Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand: Stirling Point

with 48 comments

A year and a day ago we reached the southern end of the South Island in a town called Bluff. At Stirling Point, which for my purposes should have been called Swirling Point, I watched the bull kelp (Durvillaea antarctica or D. poha) flowing in and out with the waves. Last year I showed one of the more than 270 (!) pictures I took of that. Here are a couple more. Because the kelp moved fairly rapidly in the water, I set my camera’s shutter speed to 1/640 of a second for closer pictures like the one below.

By the way: in addition to this New Zealand retrospective, you might enjoy scrolling back through the New Zealand series that appeared on the Fotohabitate blog in 2016. The text of each post there is in German first, followed by English, so you’ll be able to follow along. The photographs speak their own language.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 25, 2018 at 4:42 AM

48 Responses

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  1. Kelp…. I haven’t known and seen before, this is amazing, like a paper strips, or lasagne….. Great photographs Thank you, Love, nia


    February 25, 2018 at 5:30 AM

    • All that was missing was a giant jar of tomato sauce for my lasagne. No salt needed, as the sea already provided it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 25, 2018 at 7:59 AM

  2. I still can’t get over the impression that some very large ship lost its firehose overboard. The way the strands are symmetrically arranged in the second photo, it’s possible to imagine the nature of the flow that was moving them. The little curl in the middle is especially fun.


    February 25, 2018 at 6:50 AM

    • In retrospect, I’m sorry I didn’t take some short videos so you could see the kelp’s swirling movements.

      The fact that the kelp is so wide allows strands to end up settling into parallel curving surfaces that moved in unison. Your mention of a little curl reminds me of Longfellow’s ditty:

      There was a little girl,
      Who had a little curl,
      Right in the middle of her forehead.
      When she was good,
      She was very good indeed,
      But when she was bad she was horrid.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 25, 2018 at 8:04 AM

      • Goodness, in all the years I have said this ditty I never thought to look up its author. I was reciting Longfellow long before I knew who the fellow was.


        February 26, 2018 at 5:08 AM

        • You’ve reminded me of the fellow called Mr. Jordan in Molière’s Bourgeois gentilhomme:

          MR. JORDAN: …I’ve got to tell you something in confidence. I’m in love with a high-class lady and I’d like you to help me write a little note that I’ll drop at her feet.

          PHILOSOPHY TEACHER: Very well.

          MR. JORDAN: This will really be fine.

          PHILOSOPHY TEACHER: Definitely. Do you want to write her a poem?

          MR. JORDAN: No. No poetry.

          PHILOSOPHY TEACHER: You want only prose?

          MR. JORDAN: No, I don’t want prose or poetry.

          PHILOSOPHY TEACHER: Well, it has to be one or the other.

          MR. JORDAN: Why ?

          PHILOSOPHY TEACHER: For the simple reason, Sir, that there are only two ways to express yourself: either prose or poetry.

          MR. JORDAN: There’s nothing else but prose and poetry ?

          PHILOSOPHY TEACHER: No, Sir : whatever isn’t prose is poetry, and whatever isn’t poetry is prose.

          MR. JORDAN: And when people just talk, what’s that?

          PHILOSOPHY TEACHER: That’s prose.

          MR. JORDAN: What? When I say, “Nicole, bring me my slippers and give me my night bonnet,” that’s prose?

          PHILOSOPHY TEACHER: Yes, Sir.

          MR. JORDAN: Well what do you know! I’ve been speaking prose for forty years without knowing it, and I’m much obliged to you for teaching me that.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 26, 2018 at 8:51 AM

        • By the way, line 5 is often quoted in a slightly different (and therefore not historically correct) version. You can read about that, and about the way Longfellow came to compose the ditty, at


          Steve Schwartzman

          February 26, 2018 at 8:59 AM

          • My father may have said much worse in the hours and hours he carried me when I cried and wouldn’t sleep. By the way, I added a comment to this post which was sent to await your moderation, probably because I put two links in it.


            February 26, 2018 at 5:32 PM

            • I replied to that comment of yours in the form of a reply to Fotohabitate, so she would see what you’d said about her blog.

              Steve Schwartzman

              February 26, 2018 at 6:00 PM

            • My reply to you is currently the bottom-most of all comments on this post.

              Steve Schwartzman

              February 26, 2018 at 6:04 PM

  3. Awe…that is awesome… so much collection of kelp!


    February 25, 2018 at 7:15 AM

  4. This is beautiful, what abstractions the kelps create.


    February 25, 2018 at 8:19 AM

    • Any lover of abstractions would be fascinated by the display at Stirling Point. I certainly was. You would be, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 25, 2018 at 8:54 AM

  5. Were there otters to go with all that kelp?


    February 25, 2018 at 9:04 AM

    • Not that I saw. According to the article at


      some people claim to have seen otters in NZ, but apparently there’s never been a confirmed case of that.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 25, 2018 at 10:22 AM

      • This article closely echoes an article I read not too long ago by scientists in the San Francisco area. People were seeing them, (river otters; they know they have sea otters.) but scientists weren’t finding bones or scat. Eventually they looked long enough and did find the evidence they required. Interesting that otters can hide their presence so effectively. I saw one on the Des Plaines River but when I told my Fish and Wildlife friends they brushed me off. Ah, well.


        February 26, 2018 at 8:31 AM

        • Maybe you’ll be the person who confirms it definitively, either by finding physical traces or a by taking a photograph.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 26, 2018 at 9:38 AM

          • Happily a biologist came along a few years later and found them himself, saving me the trouble. Some years ago I found a very rare butterfly and reported my find to the proper authorities. Makes it sound like the poor thing was a fugitive from justice, doesn’t it? It caused quite a stir, and the upshot from the feds was, “Thank you, and we won’t arrest you this time but never do that again”! Since then I pretty much figure they are on their own for finding rare critters.


            February 27, 2018 at 8:28 AM

    • As I understand it, any otters that might turn up there would be aliens, like so many other mammals now in New Zealand.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 25, 2018 at 11:19 AM

      • They are such an important part of the ecosystem off our Pacific Coast that I thought it likely there would be a parallel down under. Interesting that there is not.


        February 26, 2018 at 8:26 AM

  6. Amazing! Almost impressionistic! And it makes me want to eat pasta. 😉

    Dianne Lethcoe

    February 25, 2018 at 11:07 AM

    • You’re not alone in your pasta craving. A previous commenter mentioned lasagne. Now I’m getting hungry.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 25, 2018 at 11:16 AM

  7. They’re really memorable images. I realize it’s a different ocean, but this reminds me those old tales of sailing ships trapped in the Sargasso Sea. The bull kelp looks very strong and quite long

    Robert Parker

    February 25, 2018 at 12:43 PM

  8. I see lots of noodles… same golden color as the ones my grandma made from scratch.


    February 25, 2018 at 12:58 PM

    • Yes, oodles of noodles. And I’ll bet your grandma had never been to Southland in New Zealand.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 25, 2018 at 1:02 PM

      • No, in fact I think she only got out of state once – to Colorado, and she was ill the whole time! I hope we manage to visit New Zealand and Australia some day!


        February 25, 2018 at 2:52 PM

        • If you do, my recommendation is not to try combining the two. New Zealand alone kept us busy for two trips, and Australia’s the size of the 48 American states.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 25, 2018 at 3:00 PM

          • Goodness! That’s good to know!


            February 25, 2018 at 4:12 PM

            • Speaking of good, one good thing about New Zealand is that the whole country has about the same area as Colorado (though it’s split into two main islands). As a result, you can get to lots of scenic places without having to travel huge distances, as you’ve been seeing in this day-by-day retrospective. In contrast, Australia is so large that scenic places can be very far apart; in addition, the country is largely a desert.

              Steve Schwartzman

              February 25, 2018 at 5:59 PM

  9. What a surprise to read about my blog in your post! You should have just seen my face 😀
    Kelp is such a beautiful plant to photograph. I can truly understand that you took 271 pictures.


    February 26, 2018 at 1:32 AM

    • Happy surprise. You included some attractive photographs in your series on New Zealand, so I thought people would like to see them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 26, 2018 at 3:05 AM

      • I am captivated by the kelp but also by the lovely photos on Fotohabitate. When I was looking at the Mt Cook photos I saw the name Mueller, a name which is much in the news now for non-New Zealand reasons. Our Mueller however was a German Australian, Baron Sir Ferdinand Jacob Heinrich von Mueller who led a very interesting life of discovery and investigation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdinand_von_Mueller. Baron von Mueller’s story reminded me of another German, Jacob Storck, who was a pioneer planter with botanical interests in Fiji. https://fijilandofourfathers.com/jacob-storck/ My goodness, what entanglements I found in your kelp.


        February 26, 2018 at 5:30 AM

      • Thanks, Steve, I was very happy about it!


        February 26, 2018 at 6:25 AM

        • It’s great to hear how you not only got caught up in the kelp and its tangles but also survived. That shows what a miller of history you’ve become. If I ever make it back to Australia, I suspect I’ll come across native species named after him. The statue shown in the Wikipedia article about Mueller at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne reminded me of the statue of William Sefton Moorhouse that we saw at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. I misremembered him as a botanist; I see now I confused him with Leonard Cockayne, who has an area of native plants named after him in the Botanic Gardens.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 26, 2018 at 9:30 AM

  10. […] sharing coastal rocks surrounded by bull kelp (Durvillaea antarctica or D. poha) darker than the yellow strain we’d seen at Stirling Point three days […]

  11. I wouldn’t mind that seaweed for my garden Steve! 🙂


    February 28, 2018 at 12:52 PM

    • Are there companies that harvest some of the kelp and sell it to gardeners?

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 28, 2018 at 2:19 PM

      • Good question Steve .. I know there are companies which collect seaweed from the beaches and use it in fertilisers ..


        March 1, 2018 at 5:15 PM

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