Cape Palliser and the Fur Seals

New Zealand Fur Seal

The Manawatu Camera Club

I recently had the chance to visit Cape Palliser, the most southerly point of the North Island (try saying that after a few glasses of wine). This was with the MCC - Manawatu Camera Club - not the cricketers. A really nice bunch.

Cape Palliser

It was very good for me, as we all got up first thing in the morning to get the 'golden hour' when the light is warm and inviting, normally a time of day when my duvet is also warm and inviting.
The light is a fickle instrument on a cold New Zealand winter morning, and grey forms a significant part of the palate. Being a stout individualist - another term for bloody-minded fool - I set off in the opposite direction to the pundits. This is occasionally referred to as ‘the wrong direction’. One of those deviations produced the picture below.

While everyone else climbed up to the lighthouse and obtained fantastic shots, I stumbled away from the lighthouse across the rough ground for about a kilometre. My rationale was that the lighthouse was the focal point and the farther I got away from it, the better. As I went blundering through the dark landscape I managed to disturb an adult seal sleeping in the bushes that I had taken to be a large grey rock. When it reared up and started roaring at me, I suffered some intestinal disturbance. I later found out they can be quite nasty when disturbed.

Cape Palliser Lighthouse New Zealand
Cape Palliser Lighthouse on a winters morning

Putangirua Pinnacles

The weather was fairly average but improved as the weekend went on. I experimented a lot with HDR and need to do a lot more with the images to make them usable. We visited the Putangirua Pinnacles, which are the result of 120,000 years of erosion. This has produced spectacular pinnacles, or 'hoodoos'. They were used as a backdrop for the filming of Dimholt Road in the Return of the King, for those Lord of the Rings fans out there. (for you, I have also posted about Hobbiton.)

pinnacles New Zealand
Putangirua Pinnacles


We travelled along the road to the Ngawi fishing village, which is a lovely oddity. Its main claim to fame is that there are more bulldozers per head of population than anywhere else. The beach looks over the Cook Straits, and the weather can be ferocious. The fishermen drag their boats up out of the water using bulldozers, of which there are a great variety. If you are into old machinery, it’s wonderful.

Fishing village
Ngwai Village Cape Palliser New Zealand

Seal Colony

The area also has the largest fur seal colony in the North Island. We were deeply privileged to be there, essentially by ourselves, when there were lots of pups frolicking about. I spent a long time watching three young pups sitting on a rock watching me back and playing silly buggers like the three stooges (the pups not me). I was able to get some nice shots of the animals as they interacted.

New Zealand Fur Seals
Seal puppies playing the fool

I have to go back to South Wairarapa, as the scenery is absolutely spectacular and different from other areas of New Zealand. On the last day, we were rushing to a site when we passed the most spectacular and transient landscape formed by a ray of light hitting the bay on the other side of an estuary. I wanted to stop but was following the others in convoy and didn't dare. Proving that I was in the company of true photographers, everyone else crammed on the brakes, and we returned en masse, spending some time trying to catch the fleeting light.

Cook Straights New Zealand
The South Island from Cape Palliser New Zealand

Because I do not play well with others and had not really understood the protocol, I managed to step in front of people but was graciously forgiven. Below is one of the images that I made. As always, please feedback to me. I can only improve if I have criticism!

Helicopter to the Franz Joseph Glacier

Franz Joseph Glacier from helicopter New Zealand

We had the opportunity to take a helicopter up to the top of the glacier while on our trip down the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand and - surprise - I took my camera.

It is frightening to see how fast the glacier is receding - I have been concerned about global warming for some time (one of the reasons I am now in New Zealand), but it is chilling to see an example like this. The glacier used to fill the valley and is now much reduced (and reducing).
I once again felt privileged and more than a little bit sad to think that I might be looking at something that my grandchildren will only read of.

Is this a reason to record it before it is gone, even though flying in helicopters adds to global warming? Of course, this is the paradox of ecotourism and better than I have commented extensively on this conundrum./p>
Given that the pictures were taken through a helicopter canopy I was pleased with the results. I used a polarising filter to cut through the Plexiglas and high shutter speeds to reduce the problems inherent in sitting in a vibrating, moving collection of nuts and bolts.

Because this was a tourist trip, there is always a certain amount of jostling for the prime seats and often the canopy is not a gleaming freshly polished window - this is where the polarising filter comes into its own.

Mountain Biking for the meek

Turatea Hills, Manawatu, New Zealand

It’s very curious. There is clearly something in the air in New Zealand that makes even somewhat sedentary folk want to go out and exercise.

Although New Zealand has its share of large people, there are huge numbers who are out running, jogging, plodding or biking most days. Part of it is the weather, which is so much better than the UK. But the general mindset here is clearly a factor and probably one of the reasons why New Zealand consistently punches way above its weight in all matters sporting. So, with some encouragement, I found myself on it on a push-bike, slogging up the hills.

You have to be a bit selective about offers to go out ‘walking in this country,’ as some of my former colleagues are inhumanly fit (we are talking ultra-marathons). He once took the department out for a spot of exercise, culminating with one of the registrars lying face down in the mud and snow with exhaustion. I wasn’t there, but the rest of the team thought that he was dead.

So far, courtesy of another colleague, I have had two very pleasant trips up into the hills. Twenty-two kilometres and a 500-metre vertical climb for my first effort was not bad for an old fart like myself, I feel. This week’s trip was up into the hills above the house.

Palmerston North, New Zealand
The gorge road, Manawatu

One of the defining features of the Manawatu are the many wind turbines dotted on the hills above Palmerston North. The wind farms produce about 14% of New Zealand’s electricity. There are the usual protests, mainly from NIMBYS but I thoroughly approve of renewable energy sources and think the turbines themselves are quite beautiful, especially in motion. I live relatively close to them, never hear them, and have had no problems.

After puffing up the hills, we were presented with spectacular views of the Tararua wind farms from the Aokautere forest. The forest itself has been logged out and replanted, so many of the trees are about five years old and an astonishingly vivid green. The logging roads are brilliant for biking (although I have a sneaking suspicion we were trespassing).

While going up is slow, coming down is rapid and exhilarating. I keep getting the feeling that I have regressed since coming to New Zealand and screaming down the rough logging roads on my bike produced a combination of the sense of having regained my youth, perhaps a more mature concern that I was about to kill myself, and a dose of old-fashioned exhilaration.

Approaching 60, doing things like this carries an extra piquancy that probably only those of us who have become old whilst remaining stupid can truly appreciate.

The Vanities of Man – the Ruins of Moreton Corbet Hall

Moreton Corbett Hall Shrewsbury UK

The Vanities of Man - the ruins of Morten Corbett Hall

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Shelley's sonnet is a wonderful thing, gently mocking man’s vanity and the relative impermanence of our achievements. I think we feel safely insulated from the message by virtue of the language and the fact that it is set in a far distant (and imaginary) past. In Shropshire, however, I came across a more contemporary example.

The Corbets are wealthy landowners. They have a long and noble history. The Doomsday book lists Roger Fitz Corbet and his brother Robert as tenants of the King and of Roger, Earl of Shrewsbury. The line died out (as they say) but quaintly termed 'cadet' branches spread and thrived. In 1873, according to Wikipedia, the Corbets still retained a part of their former vast states in Shropshire and in 1873 two Corbets owned more than 17,000 acres between them. When I first arrived in Shropshire, I played squash was one of the Corbets. As we were changing after the game (he won) I asked if he was from around Shropshire. It was only later that I realised why he was so bit sniffy! We never played again, despite the fact that I can trace my family back a bit too.


Moreton Corbet Hall lies just north of Shrewsbury. It's history dates from perhaps the 9th century. In the sixteen century Andrew Corbet made many changes to the existing castle and his son, influenced by his time abroad as a diplomat, set about creating a new mansion. Unfortunately, the plague did for him, but successive Corbets persevered. The house was besieged during the English Civil War as it was part of Royalist Shrewsbury's defence.


Now, it's a shell.

I spent a happy afternoon photographing the site, having driven past it many times. It has a peculiar atmosphere of isolation but not decay. It almost looks like someone just lost interest in maintaining it. The feeling that you in a time warp is palpable. I walked around and took lots of photos but the images, taken on a lovely summers day, do not seem to convey my vision of the place. I would love to go back.
I have played around with the images to try and convey the sense of agelessness.