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

 

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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

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Classic compositions #1

0413 Moonlit foreshore, Collingwood, 10.22pm, 4 March 2015

Like some national flag, this somewhat humdrum scene has its quadrants, as well as enough eye-catching detail to make a composition. I can’t say it’s a favourite but it has been promoted up the ranks for selection by an enthusiastic supporter – so it must have something. What? Both colour highlights and silhouette are in there, along with natural texture and the blue wash of a calm Golden Bay (not always, of course – these rocks are foreshore defences). Above all, though, it has middle lines to divide – and unite – the composition. Both horizon and tree are in that “Avoid!” place, dead centre. Taking the place of the “third party” in composition terms are far-off lights, clouds and stars. Spending time at this quiet, far corner of the settlement made for an enchanted evening, despite no awesome photos resulting.

Re-framed to 16×10 for emphasis; 28mm, ISO 2000  30 seconds at f8

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Te Hapu Road, Whanganui Inlet

June 2017: Te Hapu Road, Whanganui Inlet

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.

 

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Kaihoka by moonlight, Westhaven

Kaihoka by moonlight, Westhaven Inlet
Sample calendar image: Kaihoka by moonlight, Westhaven Inlet

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.

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Westhaven panorama, summer

Westhaven panorama, from Kaihoka hills

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.

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Minor epiphany at Maitai

3028. Minor epiphany at Maitai

3028. Minor epiphany at Maitai, Nelson. 9.02pm, 25 November 2015

In valleys in summertime the evening can be well advanced before the full moon shows above the hills. To use twilight as well you’ll need to choose the evening just before the moon hits 100% full, when it rises before sunset. It can be fun to perch this lovely orb in various quirky ways, but the surprise is just how quickly – in a matter of seconds – the moon moves away from your careful line-up of picture elements, as I found here while wandering the Waahi Taakaro golf course in the Maitai valley.

As well as their cultivated landscapes and easy terrain, golf courses after-hours offer the night photographer something further – a generally safe setting. There’s only a small chance of stumbling into a ditch, of sudden intrusion, or of being run down by something or someone. Golf courses have their quiet corners, and often you can slip in the back way, across a stile somewhere along the boundary.

50mm; ISO 1250. 1/250th sec at f2. Hand-held; flash.

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Tic tac toe: Your move

Sundown beefs, Kaihoka

Tic tac toe: your move. Golden Bay, 7 January 2012, 9.33pm

When they get bored with pasture, cattle can freely roam these dunes at Kaihoka, but it looked like these ones were pondering their next move in a game of tic tac toe. Taken after sundown, my flash has caught their eyes and added form to blackness. This effect is different from the red-eye syndrome of old party snaps, but I know not why. The half hour after sunset is an excellent time to mix light sources, while unusual adjacencies also add interest. The colour temperature was boosted for this series, to offset the cool twilight.

85mm, ISO 2000. 1/3s at f8. 10,000 deg K

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Rivulet of time: Dreams of a small figure

1116 Rivulets of time: Dreams of a young girl

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

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Autumn in the Maitai gloom

0973 Maitai twilight, Nelson

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.

50mm; ISO 250. 1/250th sec @ f7.1. Flash

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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

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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.

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Yana by the Aorere, Golden Bay

0362 Aorere rivermouth, Golden Bay

0362 Yana by the Aorere, Golden Bay. 8.40pm, 4 March 2015

On a lovely late summer evening I took a break from the moonrise to ask Yana to pose as the highlight for this composition. Flash gives a solid block of colour, as expected. The river mouth is intentionally underexposed, while the fisherman is included to add some depth. My initial jpeg from the RAW file was disappointing and not at all faithful to the limpid tones of the original, so adjustments were made in post-processing. This scene was only a short walk from our accommodation at the Collingwood campground. The township is based on a sandspit but is more famous for its flammability.

28mm, ISO 500. 3 secs at f11

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Winter roadside, moonlit mono

DSC_8301

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

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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.

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Nelson gothic, by street light

Nelson gothic

8715 Nelson gothic, by street light

Photographer William Tyree’s pile, on Whitby Rd – but hardly Gothic. In uploading this I suddenly realised that a spectral figure was needed at the gate! How easily I could have stepped into the shot myself, halfway through the exposure, yet the thought never occurred to me. Now I see as obvious the need for a third punch for the composition, especially something in blue – such as I was wearing at the time. Doh.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” – Søren Kierkegaard

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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 

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January 2014 Nightscapes

5295 Moonlit squall over New Plymouth

5295 Moonlit squall over New Plymouth

5307 Mt Taranaki by moonlight

5307 Mt Taranaki by moonlight

6642 New moon at Arrowtown

6642 New moon at Arrowtown

5899 North from Breaker Bay, Nelson

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.

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September 2013 Nightscapes

12.2011.31  Moonlit sheep, Golden Bay

 12.11/31. Moonlit sheep, Golden Bay

 

Motunui twilight, Taranaki

4391. Motunui twilight, Taranaki

 

3571. Kai Iwi Beach, Wanganui

 3571. Kai Iwi Beach, Whanganui

 

3254. Crescent moonlight, Omata, Taranaki

3254. Crescent moonlight, Omata, Taranaki

Evening images in the 16:9 wide screen ratio, posted for free download as background wallpaper on your desktop. Downloads are for personal use only.

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289. Moonlit mudra

Moonlit mudra, Golden Bay
Moonlit mudra, Golden Bay. 10.54 pm, 7 February 2009

 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

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279. Nelson twilight, rising moon

Rising moon, reflected
Nelson twilight under rising moon. 9.50 pm, 28 November 2012

The most powerful force on earth is the human soul on fire  –  Field Marshall Foch (adapted)

85mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f16

 

 

 

 

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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

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263. Cable Bay moonlight, Nelson

Cable Bay moonlight, Nelson. 7.55 pm, 6 May 2012

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

 

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239. From our balcony, after midnight

From our balcony, after midnight. 12.04 am, 6 May 2012

[Only the camera can express] the full majesty of the moment. –  Paul Leopold Rosenfeld

Looking down on the tops of the persimmon. You can only do this on a very still night, as the slightest breeze blurs the detail. However, to get a really creative blur, you need a gusty evening – nothing in-between is very satisfying. An aperture of f16 is the smallest on my telephoto lens; at close range the depth of field is minimal even at this setting. The light is a mixture of moonlight and ambient city light. The cool tones of the background roof show mainly moonlight (it is leeward of city light), while the warmer leafage shows it was more exposed to the street lighting.

85mm, ISO 2000. 108 seconds at f16. Sodium vapor lamp light balance

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238. Persimmon by moonlight

Persimmon by moonlight, Nelson. 1.14 am, 6 May 2012

I can gather all the news I need on the weather report.  –  Paul Simon (The Only Living Boy in New York)

Still lifes by moonlight are formidable propositions because of the problems in seeing what you have, particularly with close framing and the shallow depth of field of a mild telephoto. This scene was by our front door in Nelson. The background light is mainly moonlight, with some city fill. Persimmon trees loose their leaves with surprising speed – one windy night soon after did the trick! But now we are back in the North Island, in New Plymouth.

85mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f3.2

 

 

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237. Night view over Westhaven Inlet

Night view over Westhaven Inlet. 9.50 pm, 3 June 2012

 I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day. 

–  Vincent van Gogh

28mm; ISO 2000. 66 seconds at f10

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236. Return after dark from Turtle Cove

Return after dark from Turtle Cove, Golden Bay. 8.18 pm, 2 June 2012

 At their best, photographs as symbols not only serve to help illuminate some of the darkness of the unknown, they also serve to lessen the fears that too often accompany the journeys from the known to the unknown.Wynn Bullock

28mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f11

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233. High tide, no moon, Waimea Inlet

High tide, no moon, Waimea Inlet, Nelson.  7.10 –  7.17 pm, 15 June 2012
Photographing at night can be fascinating because we lose some of the control over what happens in front of the camera.  –  Michael Kenna

 28mm, ISO 2000. 464 seconds (7 min 44 sec) at f13. Sodium vapour light balance

 

 

 

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231. Daylight is too easy

Daylight is too easy. 8.06 pm, 2 June 2012

Daylight is too easy. What I want is difficult – the atmosphere of lamps and moonlight.     – Edgar Degas

28mm; ISO 2500. 30 seconds at f11

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230. On the way to Turtle Cove

On the way to Turtle Cove, Golden Bay. 5.16 pm, 3 June 2012

Twilight photography is unfortunately neglected; what may be drab and uninteresting by daylight may assume a magnificent quality in the halflight between sunset and dark.  – Ansel Adams

28mm; ISO 2000. 1/200th sec at f5. Flash

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229. Long exposure from Turtle Cove

Long exposure from Turtle Cove, Golden Bay. 6.09 pm, 3 June 2012

Ah the moon’s too bright, the chain’s too tight, the beast won’t go to sleep…

– Leonard Cohen (I’m Your Man)

85mm; ISO 500. 294 seconds (5 mins) at f16

 

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228. Evening view from Westhaven Retreat

Evening view from Westhaven Retreat, Golden Bay. 8.53 pm, 1 June 2012

I’ve had a lot of trouble in my life – most of which never happened.  –  Mark Twain

28mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f13. Flash

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227. Waxing moon, Westhaven

Waxing moon, Westhaven Inlet, Golden Bay. 6.48 pm, 1 June 2012

How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it. 

 Marcus Aurelius

28mm; ISO 2000. 15 seconds at f8. Flash

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226. Many ways to be free

Many ways to be free. 6.18 pm, 17 May 2012

There are many ways to be free. One of them is to transcend reality by imagination, as I try to do. – Anaïs Nin

50mm; ISO 2000. 15 seconds at f8. Incandescent light balance

 

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214. Maitai moon, Nelson

Maitai moon, Nelson. 9.15pm, 7 April 2012

Yet my moon always hung faithfully in the sky: constant companion, luminous and remote, gentle symbol of mystery, femininity and noctural wisdom.  –  Michael Leunig

85mm, ISO 2000. 10 secs at f8

 

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213. Suva Capetown by the stars

Suva Capetown by the stars, Kaiteriteri, Nelson, 8.09 pm, 4 April 2012

It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end. – Ursula K. Le Guin

85mm, ISO 2000. 30 secs at f7.1. Flash

 

 

 

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212. Let it go, let it out

Let it go, let it out. 10.27 pm, 3 April 2012

Let it go, let it out / let it all unravel; Let it free and it can be/ a path on which to travel.  – Leunig

28mm; ISO 2000. 30 secs at f8. Incandescent light balance

 

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211. Ebbtide evening, Marahau

Ebbtide evening, Marahau. 10.16 pm, 2 April 2012

Wise sayings often fall on barren ground but a kind word is never thrown away.  –  Arthur Helps

28mm; ISO 2000. 6.6 secs at f10. Incandescent light balance; flash

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210. Mixed moonlight at Kaka Pa Point

Mixed moonlight at Kaka Pa Point, Kaiteriteri. 9.41 pm, 4 April 2012

 The problem with the youth of today is that one is no longer part of it. – Salvadore Dali

50mm, ISO 2000. 30 secs at f11. Flash

 

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209. After dark at Marahau, Abel Tasman coast

After dark at Marahau, Abel Tasman coast. 9.48 pm, 3 April 2012

The future is just going to be a vast, conforming ‘suburb of the soul’.  –  J.G. Ballard, 1982

  28mm, ISO 2000. 30 secs at f9. Light balance 5000 deg K

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208. On the way to Breaker Bay

On the way to Breaker Bay, Kaiteriteri. 8.37 pm, 4 April 2012

Live courageously, and produce.  –  Vincent van Gogh

 28mm, ISO 2000. 3 secs at f8. Sodium vapour light balance

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207. The truth more plausible, from Kaiteriteri

The truth more plausible, from Kaiteriteri. 9.06 pm, 4 April 2012

To make the truth more plausible, it is absolutely necessary to mix a bit of falsehood with it.  –  Dostoevsky

Staying three nights this week at Marahau, gateway to Abel Tasman National Park (Nelson), we had lovely evenings “to behold the waxing moon”. At Kaka Pa Point we discovered an easy path down to a sandy cove, Breaker Bay, above which a street light shines.

My attempt to reduce the overwhelming orange of the lamp was not successful, but produced this unusual image, featuring distant Adele Island (Motuarero-nui). Efforts to incorporate more colour in my night photography was aided by the golden sand here, plus the intensified blues from the light balance.

85mm, ISO 1250. 30 seconds at f16. Sodium vapour light balance

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203. Faux twilight at Paturau

Faux twilight at Paturau. 9.27 pm, 10 December 2011

All living creatures are making a great endeavour, struggling, to attain real everlasting happiness.  –  Srila Narayana Maharaja

Happiness through illusion? This actually is twilight, but stirred with the flash for foreground and then thoroughly shaken in post-pro. The original sky is very blue because I was trying a tungsten light balance. However I wanted something more upbeat and striking, since achieved by applying desaturation, dodging and hue manipulation to the RAW image .

At least the sheep are genuine; the hill profile is beyond the ridgeline by some distance. I like this as a simple but interesting composition, suitable for all ages.

85mm, ISO 2000. 1/2 sec at f5. Flash

 

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200. The bluffs at moonset, Gilbert’s Beach

The bluffs at moonset, Gilbert's Beach. 10.55 pm, 12 March 2011

If only I could stand on a street corner with my hat in my hand, and get people to throw their wasted time into it!  –  Bernard Berenson, U.S. art critic

Taken last year at Te Hapu, Golden Bay and recalled by our more recent stay. Moonset before midnight always means a crescent moon, a simple fact of celestial mechanics. Without a prolonged exposure I had not thought it possible to get such a landscape by a slender moon, especially one so low on the horizon.

I like the warmth of light, fence shadow (right hand corner) and the veil of stars, more prominent than they would be under a full moon.

 28mm, ISO 3200. 30 secs at f2.8. Torchlight

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198. Moonrise with alpacas

Moonrise with alpacas. 9.20 pm, 8 February 2012

The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not our circumstances.  –  Martha Washington, American First Lady.

85mm, ISO 320. 5 secs @ f5.6. Col balance 8330 deg K

 

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197. The right moment, Te Hapu

The right moment, Te Hapu. 1.10 am, 9 February 2012

Blend a little foolishness with your wisdom: it’s nice to be silly at the right moment. –  Horace

28mm, ISO 2000. 30 secs at f8. Flash

 

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