An epitaph of sorts, and a good one, being some last words from our late lamented friend Bernie Downey, whose memorial service was today. Bernie was always good-hearted and stimulating company, and he obliged me on this moonlit occasion two years ago at Te Hapu, Golden Bay, by holding his pose for a long test exposure. The lines superimposed came from a Nova Scotian newspaper obituary for Bernie, quoting an email by him. He is sadly missed.
20 secs at f4. Nikon 28mm; ISO 500
A sombre but peaceful scene; the composition may be formalist but with the help of flash it rescues a somewhat flat summer moonrise. These pines at Waireka are at least alive, more than can be said for the 50 victims of the month’s most tragic event or – on a more immediately personal level – for a good friend whose death at the equinox came so prematurely and unexpectedly.
Technically, the depth of focus here at f5 tells you immediately that this was not taken with my favourite 85mm lens, as the background with such a telephoto could only be sharp with a small aperture. The twilight at this time was reasonably balanced with the moonrise but I used flash to highlight the pale trunks.
1/100 sec at f5. Nikon 50mm; ISO 500
Here we are with Rumi again; he was a devout Muslim and a great humanist. My twilight scene features the lowly convolvulus, and illustrates one obvious love of my own.
A longer exposure would blur the clouds (depending on your lens). Wide angles show less cloud movement, so the equivalent limit for sharp clouds on my 28mm lens could be as much as a minute. Cloud streaks, the opposite effect, need about 2 minutes to look really good, but again, a longer time on wide angle shots.
The single pole and the wake of the incoming tide deliver a composition of rough thirds, a little formulaic but always easy on the eye. There’s a small headlight streak below the bluffs that a longer exposure would have made more of, plus a beacon light on the Boulder Bank, which is not otherwise discernible. Much of the original upper Haven has been reclaimed.
15 secs at f8. Nikon 85mm; ISO 500
What a lovely summer’s evening this was – balmy and without even a sea breeze. For the fisheries officer with the strong torch it was just another round of inspection but clearly my presence lacked line and bait. The short exposure has given a sharp outline to the boats, which on a longer shot invariably jiggle with the tide (still rising, as the current to the right of the brightly lit post suggests). The light is a mix of ambient city and port lights, plus the moon, which had only risen over the hills a short time before. I was at the very end of the reclamation project of the 1980s, which extends halfway across the Haven. Here we are looking northwest to the Boulder Bank which encloses it.
3 secs at f2.8. Nikon 85mm; ISO 500
Flash, twilight and birds on the wire. A straight-forward composition – what more is there to say?
1/200th sec at f16. ISO 500; Nikon 50mm. Flash
PRINT of the Month for February is this colourful composition from Omata, on New Plymouth’s southern fringe. Enlightened fennel flowers front for an almost-full moon, rising slowly without fanfare. The road is a quiet, no-exit one and but for a muted drone from distant SH45 the scene had no soundtrack.
This fine art photo is printed A3 size (297 x 420mm) on archival photo rag paper, with long-lasting proprietary inks. The edition is strictly limited to just 25 prints, each numbered and signed by yours truly, the photographer. A certificate of authenticity, an artist’s statement and a warranty come with every print.
This month only, Waireka Moonrise, Taranaki is available for $99 post-free within NZ (or $A99 post-free to Australia). Please allow 10 days for printing and despatch. A receipt is emailed too, if required. Special price offer ends Thursday 28th February 2019; price thereafter $125 each. I reserve the right to further increase print prices as the edition nears selling out.
Payment by cheque or by direct credit:
B. M. Brewster Westpac 03 0703 0370438 00
(Payment for Australian orders by Paypal)
Prints will be sent by NZ Post, Track & Trace by mailing tube,
to your preferred address.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to place your order today.
FREE BOOK!! 25 copies to give away! I have a few copies left of my first photo book, Night Visions: Reflections for the moonlight hours, and as a Welcome 2019 promotion would be happy to send 25 New Zealand readers free copies, post-free too.
Only available (as stocks last) to New Zealand addresses, although Australian readers are welcome to a free copy if they pay the postage – $A12.50 (via Paypal) . It’s a great little book if I say so myself, so don’t dawdle – first in, first served.
Please email me direct, email@example.com, to avoid the automated Shopify process. Cheers!
OFFER now closed.
DECEMBER in my Modest Epiphanies 2019 Calendar (now sold out). This is a nice balance between ambient twilight and flash, which shows as only a hint on the flax. Most magazine photos with close-up subjects (especially people) are illuminated in the same way, but often with the subject massively highlighted.
The Sugar Loaves – so named by Captain James Cook – are volcanic remnants about 1.75 million years old, adjacent to (and partly sheltering) Port Taranaki. This view is from the base of the most conspicuous remnant, land-based Paritutu Rock, looking out on to Motumahanga (Saddleback), the most outlying of the islands.
1/250th at f2.8. Nikon 85mm; ISO 200. Flash
This classic group is SEPTEMBER in my Vintage New Zealand 2019 calendar. Posed on the front lawn of a Golden Bay, Nelson homestead, the image is interesting for the various points of costume: the soft white hat on Father’s knee, the wings on the daughter’s cap and the black mourning lapels and cuffs worn by Mother. Only she is wearing them, suggesting a distant bereavement in her extended family. The visiting gent on the porch – is he just off his horse? Surely he is supposed to be off-camera. Details as to who, where and when are unfortunately lacking, but by association this full plate photo was most likely taken in or near Takaka, by professional photographer L. Darcy Manson (1885-1947).
LOL, as I did when I read this 6-word snippet online just recently. This is Memento mori [“Remember your mortality”] meets Embedded Quote, with a colourful ornament from Te Henui cemetery, New Plymouth. What it is to be human, and of a certain age! Will any of it matter in another 50 years?
On a weekday recently I went walking with a friend up our local valley, to the Maitai caves. Our wander through the forest became quite an enchanting one (with a little mud thrown in). The day was cloudy but not too hot or cold – no insects, no people! We didn’t actually get to the caves, but there were many interesting trees to look at, including tawa, and kamahi and mountain nei nei both in flower. Streamside we saw unusual clusters of beech leaves, sitting in patches underwater, unmoving. I didn’t take many photos, but I was pleased with this fairly abstract one.
1/80th sec at f5.6. Nikon 50mm; ISO 500
Summer Moon, Turtle Cove, Golden Bay
Announcing a new fine art print for the summer season. My moonlit gem titled Summer moon, Turtle Cove, Golden Bay is printed A3 size (297 x 420mm) on archival photo rag paper, with long-lasting proprietary inks. It’s a charmer, but limited strictly to just 25 prints, each numbered and signed by yours truly, the photographer.
Summer moon, Turtle Cove was taken in a very special, private location one perfect evening in early February. The view was wonderful: moonlight flickered on the sea behind a silhouette of nikau palms. The rugged limestone coast of Turtle Cove stretched away to the north, while surf broke softly on the sand below us. Just out of frame is the Turtle itself, a curious rocky outcrop. All that magic filtered slowly into my camera with a long exposure. Summer moon is very summery – and very moony!
Summer moon, Turtle Cove is available for $125 within NZ (or $A125 post-free to Australia). Get in quick, as only 25 prints (of any size) will be sold. Please allow 10 days for printing and despatch. A receipt is emailed too, if required.
Payment by cheque or by direct credit:
B. M. Brewster Westpac 03 0703 0370438 00
(Payment for Australian orders by Paypal)
Prints will be sent by NZ Post, Track & Trace by mailing tube,
to your preferred address.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to place your order today.
SEPTEMBER in my 2019 calendar! Lake Mahinapua is the first stop after Hokitika as you head south down the South Island’s West Coast. Surrounded by native forest, the lake’s a total gem left to us by the last glacial retreat ten thousand years ago. On a weekday morning in April there are few camper vans visiting and even fewer watercraft about, although perhaps a fizzboat and a Nordic waterskier could have added some visual tension here.
As a basically monochromatic study, the textures and horizons neatly summarise the special appeal of the celebrated West Coast landscape. Except in early summer when the flax and rata are in flower, it is not an especially colourful landscape, although it is certainly a green and pleasant one.
The scene has been exposed for its highlights; a high dynamic range image would give a quite different effect. It would show the correct colour for the reeds and distant forest, but without artistry or any emotional appeal. The very literalness of HDR photography Ieaves me cold, seen at worst when a landscape under broad daylight is absurdly combined with a vivid, overarching sunset. Really, which planet do these photographers live on?
1/640th sec at f16. Nikon 85mm; ISO 250
An idyll of sheep grazing peacefully by a grove of cabbage trees (ti kouka), on old dunelands behind Wharariki Beach, in Nelson. This is a wider version of the image appearing as FEBRUARY in my Modest Epiphanies 2019 calendar. It was taken on the foot track to the beach – in New Zealand the grandeur of the beach matches its relative accessibility. The grandest beaches require a walk from the carpark, although this is never a great distance (Whatipu on the Auckland west coast is another example).
It’s a late-summery photo, taken around mid day and looking straight into the sun. I believe the lens was shielded from direct rays by getting someone to shade it with a hand, but there is still a slight flare above one cloud. The scene is warmer and more saturated than the native record, of course, thanks to artistic licence in post-processing. However in my taking this as a jpeg (rather than in RAW) my post-pro options have been more limited.
With the Lumix LX3 there was the luxury of being able to choose the format ratio before taking the photo, with three options: 2:3 [the 35mm standard]; 3:4 and the panoramic 16×9 [as above]. This last ratio fits a typical laptop screen and so lends itself well to wallpaper / screensaver applications. And in fact, this very frame was my own wallpaper for a lengthy period.
1/640th at f8. “35mm” zoom setting; ISO 125
A candid pose amongst sunflowers by two youngsters. Their names come from a list of the most popular American girls’ names for the period 1900-1909 (Mildred, Ethel or Bertha were passed over). We know nothing of their real identities because the back of the postcard says only: “This is not a good one; will send a better one later on. Love to all.”
The card at least clarifies that the image has not degraded over time, but that it was poorly developed or printed in the first place, by the photographer. Modern software has rescued it to some degree, but the image typifies the fact that so many good photos were compromised in their development, by later accident or by the effects of time (Time may be a great healer but She’s a lousy beautician).
Despite the risk of choosing sentimental images, children are favoured subjects for the photo editor, especially those rare, candid shots not taken in a studio. As a greeting card publisher in the 1980s I put out four vintage images of children, from the Nelson Provincial Museum’s extensive collection. Only one was taken away from a studio, reinforcing my point above – and after a long rummage, it was all I could find that met our standards.
This picture does not feature in my Vintage New Zealand 2019 calendar because it has only just surfaced, after being mis-filed for 25 years in my personal papers. My bad.
Fine art prints from New Zealand
Original and beautiful fine art for your walls
Available now from night photographer Barney Brewster
Do your walls suffer the secret shame of art poverty?
Then your problem is solved.
Today for a limited time I offer lovers of New Zealand scenes 8 fine art prints, at a very special introductory price of $99 each (post-free within NZ)
[OFFER NOW CLOSED]
“Finally!!” my daughter exclaims, at news that I am publishing fine art prints of my night photos (my middle name is Lightning). Taken by moonlight or at twilight, these are luminous, lovely images, distinctively New Zealand and found nowhere else but here.
These have been published in my three photo books but until now non have seen the light of day as limited edition fine art prints.
Each print is signed and numbered, and strictly limited to 25 copies.
Buy one, or buy several – at my special introductory price of
$99 each, post free within NZ.
For Australian orders:
Payment via Paypal invoice, in Australian currency.
$A99 offer includes free postage to Australia.
The price from 19th November 2018 will be $125 each.
The prints are available for only as long as the edition lasts, and as each edition gets close to selling out I will increase the price.
Order direct from the photographer.
Offer expires Sunday 18th November 2018.
The images are a uniform size, known as A3 (297 x 420mm). Professionally printed using proprietary inks on matt rag paper, these fine art prints come with a 5mm border, unframed.
Framing options can be seen in the pictures below, thanks to
The Framing Rooms, Nelson.
Each print comes with a certificate of authenticity and my artist’s statement.
Yes, there are only 45 shopping days until Christmas, and I was amused to see on a Grinch movie poster recently the headline: “It’s never too early to be annoyed by Christmas.” However, it’s also never too early to have those seasonal cares sorted. Reduce your To-do list today!
Offer expires Sunday 18th November 2018.
Order direct from the photographer.
Order one or several fine art prints at the excellent, one-off price of $99 each.
Order two prints and I will send two free calendars with your order. Order 3 prints and receive 3 free calendars!! (Sent separately from the prints)
Your order will be sent within 10 days. Payment by cheque or by direct credit:
B. M. Brewster Westpac 03 0703 0370438 00
Prints will be sent by NZ Post, Track & Trace, in mailing tubes, to your preferred address.
See a few examples of how the prints could be framed below.
Barney Brewster, Publisher
Download and view the catalogue and place your order today!
Click the following link to download the PDF catalogue
Four of the eight prints available, showing some framing options. Please note that all prints are supplied unframed.
Email email@example.com to place your order today.
Our final visit with Rumi, at least for the time being; here the anxious, solitary image of Claire reinforces the simple message, one of many brevities which gleam like semi-precious stones in his meandering poetic landscapes.
For New Zealanders the landscape above should also have an evocative power, as flax, ti kouka and nikau feature. I’ve frequently used such backgrounds, while the beach towel was a consistent minor theme in the photos of my youth (when so much leisure was spent riverside, or on the beach).
With this pungent comment Rumi sits at the crossroads of western and eastern mysticism. The sentiment permeates all types of introspective spirituality, and is familiar to Christians through Luke’s singular statement that “The Kingdom of God is within you”. Meanwhile it is of course a dominant theme in eastern mysticism.
Rumi wrote voluminously, having no shortage of material to draw on. Contributing to this, his early years had been unsettled, as his family were refugees from Mongol invasion. The family travelled far from his birthplace, ending up in what is now modern Turkey. Scholars have shown restraint in not naming his collected aphorisms Ruminations.
Thanks again to young Claire for her pensive posing for this blueprint and foundation for enlightenment.
Not every image in my Modest Epiphanies 2019 Calendar was actually taken in the month it displays, but this autumnal scene was a good fit for MAY, although the only hint of autumn being in the misty background. New Zealand’s native vegetation is almost entirely evergreen, but summer shows with flower stalks on the flax and crimson flowers on the pohutukawa branches. This scene is Kiwi As, and most New Zealanders would correctly place it north of the Waikato River.
The Awhitu peninsula has a remote feel, despite the proximity of Auckland’s bright lights across the Manukau Harbour on any evening. The topography is surprisingly rugged, owing to the area being largely old dunes of great size and steepness. Lagoons abound and with flat, defendable heights nearby the district supported many small Maori settlements in the early days.
The appeal here rests on the extra texture of the raindrops on the leaves, enhanced also by the muted framing and background. The Lumix is a sturdy, versatile camera, and amazingly light in the hand (and on the hip) after any time spent lugging around the Nikon D700 and a heavy 85mm telephoto.
1/125th sec at f4.5; Lumix LX3 12.8mm; ISO 80
This scene is how I found it, except for removing a fallen twig or two. Beside a grave a cherub sits on a plinth, under an elm. An artificial vine crosses her feet and a plastic wreath is nearby – I doubt that she will still be in the same position today, as, sadly, cemetery vandalism is common.
This was the main cemetery for New Plymouth; I have two grandparents and a great-grandfather buried there. The oldest part goes back to the 1860s and includes headstones related to the Anglo-Maori Wars; there is also an extensive section for returned soldiers. Some areas are hilly but these are also nicely planted or fringed by trees and shrubs.
As a cemetery Te Henui offers an unusual variety of scenes, topographies and chronologies. It would warrant a high place in the Lonely Planet guide to NZ cemeteries, come the day. That’s a jest.
1/4 sec at f16. Nikon 85mm; ISO <200
“Eternity is really long, especially near the end”, according to Woody Allen. Of course eternity can’t be measured in years, but the only other scale we have is that of generations, counting from our own backwards or forwards, to the umpteenth. This too is an odd meditation: some people can barely remember their grandparents, and how many can recall their great-grandparents (I met two of mine as a boy)? Conversely, on our 100th birthday, will we look on our gathered descendants in wonder and bemusement – if not detachment?
On a well cared-for grave this uncommon collation of colour presents an ironic contrast: the most ephemeral of natural beauty is mimicked in everlasting plastic, and set against a single, powerful word engraved in enduring stone. That word will inevitably claim us all!
Memento mori is a Latin phrase which in loose translation means “Don’t lose sight of your own mortality”. This is the 13th in a series of New Zealand cemetery cameos.
1/30th sec at f16. Nikon 85mm; ISO 200
This is APRIL in my Vintage New Zealand 2019 Calendar, available for purchase on this website. It’s a half plate from my own collection, but details are unknown. The date is an estimate from the style of the little runabout and the fashion in hats (which will surely be airborne as soon as they get moving?).
This is a fair weather sailer only, as there is no provision for bad weather. Of course there are no seatbelts – the only safety feature in sight is the horn on the steering wheel. Almost as fancy as the ladies’ fashions is the fretwork on the porch beyond.
This is JULY in my 2019 Modest Epiphanies calendar – still available for your purchase, by the way. This winter angle on the tidal flat behind Tahuna Beach benefits from its split focus and from two figures captured by chance (someone with their dog; I saw no one at the time).
The split focus involves firstly a close focus with the telephoto, and beginning the half-minute exposure with flash, then immediately moving the lens barrel to infinity, for the remaining 29 seconds of the exposure. This routine is an awkward one to repeat, but the challenge is to get a balance in the lighting between the flash-lit foreground and the moonlit background. On the tidal flat much of the lighting came from the adjacent motor camp, but fortunately that too has balanced with the low power of the moonbeams.
I could name the dog walker as Sara N. Dippity – thank you Sara. This demonstrates that not everything that intrudes on your long exposure frame is a spoiler. Compositionally the usual challenge at beach locations is finding something interesting to populate the foreground, to add interest and a sense of depth.
30 seconds at f5.6. Nikon 85mm; ISO 500
Another time, another season – and another quote from the masterful Rumi. Bemused by her little book, Claire considers the source on the same Manukau beach as my last post. There’s not a great deal the human race seems able to agree on, but who can deny that “Here and now” has a compelling immediacy?
Rumi (1207-73) never studied in a Zen monastery but as this simple truth came to him, perhaps he heard the sound of one hand clapping nonetheless. If you’ve ever wondered where 2016 went, or even 2007 for that matter, this is a cool, mint-fresh flannel for your face.
Gee I wish I’d known this much earlier in life. Model Claire cautiously embodies the sentiment however, one fine Sunday on the beach at Kaiterakihi, on the Manukau. A 13th century Persian poet, Rumi still gets frequent airplay. He was a devout but liberal Muslim (of the Sufi variety) and his poignant – sometimes earthy – commentaries on existence and experience have plenty of resonance for modern people.
JANUARY from my new calendar illustrates some surprising beachwear, but perhaps a cold wind chilled this church picnic [?], somewhere in South Canterbury. Two girls share a swing on the left, an older couple on the right are in full rig for an afternoon on the sand, while the young girls with Papa show little interest in the picture-taking. The photographer is closer to her subjects than usual, meaning Mama was probably behind the camera.
As the original glass plates typically come without helpful annotations, we are left to guess the date and setting, and the subjects are necessarily anonymous. After a long look at the (surprisingly formal) fashions, I believe this is more likely to be 1917-18. The bowler hat went out of fashion in the 1920s. However with so little turning on the exact date, I have left my original guestimate unchanged.
Copies of my Vintage New Zealand 2019 calendar are still available for purchase.
“In the Book of Life, ages one to forty are the text, what follows is just the commentary”. Yup, I’ve always been partial to a good epigram, and have been collating a list lately (mostly attributed) with the notion of embedding them in my images. This extends the line I began in 2012 with my first book, Night Visions, where a pithy quote below each image added to the impact – or at least that was my hope.
The two images here are unattributed, but the first comes from a TV commercial for glassware, circa 1970, and is surely due for a comeback now. The thought intrigued me at the time. However the obverse (below) is something I made up myself, in response to a relative’s fearful comment regarding a looming dental appointment. So is that equally true?
To my mind, this pairing is more effective, but the pears, being organic and rustic, were still very appealing. Feel free to comment.
Taranaki is famous for its well-watered pastures and of course for its dairy industry. This is FEBRUARY in my Modest Epiphanies 2019 Calendar, which is a selection from my book project of the same title. It features Al (my wife) walking towards a field of maize in south Taranaki, alongside what remains of the old Opunake branch railway. It was taken on a windblown afternoon, and as it happens, we visited this location again in August 2018, on another breezy day – but in winter.
Our recent visit surprised me with the changes to be seen from the same viewpoint over seven years later: the cornfield was back in grass of course, but the boxthorn hedge has disappeared. Also lacking were the summer grasses (and clouds – a cool, clear southwester marked the afternoon). A wintry vista it was.
Photography gives us such a useful and interesting record of little changes in what we assume are “stable” scenes, particularly country ones. I will take more from the same location, sometime!
Purchase my 2019 calendars here: http://www.brewster.co.nz/calendars/
1/320th sec at f11. Nikon 28mm; ISO 500
A roadside view from a calendar tour of the South Island, made over autumn with my wife Al. This early morning scene explained the chilly temperature in our camper van overnight. We then drove a little way up the summit road before the snow and slush made it clear that the rest of the way would be on foot.
This telephoto view is from above the main highway, not far from Mitchell’s Cottage. I like the long shadows here, and the interest added by the derelict woolshed and the sheep. The scale of the scene does not come across though, the full grandeur of the range being obscured by cloud. Fortunately this cleared during our long trudge to the tops.
The view west from the sharpest corner on the Lindis Pass-Tarras road, heading north from Wanaka. I had driven to Central Otago to meet up with a Wellington friend, thinking that Spring would follow me south. It didn’t, and a biting southerly blew for some days. When it relented some beautiful weather followed, but here I was back on the road for home, and on the safe side of it. I parked a good distance from the corner and walked back for this striking scene, which I had noted on the way down.
The modest Lindis River flows below the new-leaf willows. The beehives were an unexpected touch and in composition terms they could be called “third level” – detail which adds interest to an image, but which is not always seen at first glance. The clouds are emphasised by a polarising filter, but the high contrast is also inherent in Fujichrome, the film used here. This well saturated slide film (all “chromes” were slide films) reigned supreme from the late 1980s. Slides from the 1970s and early ’80s now seem dull, colour-wise, when compared with later films, which were contrastier and more saturated.
This arid scene is typical of the Central Otago, although the compressed topography is not quite so. The geology is schist and the climate dry and continental. Not far north from here, Otago turns into Canterbury, another distinctive and more angular landscape, based on greywacke.
Back in the day I loved the surrealism of this film (Infra-red Ektachrome), and used it quite often when I had an extra Pentax on the go. This trip was my first proper visit to the far corner of Golden Bay, and I was very taken with the graceful landscapes we found there, despite having to drive on the awful gravel roads of the time (not that much has been sealed since, over 40 years later).
As I recall, only one of the film’s three emulsion layers was actually sensitive to infra red; the other two simply displaced their colours. Infra Red Ektachrome was a high contrast film for its time, designed as it was for aerial reconnaissance (rather than LP record covers!). Exposure requirements for high contrast film were always precise (meaning: unforgiving), and here the sheep are overexposed. My enthusiastic attempts to burn them in post-scan are sadly visible, on inspection.
A scenic reserve since 1895, the Kaihoka Lakes are a delightful resort, especially when the wind is not blowing. This is the second lake, a short and pleasant walk from the first, through lush bush. Lake no. 1 is prettier, being more bush-fringed; both lakes sit in the bowl of old sand dunes. They are accessed on a side road which branches off at Westhaven Inlet, soon after the end of the tarseal.
Moonlit grave at Te Hapu, Golden Bay. 9.28pm, 7 February 2012
This follows my Memento Mori post of last month, and records the lonesome hilltop grave of young Cecil Addison, a Tb victim from 1924. The wooden headstone has a carved inscription; the site is protected from stock by a more recent fence. The background blur of colour is my wife Al on her way to a nearby seat bench, unaware of my long exposure.
This uncommon scene has another attribute: it shows both moonlight and twilight, in equal strength. Of course this odd balance of light must occur at some point with every moonrise, but is hard to notice at the time. The rising moon casts no shadows until twilight has dimmed deeply enough for them to show. Moonlight is a feeble 2 watts, so all other light (such as twilight, street lights) outshines it. Each full moon when I am out with my camera I tell myself I must be on the watch for this intriguing moment of light balance, but even so, it usually eludes me!
2 secs at f2. Nikon 50mm; ISO 2000
This is AUGUST in my Vintage New Zealand 2019 calendar – see it at http://www.brewster.co.nz/online-shop/shop-calendars/
What’s refreshing in this “study” from a remote community is the unusual spontaneity, for the era. Because exposures were longer (small fractions of a second, typically) and focus usually shallow, group photos taken by glass plate cameras tended to be formal. People adopted poses they could keep, from the moment the cameraman said “Hold it!”, until the clicking of the shutter and his more relaxed demeanour. If they moved, their image would be blurry, and this would mar the whole photo – a waste of money as well as effort.
Here though, the photographer has winged it, and made a small sacrifice in sharpness in order to obtain this charming picture of horse-play, so rare in the record of the times. The man with the camera is believed to be young Harold Silcock (1883-1951), who taught at another school on the island from 1910-1912. Silcock later moved to the Nelson region, and died at Richmond. His negatives of Chatham Island and South Canterbury scenes were then sold at auction, but about 40 years later. I bought them.
What could be more New Zealand than a landscape with cattle? This combination was unexpected, though. All three beef beasts (Aberdeen Angus?) were recumbent as we came up the beach, enjoying the sea air no doubt. They only rose to their feet as we got closer.
This section of the upper West Coast has been delighting me ever since my first visit in March 1975. It is accessed through Golden Bay; the road winds south along picturesque Westhaven Inlet and along farmed terraces, terminating (for most vehicles) at the sizeable Anatori ford. At the time this rustic scene was recorded, logging trucks still came through the ford from Turimawiwi, but logging has long ceased – and new houses have appeared in this remote part of the country.
Taken with a 105mm telephoto lens, on Kodachrome 64 film.
An unexpected First World Problem has been developing in western countries in recent years. It is an odd one, to be sure, and some might say it’s a “Giraffe in the Room” (the elephant needs a day off every so often). This is it: Considering the billions of images we now take every month on our cameras and smartphones, where can we see any of these photos?
Certainly not on our walls, as even my own have been bereft of recent imagery. Why are we taking so many photos when so very few get to be printed, and still fewer get framed or pinned up somewhere? Why isn’t all this great creativity on display for all to see – such as on the walls at home, your house and mine? I call this the problem of Wall Art Poverty, a serious middle class malaise, perhaps not fatal but surely damaging to ours souls, which according to Picasso need daily nourishment*.
We seem to be stonkered by the deluge of pixels captured on our marvellous little machines. What to choose to show, and how do you present it? These are the questions I have been asking myself too, as I prepare a first selection of my photographs to offer as fine art prints. The above is the image I began this blog with, in 2010. It graced the cover of my first calendar, and will be one of the images featured in my first offer of fine art prints.
* Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. – Pablo Picasso (attrib.)
Such contrast! A scene I could not resist, although I have no record of its exact location, nor the season – nor can I be definite that this was taken in 2002. This lapse is instructive, because for so many years I kept a film diary, noting the place, people and date of every exposure – even the camera settings sometimes. Kodachrome had the date of processing recorded on the slide mount, which was handy, but the only other way of keeping track was to annotate your B&W proof sheets as you made them (I did that too).
How easy it is to forget that before EXIF data automatically captured all such details (location excepted), it took effort to retain such basic information. Alas, I gave up this important record-keeping in 1986, to my later regret. Although my friends believe I have an excellent recall of time and place, the truth is less flattering: memory is an unreliable aid.
Autumn frost, Waipiata, Central Otago. 23 May 1984
One frosty morning during a calendar tour we wandered the small railway settlement of Waipiata in search of material. This church set amongst lovely oaks caught my eye. The cycling sensation that is the Central Otago Rail Trail was still some years away then; I have not been back since but Google street view shows 12 Main St to be just the same scene. This is surprising considering that so many views change in a just a few years – new roads and subdivisions, trees and hedges removed, railways demolished.
This is of course a composition in thirds, with a power pole providing a half as well. Colour palette is subdued, the highlights being only the cluster of leaves and the church. This would be an attractive scene by twilight as well, with a torch handy.
So this must be New Zealand – with rain-enhanced corrugated iron, two fat lambs and a cabbage tree to prove it. This apparently rustic scene presented itself as I waited for my womenfolk outside a chocolate boutique on Beach Rd. It features as August in my Modest Epiphanies 2019 Calendar. See my earlier posts for more info and pics of my other 2019 calendar Vintage New Zealand.
[Offer now expired, but see link below]
This unusual line-up was probably taken in Takaka; the attribution to L. Darcy Manson (1885-1947) is only by association. It’s the December image in my Vintage New Zealand 2019 Calendar, a novel collection of unpublished outdoor images. See my post of 22nd August for a special offer on this first-ever production, which expires soon (Friday, 7th September).
Hats were big in 1914, and gloves were still part of formal wear for men (and were always so for women, until the late 1960s). Here we have an unknown couple (no spring chickens), groom’s man (best man), bride’s maid and flower girl in an impromptu studio set-up. Verandahs were often used for group photographs, sometimes with a sheet tacked up as a backdrop, but we don’t often see a carpet brought into the act.
The image has been scanned from the original full plate. The tonal range from bridal whites to dark suits is a long one and not completely captured here. The photographer has possibly allowed the generous margin around the group so that postcards could also be supplied, direct from the glass plate. By 1914 manufacturers produced pre-printed postcard blanks, so that anyone with a darkroom could make their own Post Office-approved cards. As these were smaller than full plate size, the images were inevitably cropped when reproduced as postcards.
The freedom of the sands! This image is for January in my Modest Epiphanies 2019 Calendar. Although taken in autumn, it is very evocative of summer on the granitic beaches of Abel Tasman National Park. The two islands in the background (at left is a headland) are within the Park boundary but Marahau, the main gateway, is just outside it. Abel Tasman NP is a very popular venue each summer for daytrippers, hikers and kayakers.
The calendar previews photos for a projected book of the same name, and subtitled: Deeper meanings in the New Zealand landscape. See earlier posts for details on a special offer on both my calendars for 2019; this expires on Friday, 7th September. Both calendars are now available for purchase.
1/1250th sec at f16. Nikon 85mm; ISO 2000
This is the June image from my new Vintage New Zealand 2019 calendar; see previous posts for a special offer on this publication. The calendar draws on my own small collection of historical photographs. Very few of the photo prints and glass plates that have come my way have any documentation, so for most we must rely on internal evidence – also known as what’s-in-the-photo, and usually a case of one picture being worth a thousand words.
A simple, back garden image, this has already had favourable comment. It has only lately dawned on me that this young girl may well be related to the youngsters on the calendar cover, as there is a familial likeness with the cover girl, especially. The picture is a hard one to date accurately, and the clues I have used are her hair style (from 1915? Ribbon is earlier) and the patterns printed near her neckline (1925?). The Bentwood chair is a nice touch considering the rough exterior of the house behind, but is no help in establishing a date, as its design goes back to the 1860s.
The diagonal streak on the left side most likely indicates chemical contamination as the plate was moved from developer bath to fixer solution, in processing. It is not uncommon to see ancient fingerprints and tong marks on early photos, caused by poor handling in developing, but whether such defects relate to the negative or only the print isn’t easily answered without a good look at the original negative. In this case, it’s on the plate.
An image from my Modest Epiphanies 2019 calendar, now at the printers. The title is taken from my next book, still in preparation, and from which the calendar pictures are a sample.
An epiphany is defined as a moment of revelation or profound realisation, but my photo project only aspires to a modest attainment of this, specifically in relation to the visual understanding of my own country. Thus the subtitle, Deeper meanings in the New Zealand landscape. Yes, there are deeper meanings, or perhaps deeper appreciations of our singularity, both in the big picture and in small details. All of which say the same thing: “This must be New Zealand”.
See my previous post for the special pre-release offers on the TWO calendars we now have close to publication.
1/500th sec at f11. Nikon 85mm; ISO 1000
These are back-cover glimpses of my new 2019 wall calendars, soon to be published. See my previous post for front cover views, and scroll down for more information about special pre-release offers on these short-run editions.
The full title of my 11th photo calendar is Modest Epiphanies: Deeper meanings in the New Zealand landscape. The 13 images by day and night are a sample from my forthcoming book of the same name, celebrating the distinctive detail and limber lines of this unique country. Notes on the photos and the year-at-a-glance are at the front.
In the same A4 format is an entirely new (old?) calendar: Vintage New Zealand: Authentic photos from our past has 13 original photos from 1890-1937, selected for their charm and artistic merit. I supply notes on the photos at the start, plus a year-planner page for 2019.
Take advantage of our early bird specials, buy your New Zealand 2019 calendars here.
Something useful – and giftable: At just under 200g, with mailing envelope within, the calendars are post-friendly. They have plenty of space for appointments and occasions, making them useful as well as attractive gifts. Small edition status means they are really boutique items, with limited retail availability.
So you have travel plans?? If you are driving or flying any time from now till the New Year, my calendars are light and easily packed. They make great gifts for your intended hosts, for family and friends, or for business associates. Or you can put them away until the holiday season and rest easy, with that little task neatly covered. Peace of mind at a good price!
Special Early Bird offers: Order your 2019 calendars at a special price now. Normally $18.50 each, these are available direct from the publisher at $13.50 each, post-free – a saving of $5!
Or you can order one of each, a pair for $25, again post-free.
Or you can order six mixed calendars (any ratio) for $70, all up. $11.67 each!!
N.B. Offers expire on 7th September 2018. Orders will be posted in the first week of September.
Available only to NZ and Australian addresses (for Australian orders, please see below).
AUSTRALIAN ORDERS: Prices are in New Zealand currency. Single orders are available at the same price ($13.50), but the higher postage costs to Australia add an extra $10 to the pair offer and $12.50 to the mixed six offer. The extra postage cost will be shown when you order through Shopify.
September sees springtime arrive in Nelson, New Zealand – such a relief after the short, chilly days of winter. September will also see “Early bird” editions of my two new calendars for 2019, ably produced by daughter Yana Brewster, in Wellington. One showcases my own photos, under the title Modest Epiphanies: Deeper meanings in the New Zealand landscape (as above). It’s a wee preview from my forthcoming book of the same name.
The other calendar is in the same A4 format but it’s something completely new. Called Vintage New Zealand: Authentic photos from our past (as below), this is a lovely compilation, full of historical and human interest. The old but unpublished images all come from my own collection, and I supply curatorial notes on them at the front.
More details will be posted shortly – these will include special pre-release offers for the new calendars (of particular benefit to people with travel plans), plus a glimpse of the 12 images within each.
So yes, there’s still another year to come after this one. However, and as a certain Persian Sufi poet has wisely noted, we can be sure that “This too will pass”. Let’s hope for a happy ending, all the same.
“Happy limestone” would be an alternative title for this evocation of primary production, as this is fertile, rolling country, inland from the main highway between Hamilton and New Plymouth. Low cloud and patchy autumn sunlight give depth and contrast to the scene, enhanced by a telephoto lens. We have a virginal woolshed but no quad bikes, while the few cattle are free to wander – an idyllic prospect compared with the muddy strip-grazing in Taranaki, where herds are closely confined.
An idealised image, it features in my Modest Epiphanies 2019 Calendar, which is now at the printer. Subtitled Deeper meanings in the New Zealand landscape, the wall calendar should be available from the first week in September. A special, attractive “Early Bird” offer will be announced shortly.
1/800th sec at f16. Nikon 85mm; ISO 1000
In the late summer of 1975 I toured the South Island with a friend, in a 1952 Standard Vanguard (three forward gears; 22 mpg). One drizzly, very overcast Saturday morning we stopped to look over an abandoned farmhouse, close to the roadside. I was 19 years old and felt perfectly free to poke around any unoccupied property – this one was on the coast near Riverton, so that must be Colac Bay in the background.
In my trusty Asahi Pentax Spotmatic I had Kodachrome 25, a venerable slide film with an ISO of (yes) just 25. As I recall, I was not motivated to return to the car for my tripod, so used the self-timer for this, hand-held at 1/60th sec, with the aperture on the standard lens set fairly wide. The light was dull and the focal range low, but with the fragments of tinted glass well etched it made for a moody shot.
Abandoned houses and vehicles are all too easy – and frequent – subjects for artists of all kinds, but especially for photographers. However I still like this image, as it is a less obvious angle on a well covered theme.
This charming scene is most likely somewhere in the Ashburton area. It’s a nicely set-up quarter plate shot, showing a well established homestead (from around 1870?) and its horse and trap, water tank and dog kennels (with drying skins spread over them). Perhaps that’s the photographer’s sister and niece to the fore – they are only hatless because they’re not in public. An older man in the background watches proceedings, so maybe it’s a day of rest.
Although this photo is undocumented, circumstantial evidence suggests it is by Harold S. Silcock (1883-1951), who grew up in the Ashburton district and taught at Native schools in the Chathams and at Little River (Canterbury), before relocating to the Nelson region. The image is from a glass plate in my own collection; it appears full-page in my Vintage New Zealand 2019 calendar, soon to be announced.
Typically the dead have company, as we are social creatures in death as well as in life. Our cemeteries may be ranked as communities in their own right: hamlets, villages and towns. Despite the poor (or absent) roads of colonial New Zealand, lone graves are not common here. The law required burial in a cemetery unless there was none within 30 miles (50km) distance. This was the case when young Cecil Addison died of tuberculosis at remote, unroaded Te Hapu farm, on Christmas Eve 1924. Just 16 years old, he was buried in pasture on a terrace overlooking the Tasman Sea – a lovely prospect on a fine day but a site also fully exposed to ocean weather.
In the image above there’s a summery sense of that lovely prospect, minus the soundtrack of the surf rolling in below poor Cec’s resting place. With my telephoto lens waiting, an obliging friend has gone over to the grave (at left is a protected planting), well out of our way. I have underexposed for a day-for-night effect, although the sky is too blue to pass for a night exposure. The soft curve of the land in view is not a true impression of the front country at Te Hapu, which is made up of corrugated terraces, with limestone bluffs and headlands behind giving a picturesque backdrop for a lonely grave.
To shoot a similar scene today i would drop my shutter speed and my ISO, for a cleaner finish. 1/400th at f16 at ISO 250 seems a more obvious combo to me now, with minimal risk of camera shake. With due thanks to Richard, for “going the extra mile” for my camera.
1/1600th sec at f16. Nikon 85mm; ISO 1000