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.