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!
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.
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.
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!
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 email@example.com and I will confirm with payment options.
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.
2393. Abstract 2: Pukearuhe rockface. 4.06pm, 31 July 2015
My interest in these stripes was partly spurred by my SO’s work in creative fibre, designing woven creations with striking bands of colour. The strong reflections here are in the surface topography. This is very close-up by telephoto standards and the wide f-stop only just copes; a better depth of field would be achieved with a faster ISO and slower shutter speed. However I had set out without tripod – as I often do when my photography is secondary to a social outing. Even for an exposure of 1/500th I used the self-timer at 2 seconds to delay exposure slightly, reducing the risk of camera shake, something that is magnified with telephotos.
Abstract 1: Pukearuhe, north Taranaki. 1.46pm, 31 July 2015
I have photographed these cliffs before but only occasionally, as they are an hour north of New Plymouth on a side road, and access is strictly tidal. The beach changes from sand to rocks with the seasons, while recent rain makes a difference to the rockface patterns observed. Here we’re looking at a well-watered part of the cliff at about eye-level, with much reflected early afternoon sunlight. I selected a low ISO for maximum effect but also a high shutter speed, to avoid any risk of camera shake with a heavy telephoto.
2447. “She’s beaut”, on Carrington Rd, near New Plymouth. 12 August 2015, 5.24pm
A large tract of country south and west of New Plymouth is sheltered from the prevailing westerlies by two forested ranges, the Pouakai and Kaitake. Our mountain shows above these hills (sometimes) as one travels in their lee; this is where the road first meets the forest of the national park. A passing local called out his approval as I stopped on the roadside for this shot (one taken too late to include in my new photo book), but the sunlight was fleeting and the bird soon flew off. With the city nearby, these rustic roadsides have been steadily superseded by upmarket, lifestyle blocks.
2037. Lahar landscape, Stent Rd, Warea. 24 June 2015, 3.24pm
Since our return to Taranaki at the end of May I have been preoccupied with a photo project on our local peak, formerly known as Egmont. Mt Taranaki (as it’s now called) is well overdue for a photo book, and why not one to answer 36 Views of Mt Fuji, Hokusai’s famous collection of prints of Japan’s highest mountain? So I set out to put together 36 Views of Mt Taranaki, which I will publish next month. The new book is dedicated to my mother, Gwen Brewster, who celebrated her 90th birthday two weeks ago. She now has the only copy – an advance proof. This out-take was shot in a strong, frigid SWer, whose discomfort I removed from this sunny scene in post-pro.
0973 Autumn in the Maitai gloom, Nelson. 5.11pm, 26 April 2015
In late April a quick trip to the Maitai Valley, on the edge of the city, is much easier than the long road to central Otago (where great swathes of lovely poplars and cotoneasters are now gone from our favourite walk at Arrowtown). Although the light balance between flash and background above suggests twilight, this cameo was actually taken half an hour before sundown, in the pre-drizzle gloom of a heavy overcast. Flash is a crude instrument but then so is a hammer – and after a few attempts I felt I had it nailed.
The crowds have gone and the druids have left the rostrum. All the devotees who waited so patiently for immersion are now initiated, have packed their tents and left for the long return to their temples. Soon night will fall and the whole arena will be reclaimed by the hoolie-darkies and fogdogs… etc etc. Movie rights are still available.
9807 Evening parade at Waiwhakaiho. 8.20pm, 3 February 2015
Clouds strike some marvellous poses, but as they will not hold them the trick is to be ready and waiting. Even better if they are only a side-show to the main act – an anticipated moonrise, for example. A big Nikon zoom lens needs a tripod for best results, especially with a polarising filter. A tripod does restrict you but it allows a much smaller aperture, which helps with overall sharpness after the filter and softness of a zoom lens are taken into account. Using a tripod also ensures a more considered approach, and more level horizons. The polariser, meanwhile, only works from a certain viewpoint, that is, one at roughly 90 deg to the sun. So you might as well stay in the right spot with your tripod.
112mm, ISO 250. 1/60th at f11. Polariser and tripod
9797 Wet feet at the Waiwhakaiho. 8.16pm, 3 February 2015
Zoom lenses are very engaging, but the price of their versatility is their typically lacklustre definition, and the extra care required in their use – especially with focus and depth of field. I have found with the Nikon 70-300mm that no really serious work can be undertaken without a tripod, and a self-timer release of 2 to 5 seconds, depending on the focal length and wind strength. Here a slow shutter speed resulted not only from the polariser (effectively 2-stops) and the low ISO but also the need for a small aperture for depth of field. The polariser works wonders on cloud forms at right angles to the sun, which was low to the left. The gulls are enjoying the dog-free side of the river; their beach was soon covered by the incoming tide.
95mm, ISO 250. 1/50th sec at f11. Polariser and tripod
“This’ll be good!”, I thought to myself, as an evening squall approached Plimmerton, a Wellington suburb on Porirua Harbour. Keen photographers should be out for every passing shower, but of course location is everything – and the right time of day. The squall soon passed over and the clouds parted for an enormous rainbow lit by the setting sun, plus this view of Mana, with its distinctive flat top. The car window has been given first place here, while “liberty” refers to my changing the entire hue in post processing.
9127 Evening sky at Bell Block beach. 8.39pm, 27 December 2014.
Tweaked in post-processing, as a surreal version. Taken not long before a pallid sunset, with the moon at 6 days new. Crescents are best photographed at twilight, as after dark the effect is lost because the dim entirety of the moon shows up. However, the twilit crescent 6 days new is too high in the sky for an interesting shot (the waxing moon sets roughly an hour later each evening). On a cloudless evening the best solution is to put the crescent close to a hilltop silhouette, by getting below it and looking up.
I took this one afternoon in the early autumn of 2010, when Yana was 20. My father had some self-sown vines rioting in his garden (yielding 80 large melons), which looked to make a good backdrop. It’s no surprise to see here the same elements as in previous portraits: sympathetic ground, soft light, harmony of colour – and a subject with a low-key expression, posed direct to camera.
Taken at f2.8 on 1/200th sec on standard lens setting [60mm in 35mm terms]; the great depth of focus even on this aperture stems from the Lumix LX3’s smaller sensor. A law of optics states that depth of field increases as sensor size (or film plate) reduces.
A discrete chair in the Whatipu wilderness puts you one step ahead in the relaxed model stakes – as does a warm coat – but the secret ingredient to portrait work seems to be having an accomplice, one who distracts the subject with lively conversation while the photographer pretends to poodle around with his tripod and settings. In this case, Yana is standing close by, so that Claire remains face-on to camera. For portrait work my Nikon 85mm lens is an obvious choice, and it’s a sharp lens for a soft (though wintry) light. As backdrop I like the filigree of flax and the rock, and Claire’s good twin has also come by – note the different colouration – for a final appearance.
A pause in readings from the Little Book of Sacrifices. A simple lateral flick-trick found online has brought out some unexpected imagery, while a slight re-framing avoids complete symmetry. A warm duotone was selected after conversion from the colour original. The hand-colouring is hardly brilliant, but this looks to be a hard-wearing image with many possibilities for future embroidery. The rosary was Claire’s suggestion, although her own tastes appear to be more literary than gothic. (Would authors of such fiction, however, please communicate).
N.B. No small animals were harmed in the making of this image.
Continuing the evening portrait theme is this “one-take” shot of our UK visitor Ben, in 2010, taken on the cliff above Back Beach in New Plymouth. The light is striking, but the effect is enhanced by the “da Vinci” background of Paritutu Rock, pylon and blue sky. I would not call this twilight photography, as the sun is still at the horizon, although softened in a summer haze. Although most portraits benefit from low contrast, a little more has been added here in post-processing, plus some vibrancy.
Or something like it. Claire is distracted with readings from a good book. Light ent., relief and engagement shine through as the drizzle descends. Low angle with tripod; wide angle lens predictably highlights her fine hands; her hair is emphasised by post-pro desaturation and selective re-saturation.
An important ingredient of memorable portraits is the capture of micro-emotion, those inner feelings which flicker on the silver screen of our faces. These are surely basic to our primate biology. Even if as here the occasion is fictitious, we immediately recognise the human reality of expression. In this curious blend of fiction and fact we see the genetic relationship of the portrait with the novel. (This observation can’t be original, but at least the occasion was.)
No pressure Claire, it’s your decision – students of basic emotion or human expression will find much of interest here. There had been a bit of talk about fine art prospects but what a miserable day this turned into… so late on a winter’s afternoon, so unsuitable in so many respects. In the distance, for example, is the noisy pump of the sewage truck making a long line to the long drop at Kaitarakihi Bay (the truck had followed us from Whatipu, where we became aware of it long before we saw it).
Effective people shots don’t come easy. What makes them stand out from the million others we see daily? My favourite portraits always seem to be framed the same way: 1. someone facing the camera, engaged or conveying some expression; 2. a sense of place, or at least of backdrop; 3. an easy, soft light, and a soft camera setting. Among the many hazards to a good portrait is one that is barely 15 years old: the high contrast setting on digital cameras, which flatters artistic landscapes but ruins portraiture – if you forget to change your settings.
Whatipu is a vast expanse of beach and wetland on Auckland’s west coast. It’s a wild place and amazingly changed since my first visit over 40 years ago – wider and wetter, it is now also far more vegetated. On a winter’s afternoon we barely sampled the place – there’s hours of it. After only a short interlude of sporadic sunshine, threatening cloud suggested a retreat to the car. Here Claire and her faithful doppelganger appear to enjoy some brief relaxation, in between rays. With thanks to Lucy for the chairs and Yana for other assistance.
RETROSPECTIVE, with thanks due to T.S. Eliot for the title (Ash Wednesday). An unusual sea fog was just lifting when we stopped at this rustic spot, on the road to Anatori in NW Nelson. Only the bridge made this viewpoint possible, plus of course the endearing co-operation of my model. All for art – with a large towel soon to hand. The highlight of a great summer, on this trip four of us camped out of a Morris Oxford. This image is a conversion from a colour slide.
Monochrome is so often the first choice for nude studies, especially for outdoor venues such as the beach or the bush. These are big on texture but typically have only limited palettes. However when we start with colour, before converting to monochrome in post processing, we can see that the case for colour can still be strong. The example below is not strictly b&w, of course, as the duotone option allows numerous combinations of tones.
At 1200 x 1920 pixels, this image suits desktops with 16:10 aspect ratios. Downloads for non-commercial use only.
This monochrome from the summer of 1980 is to grace the cover of an anniversary publication for PhotoForum NZ. The print was selected by author Nina Seja from the PF archive, where it has lain since publication the same year. It is one of two memorable images from a rainy afternoon in the western Wairarapa. After a dip in the Waingawa River, Jane kindly took cover under a large sheet of plastic. The camera was a Yashicamat 124G, using roll film in a square format. The book is announced at http://photoforum-nz.org/index.php?pageID=93
In post-processing this simple image transforms, giving two quite different versions. In the image above, I dialled back the saturation and increased the contrast (80% in each case), to mimic the current glossy style. In the monochrome below, each colour channel was separately modified in the conversion process, so the flax has come out lighter (the green & yellow channels) and the towel darker (blue channel) – and Claire’s lips also (magenta). The towel merging with the background means the image is now somewhat over-flaxed, while 22-year-old Claire looks even younger than before.
A change of tack now, as I pick up another theme from my early years of photography – the portrait. For people shots I’ve always liked simple set-ups by available light – and a timeless look. However there was no fooling Claire, who immediately nailed this as “Retro”. The location on the northern Manukau bears the New Zealand stamp I was after. A strong, cold sou-wester blew in from the beach and the sunlight was very patchy, yet Claire warmed to the task. However I only got the right vibe when I tried some frames as monochrome conversions, as in the sepia version below. So much of a portrait can be communicated in form, tone and texture. Colour is only occasionally essential.
6361c Claire at Kaitarakihi Bay
These 16:10 images can be downloaded as wallpaper, for screens with that aspect ratio. Permission is for personal use only. Copyright 2014 by Barney Brewster.