Making sense of my photography hobby in retirement


Piebald Skies

If ever I am called to go to another town or city for pleasure of for business I try to get out for an early morning walk.  For me, it’s the best time of the day.  It’s the time before most people begin to move, and the time when the light is clear, the sun is still low, and the air is fresh.

It was on such a morning that I took my morning walk along the coastal walkway at New Plymouth in the Taranaki region of New Zealand.  Taranaki occupies that area of the large western cape of the North Island of New Zealand.  Its central feature is Mt Taranaki, a Fuji look-alike that dominates the landscape throughout the region.  The coastal walkway stretches 11 km from the Port Taranaki, past the New Plymouth CBD, then on around the cliffs and beaches in a northerly direction. It’s popular with walkers, runners and cyclists.

New Plymouth Coastal Walkway, Taranaki, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Fitzroy Beach from the New Plymouth Coastal Walkway

New Plymouth Coastal Walkway, Taranaki, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Resting and viewing area beneath the cliffs just north of the New Plymouth CBD

New Plymouth Coastal Walkway, Taranaki, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Port Taranaki and New Plymouth CBD. The “wand” on the foreshore next to the rectangular white building is an installation art piece designed by artist Len Lye.

On this particular morning there was a lovely piebald sky that added to the enjoyment of the walk.


Evening Sky

Evening Light, Takapuna, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

There are some evenings when you just have to go for a walk. The day on which this image was taken had improved markedly after a late summer storm so we decided to take a walk around the rocks and along the base of the cliffs at the end of Takapuna Beach, near where we live.  An added incentive was the expected departure of a cruise ship from Auckland which carried some friends as passengers.  We hoped to watch the ship sail out through the channel that lies between the beach and nearby Rangitoto Island.  Fortunately the tide was well out that day, because after waiting until well after the expected departure (the ship didn’t sail because of engineering problems) we had to make our way back to the beach in far distance before the tide would force us ti climb over the rocks. As we turned to head home we were presented with this view to the Takapuna township and beach, and the evening sky reflected in the wet sand.


The Karikari Peninsula is at the northern end of Doubtless Bay in the Northland region of New Zealand. Doubtless Bay was named by Captain James Cook who said, apparently, “Doubtless a bay” in 1769. It’s a large sweeping bay with a 14 km white sandy beach, a holiday makers’ and anglers’ paradise. The beach ends where the Karikari Peninsula begins.

Almost directly opposite and on the northern coast of the peninsula is a pimple of a mountain named Puheke. Because the surrounding area is flat, this tiny mountain takes some prominence in the landscape. The short climb to the top produces wonderful views of the surrounding area, including that of another sweeping white beach bordering Rangaunu Bay to the northwest. Appropriately, this is named Puheke Beach.

Puheke Beach, Karikari Peninsula, Northland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Puheke Beach

Mt Puheke, Karikari Peninsula, Northland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Mt Puheke, with trig station and a Maori carved wooden Pouwhenua (land post)

Close to the foot of Puheke is is the small reedy Lake Rotokawau.

Lake Rotokawau, Karikari Peninsula, Northland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

For years the Karikari Peninsula has been a favorite holiday spot for many New Zealand families who seek both beauty and solitude, with plenty of fishing, of course! During the 1950s and 60s many of the holiday “homes” were mere cottages, often unlined and without electricity, a connected water supply, or formal sewage system.  Tank water sometimes ran out in long hot summers and a new toilet pit had to be dug every few years, necessitating a moving of the “little house” to a new location.  That’s how it was when we first holidayed in “The Far North” in the early years of our married life. In more recent years the holiday home have acquired a few more comforts, along with electricity.


There has been a bit of a lull lately.  After 32 years living in our present house we are now packing our lives into boxes as part of the moving on process.  Consequently, there hasn’t been a lot of time for making new posts.  So here is something to keep the flow going.

Several years ago we took a short break with some friends in the far north of the North Island of New Zealand.  The Northland region is all that area north of and including the City of Whangarei.  Apart from Whangarei and  a couple of other small regional centres, Northland is sparsely populated.  Industries in the region are mainly farming, forestry , fishing and tourism. It also has some wonderful beaches that attract campers in the summer holidays, but are left in solitude for the rest of the year.

Rarawa Beach is one.

Rarawa Beach, Northland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Rarawa Beach is a 55 km drive north of the second largest Northland town, Kaitaia. The white sandy beach is about 2 km in length between rocky headlands at either end. A small stream cuts a meandering path across the beach to the surf . It’s not hard to find that you have the beach all to yourself.

Rarawa Beach, Northland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

And that’s how we found it on the day of our visit. Just an idyllic place to be.  Click on images for a larger view.

Rugged Westland

Coastal Westland is a pretty rugged and sparsely populated place. Between Haast in the south and Hokitika in the north there are few towns and a thinly spread population.

“The District consists of a long thin strip of land between the crest of the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea. The low-lying areas near the coast are a mixture of pastoral farmland and temperate rainforest. The eastern part of the District is steep and mountainous. Many small rivers flow down from the mountains.

The southern part of the District notably contains the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers.

Westland is one of the most sparsely populated parts of the country, with an area of 11,880.19 square kilometres and a population of 8,403 people (2006 census). Approximately 45% of the population lives in Hokitika (popn.3500). The remaining 55% lives in small villages such as Ross, Franz Josef and Haast, or in rural areas”. Wikipedia

From Wanaka we travelled beside Lake Hawea and over the Haast Pass to reach the West Coast at the mouth of the  Haast River. Our destination for the night was Fox Glacier Village, from where we planned to visit the nearby Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers.


Some 25 km north of Haast is the Arthur’s Point lookout from where views of the Tasman Sea and the coastline can be seen.

In the year I left high school I hitch-hiked around the South Island of New Zealand with a friend. It was almost a right of passage between high school and university.  We had travelled down the West Coast to Lake Mapourika, which at the time was almost the end of the road.  To join up with the road from Haast to Wanaka we had to walk the newly formed but far from finished section of the road from the lake to Arthur’s Point, a distance of about 10 km in wet sticky mud.  In the distance we could hear heavy road building machinery.  As the time ticked far too slowly towards “knock off time” of 5.00 pm we were afraid we would miss any chance of a ride to Haast and have to sleep the night in the bush.  At last gasp we reached the work party just as they were packing up to leave for the night.  Happily we flopped onto the back of a truck for the final leg of the day’s journey.

Heading north from Arthur’s Point the road travels inland for a distance before touching the coast again at Bruce Bay, a rugged pebbly beach strewn with driftwood. If you like rugged storm-lashed beaches, this is the place to be. It was fine on the occasion of our visit, but it is easy to imagine the chaos when a south-westerly storm is raging – cold, wind-blasted, with wild surf and horizontal rain!


At the northern end of the bay the trees stand defensively against the weather, stripped of their lower branches and clinging to the eroding boundary between land and beach.


You have to be hardy to live in these parts.  It’s little wonder that the coasters have that steely weather worn look  that comes from living everyday with the elements.

Click on any image for a larger view.

Evening Glow

Evening Glow, Takapuna Beach, Rangitoto Island, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

At the risk of presenting yet another image of Rangitoto Island at sunset I post the above image taken this evening from Takapuna Beach, which is where I live. You could say that there is almost a spiritual connection that attracts me onto the beach every time I witness another sunrise or sunset.  No two are the same.  The tide may be in, or out as it was this evening. There may be clouds that catch the setting sun, or none as it was this evening.

I particularly like the lines in this image, as well as the colors. There are tire marks that traverse diagonally from left to right, as well as rivulets travelling diagonally in the other direction.  The scene is infused with shades of gold, blue and green which are reflected in the wet sand.  I captured exactly what I wanted, and that makes me happy.  I welcome you to enjoy the scene for yourself.  Click on the image for a larger view.

Cloudy Dawn

Living near a coast with views to the north and east (I’m talking about the southern hemisphere here) you are presented with a range of moods in the sky and on the water that is driven by the weather.  The sea can be angry, or placid. The sky can be clear, or cloudy.  Visibility can reach to the horizon, or be no more than fifty meters.  All of this presents an infinite menu of photographic opportunities.

Cloudy Dawn, Takapuna Beach, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

This image was taken in early May last year from Takapuna Beach on Auckland’s North Shore.  It is looking slightly east of north just before 9.00 am.  An overnight storm is clearing and the sun is struggling to break through the clouds, while blue sky begins to show itself overhead.

On the coast and in the mountains are two of my favorite places at sunrise and sunset.  These are the times when clouds are lit at their most interesting best.  Because both places are fully exposed to all that weather systems can throw at them, they are also exciting (and sometimes scary) places to be in a storm.

A View to the Cape

Yesterday’s post talked about terroir and the stony nature of the grape growing soils in New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay wine region.  The image used to illustrate the post was taken at Te Awhanga Beach.  Here is another image of the beach, this time taken along the gravelly shore towards Cape Kidnappers in the distance.

Towards Cape Kidnappers, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Apart from being a wine region, Hawkes Bay is a tourist region as well.  Much of the activity is centered on the city of Napier which was rebuilt in an art deco style after a devastating earthquake flattened the city in 1931.  In recent years the city has hosted an annual “Art Deco Weekend” when thousands of people from all over New Zealand and overseas come to dress up in the fashions of the 1930s and celebrate Napier’s resurrection.

Long before the art deco event came into existence New Zealand families and tourists alike came to Te Awhanga and nearby Clifton beaches to the south of the city to camp for the summer, and to visit the gannet colony on the cliffs at Cape Kidnappers.  Many walk the 5 hour return journey at low tide along the base of the cliffs between Clifton Beach and the Cape.  An enterprising local farmer offered an alternative, however.  For a family-affordable fee he would tow a trailer carrying holiday makers behind a tractor along the narrow stretch of sand below the cliffs to the gannet colony, and bring them back again before the tide came in. This is how we first took our family of three young boys to see the gannets. Everyone who undertakes that journey (it still operates in the summer) comes back with happy memories of the adventure. For some, the gannets are a added bonus!

The Cape Kidnappers Gannet Reserve is managed by the New Zealand Department of Conservation.

After the Storm

After the Storm, Takapuna Beach, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

The storm has come and gone, but there is more rain forecast for the weekend.  Not as severe as last time, but bringing more welcome wetness.

Northerly storm systems pound the reef at the western end of Takapuna Beach and uproot kelp seaweed from the rocks. Waves then distribute the kelp along the 1,200 metre beach where it lies for up to two weeks until the local authority brings it’s machinery out to gather the seaweed up and take it away for composting.  Local hobby gardeners also gather seaweed to add to their compost heaps, or dig it into their gardens to lie over winter in preparation for the spring growing season.

Here Comes the Rain Again …

Stormy Morning, Takapuna Beach, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Here comes the rain again

Falling on my head like a memory

Falling on my head like a new emotion

I want to walk in the open wind …

This 1984 Eurythmics song by written by Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart came to mind this morning as the rain finally arrived.  It’s now 9.10 pm and a storm is raging outside bringing much needed rain after 4 months of dry weather.  The experts tell us that this one weather event will not be enough to relieve the drought – we apparently need at least 100 mm of rain before they will even think about telling us that the drought is over.

I love stormy weather, as long as it doesn’t go on for days on end.  On the coast you experience the full force of whatever is thrown at you.  We have had some pretty fierce storms over the years, but never anything that has caused us any notable property damage.  At high tide in a storm the waves come  right up to our boundary and occasionally wash slightly up the bank and under the trees at the bottom of our sloping property, but never any further.  We don’t get the full force of the ocean swells because our part of the coast is protected by out-lying islands.  However, it can get pretty wild at times.

Because of the long spell of hot, dry weather we’ve had since December we can put up with the stormy tantrums for a few days to allow the ground to soak up the moisture and the vegetation to replenish itself.

This image was taken at 11.00 am this morning.

Another Autumn Sunrise

This morning, fully clothed this time, I ventured onto the beach to capture another autumn sunrise.  It was different this time, not so red, but more dappled grays and blues.

We are lucky here to face the east and have a view out across the Rangitoto Channel to the island from which the channel takes its name.  During the day Rangitoto continually changes its mood as the sun  moves from east to west.  On some evenings the setting sun lights clouds over the island with red and orange light.  In storms it presents a very moody face.

This morning we were presented with a pre-storm view.  There is rain predicted for two day’s time.  On such occasions the atmosphere often clears and New Zealand’s fourth largest island, Great Barrier, shows clearly on the horizon.  That happened in the late afternoon yesterday.  Already the sky is overcast.  Let’s hope that the rain comes as predicted.  We really need it after the long hot summer.

I was going to show only two images from this morning, but I have decided to show five instead.  I have been wanting to take photographs from the eastern end of the beach in the morning for some time.  Here are the results.

Takapuna Autumn Sunrise, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Takapuna Autumn Sunrise, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Takapuna Autumn Sunrise, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Takapuna Autumn Sunrise, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Takapuna Autumn Sunrise, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Giant Marbles – Moeraki

Moeraki Boulders, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013


I first saw the boulders at Moeraki in the year I left high school when I was hitch-hiking around the South Island of New Zealand with a school friend.  The next time was when we were camping in the South Island with our three young sons in the early 1980s. Finally, some 30 years later we visited them again.  Each time I see them they remind me of giant marbles.

The Moeraki Boulders are unusually large and spherical boulders lying along a stretch of Koekohe Beach on the Otago coast of New Zealand near the fishing village of Moeraki. They can be seen  as isolated boulders, or as clusters of boulders within a limited stretch of beach where they have been protected in a Department of Conservation reserve. Wave erosion of mudstone cliffs at the edge of the beach frequently exposes embedded isolated boulders. Needless to say, they are a great attraction for the many visitors to the beach.

Moeraki Boulders, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Picture This

Koekohi Beach is a wonderful stretch of golden sand that allows for easy access to the boulders. They have been photographed from every angle, climbed on, posed on or with, closely inspected and marveled at. Individually or together , they make wonderful subjects.

Moeraki Boulders, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Moeraki Boulders, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Moeraki Boulders, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013


Moeraki Boulders, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Fly Me to the Moon …

Parapenting, Kennedy Park, Castor Bay, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

… Let me swing among those stars

Let me see what spring is like

On Jupiter and Mars

In other words …

These words from the 1954  Bart Howard song made famous by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and many others came to mind when I watched this parapenter seem to soar towards the moon at Kennedy Park on Auckland’s North Shore last week.

I first saw another parapenter riding the thermal air currents off the cliffs with Rangitoto Island, the major landmark at the entry to Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour, in the background.  Minutes later he joined the moon flyer to circle and swoop above the cliffs.

Parapenting, Kennedy Park, Castor Bay, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Kiwi Summer

I read in the newspaper and see on the TV news that winter in the Northern Hemisphere is rather cold this year.  I know that cold.  So, to cheer you up, here is a reminder of what summer looks like here in the down-under!

Kiwi Summer 1, Takapuna Beach, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Kiwi Summer 2, Takapuna Beach, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Kiwi Summer 3, Takapuna Beach, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

All of these images were taken on Takapuna Beach, in Auckland, near where I live. Click on images for a larger view.


Co-existence, Kaikoura, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

“I read the news today, Oh Boy!”  The words of the Beatles 1967 “A Day in the Life” song from the group’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band  album came to mind as yet more bad news emerged from Syria.  Although I have never been there I know Syria to be a country rich in history and world heritage sites.  Our eldest son backpacked through that country with his wife-to-be a few years ago, before the present troubles .  While staying with us over the Christmas break they expressed their sadness that the places they visited have been destroyed and the people they met have been cast into desperation by a man and his need to retain power at all costs.

Why can’t people learn to co-exist?  This may be a kind of Utopian dream for all of humanity, but by and large most of the people, most of the time seem to achieve a version of peaceful co-existence.  It may be that the saying “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely” just has to play out in some places.

The image above was taken on a miserable rainy day on the Kaikoura coast of New Zealand’s South Island, and is the nearest I can find among my photographs to demonstrate co-existence – in this instance, among species.

Weekly Photo Challenge – My 2012 in Pictures

Driftwood, Lake Ferry, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

All washed up

Many of the joys of life come from exploration, its one of those things that keeps you alive and interested. Whether it is exploration of new places near or far from home, new ideas, new hobbies, new techniques in pursuit of improvement or perfection, or whatever it is that satisfies your curiosity, finding interesting things keeps you moving forward.

The image above, taken in February at Lake Ferry in the Wairarapa District near New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, prompted these thoughts.  How would I feel if I reached a point in life when I felt all washed up.  Here the remnants of a once thriving tree are left stranded in a stony shore, bleached grey by the sun and apparently useless to anyone. Yet that is what happens to many people in our societies – left abandoned and all washed up.  What ever happened to their desire for exploration, or were they never given a real chance to start with?

As we move into 2013 let’s keep our drive to explore alive, and maybe even help someone who has lost their sense of direction to explore new ways to become alive again.

Rainbow Connection

Red Granite, Blue Sky, Catlins Coast, Southland. New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Red Granite, Blue Sky

The colours in this image taken in the Catlins on the Southland coast of New Zealand’s South Island were what caught my eye.  Red granite rock formations protrude into the sea to cause reefs which claimed their share of shipwrecks during the early history of the area.  On the day of our visit the weather was changeable, as it often is autumn, but a break in cloud cover let the sun catch a distant rain shower and allowed a show of rainbow.


A new phenomenon hit Auckland last week.  It was so unusual that it featured on the evening TV news as a feature product at the “Big Boys’ Toys” expo held at the Auckland Showgrounds.

Apparently this device is known as a “Flyboard” and is powered by a jetski. According to the product’s website “The Flyboard is a water jet powered machine which allows propulsion underwater and in the air. The position of two nozzles under your feet ensure 90% of the propulsion and allow for movement controlled by tilting one’s feet. The nozzles on the hands are used to ensure stabilization, just as ski poles would.”

These images were captured from Takapuna Beach yesterday afternoon.  It seems that buyers need deep pockets as the Flyboard is priced from NZ$13995.00 (plus the required jetski, of course)!

Click on each image for a larger view.

Grey Dawn

Rangitoto Grey Dawn, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2009

Rangitoto Grey Dawn

Rangitoto Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf can be seen from many parts of the city. This volcanic cone guards the entrance to the Waitemata Harbour and all shipping entering the harbour passes through the channel seen in this view.  The mood of the island changes throughout the day and with the weather.  This image was taken just before 8.00 am on an early spring morning in 2009. The clouds reflect the changeable weather we have in Auckland at that time of the year.

Big Surf

Surf at Porpoise Bay, Catlins, Southland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Surf at Porpoise Bay

One of the features of any coastal area that is exposed to the prevailing weather is surf.  The Catlins Coast catches all of the weather systems that come from the south, and south here means the Antarctic and South Pole.  It was an overcast and windy day when we visited Porpoise Bay and nearby Curio Bay, and the wind had a decidedly polar feel to it.  The waves were large and unwelcoming, fascinating and alluring at the same time.

Porpoise Bay

Rocks at Porpoise Bay, Catlins, Southland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Rocks at Porpoise Bay

The tiny settlement of Curio Bay in the Catlins region of Southland on New Zealand’s South Island hugs the long white sandy beach of Porpoise Bay, while Curio Bay proper is around the headland at the southern end of the beach. Near the camping ground at Curio Bay is a reef at the foot of the cliff of the headland, which is where this image was taken.  The sandy beach is to the left of the image. A pod of endangered Hector’s Dolphins live here and they can often be seen from the beach, hence the name.

Nugget Point from Short Bay

Nugget Point from Short Bay, Catlins, Southland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Nugget Point from Short Bay

To reach Nugget Point one has to drive some 25 km off the main road south of Balclutha to the coast at Port Molyneux , and then via Kaka Point, Willsher Bay and Short Bay along the coast on The Nuggets Road. Immediately it becomes clear that this is a coast with many reefs and why it was such a hazard to to early mariners in the time of sail and no GPS-based navigation.  This view was taken at Short Bay, the last small bay before the final sweep toward the point. One of the many reefs along the coast cuts through the scene just below the skyline. The famous Nugget Point lighthouse can be seen at the end of the headland.

Surat Bay

Surat Bay, Catlins, Southland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Surat Bay, Catlins Region, Southland, New Zealand

Surat Bay on the Catlins coast in Southland has one of the most beautiful unspoiled beaches in New Zealand. The bay is named after a 1,000 ton immigrant sailing ship that became wrecked here in 1874 after striking rocks further south along the coast. No lives were lost. The wide golden sandy expanse at low tide acts like a mirror as the breaking waves recede and leave a glassy  surface that reflects the sky and view in the distance beyond.  It is also one of the favourite resting areas for sea lions that come here from their breeding grounds in the Auckland Islands south of New Zealand. Click on the image for a larger view.


Poles, St Clair Beach, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012


This is another image in my series taken at dusk of the sand control poles at St Clair Beach, Dunedin. A previous image in the series can be seen here.