Sunday, 31 January 2010

Molly Morpeth Canaday Art Awards

Well I finished my entry for the MMCAA at six thirty Sunday night with Monday being the final day for delivery. (Its tradition to cut it fine.) I had been working on this painting over a period of a few months altho I had been working on other stuff during this time also. There is a limit of two entries so as a second choice I was going to enter my Kiwi painting except I sold it two days before the entries closed. That left only "The Golden Fish" as my second entry. I have an exhibition on in the "Next Door Gallery" in Birkenhead at the moment but the fish painting was too large to transport up there.
Long Story Short - my goldfish painting was selected for the exhibition and my new painting titled "Eroding Paradise" was not selected! Whats with that?!!! But I am not complaining. There were nearly three hundred entries and only sixty chosen for the exhibition and the judge Henry Symonds only chose one painting per artist. And on the awards night he gave a fab lecture which I felt quite priveledged to attend....til next year.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Diving with Common Dolphins

After swimming with Moko at Otarawairere Bay the Whale & Dolphin Watch boat Blue Sky turned towards White Island and headed out to blue water. We were off to locate a school of Common Dolphin to swim with. Before long we spotted the pod and then they were jumping at the Blue Skys' bow causing squeals and cheers from the excited passengers.

We cruised along for a while, sitting on the bow, our legs dangling in the spray watching the dolphins leaping beneath our feet. They were so much smaller than Moko and beautifully marked with soft smudgy grey against warm caramel colour.
Before long the dolphins veered off so Gregg the skipper accelerated the boat and skilfully positioned Blue Sky front of the pod. A group of us lined up along the duckboard at the rear of the boat, the white water of the wake beneath our flippers, masks and snorkels in place. Then we got the signal "go go go!" as the boat stopped. We slipped into the water to mix with the dolphin in their own environment.
For an instant all I could see was a myriad of white bubbles from the wash of the propellers then the first thing that struck me was the incredible blue colour of the water. It was an indescribably intense vibrant blue shot with dancing rays of light. Then suddenly a dolphin zooming effortlessly below me then another two dolphin deep down below the first gave me a real sense of space. The visibility was astounding, I could see forever! One of the dolphins turned on its side to watch me as it swam.
If only I had an underwater camera... or better, an underwater video camera! Its such an amazing experience and difficult to describe accurately. Its a true adrenalin rush. You are miles out from land and in an environment that is so totally NOT our own. But it is incredibly beautiful and the best thing about it is that you are in the dolphins world. Swimming with Moko was a buzz but at the beach he is visiting us in an environment we are comfortable in. Its a whole different experience to put yourself in the world of the dolphin. We were fortunate to strike a day with exceptionally clear water apparently so enjoyed another couple of "drops" into the ocean before it was time to go. Back at Moutohora Island we all enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate. I don't know who made the initial discovery but it appears there is a scientific formula supporting the fact that hot chocolate is THE perfect compliment to a days diving with dolphins! Certainly everyone on board was appreciative of its restorative qualities. I downed mine rather smartly however as I was determined to make the most of the last twenty minutes to check out the rocky coastline in front of the seal colony. Back in the water I scooted towards the shoreline and was captivated by a large school of silver mullet that wound its way beneath me. Golden forests of kelp swayed with the waves, rocks poking through with groups of fat kina atop them. Large purple striped fish hung out near the bottom in clearings between the seaweed. Troy joined me and I pointed out a large warty seaslug I spied below us. (Maybe next time I'll buy a disposable underwater camera.) It was the perfect end to a perfect day!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Moko at Ohope Beach

I joined whale and dolphin watch again today and this time Troy came too. We set off over the bar at about 2pm and headed to the West End of Ohope Beach as we'd heard Moko was hanging out there. Sure enough, we found him offshore surrounded by a group of Kayakers and surfers paddling on their boards.He had stolen a board off someone and was enjoying the game of chase with those trying to get the kids board back. They were enjoying the game as much as Moko. The crew of Blue Sky decided there were too many people around him for us to get in the water too so we were content to watch his antics from the boat.
He swam around with the board on his head or supported on a flipper or jumped up next to it sending it shooting off as he landed back down on it.
He took it close to the kayakers and let it go then when they tried to get it he would snatch it again from under their noses much to everyones amusement!
Just as we were leaving the surfboard was recovered and returned to its rightful owner. Moko needed a new plaything and decided our boat was just right. He played on the bow wave and surfed along the wake to the delight of the passengers.

The Blue Sky stopped at Otarawairere Bay and tied up to a buoy. We photographed him from the front deck then I put some flippers, mask and snorkel on and joined him. Up at the buoy Elise told me to pull myself down the anchor rope which I did and Moko exhibited the same behaviour as he had shown at Moutohora on Friday. He seems fascinated by the way we pull ourselves down and his nose was inches from my hands. I was struck by his constant dialogue, a high whistle made up of a series of clicks. Unfortunately the water visibility wasn't the best so I didn't get the underwater view I wanted but to be in the water with him and to see him that close was amazing. One of the guys on board was testing out his flippers and trying to see how fast he could go. Moko zoomed up behind him and burned him off, showing us up for the landlubbers that we all are. Soon it was time for us to head off to find a pod of common dolphin to swim with so we said goodbye to Moko and motored out to blue water.

The rest of our day was so exhillarating that its got me worn out! I have to go to Auckland tomorrow to take some paintings up for an exhibition and I'm too tired to finish this tonight. In a couple of days I'll write about our afternoon and share some wicked shots I got of the common dolphins that swim in our ocean. Til then....zzzzzzzzzzzz

Monday, 18 January 2010

Moko's moved in.

Moko cruised up the Whakatane River this afternoon bringing with him his favourite toy of the moment, a large dead eel. Of the crowd of fans on the far side of the river he persuaded just a few of them to join in his game of "fetch" which meant they had to throw his toy for him. Obviously large dead eels are not the easiest of things to throw!

He then found other things to play with like...girls,
Big boats, (great for riding bow waves)

Small boats, and kayaks.
I've spent two days watching him in the water swimming with other people and I can't stand it any longer - tomorrow I'm getting in with him!!! I even bought a swimsuit today. (Unfortunately most of my body has a glowing "moon tan" as I'm not given to baring much in public - Moko has a lot to answer for.) Troy and I are both booked in to go out with Whale and Dolphin Watch again. I can't wait!!!!

Friday, 15 January 2010

Moko the Dolphin

Troy phoned from his job at the Whakatane Beacon yesterday afternoon and asked if I'd like an unpaid assignment photographing Moko the dolphin who had arrived in our waters from down the East Cape. Hell Yes!! In half an hour I was at the HQ of "Whale and Dolphin Watch" meeting the tour crew. I was offered a wetsuit but my camera is not an underwater one and I knew I'd get no photos if I had the choice of swimming with Moko or photographing him so I said no. We headed out on "Blue Sky" to Mokos destination near Moutohora Island with 17 people on board including Beacon reporter Sven Carlsson, 4 crew and an assorted group of tourists.
Moko had been amusing himself and the 2 man crew of this little yellow boat by playing up and down the anchor rope watched by Whale & Dolphin watch manager Nino who had been waiting for us in a tiny inflatable dinghy. She picked me up from "Blue Sky" and was my water taxi driver for the whole experience.
The visit was carefully organised, no more than four people in the water at a time and no touching him or approaching him closely. No-one told Moko the rules tho and he was content to swim up to the snorkelers and actively tried to get them to join his game of swimming down the yellow anchor rope of the little boat.
Here Steve from the UK gets to meet Moko. I was surprised at how big Moko was as I was used to seeing the Common Dolphin species usually seen in our waters. Moko is a bottlenosed dolphin with an estimated length of three metres.

This was Elise, one of the Blue Sky crew who fell in love with Moko. He thought she was great too because she would swim down the anchor rope right to the bottom his snout inches from her hands as she pulled herself down. At one stage he nodded his head at her, she nodded back, he wiggled his body, she wiggled back and then he zoomed right up to her faced, stopped and put the end of his nose on hers. She came to the surface and declared "He Kissed Me!!!
Before long all the tourists were back in the boat, Elise remained in the water to tell me where he was going to come up so I could get the last few shots.

All of a sudden he was right under our tiny boat about ten foot down and I saw the most perfect bubble ring rise up to the surface and pop next to me. What an enchanting creature! Back on board Blue Sky we motored away to have refreshments at a nearby Bay at the Island and Moko followed for a while riding our wake as we went. He gave me my best shot of the day.

At Moutuhora (Whale Island) some of the tourists got back in the water near a small group of seals on the rocks overhung by ancient pohutukawa trees. The sun was out by now and I was so regretting not grabbing a wetsuit (not for the first time that day!) While the seals preferred to remain unsociable the swimmers explored the beauty of the undersea life surrounding the sanctuary of Moutohora Island. I was happy to entertain myself photographing the seals. Finally we headed home, all of us buzzing over our experiences. This young man Tague, a fellow collector, was especially happy with his latest treasure.

After seeing Moko I can't help but fear for his future. He has such a faith in human nature and I have a gut feeling that will be his downfall. He is a wild creature and deserves to be able to exist as such. His strange fascination with people is perplexing. He is a bottlenosed dolphin not often seen in these parts but why does he not seek out his own kind? His ability to interact with us makes it so hard to resist wanting to interact back, to observe him in his own environment, to be delighted by his antics. He touched everyone that was there that day and I don't mean physically. But he has already had a taste of what mankind is capable of on a beach down in Gisborne when a crowd of youths reportedly hit him and there were reports of a woman at Omaio hitting him with an oar. He can be a bit "pushy" apparently and after playing with people he tries to stop them leaving especially if they are on kayaks or similar.
I hope he stays offshore where his contact with humans is limited. The crew of the Blue Sky had the utmost respect for him and made sure their patrons did the same but we can't be sure everyone else will have the same attitude. In a way the situation with Moko reflects a lot of what my art is about -mankinds treatment and interaction with nature. Lets hope this story has a happy ending. Kia Kaha Moko!

Many Thanks to Whale and Dolphin Watch Whakatane, the crew of Blue Sky and Whakatane Beacon for such a memorable experience.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

my latest painting stage three

I finished the third element in my latest painting today. A pair of Huia. I am going to have to "get a wriggle on" as my Dad would say as I only have eleven days before I have to deliver it for judging in the Molly Morpeth Canaday Art Awards.
I am still struggling over a title. The painting arose from my thoughts on how the NZ landscape has been shaped and changed since mankind arrived, mainly from the point of view of large areas of land being cleared of native bush for whatever reason. So I'm thinking along the lines of "The Colonisation of Aotearoa" or some such thing except perhaps that is a bit long and ostentatious sounding? I dunno... Any suggestions?
Actually the Huia were given government protection when it became apparent they were in serious decline, a result of petitioning by Taranaki Maori. The stupid thing was that the bird was protected but not their habitat so they were pretty well stuffed by that stage. Figuratively and literally.

For dogs sake!

Day before yesterday I took my camera down the mudflats to see what birds were there. On arrival it was obvious there was going to be no bird photography to be done that day. The mudflats were inundated with dogs.

Two local ladies were excercising their dogs, and their friends dogs, and their neighbours dogs, and their friends neighbours dogs.... They said "You should have been here yesterday, we had fifteen dogs!"

Some were chasing sticks

Some were chasing a ball

And yes, this ones name was Hairy McLairy!

(They were all very well behaved too I might add. Good on ya dog whisperers.)

Monday, 11 January 2010

just stuff

Troy and I photographed a wedding on Saturday up at Kohi Point. He does all the important stuff and I just hang around with my zoom lens to get candid shots. It was a hot day and the view was awesome as I waited for the bride to arrive. There were about fifty guests assembled when a little rabbit jumped out onto the lawn from the grassy verge. Of course I couldn't resist getting a shot or two.
Then I got distracted by a tui doing aerobatics to catch flying insects above the treeline. I combined four frames of the one bird taken within about three seconds to get this shot.

But I swear when the bride arrived I focused on the ceremony not tuis or rabbits. Speaking of rabbits, I was walking Billy the Wonder Dog tonight when he got the scent of a rabbit in the woodpile. He raced over to investigate and spooked the rabbit from its hiding place. It ran away from Bill and straight towards me running right between my legs! Meanwhile Billy had his nose amongst the logs thinking "I'm sure there's a rabbit around here somewhere!" Duh!!!! Those bunnies are SO safe.

But it was a lovely walk. I got this shot of a random orange cloud, the only one in the sky to colour up in the sunset. And finally the same cloud reflected in a cow trough.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Assorted bird photos

I was having a sort out of photos lately as "he who knows about computers" has informed me that I have over 46 gigabytes of photos and that apparently is lots. Anyhoo I came across some pics I have taken in the last month or two that I quite like so I thought I'd share them.This is obviously just a sparrow but I like that I caught him just as he's taking off. Above is a juvenile white-faced heron. You can tell he's a young one because the white mask on his face has yet to develop properly. I think the appeal of this shot was the lovely reflections in the frog pond by the local skate bowl.I like this shot of a white fronted tern taken at Ohiwa Harbour mainly because of the position of the tail and wings. These birds have such black heads and eyes that the two blend together so that you can't make out the eyes at all. And they also have strangely small feet which is kinda weird.
Lastly, my favourite - a tui on a flax flower after a rain shower. His feathers are ruffled by a sudden gust of wind but he didn't seem to mind so much.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Birds of Paradise

I have another exhibition planned for the last week of January/first week of February at the NEXT DOOR GALLERY in Birkenhead, Auckland. This is a little diptych that will be included. Its made up of two ten inch by ten inch canvases featuring the male huia on the right and female on left. This was the only species in the world where the two sexes had different shaped beaks which is one of the reasons they were so sought after by collectors and hunted to extinction. I have called the paintings "Birds of Paradise" as they also include the bird of paradise flowers altho for me the huia was the true bird of paradise. I had to swipe the flowers I needed for reference from a local council garden....ssshhhh don't tell anyone!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

A Birds Eye View

I know this blog is supposed to be about art and wildlife but now and then something special happens that I just have to share. Over the New Year period we had whole lot of family and friends come to stay so that our large back yard was turned into a camping ground. My sister and her hubby and kids plus friends the Inglis family came from Tauranga so along with my Mum and Dad we took them out to show them the tourist attractions in the area. After they did the maze made out of Maize in Otakiri we visited Julians Berry Farm for famous berry ice-creams and because Troy wanted to surprise my Dad with a helicopter flight. Well it turned out you needed two passengers to get the whole ten mins so before I knew it I also had a ticket! Now I'm not normally chicken...well actually I am when it comes to fast things with motors so I waited rather anxiously (wishing I could have a nervous pee!) for the helicopter to come back to pick us up. Before long we were strapped in and what a freaky feeling as we lifted off! But from then on it was very smooth and sedate and WHAT A VIEW! So check this out. These are pics of my home town. The Whakatane River, mudflats on the right where I photograph herons and such.
My Dad enjoying the view of the road to Kohi point and Otarawairere Bay.

The West End of beautiful Ohope Beach, Otarawairere Bay & the Whakatane Heads.

Whakatane West, Awatapu Lagoon, Landing Rd Bridge & Whakatane Board Mills.
By the end of the flight I wanted the pilot to fly really low so I could get a feel of how fast we were going but unfortunately aerobatics were forbidden but at least I had conquered my nerves. I can so reccomend this experience, the time up in the air is quite generous and the scenery is awesome. Thanks to Mark & Leeanne from Harbour City Helicopters for a brilliant day.