Making sense of my photography hobby in retirement

Sigma DC 18-200mm zoom Lens

Photographer’s Assistant

Photographer's Assistant, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

It is not often that we see our eldest son David as he has lived in Canada for the past ten years.  This year he and his wife have come “home” to Auckland for Christmas.  As has been the case in previous visits, we try to take some family photographs with as many of our family as are able to gather together for Christmas Day.  Like others in our family, David is a keen photographer.  So too it seems is the youngest family member, three and a half year old Frances.  Here she receives instructions on which button to press to release the self-timer and get herself into the picture.

I trust that everyone has been able to have as happy a Christmas celebration with family and friends as we have had here in New Zealand.


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.

Mount Doom, Mordor

Mt Doom

“Mt Doom”

Mt Ruapehu in the middle of the North Island of New Zealand is a mountain I was introduced to in my teens.  Prior to that I had driven past it on the Desert Road, which forms part of State Highway 1.  It was from the Desert Road that this image was taken.  Over the years I have hiked, skied, climbed and stayed on the mountain in all of the seasons of the year. Our family of three boys learned to ski here.

In 1953 the Crater Lake at the top of the mountain broke through a ice plug in the side of the crater and flowed rapidly down the Whangaehu River, washing out the railway bridge at Tangiwai on the Main Trunk Line just before the express train from Wellington to Auckland was due to pass over it.  At 10.21 pm on 24 December the train ploughed into the river killing 151 crew and passengers.  This tragic accident happened during the first visit to New Zealand of the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II.

The volcano is still active and from time to time it erupts into life, the last time in 2007.

Mt Ruapehu and the surrounding area proved ideal as the dark and savage realm of ‘Mordor’ and ‘Mount Doom’ in the “Lord of the Rings” films. Whakapapa Ski Field, on the slopes of Ruapehu, supplied Middle Earth’s snowy slopes and the opening battlefield on the slopes of ‘Mount Doom’, where an alliance of men and elves defeats the armies of ‘Mordor’.

The mountain often has a gloomy feel to it when viewed across the desert-like foreground of the Central North Island Plateau, across which the Desert Road runs.

Shining Mountain

Shining Mountain, Taranaki, Mt Egmont, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Shining Mountain, Taranaki

The dominant feature of the Taranaki landscape in the western part of the North Island of New Zealand is this conical dormant volcano which last erupted in the mid nineteenth century.  Prior to European discovery by Captain Cook in the late 18th century the mountain was known to the Maori as Taranaki, thought to be derived from two words Tara (mountain) and ngaki (shining).  When Captain Cook discovered New Zealand he named the mountain after John Perceval, 2nd Earl of Egmont, the First Lord of the Admiralty who promoted Cook’s first voyage.  In 1986 the Government ruled that there would be two alternative and equal official names, “Mount Taranaki” or “Mount Egmont”.

The flat land that surrounds Taranaki is very fertile and ideal for dairy farming and the region is one of the three major milk producing areas in the country.  The other key economic driver in Taranaki is oil and natural gas which was discovered in 1865 but only exploited on a large commercial scale after 1959.

On the day this image was taken the weather was changeable, but clearing.  We were hoping for a clear view of the mountain but the lingering clouds from a westerly front that had passed over the region in the previous day still hung about.  Taranaki is the first place on the North Island to cop incoming south-westerly fronts which ensure that the grass is always lush to produce the “white gold” of the dairy industry. On a clear winter day the mountain is magnificent with its crown of snow glistening in the sunlight.

Old Style Co-operation

Okato Puniho Co-operative Dairy Co Limited Factory, Taranaki, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Okato Puniho Co-operative Dairy Co Limited factory at Puniho, Taranaki

Dotted around the country roads of the Taranaki region on the western cape of New Zealand’s North Island are relics of farmer co-operation in the form of old dairy factories.  In the early dairy farming history of New Zealand farmers banded together to start co-operative dairy companies to process their milk into butter and cheese to supply the more populated towns and cities, and export customers in the United Kingdom.  At that time colonial New Zealand was seen as a food basket for the growing UK population, and was still under a heavy British influence.

The first dairy co-operative was established in Otago in 1871. By 1920 there were 600 dairy processing factories, of which about 85% were owned by co-operatives. In the 1930s there were around 500 co-operatives, but after World War II improved transportation, processing technologies and energy systems led to a trend of consolidation where the co-operatives merged and became larger and fewer in number. By the late 1990s, there were only four co-operatives left. Today, Fonterra is the largest processor of milk in New Zealand. It processes 94.8 percent of all milk solids from dairy farms throughout the country. (Wikipedia).

The small dairy factory shown above is at Puniho on State Highway 45 in the hinterland of Mt Taranaki, the dominant feature of the surrounding landscape. State Highway 45 forms part of the “Round Mt Taranaki Bike Ride” circuit. Like others of its type it now sits looking forlorn and unloved, although many others have been turned to different uses.

A colourful display for the Christmas Season

Pohutukawa, New Zealand Christmas Tree, Christmas, Taranaki, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Pohutukawa – the New Zealand Christmas Tree

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.

Pohutukawa,Flower, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

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.

Lake Hayes

Lake Hayes, Central Otago

Its a four hour drive from Queenstown in the Southern Lakes District of Central Otago to Dunedin.  The road from Queenstown passes Lake Hayes on the way to the Cromwell Gorge and Lake Dunstan.  After the events of the day before (see yesterday’s post) it was necessary to leave the lakes and mountains to travel to Dunedin Hospital to visit my wife and plan the journey home to Auckland.

The morning was beautiful, just like the one the previous day.  Lake Hayes was unruffled by any breezes and I just had to stop to take some photographs.  I was uncertain as to when we would visit the area again. After nearly four months of rest and physiotherapy since the accident Valerie is now walking – albeit slowly – and we plan to travel back to Wanaka and Queenstown in early February to complete our holiday,  and hopefully see reflections like this again.

Morning View

Roys Peak, Wanaka, Central Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Morning View – Roys Peak, Wanaka, Central Otago

The morning that lead to the events described in the post Life can change in a split second  began with this view from our motel of Roys Peak across Lake Wanaka. It was a lovely crisp morning with a clear blue sky which remained that way all through the day.  What had started as a promising season for snow was ruined by rain after the initial dump, and no really cold southerly fronts had arrived to replenish the Southern Lakes ski fields.  Only light falls of 1-5 cm had maintained the relatively thin snow covering.  There was enough snow to ski on, but not as much as one would normally expect in a good snow year.  In good years the snow would have been well down on Roys Peak (1,578 metres).  Little did we know that morning how the day would unfold.

Red Sky at Night

Red Sky at Night, Tarris Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Red Sky at Night – From the road to Wanaka

It was nearly dark.  As the sun set in the west a bright orange glow lit the clouds over the mountains. A chilly wind blew across the freshly plowed stony land.  Out of the car to quickly capture the image and then retreat once again to the warmth inside. Head on back to Wanaka to takeaway dinner and a bottle of wine with friends.

Threatening Clouds

Pisa Range at Sundown, Tarris, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Pisa Range at Sundown

A westerly front had been building all day and storm clouds had been building over the mountains.  The ominous nature of the weather to come was reflected in the clouds as the sun settled in the west.  Skiers hoped that the threatened weather change would come to nothing, and so it was as the next day brought only periods of thin high cloud over the southern ski fields and only moderate winds.

Tenuous Grip

Tenuous Grip, Castle Hill, Canterbury, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Tenuous Grip

These images are the last in the Castle Hill Series.  Here we have groups of rock climbers practicing their moves on low limestone outcrops with the assistance of friends and the protection of padded mats.

Helping Hand, Castle Hill, Canterbury, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Helping Hands

Castle Hill

Castle Hill Tors

Castle Hill Tors

Some of the limestone tors at Castle Hill in Canterbury.  These outcrops are distinctly different from the surrounding countryside in the Waimakariri Basin that is surrounded by the  high alpine mountains of  the Torlesse and Craigieburn Ranges.

Living Tenaciously

Living Tenaciously, Flowers at Castle Hill, Canterbury, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory2012

Living Tenaciously

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.

For Shearing No More, But Sharing

The St James Station was once one of the largest operating cattle and sheep stations in New Zealand, dating back to 1862. It was purchased by the Government in 2008 for public conservation land to protect its natural, physical and cultural values and open it up to outdoor recreation and tourism. Surrounding the site of the old St James Station homestead is a collection of historic farm buildings that have been left in the park as a reminder of the area’s farming heritage.  The largest of the buildings is the shearing shed.  It is a reminder that wool was once a major contributor to the New Zealand economy, and to a lesser extent still is.

Old Shearing Shed, St James Station, North Canterbury, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Old Shearing Shed, St James Station, North Canterbury

Old Shearing Shed, St James Station, North Canterbury, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Way In, Old Shearing Shed, St James Station, North Canterbury

Old Shearing Shed, St James Station, North Canterbury, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Open Door, Old Shearing Shed, St James Station, North Canterbury

Old Shearing Shed, St James Station, North Canterbury, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Shaft of Light, Old Shearing Shed, St James Station, North Canterbury

Old Shearing Shed, St James Station, North Canterbury, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Sherer’s Station, Old Shearing Shed, St James Station, North Canterbury

Old Shearing Shed, St James Station, North Canterbury, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Wool Press, Old Shearing Shed, St James Station, North Canterbury

The St James Conservation area is reached by a winding unsealed road climbing into the St James Range from Hanmer Springs in North Canterbury.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Green

St James Station, St James Conservation Area, Hanmer Springs, Canterbury, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Historic Farm Buildings, St James Conservation Area, Canterbury, New Zealand

This oasis of green is at the site of the old St James Station homestead beside the Clarence River in the St James Range in North Canterbury. The original St James Homestead built around 1880 burned down in 1947 but the out buildings that remain are considered of special importance and worthy of restoration by the Department of Conservation. The area is reached by car by following a winding narrow unsealed road out of Hanmer Springs leading to the Molesworth Station. At a “T” junction the road to the left leads to the site of the old St James Homestead. In summer this area is very dry but the area immediately around the homestead site is green and sheltered by trees.

Husband Parking

Husband Parking, Martinborough, Wairarapa, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Husband Parking

Just the space for husbands bored with shopping and sightseeing! Reload Bar & Brasserie, Martinborough, New Zealand.

Country Pub

Country Pub, Martinborough, Wairarapa, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Country Pub, Martinborough

Martinborough is a small rural town in the Wairarapa District north of Wellington.  Its a popular short break destination for Wellingtonians and hosts a very popular annual wine and food festival.  The Martinborough Hotel is the dominant building on Centennial Square at the centre of the town.

Quoting from the Hotels’ webpage “Taking pride of place at the entrance to the square is The Martinborough Hotel. Developer Edmund Buckeridge described it in 1882 as ‘one of the finest hostelries ever erected in any inland town in New Zealand.’ A way station for prosperous travellers to and from the South Wairarapa’s huge, isolated sheep stations, its grand façade has been a focal point for the town right from the early days.

This country pub is a pleasant place to stop for a quiet glass of wine and a light meal.

Petit Hotel

Petit Hotel, Martinborough, Wairarapa, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Petit Hotel – Martinborough, Wairarapa, New Zealand

Just the place for a quiet weekend get-away from the hustle and bustle of Wellington?


Silhouette, Martinborough, Wairarapa, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012


Memorial Square, Martinborough in the Wairarapa District near Wellington. The early morning sun casting shadows across the square.


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.

Private Boxes

Private Boxes, Martinborough, Wairarapa, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Private Boxes

Its 7.30 am and the sun is rising over rural Martinborough.  The local postmen (“Posties”) are in the sorting room next to the postbox lobby bundling letters to put into the bags on their bikes to start their rounds. The streets are still quiet but traffic is beginning to move as people head off to work in the town, or further afield to Wellington over the Rimutaka Hill. Newspapers lie on the ground waiting to be inserted into postboxes for townspeople to collect on the way to work.

Still Abandoned in Venice Street

Abandoned in Venice Street, Martinborough, Wairarapa, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Abandoned in Venice Street

Here is a monochrome variation of the post Abandoned in Venice Street. I have been playing with the techniques of producing B&W images for a while and have added Perfect Effects 7 to my kitset of tools. Some images develop a whole different life when given the monochrome treatment. The original colour image is shown below for you to judge for yourself.

Abandoned in Venice Street, Martinborough, Wairarapa, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Abandoned in Venice Street – Original

Abandoned in Venice Street

Venice Street, Wairarapa, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Venice Street

Found in the small Wairarapa town of Martinborough, some 80 km north east of Wellington on New Zealand’s North Island.  Martinborough is famous for its Pinot Noir wines, however this scene was in one of the residential streets near the town centre.  Everything here looks as though it has seen better days, unlike the rest of the town which is thriving on its farming and wine economies.


Americas Cup, Team New Zealand, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012


Anyone who knows about elite yachting knows that to enter a yacht into the Americas Cup contest requires lots (that’s LOTS) of money.  That obviously limits entrants to millionaires (maybe billionaires) who can fund the development and testing required to produce two very technical craft for the challenger series, followed by the main Americas Cup event itself.  The next Cup series will be sailed in 72 foot catamarans with wing sails and a crew of  about a dozen sailors.  And these craft literally fly on their winged dagger boards.

This image was taken at the limits of my 18-200 mm zoom telephoto lens. From camera position to the Emirates Team New Zealand cat is approximately 4 km, with the lens zoomed right out.  The image has been cropped to give an even “closer” view. Although there was only a light breeze the yacht still had one hull lifted completely out of the water.  Already when testing their yacht in San Francisco Bay, Team Oracle have managed to nosedive and flip their boat, spilling all the crew into the water.  Its expensive having an accident in these yachts!