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 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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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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Stony River wide

2010.Stony.Pano2a

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.

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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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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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290. Just the ash, Taranaki

Poetry is just the ash
Just the ash, Taranaki. 11.12 pm, 27 February 2013

If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.  –  Leonard Cohen

50mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f11

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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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288. Whither Michael Smither?

Michael Smither country
Whither Michael Smither? Waiwhakaiho River at Alfred Rd. 10.56 pm, 27 February 2013

 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

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287. Rising moon on Razorback

Rising moon on Razorback
Rising moon on Razorback, Taranaki. 9.14 pm, 27 February 2013

 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

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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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268. Mother ship obviously poised

The mother ship is obviously poised. 9.20 pm, 26 October 2012

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

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267. Beam before landing

Beam before landing, Taranaki.  9 pm, 26 October 2012

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

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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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243. Winter in Waiuku country

Winter in Waiuku country, South Auckland. 11.51 pm, 28 July 2012

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

 

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241. Darkness on the Old Mountain Rd, Taranaki

Darkness on the Old Mountain Rd, Taranaki. 6.51 – 6.56 pm, 9 July 2012

To be exempt from the passions with which others are tormented, is the only pleasing solitude.  –  Joseph Addison

Driving north in the early evening, I paused on a 2 km disused section of the old highway, quaint now for its narrowness and rustic one-lane bridge. The night was cold and moonless, with a constant hubbub from the nearby highway. No one came by while I tussled with the split focus (between initial flash and the following l-o-n-g exposure) of gate/mountain with a telephoto.

I’m surprised to see Mt Taranaki lit up by the street lights of surrounding towns, but knew my own parking lights would contribute to the gate’s illumination. I was on my way back to New Plymouth, but after a long day on the road was too cold & weary to attempt more than this.

85mm; ISO 2500. 335 seconds (5.5 mins) 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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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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224. Autumn evening, Cheviot

Autumn evening, Cheviot. 8.32 pm, 2 May 2012

The moon could not keep shining if it had to pay attention to all the dogs barking at it.  –  Anon

28mm, ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f11. Flash

 

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222. Foothills from Fox Glacier

Foothills from Fox Glacier. 8.32 pm, 28 April 2012

As long as you have certain desires about how it ought to be, you can’t see how it is.   – Ram Dass

28mm; ISO 2000. 94 seconds at f8. Light balance 3030 deg K.

 

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221. Target practice, Arrowtown

Target practice, Arrowtown. 7.32 pm, 28 April 2012

         Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.  –  Arthur Schopenhauer

28mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f8

 

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220. Night portal at Kurow

Night portal at Kurow, North Otago. 10.41 pm, 30 April 2012

It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.  –  Lewis Carroll

28mm; ISO 2000. 10 seconds at f2.8. Incandescent light balance

 

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218. Wintry evening, Kurow

Wintry evening, Kurow. 11.15pm, 30 April 2012

To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.  –  Emily Dickinson

28mm; ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f4

 

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217. Just keep going

Just keep going, Fox Glacier. 10.37pm, 24 April 2012

 Just keep going. No feeling is final.  –  Rainer Maria Rilke

28mm, ISO 2000. 30 secs at f4. Light balance 3030 deg K

 

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216. Seeking love at Kurow

Seeking love at Kurow. 10.26 pm, 30 April 2012

 Seeking love keeps you from the awareness that you already are it.  –  Byron Katie

28mm; ISO 2000. 30 secs at f5.6. Mercury vapour light balance.

 

 

 

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215. Sinking moon, Arrowtown

Sinking moon, Arrowtown, Central Otago. 7.04 pm, 28 April 2012

If you never did, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.  –  Dr Suess

 28mm, ISO 2000. 15 secs at f8. Col balance 2500 deg K.

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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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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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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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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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196. The best relationship, at night

The best relationship, at night. 10.17pm, 8 February 2012

Health is the greatest gift; Contentment the greatest wealth; Faithfulness the best relationship.  –  Buddha

28mm, ISO 2000. 123 secs at f22. Flash

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193. Front country, Te Hapu, by moonlight

Front country, Te Hapu, by moonlight. 10.11pm, 7 February 2012

… all our senses will be purified, and there will be nothing to criticize and no unhappy memories.  –  Srila Narayana Maharaja

28mm, ISO 2000. 2.5 secs at f2.8

 

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189. A fool sees a tree

A fool sees a treeA fool sees a tree, by moonlight. 11.49pm, 10 January 2012 

A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.  – William Blake

28mm, ISO 2000. 30 secs at f13. Flash

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171. Moonlit natives

Moonlit natives. 2.36 - 2.41 am, 11 November 2011

Friendship is a sheltering tree. –  S.T. Coleridge

Peering through a suburban cabbage tree involved an awkward set-up on sloping ground; every slight adjustment of the tripod also changed the ponga ferns relative to the foreground. I was however nicely sheltered from a frigid gale.

I’ve used a conventional depth of field method known as f22, rather than split focus (see no. 170). This is the next aperture down from f16; not many lenses have it so I’m glad to see f22 on my 28mm and my new 50mm lens.

With moonlight this means a fairly long exposure (292.1 seconds) to compensate, but it does give star trails instead of hyphens or stutters.

28mm, ISO 2000. 5 minutes at f22

 

 

 

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165. Later that same evening

Later that same evening. 10.52-10.56pm, 17 July 2011

The truth is more important than the facts. –  Frank Lloyd Wright

I clambered up a cutting for this welcome perspective, then waited a while for a car to complete the picture, a 5 min 35 sec exposure. The car is actually a police car looking for me. A strange vehicle has been reported down a driveway, although mine is quite plainly parked in a large tanker layby, just out of frame.

Soon the police will return so I’ll descend to explain myself. Glad they’re on the job, but what’s with the dog? It’s a slow night for sure, but otherwise a great one for moonlight photography.

28mm, ISO 2000. 335 seconds at f22. Incandescent light balance

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164. Moonlit evening, passing car

Taranaki moonlight, passing car
Moonlit evening, passing car. 9.57pm, 17 July 2011

Too much light is like too much darkness: you cannot see. –  Octavio Paz

Mt Taranaki and the Southern Cross. I’d had this viewpoint in mind for sometime, as it has a convenient carpark and a sweeping bend. Much depends on car speed, headlight direction and high or low beam – plus ISO choice and moon brightness – but my aperture here was too generous. So I’ve densitised the RAW result to get the desired effect.

Choose a local road but don’t leave it too late or you’ll sit waiting for traffic. And as the evening progresses, each passing vehicle takes a greater interest in your purpose out there.

28mm, ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f6.3

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163. Moonlight on Te Rewa Rewa

Moonlight on Te Rewa Rewa. 2.29-2.32 am, 20 January 2011

The thing always happens that you really believe in, and the belief in a thing makes it happen. –  Frank Lloyd Wright

Using the smallest aperture on the bridge I got both the near bones and the distant peak into sharp focus with a telephoto lens. A lower ISO was needed to extend the exposure for star trails but the moonlit sky is actually too bright for them.

The bridge has won several international awards. Its clever design has the spine start on one side and end on the other, to great effect. Mt Taranaki is often shrouded, so visitors are by no means guaranteed this line-up.

85mm, ISO 500. 157 seconds (2.5 minutes) at f16.

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160. Spring moonshine: Free performance

Spring moonshine: Free performance. 8.54pm, 29 September 2011

No state of affairs is ever perfect. –  Horace

On a mild spring evening a slip of a moon comes down the starry sky to a calm sea. What a marvellous programme! A bench seat was provided but there was no admission charge,  applause or intermission – and no commercials. Truth be told though, I had to leave before the moon did, not wanting to inconvenience the patient souls sitting in my car…

A more consciously abstract image, the layered bands weren’t obvious on site. From below you see the cliff shadow, then the more distant Tasman Sea lit by the industrial shore, then a last lingering twilight below the stars.

85mm; ISO 2000. 58 seconds at f7.1

 

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154. Suburban moment, New Plymouth

Suburban moment, New Plymouth. 9.53pm 8 September 2011

Life is made up of marble and mud. –  Nathaniel Hawthorne

It’s surprising what you find close to home when you can’t venture far. Apart from their starriness, this scene matches with the previous one, Marahau before moonrise, in one  sense: use of f4. However their shutter times demonstrate how far apart light levels can be on different nights: 3 secs v. 327 secs – same ISO.

I like the colour range here and the sense of depth in the heavens. Three secs is not enough to stop the moonlit cloud and even the stars are shaking. Hawthorne’s “mud” here refers to the marring power line, which went up only last year.

85mm, ISO 2000; 3 seconds at f4

 

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153. Marahau before moonrise, Abel Tasman coast

Marahau before moonrise, Abel Tasman coast. 11.52 - 11.58 pm, 29 November 2010

Somehow to capture the constantly evanescent quality of existence.

– Tennessee Williams, on his goal in writing

It can be a pain to wait for the moonrise on those nights following full moon – although you do get some quality time with undimmed stars and the odd cloud capture. Eventually the eastern horizon lightens and of course it’s too early for dawn.

This is one such evening, looking across the shallows from the last settlement before Abel Tasman National Park. Lights mark the channel at Astrolabe Roadstead; two islands are in view, the obvious one being Fisherman’s. The view varies with the tide, here at its peak.

28mm, ISO 2000. 327 seconds (5.5 minutes) at f4

 

 

 

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152. Moonlit mountain

Moonlit mountain, Taranaki. 11.57 pm, 17 July 2011

Everybody has talent at 25. The difficult thing is to have it at 50. –  Edward Degas.

With midnight as my deadline, this roadside shot was one of my last for this cool but lovely evening. Pheney Rd is a quiet country location but it is not far from the city and camerawork is not so relaxing late at night when you are in a public space.

A relatively short exposure and wide angle means good star points; getting the opposite effect – good star trails – in combination with flash is tricky on moonlit nights, for light balancing reasons. This photo is soon to be published in a national magazine.

28mm, ISO 2000. 30 seconds at f10. Flash

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