No moon, no worries

No moon, no worries

2860-61. No moon, no worries, 8.49-8.50pm, 26 October 2015

The city by evening can have plenty of light for night photography, either diffused from street lights or reflected by low cloud. So if your moon disappears from view, look for other possibilities. In this case, an unusual streak of light came from student quarters just over the fence, while the cloud is coloured by sodium street lighting. The pasture adjoins a historic reserve (an old pa site to the right) above Te Henui Stream and borders the city cemetery on the left. This evening I had the place all to myself – except for the sheep. Two telephoto images make up this panorama; double click on the scene for a larger view.

85mm; ISO 500 / 1000. 30 seconds @ f5.6 and f8.


A pastoral pocket, at night

2866. Urban pastorale, at night

2866. A pastoral pocket, at night. 8.59pm, 26 October 2015

By twilight I checked out this pastoral slope above the valley of the Henui, within New Plymouth city. A good length of pasture stretches from the river reserve up and over one old pa site to another well preserved one, next to WITT. This part of the paddock is bordered by a student hostel (whose lights streak the grass) and the town cemetery (behind the macrocarpas). I was in luck with some sheep to people the landscape; they were watchful and a little nervous, but not enough to flee the scene – a telephoto lens kept me at a suitable distance. Low cloud reflected city lights, but regrettably the full moon had just risen into the cloud.

85mm; ISO 500. 30 seconds @ f5.6


Te Henui ti kouka, 1 & 2

2791. Te Henui ti kouka

2791 & 2794. Te Henui ti kouka in flower, by moonlight. 25 October 2015

Usually I try to avoid subtlety, but these two images a short interval apart demonstrate the use of flash. In the scene above – the steep flank of an old pa above the Te Henui in New Plymouth – the flash has a fill-in function but also highlights the central tree trunk. The image below gives away my vantage point, one of the two new (2013) footbridges on the walkway. Here the flash illuminates the railings but is not strong enough to highlight the background. It’s a startling shot but I prefer the straight one above. A perfect spring evening, it was quite still in the sheltered valley, with the rising moon waxing at 90%. This was our most enchanting pause on the walkway, one open to the moonlight and enhanced by the heady scent of the cabbage trees.


28mm; ISO 500 & 1000. 30 seconds @ f5.6; @ f8.

Cool majesty from Waingongoro

DSC_2758. Cool majesty, on Waingongoro Rd, South Taranaki

2758. Cool majesty from Waingongoro Rd, Taranaki. 1.47pm, 17 October 2015

Two problems in volcano camerawork are vacant skies and the huge gap in exposure values between the snowy elevations and the green landscape below. Here with patchy cloud and silhouettes is an answer to this creative challenge. Lacking as it does spring lambs (and mint) this image does not quite reach the bar, yet I find its ellipsis strangely appealing… On the approach, in a clear sign of ascending middle age, I was more concerned with the wear of the gravel road on my tyres than with how the icy edifice might loom in my viewfinder. The cold sou-wester also dampened my interest, but what I like in this half-submerged image is a mistake in my colour temperature setting (Sodium vapour lamps), which still leaves its mark. It’s all a happy accident, in other words.

85mm; ISO 250. f11 at 1000th sec.

NEWS: My expo banner in China

PF Pingyao 2015 Title banner

My 1980 image Shrouds was recently used on the New Zealand banner at the Pingyao International Photography Festival, a big show in which NZ photographers participated under the title: “Collective Passion – Singular Visions, PhotoForum – A New Zealand Legacy”. Over 70 NZ images were shown at the festival, which opened on 19 September at Pingyao Ancient City, Shanxi Province.

Ian McDonald, co-ordinator for the NZ show, explains that “PIP is considered the most important photography festival in China and is certainly the biggest. All the major gallery dealers and curators in China visit as well a huge influx of visitors who pack the bullet trains down from Beijing. There is a large and sophisticated tourist industry in Pingyao Ancient City, which is why the festival is so well supported by the Government. Large numbers of very keen and well informed students tour the exhibition, which takes at least two days of fairly intensive viewing.”

For more on this show:


Whakawhitiwhiti Pa, at night

2711. Whakawhitiwhiti Pa

2711. Whakawhitiwhiti Pa, at night. 9.05pm, 28 September 2015

A futile gesture in the top fosse of this stronghold, conspicuous in New Plymouth’s western suburbs. The pa is high but I was sober – indeed the chill sou’wester was sobering, so a hip flask would’ve been welcome. The pa’s history is not accessible online and as it is barely mentioned in the standard works on Taranaki history, it was likely long abandoned by 1828, when the first Europeans arrived at the Sugar Loaves. Its preservation was only assured in 1989; today the pa overlooks suburbs at every turn – but the views are great. It is an impressive sight for visitors, although actually little visited.

28mm; ISO 500. 30 seconds at f5.6


2016 Calendar: Taranaki cattle


MARCH 2016: Naked mountain, Arawhata Rd; Opunake district

In an earlier post I asked “Where are the cows?”, meaning cattle of course, as Taranaki is host to thousand of beef cattle, as well as its emblematic dairy cows. However, these two images are the only nod in their direction in my 2016 calendar – an oversight, possibly. Yet it is surprising how few herds are seen along the roadside, and a good deal of pasture is now strip-gazed, a practice lacking in pictorial charm. See previous posts for calendar details, and how to order.


NOVEMBER 2016: Cloud hugger, Manaia highway.

13 Views: 2016 Calendar samples


JULY 2016: Maude Rd moonlight, Kaimiro district

Three samples from my new calendar for 2016: 13 Views of Mt Taranaki, North Island, New Zealand. The two below are by daylight but all three aim to show the textures of the Taranaki landscape. The question remains: Where are the cows?? Their surprising absence will be rectified in another post shortly.


SEPTEMBER 2016: Tumahu, Wiremu Rd; Okato district

The two images above were taken as monochromes, and a tint added later. Many different treatments are possible. Taranaki people never tire of looking at their mountain in its changing aspects and (peekaboo) pride of place, but the challenge is to convey a sense of it within the landscape. Please see earlier posts for more details, and for news of the photo book that this calendar relates to.


OCTOBER 2016: Spring snowfall, Maude Rd

36 Views: sample spreads


14. Moonlit shroud, Kaitake foothills. Late May

My new book, 36 Views, begins with a January scene and takes us through the year to December, from around the mountain. It’s a prototype, short-run edition but I’m impressed with the printer’s efforts – and grateful for daughter Pachali’s input from Wellington. Each photo has its own spread; double click on the images for larger views.


22. Evening glow, wintry blow; Minarapa Rd, Okato. Late June

Dedicated to my mother Gwen, who received an advance copy on her 90th birthday, the book’s given me good excuse to explore many local byways and viewpoints. A short introduction is followed by a seasonal progression of views in a simple but elegant layout.. The full title locates the mountain for overseas readers: 36 Views of Mt Taranaki, North Island, New Zealand. Price $35 plus $2.50 p&p within NZ or Australia. Orders to Fifty copies only are available in this trial run.


23. The good life; Manganui Rd, Midhirst. Early July

NEWS: 49 Views of Mt Taranaki


Two productions launching at the same time! The 49 views are spread between my new photo book (36 Views of Mt Taranaki) and a 2016 calendar, 13 Views of Mt Taranaki. Both are inspired by the famous Japanese works of Hokusai (c.1830) and Hiroshige (1852 & 1858), all issued under the same title, 36 Views of Mt Fuji. These showed the noble peak from many angles and seasons.

The new book is in softcovers, 21 x 22.5cm, with white wire binding. The first edition is just 50 copies, each signed. There are 76 pages, one image to a spread. It is entirely in colour, and shows the mountain in its landscape from a variety of viewpoints and times of the day (and night!). It will appeal to anyone with strong Taranaki associations – visitors and residents alike.

Price is $35, plus $2.50 postage within New Zealand or Australia. Order 2 books for $65, all up (post-free within NZ & Australia). Sample pages will be posted soon.


My 2016 fine art calendar owes its title to its extra cover pic; there is no duplication and the 13 images are not taken from the book.The images are well textured and nicely tinted. I doubt that there has been a contemporary calendar issued in monochrome for some decades, but my subject matter carries it off.

The calendar comes with a posting envelope. Price $17.50, plus $2.50 postage. Order 2 calendars for $33, all up (post-free within NZ & Australia). Please order from me directly at and I will confirm promptly with method of payment.



2016 Calendar pre-announcement


8646. Front cover, 2016 Calendar

With my new photo book 36 Views of Mt Taranaki to be released shortly, it seemed obvious to have our 2016 calendar feature the mountain too. Not so obvious was the decision not to use anything from the book and to turn the images into fine art monochromes – although not strictly black&white, as the image above shows. A few are B&W originals but most have been stripped of their colour data. The tones and textures of the peak lend themselves well to this treatment. I will have more news on the calendar and on the new book shortly.

Abstract 2: Pukearuhe rockface

DSC_23932393. Abstract 2: Pukearuhe rockface. 4.06pm, 31 July 2015

My interest in these stripes was partly spurred by my SO’s work in creative fibre, designing woven creations with striking bands of colour. The strong reflections here are in the surface topography. This is very close-up by telephoto standards and the wide f-stop only just copes; a better depth of field would be achieved with a faster ISO and slower shutter speed. However I had set out without tripod – as I often do when my photography is secondary to a social outing. Even for an exposure of 1/500th I used the self-timer at 2 seconds to delay exposure slightly, reducing the risk of camera shake, something that is magnified with telephotos.

85mm; ISO 250. 1/500th @ f3.5

Abstract 1: Pukearuhe rockface

DSC_2359Abstract 1: Pukearuhe, north Taranaki. 1.46pm, 31 July 2015

I  have photographed these cliffs before but only occasionally, as they are an hour north of New Plymouth on a side road, and access is strictly tidal. The beach changes from sand to rocks with the seasons, while recent rain makes a difference to the rockface patterns observed. Here we’re looking at a well-watered part of the cliff at about eye-level, with much reflected early afternoon sunlight. I selected a low ISO for maximum effect but also a high shutter speed, to avoid any risk of camera shake with a heavy telephoto.

85mm; ISO 250. 1/640th @ f11.

Tic tac toe: Your move

Sundown beefs, Kaihoka

Tic tac toe: your move. Golden Bay, 7 January 2012, 9.33pm

When they get bored with pasture, cattle can freely roam these dunes at Kaihoka, but it looked like these ones were pondering their next move in a game of tic tac toe. Taken after sundown, my flash has caught their eyes and added form to blackness. This effect is different from the red-eye syndrome of old party snaps, but I know not why. The half hour after sunset is an excellent time to mix light sources, while unusual adjacencies also add interest. The colour temperature was boosted for this series, to offset the cool twilight.

85mm, ISO 2000. 1/3s at f8. 10,000 deg K

Moonlit margin, Taranaki

Moonlit panorama, Taranaki

Moonlit margin, Taranaki. 27 August 2015, 9.50 – 9.51pm

In Taranaki a calm, clear night with a waxing moon is not to be ignored – but rather than drive around, I sometimes prefer to walk out and see what turns up, as pastoral peace on the city margins is not too far away. This two-frame panorama of contented cattle sums up my evening, although my cold, wet feet also made themselves felt by this point. My new photo book on Mt Taranaki will feature day and night photography, but only in standard frame images – no scope for panoramas! Double click on the image for a larger view.

50mm, ISO 250. 30 secs at f4 for each.

“She’s beaut”, on Carrington Rd

"She's beaut", on Carrington Rd

2447. “She’s beaut”, on Carrington Rd, near New Plymouth. 12 August 2015, 5.24pm

A large tract of country south and west of New Plymouth is sheltered from the prevailing westerlies by two forested ranges, the Pouakai and Kaitake. Our mountain shows above these hills (sometimes) as one travels in their lee; this is where the road first meets the forest of the national park. A passing local called out his approval as I stopped on the roadside for this shot (one taken too late to include in my new photo book), but the sunlight was fleeting and the bird soon flew off. With the city nearby, these rustic roadsides have been steadily superseded by upmarket, lifestyle blocks.

85mm, ISO 1000. 1/500th at f8

Lahar landscape, Stent Rd

Lahar landscape, Stent Rd

2037. Lahar landscape, Stent Rd, Warea. 24 June 2015, 3.24pm

Since our return to Taranaki at the end of May I have been preoccupied with a photo project on our local peak, formerly known as Egmont. Mt Taranaki (as it’s now called) is well overdue for a photo book, and why not one to answer 36 Views of Mt Fuji, Hokusai’s famous collection of prints of Japan’s highest mountain? So I set out to put together 36 Views of Mt Taranaki, which I will publish next month. The new book is dedicated to my mother, Gwen Brewster, who celebrated her 90th birthday two weeks ago. She now has the only copy – an advance proof. This out-take was shot in a strong, frigid SWer, whose discomfort I removed from this sunny scene in post-pro.

135mm, ISO 500. 1/1250s at f9


Rivulet of time: Dreams of a small figure

1116 Rivulets of time: Dreams of a young girl

1116 Rivulet of time: Dreams of a small figure.

This uncommon scene is a reprise on my earlier visit, also in May (2009), with the Holy Virgin. Although we’d had some rain before this secular occasion, my obliging figurine held her position well on the edge of the abyss, and so my only task was to administer the correct amount of torchlight. The location is just below the old weir at the Brook Street reservoir, Nelson. A waxing moon had cleared the manuka above, but moonlight here is lost in strong LED torchlight (the moonlight was not lost on my hi-vis vest, however, and my daughter quickly found me once the nearby comfort of the car had palled). LED lighting is quite cool, like daylight, so I’ve added some warmth in post-processing – the photo equivalent of a teaspoon of tumeric in the dinner pan.

28mm; ISO 500. f11 for 30 secs. 8.39 pm, 1 May 2015

Autumn in the Maitai gloom

0973 Maitai twilight, Nelson

0973 Autumn in the Maitai gloom, Nelson. 5.11pm, 26 April 2015

 In late April a quick trip to the Maitai Valley, on the edge of the city, is much easier than the long road to central Otago (where great swathes of lovely poplars and cotoneasters are now gone from our favourite walk at Arrowtown). Although the light balance between flash and background above suggests twilight, this cameo was actually taken half an hour before sundown, in the pre-drizzle gloom of a heavy overcast. Flash is a crude instrument but then so is a hammer – and after a few attempts I felt I had it nailed.

50mm; ISO 250. 1/250th sec @ f7.1. Flash

High tide at Kaikoura

5593 High tide at Kaikoura

5593 High tide at Kaikoura. 8.36pm, 21 February 2011

Looking lately at some of my own images taken in broad sunlight I knew immediately why I do so little of it – the light is so commonplace! Striking images are harder to achieve. At the end of the day however, in evening sunlight or dimming twilight, the world seems transformed – and the landscape changes with the light. Four years ago we were on our way along the Kaikoura waterfront to see the king tide from the wharf, when I took this strange sea, high on the shoreline.

85mm, ISO 100. 5 seconds at f11.

Beach Rd twins, Collingwood

0440 Beach Road, Collingwood

0440 Burnett Range from Collingwood

A cool southerly breezed down the Aorere valley as dark descended on the chief settlement of western Golden Bay. Heading out on Beach Road, away from the village, soon demonstrated the power of microclimate, as around the corner, in the lee of the hill forming a backdrop to the township, there was utter calm. The two photos were taken about 100 metres apart, but with telephoto (135mm) and wide angle (28mm) lenses. Above, 30 seconds; below, 15 seconds – almost too slow to hold the cloud formation. Not surprisingly, clouds move faster on telephoto images than on wide angle ones.

0430 Beach Rd, Collingwood

 0430 Beach Rd, Collingwood

Flotsam on a twilit tide

0679 Flotsam on a twilit tide

0679 Flotsam on a twilit tide, Golden Bay. 8.30pm, 5 March 2015

In photography the golden hour before sunset is followed by the blue hour of developing darkness. The blue cast can be mitigated with a light balance setting above “Direct sunlight”, which in degrees Kelvin measures about 5500. On the Nikon D700 you can choose to a maximum of 10,000 deg. Conversely, the blue cast can be exaggerated with a tungsten or sodium colour balance – each below 4,000 deg K – especially useful if your subject is lit by old style torch, headlight or house lights. However the reflected moonlight shown here has an unmodified light balance, for a simple composition. Selected by my daughters, each independently.

200mm, ISO 500. 5 secs at f16. Direct sunlight light balance.

Yana by the Aorere, Golden Bay

0362 Aorere rivermouth, Golden Bay

0362 Yana by the Aorere, Golden Bay. 8.40pm, 4 March 2015

On a lovely late summer evening I took a break from the moonrise to ask Yana to pose as the highlight for this composition. Flash gives a solid block of colour, as expected. The river mouth is intentionally underexposed, while the fisherman is included to add some depth. My initial jpeg from the RAW file was disappointing and not at all faithful to the limpid tones of the original, so adjustments were made in post-processing. This scene was only a short walk from our accommodation at the Collingwood campground. The township is based on a sandspit but is more famous for its flammability.

28mm, ISO 500. 3 secs at f11

Mystic pool, Whatipu

7753. Mystic pool, Whatipu

7753. Mystic pool, Whatipu. 3.53pm, 12 June 2014

The crowds have gone and the druids have left the rostrum. All the devotees who waited so patiently for immersion are now initiated, have packed their tents and left for the long return to their temples. Soon night will fall and the whole arena will be reclaimed by the hoolie-darkies and fogdogs… etc etc. Movie rights are still available.

85mm, ISO 250. 1/250th sec at f11

Bold sentry, Paritutu evening

3409 Odd conjunction, Paritutu

3409 Bold sentry, Paritutu, New Plymouth. 11.34pm, 21 July 2013

I admit to some anxiety parading a mannequin in a public place late at night, being too old for the art student look, so I was relieved to have this popular venue to myself for the duration. The torso was a gift from my daughter, intended as offset to a female mannequin she admired in one of my old photos. The pot plant is 100% artificial too. Moonlight and port lighting (background) are supplemented with torchlight on my two props. The steps lead to a brutalist viewing platform below Paritutu, the steep volcanic remnant which dominates the local coastline. A cloudlet wandered over, to complete the composition. Not recommended for biscuit tins.

28mm, ISO 2000. 30 sec at f16

Brewster’s Best Assorted

0085 Brewster's Best Assorted

0085 Brewster’s Best Assorted. 9.28pm, 4 February 2015

I believe this is more biscuit tin than chocolate box, which is an elevation of one step in the Brewster Heirarchy of Fine Art. At least it is free of ferns and magnolias. From notes made some years ago I see that the three levels above “Biscuit tin” are deemed as Classic, Iconic and Sublime (also known as “Shock & awe”). In approbation these 5 levels correspond to good, very good, excellent, fave and absolute fave… Moonlight reflections have the same exposure value as clouds typically – that is, higher than city glow, which is minimal here. With a telephoto you can reach into a well lit landscape even when from my own position the moon was completely clouded. The long shutter speed has given clear images of the boats, which surprises me as they usually blur with sea motion.

200mm, ISO 1000. 2.5 sces at f8

Summer moonrise

0020 Moonrise wallpaper

0020 Summer moonrise. 8.54pm, 4 February 2015

A twilight moon always rises over a flat landscape – in lighting terms, at least, after sunset. Two strong aids to composition, much to my liking, are silhouettes and clouds, and only these are a match for the moon’s brightness as night begins to settle. A variety of clouds is always welcome, but too many at once and the moon will be continually ducking in and out of view. This deliberately simple image – very much taken with digital wallpaper in mind – records another routine cosmic occasion, as our fellow traveller looms into the gloom, ready to light a summer’s night [applause].

165mm, ISO 500. 1/10th sec at f8

Evening parade at Waiwhakaiho

9807 Evening parade, Waiwhakaiho

9807 Evening parade at Waiwhakaiho. 8.20pm, 3 February 2015

Clouds strike some marvellous poses, but as they will not hold them the trick is to be ready and waiting. Even better if they are only a side-show to the main act – an anticipated moonrise, for example. A big Nikon zoom lens needs a tripod for best results, especially with a polarising filter. A tripod does restrict you but it allows a much smaller aperture, which helps with overall sharpness after the filter and softness of a zoom lens are taken into account. Using a tripod also ensures a more considered approach, and more level horizons. The polariser, meanwhile, only works from a certain viewpoint, that is, one at roughly 90 deg to the sun. So you might as well stay in the right spot with your tripod.

112mm, ISO 250. 1/60th at f11. Polariser and tripod

Wet feet at the Waiwhakaiho

9797 At the Waiwhakaiho

9797 Wet feet at the Waiwhakaiho. 8.16pm, 3 February 2015

Zoom lenses are very engaging, but the price of their versatility is their typically lacklustre definition, and the extra care required in their use – especially with focus and depth of field. I have found with the Nikon 70-300mm that no really serious work can be undertaken without a tripod, and a self-timer release of 2 to 5 seconds, depending on the focal length and wind strength. Here a slow shutter speed resulted not only from the polariser (effectively 2-stops) and the low ISO but also the need for a small aperture for depth of field. The polariser works wonders on cloud forms at right angles to the sun, which was low to the left. The gulls are enjoying the dog-free side of the river; their beach was soon covered by the incoming tide.

95mm, ISO 250. 1/50th sec at f11. Polariser and tripod

The golf course after dark – pano

Fitzroy Pano, 2 Feb 2015

9978-79 The golf course after dark, New Plymouth. 10.36pm, 3 February 2015

In post-processing I chose two frames which looked doubtful for the auto program to handle, so was agreeably surprised to have them adroitly merged, despite the likely dislocation of fast-moving clouds. I had stopped these on each frame with short exposures; faster shutter speeds were possible but only at wider apertures, which would sacrifice depth of field. City lights fill in the moon-shadow on the left and highlight the macrocarpa trunk and offshore clouds, but to the right is sodium-free, being leeward of the ridge. Human silhouettes would add further interest – one day I must duplicate some people by having them move from one frame to the other in the pause between exposures. Double-click on the image for a closer look.

50mm, ISO 2000. 2.5 secs at f4 for both frames

On the links, Fitzroy full moon

9940.16x9 On the links, Fitzroy

9940 On the links, Fitzroy full moon. 10.05pm, 3 February 2015

Sited as it is on old dunes, the golf course has some pleasant undulations; two stiles on the street suggested a ramble. A potential problem for moonlight photography was the row of sodium nearby – moonlight can’t compete with city lights, but when they are at a good distance some balance can emerge. The two light sources are also far apart in their colour temperatures so an either/or selection must be made on your camera setting (actually not quite true – an intermediate choice is possible, but not as a preset). In this case the warm sodium glow was acceptable and a higher colour temperature ensured a natural look to the clouds. I asked my wife & companion Narumon to stand on the rise and she held her pose very ably while the clouds moved into position. The image has been cropped to 16×9 and now graces my own screen as wallpaper.

50mm, ISO 2000. 2 secs at f4.5

Autumn birch, Eltham

2364 Autumn birch, Eltham

2364 Autumn birch, Eltham, Taranaki. 6.17pm, 4 May 2013

One early moonless evening I wandered a small block attached to a church camp, using flash in the deepening twilight. Balancing the light from two different sources often takes some doing, but I was happy by frame 3 on this occasion. I took this in colour, converting it later, then adding a warm colour highlight, a different process from duotone. Later I took some shots using a monochrome setting, and to my surprise although these other photos downloaded as B&W, when the frames were opened for the usual work-over – hey presto, they were all still in colour. Well, keeps the options open!

50mm, ISO 2000. 1/6th sec at f3.2. Flash

Wet evening, Whangarei Harbour

2727 Rainy evening, Whangarei Harbour

2727 Wet evening, Whangarei Harbour. 5.24pm, 25 May 2013

On a sodden summer’s day here in Taranaki I’ve been looking through my yearly folders for fitting material. This high-tide scene from Mcleod’s Bay, on the northern shores of Whangarei Harbour, takes in the blue of twilight and the clean, bright highlights of torchlight. I was aiming for some depth with the tree-studded islet offshore, but was surprised by the keen colour contrast. Umbrella photography has its payoffs, but also its price – a good torch tumbled out of my grasp, down the slope and (one part thereof) into the sea below.

85mm, ISO 100. 4 secs at f16. Tungsten light balance

Pukekura Park lights

9039 Pukekura summer lights

9039 Pukekura Park lights. 9.56pm, 22 December 2014

New Plymouth’s central park is not much fun to stroll through clutching a tripod, especially along with the evening crowds out to see the same lighting spectacle (and the free performances). So I left my ballast behind. This sort of photo is more effective in twilight rather than after dark, but on the other hand, flash is more dramatic on foregrounds. The colour changes on the spheres were rapid and uneven (in exposure terms) and as I did not want to hold up the company I took only a few frames, stopping down as much as I could. The golden glow is the fountain; the ducks did not register.

50mm, ISO 2000. 1/250th sec at f13. Flash

Ahu Ahu hues

9286a Ahu Ahu silhouette


DSC_9286c9286 Ahu Ahu hues (moonrise-with-flax-flowers)

Simple, graphic compositions such as this moonrise-with-flax-flowers can be varied in post-processing with the hue tool. In my tool kit this is handily located next to the saturation dial, and enables a surprising spectrum of bizarre and surreal imagery. I have put some variations up for contrast but am not able to format them with suitable elbow-room. If you want to appreciate an image without colour clash, single it out with a double-click. While the middle image looks almost normal, the blue has been preternaturally intensified. It is quite safe to try this at home.

Moon force attack, Waiwhakaiho

Moon force attack at Waiwhakaiho

9428 Moon force attack, Waiwhakaiho, 10.26pm, 5 January 2015

New Zealand flax again, plus full moon and scuds, in an image combining flash with background moonlight. To use flash in this way, start with aperture selection. This means finding the f-stop that fits your camera distance, as the flash has its own inherent shutter-speed. Then extend your actual shutter speed until your foreground/background balances out in a nice Goldilocks exposure (not too bright, not too dark). Unusual effects will show, for example, when your foreground sways in the breeze in the post-flash part of the exposure. The resulting slight double-image is just one more random element in long exposure photography, adding to its interest and creative potential.

85mm, ISO 2000. 1.3/sec at f9. Flash

NZ flax with moonrise

9289 Flax with moonrise

9289 NZ flax with moonrise, Ahu Ahu Rd, Taranaki. 8.59pm, 4 January 2015

My previous post left out another great NZ silhouette, Phormium tenax, now in summer flower and shown here in only semi-, thanks to flash. Taken at a sheltered  location south of Oakura, one of the few north-facing beaches along the western North Island. The coast here is very walkable, as two footbridges link the Ahu Ahu, Weld and Timaru road ends with Oakura resort. To get the moon this size I used the long end of my zoom, and then self-timed the shutter to reduce shake (hand-held being quite marginal for this focal length). While big moons always mean big, telephoto lenses, the whopper moons often seen in popular media are invariably double exposures or superimpositions.

300mm, ISO 2500. 1/250th sec @ f8. Flash


Te Rewa Rewa silhouettes

9396 Te Rewa Rewa cabbage trees

9396 Te Rewa Rewa silhouettes, New Plymouth. 9.58pm, 5 January 2015

For the night photographer New Zealand has some distinctive silhouettes to add to sky & cloud studies. Shown are cabbage trees (ti kouka) but tree ferns, pohutukawa and the nikau palm also come to mind. Puriri, young kauri and kahikatea have great profiles in specimen too. However the usual problem is to find one or several on their own, handily arranged for your viewpoint. Here the sky is moonlit blue while the low cloud reflects city lights to striking effect. Jupiter and Venus for the top corner were unfortunately not available.

50mm, ISO 2000. 3 secs at f5.6

Winter roadside, moonlit mono


8301 Winter roadside, moonlit mono. 10.32pm, 13 July 2014

I find myself more drawn to formalist compositions as I grow older. They are by no means easy to do, especially after dark. This one surprised me on a pleasant roadside. Intrigued by its depth, I used the last of my battery to highlight the foreground. In post-pro I have discarded the original colour elements, then chosen a brown and black duotone from a long list of possible combos. Digital duotone is “an imaging process that computes the highlights and middle tones in a black and white image, then allows the user to choose any color ink as the second color” (Wikipedia). In print, duotone (or tritone) is the best way to present half tone (B&W) fine art, and also historical photos.

28mm, 500 ISO. 15 seconds at f8. Flash

Mana Island liberty


6858b Mana Island liberty. 4.53pm, 7 May 2014

“This’ll be good!”, I thought to myself, as an evening squall approached Plimmerton, a Wellington suburb on Porirua Harbour. Keen photographers should be out for every passing shower, but of course location is everything – and the right time of day. The squall soon passed over and the clouds parted for an enormous rainbow lit by the setting sun, plus this view of Mana, with its distinctive flat top. The car window has been given first place here, while “liberty” refers to my changing the entire hue in post processing.

85mm, ISO 2000. 1/500th sec at f16

Marahau finale panorama


Marahau finale panorama, 7.15 – 7.16pm, 8 September 2014

Moonlit clouds – how I know these well, as a pleasant pillow for my head. Here’s another practice shot, complementing my earlier Marahau post, in the art of stitching up two wide angle frames. Each was exposed for just 5 seconds, in order to keep the clouds well-defined. In silhouette are the headlands and islands of Abel Tasman National Park, on the western side of Tasman Bay, Nelson. Double-click on the image to see a larger version.

Stony River wide


Stony River wide, 28 February 2010

Mt Taranaki is bare of snow and ice for 4 or 5 months of the year; this view from the Blue Rata Reserve is a sandwich of two frames, taken on a full moon evening, the last of summer. The Stony (Hangatahua) is a fast-flowing stream, one prone to flooding with dramatic effect. In shooting for panoramas there are two main hitches: securing enough overlap of the frames (for auto alignment in post-processing), and ensuring a level track in your arc of view, on the tripod.

Evening sky at Bell Block beach

9127 Evening from Bell Block beach

9127 Evening sky at Bell Block beach. 8.39pm, 27 December 2014.

Tweaked in post-processing, as a surreal version. Taken not long before a pallid sunset, with the moon at 6 days new. Crescents are best photographed at twilight, as after dark the effect is lost because the dim entirety of the moon shows up. However, the twilit crescent 6 days new is too high in the sky for an interesting shot (the waxing moon sets roughly an hour later each evening). On a cloudless evening the best solution is to put the crescent close to a hilltop silhouette, by getting below it and looking up.

70mm, ISO 500. 1/500th sec at f8

The evening rush

9135 The evening rush

9135 The evening rush. 9.03pm, 27 December 2014

At Bell Block, a suburban outlier of New Plymouth, the Mangati Stream meets the coast through a steep shingle bank. This last reach came into view after sunset as we came up from the beach, by the new walkway extension. Adding to the uncommon textural unity was a soft, warm twilight. It was a lovely summer’s night.

180mm, ISO 250 – 1.3/sec at f11.

Nelson gothic, by street light

Nelson gothic

8715 Nelson gothic, by street light

Photographer William Tyree’s pile, on Whitby Rd – but hardly Gothic. In uploading this I suddenly realised that a spectral figure was needed at the gate! How easily I could have stepped into the shot myself, halfway through the exposure, yet the thought never occurred to me. Now I see as obvious the need for a third punch for the composition, especially something in blue – such as I was wearing at the time. Doh.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” – Søren Kierkegaard

Hauraki Gulf moonlight: A cautionary tale

8075 Hauraki moonlight

8075 Hauraki moonlit selfie, to tow truck soundtrack

This is the last frame from a series I took from Achilles Point, a suburban vantage point at St Heliers, Auckland. The view is east, towards Brown’s Island (Motukorea), with Great Barrier Island on the far horizon. More a matter of record than any artistic statement, this was the last frame because during the 30-second exposure I heard unusual truck noises. I was unaware that I had parked in a verboten zone, and the Draconian Guard from Auckland Council were preparing to tow my car away. Fortunately I got back there before its wheels left the ground, but this is probably the most expensive photo I’ve taken, and one with potentially the greatest inconvenience. Parking hazards are now added to an impressive list of other challenges for the night time photographer.

Cook Strait Twilight panorama

5090. Cook Strait Twilight Pano

5090. Cook Strait Twilight Pano

I’m not a happy sailor, and find myself crossing Cook Strait all too often. However, if I’m leaving from Picton I sometimes catch an evening sailing, so as to have the twilight and sometimes the moon for company. I’ve never taken the tripod up out deck, strangely, but simply hold the camera on the rail and use the 2-second timer delay. The magical panorama above was hand-held though, using the 85mm lens. The alignment of the two frames is not perfect but I was happy enough even getting this. I suspect telephoto frames are an easier stitch for a post-pro pano than wider angles, because telephotos have flatter fields of view.

7.54pm, 6 March 2012. f5.6 at 1/500th sec. ISO 2000

Marahau moonlight, Nelson

8254. Marahau moonlight, Nelson

8254. Marahau moonlight, Nelson. 9.21pm, 13 July 2014

While the others snuggled down to watch rugby on TV, I ventured out into the cool evening and walked towards the Abel Tasman. I followed a shoreline lapped by tiny surf, and set my tripod in the sand every few minutes, only to discover that my lens cap was missing. Retracing my steps along the deserted beach, I saw the moonlit reflection shimmy alongside Adele Island (Motuareronui, big island of the swift moving clouds, is its original Maori name). The view east across Tasman Bay made for a brilliant evening, but the outing came to an early conclusion when I found my backup battery was uncharged. However I did recover my lens cap.

105mm (70-300 Nikon zoom), ISO 500, 30 seconds at f11