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
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.
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.
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
Moonlit margin, Taranaki. 27 August 2015, 9.50 – 9.51pm
In Taranaki a calm, clear night with a waxing moon is not to be ignored – but rather than drive around, I sometimes prefer to walk out and see what turns up, as pastoral peace on the city margins is not too far away. This two-frame panorama of contented cattle sums up my evening, although my cold, wet feet also made themselves felt by this point. My new photo book on Mt Taranaki will feature day and night photography, but only in standard frame images – no scope for panoramas! Double click on the image for a larger view.
50mm, ISO 250. 30 secs at f4 for each.
1116 Rivulet of time: Dreams of a small figure.
This uncommon scene is a reprise on my earlier visit, also in May (2009), with the Holy Virgin. Although we’d had some rain before this secular occasion, my obliging figurine held her position well on the edge of the abyss, and so my only task was to administer the correct amount of torchlight. The location is just below the old weir at the Brook Street reservoir, Nelson. A waxing moon had cleared the manuka above, but moonlight here is lost in strong LED torchlight (the moonlight was not lost on my hi-vis vest, however, and my daughter quickly found me once the nearby comfort of the car had palled). LED lighting is quite cool, like daylight, so I’ve added some warmth in post-processing – the photo equivalent of a teaspoon of tumeric in the dinner pan.
28mm; ISO 500. f11 for 30 secs. 8.39 pm, 1 May 2015
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
Stony River wide, 28 February 2010
Mt Taranaki is bare of snow and ice for 4 or 5 months of the year; this view from the Blue Rata Reserve is a sandwich of two frames, taken on a full moon evening, the last of summer. The Stony (Hangatahua) is a fast-flowing stream, one prone to flooding with dramatic effect. In shooting for panoramas there are two main hitches: securing enough overlap of the frames (for auto alignment in post-processing), and ensuring a level track in your arc of view, on the tripod.
8075 Hauraki moonlit selfie, to tow truck soundtrack
This is the last frame from a series I took from Achilles Point, a suburban vantage point at St Heliers, Auckland. The view is east, towards Brown’s Island (Motukorea), with Great Barrier Island on the far horizon. More a matter of record than any artistic statement, this was the last frame because during the 30-second exposure I heard unusual truck noises. I was unaware that I had parked in a verboten zone, and the Draconian Guard from Auckland Council were preparing to tow my car away. Fortunately I got back there before its wheels left the ground, but this is probably the most expensive photo I’ve taken, and one with potentially the greatest inconvenience. Parking hazards are now added to an impressive list of other challenges for the night time photographer.
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
Rangitoto from Achilles Pt, Auckland
Two frames merged into one, so same ferry twice – each exposure is 30 seconds, by moonlight. The Point is at St Heliers; it’s a good lookout as long as you don’t get caught (as I did) by the local council’s draconian parking restrictions. Park well down the street!
5295 Moonlit squall over New Plymouth
5307 Mt Taranaki by moonlight
6642 New moon at Arrowtown
5899 From Breaker Bay, Nelson, high moon
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.
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
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
If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash. – Leonard Cohen
50mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f11
Let us live most happily, possessing nothing; let us feed on joy, like the radiant gods. – The Buddha
24mm; ISO 200. 60 seconds at f2
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
24mm; ISO 200. 60 seconds at f2
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
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
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
Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week. – Spanish proverb
85mm; ISO 640. 8 seconds at f5.6. Sodium vapour light balance
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
There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter. – Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
85mm; ISO 1000. 30 seconds at f11. Sodium vapour light balance
There is no such thing as the pursuit of happiness, but there is the discovery of joy. – Joyce Grenfell
28mm; ISO 2000. 192 seconds (over 3 mins) at f11
Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life. – Mark Twain
28mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f8
And the only sound that’s left / After the ambulances go
Is Cinderella sweeping up / On Desolation Row. – Bob Dylan
28mm; ISO 2000. 68 seconds at f8
Whenever I feel the need to exercise, I lie down until it goes away – Robert M. Hutchins
28mm; ISO 2000. 20 seconds at f5.6
Nothing is ever the same twice because everything is always gone forever, and yet each moment has infinite photographic possibilities. – Michael Kenna
28mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f5.6
28mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f8. Flash