Blog - nathankphotography

Idyllic Swimming Spot

I try as much as I can not to bore readers of my blog with posting images from the same location over and over again. I must apologise for posting another image from our day tip to Te Arai point a few months ago. 

The lagoon at Te Arai is the ideal swimming spot. It especially good for those that like to swim in the sea but don't want to be in the rough open water. The waves break at the mouth of the lagoon leaving the lagoon with tranquil water perfect for an afternoon swim at high tide. I did not partake of the swimming since I had bigger fish to fry.

The image was a long exposure panorama with an exposure time of 10s at f/11, ISO 100. I used a 10-stop ND filter to achieve the exposure time even though the sun was high up in the sky. The light is not flattering at that time of the day so to get some interest I wanted to blur the waves and also use the long exposure to get rid of some of the other people who were on the beach. Now since I started with making confessions, I must confess that I did clone out a few people that were on the beach that I felt were a distraction. Given the beauty of this lagoon I doubt there would be many times where just two people would find themselves swimming in the lagoon. 

The Gannets at Muriwai

Landscape photographers are always going back to locations they have shot before. A different perspective and different weather and light conditions can completely change a scene. One of my favourite spots is Muriwai on Auckland's rugged west coast. Muriwai is about a 45 minute drive from central Auckland and is a seascape photographers paradise.

My previous composition was a few years ago when panoramic photography wasn't my go to format. This time I wanted to capture the whole scene so opted for a pano. I thought about waiting for the sun to set but later decided it was a good compositional element. I changed my normal f-stop from f/11 to f/22 to get the sun-star effect. The gannet colony provides a foreground element and the sea stack holds the middle ground.

When I compare this shot to my previous one a few years ago, I prefer this one. 

Te Arai Point

Our first attempt to get to Te Arai Point ended with us making a detour to the Cheese Factory and Puhoi. For a couple of year now I had Te Arai on one of the places I wanted to photograph but just never found the opportunity to go there. Now that we were experiencing some of the hottest temperatures for a New Zealand summer we thought it would be a good thing to head to the beach. What better beach than one that has been listed as one of the top ten beaches in New Zealand.

Te Ara is a about an hour drive north of central Auckland. The drive takes you past Warkworth and through lush green farmland. The last few kilometres are on gravel roads, so  trip to the car wash is a must after your visit. The beach itself stretches for miles all the way to Mangawhai (also a great spot) and is a surfers paradise. The surf may not be world class but from my perspective the many surfers that were there seemed to be loving it. The highlight for me has to be the natural lagoon on the left of the picture which is a nice spot to swim without having to bear the brunt of the ferocious waves.

The beach on the left hardly has any surfers due to the sharp rocks, I think that in a addition to the wide sweeping seascape photography this beach is great long exposure photography. I took this visit as a scouting trip, after all we were there at the middle of the day and the light was not flattering. I think this place would look amazing at sunrise, so I plan to go back when the days get shorter to capture a sunrise and do justice to it. For now enjoy the long exposure panorama of Te Arai Point.

Orc Battlefield

I haven't posted in a while and this time I have a good reason. I hadn't done much photography of late and one Sunday afternoon I decided I should probably go out and just take some photos, my plan was to shoot a long exposure cityscape with the harbour in the foreground and the sky tower framed by the pillars that hold up the Harbour Bridge. I found my spot easily enough and proceeded to setup my camera on a tripod in the dry sand. I placed my bag right next to my camera and then noticed that a wave was approaching that seemed to be bigger than all the others that I had seen in the time that I had been at the location. The wave kept coming and looked like it was going to soak my bag. Instinctively I went to grab my bag thinking the camera would be alright on the tripod (which I had taken extra care to push into the sand), I managed to get my bag out of the way just in the nick of time. 

As I placed my bag in a safe spot I turned and saw my tripod with camera and lens attached start to topple into the surf. By the time I got to it the camera had been in the water for a good few seconds and was dripping wet and every crevice was occupied by sand. My years of watching YouTube videos came in handy and I immediately pulled out the battery and was glad to see that the battery compartment was still dry. Disappointed at headed back to car with not a single frame being exposed. I could see moisture in the lens and really thought this was the end of it. I tried to dry the camera and lens as much as I could and decided to head back home. When I got home I tried the camera and to mu surprise it worked fine. As a precaution I called my insurance company and they advised me to put in a claim and have the gear replaced, so long story short that what I did and so that was my excuse for taking so long to post, the sea ate my camera.

When I went to the south island last August there was so much to photograph in the short time that I was there. This photo was taken from a rock that seemed to be used a lot by rock climbers just a short drive from Castle Hill. Looking at the image now I really wish I had the time to explore the rocky outcrop in the top left of the image. I am sure that photos from that spot would have been awesome. Although I had hoped for blue skies I was actually quite pleased with the dark ominous clouds that hung around that entire day. Just looking at the scene I cannot help but expect to see marauding armies of orcs.  

Maori Lakes

I love going off the beaten track, there is something to be said about capturing the cliche tourist shot but it gets more magical when you capture images in locations where the average tourist doesn't go. 

I had always wanted to visit this Ashburton Lakes area in Canterbury. The roads to the area are sealed will you really get off the beaten track then its you and the gravel road. The area is mostly farmland but the view are simply stunning. There were no tourists to be seen and I had the entire place to myself. 

I took this shot on my way back from Lake Heron. This is one of two lakes that are collectively known as Maori Lakes.

Family portrait

In stark contrast to the huge panoramas that dominate my portfolio I really enjoy doing macro work. I don't do enough macro and I really need to make a conscious effort to look for the tiny little gems that I so often overlook.

A few months ago my local camera club arranged an outing to a local park to do some macro. I struggled to find fungi that day but when I found this little cluster I was smitten. I struggled to come up with a composition and even when I eventually found one I struggled to capture the image the way that I imagined it in my mind's eye.

Normally with natural history photography you need to to name the species, I have to be honest, I have no clue what these are. I just thought they looked beautiful as a group and deserved to be captured. I don't own a macro lens, this was shot using my 50mm f/1.8 (aka plastic fantastic) and a set of cheap extension tubes that I got from Ali Express. I must admit that a macro lens would have made the job much easier and probably better quality but just goes to show you don't need expensive gear to get decent results.

Lion City's DNA

On  recent work trip I had a 14 hour layover in one of my favourite cities in the world, Singapore. I was not going to roam around the duty free shops at Changi Airport for 14 hours and not go insane so I decided I would go into the city armed with my camera and tripod. All I had was harsh lighting so in my mind I went thinking of black and white shots. I intended to make long exposure shots with a 10-stop ND filter but I realised while i was on my trip that although I had not forgotten to pack my filter I had forgotten the filter holder. I was not going to buy another expensive filter holder just so I could get minute long exposures in broad daylight. 

I had no option but to adapt, so instead of going with my usual f/11 setting I had to go all the way down to f/22 and with the ND filter that I had I managed to get exposures around 1.5 seconds, which allowed a bit of smoothing of the water, better than nothing.

The bridge in the foreground is called the DNA bridge, it is basically a double helix made out of stainless steel. The DNA bridge leads to the famous Marina Bay Sands hotel on the left and the ArtScience Museum which is the white odd looking building. The towers of the Marina Bay Financial District provide the background.

The image is a bracketed panorama, pre-processed in Lightroom and Photoshop as normal and the black and white treatment done in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.

Harper River Valley

The south island of New Zealand is a truly magical place, if I could I would move there in a flash. Last weekend I had a couple of days to adventure through the mountains. The weather was not fantastic but even with dark clouds looming the wonder of the Southern Alps didn't disappoint. 

I took this shot on the way back from a detour to Lake Coleridge. We parked up on the side of the gravel road and walk up a small ridge to get a bit of elevation. As we were on the ridge a farmer passed on the road below in a pickup truck, the scene just reminded me of the New Zealand farming show Country Calendar. 

Lake Coleridge is off the beaten track, on State Highway 73 just before you get to Castle Hill take a left onto a dirt road and drive for about 20km. The gravel road is not the best of roads and the little rental Toyota Corolla that I had did a decent job handling the terrain. The views along the way are stunning and there were many spots to stop and capture some good images. The Harper River is one of two rivers that feed into Lake Coleridge. The lake is a glacial lake which was the first hydoelectric power station commissioned by the New Zealand government and was completed in 1914. The elevation of the lake  (170m) above the Rakaia River meant that only gravity was needed to drive the power station.

I spent a couple of days in the mountains, I took this as a kind of scouting trip. My hope is that one day I would go back and spend a few days capturing the landscapes.

The Lonely Fisherman

Auckland's North Shore is the cityscape photographers dream. I have been meaning to explore the area and shoot the city from the many locations on the shore. I finally managed to head out there last Sunday, I left a little early so I could scope out a composition before sunset. It didn't take me long to find this old pier which I thought would make good leading lines towards the city. When I arrived there was no one there and I thought this would be perfect. Before long a few fishermen showed up, the first couple seemed to be using the fishing as an excuse for a date, they didn't last very long and I didn't see them catch anything but water.

One guy seemed like he was quite an avid angler, given how cold it was. My intention was to just keep shooting and then clone him out in post but when I got home and processed the image I thought it looked better with a human element and so he made it into the image. I quite liked the image with a person in it. I had intended to keep shooting until there were more lights in the city but I just couldn't stand the chilly weather and decided that getting frost bite for an image would not be worth it.

So how did I come up with this composition? Well my thought was to use the pier as leading lines leading the eye to the city. The main elements for me were the Sky Tower and the fisherman so I tried to place these on opposing thirds.

Queens Wharf

Winter is not a particularly fun time for me to go out and shoot which explains my lack of posts in the last few weeks. I am planning a trip down to the South Island next month and that usually yields a rather large bounty of photos, so watch this space for those in the coming months.

I have shot at Queens Wharf before and the photo that I got there was one of my more successful ones. I wanted to go back and see if I could get better lighting conditions in the morning. I was hoping to have the sun rise behind me lighting up the buildings but as ai drove into tow the clouds started to gather so that shot will have to wait for another day. I proceeded to shoot anyway and this is the result. The building in the foreground is a multi-pupose events centre called The Cloud, it was built for the 2011 Rugby world cup. It's one of those structures that I find fascinating and will probably shoot more of in the future.

Playing with fire

A few weeks ago my friend and I went out to a nearby beach to do the one thing that our mothers always told us not to do, play with fire. I have seen so many photographers create these images and always wanted to try it myself. Our plan was to get to the beach early try and photograph the steel wool before the sun came up but while were there we witnessed an epic array of colour so I decided I wanted to try something different than what I had seen others do.

I decided to create a panorama and combine that with an image of the steel wool. This proved rather difficult to achieve in camera so in the end I photographed the panorama on it's own and blended the fire into the shot. I was quite pleased with the result.

I took a real liking for playing with steel wool that this will probably not be the last time I will try this sort of shot.

For those who are interested the photo was taken at Point England in Auckland. The fire shot was taken in Bulb mode and exposed for as long as the fire was going, for the panorama I went to my default settings f/11, ISO 100 and three bracketed shots.

Bathed in the morning sun

Cornwall Park is a very popular spot for Auckland residents. The park is in many ways a gift to the people pf Auckland. The park was gifted to the city by Sir John Logan in 1901 with a wish that every New Zealander would enjoy it forever. 

I have been thinking of taking some photos of the park in autumn when the colours are changing. On this particular morning I arrived at the park before it opened for cars. I parked a few blocks away and walked into the dark park and waited for the sun to come up. I wanted to get a wide panorama of the park and when I saw the sun peaking through the trees I knew I had to add the sun as a compositional element.

Morning has broken

I have never once got up in the morning to catch the sunrise and come back disappointed, even when the light is not good I always enjoy being up and watching the breaking of a new day. My most intimate times of worship around this time.

Last week me and a mate of mine decided to try out some long exposure with fire, yes you heard right, two grown men playing with fire and cameras. More of the fire photos in upcoming posts.

We were about to head home after the fire session and when saw this tree in the reserve that was just begging to be photographed. So I decided to take one more shot, it turned out to the the shot that I liked the most from that whole morning. The colour in the sky had been more intense just minutes earlier but for me it was the thin layer of fog that really made the image for me. The more I look at this image the more I seem to fall in love with it. 

When I come home with images like this, it just gives me the energy to want to do it again. I am so looking forward to doing more of these before it gets too cold and look forward to sharing them with you.

Last Rays Over Muriwai

A couple of weeks ago I saw something pop up in my Facebook feed about a meetup being organised by the makers of the popular photography app PhotoPills. I didn't have the app on my phone because it wasn't available for Android. I decided I wanted to go anyway and see whether or not it would be worth it for me to get the beta version of the android software that had just been released. 

It didn't take me long to be convinced that I needed to get the app. In fact I ended up buying the app before the meetup started after getting a run though it from the PhotoPills guy. My first attempt at using the app was to plan the shot above. I used the app to figure out the position of the sunset over the gannet colony at Muriwai. I don't think I have ever tried a shot like thins before where I am shooting straight into the sun. It was a rather challenging shot so I decided to shoot at f/22 to get that sun star effect. I shot with a 10-stop ND filter to get the blurry water. After trying this once I think I may want to have another attempt at this again sometime soon.

As for the PhotoPills app, I have been using it for the past couple of weeks now and I am hooked, it now has a permanent spot on my home screen and it will take a lot for it to be removed from there, well worth the $15 price tag.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

I miss home, there I said it. One of the downsides of being an immigrant is that there are times when you just want to go home, in Shona we would say "Ndafunga Dande". I am sure that a trip home will happen hopefully sooner rather than later.

The last time I went home what just before we moved from Malaysia to New Zealand in 2013. I was fortunate to have design the airfield lighting at Victoria Falls International Airport and as part of that assignment I got to visit the town. I was in town for a couple of days which gave me sometime to go and view what I am convinced is the most majestic waterfall in the world.

My photography at the time was in it's infancy. So even though I shot hundreds of photos, many of them were plagued by juvenile mistakes like shooting at f/3.5 and not focussing properly. I was thinking of these photos in the last few weeks so I decided to dig out the folder and see if my editing techniques could salvage some of them. I managed to find a few that by sheer luck were decent, this is the first of the ones I plan to edit over the coming weeks. 

I would really love to go home and photograph Vic Falls and come back with some epic images, I guess I will just have to be patient. 

This image although in the panoramic format, it was not originally shot that way. It is cropped from a single 3 exposure frame so the resolution is nowhere near what I am shooting these days. I hope you like this image and appreciate the beauty that Zimbabwe has been endowed with.

The morning of two suns

Summer is always harder for me to get up and try and photograph at sunrise, that's because here in New Zealand sunrise in summer is really early. The closer we get to Autumn, sunrise tends to be later and later in the day, so I expect I will start getting up to catch the magical light that appears at the crack of dawn. I have not done much photography at sunrise this year. This photo was  probably my first sunrise in a while.

I didn't get what I would call an epic image. As the sun rose behind the city I noticed there was a reflection coming off one of the buildings that mad it look as though we were on some strange planet that had two sunrises. I thought this was cool so I captured the image above.

The Dunes of Hamilton's Gap

If you read my previous post you will have seen the photo that I took of the sea stack at Hamilton's Gap. Just a few metres away from that location, looking in the other direction this is what you see. The giant sand dunes that shelter the farmland beyond from the ravaging west coat winds and waves. 

Hamilton's Gap is one of those places that has a thousand photos waiting to be captured so I am sure I will be back for more. I am thinking of doing some astro photography there later in the year when the milky way gets in the right place for shots to the west. 

On the day that I took the photo there were a lot of people on the beach, many of them where fishermen.I had to do quite a bit of work in post processing to get rid of cars and people from the image. 

Hamilton's Gap

A few weeks ago we decided to drive out to the lighthouse on the south head of the Manukau Harbour. The drive itself is stunning, the road weaves through some awe inspiring valleys and views that are just breathtaking. We had done the drive before but we were in a hurry and had always thought of doing it again with more time on our hands.

On the way back we detoured via a beach called Hamilton's Gap. Like all of the west coast beaches this one was rugged and full of character. The rocks on one of the beach we calling out for a long exposure so out came the 10-stop ND filter and the result is this panorama. Hamilton's beach is one of those places that requires you to spend some time there, the sand dunes and the rocks provide numerous compositions. I will be going back and stay for a sunset and maybe even try some milky way photography.

Tamaki Drive

These first few weeks of the year I have been determined to take a photograph of the city from Orakei Wharf on Tamaki Drive (I am now on attempt number four). Many may be surprised to know that a lot of my images are never first time hits. What do I mean by this? The way I come up with my compositions usually starts with me finding a location either via Google Maps or I drive past a spot and decide there is a potential photograph to be taken. Then I go away and think through a composition which ends up with me going to try and take the image. My first attempt is usually not quite to my liking (and I am my own worst critic, I think), so I go again and again and again until one day I come back with an image that I like well enough to share with the world.

The image I am sharing today went through the same process. In fact this one has been in the making for at least two years. The funny thing with me is that I keep all my attempts tucked away on one of my hard drives (don't ask me why but I do). I have been to this spot on countless occasions and each time something was not quite right. On our way home from Orakei Wharf we took a wrong turn and our accidental diversion took us past this spot again. I had been out too long and the family wanted to get home but as we drove past the composition looked almost as I had envisioned it in my mind's eye. My family graciously allowed me to stop and shoot this image of Auckland draped in the blue hues of blue hour. Although not quite perfect (which probably means one more trip back there), I am happy to share this image of the city I call my home.

The image was taken from Paratai Drive, overlooking Tamaki Drive and it sweeps towards the city, the bright lights to the left of the image are from Auckland's Port. As usual I shot this as a 6 frame panorama.

The Lonely Pohutukawa

A few months ago my family and were on a walk on one of Auckland's eastern beaches when I saw this single Pohutukawa tree. Its location was perfect for a simple image of the tree and the coastline, the only problem was that the tree was not in bloom. I took a mental note to come back once the trees had started blooming and try and do justice to it. In my minds eye I though that the location would work well for a sunrise shot so I ventured out at 4am. I made one mistake, I forgot to check my favourite weather app and as the light came though I realised that it was cloudy and chances of getting an epic sunrise were minimal. I was right. I took the shot anyway because I have learnt that once you get home and post process the images you sometimes find that you quite like them. This turned out to be the case. 

Not 100% satisfied with my image I decided to try again for a sunset (I find these easier to predict than sunrises) and boy did the sky light up. Unfortunately some fishermen had parked their cars right under the tree. I was determined to get the shot so I decided to shoot and then try and remove the cars in post processing. The fishermen, disappointed with their outing decided to leave but by then the best light had gone but the sky was still amazing and the above image is the result. 

I wanted to post both images to give an idea of the differences weather conditions can make to a composition. I am undecided as to which I like better so I will put the question to you. Let me know in the comment box below, which image you prefer and if its not too much trouble why it is that you like it. 

2016 is fast drawing to a close and so I want to wish all the readers of my blog who have supported me in the past year a Happy 2017. Thanks you all once again for your support and encouragement.

Muriwai's Fury

I had a chance to go back to my favourite west coast beach a couple of weeks ago. I love Muriwai because there is so much to photograph there and no matter what time of day and whether the tide is in or out you just never run out of subjects. This time around I had taken some friends to see the famous Auckland beach and couldn't stay for the magical colours of sunset. 

I have been teaching myself to shoot in any conditions and not just trying to get iconic sunrises and sunsets. This forces me to think outside the box. On the day  the waves were huge and despite the blue skies I tried to think of a way to make a decent image out of the conditions. I ended up going with a 10-stop neutral density filter which resulted in a 2.5 second exposure at f/11. Remaining true to what has become my signature form factor, I made it a panorama to capture the sea stack and the black rock on the right in the same image. I could have achieved the same thing with a wide angle lens but I don't think I would have got the same proportions for the foreground.

Helping Conserve New Zealand's National Parks

I get emails from people I don't know quite a lot these days. Many people find my website and send me requests for images or photoshoots. A few months ago I got one such email, when I get these emails I first have to judge whether it's not some African prince needing help redeeming a gazzilion dollars of their inheritance from some Swiss bank account. This one was not that, it came from an organisation that was putting together a book for the New Zealand National Parks and Conservation Foundation

Being a photographer that benefits from capturing images from our national parks I was glad to oblige their request to use one of my images in their book. 

Fast forward a few months I get another email from them with images of the book and how they had used the image. I was completely blown away with what they had done with the image. I am also happy to be doing my bit to help preserve the heritage of the treasure that is our national parks.

Mt Sefton and Mueller Lake

Mt Sefton is the 13th highest peak in New Zealand. Many have made the trip to Mt Cook National Park and mistaken Sefton for Mt Cook which is a little further down the track. At a height of 3,151 metres (10,338 ft), Mount Sefton is the 13th-highest peak in the Southern Alps. Mueller Lake in the foreground is the terminal lake for 13km long Mueller Glacier whose face is hidden from view in this shot. 

I stood at this location for over an hour as I took in the majesty of the landscape. I can never describe in words the feeling of being there, the sounds of ice tumbling down the mountain and the gale force winds that threatened to topple my tripod and the sideways rain that came almost out of nowhere. Being there, one with nature is what makes landscape photography so much fun for me.