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

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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.

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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

 

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Te Henui ti kouka, 1 & 2

2791. Te Henui ti kouka

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.

DSC_2794.16x10

28mm; ISO 500 & 1000. 30 seconds @ f5.6; @ f8.

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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

 

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Moonlit margin, Taranaki

Moonlit panorama, Taranaki

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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Pukekura Park lights

9039 Pukekura summer lights

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

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Ahu Ahu hues

9286a Ahu Ahu silhouette

DSC_9286b

DSC_9286c9286 Ahu Ahu hues (moonrise-with-flax-flowers)

Simple, graphic compositions such as this moonrise-with-flax-flowers can be varied in post-processing with the hue tool. In my tool kit this is handily located next to the saturation dial, and enables a surprising spectrum of bizarre and surreal imagery. I have put some variations up for contrast but am not able to format them with suitable elbow-room. If you want to appreciate an image without colour clash, single it out with a double-click. While the middle image looks almost normal, the blue has been preternaturally intensified. It is quite safe to try this at home.

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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

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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

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The evening rush

9135 The evening rush

9135 The evening rush. 9.03pm, 27 December 2014

At Bell Block, a suburban outlier of New Plymouth, the Mangati Stream meets the coast through a steep shingle bank. This last reach came into view after sunset as we came up from the beach, by the new walkway extension. Adding to the uncommon textural unity was a soft, warm twilight. It was a lovely summer’s night.

180mm, ISO 250 – 1.3/sec at f11.

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Yana among the vines

2010.4.9.1991 Among the vines

1991. Yana among the vines

 I took this one afternoon in the early autumn of 2010, when Yana was 20. My father had some self-sown vines rioting in his garden (yielding 80 large melons), which looked to  make a good backdrop. It’s no surprise to see here the same elements as in previous portraits: sympathetic ground, soft light, harmony of colour – and a subject with a low-key expression, posed direct to camera.

Taken at f2.8 on 1/200th sec on standard lens setting [60mm in 35mm terms]; the great depth of focus even on this aperture stems from the Lumix LX3’s smaller sensor. A law of optics states that depth of field increases as sensor size (or film plate) reduces.

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Ben at sundown, Back Beach

0958  Ben, above the beach

0958 Ben at sundown, Back Beach

Continuing the evening portrait theme is this “one-take” shot of our UK visitor Ben, in 2010, taken on the cliff above Back Beach in New Plymouth. The light is striking, but the effect is enhanced by the “da Vinci” background of Paritutu Rock, pylon and blue sky. I would not call this twilight photography, as the sun is still at the horizon, although softened in a summer haze. Although most portraits benefit from low contrast, a little more has been added here in post-processing, plus some vibrancy.

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297. Up 233 moonlit steps

233 steps by the moon
Up 233 moonlit steps, Back Beach, Taranaki. 10.07 pm, 27 March 2013

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

 

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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

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295. City limits, Hurdon twilight

City limits, Hurdon twilight
City limits, Hurdon twilight, New Plymouth. 8.03 pm, 28 March 2013

  Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.  –  Napoleon Bonaparte

50mm; ISO 2500. 30 seconds at f22. Flash; sodium vapour light balance

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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

 

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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

 

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292. Half moon with cricket song

Half moon with cricket song
Half moon with cricket song, New Plymouth. 9.20 pm, 22 March 2013

 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

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291. There are no eyes here

There are no eyes here
There are no eyes here, New Plymouth. 8.21 pm, 14 March 2013

There are no eyes here / In this valley of dying stars / In this hollow valley /                This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms  –  T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men

85mm; ISO 500. 30 seconds at f16. Incandescent light balance

 

 

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271. Moonrise, Wrantage Street

Moonrise, Wrantage Street. 8.58 pm, 30 October 2012

 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

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270. Among mysteries

Among mysteries, New Plymouth. 9.09 pm, 31 October, 2012

Those who are willing to be vulnerable move among mysteries.  –  Theodore Roethke

50mm; ISO 2000. 15 seconds at f9. Incandescent light balance; flash

 

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269. Still round the corner

Still round the corner, New Plymouth.  10.49 pm, 30 October 2012

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.

                                                                                                            – J.R.R. Tolkien

85mm; ISO 2000. 20 seconds at f16. Sodium vapour light balance

 

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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

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265. Echoes in Westown

Echoes in Westown, New Plymouth. 8.05 pm, 29 August 2012

Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week. –  Spanish proverb

85mm; ISO 640. 8 seconds at f5.6. Sodium vapour light balance


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256. Almost spring, Westown

Almost spring, Westown, New Plymouth. 7.54 pm, 29 August 2012

 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

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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

 

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254. Life was Beauty

Life was Beauty. 12.49 am, 26 August 2012

   I slept, and dreamed that life was Beauty; I woke, and found that life was Duty.  –  Ellen Sturgis Hooper

50mm; ISO 2500. 30 seconds at f16. Flash

 

 

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253. The case for magic realism

The case for magic realism, Taranaki. 12.57 am, 26 August 2012

There is no substitute for moonlight and kissing.  –  Barbara Cartland

85mm; ISO 2000. 70 seconds at f16. Flash

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252. Peekaboo moon, Taranaki

Peekaboo moon, Taranaki. 1.05 am, 26 August 2012

Artists are born kneeling; they fight to stand. Critics, by nature of the judgement seat, are born sitting.  –  Hortense Calisher (US novelist) [adapted]

50mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f16. Sodium vapour light balance

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249. Magnolias at night, late winter

Magnolias at night, late winter. 9.45 pm, 18 August 2012

 Meditate. Live purely. Be quiet. Do your work with mastery. Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds! Shine. –  Buddha (attrib.)

85mm; ISO 1000. 63 seconds at f2.5. Sodium vapour light balance

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206. Taranaki evening, young moon

Taranaki evening, young moon. 6.17 pm, 3 August 2011

My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world, and exiles me from it.  –  Ursula K. Le Guin

28mm, ISO 2000. 1 sec at f11. Flash

 

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173. Night riot in green

Night riot in green. 12.39 am, 11 November 2011

I confess that the head gardener has long asked for a moonlight photo of these louts, here at home. On the wrong side of a trellis, the artichokes are shaded from the full moon until after midnight; they’re also exposed to the sickly orange of streetlights.

To fix the first problem I togged up after midnight, for the second I lowered the light balance further; on the D700 sodium is covered under a fluorescent option. Better still would have been my wife screening the plant with her person – but no, she was warmly tucked up in bed.

50mm, ISO 2000. 68 seconds at f8. Neutral picture control

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