August 2018 in new calendar: Magnolia bud

Magnolia bud at night, New Plymouth

This is a sample illustration from my long exposure Perfect Evenings 2018 New Zealand calendar. Magnolia flowers are a welcome sight in the southern spring, appearing from July to September, depending on the species and local climate. By moonlight or street light they are even more luminous and lovely than by day.

Printed in just a small edition of 125, most of my calendars have now sold at the special early bird prices quoted in the last post. The three for $30 deal and 5 + 1 for $60 have been very popular. There’s obviously good interest – not to mention good sense – in having giftable items on hand well before the usual rush, especially when so many New Zealanders are taking to the air (and the road) and require packable items for their calls and hosts.

All prices are post-free within NZ and Australia. My best-ever, these prices are current until Monday 2nd October, and will not be repeated. By that time  the entire stock will probably be spoken for, and any reprint considered will have to be at standard prices. These will still be good value, however, with various extras offered, in addition to the photographer’s own prompt and personal service!

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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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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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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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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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Cool majesty from Waingongoro

DSC_2758. Cool majesty, on Waingongoro Rd, South Taranaki

2758. Cool majesty from Waingongoro Rd, Taranaki. 1.47pm, 17 October 2015

Two problems in volcano camerawork are vacant skies and the huge gap in exposure values between the snowy elevations and the green landscape below. Here with patchy cloud and silhouettes is an answer to this creative challenge. Lacking as it does spring lambs (and mint) this image does not quite reach the bar, yet I find its ellipsis strangely appealing… On the approach, in a clear sign of ascending middle age, I was more concerned with the wear of the gravel road on my tyres than with how the icy edifice might loom in my viewfinder. The cold sou-wester also dampened my interest, but what I like in this half-submerged image is a mistake in my colour temperature setting (Sodium vapour lamps), which still leaves its mark. It’s all a happy accident, in other words.

85mm; ISO 250. f11 at 1000th sec.

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2016 Calendar pre-announcement

8646.Front.cover.2016.Calendar

8646. Front cover, 2016 Calendar

With my new photo book 36 Views of Mt Taranaki to be released shortly, it seemed obvious to have our 2016 calendar feature the mountain too. Not so obvious was the decision not to use anything from the book and to turn the images into fine art monochromes – although not strictly black&white, as the image above shows. A few are B&W originals but most have been stripped of their colour data. The tones and textures of the peak lend themselves well to this treatment. I will have more news on the calendar and on the new book shortly.

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Abstract 2: Pukearuhe rockface

DSC_23932393. Abstract 2: Pukearuhe rockface. 4.06pm, 31 July 2015

My interest in these stripes was partly spurred by my SO’s work in creative fibre, designing woven creations with striking bands of colour. The strong reflections here are in the surface topography. This is very close-up by telephoto standards and the wide f-stop only just copes; a better depth of field would be achieved with a faster ISO and slower shutter speed. However I had set out without tripod – as I often do when my photography is secondary to a social outing. Even for an exposure of 1/500th I used the self-timer at 2 seconds to delay exposure slightly, reducing the risk of camera shake, something that is magnified with telephotos.

85mm; ISO 250. 1/500th @ f3.5

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Abstract 1: Pukearuhe rockface

DSC_2359Abstract 1: Pukearuhe, north Taranaki. 1.46pm, 31 July 2015

I  have photographed these cliffs before but only occasionally, as they are an hour north of New Plymouth on a side road, and access is strictly tidal. The beach changes from sand to rocks with the seasons, while recent rain makes a difference to the rockface patterns observed. Here we’re looking at a well-watered part of the cliff at about eye-level, with much reflected early afternoon sunlight. I selected a low ISO for maximum effect but also a high shutter speed, to avoid any risk of camera shake with a heavy telephoto.

85mm; ISO 250. 1/640th @ f11.

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Lahar landscape, Stent Rd

Lahar landscape, Stent Rd

2037. Lahar landscape, Stent Rd, Warea. 24 June 2015, 3.24pm

Since our return to Taranaki at the end of May I have been preoccupied with a photo project on our local peak, formerly known as Egmont. Mt Taranaki (as it’s now called) is well overdue for a photo book, and why not one to answer 36 Views of Mt Fuji, Hokusai’s famous collection of prints of Japan’s highest mountain? So I set out to put together 36 Views of Mt Taranaki, which I will publish next month. The new book is dedicated to my mother, Gwen Brewster, who celebrated her 90th birthday two weeks ago. She now has the only copy – an advance proof. This out-take was shot in a strong, frigid SWer, whose discomfort I removed from this sunny scene in post-pro.

135mm, ISO 500. 1/1250s at f9

 

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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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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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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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NZ flax with moonrise

9289 Flax with moonrise

9289 NZ flax with moonrise, Ahu Ahu Rd, Taranaki. 8.59pm, 4 January 2015

My previous post left out another great NZ silhouette, Phormium tenax, now in summer flower and shown here in only semi-, thanks to flash. Taken at a sheltered  location south of Oakura, one of the few north-facing beaches along the western North Island. The coast here is very walkable, as two footbridges link the Ahu Ahu, Weld and Timaru road ends with Oakura resort. To get the moon this size I used the long end of my zoom, and then self-timed the shutter to reduce shake (hand-held being quite marginal for this focal length). While big moons always mean big, telephoto lenses, the whopper moons often seen in popular media are invariably double exposures or superimpositions.

300mm, ISO 2500. 1/250th sec @ f8. Flash

.

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Mana Island liberty

_DSC6858b

6858b Mana Island liberty. 4.53pm, 7 May 2014

“This’ll be good!”, I thought to myself, as an evening squall approached Plimmerton, a Wellington suburb on Porirua Harbour. Keen photographers should be out for every passing shower, but of course location is everything – and the right time of day. The squall soon passed over and the clouds parted for an enormous rainbow lit by the setting sun, plus this view of Mana, with its distinctive flat top. The car window has been given first place here, while “liberty” refers to my changing the entire hue in post processing.

85mm, ISO 2000. 1/500th sec at f16

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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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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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Claire & co in the wilderness

7707. Claire & co at Whatipu

7707. Claire & co at Whatipu

A discrete chair in the Whatipu wilderness puts you one step ahead in the relaxed model stakes – as does a warm coat – but the secret ingredient to portrait work seems to be having an accomplice, one who distracts the subject with lively conversation while the photographer pretends to poodle around with his tripod and settings. In this case, Yana is standing close by, so that Claire remains face-on to camera. For portrait work my Nikon 85mm lens is an obvious choice, and it’s a sharp lens for a soft (though wintry) light. As backdrop I like the filigree of flax and the rock, and Claire’s good twin has also come by – note the different colouration –  for a final appearance.

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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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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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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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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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283. Cosmos, Morere twilight

Cosmos, Morere twilight
Cosmos, Morere twilight. 8.59 pm, 25 January 2013

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and realize that prisoner was you.  –  Lewis B. Smedes

85mm; ISO 500. 15 seconds at f16. Incandescent light balance

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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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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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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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260. Moonlit gums, Cambridge

Moonlit gums, Leamington, Cambridge.  9.36 pm, 31 August 2012

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

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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