Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Aotearoa – New Zealand!

with 75 comments

As some of you are aware, Eve and I spent almost all of February in New Zealand, which is known natively by the euphonious and vowel-rich name Aotearoa, and which was the last major land mass colonized by human beings. In the weeks ahead I’ll show you some of my impressions of nature in that country—and impressions they necessarily are, subjective and opportunistic, based on the places I happened to visit and the times I happened to visit them. All these things are recent and relatively unstudied (by me, that is), so if I make mistakes in anything I say or identify, I ask knowledgeable readers to step in and set me straight.

Let me begin with something that impressed me and kept impressing me: the aquamarine color of New Zealand’s coastal water, which is as vivid as I’ve seen in any country. The photograph below, which typifies the color I saw so often and in so many places, is from February 19th. I took the picture from the upper deck of one of the three ferries (currently) that make up the Interislander, which crosses the Cook Strait between Picton in the northeast corner of the South Island and Wellington at the southwestern corner of the North Island. (We made the three-hour crossing from Picton to Wellington, taking our rental car on the ferry with us, accompanied by a slew of other cars, campers, vans, buses, and even some full-size tractor-trailer rigs).

Rocks Seen in Sea from Interislander 5454

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 10, 2015 at 5:23 AM

75 Responses

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  1. You lucky dog, you :). I am really looking foward to seeing all your wonderful captures from New Zealand, but I am a little upset that you didn’t take me with you. I could have carried your luggage for you LOL.


    March 10, 2015 at 5:27 AM

    • Woof woof! And speaking of luggage, on the return trip mine didn’t show up until three days after I did. I wouldn’t have wanted to make you wait an extra three days at the airport just to carry it for me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2015 at 6:46 AM

  2. Wow, good fortune certainly shines on you. Will await the visual record of your adventure.


    March 10, 2015 at 6:41 AM

    • We’ve rarely taken a month-long vacation, but if you’re going to go so far, you might as well stay a while. Gary at krikitarts goes to New Zealand every year, thanks to a family connection.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2015 at 7:35 AM

  3. I agree Steve, that color is striking, and unlike the color I have seen in other countries as well.


    March 10, 2015 at 7:20 AM

  4. Steven did you get to see the Leptospermum trees at all. I would like to see those photo’s if you have any. Specifically with foraging bees on them! In the sanctuary where my beehives are located we want to plant some. Anything you have regarding this shrub is welcome to us.


    March 10, 2015 at 7:30 AM

    • I did see some mānuka (the local name for Leptospermum scoparium), and even brought back a little mānuka honey. (By coincidence, I was at the house of a friend outside Austin on Saturday and saw a jar of mānuka honey that she had ordered.) In New Zealand I took a few pictures of a flowering mānuka bush, nothing great, so I don’t know if I’ll show one. (I just looked at the photos and saw no bees in them.)

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2015 at 7:58 AM

  5. Now you’re antipodal and you’re on safe ground! What magnificence!!!

    Maria F.

    March 10, 2015 at 8:09 AM

    • Steve, I want to thank you for the explanation of the word in your other blog, it turns out I had one of the biggest laughs in my life because of this word!

      Maria F.

      March 10, 2015 at 8:18 AM

    • Over there hasn’t been so safe recently, alas, what with the big Christchurch earthquake of 2011. Vulcanism aside, it’s a great country to visit.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2015 at 11:41 AM

  6. Looking forward to your future posts of the country.

    Jim in IA

    March 10, 2015 at 8:18 AM

  7. Beautiful!


    March 10, 2015 at 10:44 AM

  8. I made my first visit to NZ in December and was totally mesmerised by the colour of that water – cloudy, milky aquamarine. Stunning. I shall look forward to seeing your flora pickings. I loved the variety of ferns and also the Pohutukawa Tree which was just flowering in time for Christmas. I expect you saw a load of wild lupins on the southern island.

    Some of my flowers from the “land of the long white cloud”:
    Jude xx


    March 10, 2015 at 10:56 AM

    • You beat me there, Jude, if not by much, but enough that the pohutukawas had almost totally finished flowering, as you’ll see in tomorrow’s post. There were ferns aplenty, though, and they very much colored my impressions of Aotearoa. It’s also good to hear your confirmation of how striking you found the color of the water; I couldn’t get over it.

      Either because of where I was or what the season was, I didn’t see any lupins, but I’ll have to add that my emphasis in this blog—and I understand that other people have different emphases and purposes—is on plants that are native to an area. Unfortunately New Zealand’s lupins, as pretty as they may be, are invasive colonizers from western North America (please forgive me for raining on your floral parade.) That said, I found my share of native species to enjoy.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2015 at 11:59 AM

    • The Pohutukawa tree is known as our Christmas tree as it always blooms in time for Christmas. You know that Christmas is close when you see them come out in red. There are a lot of invasive plant life here in New Zealand.

      Raewyn's Photos

      March 10, 2015 at 12:20 PM

      • I’m sorry not to have seen the pohutukawa trees at their peak of (Christmas) color, but maybe someday I will.

        Almost all the wildflowers I saw weren’t native, alas. Still, I found enough native plants, especially ferns, to keep me happy.

        Steve Schwartzman

        March 10, 2015 at 12:41 PM

        • I love ferns and take a lot of photos of them. There are so many textures and shapes with them in the different light

          Raewyn's Photos

          March 10, 2015 at 12:43 PM

          • If I lived there I know I’d take a whole lot of pictures of them too.

            A fern a day
            Keeps the blahs away
            (And lets photographers play).

            Steve Schwartzman

            March 10, 2015 at 12:59 PM

  9. So envious. Although I’m not a great believer in those ‘bucket lists,’ if I were to construct one … a visit to New Zealand would be on mine. I anticipate some wonderful pictures … today’s was a beautiful start. D

    Pairodox Farm

    March 10, 2015 at 11:25 AM

    • It’s a place I’ve wanted to visit for a long time, so I finally went. I expect you’ll get your chance too, as long as you can find someone to mind the farm for a while. Americans (like almost all other peoples) spend so much time getting to New Zealand that once you’re there you should stay a while.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2015 at 12:03 PM

  10. I didn’t know you were in my land. Stunning shot. Our lighting here in Aotearoa is unique. It really makes the blues and greens look different.

    Raewyn's Photos

    March 10, 2015 at 12:17 PM

    • It does, and I was thrilled to be there to experience the lighting and the colors. As I show pictures from the visit, I’ll be interested in your take on my impressions as a foreigner.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2015 at 12:20 PM

  11. Fabulous! Yes, the vibrancy of the waters is quite stunning 🙂

  12. This is a perfect introductory photo and tantalizing for more of this magical land as seen through your eyes. Even before my daughters moved there, this was hands-down my favorite of the 50 countries that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. Yes, the colors of the waters are truly spectacular. I believe several factors contribute, among them the thinness of the ozone layer, the volcanic geology, and (in the South Island) the runoff from the two living glaciers. This country should be high on every photographer’s wish list.


    March 10, 2015 at 6:32 PM

    • Thanks for proposing some explanations for the rich color of New Zealand’s coastal waters; I had no idea what might be responsible.

      Wow, 50 countries: you have been around. I think New Zealand was my 17th (counting the US), and a welcome addition. It’s by far the cleanest country I’ve ever been in.

      I didn’t realize that you have more than one daughter in New Zealand, multiple reasons for your yearly (at least) visits. We’ll see how your impressions of the country match up with mine, which were quick and idiosyncratic.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2015 at 6:52 PM

      • With my work-related visits and now family visits too, I figure I’ve made the trip some 30 times. I never tire of it, and each trip brings something new. I’ve made a note to add a few more favorite images to those I’ve posted so far.


        March 11, 2015 at 10:00 AM

        • With 30 trips, you should be the American ambassador. No one could say of you, as they have of some people nominated as ambassadors, that you’ve never been to the country and don’t know much or anything about it.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 11, 2015 at 10:41 AM

        • Also after 30 trips you should also be excellent at switching from driving on the right to driving on the left and vice versa. When I visited England twice and Australia once I never drove, but in New Zealand I got up my gumption and managed to put in 2400 km behind the wheel without a mishap.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 11, 2015 at 11:35 AM

          • Your gumption was admirable.


            March 12, 2015 at 3:29 AM

            • Your comment made me think that there should be a model of automobile called the Admirable.

              Steve Schwartzman

              March 12, 2015 at 8:11 AM

              • Indeed. In case anyone should doubt your gumption, I am very sad to report that 3 Americans were killed in a car accident in Waikato a couple of days ago. Our roads are not easy for anyone but can be particularly difficult for tourist drivers.


                March 12, 2015 at 8:01 PM

                • I looked up the details of the accident online and found that the driver of the car had turned right, and right into the path of an oncoming truck. In the United States right turns are safe turns (compared to left turns), and the American may have momentarily forgotten that another vehicle could still be coming toward him. In New Zealand I was especially cautious in making right turns, at least in part because of the nagging feeling—which I knew intellectually couldn’t be true—that another vehicle might be coming up behind me on the right, as could easily be the case if I tried to turn right from a left lane in the United States. I noticed on some New Zealand roads that large directional arrows were painted on the lanes, presumably as reminders for tourists. Sometimes the arrows appeared on roads in non-touristy places, and that surprised me.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  March 12, 2015 at 8:42 PM

                • Yes, there is a move to have more directional arrows painted on lanes and on country roads. I am glad you were so attentive and cautious.


                  March 13, 2015 at 3:49 AM

                • I had to stay alive so I could post pictures of New Zealand.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  March 13, 2015 at 6:10 AM

  13. Fantastic color. Just what aquamarine was created to describe. It would be a wonderful place to visit, but my problem with leaving a firm footing for the air is a major hindrance.

    Steve Gingold

    March 10, 2015 at 6:45 PM

    • That’s what I felt about the aquamarine.

      Flying has the advantage of getting you there in a day, but if that’s out of the question you could still travel to New Zealand in the way that people did for most of its history, by boat.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2015 at 6:55 PM

      • Maybe if the Love Boat ever comes out of mothballs.

        Steve Gingold

        March 10, 2015 at 7:02 PM

        • I think you’d do better with one of the modern cruise lines, and you wouldn’t have to wait for an un-mothball-ing that I don’t think will ever come.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 10, 2015 at 9:14 PM

  14. I did laugh at your comment that “if you’re going to go so far, you might as well stay a while.” I was in Liberia when my dad retired. He and my mother were planning to travel to Arizona with friends, to get away from the Iowa winter for once. One day, he walked into the kitchen and said to Mom, “You know, if we’re going to go all the way to Arizona, we might as well go to Africa and visit Linda.” So they did — for two months, as I recall.

    The water is glorious. I still remember my astonishment when I finally got to the Caribbean and saw the waters there. The hues were breath-taking in their variety and purity. These look very much the same.


    March 10, 2015 at 8:05 PM

    • Arizona, Africa: one place that begins and ends with an a is as good as another, right?

      My sister lived in Ivory Coast for a few years in the late 1970s, and although my father and mother went to visit her, I never took advantage of the chance. Too bad, and I’ve still never been to Africa.

      Like you, I thought about the water of the Caribbean as a rival to that of New Zealand. I think parts of the Mediterranean might give them a run for their money too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 10, 2015 at 9:12 PM

  15. Oh Steve, you are making me more frustrated about not having been to New Zealand yet! I live so close. I’ve been wanting to go for years. The hues of the ocean water are indeed, beautiful. It is a country full of magnificent landscapes and diversity.


    March 11, 2015 at 4:07 AM

    • You can take this post and the ones to come as incentives to hop across the Tasman Sea. Tell them over there that Steve sent you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 11, 2015 at 6:20 AM

  16. Perfect photo!

    Roland Theys

    March 11, 2015 at 11:03 AM

  17. I am visiting Timaru at the moment. From the dining room window I have a view out to sea. The sea changes colour throughout the day. I didn’t really think of the colours as special until you mentioned it. I have been blind but now I sea.


    March 12, 2015 at 3:35 AM

    • If I can descend from the poetic to the commercial, I’ll add that there’s a chain of seafood restaurants here called Red Lobster that has been running commercials—you haven’t been watching American television, have you?—with the tag line “Sea food differently.”

      Akaroa was as far south as we got, so Timaru and Oamaru and Dunedin and Invercargill will have to wait for another time. My guidebook says Timaru “isn’t a vastly compelling place to stop” but it does mention attractions like the Te Ana Maori Rock Art Centre, the Aigantighe Art Gallery, and the South Canterbury Museum, though it sounds as if you’re there to visit people. In any case, you found the changing colors of the sea worthwhile. I’ve been gone from NZ only two weeks but I miss those colors.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 12, 2015 at 8:24 AM

      • I came to see people, yes, that is true. To see the sea is a bonus. However I did visit the Aigantighe (Egg and Tie) Art Gallery where there is an exhibition called Titokowaru’s Dilemma.http://www.marianmaguire.com/titokowarus-dilemma.html And I had a brief visit to the Museum to see if I could find some information on my family history in Timaru. That was an unsuccessful visit.


        March 12, 2015 at 7:31 PM

        • That’s quite a cross-cultural leap: Maori mingling with ancient Greeks. I’m reminded that the Auckland Museum has some characteristic Greek vases on display, though we skipped that section because we can see Greek art in other places, but not New Zealand art.

          Too bad your genealogical research didn’t turn up anything.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 12, 2015 at 8:31 PM

          • It is an incredible cross cultural leap but it works very well, and her printmaking is excellent. The research will be resumed another day.


            March 12, 2015 at 8:38 PM

  18. Heaven. Simply heaven. So glad you got to go!


    March 15, 2015 at 10:24 PM

  19. […] picture is from the shore of the Tasman Sea—note once again the color of the water—on the west coast of the South Island on February 17th. That was unfortunately much too late for […]

  20. […] areas give it a run for its money. When I posted my first New Zealand picture in March of 2015, I emphasized the aquamarine color of the water I saw in its seas. The Canadian Rockies lack a seacoast, of course, but some of the lakes there provide colors to […]

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