30 June 2009

Camel race near Bikaner

Camel raceCamels might look ungainly, but they can sure cover the ground. These were competing at a festival near Bikaner in western Rajasthan in January 2007. The guy second from the left didn't make it to the end of the course — much to the crowd's amusement. It's quite a way to fall, though. Fortunately he wasn't injured, and he had the grace to laugh with them.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

29 June 2009

Rat at the rat temple

Rat Temple ratAnother life at the Karni Mata mandir in Deshnoke, Rajasthan.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

27 June 2009

Singer at the rat temple

Rat temple singerHe sits just inside the entrance to the Karni Mata mandir — the Rat Temple — at Deshnoke in western Rajasthan. He plays an old, battered harmonium; he sits among the scurrying of rats and the milling of people and the whirring of pigeons' wings, and his voice sounds like singing from heaven.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

26 June 2009

Xenicus gilviventris: a new rock star?

Rock wren
Given the recent publicity about New Zealand rock wrens, they look set to become famous, at least in Aotearoa. They even have their own web site: Tuke (from one of the common names for the uncommon rock wren) (nice work, Jamie). While the site's currently fairly basic, it provides links to some excellent articles, like Liz Sherwood's essay in NZ Wilderness earlier this year. Rather than go on at length, I'll suggest you read Liz's article and check Jamie's blog.

This female rock wren visited Jono and I in 2006 as we rested near Lake Adelaide in the Darran mountains, northern Fiordland.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

25 June 2009

Playing with echt HDR

No. 3 Line shedHDR (High Dynamic Range) seems fashionable, largely thanks to the availability of certain software, I suspect. However, a typical HDR effect (sometimes described as "cartoon-like") actually arises not from the HDR itself but from exaggerated tone-mapping (plenty of examples in this gallery). It seems to suit some subjects, but used inappropriately (as it too often is), the result can be appalling (and sometimes downright scary). This photo isn't an HDR image; it's a similar effect but produced from a single photo processed in Lightroom with minor tweaking in Photoshop. I did it mostly out of curiosity and to be honest, I don't know what to think of it. To me it does seem to capture some of the character of this old shed (subsequently destroyed in last year's storm) up No. 3 Line, but it leaves me feeling uneasy. I'll not be making a habit of it.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

24 June 2009

Spotted eagle-owl; Nyika Plateau, Malawi

OwlI love owls. I think this is a spotted eagle-owl (Bubo africanus). I spotted it (not that that's why it's called spotted) near the airstrip on the Nyika Plateau in northern Malawi, just before dark. I stopped, dialled the ISO to 1600 and managed three photos before heading back to camp (driving after dark is not allowed). I'd been hoping to see a leopard, but this was nice compensation for not seeing the big cat. A little further on, I came across a nightjar sitting on the road, too.
[Photographed 24 May 2007.]
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

23 June 2009

Piper at the CD launch

PiperAnother photo from Sunday's celebration of the launching of the Fine CD by Ceol Manawatu.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

22 June 2009

At the CD launch

Tony & YvanTony and Yvan at the launch of Fine, the album by Ceol Manawatu at — where else? — the Celtic yesterday.
Rat's ass
This photo breaks some apparently important rules, but I still like it.

Update: In response to interest in what the t-shirt says, here's a hugely-cropped section from another photo.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

21 June 2009

65-year-old farmer, Urgam

65-year-old farmerMid November 2006; at Urgam, a village high in the Indian Himalaya. This man, I was told, was 65 years old.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

20 June 2009

Himalayan Goral [Naini Tal Zoo]

GoralHimalayan Goral (sometimes spelled "Ghoral" or "Ghooral"; Naemorhedus goral) belong to the goat-antelopes (subfamily Caprinae). Their closest relatives appear to be serow, chamois and the misnamed Rocky Mountain goat (it's not actually a true goat). This little individual (roughly the size of a domestic goat) seemed happy enough in its enclosure at Naini Tal zoo; at least happy enough to peer at me with what seemed like a degree of curiosity. Perhaps it was just wondering if and when I'd suddenly produce a tasty morsel (not something that would happen, especially since a prominent sign said bluntly, "Teasing or feeding the animals is punishable"). Zoos aren't my preferred habitat for photographing animals, but I never saw these in the wild so instead settled for photographing through the fence.
The IUCN classifies these as "Near threatened", listing the main threats as habitat destruction, hunting, and possibly competition with livestock.
[Photographed in early December 2006.]
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

19 June 2009


FiddleheadsYes, it's a bit of a cliché, but they looked so beautiful with the sun coming through. These were just outside Pourangaki hut, in the Ruahine. A lovely spot.

[P.S. There's a new post on my primary blog. You might like to check it out if you haven't already visited.]

[P.P.S. you almost didn't get a photo today. For some reason, blogger wouldn't publish this post; it returned an error message (code bX-oqpl4t). I eventually found a work-around, which involved saving the post as a draft, returning to the "Edit Posts" page, selecting the post and clicking the "Publish selected" button at the bottom of the page. If anyone else is having this problem, this method works, but I hope the problem doesn't persist.]
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

18 June 2009

Ben Ohau range from the Aoraki/Mt Cook road

Ben Ohau rangeFebruary 2006; leaving Aoraki/Mt Cook. The two barely visible specks in the sky left of centre are kahu (Australasian harriers; Circus approximans); the snow mountains are the eastern end of the Ben Ohau range.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

17 June 2009

Banana passionfruit and green vegetable bug

Weeds & pestThe Pohangina valley (that's the Pohangina river in the background) isn't entirely idyllic. The plants most prominent in the foreground are banana passionfruit (that's the flower), blackberry and cleavers: all weeds, the first two seriously so. And that bug (yes, it's a true bug in the entomological sense) is Nezara viridula (green vegetable bug), a widespread horticultural pest. This is a photo from December 2005.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

16 June 2009

House fauna: Pholcus phalangioides

Pholcus phalangioides

Plenty of these hanging around my place, usually in high corners. "Daddy longlegs" spiders are harmless unless you're a small insect, or even another spider — I've seen them wrapping up and eating jumping spiders and even white-tailed spiders. The urban myth about their venom being the most potent known seems to be based on no evidence — I know of no reputable research that confirms it.
Superficially, they look drab, etiolated and uninteresting, with the iridescence usually not apparent, but in the right light (I used flash/strobe) and close up, they're rather beautiful. This is a female, but it's still all right to call her a daddy longlegs spider (do make a habit of including "spider" for these, because "daddy longlegs" is also used as a common name for some harvestmen and crane flies).

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

15 June 2009

Flounder Bay, evening

Hawke BayJust over a month ago we sat in the evening on the goat track above Flounder Bay and watched night coming in, the ocean's heave, time passing. Or did this moment last forever?
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

14 June 2009

Tui (the bird, not the beer)

TuiNew Zealand's endemic tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae) is an endemic honeyeater, one of three resident (and endemic) species (the other two are the korimako or bellbird (Anthornis melanura) and the hihi or stitchbird (Notiomystis cincta)). "Tui" is also the name of a well known beer (also endemic), but let's not go there... This bird was feeding on harakeke (NZ flax) along the driveway in midsummer a few years ago.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

12 June 2009

Southern beech forest in the Darrans

Darrans beech forestA small clearing in southern beech (Nothofagus) forest in the Darran mountains north of Milford Sound. The track from the Hollyford Valley eventually breaks out of this forest into open subalpine country around Lake Adelaide. The surrounding mountains are legendary in the New Zealand climbing world.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

11 June 2009

Slope Point, Te Wai Pounamu

Slope PointSlope Point is the southernmost point of Te Wai Pounamu/the South Island of Aotearoa/New Zealand. I photographed these old stumps on the cliff edge a little further west from what's strictly the furthest point south. When I visited in February 2006 the stumps were roughly central in this google map (zoom out for better orientation). I don't know if they're still there, but they looked as if they still had a few years in them. That's Rakiura/Stewart Island on the horizon.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

10 June 2009

Villager at Kileshwar

At KileshwarAnother of the wonderful people living at Kileshwar in Gujarat's Barda Hills.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

09 June 2009

Piping at the Celtic Inn

Paul, pipingPaul plays the Uilleann pipes* at a Slate Row gig at the Celtic in late 2007. We're lucky indeed to have musicians of this calibre in Palmerston North. Maybe one day I'll get to sit in on a session with Slate Row and the Watercats (check out Clock); then I can die happy. Or, ideally, not die, still happy.

Photographing in these conditions pushes the camera, lens and photographer hard — flash (strobe) would be distracting to musicians and audience, but the light's extremely dim and musicians are seldom motionless. I opened the lens right up (f4), dialled up the maximum ISO (3200) and called on maximum luck. Shutter speed was one tenth of a second. The colours are the ambient light.

*Update: Apparently the pipes aren't, strictly, Uilleann pipes. Andrew checked with a knowledgeable friend who said, "Sadly they're mis-named. Those are not the Uilleann pipes. They're the Scottish small pipes but he may be playing a hybrid with a Border pipe chanter (can't quite see from the photo) you'd need to check with Paul."
I'll get the last word from Paul when I see him next. (Thanks, Andrew).

Update 2: Paul says "Scottish border pipe chanter with scottish smallpipe drones because i haven't got around to making border pipe drones yet. I have a nicely seasoned bit of Puriri destined for the drones." It's all a bit arcane to me, but I know what I like and the sound of Paul playing is high on the list.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

08 June 2009

Badumna [2]

Badumna and asilidSame event, but photographed using flash (strobe), allowing better depth of field but losing that lovely backlight through the spider's legs. Note how some of the strands of the web appear scruffy and tangled — these spiders don't use glue on their webs but instead spin some strands with this peculiar tangled structure, which entraps prey by catching on hairs, bristles and appendages. The spider lives out of sight in a retreat and on detecting prey struggling in the web, rushes out to deal to it.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

07 June 2009


Badumna eats asilidOne predator — a grey house spider (Badumna longinqua) — feeds on another (a robber fly).
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

06 June 2009

A windy day on the Ruahine tops

Windy dayNot even a howling gale on the tops above the Pourangaki catchment could wipe the smile off Simon's face as four of us made the long hike in to Pourangaki hut in March 2008. The blur's not photoshop — it's camera shake from the buffeting and the cold. I kind of like it.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

05 June 2009


Typical RuahineThis is a typical Ruahine scene — the top of one of the many slips along the headwaters of the Pohangina Valley. The weather — that dark, ominous cloud behind — isn't exactly rare, either. This is a telephoto shot from outside Leon Kinvig hut.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

04 June 2009

One for Michael

No. 1 Line shedMichael's an astonishing photographer, able to capture particular qualities and moments extraordinarily well. Generally, these are photos that should be approached slowly, allowing time for them to work (some, however, just hit you instantly, like Henri Cartier-Bresson's photos). I swear I've seen shadows move in some of Michael's photos. Go over and have a look at his latest post (open individual photos in a separate tab to see them better) and leave him a comment.

This is the remains of an old cottage up No. 1 Line, about half an hour's bike ride from my place.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

03 June 2009

Myths and histories

MythologyAotearoa. Myths and histories.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

02 June 2009

Flounder Bay, dusk

Flounder BayAt the border between day and night, anything seems possible.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

01 June 2009

Storm surge, Flounder Bay

Storm surge at Flounder BayA wild weather system coming up from the south meant the first couple of days at Flounder Bay weren't exactly tropical. In compensation, we got surf like this — particularly beautiful in the late light towards evening.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor