109. Moonlit calm, Kaikoura

Moonlit calm, Kaikoura. 11.52 pm, 22 February 2011

The Seaward Kaikoura range rises steeply from the coast although here only the northern outliers are in view. Their prominence is echoed in the rocks along the peninsula shore, which were revealed on the ebb of an impressive spring tide. Although surf still broke over the far outcrop during this long exposure by moonlight, the change in the state of the sea was notable from just a few hours before.

Three little clouds are matched by three short stars (one occluded by a summit) and the three small rocks at the bottom. On the far shore the highway heads north to Picton; I took this in-between occasional car headlights in order to avoid short light streaks. Although telephoto depth of field was adequate, a longer exposure – say 6 minutes at f11 – would have allowed some long headlight trails, as well as perfect sharpness.

However this photo was set up at the tail end of the evening and I was already on the way back to our motel. Waiting out that time would also involve another 6 minutes of dark-processing before I could re-deploy the camera. Ideal exposures are reserved for unwearied, unhurried saints.

The foreground lighting is from sodium lamps on the wharf road. The strong cast of the streetlight suggested an incandescent (tungsten) light balance on the Nikon D700. Because of the relative dimness of the lamps at this distance, using this setting has enabled an attractive high-key blue throughout. There are really only two colours here and while I do like this effect, Photoshop must share the honours.

The enhancement buttons on Photoshop have resuscitated a good number of my favourite night photos, sometimes to my considerable surprise. I shoot in the RAW format and I wonder whether the need for such rescues stems as much from night photography’s uncommon light balances and greater contrasts as it does from my methods not always being exactly painstaking.

85mm, ISO 2000. 88 seconds (1.5 mins) at f5.6