Tag Archives: Animals

Mid-winter feasting

12 July ’13

Mid-winter –  a time to hunker down and keep out of the weather.

There is not much going on at this time of year, at least not much that we want to brave the weather for. And not much to blog about.  I’ve been spending weekend afternoons trying out new recipes.  We’ve enjoyed golden syrup dumplings, creamy leek and chicken pie, a delicious bacon and pumpkin pasta, and a melt-in-the-mouth  lamb curry.  Winter is the time for the comforts of home and comfort food.

Bird on a branch

Wax-eye in the kiwifruit canes

Last weekend we made what’s going to be one of our last visits to Trev’s place at Mangaweka.  While we were there we noticed a flock of wax-eyes enjoying a little mid-winter feast of their own in the kiwifruit canes.

Bird eating fruit

Wax-eye feasting

Eggs and Bacon

02 April ’13

We’ve spent almost every Easter break for the last 13 years at Mangaweka .  The weather has varied from sunny and warm, crisp and frosty to wet and miserable. But every year, whatever the weather,  there’s always been an egg hunt.  One year the neighbour’s dog came over after the Easter Bunny had set out his eggs and scoffed the lot.  That was not a good year.  Another time there was a map with clues.

Rabbit map

An Easter hunt

And every year the kids have got bigger and bigger.

Egg hunt, Mangaweka

Easter hunt 2008

We wonder… “Are they getting too big for Easter hunts?”  Nah, we’ve always decided.  Besides, the Easter Bunny has loads of fun setting them up.

Egg hunt, Mangaweka

Easter Hunt 2009

This year there were clues framed as riddles leading to locations all over the Continue reading

Blogging Again

January 26 ’13

I’ve been reading some great blogs lately.  There are  many very talented people, all around the world and in my own back yard.  And through the magic that is the interwebs I am able to share in and enjoy those talents so easily. Words that would have, until not long ago, languished unread in journals, notebooks and diaries.  Beautiful words that have transported me to foreign lands and new experiences, made me cry. Witty drawings and observations of life that’ve made me laugh out loud. Insightful and thoughtful commentaries, and some of the most ignorant nonsense too, if I take the time to read the Comments sections.

And so I think I really must get back to it.   Perhaps someone over on that side of the world might be interested in what’s happening down here in NZ.     I miss the writing, I wish I had more formal training in the art.  I have discovered that I’m afraid to use semicolons – I really don’t know how.  I love photography, though I second guess myself constantly. I don’t know if I want to set myself any tasks or timetables now.  I wonder if setting Portraits as an aim last year is what put me off.  I’m finding that I just like ‘taking pictures’ for the fun of it.  No constraints.  I know I need to teach myself how to use off camera lighting, but maybe I’ll get to that in the winter.  In the dark days when I don’t have so much glorious natural light to work with.

Last weekend we packed up the kids and headed south for a family day out with Gran, Greg and Daniela.  Our initial plan for the day was to visit the sculpture gardens at Efil Doog in the Akatarawa Valley.  It’s a gorgeous drive north from Upper Hutt through farmland and native bush, the road narrow and a little scary.  Farmhouses and cottage industries are tucked in along the road, glimpses of the river splash along the valley floor.  Daniela used to work at the property neighbouring the garden, so she’d arranged a visit for us.  Soon Efil Doog will be closed to visitors, so we’re lucky and privileged to be able to experience this wonderful place.

Akatarawa Valley

Efil Doog Garden

The most unexpected creatures lurch out from behind trees, rise up out of the ground, float weirdly under the surface of ponds.  The fantastical sculptures are a delight.  Shirley’s collection of bonsai trees in their shade house are inspirational.   But I think the kids were most enchanted with the wildlife – dragonflies, an eel, swimming spiders and frogs!  Or maybe it was me who was enchanted.

Froggy-back dragonfly

Froggy-back dragonfly

This little frog was quite happy to pose for photos, and didn’t seem at all bothered when the dragonfly landed on his back. Continue reading

WeekThree – Dr Genevieve, Veterinarian

15 – 21 January ’12

Cat’s cat, Spirit, was due for her shots.  I decided to take the opportunity to try out my “May I photograph you for my project?” spiel.   Dr Genevieve kindly consented to have her photo taken.

(I note that the portraits on Cahill’s web site have been very professionally done – something to aspire to.)

Dr Genevieve

F-stop                    F/5.6
Exposure time        1/125sec
ISO speed              ISO-320 
Focal length           50mm 
Flash                     Not fired 

The consulting room is well light with a large window and overhead lights. This was my first shot to see how I’d get on without the flash.  Not good – this picture has had the exposure brought up in post.  Also I was a bit too close, already backed up against the wall and unable to get the cat in the shot.  I had originally planned to take the 18-125 with me, but had run out of time to switch when we needed to leave the house to make our appointment.  I like the composition of this picture, but the focus is off.  I’ve managed to get the doc’s tunic in perfect focus and missed her face.  I also don’t know why I chose 1/125sec as the shutter speed.  It’s faster than necessary for a slow moving subject, and just reduced the exposure.  I found that I went a bit blank.  I know how to control the camera manually for correct exposure.  I think uttering the words “I am a photographer” out loud gave me stage fright.

Moving across the room in to the corner I was able to get the whole picture in the picture, so to speak.

Dr Genevieve and Spirit

F-stop                    F/5.6
Exposure time        1/125sec
ISO speed              ISO-320 
Focal length           50mm 
Flash                     Fired 

This time I used the built in flash, set to 1/32 power, just enough to brighten up the scene a little.

If I had not been reading so much about portraiture lighting recently, I would probably have been really happy with these shots.  As it is, I see how very poorly lit they are.

I also need to work on my people skills.  I found it impossible to interrupt the vet and ask her to look up at me.  Something else to work on.

Week49 – I tawt I taw a puddy tat…

03 – 09 Dec ’11 

We got Cat a kitten for her 15th birthday. It was love at first sight.

I deed, I deed tee a puddy tat!

The kitten is named Spirit.  And she certainly has plenty of that.  I decided to test out my ‘moving target’ technique on the scrap of cat while she tested her hunting skills (on an innocent piece of plastic).  I must have taken 30 shots, to get three keepers.

On the prowl

 F-stop                f/2.5
Exposure time    1/100sec
ISO speed          ISO-320
Focal length       50mm 


F-stop                 f/3.2
Exposure time    1/100sec
ISO speed          ISO-320
Focal length       50mm  

The conqueror

F-stop                 f/3.2
Exposure time    1/100sec
ISO speed          ISO-320
Focal length       50mm

I love the catch lights in her eyes from the kitchen window.  It’s a bit dim on the floor in the dining room, so a higher ISO was required.  I couldn’t slow the shutter speed any more – she moves too fast.  The wider aperture worked well to both let in sufficient light, and narrow down the depth of field blurring out the somewhat cluttered back ground.

After all that activity, a little cat needs a catnap.

Sleepy kitten


F-stop                 f/3.5
Exposure time   1/160sec
ISO speed           ISO-250
Focal length      50mm

Week 43 – Wabbit!

22-28 Oct ’11

Labour Weekend saw us spending three nights in Mangaweka

A boy’s first kill

Jake and Nathan have been out shooting several times over the last couple of years.  The boy has not managed to hit anything before now.  With the aid of a new ‘scope he succeeded.

Rabbit hunting

Jake with his wabbit

F-stop                    f/9
Exposure time       1/200sec
ISO speed             ISO-200 
focal length          50mm

The mid-morning sun was bright, so I set my built in flash to provide a bit of fill light.  As we mucked about setting up a pose that did not involve Jake shooting himself, or having his elbow sticking out at an awkward angle, the sun veiled itself behind a light cloud.  The result worked out rather well.   I did have the aperture set too small, making the background sharp.  I’ve Photoshopped the bushes with a bit of blur.  I maybe should have spent a little more time of this aspect.

Week 41 – A Week in the Land of the Aucks.

8-14 Oct ‘11

A few month backs we planned a week away with the kids. The only time Nathan and I could both get off work turned out to be second week of October. We wondered at the wisdom of spending a week in Auckland during the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup combined with the school holidays, but decided to take the plunge.

These are a selection of the shots I took over the course of the week.

Hamilton Gardens

Years ago we discovered the delights of the Hamilton Gardens. There is a section of the park that has been developed in to a series of themed gardens. Each small area is planted and landscaped in a particular style – a Japanese tea garden, an English perennial border, Renaissance Italian, American modernist and more. My favourite is the Chinese scholar’s garden with its turtle pond, arched stone bridge, and ‘mountain’ path through a towering bamboo grove up to a pergola with a view to the mighty Waikato River.

A quick snap, handheld without too much thought to composition. It was the reflection of the hump-back bridge in the pond that caught my eye.

F-stop                 f/5 
Exposure time    1/200 sec
ISO speed          ISO-200 
Focal length       34mm

Cropping to correct the composition, I decided to go for black and white to focus attention on the reflections and textures. I sent the file to edit in Photoshop. There I could mask out the lower areas in order to lighten up Continue reading

Week17 – Easter Weekend and ANZAC Remembrance

23-29 April ’11

Cheating just a little

This week’s post contains some photos that strictly speaking should be in last week.  However as they’re part of the same long-weekend break, I’ve put them all together.

Rewa Valley

This is a shot I’ve been wanting to get for a couple of years. We drive this way when we head up to Mangaweka for weekend breaks.   I’ve noticed how lovely the little valley looks when all the trees turn golden.  But every time it’s been a case of we’re in a hurry or the weather’s not right or ah, too late, all the leaves are gone.    So the shot has not been got.

This time, the Lovely Man and I  made time.    The kidlets had set off earlier in the day with their Grandad.   I judged  the timing to be about right.  Our local trees were  all cloaked in autumn glory and the day was clear, the sky blue.  However, there is that saying about the best laid plans.  When we arrived at Rewa the clouds had moved in, the sun was playing hide and seek.  We parked in a safe spot a little way up the road and walked back down to the bridge from which I wanted to get the shot.  Though the valley  still looked pretty with the braided stream running in its alluvial course and the leaves shimmering yellow on the trees, without the sun it was not the shot I wanted.  So we waited.  Pigeons roosting under the bridge cooed softly, a gentle breeze was blowing.  It would have been a pleasant place to pass the time but for the constant traffic.  Who knew that the Cheltenham Hunterville Road was so busy!?  Every vehicle that passed by made the bridge shake, too, though it didn’t seem to bother the cooing pigeons.  Eventually, after a bit of a wait (thank goodness we didn’t have the kids with us, they have no patience what-so-ever) the sun broke through.  And I got the shot I’ve been waiting for.

Rewa Valley - The long awaited autumn shot

F-stop                  f/8
Exposure           1/125sec
ISO Speed          ISO-320
Focal length    18mm

Apprentice Wood Cutter

Our on going quest for free fire wood.  The more we can gather for just the cost of our own labour, the better.  A local farmer had given us permission to drag out whatever decent wood we could find from his scrap pile up the hill.  Good wood and  fairly  easy  access.  It didn’t take longto cut up and load  a trailer  full. Continue reading

Week11 – Taihape Gumboot Day

12 – 18 March ’11

This weekend we packed up the kids and headed for Mangaweka – we haven’t been up there since our Christmas/New Year holiday.  It just happened to be Gumboot Day in Taihape on Saturday.   (For those who don’t know, Taihape is the Gumboot Capital of the World).  Yeah!  More photo ops for me.  My Lovely Man and Trev decided to stay at base and potter.  So the kidlets and I made the short drive up to Taihape to check out the fun.

A Country Day Out

The festivities had not officially kicked off when we arrived, so we wandered around the stalls.  All your usual fare – ice cream, wooden bird feeders, kiwiana printed tees and some rather ingenius  wall art made with paper serviettes glued on to canvas frames.  The Singing Cowboy had set up to entertain the crowd with his country tunes.  A good keen man was demonstrating the fine art of sheep shearing.

The Singing Cowboy

A good keen man demos sheep shearing

And then, of course, there was the gumboot throwing. Continue reading

Week6 – Apiti, 125 years young

5 – 11 Feb ’11

Shameless plug – images from the Parade are available for purchase at Valley Photography

I’d read about the upcoming 125th Jubilee celebrations in the paper, and figured a parade always makes for good photo ops.  We had no other plans for Saturday, so we packed up the boys (Cat was staying with a friend in town), some bottled water, cameras and an umbrella and set off to Apiti

From the parade programme –

Apiti & Districts 125th Jubilee                                                     4th, 5th and 6th of February 2011

In February 1885, a surveyor’s party inspected the 10,000 acres of the Apiti block with a view to settlement.  Following purchase of the land from the Government the heavy bush land was then surveyed in sections of approximately 100 acres each.  A ballot for the 82 rural sections was held in May 1886, the price being 1 pound per acre.  The first settlers took up their land within 6 weeks, spending months under canvas in the frosts of an Apiti winter.

The parade and displays are a tribute to our predecessors who withstood many hardships, that we might enjoy a better life.

There was a wonderful turnout of spectators, despite the rain – the colourful display of umbrellas adding to the festive atmosphere.  The Feilding & District Pipe Band lead a parade of antique and vintage vehicles, floats, horses, dogs and barmaids.  In an inspired move the organisers had the Parade follow a loop course, meaning that we saw the whole thing twice, once from the right and then again from the left (twice as many photo ops!).  The vehicles were arranged such that the old version was followed by its modern equivalent.  The horse drawn milk cart, driver in period costume, was followed by the new Fonterra tanker.  The antique grader towed behind an old tractor, followed by Higgins’ newest Volvo machine.   And the people!  A collection of colourful characters smiling and entertaining the crowd as the rain poured down…

The Stockman, the Clown and the Barmaid

The rainy, overcast sky had that giant soft box effect, deadening shadows and creating some amazingly vibrant colours.  All these shots have only had a minor adjustment to bring up the black level, and a little sharpening.  The colours are SOOC. Oh – the clown has had the colour from the background removed to help him stand out.

I’m fairly certain the stockmen were the real deal.  They looked a little overwhelmed by all the attention – and I don’t think their dogs had ever seen so many people.

Apiti 125 yrs

Week6 - The Stockman

Swagger the Clown.  What a charmer, he kindly tipped his hat to me when he saw

Continue reading