Northeast across the Haven, by moonlight

Northeast across the Haven by moonlight. 10.21pm, 20 February 2019.

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

Modest Epiphanies: Lakeside morning

Lakeside morning, Mahinapua. 9.55am, 11 April 2018

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

Modest Epiphanies: Wharariki Farm Park

Modest Epiphanies: Wharariki Farm Park, Golden Bay. 11.56am, 9 March 2009

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

 

 

Summer westerly at Te Roti, Eltham

Summer westerly at Te Roti, Eltham, Taranaki. 3.20pm, 29 January 2011

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

Early Snow On The Old Man Range, Otago

Early snow on the Old Man Range, above Fruitlands, Otago. 30 April 1984

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.

Roadside View: From the Lindis Highway

Roadside View: From the Lindis Highway. October 2002.

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.

A First World Problem: Wall art poverty

Mt Taranaki by moonlight, from Wortley Rd. The lights of Inglewood shine below.

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.

Stay tuned!

* Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life– Pablo Picasso (attrib.)

Memento mori: Visiting a lone grave

Visiting a lone grave at Te Hapu, Golden Bay. 5.02pm, 6 February 2012

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

Modest Epiphanies: Moon and cul de sac

Moon and cul de sac, from Whakawhitiwhiti Pa. 8.26pm, 28 September 2015

A frame from my forthcoming Modest Epiphanies 2019 New Zealand Calendar, soon to be announced. It shows urban infill below an old Maori pa in Westown, a long established suburb in New Plymouth.  A slow motion study in suburban subdivision, this last section of the subdivision development was unbuilt on for years, yet the street lights have shone every night regardless. The ponga (tree ferns) are iconic for lowland Taranaki, a reminder of the high rainfall the region receives.

The pa is relatively small but has a large terrace of old cultivations on the northwestern side, included in the historic reserve. Despite this pa being very well preserved and easily accessed, its history is virtually unknown. Old pa are a strong feature of north Taranaki but as they get little publicity they are largely overlooked by visitors. Magnificent Koru Pa, at Oakura, would be the prime example.

A solid (and chilly!) southwesterly was blowing that night, but the clouds are surprisingly static for a 30 second exposure – helped of course by the wide angle lens. Light balance was set on Incandescent, which brings out the blue of the sky while reducing the heavy orange of the sodium street lighting. The aperture setting ensured a good depth of field, not usually a challenge with a wide angle anyway.

30 secs at f7.1; Nikon 28mm; ISO 250

Moonlight on Otaraoa Rd, Taranaki

Moonlight on Otaraoa Rd, Taranaki. 9.08pm, 22 August 2013

I was delighted to see cows in this paddock, unoccupied on my earlier visits to this quiet locality in north Taranaki. The cows were grazing in the moonlight but at a suitably languid pace, so the ten second exposure managed to  capture their essence. The gentle slope is on the other side of the road from the Motunui petro plant mentioned in my previous post. The contrast from one side of the road to the other – industrial to pastoral – is remarkable.

The bright industrial lighting from Motunui colours the low cloud nearby (thus the more distant clouds are unaffected). Low cloud on city margins will also colour up with moonlight photography, and over metropolitan areas the extent of low cloud tinting can be quite marked. Interesting landscapes can still be produced under such cloud cover, especially if there’s a full moon above it all.

A shorter exposure would have better minimised cloud and animal movement  for this shot. However, the wide angle lens gives better definition and depth of field at f4 than at the maximum aperture of f2.8. The warm tones of moonlight on the scene (clouds excepted) have not been adjusted. Moonlight has a lower colour temperature than daylight, so if we want to a result closer to how the human eye sees moonlit landscapes then Tungsten is a better choice for colour balance.

10 secs at f4. Nikon 28mm; ISO 2000

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

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?!

 

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

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

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

 

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.

Whakawhitiwhiti Pa, at night

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

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

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

 

2016 Calendar: Taranaki cattle

March.2016.DSC7395

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.

2016 Calendar pre-announcement

8646.Front.cover.2016.Calendar

8646. Front cover, 2016 Calendar

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

Beach Rd twins, Collingwood

0440 Beach Road, Collingwood

0440 Burnett Range from Collingwood

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

0430 Beach Rd, Collingwood

 0430 Beach Rd, Collingwood

Flotsam on a twilit tide

0679 Flotsam on a twilit tide

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

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

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

Mystic pool, Whatipu

7753. Mystic pool, Whatipu

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

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

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

Bold sentry, Paritutu evening

3409 Odd conjunction, Paritutu

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

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

28mm, ISO 2000. 30 sec at f16

Brewster’s Best Assorted

0085 Brewster's Best Assorted

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

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

200mm, ISO 1000. 2.5 sces at f8

Summer moonrise

0020 Moonrise wallpaper

0020 Summer moonrise. 8.54pm, 4 February 2015

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

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

Evening parade at Waiwhakaiho

9807 Evening parade, Waiwhakaiho

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

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

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

Wet feet at the Waiwhakaiho

9797 At the Waiwhakaiho

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

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

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

The golf course after dark – pano

Fitzroy Pano, 2 Feb 2015

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

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

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

On the links, Fitzroy full moon

9940.16x9 On the links, Fitzroy

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

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

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

Autumn birch, Eltham

2364 Autumn birch, Eltham

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

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

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

Moon force attack, Waiwhakaiho

Moon force attack at Waiwhakaiho

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

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

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

Te Rewa Rewa silhouettes

9396 Te Rewa Rewa cabbage trees

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

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

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

Marahau finale panorama

2014.Marahau.Pano.2

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

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

Evening sky at Bell Block beach

9127 Evening from Bell Block beach

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

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

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

Marahau moonlight, Nelson

8254. Marahau moonlight, Nelson

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

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

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

296. Perfect evening, Ngamotu Rd

Perfect evening, Ngamotu Rd
Perfect evening, Ngamotu Rd, New Plymouth. 10.17 – 10.21pm, 25 March 2013

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow / Out of this stony rubbish?          Son of man, / You cannot say, or guess, for you know only / A heap of broken images    – T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

85mm; ISO 500. 4 minutes at f16

294. Illumination, Ngamotu Rd

Illumination, Ngamotu Rd
Illumination, Ngamotu Rd, New Plymouth. 9.51 pm, 25 March 2013

 You should listen to your heart, and not the voices in your head.  –  Marge Simpson

50mm; ISO 2000. 2 seconds at f5.6. Sodium vapour light balance

 

293. Blue of larkspur, Spotswood

Blue moment in Spotswood
Blue of larkspur, Spotswood, New Plymouth. 9.08pm, 25 March 2013

Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand / In blue of larkspur,                            blue of Mary’s colour / Sovegna vos  –  T.S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday IV

85mm; ISO 2000. 4 seconds at f9. Sodium vapour light balance

 

277. Summer evening, Waiuku

Summer evening, Waiuku country
Summer evening, Waiuku country. 9.51 – 9.53 pm, 16 December 2012

Life will bring you pain all by itself. Your responsibility is to create joy – Milton Erickson

50mm; ISO 2000. 80 seconds at f11. Incandescent light balance

 

 

 

 

275. My meditations, my musings

Maitai moonlight, Nelson. 10.08 pm, 28 November 2012

My meditations, my musings are never more enchanting than when I am able to forget myself.  –  Jean-Jacques Rousseau

NEWS: My 2013 Night Visions calendar has now sold out. The NIGHT VISIONS book is still available direct, at $40 post-free (signed copies, with 4 x greeting cards as a bonus). The book has had some favourable notices: “A unique, often eerie, new perspective” (D-Photo magazine); “Enchanting” (Nelson Mail); also in North & South magazine (November issue: “a bewitching mix of rural and urban landscapes”).

85mm; ISO 2000. 5 seconds at f8. Flash

266. Nightfall in Young Street

Nightfall in Young Street, New Plymouth. 8.17 pm, 11 October 2012

 Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift. – Albert Einstein

85mm, ISO 2000. 1 second at f8. Sodium vapour light balance

255. What we call reality

What we call reality. 11.14 pm, 25 August 2012

What we call reality is an agreement that people have arrived at to make life more liveable.  –  Louise Nevelson (US photographer)

50mm; ISO 2000. 15 seconds at f11. Sodium vapour light balance