Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand: Waimangu Volcanic Valley

with 20 comments

Five years ago today, on our second trip to New Zealand, we spent some hours in the Waimangu Volcanic Valley in the geothermally active area near Rotorua on the North Island. What you might take for low clouds in the top picture of Cathedral Rocks is steam.

The yellow in the second photograph, like the frequent odor we noticed in the air around Rotorua, comes from sulphur. I don’t know what made the green. The last picture shows what’s called Frying Pan Lake. While the water’s a pretty blue, the steam says a swim there would be your last anywhere.


‡         ‡         ‡


Respect for reason has waxed and waned throughout history. Today, its tide is receding. University professors resign in frustration from what were once our bastions of rationality. Increasingly, the barbarians are not merely at the gates, but running the show in a vast swathe of humanities departments. After decades of decay in our academic training grounds, radical identitarianism and other irrationalities are spreading with accelerating speed, and we are woefully short of thinkers capable of fighting them.

That’s the beginning of a good article by John Hersey about reasoning entitled “Five Lessons from Julia Galef’s ‘The Scout Mindset.’” Check it out. Links in that article lead to other good ones.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 5, 2022 at 4:37 AM

20 Responses

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  1. So: in the case of this lake, the frying pan and the fire are the same. That gives a bit of a twist to the old saying about ‘out of the frying pan, into the fire.’

    The colors and patterns in the middle photo are attractive. It’s interesting to see the patches of purer yellow and green, as well as the mixtures. I assumed the green was some sort of algae, and that seems to be so. I found this interesting article that includes Rotorua, and other places you’ve mentioned.


    March 5, 2022 at 6:34 AM

    • This was interesting, too.


      March 5, 2022 at 6:35 AM

      • I like the name ZeeWeed to convey the fact that “the unique filtering membranes sway much like seaweed.”

        Steve Schwartzman

        March 5, 2022 at 7:50 AM

    • We spent time in Rotorua on each of our two trips. I still can’t shake thinking of the name as Roto-Rooter. Another association is that when I hear the word fire, as in the “Out of the frying pan, into the fire” that you quoted, I now think about about the FIRE that is the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Regarding that 1970 article, I wonder why very few microbiological studies had been done on New Zealand
      thermal areas before then.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 5, 2022 at 7:45 AM

  2. That top image is really cool. I like the steam. The colors of the sulphur and algae are so pretty, but stinky eh.


    March 5, 2022 at 8:43 AM

    • Call it a cool picture of a hot phenomenon.
      Yes, the odor of sulphur was often noticeable even in the town of Rotorua itself.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 5, 2022 at 9:29 AM

  3. Perhaps the hot water could be used for a pool nearby. There are hot springs in the Banff National Park with high sulphur content.

    Peter Klopp

    March 5, 2022 at 8:53 AM

    • In the late 1990s we visited the town of Thermopolis in Wyoming, where we bathed in a pool fed by a hot spring, as you suggested. I should add that the pool was only partly fed by the hot spring; cooler water had to be added to keep the temperature in the pool within human tolerance.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 5, 2022 at 9:32 AM

  4. The top image of the steam (I thought it was fog) is lovely. Another place I’d love to visit, though I’d like to go to Iceland first.


    March 5, 2022 at 9:10 AM

    • Iceland’s quicker and easier to get to. I’d like to see it too. Funny how that steam looks like fog, isn’t it?

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 5, 2022 at 10:52 AM

  5. Fantastic photos, Steve. Geothermal features are difficult to capture, but you did a great job here.

    Jet Eliot

    March 5, 2022 at 10:45 AM

  6. Would love to go there.

    • I do hope you make it someday. New Zealand kept us busy through two three-week trips and there were still so many places we didn’t get to go.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 5, 2022 at 5:00 PM

  7. As in Rotorua there’s always something bubbling underground waiting to burst out. Those barbarians are a particular nuisance. “Strong as it may seem, our civilization is evolving destructive forces. Not desert and forest, but city slums and country roadsides are nursing the barbarians who may be to the new what Huns and Vandal were to the old.” Henry George, Social Problems (1883). By this I mean that we are always grappling with things that wax and wane throughout history. Sometimes we find a Henry George who seems to have the answers to society’s problems for awhile, then we forget about that person; problems and barbarians return (in fact they don’t ever really go away) and we continue the search for answers. As long as the search continues I think we’ll be okay. I can guarantee though that years from now barbarians will still be mentioned as a threat, particularly if they are Rugby ones! https://www.offload-rugby.co.uk/rugby-so-who-are-the-barbarians


    March 6, 2022 at 3:05 AM

    • My father was involved with the Henry George group in New York for much of his life:


      Steve Schwartzman

      March 6, 2022 at 5:30 AM

      • How splendid. Your father’s pursuit of a just society lives on in you. My knowledge of Henry George is very superficial. Have you read any of his works?


        March 6, 2022 at 6:03 AM

        • Very little. My father was also a fan of Thoreau, whose works I did pursue. When I was in my teens I read Walden and “Civil Disobedience” and some other essays. Decades later I also picked up on the nature side of Thoreau, which wasn’t an interest of my father’s.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 6, 2022 at 6:33 AM

  8. Nice shots! Having hot springs around here we get some steam too. In the winter it sometimes freezes on the trees in the valley making beautiful icy scenes. I’ve found the sparkles never come across well in a photo though.


    March 13, 2022 at 10:57 AM

    • Thanks. I think the closest to your Colorado hot springs that I reveled in was Thermopolis, Wyoming. I’d love to see the steam frozen on trees that you described.

      I know what you mean about the difficulty of capturing sparkles. One instance in which I was happy with how they came out is the third picture at

      Ripples and sparkles

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 13, 2022 at 11:14 AM

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