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.
2537 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 greater 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
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.
28mm; ISO 500 & 1000. 30 seconds @ f5.6; @ f8.
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
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
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
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
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
9039 Pukekura Park lights. 9.56pm, 22 December 2014
New Plymouth’s central park is not much fun to stroll through clutching a tripod, especially along with the evening crowds out to see the same lighting spectacle (and the free performances). So I left my ballast behind. This sort of photo is more effective in twilight rather than after dark, but on the other hand, flash is more dramatic on foregrounds. The colour changes on the spheres were rapid and uneven (in exposure terms) and as I did not want to hold up the company I took only a few frames, stopping down as much as I could. The golden glow is the fountain; the ducks did not register.
50mm, ISO 2000. 1/250th sec at f13. Flash
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
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
8301 Winter roadside, moonlit mono. 10.32pm, 13 July 2014
I find myself more drawn to formalist compositions as I grow older. They are by no means easy to do, especially after dark. This one surprised me on a pleasant roadside. Intrigued by its depth, I used the last of my battery to highlight the foreground. In post-pro I have discarded the original colour elements, then chosen a brown and black duotone from a long list of possible combos. Digital duotone is “an imaging process that computes the highlights and middle tones in a black and white image, then allows the user to choose any color ink as the second color” (Wikipedia). In print, duotone (or tritone) is the best way to present half tone (B&W) fine art, and also historical photos.
28mm, 500 ISO. 15 seconds at f8. Flash
6858b Mana Island liberty. 4.53pm, 7 May 2014
“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.
85mm, ISO 2000. 1/500th sec at f16
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.
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
4086 Mokau Highway, Taranaki
8542 Moonlit horses, Awhitu Peninsula
9308 Tank farm, New Plymouth
1128 Angel at Puniho, Taranaki
Copyright images in 16:9 wide screen ratio, posted for free download as background wallpaper on your desktop (a right-hand click of your mouse over any image will show this option). Downloads are for personal use only.
The true art of memory is the art of attention. – Samuel Johnson
50mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f11
To Barney’s pulpit rock I climb / Where the sea aisles burn cold / In fires of no return / And maned breakers praise / The death hour of the sun.
James K. Baxter, In fires of no return
28mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f11
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
Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever. – Napoleon Bonaparte
50mm; ISO 2500. 30 seconds at f22. Flash; sodium vapour light balance
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
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
Let us go then, you and I / When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherised upon a table – T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
28mm; ISO 2000. 5 seconds at f5.6. Flash
If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. – Leonard Cohen
50mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f11
In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality. – Alfred Stieglitz
85mm; ISO 2000. 25 seconds at f8. Incandescent
All of us must indulge in a few small follies if we are to make reality bearable. – Marcel Proust
28mm; ISO 2500. 30 seconds at f11. Flash
Earth laughs in flowers. – Ralph W. Emerson
85mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f16. Incandescent light balance
Most of our troubles are due to our passionate desire for and attachment to things that we misapprehend as enduring entities. – Dalai Lama
28mm; ISO 2000. 629.4 secs (10.5 minutes) at f11
Not what we have but what we enjoy constitutes our abundance. – John Petit-Senn
28mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f11. Incandescent light balance
The most powerful force on earth is the human soul on fire – Field Marshall Foch (adapted)
85mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f16
– Dalai Lama
50mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f8. Flash; incandescent light balance
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
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
All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town. – Leo Tolstoy
85mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f6.3
Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it … Creating new memories stretches out psychological time, and lengthens our perception of our lives. – Joshua Foer
28mm; ISO 2000. 1/2 sec at f5.6. Sodium vapour light balance
Those who are willing to be vulnerable move among mysteries. – Theodore Roethke
50mm; ISO 2000. 15 seconds at f9. Incandescent light balance; flash
Still round the corner there may wait / A new road or a secret gate
And though I oft have passed them by / A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run / West of the Moon, East of the Sun.
85mm; ISO 2000. 20 seconds at f16. Sodium vapour light balance
For the joy of the angels lies only in obedience to God’s will, and with equal joy they would lift a Lazarus in his rags to Abraham’s bosom, or be a chariot of fire to carry an Elijah home. – John Newton
28mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f13
Miracles occur, / If you dare to call those spasmodic / Tricks of radiance miracles. / The wait’s begun again, / The long wait for the angel, / For that rare, random descent.
– Sylvia Plath
50mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f9. Incandescent light balance
Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift. – Albert Einstein
85mm, ISO 2000. 1 second at f8. Sodium vapour light balance
Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week. – Spanish proverb
85mm; ISO 640. 8 seconds at f5.6. Sodium vapour light balance
Light tomorrow with today. – Elizabeth Barrett Browning
28mm; ISO 400. 30 seconds at f16
Great things are not done by impulse but by a series of small things brought together. – Vincent van Gogh (attrib)
85mm; ISO 2000. 15 seconds at f11
I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.
85mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f8
Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life? – Mary Oliver
85mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f6.3
85mm; ISO 2000. 1/400th second at f4