Which way the wind blows

Which way the wind blows, Te Hapu, Golden Bay

Te Hapu is a wonderful farmstay in far Golden Bay – on the West Coast in fact, after a drive down fabulous Westhaven Inlet.  The farm is a rugged 1,000 acres of limestone, and its scenic highlights include what must be one of the best private beaches in the country, Gilbert’s Beach, with its encircling reef and dramatic backdrop of cliff and nikau palms.

It is a lovely place to wander, although not much of it is level! Some days too the wind blows strongly, especially from the southwest, and anything trying to grow where the wind funnels is bound to take a protective stance against it, as above. I took this when we stayed there last April; the photo features in my new book, Perfect Evenings.

May 2018 in new Perfect Evenings calendar

Quiet night at Kurow, North Otago

Another sample from my 2018 New Zealand calendar, this one is for May 2018. The holiday park at Kurow was decidedly off-season on the cold autumn night that we stayed there. A bitter, blustery wind was blowing but I coated up and left our snug cabin with tripod and gear, determined to make use of the wan moonlight in such an interesting setting – and was then pleasantly surprised to find that down by the river was quite sheltered. From the several hours I  spent on the terraces, covering many angles on the deserted camp, this pic has emerged as a favourite. A second, quite different scene from this frigid outing also features in my upcoming Perfect Evenings photo book.

Monday 2nd October is the last day for my extra special prices on this 2018 calendar, post-free for NZ & Australia. There are still about 20 left – so why not purchase and enjoy?!

 

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

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

Wet evening, Whangarei Harbour

2727 Rainy evening, Whangarei Harbour

2727 Wet evening, Whangarei Harbour. 5.24pm, 25 May 2013

On a sodden summer’s day here in Taranaki I’ve been looking through my yearly folders for fitting material. This high-tide scene from Mcleod’s Bay, on the northern shores of Whangarei Harbour, takes in the blue of twilight and the clean, bright highlights of torchlight. I was aiming for some depth with the tree-studded islet offshore, but was surprised by the keen colour contrast. Umbrella photography has its payoffs, but also its price – a good torch tumbled out of my grasp, down the slope and (one part thereof) into the sea below.

85mm, ISO 100. 4 secs at f16. Tungsten light balance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

79. Light ribbons at Puponga, Golden Bay

Light ribbons at Puponga. 10.32pm, 10 January 2009

Here’s a bit of fun, on a hilltop overlooking Farewell Spit at the top of the South Island. You can have some good, creative fun when you are out with a camera and tripod at night. Sure it’s wholesome, legal and involves exercise in the fresh outdoors – but as Keith Richards might say, it ain’t all bad, despite this.

After dark Richard and I walked over the bridge at Puponga and up the hill. It was too overcast for actual moonlight photography, as the high ISOs needed by the Lumix LX3 gave such marginal results – yet the moon was well up and fairly full. On such summery after-moons, when the waning moon rises in the night, you either stay outdoors soaking up the ambience, or you head out well after sundown.

This shot was taken 90 minutes after sunset, at f2 and 10 seconds, on ISO 200 and with the zoom at widest. The grass detail helps to locate and add depth to the photo, but the shutter was not long enough for much else in the landscape. It’s fine for the sky and the torchbearer though. Waving the torch through three arcs has lit Richard’s face in corresponding fractures. You can tell from the cool flesh tones that the torch was an LED one; with a filament bulb I would have tried the tungsten setting as well.

So you don’t have to wield the torch yourself – let your friends brandish it. Extending the shutter time and moving Richard from spot to spot would have developed this theme nicely, but alas, I took back the torch and followed just the spot-to-spot part. Squaring the original has improved it, by deleting the empty wings (left and right) of the wide stage, a common surplus when your frame features just a single subject.

Two’s good company on these capers. Even if your companion is 50 metres away with his own camera and moonlit absorption, the company makes a difference.

76. Moonrise at Long Bay, Auckland

Moonrise at Long Bay, Auckland. 4 December 1979

The mannequin once adorned my apartment at Courtville, Auckland. We stowed her in the back for an evening trip up to Long Bay, on the North Shore. It felt like so much lumber to be lugging the tripod as well, but I knew a full moon was coming up, and with no tripod there’s no moonlight photography… you might find lucky fenceposts occasionally, but don’t count on it.

In the Pentax was Ektachrome 400; it was fast for the time but was not one I liked much – someone had paid me with a few rolls. How quickly we take for granted the digital benefit of instant feedback, so useful when you’re freehanding with your light source, or mixing sources. On film a shot like this would be guestimated in a number of steps.

First, figure out focus (not 100% here), then remember previous settings for moony reflections, adjust for faster film, assess strength of torchlight and distance from foreground, and then judge the lapse of time as the beam moves up and down the mannequin. Shoot and advance film for next attempt… wait days or weeks for results. Naturally, you hedged with various exposures – bracketing, it’s called – but film was never free, and neither was processing.

The torchlight is an old filament bulb, and today’s torches would deliver a much cooler colour temperature. While the exposure was unrecorded, the tiny surf still visible means the shutter was only for a few seconds. The good depth of field and slight curve to the horizon shows a 28mm lens. The clouds were a photographer’s pleasure; the distant spark is from the lighthouse on Tiritiri Matangi, in the Hauraki Gulf.

I was pleased with the result, and even when adapted to this square format there’s still room for an art director’s headline. The mannequin had a long, productive life and featured in other scenarios I dreamed up around this time. We finished the evening with a midnight swim.

49. Infra red church and moon, Baylys Beach

Infra red church and moon, Baylys Beach. 29 April 1980

Of course it’s the film that’s infra red, not the church on Sea View Rd (near Dargaville, in Northland). Kodak’s Infrared Ektachrome was a popular film in the 1970s, and illustrated the front cover of a few rock albums. It was also the first slide film I ever used, back in 1974. I took this when visiting a friend at the beach: a moonlight stroll suggested itself, and with a feeble torch we wandered the quiet streets nearby.

The cloud movement is gratifying but there are some puzzling aspects for me now: it must be wide angle but the star trail is uncharacteristically long for 28mm, and the moon looks like a large, stationary lightbulb. I usually avoid shooting straight at the moon (but see 3. Waitakere nikau and the rising moon), however with some haze or cloud around it seems workable – even if the frame has had to be slightly cropped to remove lunar flare.

Some torchlight is evident on the right hand side of the building, where Caron is just visible, shining her torch into a hydrangea bush. Torchlight being so much stronger than moonlight, I soon asked her to turn the beam off. Exposing this sort of scene is like a play in two acts: the torch paints some part or somebody with light for the short first act – the time depends on torch brightness and distance to subject – and then the exposure continues in a longer second act, gathering in more light for the dimmer backdrop.

Infrared Ektachrome was a high contrast film, so fairly unforgiving in exposure terms. It worked best with a deep yellow or red filter, at 100 ISO, but under tungsten lighting the filter could be discarded, and an f-stop thereby gained. The infra red part was only a wee slice of spectrum beyond the visible, while the other emulsion layers simply displaced the colours. The full effect is not displayed here.