WQW #36 September Equinox- at last it is Springtime!

‘Is the spring coming?’ he said. “What is it like?…”

 ‘It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…’” — 

Frances Hodgson Burnett

“The astronomical spring equinox is a precise moment in time and this year it was at 1:03pm NZST, Friday September 23. So, according to astronomy, this is a naturally occurring event during which the centre of the sun appears to cross over the celestial equatorial line of the earth. In layman terms, one can say that an equinox occurs when the sun switches sides from one hemisphere of the earth to the other.”

To mark the occasion, Mother Nature choose to remind us of her forceful personality. A 5.8 earthquake rumbled and shook central New Zealand, centred in the northeast of Marlborough Sounds, about 51 km deep in the  Cook Strait, .  Fortuitously, there appears to be no further damage to the cracked roads. 

Enough is enough, I say!  Over August and into September, we have had more than our share of rain resulting in floods, slips and slumps which resulted in further road damage even more significantly damaging than last year’s July weather event. 

Road closures are still a major issue as we struggle to access medical care and essential supplies by risking the drive through the fractured roads.  Whilst there is no light at the end of this particular road ’tunnel’,  thankfully, there are spring flowers blooming amidst the raindrops.

At last it is our turn to enjoy the warmth of the spring weather.  Let’s hope it’s a good one and that the damaged roads will be repaired as the earth dries out. 

The raspberry canes are growing leaves,  the freesias are flowering. 

The fruit trees are blossoming. The Tui are sipping the nectar from the kowhai flowers.

Spring has sprung at last. Hope springs eternal.

Sunday Stills – Springtime stories in Closeup

Whilst I didn’t rescue these creatures solely so I could capture some macro/closeups, it was good to at least get the chance to capture their stories in close up detail.

The little bee I rescued from a spider’s web. It was fascinating to watch it trying to clean up the sticky goo from its sting. It was good to see it fly safely away ready to go about its pollinating business again.

Bee rescue

A few days later, as I wandered along the muddy road inspecting the recent storm damage, I noticed a little ball of fluff stuck in the mud.  Carefully, I picked it up. It moved weakly.  It was a tiny fledging baby bird, most likely  blown out of its nest in the stormy night.  I held it gently in my cupped hands and took it home.  

Feeling  overwhelmed and unsure of my bird nurturing skills, I texted my ‘bird whisperer’ friend for advice. Following her suggestions, I placed a hot water bottle underneath a makeshift nest and covered it gently to recover in the dark. An hour later, she called in on her way home from town to inspect my little foundling. 

By this time I had decided I was not the ‘best nest’ for this little baby. I gladly released the bird into her skilled hands. Her many years experience of being a ‘bird rescuer’ came to the fore.  Over the next several weeks, she tenderly cared for baby bird, feeding it with an eyedropper, cleansing its sticky eyes and keeping it safe and warm. She sent me updates every few days. Then the good news came.

“Wax Eye update. Doing well. Now in outside cage during the day. Feeding himself.  Will release as soon as his tail feathers grow”

Our halos are shining bright!

Wax Eye baby

I celebrated by capturing some spring flowers in close up – and found a tiny green fly. It must surely be Spring time.

WQW #35 September 14: Senses: Set your sights

Set your sights on the light. 
Capture it colourful and bright
Then when you are alone in the dark of the night, 
Free your vision and composite for your delight. 

“Your vision is not limited by what your eye can see, but by what your mind can imagine.”

Ellison Onizuka

This is why I enjoy composite editing.  It is an intriguing challenge to look beyond that which can be immediately seen.  There are editing skills to learn – or not!  This requires practice and patience – lots of patience. 

I like to take a couple of disconnected images and see what my imagination can make of them. 

Joyful Fern

 And the second part of the equation?  IMAGINATION.

And so I did!

Tapping into colour

That was insightful – I can see I need more practice to achieve my vision but it was such fun and yes it did take most of the night!

Composed for: https://alwayswrite.blog/2022/09/14/wqw-35-seeing-apricot-and-other-strange-sightings/

WQW #31- Earth: Just add Water and Rocks

“ How wild it was, to let it be”.  – Cheryl Strayed

We have had it all this week. Earth, rocks and mountains of mud and floods.

It’s been a horrendous week of wild weather as an ‘atmospheric river’ hammered Nelson, Marlborough and the West Coast. Floods and excess rainfall have caused earth and road subsidence in Nelson, Marlborough and everywhere in between. 

Mountains of mud and rocks came crashing down the rivers and hillsides, taking houses and roads along in their path,  causing huge landslides and yet more damaged roads throughout the top of the South Island of New Zealand, where I live.

Many small communities are isolated. Once again our road is closed for the foreseeable future. The two state highways between Nelson are Blenheim are closed as are many local roads. 

This has meant postponing an urgent dental appointment in Nelson so that will now mean a 4-5 hour road trip to get emergency dental care but not for two more weeks. Fortunately a Civil Defence emergency driver got through to deliver some much needed antibiotics to keep his painful abscess under control for a while.

Muddy waters have washed down from the forested hills and created havoc on our beach.

I needed to boil water on a little gas cooker, cook our meals on the bbq in the rain, cope with a freezer of rapidly thawing food, and try very hard to remain positive. 

Five days without power, phone or internet coverage has been trying my patience ( to put it mildly.) It’s been very isolating.

The helicopters fly overhead regularly. They are trying to restore power lines, deliver medications and essential supplies, and evacuating those that need medical care.

There is nothing we could do about the weather or the power or the road, so I decided to look for the positives instead of dwelling on the negatives. 

“If it weren’t for the rocks in its bed, the stream would have no song” – Carl Perkins

Well our stream was certainly singing loud and strong for five days and nights plus.  The beach is alive with foraging seabirds feasting on the multitude of shellfish cast ashore or drowned in mud. A Falcon rested in the tree directly in front of my window. Photo opportunity – yes! 

It made me reflect more about appreciating the natural beauty whilst accepting the hazards of living surrounded by hills, mountains and oceans. 

Okay – my rant is over – I have found some peace in revisiting my archived mountain scenes.

Our peace shall stand as firm as rocky mountains– “William Shakespeare

Lens-Artists Challenge #211: Still looking for my photographic groove?

I have tried so many photographic grooves – portrait, long exposures, flash photography, macro,  still life, wildlife and pet life, sports, forced perspectives, landscapes and night skies.

I first got into the groove of photography when I was ten and bought my first camera- a Brownie Starlet. The only film choice was black and white photographs at that time. (Yes I am that old)

Once the film roll was finished, I had to endure a long wait before I could see the developed and printed pictures. This was even more difficult as I had to wait till my next week’s pocket money was in my pocket too. My pocket money was spent on developing and printing those first humble attempts.

Back then, my photographic groove was family, friends, pets, and ponies. I guess it could be called portraiture.

Chunkette in her stable
My first favourite racehorse – and a friend

Much later, when there was an option to take colour photos, I still preferred using black and white.  Especially after I learned to develop and print my own films. All that dodging and burning in the darkroom was a steep and fun learning curve. I was highly commended in a conservation competition prize for a black and white print of two of my sons collecting plastic rubbish off the beach. 

In my first job. my photographic groove became hand-colouring black and white aerial photos.  They were mainly rural landscapes, and I became fascinated with the braided rivers, acres of farmland and forest-filled gullies of rural New Zealand. I loved the colours and patterns of ripening crops divided by the fence lines.  I intricately painted in the white sheep dotted against a background of green pastures and undulating hills.

Example of a Hand coloured aerial photo

I was so excited when I got my first SLR. It was a Pentax P30N film camera.  I had a 70-210 zoom lens bought especially to capture whale images.  There I was out off the Kaikoura coastline on a whale tour with my 2 cameras;  a Pentax P30N SLR, and a video camera.  And just as the iconic whale tail arose from the waves, another tourist stood up in front of me with his point and shoot camera, and photobombed my shot.   

The sad tale of a photobombed whale tail

I decided that street photography might just be my next photographic groove instead. At least I would be intending to capture tourists in my images!

Travel photography often consists of stereotypical, iconic images but I tried to capture these but add a twist in editing. Travelling in different countries can sometime be time-limiting and waiting for the good light can be challenging. So it is tempting to snap that capture regardless of the light – something I am exceedingly guilty of. And whilst statues at the very least stand or sit still, they just don’t normally smile for the camera.

Long exposure photography came next in the long list of my photographic grooves. And that  meant painting with light at night. So I just make my own light. After all, photography is just writing with light, isn’t it?

I got into the groove of flash photography to capture special effects.

Landscapes became my groove.  Landscapes, sunsets and anywhere else where there is great light, I am there with my camera. 

Night sky photography – Aurora Australis or the Southern Lights , and the Milky Way!  At last I have a wide lens so the night sky is no longer a limit!  I have found my photographic groove – (at least for now)

Galaxy of stars

But wait…. are these grooves or techniques?  

Actually, I think my photographic groove is to try many and varied techniques as they all build my  knowledge, hone my skills,  and extend my creative interests.

I may not have a specific niche but neither am I in a rut. 

It’s just my photographic groove.

WQW #29 Water: Rivers on my mind

Flooded rivers,  rapids or calm waters. I wonder if I can capture both? Just dipping my toes into the archives of my mind (and lens).

Be like the river encountering a rock; flow like grace around any obstacle – Scott Shaw

Sometimes there will be bridges. Other times, it may be necessary to get your feet wet.

“A dream is like a river ever-changing as it flows and a dreamer’s just a vessel that must follow where it goes.” — Garth Brooks

Is this a dream or a nightmare?  What do you see in the reflections? I choose to see my heart dreams reflected in the river. 

“Life is like the river, sometimes it sweeps you gently along and sometimes the rapids come out of nowhere.” 

“The road to democracy may be winding and is like a river taking many curves, but eventually the river will reach the ocean”    – Chen Shui-bian

And in New Zealand, we are always quite close to the ocean, no matter which coast we are on.

WQW July 27: Sunshine or Winter – which would you choose?

“In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.” – Yoda

Alas it is  a dark mid-winter here in New Zealand. We have had precious little sunshine over recent weeks.  Lightning and thunder, with a lot of wind and excessive rain have once again led to flooding and road damage throughout the country.  

So far, we haven’t had the same road damage here as we endured in July last year- yet. However as I write, the rain is thunderous, the tv has rain fade and the internet is down. Not looking too encouraging just now. I tend to hold my breath whenever it rains this heavily since that devastating storm especially as the roads are still not completely repaired.

Oh how I long to feel the warmth of the sun on my face if only for a short while.

“Think about the days alive with sunshine, not the dismal days of rain”   – Robert E Farley

Life is unpredictably sad  and dull yet suddenly there is an unexpected surprise to bring some light back into life.  A little bit of early morning sunshine, before torrential rain erased the blue sky. Then just  in the  last moments of daylight, the cloud lifted and this sunset glow appeared. 

That must be why I so often look to the skies for inspiration and peace. 

Last night I sat out under a rare, clear sky in the hope of seeing the annual meteor showers. I spotted 8 or 9 meteors but only captured one very faint meteor streak under the Milky Way in camera.  There was a new moon so the sky was dark – well it was once the house lights were turned off. As I sat in the descending dew on the muddy lawn, I practiced using my intervalometer so I could trigger the camera shutter at predetermined intervals.  

I wished (upon a star) that my newly purchased astro wide lens had already arrived in the rural post. 

Hopefully it will arrive early next week.  The weather will clear and once again I will go out to seek the  moon, the stars and the meteors. Maybe even a sunlit landscape or two.

Can you see the very faint meteor under the Milky Way?

“Even when the clouds grow thick, the sun still pours its light earthward”  Mark Nepo

Winter is also the best season for Aurora spotting, and yet whenever there is a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) or a solar flare earthbound, so too do the fog and storm clouds prevail. This is quite frustrating for the aurora-chasers amongst us. The only choice instead is to look for rainbows and hope for a brief break in the clouds.

And ask ourselves.. what is more beautiful?

Tell me what is more beautiful.

However:

One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter”  Henry David Thoreau

And so I will resort to a previous summer photo and use my sunshine smiley flag to help the world smile again. I took this for the World Wide Minute challenge a couple of years back.

The world smiles with you – World Wide Minute 2020

And always remember:

“Bring sunshine into the place you enter”        – Latika Teotia

Ans now I feel brighter and better. Amazing what a bit of sunshine does for the mood.

Sunday Stills – Beauty on the Beaches

It is not just the beach that is beautiful in my neighbourhood.  Even on these cold winter days, there are feathered  beauties to be found on the beach.

Beautiful are the variable oystercatchers seen frequently along the shoreline as the incoming tide brings little fish, crabs and shellfish. Taking time out from their endless search for food, the seabirds frolic in the shallows.

Beautiful too are the kingfishers that perch on the driftwood logs, before diving into the streams and estuary ponds to catch a fish.

Beautiful are the Kereru (native wood pigeons} that swoop into the kowhai treetops to nibble on the sweet leaves.

The Banded Dotterel nesting on the shingle beaches are beautiful -and endangered.

Beautiful black swans glide along the seashore, questioning each other as they look for seaweed to nibble.

And then there is the beautiful light to be found at the beach.

From the sunlight reflecting on the hills to the light glowing on the foreshore as the sun is setting. Each beach has a different kind of beauty.

And at the end of each day there are the beautiful sunsets. Is there a better place to be?

i am thankful for all the beauty I find at the beaches.

WQW # 23: Winter Solstice/Winter Stars

“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me want to dream.”

– Vincent Van Gogh

Here in the middle of our New Zealand/Aotearoa winter, we have just lived through our shortest day/longest night. So instead of summer we celebrated Winter Solstice. for us, summer is a distant memory.

From late May and into the month of June, there were some exciting celestial events to gaze upon.

Firstly, there was the alignment of four Planets at the end of May.

“For those observing from the Southern Hemisphere, the ecliptic, or path of the planets, cuts sharply down toward the horizon. This more vertical alignment means that Mars will approach Jupiter from almost directly above. Around May 29, Mars slips just to the right of Jupiter and on May 30 the two are side by side. Following this date, Mars will continue in a beeline down toward the horizon”.

I am fascinated by celestial events so I went out under the starry sky in the early pre-sunrise hours with my new tripod, and my 14 year old grandson. His younger eyes were most helpful when focusing on the faraway planets. On the morning of May 30, bright Jupiter was immediately left of red Mars. Venus shone below them, and Saturn was above them. By the time Venus arose, we lost Mars in the coming light of the pre-dawn sky.

This is what they were supposed to look like.     And this is what we got.

If you like the idea of capturing planets and star clusters there are still more opportunities in the June sky.  

The strawberry SuperMoon was supposed to be visible on 14th June. Instead we had over 21,500 lightning strikes, thunderstorms and copious rainfall amidst gale force winds over several days and nights. No night sky photography for me that week. I still held out hope for the rest of the month of June though.

“From June 19-27 the planets will work toward alignment that results in a row of lights across the northeastern horizon. Expect Mercury to dip the lowest in the east, and Saturn will show the highest. While Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn should all be visible with the naked eye, a telescope—potentially, binoculars could do the trick—should also let you see Uranus a touch higher than Venus. If you’re super fortunate with a quality telescope, you may be able to catch a glimpse of Neptune, too.”

Towards the end of June, all the planets along with the moon and a waning crescent will be in alignment on the morning of June 24. The moon will then move out of alignment and continue orbiting around the earth for a few days.” 

This is all I could find in the early pre-dawn hazy sky. I was almost cured of my ridiculous obsession with photographing the night sky in the freezing early pre-dawn morning.

“Metaphor for the night sky: a trillion asterisks and no explanations.”

– Robert Breault

Secondly,  the Matariki Star Cluster (Pleiades) is rising.

Manawatia a Matariki – Happy Matariki 

This weekend, New Zealanders enjoyed the first public holiday to celebrate  Matariki – the Maori New Year. As the Matariki star cluster arises in the Southeastern skies so does the new moon. 

In Maori  culture, Matariki is both the name of the Pleiades star cluster and of the celebration of its first rising in late June or early July. This marks the beginning of the new year in the Māori lunar calendar. Matariki was made an official public holiday in New Zealand in April 2022, with the first celebration on 24 June of that year. 

Matariki is an occasion to mourn the deceased, celebrate the present, and prepare the ground for the coming year. The ceremony had three parts: viewing the stars, remembering the deceased, and making an offering of food to the stars.

This three day long weekend, we have experienced the joy of having 5 grandchildren, two of our sons and their wives, and 3 grand-dogs, to celebrate being together for the first time in such a long while. Walks on the beach during the day and building a bonfire by night (in the gentle rain) and roasting marshmallows. 

The young cousins loved spending time together. We had a mid-winter feast and several new board and card games to play.  There was some healthy competition, and hugs….lots of hugs! Great memory-making.

We had rainwater, gentle winds, a calm ocean, good food from the land and the sea, walks on the beach. Our wellbeing and health was well and truly nurtured. We remembered our dearly departed family members, sharing special memories together.

The Pleiades (Matariki) is visible for most of the year in the Southern Hemisphere (ergo New Zealand), except for approximately a month in the middle of the Southen Hemisphere, Winter solstice.

The Pleiades is also known as The Seven Sisters. The nine brightest stars of the Pleiades are named for the Seven Sisters of Greek Mythology: Sterope,Merope, Electra,Maia, Taygeta, Celaeno and Alycyone, along with their parents Atlas and Pleione.

MāoriGreekGenderProvenance
Matariki AlcyoneFemale Well-being and health 
Tupu-ā-rangi AtlasMale Food that comes from above 
Tupu-ā-nuku PleioneFemale Food that grows in the soil 
Ururangi MeropeMale The winds 
Waipunā-ā-rangi ElectraFemale Rainwater 
Hiwa-i-te-rangi CelaenoFemale Growth and prosperity 
Waitī MaiaFemale Fresh water 
Waitā TaygetaMale The ocean 
Pōhutukawa SteropeFemale The deceased 

Thirdly, and coincidentally, I have just started reading Seven Sisters by Lucinda Reilly.  

The strong female characters in each of these books are based on the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades. I look forward to reading the series.

All this I discovered by following my fascination with the stars. Like the planets, my interests are also in alignment.

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.” – Stephen Hawking

WQW #18: Travel/Transportation: Planes and Boats and Trains

Boats and Trains and planes  – such life- changing journeys and fun adventures I have had over the years.

“All the greatest adventures start with a boat trip”

My first major experience of adventurous transportation was on a troopship. The TSS Captain Cook II was an aging troopship which departed Wellington Harbour on Guy Fawkes Day, 5th November 1959 amidst a backdrop of fireworks displays and streamers.

I vividly remember the fireworks bursting over the harbour hills as we excitedly scrambled around the decks, holding the paper streamers that were the last tenuous link with the people left behind at the wharf. After the last streamer stretched and snapped, it was time to find our little berth which was to be our family home for the next three weeks as we slowly steamed our way across the Tasman Sea. 

Rough seas and violent seasickness are the most vivid memories I recall from those first seven days as the boat rocked and rolled across the Tasman Sea and up the West Coast of Australia to Freemantle, the port of Perth. Oh – and the ‘crossing the line’ ceremony was indeed a momentous event of onboard ship life.

We learned that the equator was an imaginary line not the big bump in the water we had been told to expect as we crossed over in the middle of the night.    We experienced the full ‘crossing the line’ ceremony which consisted of being hoisted onto a canvas chair perched above King Neptune’s pool filled with evil smelling foamy water, having green lather rubbed into our hair, made to drink foul tasting ‘poison’ and then being tipped backwards into the firewater pool was all part of the adventure.

Although I didn’t know to at the time, this was to be this troopship’s final  voyage. And yet, my travel and transportation adventures had barely just begun. 

Even the seasoned  traveller had a first flight”

My memorable first flights:

Aboard a DC6 plane flying back to New Zealand in three 7 hour flights meant airsickness, viewing beautiful coral islands and the night lights of Brisbane.

A spontaneous 4 seater plane trip to Christchurch with my friend, her pilot husband and our first babies. The pilot fence- hopped a couple of times and then landed in a field.

A Bristol freighter trip to Wellington with 3 young sons – 40,000 rivets flying in close formation.And that wind on arrival nearly blew us all away!

An impromptu single-engined plane trip from Nelson to Takaka when the mountain road was closed yet I still had workshops to do over the marble mountain. 

The  Metroliner  (nicknamed the flying pencil) on a cold frosty morning where the pilot had to use paper towels on the windscreen to see where he was going.

A float plane from Wellington to land on the water in the Marlborough Sounds where I live on the beach front.

And then came the big jets – and many long haul flights.  Endless departure lounges, empty flight gates and jet lag.


 “The train is a small world moving through a larger world.”

My train travel adventures started with my first job.  After a week of training in Invercargill, the southern most city in New Zealand, I boarded the steam-powered overnight train to return to Christchurch. Sitting in an unheated carriage all night with no pillow or blanket should have discouraged me from train travel forever, but it didn’t.   Since that early experience, there have been many train trips throughout Europe. 

Whether it be trying to sleep on an overnight train from Milan to Paris, where we shared a couchette with a Russian  fashion buyer and a Japanese Cirque de Soleil dancer, to being mugged on the express train to Charles de Gaulle airport, train travel is an adventure unto itself.

From standing in the dining/bar car on the Eurostar for the trip from Paris Gare du Nord  to London St Pancras under the English channel train, to our ‘walking’ from Milan to Venice!  Well, it took us almost the whole trip to find an empty carriage so we effectively walked the length of the train as it chugged to Venice. We had indeed ‘walked’ for the duration of the train trip.

In Switzerland we were nearly kicked off the panoramic train through the snowy Swiss alps to Interlaken -wrong tickets!  

In Sweden, father and son watched an All Blacks rugby match as the train trundled us to a beer festival. 

In Italy, we were returned to the railway station to catch the last train back  to Bergamo after yet another beer festival. (An occupational hazard when your son is a Swedish brewer) Thank goodness the train actually arrived as we had no clue as to where we were. 

From Munich to Verona, we took the slow train due to the scenic route being closed – a tad disappointing for us.  

The train from Frankfurt to Prague was almost uneventful in comparison although the train was stringently scrutinised by border control.

In Colorado, we loved the Durango to Silverton narrow gauge railroad so much we did the return trip too.

From the Kuranda Scenic train and Skyrail trip in Australia to the Hungerburg funicular cable car in Austria, and from  gondola rides in Queenstown to the London Eye, these unique methods of transportation have helped me to ‘feel the fear’ of heights and do it anyway. 

It’s hard to imagine I have had an irrational fear of falling down stairs for most of my life yet due to having to use various forms of travel transportation, I can now use escalators, gondolas and glass-floored elevators.  How far I have come in my transportation adventures from that first overnight steam train trip? 

“The mode of transportation you choose to travel on your life’s journey matters less than the wisdom of it’s driver.”

Written in response to WQW #18