Sunday, July 26, 2009

Island Block Road, Waikato

I had a disappointing trip to Hamilton last week for no other reason than the weather was glorious, as was the sunrise, and I didn't have time to stop and enjoy the views. This weekend has been quite lovely weather wise, so a trip down Highway 1 towards Hamilton was in order. We didn't start as early as I wanted, and I nearly turned back as I was convinced there'd be nothing to see. Then the mist started to get more like fog and when we arrived at Oram Road the scene was quite special. There's an HDR shot of the rail crossing on Oram Road here. The sunlight coming through the mist was wonderful. The first image in this post shows the rather strange white rainbow we spotted as we drove down Island Block Road.

I understand Island Block Road will be the home of the New Zealand Wetlands Centre, but it's not clear when this will happen. The area, as you can image, was quite monochromatic and moody. We saw several intersting birds; pheasant, fernbird, goldfinches as well as pukeko and ducks. I'll definitely be going back again as now that Highway 1 has been upgraded it's only 30 minutes to get there!

Just heard the name fogbow. Apparently the image above is of a fogbow! More images on google.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Night shots

Interesting light at the gym tonight. The trees looked quite stunning when illuminated by the gym car park lights, then there were the stars. I didn't want to use a high ISO, so selected ISO 400 and used a tripod. Aperture f8 and exposure of 30 seconds. The image intrigues me. It's similar to what I saw. Stars aren't as pinpoint as I'd like, but I've almost caught the atmosphere. I suspect a more stable tripod is required for such long exposures and probably I should have locked up the mirror, used a remote shutter release or used the self timer. More of my night time shots here. Any comments? Tips for night time shots?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Just take time to have a look

It's quite amazing what you can see if you just stop, look and stare. Remember my mother's favourite poem I mentioned previously? I was enjoying looking at the the narcissus in the garden and thinking I should get a picture of them as they're so pretty. It was a little dark, so a tripod was the order of the day. On the way back to the house I noticed this little blue flower. All alone! There's nothing beside it but grassy weeds! What is it? If you have any ideas please leave a comment. Anyway, just being relaxed and looking at things in the garden resulted in my noticing this small blue flower - really easy to miss and I'm so pleased I took the time to just look and stare.

Tunnels and stuff

Just thought I'd post a picture of the tunnels through which you travel on the Watercare Tramway in the Waitakere Ranges. They're really quite small! Most were created in the days of pick and shovel and were just big enough to get a pit pony through pulling a cart. The tram on which we sat was therefore quite small and only really one average person wide! Alongside the tram track is the pipe that feeds the water from the dam to the water purification centre. The pipe is made of cast iron and was made in the UK back in 1912. Each section weighs in at about 1 ton so you can image the work involved in cutting the tunnels and then laying the pipeline back in the early 1900s.

If you're in the area it's definitely worth a visit. The twilight sessions sound interesting as you'll see glow worms, kauri snails, weta as well as other "stuff". Here's a few more images from the Waitakere Ranges.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Michelia in full bloom

We know when it's winter and the weather is going to get windier and wetter as this coincides with the flowering of the michelia tree. I just noticed today a significant number of blooms on the tree. I'm not particularly font of the flowers' scent, nor the mess created when all the petals fall to the ground, but with everything attached to the tree it's quite impressive.

Image to the left is of a small part of the tree; each flower is similar in size to your open hand.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Nihotupu Dams

Great trip to the Nihotupu Dam courtesy of Watercare New Zealand's Rainforest Express. Easy to find just out of Titirangi along Scenic Drive. I was hoping to try some HDR shots, but it was rather windy which makes alignment of shots awkward later - especially if you take 5 or more shots! The shot above is a five shot hdr taken looking over the Upper Nihotupu Dam. The light was quite diffused, but there was significant contrast between water, trees, and sky. On a less windy day I suspect you'd get some great shots.

The trip in the train was very enjoyable, but I think I'd like to walk the track one day. Apparently there's an annual event organised between Oxfam and Watercare when no trains run. I suspect on these days you'd see a lot more. The next image is of the lower Nihotupu Dam taken on the way home. This has been modified slightly with Lightroom to enhance the sky and lighten the foreground a little. You're looking south in this image with the Manukau Harbour just visible near the horizon.

Looking at the image I could help but be struck by the number of shades of green. I've spoken to blind people who have since gained sight and they have remarked specifically on the colour of grass. Without being able to see they assumed all grass was the same colour. When they could see they were amazed with the range of shades in a lawn. The Lower Nihotupu Dam shot has a huge range of greens. Quite wonderful don't you think?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

It lives!

Wow! In the back of my garage are a couple of old Austins. A 1956 A30 and a 1951 A40 Devon. I can recall some problems with the distributor on the A40, but thought the A30 was ok apart from brakes. The only problem was that the car hasn't been started since 2001. That's 8 years sitting gathering dust with no activity. Today we primed the fuel resevoir, connected a battery and then pulled the starter switch. On the third attempt the car sprang to life. How's that for a triumph of 1950's British engineering.

OK, so we still need to do some work. The brakes need some attention, but I seem to recall they were never particularly good even at their best. Ah, then there's the clutch. that might need a bit of work too! Nevertheless we managed to drive up the driveway and back down again. Great fun and so many memories came flooding back.

Can't remember what an A30 looks like? Have a squiz at the image to the left. Ours is a 1956 A2S4. It still has the old semaphore style indicators - you know, those that stick out on wee little arms and you have to encourage occaisionally with a thump on the door pillar ;-)

No power steering, no synchromesh on 1st gear, acceleration from 0-50mph in about 30 or 40 seconds. Things were certainly different in the 1950's. Going off what's happened today though I suspect they didn't have too many problems starting their cars!!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

School holidays

Not been the healthiest of households these holidays with one thing and another. We've been watching the bugs in the fish tank - you can see a mosquito lava on the left. We really must get down to the shops and get a decent macro lens! The backswimmers seem to enjoy eating these lavae, and it pleases the rest of us as no mosquitoes then escape into the house.

We're toying with the idea of setting a similar tank up at the pre-school as there quite a lot of activity that little people will enjoy watching. The boys will like one creature catching and eating another no doubt! Remember, part of the fun and learning was identifying the appropriate places (remember legal restrictions) from which flora and fauna could be taken. Then there's the capture and transportation.

We've also been watching the birds on the feeders. We strung a wire from the house to trees opposite in a manner that allowed us to open windows and poke through cameras to get a better view of the birds. We really need a longer lens, but the effects of shutter speed, aperture and ISO (the sparrow on the left was shot at 3200 ISO in an attempt to get a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the wings) are well appreciated whilst having fun capturing the birds. We've even seen the Indian Miner Birds trying to get food out of the upturned plant pot feeders.

Besides using the bird mix I told you about earlier we're also using sunflower seeds in an old 3 litre fruit juicer container. We get greenfinches coming for the seeds and it's fascinating to see the displays the birds make to "protect" their feed. Much to be learnt :-)

Just a couple of shots now to show you the fruit juice feeder and the closeness of the plant pots to the house. Have a go yourself and let me know how you get on. Also, if you have any ideas than will extend what we're already doing please tell us!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bugs in fish tank

The aquifer has been cleaned out and fish tank contents replaced with water from the local stream. The streamwater contained a number of bugs - backswimmers (anisops assimilis)and various creature lavae we have yet to identify. We also managed to capture a couple of small fish which we have yet to identify. The whole exercise of looking and learning has been hugely educational and quite relaxing. It's amazing how much activity there is in such small ponds and creeks. Having said this, we've managed to supplement the creature count from various pools of water in our backyard.

Sadly there has been a significant amount of rainfall in our area and we wondered if this might have contributed to the "bare" appearance of the streams in some of ther faster moving stream areas. The shape of the streams has changed, trees have been felled as a result of the streams undercutting their root systems. Very interesting, if you just take the time to look!

Back to the fish tank. this morning it appears that we have successfully hatched our first mosquito!