A colourful display for the Christmas Season
A sure sign that Christmas is near in New Zealand is when the Pohutukawa tree bursts into bloom. This distinctive gnarly native coastal tree commences flowering towards the end of November when the season turns from spring into summer.
The distinctive red spiky flowers present a colourful display for almost a month before the stamens drop to form a red carpet on the surrounding ground, that’s if the early summer storms don’t blow them away sooner.
On the main highway between Christchurch and Arthurs Pass on New Zealand’s South Island are the grand limestone rock battlements of Kura Tawhiti, which early European travellers named Castle Hill. The area attracts climbers, families, students and tourists who are drawn to this spectacular place to explore its natural beauty.
This lone flower was found clinging tenaciously to a limestone tor, much like the climbers who were scaling the rocky outcrops nearby. On the day of our visit there were at least six climbing groups practicing their skills.
Another Sign of a New Zealand Summer
We live in a coastal area on the North Island of New Zealand known as “The Pohutukawa Coast”. The name is taken from the prominent tree that adorns the coast and flowers with brilliant crimson needle-like clusters in the weeks that lead to Christmas. It is there known affectionately as the New Zealand Christmas Tree. Such is its fame that it appears on postage stamps, souvenir tea towels and place mats, calendars and city crests. Some people consider the Pohutukawa to be a weed and nuisance because the leaves and twigs fall into roof gutters and clog downpipes and the fine seeds propagate themselves unnecessarily all over the garden. However, the trees are protected along areas of coast around Auckland and Northland because they are considered a necessary part of defining what New Zealand is about. Honey made from Pohutukawa nectar has a very distinctive earthy sweet butterscotch flavour.
These images were taken along the coastal walkway that runs north from Long Bay on Auckland’s North Shore.
A Sign of Summer
It’s summertime in New Zealand. One of the signs of summer near the coast where we live is the appearance of new flax seed heads. The stems emerge from the flax bushes as long slender green shoots in the spring, produce buds and then turn red in early summer before dying back at the end of the season. When the seed heads flower they are visited by birds, most noticeably the Tui, and bees.
These images were taken two days ago along the coastal track that leads along the clifftop north of Long Bay on Auckland’s North Shore.
It has been a while since I used my Sony DT 50mm F1.8 lens. Several weeks ago I took it for a ramble around our garden with the intention of experimenting with the F1.8 setting only so find out how shallow the depth of field was. Here are some of the results.
Fiji sunset. Wedding. Far from home. Strange surroundings. Hybiscus flowers. Tropical beaches. Distant thoughts…
A present I received last Christmas was a Sony DT50mm 1.8 SAM lens for my Sony Alpha DSLR – A200 camera. The “nifty fifty” is a lens recommended by many photographers not only as a great portrait lens, but also as a lens of discipline to help improve the way images are perceived and conceived. Up until recently I had not made great use of it, even though it was always in my bag. A few weeks ago I took my walk around Sigma DC 18-200mm lens off the camera and went for a walk with the 50mm lens attached instead.
I must say that the constraints of a fixed focal length lens make one very disciplined. Shots have to be more carefully and deliberately framed as the luxury of being able to “zoom” at the camera is removed. Get closer, move further back, be totally aware of what’s in the frame, work at it. This can be quite frustrating, but also liberating.
The other significant gain is the greater range of depth of field.
These cactus flowers were found near the water’s edge “around the rocks” near my home. It was late afternoon and the sun was heading for dusk. The cactus bushes were in the shade. Spiders had made a home amongst the spines and buds.