Blog - nathankphotography

Auckland Harbour Bridge

I have shot a similar image before, I wanted to go back to this spot to see if the weather could make a different image. I was not disappointed, I think the clouds and the new lights on the harbour bridge made a real difference to the image.

I still have to go back one more time for a different composition that I did not have the time to capture.

The wonder and majesty

Space has fascinated me since I was about ten years old. For a few years growing up, we lived in rural Zimbabwe in the shadow of the Mavhuradonha mountains and the one thing I recall was how vibrant and vivid the night sky was. Looking up at the canvas of the milky way always filled me with awe. Three decades later I am still amazed at the beauty of the night sky.

We live in Auckland which is a fairly big city, this means light pollution, which means you can't really see the stars in all their majesty. To see the night sky I have to drive out of town to escape the city lights. The most accessible spot for me is Magazine Bay just south of the village of Maraetai.

The wharf at magazine bay provides good foreground interest for the Milky Way. I had been planning to photograph the night sky for a few months now, but the conditions just would not line up. If the sky was dark enough being Auckland, it probably would have been raining, or if the sky was clear the moon would be so bright making the milky way hard to see, let alone photograph.

Last Friday all the holes in the cheese lined up and so I went out with great anticipation. I have said this about many other genres of photography but astrophotography is very challenging. You are trying to figure out where the buttons on the camera are in pitch darkness and at the same time making sure that you have focussed the shot properly. 

As usual, I made a panorama of the scene in front of me, this one was seven frames across. I realised after I got home that I had made one major error, I had forgotten to turn off the image stabilisation on my lens and so the images did not turn out quite as sharp as I would have hoped. 

My fascination with space and the night sky will for sure lead me back to try my hand at this a few more times. My settings for the image above where f/2.8, ISO 2500 and a shutter speed of 20 seconds.               

Darkness and Light

I learnt a valuable lesson yesterday, it had been raining most of the afternoon. I had planned to use some free time to go to my favourite spot on the west coast to capture some landscapes. As I drove there I couldn't help but think this would be a total waste of time but since I was going to be near the west coast anyway I decided I would keep going. I figured at best this would turn into country drive. 

As I parked my car the deluge hit. I decided to wait it out and see if it was just passing and sure enough it was. As the rain stopped I could see the sun peeking out, it was not going to be for long as the next storm was clearly on its way in. I grabbed my camera and took a series of shots that turned into this panorama. I love the contrast of dark menacing rain clouds to the left and sun giving a final farewell for the day.

So what was the lesson? Well sometimes you look out the window and think, it's raining is there any point going out? I say just do it, you just never know when you will get that short break in the weather and get that one image that you could never capture in any other conditions. So when in doubt whether to go out and shoot, just do it.

For this image I had to change my settings a little. I made a decision to shot at f/22, f/11 would not get me the star burst effect on the sun. The second decision I made was to change my bracketing from -2,0,+2 to -3,0,+3 so I could capture as much of the dynamic range as possible. The left hand side of the image was so bright compared to the left and with my normal bracketing sequence I would never have captured the detail on both sides. In hindsight I think I should have bracketed 5 shots.


Of the major Auckland west coast beaches I had been to all except one. I think I saved the best for last. We had a free Saturday, so we decided we would drive across town to the west coast and explore Anawhata. 

Located north of the more popular Piha beach, Anawhata is a little bit off the tourist trail only because it is not as easy to get to. Unlike Piha where you drive down to the beach, Anawhata requires you to trek down some rather steep terrain go get to it. The way down is hard on the knees and the way up hard on the entire physique. 

Once you get down there you will not be disappointed, the place has photography opportunities galore. A couple of see stacks are an immediate attraction, I had to scale a small hill to capture this image. The weather was overcast on the day so I decided to go with the 10 stop ND filter to capture a long exposure panorama. 

Other features are the hole in the cliff which could be used to frame the sea stacks. At low tide there are opportunities to capture the crabs and starfish hiding in the rocks. I would love to go back to Anawhata and do some milky way photography but the thought of the walk back up to the car park makes me think twice about doing it again.