Every time I travel, even for work, I always make sure to carry my camera and tripod with me. On most of my visits, I find time in the evenings to head out and do some photography. I had to make a quick trip to London recently. I had just over three days in the UK, the time was packed with stuff to do so there was a very real chance that photography would not find a slot in the schedule.
I arrived at Gatwick at midday and thought that spending the afternoon would not be a good idea, after 27 hours of travelling I would likely fall asleep and not adjust well. So I decided to head to central London and at least try and get the iconic Big Ben shot, I had forgotten that I had heard somewhere that there was work being done on Big Ben. I arrived to see the place covered in scaffold, not so good for the iconic image I was hoping to get. So as the sun started setting I thought of capturing this shot. I had to chop the houses of parliament to avoid the hideous scaffolding.
The image was shot from the Westminster Bridge looking south to towards Vauxhall. I was fortunate the sky lit up and produced a plethora of colour. This ended up being the only image I came back with from London.
First light on Mt Sefton
A few weeks ago I had the chance to go back to one of my favourite photography locations in New Zealand, the majestic Hooker Valley. On this cold morning, I drove in the dark and got to the start of the Hooker Valley track before sunrise. I must have been the first person walking the track, the things we do to get good light. My aim was to photograph Mt Sefton with pink hues on the peaks, the colours were not quite what I saw in my mind's eye but I was happy with the image nonetheless.
I shot this as a two-row panorama. I worked from left to right for the top row then right to left for the bottom row. I had to work really fast to keep the lighting consistent across the image.
Cyril Bassett VC Lookout
I am my own harshest critic. Many times I take photos that never get seen beyond the camera's preview screen. I get home and just don't like them so they never get published.
The opposite is when I go out and shoot and immediately fall in love with the image. I am always on the lookout for different vantage points to shoot cityscapes of Auckland. One such lookout was Cyril Bassett VC Lookout at Stanley Point on the North Shore. The reserve itself is a tiny piece of land named after the veteran soldier who frequented the spot to view the city.
I can understand why Cyril Bassett enjoyed this spot, it has become one of my favourite vantage points for a view of the city. This particular day I thought I might get some colour in the sky at sunset when that did not happen I thought I would wait till blue hour and that when I got this shot. I shot this as a two-row panorama. It is composed of 26 individual images for a total of 17212 x 5738 pixels, that's 98 megapixels. It's not quite as detailed as I would have liked but shooting a multi-level panorama in rapidly changing light is not easy so I decided to limit the number of images.
I fell in love with the result so much that I will be making a large format print of my adopted city to go in our living room.
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.