Deep inside Mordor
The Tasman glacier empties its icy contents into lake Tasman at it's base. The glacier itself is 27km long, making it the longest glacier in New Zealand. The glacial lake is dotted with icebergs that have caved off the face of the river of ice.
On the day that I took the photo the weather had been rather erratic, there were periods of sunshine and then out of the blue the clouds would gather and the rain would fall sideways. I didn't know if I would get another chance at photographing this location so I just shot anyway. I liked the moody image that I got. Like many places in New Zealand this reminded me of scenes in the Lord of the Rings.
St. Pauls in the Park
One thing I love about photography is how it connects me to people. If you have been following my posts for a while you may remember this image of St. Pauls in the Park. That image became one of my most popular images. A few months ago I got an email from a company that was building a website for St Pauls and they asked if they could use some of my images for the project, to which I told them they could. In addition I offered to photograph the interior of the church. This gave me a chance to meet with the Priest in Charge of the church, a lovely gentleman who talked me through the history of the small church on Chapel Road. Meeting people and hearing their stories is one of those things that just fascinates me, why, because everyone and indeed everything has a fascinating story that is waiting to be told.
The two images above are both shot as stitched images simply because I didn't want to use a wide angle lens. I wanted to avoid the excessive distortion that comes with the use of wide angle lenses so I decided to stitch the images, so although technically they are not in the typical 3:1 panoramic format they are are still panoramas in the way they were shot.
One thing I love about New Zealand is how you find these little hidden gems and all too often not too far to drive. I had heard about Vivian Falls and had been meaning to go and find it. I had an opportunity to do so a couple of weeks ago. The waterfall is a short drive south of Auckland, to the west of Pokeno. The waterfall is tucked away in the farmlands, once you make it to the car park it's a short 5 minute walk to the base of the falls.
One thing I found intriguing about the waterfall is the Maori tale that is written out on a large board just before you get to the base. The story has some gory details of cannibalism and revenge. I will post a cellphone shot of the story at the end of this blog post.
So I enjoyed shooting the motocross so much the last time I went to Mercer that I decided to go back again. The conditions were not as hostile as on my first attempt which made it a lot easier to shoot. I tried to force myself to not shoot too many jumps, I thought I got a few of those last time. This time I picked a corner and just panned along with the riders as they took this corner pretty hard.
Again the autofocus on my camera stole the show. I shot at ISO 100 f/7.1 and kept my shutter at about 1/200sec. The 1/200sec shutter speed helped to get the blurry background and foreground that gives the sensation of speed.
I don't think this will be the last of motocross you will see from me. I am getting hooked to this sort of photography and will try and head back to Mercer when I can.
Deep in Mackenzie Country
One thing I love about driving around New Zealand is how many spots there are to stop and get great photos. I was driving through Mackenzie Country on my way to Mount Cook when I stumbled upon this scene. The sheep got my attention. I hesitated to take the shot because in my mind I had hoped there was a bit more snow on the mountains. I am sure one day I will drive past this spot and the scene would be just right. I took the shot anyway then fell in love with it a few months later when I found time to process it.
Yes, you heard right. Sometimes it takes me months to get to process photos I have shot. I have heaps of photos that I have shot that are sitting on my hard drive and are waiting for their turn in the spotlight. I am not sure what I find more pleasure doing, taking or processing the shot. I think both are equal parts of the creative process.
After I stopped to shoot this scene a few other tourist cars stopped and also started shooting. When I stopped at Lake Tekapo the same group of cars stopped too, the same thing happened further down the road at Lake Pukaki. I guess the thought I must know what I was doing, or maybe a guy with a tripod and a DSLR surely must know some good scenic spots. I just felt like they were stalking me. I never got to chat with them due to the language barrier.
I spent most of this week at home, I wish I could have used that time to do some photography but I was at home nursing this cold that just will not go away. The weather was rather bad and would not bode well for a guy with a cough being out in the elements with a heavy backpack of gear. So I spent most of the time just sitting in front of the TV surfing YouTube.
Only today did my creativity show some signs of coming back to me so I worked on some macro dandelions that my daughter Sam and I shot in our garden a few weeks ago. I enjoy shooting macro, it opens my eyes to a whole other world and surprises me everytime. The dandelion has always fascinated me as a subject but this time I wanted to try something a little different and shoot panoramic macro. I must admit this was not really a pano in that its not stitched. I used the new content aware crop tool in Photoshop to add more to the edges.
The dandelion in this case was a small one, not more than an inch in diameter. Sam enjoys blowing them and so I kept shooting as she indulged herself. I took the shot when there was just one seed left on the dandelion, I liked the simplicity of the image.
The wonderful world of Motocross
Last weekend I got immersed into the wonderful world of Motocross. Our camera club had a filed trip out to Pukekohe Motorcycle Club's race day meet at Mercer. Up till now I had never been to a motocross meet, I had watched it on TV by accident and always thought given the chance it would be a good thing to go an see. So when the announcement was made at camera club I made a note to attend.
My last attempt at photographing motorsport turned up less than mediocre results so I wasn't sure how this would go. I started the day shooting at a high shutter speed (1/1000s) and low f-stop (3.5-5.6). I quickly found that although the f-stop was getting me the result I wanted which was a blurred back ground, the high shutter speed was freezing the bikes in mid-air with no sign of motion. I played around with the shutter speed, starting at 1/250s and eventually settling for 1/320s. I had a monopod with me which helped to keep my camera steady as I panned as the riders whizzed past.
This was also the first time I was using the 7D Mark ii's autofocus system in anger and I must say I was dumbfounded, the autofocus on that camera is simply mind-blowing. It's not always about the gear but sometimes the gear makes a huge difference.
I really enjoyed the event and I will definitely make plans to go back again on their next meet. Today I am sharing all 90 odd pictures (out of the 600 odd that I shot) that I thought were worth keeping.
Headed into town last weekend intending to get an image for the set subject for camera club competition. I ended up not getting what I had in mind. The idea I had was to use a 70mm focal length and get the reflections of the city on the Vodafone building, located at the corner of Halsey and Fanshawe streets in downtown Auckland. I figured out early in the shoot that it wouldn't work. So out came my wide angle 10mm for some experimental work.
I tried a few compositions but I eventually settled with a panorama and even though it distorted the building I still liked it. My position at the at the traffic lights got me a few stares from motorists and pedestrians alike. I can only imagine what they were saying to themselves.
Auckland in Blue Hour
Every sunset is different and never ceases to amaze me. I hadn't been out shooting for a while, I wanted to shoot so much that even though we had gone through a virtually cloudless day I decided I wanted to still go and try and shoot the sunset. There is this one spot that I have shot before at Westhaven marina that I wanted to go back to. I arrived while it was still daylight and setup and started shooting the same shot as the light changed. I wasn't sure what I wanted from the image (usually I see the image in my mind before I make it), I expected that the image I wanted would be around the time when the colours started changing but I didn't expect a blue hour shot.
After what photographers call golden hour (30 minutes before and after sunrise or sunset) comes blue hour, the sky changes to a gorgeous hue of blue, that's when this image was made.
This is one of my favourite images, probably because I was surprised to see the result when I shot it. The view is of Auckland city behind the masts of the sailboats moored in Westhaven marina. Auckland is known as the City of Sails, the sheer number of boats in Westhaven is testimony to that.
For some time I have been wanting to try out some astrophotography, the images you see online of the Milky Way are simply stunning and blow your mind. My first attempt was awful, I underestimated how hard it was to focus in complete darkness and after spending about an hour in the cold I got home only to find that all my images were out of focus.
I went back again last weekend because we had almost perfect conditions to shoot the Milky Way. One of the nice things about living in New Zealand is that the skies are still relatively unpolluted with light. Half an hour drive from our house you find yourself in places that are probably not that darkest in the world but it's dark enough that you can see the Milky Way with the naked eye.
The image I am sharing today is by no means perfect but I am sharing the beginning of a journey of capturing a new genre. This panorama is seven images across. At first I tried to shoot at ISO 2500 but that didn't achieve the result I was after so I changed to ISO3200, a shutter speed of 20s and f/4.5 at 10mm. Being so used to shooting high resolution panoramas I was amazed at how much digital noise the image contained and how much work is required to clean up the image. I took all these obstacles as challenges and will spur me on to improve as winter progresses.
Fog in The Shire
Driving through the Waikato was miserable that morning, we hit fog as soon as we go over the Bombay Hills just south of Auckland. The fog was thick, the sort that makes t=you concentrate extra hard to make sure you stay on the road. The consolation came when the fog started to lift as we drove thought the beautiful Waikato landscape, so many times I wanted to stop and take some pictures but we also had a tight schedule to get to the mountain and play in the snow. When I saw this scene I just could couldn't pass it so we pulled over. I didn't want to waste time so I shot this handheld and not bracketed per my usual workflow.
I love this shot, everything about it reminds me of the first time I watched Lord of the Rings and saw images of the Shire where Frodo and his fellow Hobbitfolk lived. The landscape seemed like it was all CGI and couldn't possibly have been real. Having travelled through the Waikato quite a bit I see now that the makers of the movies where spoilt for choice when they scouted for the location of the Shire.
Most of the time when I go out to shoot I go alone, I have always looked forward to a time when this time could be used to bond with the kids. Sam is now at that age where we could go out together and have fun. I had planned that she would take a camera but it turned out that my planning was poor and the camera didn't have a charged battery. So although I consulted with her on composition, she ended up doing cartwheels on the grass while I took the shot.
I had been to Waitawa Regional Park once before on a scouting mission. Sam and I had been to a few other locations and as we were packing up to go home we both agreed that even though it was getting dark we should try one more shot. That decision resulted in the shot I am sharing today. Waitawa is a new regional park opened in 2013, there are plenty of mountain bike tracks but not many trees which allows for some incredible views of the Hauraki Gulf, well worth a visit.
The day out with Sam went really well and I am sure this will be the first of many more to come.
Although winter on the North Island of New Zealand can get bitterly cold the conditions aren't conducive to snow. Well that isn't entirely true, I am told that it did snow in Auckland in 2011 although many who blinked missed the event. The nearest place to get snow to Auckland is Tongariro National Park which is just over 4 hours drive away. The last time we made the trip down there wasn't much of the white stuff left on the slopes, this year we were determined to get the real experience so realising we had a long weekend ahead we decided at the last minute to make the drive down and back in a day, many told us that we were crazy and that we should spend the night there. It was quite the day trip.
I was amazed that we all managed to get up early, leaving the house at 6am we headed down State Highway 1 toward Hamilton. Crossing the Bombay Hills, south of Auckland we hit fog which made the driving somewhat slower, it seemed as if the whole of the Waikato was covered in fog. We got our reward for driving in the fog when it began to lift turning the green rolling hills on the farmland into somewhat of a mystical paradise. We arrived on the mountain after 11am after stopping for breakfast in Taumaranui. As all good families do we chucked snow balls at each other, made snow angels and built a snow man (the snow man resembled a ghost rather than a man so we called it Spooky)
On the way there and back we stopped occasionally and photographed the landscape. My favourite of the day is the one I am sharing today. I shot this on the way down from Whakapapa ski field, we almost didn't stop but the view was just too good to pass up on. In the distance is my favourite New Zealand mountain Mt Ngauruhoe, it's fame comes from it being used in the Lord of the Rings movies as the inspiration for Mt Doom where the dark Lord Sauron forged The One Ring and the only place where it could be destroyed.
The day trip was an epic in our book and though we all arrived home just after 7pm, exhausted, it was well worth it and we are sure to do it again.
27 May 2016
Growing up I was utterly convinced that either Mum had eyes at the back of her head or she had some amazing sense that we kids didn't have. She seemed to be able to see everything we did out of sight. My kids, I am sure are convinced that Tsitsi and I have the same sense.
One of the skills that come in handy as a photographer is being able to look behind you. As I drove towards Mt Cook National Park I glanced through my rear view mirror and saw this scene unfolding. I immediately decided I had to stop and take a photo. No sooner had I stopped and taken my shot did a myriad of tourist vehicles also decide to stop and take in the scene. The rain clouds were building to the right combining the rain and the sunshine produced the lovely rainbow that in my opinion makes this image.
I wanted to try a different crop for this image, this is one of the benefits of shooting panoramas the way I do. I have the benefit of taking time to think of my composition after the fact and given the resolution I get from a pano I am able to crop without losing any detail at all. It's a lot of work stitching panoramas together but when I don't mind it especially when I see the results.
Two Seasons in one photo
22 May 2016
Last week I was fortunate to be able to spend sometime in the South Island of New Zealand. For those that have visited both islands they will know that there is a huge difference between the two. The landscape changes and each is unique in its own way. I had gone down to Christchurch for a course related to my work, I took a few days to go and do some photography and had a wonderful time.
My journey by road took me from Asburton just south of Christchurch and headed west to Mt Cook National Park, my intention had been to spend as much time as I could capturing the mountain landscapes. The first day that I went there the rain was threatening but I decided to go anyway. I knew that alpine weather can change in an instant. When I arrived at my first stop I a brief respite in the weather and managed to shoot a little before the rain and gale force winds came back with a vengeance. Not much shooting happened that first day.
After spending the night at an AirBnb place in the small hydo-electriciy generating tow of Twizel I was determined to get some shots of the mountains. I started out early on the Sunday morning, so early that I am sure my hostess must have thought I was crazy. I arrived at the location just as dawn was breaking. The question I had was weather I should take the hike and see if I could see Mt Cook, New Zealand's highest peak, or just spend time capturing what I could before the rain and winds came back. I settled on the latter knowing I would come back sometime and be able to see Mt Cook.
This picture was taken at the lookout at the beginning of the Hooker Valley Track looking towards Mt Sefton (3151m) and the Mueller Glacier. The clouds had been building to the right of the picture and I thought the blue skies were in stark contrast to what was happening in the rest of the image. The sun was also making its brief cameo and lit up the mountains beautifully. The scene itself was rather surreal and I couldn't capture in a photograph just how surreal it was, the other thing that I cannot express in pixels is how cold and windy it was, my beanie was blown away at least once and I had to recover it from the nearby bushes. Despite the conditions I had a wonderful time capture the beauty of the country that I am privileged to call home. I took so many photos that it will take me ages to work on processing them all, they will sho up here every once in a while.
The Wind Tree
28 April 2016
One of my favourite spots to shoot in Auckland is the area around Wynyard Quarter. There is so much around there to photograph and even though I have many photos from there there are still many more that I will have to go back to shoot.
I went back there again to photograph this piece of urban art called the Wind Tree. I had been thinking of ways I could photograph it from a unique angle. For an area that has been photographed so many times this is not so easy. I thought about a panorama but somehow I knew the lines would be distorted so I resorted to a multiple image shot but decided not to go with my usual 2.5:1 crop factor. In order to get the perspective I needed I had to put my camera in the water.
Lots of curious passers by looked at me with puzzled faces. One little girl asked her dad, "why is that man putting his camera in the water". The dad's response is what made me chuckle. "He is taking an awesome picture sweetheart, sometimes that's what you have to do to take awesome pictures. He was spot on, so many times I take the easy path and just shoot from the "tourist" perspective. I have recently started asking myself, "how can I photograph this subject differently?" This is the sort of question that leads me to put my camera on a tripod with the camera perched inches above the surface of the water and hoping that a troop of kids don't come charging into the pool and knock down my gear.
I submitted this image in open category at camera club and it was awarded an honours, I was humbled. I am really proud of this image and I hope you like it too.
19 April 2016
Sometime last year I decided to join my local camera club. I had found out about the Howick Camera Club from some random stranger who saw me taking pictures, I googled them and decided I wanted to join but being the super procrastinator that I am the actual joining did not happen until a year or so later. I was a skeptic, would I be good enough? Would I be brave enough to overcome my fear of a public critique? These were some of the questions that fueled the hesitation.
It took me a while to gather enough courage to submit an image for a club competition, to my utter surprise I did very well far beyond my expectations. For those who have never been a member of a club here is what you might expect. You meet regularly with a group of people who love photography, when I say love I mean just that. I used to think I was crazy about photography until I met the crazy folk in my club. Every month we have club competitions based on a theme, images are judged by different judges every week. It's a brilliant and humbling way to have your work critiqued, thus far the critiquing has been objective and very helpful for me.
This month the set subject was "Abstract" I was dreading this one because I went against everything I think of when I think of a good photograph. For weeks I could figure out what to submit, I had no images in may archive that fit the subject. As I always do, I took my camera with me to the local marina while I waited to pick my my kids from their Girls Brigade meeting. I told myself to forget the rules and just shoot crazy pictures. That's how I came up with the image in this weeks post. I was humbled yesterday at camera club when my image was awarded an Honours, the highest you can get. Not only that it was named the "Image of the Night" in my category and the icing on the cake was that the image i submitted in the open category also got an honours (more on this image in an upcoming post).
Given the apprehension I had to joining a camera club I have to say it has been totally worth it. I have learnt so much in the short time that I have been there. I have been forced out of my comfort zone to shoot abstract something I would never have done otherwise.
Just north of the central plateau town of Taupo, off State Highway 1 lies the mighty Huka Falls. When I first heard of this waterfall I put it on my list of places to visit so on a trip down to Tongariro National Park I stopped by the falls. There are a few viewing points that make for good photography. I found the one to the left of the car park the best for me the other side of the river is where most of the tourists go and can get rather crowded. Another spot is on loop Road which is higher up and gives you a birds eye view.
Huka Falls is not your normal waterfall, the Waikato River which is about 100m wide at the top of the fall gets forced through a narrow 15m wide, 250m long channel which turns the placid river into a mighty torrent. The part of the waterfall that is shown in the image is only a 6m drop.
On this particular day the light was less than perfect but I have found that even when the light is less than perfect shoot anyway, find creative ways to make it work. In my case I used a 10-stop ND filter to get a really slow shutter speed. I was hoping the jet boat that plies the falls would show up but instead I got something better. The red tourist boat showed up and to me it made for much better interest than the blue jet boat would have made. I need to spend more time at this location on a day when there are not too many crowds.
The Fog is Lifting
This year I set a goal for myself to shoot at least once in fog, at best I thought I might be able to get something later in the season. I had no idea that on the first fog day of the season I would be able to go out and capture a few shots of the fog. I had been hesitating to get up early to go and shoot but when I got up and looked outside and saw the halo around the street lights I knew I had to go. So I headed for Mt Eden which offers what I think is the best view of the city. The last time I was there you could drive all the way to the summit, that has since changed so I had to endure the unexpected exercise up to the summit.
The top of the mount was fogged out so I decided I would wait as it would take for it to lift. It took two hours of waiting and looking silly with a camera setup on a tripod in near total whiteout conditions. Many of the runners wished me luck as the jogged past. Eventually the fog started to life and I managed to capture the image above and the time-lapse clip that will become part of my bigger time-lapse project that I am working on. I am still hoping that I will be able to catch a few more instances of the fog.