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
[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
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.
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
This was taken without using a tripod or cable release – just holding the camera open on B, on a guard rail on the Cook Strait ferry, has done the trick. The cloud is lit by moonlight, the lower part of the image must be the motorway the boat is running parallel to. We are close to docking. The undulations of the vessel, hardly perceptible onboard, show up in the apparent movement of the city lights. Steep hills are suggested by the absence of lights in some areas.
85mm, ISO 2000. 10 secs at f11. Incandescent light balance.
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
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone. – Anon
Any “ordinary” photo of floodlit buildings will be lifted by background twilight, an obliging moon and the selection of an artificial light balance. Lady Godiva obliging on a white horse in front of the dark tree would’ve helped too, but unfortunately she was already booked for the Rugby World Cup.
If a tripod is not available, go to wide angle, increase the ISO and steady yourself for a slow hand-held using the self-timer. Take several and chances are you’ll get something adequate even at 1/10th – depending somewhat on how wide you go.
28mm; ISO 2500. 1/50th at f2.8. Sodium vapour light balance
Correction does much, but encouragement does more. – J. von Goethe
Driving back after sunset from an amble around Stratford, Taranaki, I was pleased to see this dramatic church in Inglewood, the next country town. The magnificent kowhai tree in front was laden with blossom, while a branch hung down above the main floodlight.
Not only could I photograph it hand-held – a rare event in night photography – but I belatedly found the Nikon D7oo even provided for sodium vapour lighting, tucked away under the Fluorescent heading. This corrected the lighting colour, giving a very good approximation of the intense yellow the kowhai is remarkable for.
28mm; ISO 2000. 1/80th at f5.6. Sodium vapour light balance
Three lights at Paritutu, New Plymouth. 9.36pm, 10 September 2011
I have memory, which is the idiot’s talent. – Francisco Umbral
The three lights are moonlight (at sea), nearby industrial lighting and flash for the foreground. This shot has a cool feel because the incandescent (tungsten) setting was used to cool the light on the slopes of Paritutu. The flash is just the one on the camera, and testing the exposure is also simple – flash it and see. Then add your moonlight shutter.
This was my last effort for the evening because a fire engine turned up, red lights flashing, looking for a fire. I wonder, was it my flash gun or some random fireworks from the summit that brought it out?
Patience is a bitter plant, but it has sweet fruit. – Chinese proverb
The new crescent waxes and each evening is higher in the sky. Through a wide angle the early moon is barely visible; waxing a night or two later it is more conspicuous. Being higher in the sky it is harder to frame in the landscape – except on hillsides, and here I’m crouched low on a grassy slope. The tripod was optional at this point, but sharp results are more certain and for me working more slowly leads to greater concentration.
28mm, ISO 2000. 1/60th at f11. Incandescent light balance
Good sense travels on well worn paths; genius never. – Cesar Lombroso
The skies were clear but the wind was howling as I set up on the cycleway, across the way from the fertiliser works near Napier. Any shot that I failed to shelter from the windgusts was useless, so I hovered as close to the tripod as I could. An elevated viewpoint, even if available, was out of the question on this evening. The sense of night is amplified with the choice of tungsten light balance. The cloud formations were truly fleeting.