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!

The Lord of the Rings – Hobbiton

Hobbiton New Zealand

The Lord of the Rings - Hobbiton

I devoured the Lord of the Rings trilogy as a child, thereafter re-reading them several times over the years. The films are good, the New Zealand scenery adding an element of difference that works well. Now that I live in New Zealand, I sometimes still get the same feeling that I had when watching the films. Just when you think you have it pigeon-holed, something pops up that simply isn't right to the UK brain. Like Murray-mint cows or giant ferns. And that's before you get to the South Island ('the mainland', as they call it).

When the boys were little, I read the Hobbit to them, complete with funny voices and accents. They survived relatively unscathed.

It is sometimes challenging when you see something you love and have imagined made into a film. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.  I was slightly disappointed when I saw the Hobbit. Despite a stellar cast, the characterisation is - to me - weak and the treatment a bit too much like a Disney movie. But it was good enough that I want to see the next two, not least in the hope that they flesh out the characters.

Hobbit Houses
Hobbit Houses Hobbiton

There are a lot of places that have become part of the Lord of the Rings story in New Zealand. One of the better known is Hobbiton. This is the set built by Sir Peter Jackson, where many of the scenes relating to 'The Shire' were filmed.

The story of how Hobbiton was created on the Alexander farm is well told and a lovely tale of rags to riches. If you are a Lord of the Rings fan, it is an absolute must. We took visitors from the UK to see it and were pleasantly surprised. Many millions were spent on creating the set (to the point of what seems almost OCD) with a meticulous attention to detail. The tours are well organised so that you don"t feel pressurised, even when it's busy. The Hobbiton experience is evolving and we have been back since, enjoying it each time.

Tracking around as a tourist with a bunch of other people is not the ideal scenario for taking photographs. It would be wonderful to spend a couple of days there when it is closed to the public but that is just not going to happen for me. So, these images represent what you can see as a tourist.