Cob cottage in the Moutere, by moonlight

Cob cottage in the Moutere, by moonlight. 7.36pm, 9 June 2017

Here I am, gazing at the moon in the Nelson countryside, beside a cob cottage built in the 1850s. The cottage is a restored one, complete with a thatched roof, on George Harvey Rd, Upper Moutere; it’s available for public visit.  All I lacked for this occasion was a rocking chair and a cob-pipe of tobacco (or whatever it is that people smoke these days).

The long exposures of moonlight photography are good for adding yourself to the frame, and for creative experimentation – you don’t even have to hold still. Clearly not a selfie held at arm’s length, this “self-portrait” required only a glance at the seat by the door (as to where to pose), plus a longer setting of the self-timer than the usual 2 seconds.

A younger photographer might adopt an energetic pose for such a half minute exposure, but I have simply assumed my natural position. Six months on Instagram shows that putting yourself in the shot is an art-form on its own; there the figures are typically centre-foreground, lithe and young, female and beautifully styled. I’m out on all counts, and my fashion sense is summed up in the safety-yellow of the warm vest I am wearing. No matter, as that happens to be a thoughtful and useful gift from my good wife.

30 secs at f5; Nikon 28mm, ISO 500

 

All quiet at the marae, by moonlight

All quiet at the marae, Nelson, by moonlight. 6.29pm, 8 June 2017

The Whakatu marae sits on 10 hectares of reclaimed estuary next to Founders Park, in the city. It is hub to six iwi: Ngati Koata, Ngati Kuia, Te Runanga o Toarangatira, Ngati Rarua, Ngati Tama and Te Atiawa. I took this scene because the entrance-way nicely mirrored the meeting house profile; the roofline vents also added interest. The light within the wharenui (Kaakati) was very dim, but that was just what was needed to balance with the moonlight.

In moonlight photography, and particularly in colour work, shadows are a special hazard (pictorially speaking; in safety terms shadows can be trouble too, but that’s another story). The more your frame is dominated by shadow, the more care is required for an effective composition. Here some detail is still visible in the battens of the entrance-way, but beyond, in the middle ground, there is nothing – although as a central mass the deep shadow offsets that of the wharenui quite well. Probably a better image would have been achieved an hour later, when the moon was higher in the sky.

The tripod was propped up against a wire-netting security gate, with the lens poked through. Long exposure photos are a bit like a duck swimming, in that all the effort to get somewhere is unseen; then again, shooting for a full night effect is hit-or-miss because of the variations in screen and monitor illumination – even the angle of view on a laptop makes such a difference to the effect.

30 secs at f5.6; Nikon 28mm, ISO 1000

Roadside view 3: All the king’s horses

Roadside views 3: All the king’s horses, Garden Valley, Nelson. 4.39pm, 26 April 2018

Rear views are not usually the most appealing with animals, I realised some time ago, but this angle was more interesting than most such. A conversation with the owner established that these were miniature horses, not the Shetland ponies we first thought them to be. Although my caption is sardonic these sturdy steeds must have been aware of their vertically challenged state, as a normative horse was close by. Placid animals, they obliged me by grazing close to the roadside before wandering off for some time-out beyond the autumn trees.

This was the prettiest location in Garden Valley yet we arrived too late in the day, as the sun was sinking below the high hills to the west. As every photographer soon discovers, photography in the shade gives an unappealing cool cast to scenes like this, owing to the light of a cloudless sky being so blue (the problem is less obvious on overcast or rainy days). In post-processing I have rescued this shot by a colour adjustment, warming it and adding some contrast too. On reflection, there is no disadvantage in flat light for this situation, as long as you are conscious of the cool cast likely to result, before post-processing.

The shallow depth of focus was intentional. Only the first horse is sharp, and in this type of photo only the first subject needs to be. While we have no problem identifying the two other items, I personally have a problem in usually wanting sharpness and focus throughout the frame. Really, there is so much creative potential in having the opposite.

1/500th sec at f3.5. Nikon 85mm; ISO 500

Memento mori 6: Love at Mokau

Love at Mokau
Memento mori 6: Love at Mokau, Waikato. 4.50pm, 12 August 2013

These cherubim fronting for love caught my eye in a cemetery-with-views on a Mokau hilltop. Having recently purchased a Nikon zoom lens (70-300mm) I was putting it through the paces, late one winter’s afternoon at this small community on the west coast of the North Island.

Using the tripod to allow slow shutter speeds, I was interested to see what the zoom did at the longest extension, especially at closest focus, and when well stopped down.  While I was impressed that the lens went to f45 – a ratio usually seen only on large format lenses – only later did I learn about the diffusion effect at such tiny apertures, with DSLR cameras. An odd occlusion occurs – a bottle glass effect might be the easiest way to describe it. Fortunately none is seen here.

I like the juxtaposition in this image, and little group is an uncommon sight too. Exposing for marble sculpture can be tricky, and typically they are overexposed “in scene”, but at close range getting a good range of tones from marble is less challenging. These boys being at ground level were at least clean of the usual overgrowth, a definite problem on taller monumental figures, where beyond easy cleaning reach unsightly lichen and moss can become well established.

Memento mori: In turn we all take our leave. But love lives on, at least.

1/10 sec at f18. Nikon 300mm; ISO 250

Memento mori 5: Odd neighbours

Odd neighbours

Odd neighbours at Greymouth. 6.37pm, 10 April 2018

The neighbourhood of New Zealand cemeteries can be quite quirky, especially in the larger cities, but even in Greymouth a cross can have an industrial background. Land bordering cemeteries is less desired for housing, so perhaps becomes more affordable for industry, or other purposes.  The cross is strongly associated with Catholic graves, and it is easy to forget that our cemeteries have traditionally been segregated along religious lines, into Catholic, Protestant and Jewish sections (where the cross is understandably absent).

The cross is not perfectly placed, but close enough, given my frustrations with setting the tripod in a confined situation. The foreground is flash-lit, but the small aperture has subdued the usual effect, while enhancing depth of focus (thus the reasonably sharp background). No skein of cloud was available  for the top left corner but the space is well balanced by a similar empty space at bottom right. In composition, empty spaces can be offset by other blank spaces in the frame. Colour-wise, the golden lichens on the cross have their counterpoint in the lingering sunset reflected in the windows.

Memento mori: Succinct Latin remembrance that we all die, each in our time.

1 sec at f16. Nikon 85mm; ISO 500

 

 

Roadside view 2: Dark satanic mill

Dark satanic mill at Waiuku
Dark satanic mill at Waiuku, Franklin district. 2.46pm, 27 March 2018

As a magnificent blot on the landscape the steel mill at Waiuku, south of Auckland, is very impressive. In this shot its dreariness is stylised by layering, using the line of pines it is seen through. Another example of a “look-through” composition, this is one I was definitely searching for. Here the main feature seems almost an afterthought, but one nicely offsetting the dark verticals. The scene is also an example of limited palette (colour range), being close to monochromatic. However I saw during set-up the small smudge of green plant life at bottom centre, and the brown building below the belching chimneys.

I took a second shot with the mill in a more central position, yet this was less interesting. The scene above is underexposed of course, to saturate the highlights, and a smaller aperture can be another gain in doing this – and increased depth of field, no small matter with a telephoto lens such as the 85mm. Using f16 has insured sharpness throughout, with the luxury of a low ISO and a hand-held capture, to boot.

The phrase “Dark satanic mill” comes from an eschatological  poem by William Blake, whose text also forms the lyrics to the well known hymn Jerusalem.  This contrasts the forthcoming heaven-on-earth of the title with the hellish blight of many hundreds of mills, which scarred the country as it became the first to industrialise.

1/500th at f16. Nikon 85mm; ISO 250

Roadside view 1 (Work in progress)

Roadside views 1: Work in progress
Roadside views 1: Garden Valley Rd, Nelson. 6.43pm, 26 April 2018

This moonlit scene in Garden Valley Rd, near Brightwater, demonstrates a work in progress in night photography. It does not meet my own standards for a successful image, but it has some teaching points, so I publish it for that reason.

A good composition can offer a “look-through” sense of depth, when the elements are so assembled. Here the look-through is supplied by the fence netting (always for deer, in New Zealand), while the foreground stalks contribute scale and perspective. All very simple in theory, but (as usual) practice shows otherwise.

Three challenges here were to get the best focus (sharp foreground preferred),  exposure (balancing flash with moonlight) and capture (despite the movement of the sheep). Even arranging willing people for a long exposure  presents its problems, but the sheep were obviously unaware of their possible place in internet immortality, and moved away as I jostled camera and tripod for position. They were probably unimpressed by the flash as well, so much better results are likely in this situation if you get everything right at first attempt. As we say in English: “Fat chance!”

This is work-in-progress because of the problems referred to. Moonlight photography is challenging: the work is hard and the hours long – and you don’t even have evenings off. Of course these are all First World problems, and exactly what makes a great exposure – when you get there – all the more satisfying .

30 secs at f5.6. Nikon 50mm; ISO 1000

Memento mori 4: Amongst the leaves

Amongst the leaves

Amongst the leaves, Te Henui Cemetery.  3.06 pm, 2 April 2018

A supplicant cherub amongst fallen leaves – these being a common metaphor for poignant memory and les temps perdus. This simple image again makes use of contrasting blank spaces, as I have resisted the urge to crop it at top and left.  The limited palette adds considerably to the effect, assisted by the flat light of an overcast day.

The 85mm lens at close range has little inherent focal depth, but stopping down to a self-timed f16 has maximised the depth of field. Any gain here will  sharpen focus for a short distance in front of the focal point – in this case the tiny leaf directly in front of the figure – while increasing it over a much larger zone behind the object. The self-timer was set to the shortest time (2 secs) and I often use this aid with the 85mm, both for hand-held shots and with tripod.

Te Henui is the first of New Plymouth’s two main cemeteries; situated above the valley of the Te Henui Stream in rolling country typical of Taranaki, it was originally on the edge of town. The lower slopes are wooded, making the older sections of this cemetery notably rustic. However, interesting cameos such as the above were sparse. My time was not all spent on photography, as I was surprised to discover (quite by accident) the final resting places of two people who appear in the family history I am at work on.

Memento mori (“Remember, we all must die”)  presents a series of cameos from New Zealand cemeteries, illustrating memorable scenes or detail. Of course they have their melancholy aspect, but cemeteries retain a  strong human interest and convey an impressive sense of time’s long passage. Often (but not always) these aspects are matched with a park-like atmosphere of peace and calm.

1/250th sec at f16. Nikon 85mm; ISO 500

Memento mori 3: Sadly missed

Sadly missed

Sadly missed, Picton cemetery. 11.59 a.m, 14 April 2018

A striking cameo, illustrating colour composition. The two elements of the composition have been widely spaced, but there is just enough line and texture to hold the frame together. The simplicity of the image owes everything to the uncommon colour of the plastic flowers. As for the succinct inscription, those two short words are an effective final statement.  I did not see them used elsewhere here.

A short telephoto lens works well for this type of assignment. However a slower shutter speed using the self-timer would give better depth of focus for the inscription. I don’t always think through optimal manual settings – and here I was wary of camera shake, which 85mm exaggerates. My main object was good definition on the key feature.

The drainage built into the site is proof that this cemetery is perched terrace by terrace on a steep hillside. This is not at all unexpected in Picton, a ferry town surrounded by high hills, where flat land is at a premium. The Latin tag “Memento mori” is a shorthand reference to the inevitable mortality we each face.

1/500th sec at f4.5. Nikon 85mm; ISO 500

Unexpected illumination in New Plymouth

Unexpected illumination in New Plymouth.
Unexpected illumination in New Plymouth. 8.57pm, 30 March 2018

A Good Friday illumination, though not an epiphany,  from an unexpected source. A subdivision being so close to where I was staying, it was a simple matter to put on gumboots and shoulder tripod for the short walk to the hilltop, where a house was under construction.  As building sites are prone to pilfering I didn’t want my intentions mis-interpreted, so when vehicle headlights suddenly appeared in my frame I did not know what I was in for. However I was set up on the less public side, and whatever the purpose of the lingering  lights and long-running engine, my presence was apparently undetected.

I wear a warm, high-vis vest (thanks Narumon) on all my evening outings, for safety’s sake. Generally I avoid using flash in residential areas (discretion vs valour) and have rarely been challenged by suspicious onlookers.  On moonlit excursions I mostly stick to public spaces or to holiday places on farms; looking back on work from the last few years,  I see my trespassing has been confined to college farms, new subdivisions and golf courses.

Diagonals and limited focus are not common elements in my compositions, and I would have liked a more distinctive shape for the tree, but serendipity should not be denied – namely the headlit timbers – and I am obviously susceptible to a good, unclouded mountain. Mt Taranaki is an immediate anchor for any former resident returning to the region.

30 secs at f5.6. Nikon 85mm; ISO 500

 

 

Memento mori 2: Kettle angel child

Kettle angel child, Greymouth cemetery.
Kettle angel child, Greymouth cemetery. 6.06pm, 10 April 2018

Rarely have I taken such a strange, otherworldly scene such as this. The funereal gold, grey and alabaster are relieved only by the faint sunset and the industrial background. In using flash I could easily have hand-held the shot; instead I struggled to compose on a tripod (already set up for long exposure possibilities). Flash is ideal for highlighting form over colour, but its great powers of definition involve high contrast, which I have softened here in post-processing. Twilight alone would not have chiselled the angel child nor have gilded the name so remarkably.

Memento mori: Latin for “Remember that we all have to die”, a reflection on our respective entrances and exits from the long-running Stage of Life. Of course “We are born alone … and die alone”, but what really matters is that these existential bookends happen gently, and with loving support.

1/250th sec at f8. 50mm; ISO 250

Memento mori 1: Angel at sunset

Angel at sunset, Karoro Cemetery, Greymouth
Angel at sunset, Karoro Cemetery, Greymouth. 6.21pm, 10 April 2018

I have begun a new project: a series of cameos from New Zealand cemeteries, taken by day and night, styled under the Latin term above. No longer a common phrase, memento mori  translates to “Remember that you have to die”, meant as a reflection on our inevitable mortality. Cemeteries, and particularly older ones, are sanitised theme parks testifying to this hugely inconvenient fact.

They are also places where one can nod to one’s ancestors and their collaterals, witness innumerable past lives (some long; many short) and war casualties, and see unusual sculptural forms. It is generally the only place where Westerners can encounter angels, which are very distinctive forms and ones I rather like.

There are two main challenges here, the main one being to balance the flash with the steadily fading daylight – this requires an effort with aperture selection and distance, owing to flash fall-off. For example I would’ve preferred f8 or f11 (rather than f5.6) for better depth of focus, but these weren’t practicable because the flash was not so strong at that distance. The second consideration is to crop surnames from headstones wherever possible, although occasionally a single distinctive name adds to the effect, as we shall see in due course.

Karoro Cemetery is on Greymouth’s outskirts; it is a large and open setting, on a long, flattish terrace; we walked there in a roundabout way from the holiday park below.  My Thai companions walked through the place  reluctantly, from cultural apprehensions, and did not linger. However I found plenty of interest, as night gradually fell.

1/250th sec at f5.6; Nikon 85mm; ISO 250

 

Autumnal equine moonlight

Autumnal equine moonlight, Garden Valley.
Autumnal equine moonlight, Garden Valley. 6.37pm, 26 April 2018

An unusual evening this, as having driven up Garden Valley (30 minutes from Nelson) for the very first time to note the lie of the land, we came back only when the moon had cleared the hills. We were looking for miniature horses, but, sadly, on nightfall the dozen in the next paddock had retired from the roadside. This lone, non-vertically challenged mare remained still enough for only one frame (even so, there is a  double impression of her head), as she soon became quite agitated by our presence on the darkened roadside.

Apart from equine nervousness, two other hazards for the night photographer were of the more common variety: an awkward car park on a narrow shoulder of a narrow road, and the lingering dust clouds stirred up by passing cars. Even on a no exit gravel road, people still come home from work! Photographing much later in the evening would have meant less disturbance from traffic, but our presence then up this fairly isolated valley would be more disturbing to the locals.

The light foreground streaks are grass stalks close to the camera; with a faint moon, far from full, and the need for shutter times less than 30 secs, wide apertures are needed, with resulting shallow depths of field. To get this colourful biscuit tin / chocolate box image on first attempt was quite surprising, although ideally a rustic barn should be in the background (but I jest). A sliver of sky at the very top of the frame has not been cropped out, although my usual instinct is to reduce frame-edge distractions.

20 secs at f2. Nikon 50mm; ISO 1000

Cumulus wonder in Taranaki

Cumulus wonder in Taranaki
Cumulus wonder in Taranaki, 9.45pm, 8 Sept 2011

My visit to Taranaki last month offered no new opportunities for creative photography, but I have just re-discovered this unusual image, taken with a telephoto in our back garden (then) in Westown, New Plymouth one early spring. A power cable  mars the lower portion (too hard to retouch!) but the main interest is the sense of depth in the clouds. The trees and the lower cloud are illuminated by street lights, but not the upper cloud. Two stars are visible. Although I took many further photos at different settings (some too slow for the cloud movement, others at similar shallow apertures) the formation quickly dissipated, along with my evening’s hopes.  So much of long exposure work is like the dilemma at the printers: do want it fast, good and cheap? Choose two only.

85mm lens; ISO 2000.  2.5 secs @ f2.

Clouds over the Hokitika River

Clouds over the Hokitika River, West Coast. 10.27pm, 1 December 2017

This is the very first frame from a simple composition, one that I was subsequently unable to improve on.  It is taken from Arthurstown, on the opposite side of the river, where protection works give an unobstructed viewpoint. Cumulus clouds by the full moon are appealing but are not that common; the main problem in photographing them is to stop them from blurring in the exposure required – that is,  one which retains an adequate ISO and a sharp aperture setting. The three reflections and street lights are what made the scene worth recording, but the interesting thing is that the lights of the town aren’t reflected under the clouds, meaning they were higher and further north of Hokitika than this viewpoint suggests.

50mm, ISO 500; 5 secs at f4

Summer twilight, Hokitika

Summer twilight, Hokitika River, Westland, 9.10pm, 1 December 2017

The further west or south you go in December, the longer the day (and the twilight), especially if you’re heading down the South Island  before the solstice. We noticed this on our way to the Catlins (South Otago), via the West Coast. Although summer solstice marks the longest day, not many people know the earliest sunrise precedes the solstice, while the latest sunset follows it, by some days.

We began our trip with a full moon approaching, but sad to say, neither our travel arrangements nor the weather were conducive to moonlight photography. However, we had pleasant digs at Arthurstown, right by the Hokitika River,  and this view back towards the town was a short walk from there. I had hoped to feature the distant dairy factory  more prominently by moonlight, without knowing that at night the place would be brightly illuminated, swamping anything that moonlight could offer. Moonlight is so feeble that it generally competes only with distant artificial lighting.

Balancing the flash at close range with the ambient twilight can be troublesome, especially if depth of field is also important for your composition.  I used f16 on my standard lens here,  overlooking the optimal f22. Extra lighting is essential for this type of photo; although it doesn’t need to be by flash, I find it highly convenient.

50mm lens, ISO 500; 1/8 sec at f16; flash

 

Which way the wind blows

Which way the wind blows, Te Hapu, Golden Bay

Te Hapu is a wonderful farmstay in far Golden Bay – on the West Coast in fact, after a drive down fabulous Westhaven Inlet.  The farm is a rugged 1,000 acres of limestone, and its scenic highlights include what must be one of the best private beaches in the country, Gilbert’s Beach, with its encircling reef and dramatic backdrop of cliff and nikau palms.

It is a lovely place to wander, although not much of it is level! Some days too the wind blows strongly, especially from the southwest, and anything trying to grow where the wind funnels is bound to take a protective stance against it, as above. I took this when we stayed there last April; the photo features in my new book, Perfect Evenings.

And now on Instagram!

Screenshot from this morning, showing my new Instagram account.  So 2017! It’s all been a mystery to me but I have good help, while following other photographers on Instagram for a few weeks has been enlightening. I was surprised to see how just a few places globally get an incredible amount of attention (such as, in New Zealand: Mt Cook, Mitre Peak and the Church of the Good Shepherd), as person after person tackles the challenges of each of these touristified icons.  Yawn!

And certain scenic themes are so thoroughly covered globally that I can be certain of at least one good use for Instagram: what doesn’t appear there? In a negative sense Instagram is a photographer’s guide to fresh subject matter or original approaches, anything that virtually never features, in other words.

Of course what you get to see is all to do with which photographer or aggregator you follow, so I’m sure I have many new discoveries to look forward to.  I am keen to have my first impressions qualified!

Follow me at www.instagram.com/barneybrewsterphoto/

 

 

Now how did you do that??

Night textures at Paritutu, New Plymouth

This image, from my new book Perfect Evenings, has caused some furrowed brows as to how it was done. Although the shadows suggest the background must be a screen of some sort, the effect was actually achieved entirely in-camera. I used a telephoto (85mm) lens, so a shallow focus is inherent in the composition, but the clue is in the signature lighting: my flash initiated the 30 second exposure.

Of course the flash could only light up the lush foreground, so straight after it I rotated the lens barrel, bringing the background into better focus for the remainder of the exposure.  The  odd plant “shadows” are actually new silhouettes, showing that the foreground was drastically re-positioned by the extension of the lens that the change in focus required. Simple!

SIGNED gift copies of the new book can be sent direct on your behalf to any address in NZ for $NZ50, or to Australia for $NZ60 (air mail only, surface post no longer available). Payment can be made by direct credit or by cheque. Why not email me today: barneybrewster@xtra.co.nz

A nice offer: Free calendar with new book

My Perfect Evenings calendar is available again. Here’s a nice offer: I will send one free with every purchase of my new book of the same name, for the usual retail: $NZ50, post-free to the one address within NZ. Offer applies only while the calendar reprint lasts!

Below are further sample pages from the new book, which is now halfway through its modest print run. The images are supplemented with a good introduction, while a technical section at the back explains some finer points for the curious.

“Best book of pics yet. I love it. Some really good ones for referencing when I’m painting too.” – H.M., New Plymouth

Perfect Evenings: New book now available

SAMPLE IMAGE: Tiny cattle at Te Mata peak, Hawkes Bay

My new photo book is now out. Looking good in just a small edition, it’s yours to purchase for $NZ50, post-free. Or I can send a signed copy as a gift on your behalf to anywhere in New Zealand (or to  Australia for $A55 or $NZ60), with a gift card enclosed. The season approaches!

Perfect Evenings is in landscape format, in laminated softcovers with spine title;  21 x 27.7cm; 92 pages; 75 colour images; 4,500 words.

New book: Perfect Evenings (in press)

Sample page 20, Perfect Evenings

These two sample pages form a spread in my forthcoming book. The first is a surreal New Plymouth scene which makes good use of colour balance settings. The second scene is from Cambridge, using a more conventional colour balance. In my introduction I make the point that colour balance settings are an essential part of creative control with mixed lighting sources, which are so common to evening photography.

Sample page 21, Perfect Evenings

New book coming: Perfect Evenings

NEW BOOK: Front and back cover

My new photography book, Perfect Evenings: The joy of long exposures, is now being printed in Wellington. Read on for my special pre-publication offer.

Perfect Evenings: Sample spread, pages 22-23

Completing the long exposure work first published in my Night Visions, this is a new sequence of luminous landscapes from the North and South Islands. Taken by twilight, moonlight, street light and starlight, the images are colourful, highly textured and often surreal. Be enchanted, edified and entertained!

Perfect Evenings aims to instruct as well as to inspire, and an introduction covers topics such as the advantages of twilight, the full colour of moonlight, the role of celestial mechanics and opportunities offered by the passage of time. A technical section has useful advice; notes on selected photos are also provided. Although this only scratches the surface, the information is not readily available in a New Zealand context.

Perfect Evenings is the first New Zealand exposition on long exposure photography, now a popular pursuit overseas. A fresh take on the great NZ landscape, the book will appeal to lovers of landscape and students of design and colour, and have special interest for photographers keen to explore new avenues.

Special pre-publication offer: $40, post-free in NZ. Buy direct from me and save 20% on the usual retail ($50). OFFER NOW CLOSED.

Perfect Evenings is in softcovers; 21 x 27.7cm (landscape format); 92 pages; 75 images; 4,500 words. Edition of 100 copies only.

New Zealand orders – Payment by cheque or DC: 

B.M. Brewster  030703 – 0370438 – 000.

           [Australian orders are in Australian dollars; $10 extra postage is required.           A payment request will be sent from Paypal]

May 2018 in new Perfect Evenings calendar

Quiet night at Kurow, North Otago

Another sample from my 2018 New Zealand calendar, this one is for May 2018. The holiday park at Kurow was decidedly off-season on the cold autumn night that we stayed there. A bitter, blustery wind was blowing but I coated up and left our snug cabin with tripod and gear, determined to make use of the wan moonlight in such an interesting setting – and was then pleasantly surprised to find that down by the river was quite sheltered. From the several hours I  spent on the terraces, covering many angles on the deserted camp, this pic has emerged as a favourite. A second, quite different scene from this frigid outing also features in my upcoming Perfect Evenings photo book.

Monday 2nd October is the last day for my extra special prices on this 2018 calendar, post-free for NZ & Australia. There are still about 20 left – so why not purchase and enjoy?!

 

August 2018 in new calendar: Magnolia bud

Magnolia bud at night, New Plymouth

This is a sample illustration from my long exposure Perfect Evenings 2018 New Zealand calendar. Magnolia flowers are a welcome sight in the southern spring, appearing from July to September, depending on the species and local climate. By moonlight or street light they are even more luminous and lovely than by day.

Printed in just a small edition of 125, most of my calendars have now sold at the special early bird prices quoted in the last post. The three for $30 deal and 5 + 1 for $60 have been very popular. There’s obviously good interest – not to mention good sense – in having giftable items on hand well before the usual rush, especially when so many New Zealanders are taking to the air (and the road) and require packable items for their calls and hosts.

All prices are post-free within NZ and Australia. My best-ever, these prices are current until Monday 2nd October, and will not be repeated. By that time  the entire stock will probably be spoken for, and any reprint considered will have to be at standard prices. These will still be good value, however, with various extras offered, in addition to the photographer’s own prompt and personal service!

2018 New Zealand calendar now available

Perfect Evenings 2018 New Zealand Calendar: Back Cover

My new calendar is a colourful compilation from many evening forays in the great New Zealand landscape. Those excursions aren’t always perfect but even my last one, featuring mainly low cloud, had its highlights (see my recent posts). Many evenings initially seem unpromising but a bit of effort, two gumboots and four wheels usually lead to a rewarding outing.

So I’ve been inspired to create a new calendar for 2018, and invite you to enliven the year-to-come with something interesting – if not stirring: Perfect Evenings. In the same format as my previous calendars, the calendar has 13 all-new full colour landscapes, and a big grid for each month. It comes with an A4 letter-rate posting envelope. Presentable and useful, it makes a great gift.

Now available at an extra special price for the next 14 days:  $12.50 each,  post-free within NZ and Australia.

Or how about even-better prices for multiples (to same address, also post-free): Two calendars $21; Three for $30; Four for $37.50.

Wow! But wait: Five for $50 + 1 free calendar = 6 calendars for $50!!

SPECIAL Early bird PRICES, available until 5pm Monday 2nd October 2017: These will not be repeated!

NZ orders – Payment by cheque or direct credit: 

B. M. Brewster  030703 – 0370438 – 000

Australian orders – in $A currency; a payment request will be sent to you from Paypal. Overseas orders – please inquire.

P.S. The images have been selected from a new photo book of the same name, out soon, which wraps up my long exposure photography.

2018 Calendar: Perfect Evenings

My 2018 calendar is at the printer in Wellington and should be available within the week. The new calendar is a lovely selection from my forthcoming book of the same name: Perfect Evenings, and is in the same postable format as my previous calendars. An easy gift! September isn’t too early if you are flying anytime soon, or like to get organised before the rush. More on price and other details shortly.   

 

White pointers at night, Appleby

White pointers at night, Appleby, Nelson. 7.33pm, 4 September 2017

The difficulty with low angles in night photography is mainly in composition – craning the body to see whatever’s visible in the viewfinder, after steadying the tripod, set as low as it can go. In long grass there’s also a lot of levelling and lining-up. Also necessary after plenty of rain is something to keep your bended knee dry, although in this case the matted grass itself did good service. Using flash to highlight close objects is unpredictable but I was fairly sure the stalks would overexpose – the desired effect. Mixed lighting is not difficult by moonlight, as long as your extra lighting is not too bright, or is only brief. Rating just 2 watts, moonlight is easily swamped by street or house lights.  

30 secs at f8; 28mm and ISO 2000

 

Puffy whites over Rabbit Island

Puffy whites above Rabbit Island, 7.23pm 4 September 2017

Puffy whites, AKA cumulus clouds, beloved by  photographers, decorate otherwise blank skies and keep them interesting – even night skies, which are much lighter by moonlight and less populated by stars. The unusual thing about the scene above, taken well after dark, was the narrow “window of opportunity” for it. The cloud cover was low and pervasive, and the heavens opened up for only a few minutes the entire time I was out. Peak moments!

The location is actually landward of Rabbit Island (the bridge is visible here) but north of the stopbank and only marginally above sea level. Puddles from recent rain add to the texture of the land; the lights of Mapua brighten distant cloud. There are so many hard-to-repeat factors affecting any sense of achievement on my moonlight forays, but as long as it’s not raining or blowing something can usually be made of any new location. What never applies, though – unless it’s on my very doorstep – is “Oh I’ll get it next time”. Things are never quite the same, next visit.

8 secs at f5.6; 28mm and ISO 2000

Night and day at Omata

Moonlight mix at Omata

Two views from the same place, immediately in front of our accommodation at Omata, just south of New Plymouth. They have been cropped slightly, to wallpaper formats. The lighting above is an improvised long exposure with a  mix of misty moonlight and house lights; below is a heartening scene of sunlight on a winter’s morning, after the murk of previous days had at last moved on.  I can recommend both experiences, also the cottage itself, which on www.bookabach.co.nz is listed as Valley View Cottage, if you like your digs to be quiet, clean and affordable. Thanks Isobel!

Welcome sunlight, at Valley View Cottage

Omata panorama, Taranaki

Evening panorama, Omata, Taranaki: 8.57pm and 9pm, 7 August 2017

A family trip to New Plymouth last week coincided with a full moon, but alas, I had flown one stage of the journey, so arrived without a tripod. From a fence post alongside our accommodation I took two frames which have stitched up nicely.  My other steady-state improvisations were not successful – trying the camera on a patio chair (awkward to get the right angle) and on a free-floating fence batten (lingering vibration). Even on the fence post the placement was precarious, so I hung on to the camera strap.  I did not think there was much going on for the left frame until I noticed the sleeping horse and the slight blush to the low cloud (which enveloped the area for days). The neighbouring property was interesting for its rustic buildings, particularly one which leans precariously over a slope.

 50mm lens; ISO 500.  15 secs at f4 and 30 secs at f5.6

Nervous sheep in New Plymouth

2859 Nervous sheep in New Plymouth, 8.48pm, 26 October 2015

Although urban and sophisticated, it appears these sheep were only used to the glare of the neighbouring polytech hostel, and not moonlight paparazzi. The venue is an open space tucked away behind the city cemetery, and between WITT and Te Henui walkway, in the vale below. Small Maori pa abound in this vicinity and their reserve status contributes to having this unfrequented, pastoral scene in the city. Here night-time photographers can pursue their craft with a pleasant sense of calm and solitude, despite the incidental noise from the hostel. The clouds reflect city lights; the light beam is wastage leaping the boundary fence, offstage left. How very different this looks by day! 

85mm, ISO 500; 8 secs at f2.8

Classic compositions #1

0413 Moonlit foreshore, Collingwood, 10.22pm, 4 March 2015

Like some national flag, this somewhat humdrum scene has its quadrants, as well as enough eye-catching detail to make a composition. I can’t say it’s a favourite but it has been promoted up the ranks for selection by an enthusiastic supporter – so it must have something. What? Both colour highlights and silhouette are in there, along with natural texture and the blue wash of a calm Golden Bay (not always, of course – these rocks are foreshore defences). Above all, though, it has middle lines to divide – and unite – the composition. Both horizon and tree are in that “Avoid!” place, dead centre. Taking the place of the “third party” in composition terms are far-off lights, clouds and stars. Spending time at this quiet, far corner of the settlement made for an enchanted evening, despite no awesome photos resulting.

Re-framed to 16×10 for emphasis; 28mm, ISO 2000  30 seconds at f8

Te Hapu Road, Whanganui Inlet

June 2017: Te Hapu Road, Whanganui Inlet

My 2017 calendar sold out last week, although some retail returns are expected. This image for June 2017 has been very popular. It was taken at the southern end of the inlet, where from sea level the road climbs steadily and steeply to the top of the limestone. Public roads with grass strips down the centre are not that common in New Zealand, but as this one serves just two farms it’s no real surprise to see it here. “Roads less travelled” lend themselves well to calendar imagery, and this one is in the “even less travelled” category, being off another, unsealed road to several farms which straggle down the coast. The trick is usually in getting sufficient elevation to please the eye with the path fully shown. A misty day helps, adding an uncommon atmosphere.

 

Kaihoka by moonlight, Westhaven

Kaihoka by moonlight, Westhaven Inlet
Sample calendar image: Kaihoka by moonlight, Westhaven Inlet

This is the September image in my North by Northwest 2017 Golden Bay calendar, of which only a small number remain unsold (see earlier posts for ordering details). This late night, full moon scene was taken at high tide, on a small creek on the northern arm of the inlet, in far Golden Bay. The picture also features in my next publication, Perfect Evenings: Long exposures from dusk to dark, which is now in preparation. A sequel to Night Visions: Reflections for the moonlight hours, the new book will round out my twilight & night photography, with the addition of a text explaining my approach and a technical section for those interested in the finer points of camera work at night.

Westhaven panorama, summer

Westhaven panorama, from Kaihoka hills

Westhaven panorama, summer, from the Kaihoka hills.

Alas, panoramas do not suit my new calendar but this scene would otherwise qualify. The stormy drama above, stitched together from two frames, unfolded as we climbed the steep hills of the northern arm of the inlet. Although we anticipated a thorough soaking from the gathering cloud, in fact it was an isolated squall which did not stray north from the hills behind Rakopi (the settlement on the flat). Limestone meets granite inland at Knuckle Hill (right distance). The colours are summery and the tide was full – with its rugged hinterland, this is an inlet of many lights and moods! Click on the image for a larger version.

Golden Bay Calendar For Sale

Sample image: July 2017
Sample image: July 2017

The ancient parapets north of Te Hapu are of course a natural formation. In this long exposure by moonlight the stars leave trails and a cloud scuds towards the camera. This is the July 2017 image in my new North by Northwest calendar, featuring exclusively Golden Bay scenes from the Top of the South. See earlier posts for the full overview.

The calendar is now available for purchase. It is in the same format as last year’s, with each month having ample space for annotation. Easy to post, the A4 calendar comes with mailing envelope supplied. Price $15 + $3 postage. Order 2 calendars for $28, all up (post-free within New Zealand and Australia).

Please order direct at barneybrewster@xtra.co.nz and I will confirm with payment options.

 

May 2017, Golden Bay Calendar

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Sample image: Nikau palms at Turtle Cove. May 2017 Golden Bay Calendar

Although a good number of images in my North by Northwest 2017 calendar are taken on private property, all such locations were farmstays. What farms these are, each a delight to range over. This shattered coastline north of Te Hapu shows many stony shards, all a colossal tumble from some terrifying ancient earthquake. Those shards are gigantic.

My calendar will be available mid-October. Early orders are encouraged, as only 200 copies are to be printed. All calendars come with mailing envelopes and are post-friendly. See my earlier post for prices, but I can also offer a special rate for orders of 10 or more (please inquire). No doubt there have been other Golden Bay calendars before 2017, but probably none with such a fine focus, covering from Wharariki south to Paturau. What interesting country!

 

 

Feb 2017, Golden Bay Calendar

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Curiosity at Rakopi. Sample image: February 2017, Golden Bay Calendar

How much we overlook the photo potential of a misty day! In winter we hardly feel excited at the prospect of working a camera in damp conditions, but in summer there is much to be gained from the softer light and warmer colours. Photographing animals is challenging because any pose is rarely held, but in this case the calves were spell-bound by the sight of a cameraman standing on his car. The elevation was necessary to get the line of road in the background. Effort is everything in photography – well almost, as the right light comes first.

My North by Northwest 2017 Golden Bay calendar will be ready for sale in mid-October, but orders will be taken from now on. It is in the same post-friendly format as last year’s, with each month having ample space for annotation. The A4 calendar comes with a mailing envelope. Price $15, plus $3 postage. Order 2 calendars for $28, all up (post-free within NZ & Australia). Please order from me directly at barneybrewster@xtra.co.nz and I will confirm with payment options.

 

 

2017 Golden Bay Calendar

Front cover, 2017 Calendar
Front cover, 2017 Calendar

Nelson does not lack mountains – like Taranaki, it’s defined by them – but for all their beauty the region is better known for its coastline and beaches. These vary from sheltered coves to wind-prone arcs, while Nelson’s most exposed beach – Wharariki – is also its grandest. Naturally, it features on the cover of my 2017 Golden Bay calendar. I have been visiting this stunning location and the farm park regularly since 1975, and the much expanded carpark over this time reflects Wharariki’s growing fame, nationally and internationally.

My calendar title refers to only the northwest flank of Golden Bay, an area below Farewell Spit. Within this small ambit is a surprising range of landscape. The calendar aims to make the beauty of these special places better known – only a little better though, as just 200 copies have been ordered from the printer. More details will be given shortly.

Back cover, 2017 Calendar
Back cover, 2017 Calendar

Moonlit Mordor

2537 Moonlit Mordor

Moonlit Mordor, from Arawhata Rd, Opunake. 8.57pm, 25 April 2010.

My 36 Views of Mt Taranaki has sold out. The book used mainly daylight images, just to prove there’s more than one string to my fiddle. Nevertheless I continue to find twilight and night imagery more interesting because of the larger creative possibilities. This is a Lumix LX3 image, converted from colour: a desolate, snow-free mountain, as seen from from a desolate sector of the ring plain. In contrast to the more settled appearance of the other side of the mountain, this is rougher, harder country.

On a personal note, this is a belated coda to my Taranaki series, as this year we have returned to live in Nelson. Despite the hiatus I have been occupied in reviewing my extensive transparency collection, compiling a second book on evening photography and putting together a 2017 calendar, one without a volcanic theme. But about that, more shortly.

“60mm”; ISO 400. 60 secs at f2.8

 

Minor epiphany at Maitai

3028. Minor epiphany at Maitai

3028. Minor epiphany at Maitai, Nelson. 9.02pm, 25 November 2015

In valleys in summertime the evening can be well advanced before the full moon shows above the hills. To use twilight as well you’ll need to choose the evening just before the moon hits 100% full, when it rises before sunset. It can be fun to perch this lovely orb in various quirky ways, but the surprise is just how quickly – in a matter of seconds – the moon moves away from your careful line-up of picture elements, as I found here while wandering the Waahi Taakaro golf course in the Maitai valley.

As well as their cultivated landscapes and easy terrain, golf courses after-hours offer the night photographer something further – a generally safe setting. There’s only a small chance of stumbling into a ditch, of sudden intrusion, or of being run down by something or someone. Golf courses have their quiet corners, and often you can slip in the back way, across a stile somewhere along the boundary.

50mm; ISO 1250. 1/250th sec at f2. Hand-held; flash.

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.

DSC_2794.16x10

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: http://photoforum-nz.org/blog/?p=6035

 

36 Views of Mt Taranaki: Samples

36-Views-of-Mt-Taranaki-pg-68-69

Two more sample spreads, plus the back cover, of my new photo book on New Zealand’s answer to Mt Fuji in Japan. The above image is by moonlight; below, by twilight from the western edge of the city. The back cover photo is from Mohakatino, along the Mokau highway. See recent posts for further details of this new publication.

36-Views-of-Mt-Taranaki-pg-72-73

36-Views-of-Mt-Taranaki-back-cover

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

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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.

Nov.2016.DSC2978

NOVEMBER 2016: Cloud hugger, Manaia highway.