery, Military, mountains, Queenstown | 4 Comments

April 19, 2017 … in tourism-land

Lake Hayes

Lake Hayes in the morning

Whenever I arrive in Queenstown, one of my first photo locations is Bendemeer Bay on Lake Hayes where, if the water is calm, I hope to see grebes. Alas, no grebes, but there was a nice view back towards the Remarkables.


Looking back towards Queenstown from the top of the Crown Range road

On Monday, I went over the Crown Range to Wanaka. The weather in Queenstown was grey with low overcast, and as I followed the zig-zag up the Southern face of the range,I entered the cloud and the visibility dropped to about 50 metres and only the tail lights of the car ahead were visible. With almost no warning, I emerged into clear sunlight and arrived at the lookout. Behind me to the South, the valley leading down to Queenstown was invisible.

In the Cardrona Valley

The road to the North, along the Cardrona river was bathed in golden light under a clear blue sky. Just a little past the Cardrona Hotel, there was a view to the West  which warranted a panorama.


The Wanaka Tree …

And then to Wanaka. As almost every photographer in New Zealand knows, there is a tree in the lake that has become the great cliché. Some refer to it as the Wanaka Tree, but more commonly, it’s just “that bl**dy tree”. Normally it is a little off shore, and is surrounded by water. On this occasion, the lake level was low and tourists can walk up to the tree and drape themselves over it to make their infernal selfies. It took twenty minutes of increasing blood pressure before there was a gap in which the tree was captured on its own.


In Skippers Canyon

Yesterday, our son, Andrew took Mary and I with grandchildren Billie and Otis, down Skippers Canyon. The road is sometimes easy, and sometimes sheer terrifying. Yesterday was relatively easy, dry and firm though far from smooth. No matter the state of the road, the landscape is always magnificent.


An old miners hut (I think) in Skippers

In winter, the countryside in the canyon is bleak and inhospitable and it is hard to believe that miners lived down here, scratching at the frozen soil, looking for the elusive gold. Their accommodation was largely fashioned from materials on site, and anything else was hauled in over the range on horse and wagon.


Inside the hut

I went inside one of the remaining huts and was delighted to see it seems to be still used from time to time. I couldn’t catch the two fantails flitting about inside, but just loved the atmosphere. I suspect I would have a different opinion in the dead of winter.


Father and son at rest together

We went down the old Skipper’s schoolhouse and visited the nearby cemetery.  It had a lot of unused space, and the planners obviously expected the town to be bigger and last longer.  One grave caught my eye, it was that of father and son, John and James Mitchell, aged 46 and 15 respectively, killed together in the Phoenix mine.


Looking towards the Remarkables from the road to Coronet Peak

After the long haul back up the canyon, we paused at the top to capture the view down to the Remarkables and Queenstown. More next week.

Posted in Adventure, Architecture, Family, Lakes, Landscapes, Light, mountains, Skippers | 3 Comments

April 14, 2017 … now where was I?

Karitane was a delight, both as a place to stay, and as a place from which to visit other places. I got a year older since I last wrote, and to celebrate, Mary took me to the famous “Fleur’s Place” restaurant at Moeraki. It was brilliant, and lived up to the very best of my expectations, and we got to chat with Fleur herself, a delightfully extroverted character. While at Moeraki, we visited Mary’s cousin Rosalie who runs a hospital for sick and distressed sea life at Katiki Point where the endangered yellow-eyed penguins come ashore.


Waikouaiti River – stillness

On the way home, I asked Mary to pause as we crossed the Waikouaiti river. I suppose it was flowing towards the sea, but from the road above, it was mirror-calm  and made interesting patterns with the bridge supports.

First Church

First Church, Dunedin

Next day with continued fine weather, we drove to Dunedin for a bit of shopping. A pause at the lights on Stuart Street reminded me of my long-held opinion that First Church is one of the most beautiful of the traditional churches in New Zealand.


Waikouaiti estuary

The next day, still in Karitane was just perfect and I was out of bed uncharacteristically early.


Wetlands at Karitane

As the day wore on, the stillness and the sunshine continued. By now most of you know I am a sucker for reflections.


Lake Waihola looking its best, but currently toxic

Then it was time to move on. Due to accommodation complications, we changed our original plan, and instead of going to Riverton near Invercargill, we went instead to Owaka in the Catlins. This took us down SH1 towards Balclutha, passing Lake Waihola on the way. This is a lovely lake to look at but due to an infestation of algal bloom, is currently unsafe to swim in.


Ducks seem immune to the algae

Nevertheless, in company with many other tourists, I went to the water’s edge and was delighted to be “photobombed” by a flock of ducks.

Nugget Point

Lighthouse at Nugget Point on the Catlins Coast

Check-in time at our accommodation was 2 pm so we diverted to Nugget Point on the Catlins coast.


Hinahina bridge on the “Catlins Lake”

By the time we arrived in Owaka, we were catching the edge effects of tropical cyclone Cook. Next morning, skies were grey and rain and wind were promised. I wanted to visit the “Catlins Lake” which is in reality the estuary of the Catlins River. My luck held out and despite the grey sky, the water was perfectly still except for the occasional splash of jumping fish. This is the Hinahina bridge.


Purakaunui falls in reduced circumstances

From there, since the weather was still reasonable, we drove up to the park for the Purakaunui falls and walked through the magnificent bush to see them. What a let down! Scarcely any rain had fallen, it seems and the usually splendid falls were a mere trickle.


Old house in the rain

Next day, the weather arrived. It is impossible to be in the Catlins and just sit inside, so I went out looking for scenes and character. If you click on this image you will see the rain belting down. Our accommodation had a log burner and plentiful firewood, so we stayed warm and dry for the rest of the stay.


De Havilland Dragonfly at Mandeville

Yesterday (Thursday) we drove from Owaka to Queenstown, but on the way I was able to fulfil a long-held wish to visit the Croydon Aviation Heritage Centre at Mandeville, just a little out of Gore.


De Havilland Fox Moth and others of the breed at Mandeville

This is both a museum and a working aviation restoration facility. Almost everything on display is flight-worthy. They have a strong history with aircraft from the de Havilland stable but do other aircraft as well. Thoroughly recommended to my fellow aviation nuts.




Posted in Adventure, Aviation, Catlins, Lakes, Landscapes, Moeraki, Museum, Queenstown, Queenstown, Reflections, Rivers, Weather | 2 Comments

April 6, 2017 … in chilly Southern parts

Prematurely, it seems to be winter. And here in Karitane where Mary and I are currently staying in a borrowed “crib” (Southern word for a small holiday home), it is especially bleak as the remnants of a tropical storm cause havoc in the Northern parts of the country.


Waiting in line at the Wellington terminal to board the ferry Kaitaki to Picton.

But let’s begin at the beginning. On Thursday last, we set out in the predawn darkness to catch the ferry from Wellington to Picton. The voyage across the strait on the Kaitaki was pleasant enough. and then we began the long, long journey through Blenheim and Murchison to get to our first stopping point at Hanmer Springs. State highway 1 from Picton to Kaikoura is still firmly closed and likely to remain so for at least another year consequent to the earthquake in November. The detour is also heavily damaged and there were dozens of places where traffic was limited to 30 km/h for road works, and often stopped entirely to permit one-way traffic to operate.


Organ Range in the Hurunui District

Unlike many, however, we had no pressing need to adhere to a schedule, so despite the mild inconveniences of the journey, we could enjoy the undoubted grandeur of the South Island’s scenery. I neglected to record exactly where this  image was taken, but I think it is somewhere in the Hurunui district a little way out of Hanmer Springs.  I think we are looking across the Hope River at the Organ Range with the Glynn Wye range to the right


New Brighton Pier with the curse of the scaffolding. Presumably this is post-earthquake remedial work

We spent two days in Hanmer Springs before resuming our journey to Christchurch. Check-in time at out next accommodation in St Alban’s was mid-afternoon, so Mary and I went to the New Brighton Pier to enjoy lunch beside the sea. I seem to cause scaffolding to be erected, and whether it’s the Washington Monument or the Castlepoint Lighthouse, I seem to put a visual curse on well known landmarks.


The horizon is actually in this picture, near the top and the sky is almost indistinguishable from the sea.

The surf at New Brighton was slight, but there were many enthusiasts out there in their wet suits enjoying various forms of their sport and waiting patiently for the right wave.

War Memorial

Citizens’ War Memorial, Christchurch

We settled in to a superb apartment (thanks Airbnb), and the following day I wandered around the CBD. Six years after the big earthquake, it is apparent that though much has been done, the damage to this still beautiful city will be visible for many years to come. Apparently a decision on the fate (replace or rebuild) of the iconic cathedral is imminent, but as of this week, it sits forlornly inside the fence with weeds growing up through its once clean and well swept paving. I liked the statue on the Northern side, and was surprised to learn that it is unrelated to the Cathedral, but is in fact, the citizens’ War Memorial, funded by public subscription after WWI.


Flooded demolition site, corner of Colombo St and Oxford Tce

As I said, the damage lingers on, and despite all the new buildings going up, there are many fenced off sites where remediation or replacement has yet to begin.  This one is on the corner of Colombo St and Oxford Terrace.


Leaving Lyttelton bound for Diamond Harbour. This was as good as the weather got

We enjoyed some time with Mary’s brother and his wife, and after a wonderful dinner with them decided to go to Diamond Harbour the next day. Sadly, the weather deteriorated, but we went anyway. A nice lunch was had in Lyttelton on our return from a grey and wet Diamond Harbour.


A lookout on the old coast road looks Northward along the coast with Karitane as the first promontory and Waikouaiti next along. I liked the drama of the clouds, if not the bleakness of the weather.

We enjoyed our few days in the garden city and have now moved South to Karitane. This is a tiny coastal village on the southern side of the Waikouaiti River where it flows into the Pacific. In normal times it is a popular weekend destination for people getting out of Dunedin, but as of this moment, with rain lashing the windows and the trees whipping about in the garden, it seems a little less attractive. However, the weather is predicted to improve. We did a small tour of the area yesterday and I got this view of Karitane from a lookout on a hill to the South of the town. More of our journey next week.


Posted in Adventure, Canterbury, Christchurch, Cook Strait, Family, Landscapes, Maritime, mountains, Picton, Retirement, Wellington | 1 Comment

March 29, 2017 … stillness in the mist

With the melancholy behind me, let me resume normal service. Thanks to those who sent kind words after the last episode.


Bright sun, calm day, clean air reminds me of why I like living here.

In the week gone by, we had a few windless days, and of course I took advantage by going to the water. Sometimes the water itself is the subject, and at other times it serves as a foreground or background. In this case, looking across the harbour from Oriental Bay to Thorndon, a long exposure provides a blue foreground for the railway station, and Victoria University’s Business School.


The new wind turbine was ticking over slowly in the light breeze.

Lunch with a friend was the usual excuse for a trip up the hill to Brooklyn where the new larger wind turbine spins merrily against a blue sky.


Clouds over the ranges behind Upper Hutt

In the last few days we have had a lot of mist. This image is a stitched panorama looking up to Mt Climie behind Upper Hutt. According to my distinguished meteorologist friend what we are seeing here is low cloud in the Wairarapa under an inversion, being pushed over the hill by an Easterly flow. The original image itself was huge (about 129 Megapixels).

Oriental Bay

Unpromising weather for camera club walkabout

Last night our camera club had planned to do a walkabout in the early evening commencing in Oriental Bay. All day the weather was dismal, low cloud, fog, some drizzle and I was unsure whether I would have to exercise presidential authority to call it off. There was a lifting of the cloud around 4 pm so I sent out the “Go” signal. As I drove into town, I was sure I had made the wrong decision because the cloud had descended again. As you can see, he setting sun was peeking under the heavy cloud cover, but at least it wasn’t raining.


Over in the Stadium, the All Whites defeated Fiji, 2-0, and we borrowed some of their spilled light

As the evening progressed, I became more and more delighted with the conditions. There was absolute stillness and a soccer game at Westpac stadium provided some excellent lighting for the rest of us.


Hikitia rarely moves these days. It is amazing to know that she travelled to Wellington from her builders in Scotland under her own steam

We meandered along the waterfront, concluding our adventure at a hostelry on Taranaki St Wharf where we enjoyed refreshments and swapped stories. When I left, the conditions were still suitable for more images so I captured the old steam-powered floating crane, Hikitia.


For me the conditions were a delight

Despite the continuing low cloud, the stillness made photography a joy.


Living aboard in Chaffers Marina

Walking back towards the car, I went past Chaffers Marina (on the Western side of the former Overseas Passenger Terminal), and was surprised at the number of vessels on which people were obviously living.

And speaking of living, Mary and I set out tomorrow for a month-long tour around the South Island, and consequently, postings to this blog may be erratic in the weeks ahead. Photography will continue.

Posted in Adventure, adversity, Camera club, Light, Machinery, Maritime, Sunset, Weather, Wellington | 3 Comments

March 22, 2017 … looking over my shoulder

I post this edition with a heavy sigh. As a judge in training myself, I must accept the verdict of the panel, but for my part, I still like these images. They were submitted as a portfolio of twelve for the PSNZ Associateship. They were unsuccessful.

The intention was to offer a set of images portraying various aspects of haven or shelter as offered by yachting marinas. The sequence is intended to progress from early morning to late night but with an underlying theme of stillness and shelter.

Protected by the wall




A place of stillness


Bon voyage

A tangle of rigging

Under a heavy sky

Washing away the salt

At the end of a lovely day

Touched by gold

Home is the sailor, home from sea

All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by

The panel said there was no flow, and the images were “too busy”. I suspect that a marina is always intrinsically busy, with masts, spars and rigging. And so I start looking for another theme for next year’s attempt.

Posted in adversity, Camera club | 9 Comments

March 20, 2017 … close to home

We had a guest speaker at camera club last week. His name is Andy Spain and his specialist expertise is in architectural photography. He was everything I hope for when I look for guest speakers … he is not only skilled at his trade, but he is able to articulate how he achieves his results in ways that allow others to share the benefit of his long experience. On top of his underlying skills, he was entertaining. Of course I had to go out and try some of the techniques he described.

Featherston St

Attempts at architectural photography with no converging verticals … downtown in Featherston St

I am not an architectural photographer, nor do I have the time, the patience or the influence to get the shots he gets, and in addition, I took my shot opportunistically, in broad daylight when I got there. For all those excuses, I liked the portrayal of Featherston Street in the morning sun.


Putting on its best face, Wellington Harbour from Maungaraki

Yesterday, Wellington was on her best behaviour. Bright sun, scattered cloud and almost flat calm is how I like it. The image above, and the ones that follow all suffer from that same opportunistic flaw. A serious photographer would wait for the golden hour, around sunset, or the blue hour, after sunset and before darkness descends.

I think this is the common Chorus cicada (Amphipsalta zelandica) … its song was certainly part of a chorus with hundreds of others in the warm morning sun

Nevertheless, there is a  certain joy in being out without wind, and able to listen to cicadas playing their seemingly endless mating call with its predictable pattern of buzz and click.


From the Puketirotiro lookout at the Korokoro end of Maungaraki Road. The ferry Strait Feronia is steaming through the heads.Below the Maungaraki shops in the foreground you can see the Petone wharf, still closed due to damage in the November earthquake.

Above Maungaraki, there are a number of knolls wich are high enough above the surrounding houses to have been designated as reserves from which walkers can enjoy the view over city and harbour. Our landscape is so creased and folded that the view from each lookout is significantly different from the others around it.


Wellington CBD from Horokiwi

From there, I headed South towards Ngauranga, where I turned North to get to Horokiwi (There is no longer an entrance for Southbound traffic). Horokiwi is a place of so-called “life-style blocks” or farmlets. It offers a few interesting viewing points of its own.

wind farm

Wind farm. Though the blades appear to be spinning that is because it was a very long exposure and they were really just ticking over

A little further up the road, there was a view to the West looking across the windfarms at West Wind and Mill Creek to the dark shape of Arapawa Island 40 km away, across the strait.

Sad to say, my marina based project was unsuccessful with the honours board of the PSNZ. Nevertheless, bloody but unbowed I might share that set with you next week.

Posted in adversity, Architecture, Camera club, harbour, Horokiwi, Landscapes, Light, Weather, Wellington | 3 Comments