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The Canterbury Tales

He stood staring into the wood for a minute, then said: “What is it about the English countryside - why is the beauty so much more than visual? Why does it touch one so?
 Wye National Nature Reserve, Kent, UK.

Wye National Nature Reserve, Kent, UK.

Having two of your three kids and families living on the far side of the world is not nice but on the other hand provides opportunities to travel and explore the places we most likely would otherwise never have got to see. In June I was so fortunate to travel yet again to the UK and Ireland primarily to meet our newest grandchild in the making in Canterbury, Kent and spend time with family and grandkids in Ireland. We landed in the UK in the early hours of 9th June and our new grandson was born that evening. Couldn’t have timed it better.  

 Our 5th grandchild and first born in the UK. Little Leo.

Our 5th grandchild and first born in the UK. Little Leo.

Leading up to this trip I was determined to not be burdened with heavy camera gear, which in its entirety weighs about 8kg and since its carry-on luggage its already exceeding weight allowance. With that in mind, I spent a lot of time researching one of the most recent and critically acclaimed ‘all purpose’ Olympus zoom lenses, the 12-100mm f/4 lens. The reviews were overwhelmingly positive so I took the plunge and bought it, and ever since have been trying to block the cost from my conscience.

 Olympus E-M1 MKII paired with Olympus 12-100mm f/4 IS PRO lens. 

Olympus E-M1 MKII paired with Olympus 12-100mm f/4 IS PRO lens. 

I used it for almost all of the hundreds of photos I took on this trip. I found the focusing to be lightning fast and the images to be very sharp. The lens focal range of 12-100mm (24-200mm equivalent on a full-frame camera) is very versatile covering wide angle to close in shots. It was also a lot nicer walking around with just a camera and single lens and not be burdened with an additional few extra lenses adding weight to my aging shoulders. I also took my faster 25mm f1.2 lens for use in low light situations however the 12-100mm has in-built image stabilisation as does my Olympus E-M1 MKII camera which means that paired together they can be hand-held for taking tack sharp photos at very slow shutter speeds. 

One of the awful aspects of this trip was leaving the New Zealand winter for summertime in the northern hemisphere. How hard can that be? I soon got over it before I’d even left home. The UK, and later on Ireland, weather did not disappoint. We had packed for all seasons but we struck a heatwave and unbelievably no rain for the duration of the trip. The first rain was as we were descending into Auckland on our return home.

We were based in Canterbury, Kent where our daughter, son-in-law, and newest grandchild live. Its a beautiful city. Having been in Canterbury three times now, it feels familiar and comfortable. It’s a World Heritage city that pulses with life being the home of two universities, being a domestic and international tourist visitor magnet, and being a destination for endless groups of school kids from Europe on history trips.

 Summer days. Canterbury, Kent, UK. In the upper left is 'the ducking chair'.    This is a chair suspended on a frame hanging over the River Stour. It was used in the middle ages as a form of retribution for three types of situations. Firstly it was used as a punishment for nagging wives. In those enlightened times, a man could pay for his nagging wife to be dipped into the river on the ducking stool and of course suffer a degree of public humiliation at the same time. Secondly, it was used as a punishment and public embarrassment for cheating businessmen, who would be ducked into the water in front of a baying crowd and who would inevitably be forced to leave the city afterwards, their reputation in tatters. Lastly it was most famously used as a litmus test for witches and the way it worked was this: any woman accused of being a witch would be placed in the chair, and the chair would be swung out over the river and then submerged deep in the river for 2-3 minutes. After that time, the poor woman would be brought back to the surface. If she survived this lengthy ducking then clearly she was a witch as she must have used her powers to survive the fatal dowsing. If so, she would be burned at the stake as a witch. If, however, the lady was dead after being submerged for 3 minutes, then clearly she was not a witch.

Summer days. Canterbury, Kent, UK. In the upper left is 'the ducking chair'.  

This is a chair suspended on a frame hanging over the River Stour. It was used in the middle ages as a form of retribution for three types of situations. Firstly it was used as a punishment for nagging wives. In those enlightened times, a man could pay for his nagging wife to be dipped into the river on the ducking stool and of course suffer a degree of public humiliation at the same time. Secondly, it was used as a punishment and public embarrassment for cheating businessmen, who would be ducked into the water in front of a baying crowd and who would inevitably be forced to leave the city afterwards, their reputation in tatters. Lastly it was most famously used as a litmus test for witches and the way it worked was this: any woman accused of being a witch would be placed in the chair, and the chair would be swung out over the river and then submerged deep in the river for 2-3 minutes. After that time, the poor woman would be brought back to the surface. If she survived this lengthy ducking then clearly she was a witch as she must have used her powers to survive the fatal dowsing. If so, she would be burned at the stake as a witch. If, however, the lady was dead after being submerged for 3 minutes, then clearly she was not a witch.

Canterbury is a city rich in history and is of course the home of Canterbury Cathedral, one of the oldest and most famous cathedral’s in England. It is the cathedral of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the symbolic centre of the worldwide Anglican faith.

 Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, Kent.

Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, Kent.

 The Old Weavers' House, Canterbury, Kent, UK.

The Old Weavers' House, Canterbury, Kent, UK.

Within the inner city there are beautiful gardens including Westgate Gardens and the River Stour. Such a wonderful asset in the city and idyllic in summer.  

There are still sections of a medieval wall that surrounded Canterbury including the Westgate. This 18 metre (60 foot) high western gate in the city wall is the largest surviving city gate in England. It was built circa 1379 and is the last survivor of Canterbury's seven medieval gates. 

 The Westgate. Circa 1379. 

The Westgate. Circa 1379. 

One of the great joys of travel is chancing upon something special. Given the history of the UK its not surprising that there is some sort of claim to fame around virtually every corner. So it is in Canterbury and another example is St Martin's Church, the first church founded in England, the oldest parish church in continuous use and the oldest church in the entire English-speaking world. As such, it is recognised, along with Canterbury Cathedral and St Augustine's Abbey in Canterbury, as part of a World Heritage Site.

 St Martin's Church, Canterbury, Kent. The oldest church in the entire English-speaking world.

St Martin's Church, Canterbury, Kent. The oldest church in the entire English-speaking world.

It almost looks like an optical illusion but The Crooked House, sometimes known as Sir John Boys House, King’s Gallery, or Old King’s Shop, looks as if it is about to tumble over. It’s skewed facade stops many visitors in their tracks. 

 The 17th century Crooked House. 

The 17th century Crooked House. 

Built in the 17th century, the Crooked House’s strange appearance has sparked a few stories. Some claim that it inspired a passage in Dicken’s David Copperfield. Others say it was the house of MP and recorder of Canterbury, Sir John Boys; this has been discovered to be unfounded. Nonetheless, the house often takes his name. The Crooked House is perched at the end of Palace Street, near the centre of Canterbury and within earshot of the bells of the Cathedral. An internal chimney slipping gave the house it’s asymmetrical appearance. Today a steel frame keeps it in place. It gives the building a dizzying effect. Today, it is the home of Catching Lives Bookshop which sells second-hand books to raise money for the homeless and vulnerably housed. 

There are so many photo opportunities in Canterbury.

One of the things that I believe from overseas travels is that no one country has a monopoly on beauty. In New Zealand we have an arguably spectacular landscape with a rugged raw beauty about it, whereas In England I see a softer landscape with a romantic, historical beauty about it. It’s a landscape I really love and I’d love to explore much more of it and I'll show you some more of it in the next blog entry.

I love the cross-country walks, cycle ways and bridle paths that criss-cross the country and link towns and villages and the knowledge that at the end of those walks you are likely to find a beautiful little centuries old pub. There’s an inviting ambience in these pubs and they tend to be family and dog friendly. Of all the pleasures and delights of England, the historic country pubs are right up there.

I'll close this blog entry with a couple of images from one of my favourite walks from Canterbury to the village of Chartham along The Great Stour Way. This 5km (3 mile) trail follows the River Stour and crosses beautiful countryside, runs alongside man made fishing lakes and nature reserves. I walked it one evening and by the time I got back to Canterbury my legs were about to surrender. 

 Evening on The Great Stour Way between Canterbury and Chartham, Kent, UK.

Evening on The Great Stour Way between Canterbury and Chartham, Kent, UK.

 Why walk to Chartham? It's worth it just to walk into The Artichoke.

Why walk to Chartham? It's worth it just to walk into The Artichoke.

I'll leave it there now. My original intention was to squeeze the England part of the holiday into one blog entry but there is so much more to show beyond Canterbury, so there will be a few more in the coming weeks. 

Until next time.....all you need is love 

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It just clicks.

My camera and all but one of my lenses are from Olympus. I have nothing against any other camera brand, I just happened to travel down Panasonic Avenue and then turn left at Olympus Drive which in my case was a no exit thoroughfare.

My first interchangeable lens camera was the Panasonic GX1. It was my introduction to mirrorless cameras, also known as compact system cameras also refered to as micro four thirds cameras. It’s a confusing world! I came to like this camera format. I liked working with this more compact and lighter camera. In time I sold the GX1 and took to the critically acclaimed Olympus O-MD E-M1. 

I have the current Olympus flagship model O-MD E-M1 MKII. Its quite a handful of a name. Legend has it that they were originally called M, but Leica took exception and Olympus changed the name to OM. The D stands for Digital, the E for Electronic. 

 Olympus OM-D E-M1 MKII

Olympus OM-D E-M1 MKII

 Olympus O-MD E-M1 MKII

Olympus O-MD E-M1 MKII

Mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras differ from conventional DSLR cameras in that they use a digital display system instead of an optical mirror and optical viewfinder, which reduces weight and allows for a smaller camera body. The interchangeable lenses are also smaller and lighter making it somewhat easier to lug a camera and lens kit around for any length of time. My full camera kit weighs around 6kg including a backpack. It still feels heavy after being on my back for long periods and my camera attached to the largest lens I have, the Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 lens can become uncomfortable (heavy) to hold for long periods. A comparable DSLR kit of the same items would weight much more though and require a somewhat larger backpack.  

The first mirrorless camera was marketed in 2004. By 2012 major camera manufacturers, Canon, Nikon & Sony had all introduced mirrorless cameras and subsequently so have others such as Fuji. The camera market is shrinking and in 2016 the number of cameras shipped was down 81% compared to 2010. In 2010, there were 8 times more DSLRs than mirrorless. In 2016, the overall production numbers dropped for both, but they almost got even in share: 12 million DSLRs and 11 million mirrorless cameras. I guess one of the reasons for a slump in camera sales is the flood of smartphone cameras and the ever improving abilities of smartphone cameras has destroyed the compact 'point and shoot' camera market especially.

Mirrorless cameras can struggle in low light conditions due to having smaller light sensors resulting in an increase in ‘graininess’ in images taken in very low light. I have to say this can be a source of irritation for me but the EM1 MKII has noticeable improvement over my previous EM1 MKI. Fast light gathering lenses somewhat compensate as does the very impressive much lauded ‘5 axis image stabilization’ which Olympus pioneered. It provides the capability to take long sharp exposures with lower ISO’s without the need to mount the camera on a tripod. In digital photography, ISO measures the sensitivity of the image sensor. The lower the ISO number the less sensitive the camera is to light and the finer the grain. Higher ISO settings are generally used in darker situations to get faster shutter speeds. Most of my daytime and golden hour photos are taken at ISO200. The ISO range on my camera is from 60 to 25600. Personally I wouldn’t go above ISO1600 as the images would be too grainy for my liking. Hey, if you saw an alien standing on the front lawn after dark, stuff the graininess! I'd just take the picture, or more likely just take off.......fast

Olympus users are obtaining fantastic images while handholding the E-M1 MKII camera and it’s stablemates using exposures of 5 to 10 seconds and even 15 seconds. Testimony to the amazing inbuilt image stabilisation. 

The Olympus O-MD series of digital mirrorless system cameras debuted with the announcement of the O-MD E-M5 in 2012. The following year saw the introduction of the new flagship camera the O-MD E-M1, which was my first Olympus camera. Olympus mirrorless cameras have been critically acclaimed and have won many awards. Most recently the E-M1 MKII won prestigious honours at the Camera Grand Prix 2017, including Camera of the Year. The recently released Olympus M.Zuiko ED 12-100mm f/4 IS PRO lens also won lens of the Year.  

So what lenses do I attach to my E-M1 MKII camera? Camera manufacturers market their cameras with kit lenses. These lenses are built to a price in order to provide a competitively priced camera and lens combo. Kit lenses can produce really great photos but I do believe that there are advantages in eventually acquiring higher spec interchangeable lens. I started with a kit lens on the previous E-MI and experimented with a few other lenses along the way before settling on my current range of lenses. My first really good lens was the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens. This is such an outstanding solidly built sexy workhorse of a lens, incredibly sharp. Just look at the image below. It’s lens porn!

 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO

 View toward Broadstairs, Kent, UK, 2017 taken with Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 lens.

View toward Broadstairs, Kent, UK, 2017 taken with Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 lens.

If I was to only have one lens then the 12-40mm would be it. I have however reluctantly sold this lens in order to sort of appease my guilt over acquiring another lens which I lusted after which I will discuss a little further on. 

I followed the 12-40mm f/2.8 lens with the purchase of the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens (image below). This versatile lens is attached to my camera more often than any others. Coupled with the Olympus MC-14 x1.4 teleconverter it gives great magnification of distant objects, excellent for street and sport photography. It’s also a very good portrait lens so I guess it could be called a very good all rounder. 

 Olympus M.Zuiko ED 20-150mm f/2.8 PRO

Olympus M.Zuiko ED 20-150mm f/2.8 PRO

 Between a rock and a wet place. Taken from a considerable distance using the Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens.

Between a rock and a wet place. Taken from a considerable distance using the Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens.

 The 40-150mm f/2.8 lens is great for zooming in on distant subjects. This image was taken hand-held from a few hundred metres away up on Mauao, Mount Maunganui. 

The 40-150mm f/2.8 lens is great for zooming in on distant subjects. This image was taken hand-held from a few hundred metres away up on Mauao, Mount Maunganui. 

 And the 40-150 f/2.8 lens was a great option for photographing these dolphins travelling at speed in the Bay of Islands, NZ. 

And the 40-150 f/2.8 lens was a great option for photographing these dolphins travelling at speed in the Bay of Islands, NZ. 

My next lens lens joining the family was the Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens, which unlike the 40-150mm lens, gives a very wide field of view. I really procrastinated on this one but I’m very pleased I bought it. It’s great for wide landscapes and wide dramatic skies, as well as for interior photos and ‘opening up interior space’. Its also a great street photography lens for that more expansive street view.

 Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens.

Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens.

 Dusk at Papamoa Beach. Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens.

Dusk at Papamoa Beach. Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens.

 Above and below. Sunset at the end of my street. Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 lens.

Above and below. Sunset at the end of my street. Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 lens.

 Interior image using the Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 lens

Interior image using the Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 lens

 The backyard at home. The 7-14mm f/2.8 lens gives it that wide real estate agent exaggeration of a look.

The backyard at home. The 7-14mm f/2.8 lens gives it that wide real estate agent exaggeration of a look.

My only non Olympus lens but much loved lens outside of the Olympus brand is the Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2. Primarily a class leading portrait lens, it is a ‘fast’ lens with excellent light gathering ability exceling in low light situations. It’s an absolute ‘go to’ lens for portraits but also a very good street and sunset photography lens. Wide open at f/1.2 it is fantastic for isolating the subject from the background as seen in the following photo.  

 Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 lens

Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 lens

The Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 lens does beautiful separation of foreground and background and being a fast lens coupled with the Olympus in-camera image stabilisation, there is no need for a tripod for low light shots like the one below. 

 Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 lens

Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 lens

The Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 lens is also a wonderful street photography lens. 

 Friday afternoon in Dublin, Ireland. Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 lens

Friday afternoon in Dublin, Ireland. Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 lens

My most recent lens acquisition completing my kit is the Olympus 25mm f/1.2 PRO prime lens. This is the one I sold the 12-40mm lens for. Another fast lens great for low light photography, including portrait, street and landscape photography. Since I favour low light photography at both ends of the day, it suits my purposes. Being f/1.2 helps create beautiful ‘bokeh’ where the background is out of focus placing attention firmly on the subject in the foreground. I bought this lens in Dublin, Ireland, last year while my wife was distracted in another shop. Personally I blame one of my daughters for leading me right to said camera shop. My guilt was somewhat softened by the considerable tax free saving I made in comparison with what it would have cost me to buy back in New Zealand. It did however require me to get certification from a Justice of the Peace that the lens was in fact here in New Zealand.  

 Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.2 PRO lens

Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.2 PRO lens

I love the background separation that a lens wide open at f/1.2 can provide placing attention firmly of the subject in the foreground.

 Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.2 PRO lens

Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.2 PRO lens

Honestly it just does a beautiful job.  

 Olympus 25mm f/1.2PRO lens, handheld image at dusk.

Olympus 25mm f/1.2PRO lens, handheld image at dusk.

I’m very content with my camera gear now, a happy little shutter button pusher,  but honestly, looking at new lenses is like looking at that last glass of wine left in the bottle. The desire can be hard to resist, but resist I will. There are no state support services for those suffering from camera gear addiction. If it’s got to be, it’s up to me. 

What's the craic?

Last year I was fortunate enough to visit Ireland for a third time and it looks as though I will be back there again in 2018.

In 2015 I ventured west and got to drive some of 'The Wild Atlantic Way' which traverses the rugged west coast adjacent to the wild Atlantic Ocean. Such a spectacular coast of raw beauty doted with whitewashed houses. A landscape photographers dream.  

 Along The Wild Atlantic Way, County Clare, Ireland.

Along The Wild Atlantic Way, County Clare, Ireland.

 Remains of a Galway Hooker fishing boat at The Claddagh, an ancient fishing port. View across the River Corrib to Galway City

Remains of a Galway Hooker fishing boat at The Claddagh, an ancient fishing port. View across the River Corrib to Galway City

That trip also took me to the Aran Islands, arguably the most remote place I have visited. As the luck of the Irish wouldn't have it, my wife Margie and I travelled out there by ferry in appalling weather. It rained heavily through the day and it was bitterly cold, yet still a real highlight of the trip. 

 Inishmore, Aran Islands. 

Inishmore, Aran Islands. 

 Remote desolate living in a tough environment on the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland.

Remote desolate living in a tough environment on the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland.

In 2017 I returned to Ireland primarily to spend time with our family in Dublin including three grandchildren. We stayed pretty much within the environs of Dublin and unlike previous visits, this time I took quite a liking to Dublin. In fact, I'd like to spend an entire summer or longer there one day.  I have a feeling those summers are somewhat shorter than here in the Bay of Plenty. It may well have been the warmer sunnier weather this time around that tugged at my heart, but not as much as my Dublin based part of the family did. Dublin, while of similar population to Auckland, New Zealand, is a city that fair hums, and not just in the traditional Irish bars, but in the streets in general. Proximity to Europe makes it a tourism mecca. For city street photography, its paradise.

 Friday afternoon in the streets of Dublin, Ireland.

Friday afternoon in the streets of Dublin, Ireland.

 The colour of Dublin, Ireland.

The colour of Dublin, Ireland.

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The truth about leprechauns. I always thought they were real!

One of the most striking things about the streets of Dublin in summer is the riot of colour not only from life in the streets and the in-your-face paint jobs on buildings, but also from the sheer number of hanging flower baskets. 

 Afternoon sunshine in the streets of Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland.

Afternoon sunshine in the streets of Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland.

Pretty in Pink. Exploring the streets and lanes of Dublin City can present scenes just begging for a photograph. 

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Its not far from the hustle and bustle of Dublin to wonderful expansive parks and estates such as Phoenix Park, which is the largest enclosed park in Europe. Its bigger than all of the parks in London combined. 

 Phoenix Park, Dublin.

Phoenix Park, Dublin.

Right in the heart of the city of Dublin and a sanctuary from retail indulgence is the beautiful city escape within the city, St Stephen's Green

 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin

St. Stephen's Green, Dublin

Just a short drive from Dublin is the affluent coastal suburb of Malahide and nearby Malahide Castle, parts of which date back to the 12th century. It is sited on over 260 acres of beautiful parkland. The castle was home to the Talbot family for almost 800 years between 1185 - 1975. In 1975 Rose Talbot sold the estate to the government of Ireland and it is now a truly wonderful public space.

 Malahide Castle & Gardens, Malahide, Dublin.

Malahide Castle & Gardens, Malahide, Dublin.

So in 2017 I really enjoyed photographing Dublin; a colourful city rich in history, culture, vitality and public parks and green space. 

Oh, and yes those world famous fish and chips from Leo Burdock's were well worth the stop. I won't mention the side trip to a camera shop and the new lens I accidentally bought.......

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Land of hope and glory

I was fortunate to escape a month of winter this year travelling again to the United Kingdom and Ireland. This trip was primarily to spend time with our family. Firstly there was the wedding of one of our daughters in Kent in the UK and later we’d fly across the Irish Sea to Dublin to reconnect with another daughter, partner and our delightful grandchildren. It seems an inescapable fact these days that families are often scattered across the world and so it is with two of my three kids residing some 18000kms away. I am so looking forward to the imminent arrival of another grandchild right here in Tauranga. As always I was conscious of how much photography gear I wanted to take and lug around. Being indecisive and full of ‘what ifs’ when out with my camera, I ended up taking the lot which added about 7.5kg to my shoulder burden. 

I have a strong desire to hopefully upon retirement spend several months in the UK and Ireland, not only to have time with the family on the far side of the planet but to travel around indulging my photography passion, camera in hand, photographing the landscapes I really love. I view the countryside of England as a soft poetic romantic historic landscape with so much charm. In Ireland, it’s the rugged coastlines that attract me. Many moons ago a clairvoyant told me I was a priest in Ireland 600 years ago. Maybe it’s where I get my calling :)

We were so lucky to arrive in England at the beginning of a heatwave that saw temperatures hitting the low to mid 30C’s for a few days. Only problem was it wasn’t anticipated so we weren’t exactly well stocked with summer clothing and were really feeling the heat.

 Canterbury, Kent, and the crystal clear River Stour, UK.

Canterbury, Kent, and the crystal clear River Stour, UK.

 Hot town, summer in the city. Canterbury, Kent, UK.

Hot town, summer in the city. Canterbury, Kent, UK.

We were based at our daughter and son-in-law’s home in the beautiful historic city of Canterbury, Kent. 

One of the first excursions was a train trip to Ramsgate and a coastal walk of some 8km between striking white chalk cliffs and a very blue ocean under a clear blue sky. This Ramsgate to Broadstairs walk (16km return) was a real highlight and very much recommended. 

Charles Dickens visited Broadstairs regularly from 1837 until 1859 and described the town as "Our English Watering Place". He wrote David Copperfield while staying at Bleak House. Former UK Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath was born in Broadstairs in 1916. It would have been remiss to have visited Broadstairs and not sampled the best chips in Kent as voted by ‘The Potato Council’. In fact virtually every seaside town makes claim to the best fish and chips. The downside of that is that fish and chips can quickly become the default meal. 

 Whitstable fish fillet, Whitstable oysters and Whitstable Lager.

Whitstable fish fillet, Whitstable oysters and Whitstable Lager.

We drove from Canterbury across Kent, around the southern outskirts of London on the world's biggest car park, the M25, and west to Bath in Somerset and then on to the Cotswolds. Our first overnight stop was the stunning city of Bath.  The Georgian architecture, warm honey coloured stone buildings and the  River Avon flowing through the city paint a beautiful picture. It really is special. 

From Bath it was north through The Cotswolds to the historic market town of Chipping Campden. Here we stayed in several centuries old Badgers Hall. I expected a haunting but they were restful sleeps perhaps aided by a wine or two in very comfortable accommodation. 

 Chipping Campden, The Cotswolds.

Chipping Campden, The Cotswolds.

The Cotswolds exude beauty and are this photographer’s drug of choice A patchwork of picture postcard historic market towns linked by country lanes and set in beautiful countryside. I could live here but not having won Lotto, or been lucky enough to get and syndicate the first authentic photo of an extraterrestrial visitor that’s not going to happen. (Click following images for slideshow).

Heading back to Canterbury we made a stop at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. The scale of this palace and estate is huge. Revered wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill was born and raised here and is buried nearby in Bladon. 

 Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace

 Last resting place of Sir Winston Churchill (1876-1964) "We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

Last resting place of Sir Winston Churchill (1876-1964) "We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

I do like to be beside the seaside, beside the sea and have visited a few coastal towns and cities in the UK. On this visit it was Ramsgate, Broadstairs, Herne Bay and Whitstable, home of the revered Whitstable oyster. 

Its a a subjective thing and for me the beaches are not gob smackingly beautiful compared to those in New Zealand or Australia. The attraction to me with UK beaches is in the history, much of it still visible, and knowing so many generations have lived and worked in the ports, or operated or worked on fishing boats, in many cases launching them the hard way from rugged gravel beaches reflecting the lack of natural harbours along the coast.

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...........or just taking fresh air holidays beside the seaside. 

 Whitstable, Kent, UK.

Whitstable, Kent, UK.

The culmination of of this trip to England was our daughter’s wedding. The day dawned overcast, cool and drizzly. By mid-morning the cloud retreated beyond the far horizons and laid bare the most beautiful summer day adding the icing to a wonderful celebration.  

 The Secret Garden, Ashford, Kent with my daughter Dr Jennie Taylor-Prince

The Secret Garden, Ashford, Kent with my daughter Dr Jennie Taylor-Prince

 Let them eat cake! And what a beautiful creation this cake was made by my daughter and her bridesmaids.

Let them eat cake! And what a beautiful creation this cake was made by my daughter and her bridesmaids.

Welcome aboard Aer Lingus. It was hard to leave the UK but exciting heading across the Irish Sea to Dublin to spend time with another daughter and family and our grandkids. Oh’ and to a sneaky (and expensive) visit to a camera shop.  More on the Emerald Isle in the next instalment 'What's the craic?'. 

 Dublin bound

Dublin bound

Northern exposure

I wanted to post this much sooner but better late than never. It had been somewhere around 30 years since I was last in Northland and even then it was only a quick trip up from Auckland to Whangarei and Kerikeri and return on the same day in a mid-1980’s Mitsubishi V3000, which was a bit of a flash set of wheels in its day. Being bought up in Christchurch is no excuse as I have lived in Tauranga for 20 years. It was therefore with eager anticipation I looked forward to returning for a more relaxed few days in ‘the winterless north’.

I have travelled south out of Auckland numerous times feeling smug as I’ve seen the stop/start congestion in the north bound lanes from as far south as the Bombay Hills. On this trip I paid the price for that and soon felt sympathetic to the congestion frustration that is a common occurrence for Aucklanders. The heavy slow traffic continued from the Bombay Hills to Wellsford far north of Auckland. Before that though I thought I’d take a recommended alternative route across the Waikato from Matamata to Morrinsville to Huntly and on to SH 1 to Auckland. Well SH 1 was banked up with stop-start traffic from Huntly to Auckland with road works seemingly stretching forever. At a guess it added another 90 minutes to the trip. I will NEVER take that route again.

In the appropriately named Bay of Islands (there’s 140 of them) we based ourselves at beautiful Paihia. The very first excursion was to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, arguably the most important site in the history of European settlement of New Zealand and seemingly a place associated every Waitangi Day with protest. These historic spectacularly scenic grounds were a tranquil haven on our visit. The whole complex including the Mission House and modern museum are maintained in a beautiful state. It really is a must visit with a guided tour.

 Waitangi Treaty House and grounds. Waitangi, Bay of Islands, NZ.

Waitangi Treaty House and grounds. Waitangi, Bay of Islands, NZ.

 Friendly locals. Waitangi Treaty House, Bay of Islands.

Friendly locals. Waitangi Treaty House, Bay of Islands.

This is the Ngapuhi Tribe’s ceremonial war waka (canoe) Ngatokimatawhaorua. It is the largest canoe in the world at 35 metres long with a dry weight of 6 tonnes and when wet a weight of 12 tonnes. It requires a minimum of 76 paddlers to handle it safely on the water. It was first launched in 1940 and then laid up for 34 years. In 1974 the waka was renovated for Queen Elizabeth’s visit. After the Queen’s voyage she designated Ngatokimatawhaorua ‘Her Majesty’s Ship’ which makes the waka part of her Royal Navy. The waka is launched on 6th February each year as part of Waitangi Day celebrations.  

 Ngatokimatawhaorua, the largest canoe in the world.

Ngatokimatawhaorua, the largest canoe in the world.

As far a stunning locations go, the site of the Mission House (1822) in the Kerikeri Inlet, is right up there. We were so taken by this location that having spent time there in the morning we returned in the balmy warmth of the evening and sat with a glass of wine and watched as dusk fell over this beautifully tranquil location.

 Kerikeri Mission House in autumn evening sunlight.

Kerikeri Mission House in autumn evening sunlight.

 The most perfect end to a glorious autumn evening on the Kerikeri inlet, Northland.

The most perfect end to a glorious autumn evening on the Kerikeri inlet, Northland.

This was a photography dream. The light was so beautiful. I so recommend a visit here. There is a fantastic cafe and quite stunning restaurant just behind where the photo above was taken.

 Last light in the Kerikeri Inlet. 

Last light in the Kerikeri Inlet. 

Adjacent to the Mission House is picture perfect St James Church, birthplace of Christianity in New Zealand. It was rattled and moved by a tornado in 1968 but that aside it has existed to give a quiet picturesque witness to the faith it was built to accommodate.

 St James Church, Kerikeri Inlet, Northland

St James Church, Kerikeri Inlet, Northland

Northland is rich in history.  This memorial sits in the grounds of Christ Church in Russell. It is New Zealand’s oldest existing church built in 1835. Its beginnings go back to the earliest years of Maori and European contact. The inscription reads in memory of Tamati Waka Nene, Chief of Ngapuhi, the first to welcome the Queen's sovereignty in New Zealand.

 Christ Church, Russell. 

Christ Church, Russell. 

A highlight of this trip was undoubtedly a day out on the water on a sightseeing trip which extended out to the Cape Brett lighthouse and encompassed the thrilling experience of being shadowed by playful Bottlenose dolphins.

 Bottlenose Dolphins in the Bay of Islands, NZ

Bottlenose Dolphins in the Bay of Islands, NZ

The stopover for a mid-autumn BBQ lunch on Urupukapuka Island was another standout experience

 Lunch stop on stunning Urupukapuka Island, Bay of Islands, NZ. 

Lunch stop on stunning Urupukapuka Island, Bay of Islands, NZ. 

You can’t go to the far north and not be tempted by the legendary Mangonui Fish & Chip shop sitting right on the wharf at Mangonui in Doubtless Bay. With a dining view like this and ever so tasty seafood, it’s worth it! 

 Mangonui Fish & Chips. What a taste! What a view!

Mangonui Fish & Chips. What a taste! What a view!

We barely scratched the surface of ‘the winterless north’. To do it justice would take some weeks. Wish it hadn’t been left for so long to make this visit but hopefully will return again and again to take in much more of both the east and west of the far north and hopefully get right up to Cape Reinga.. 

 Duke of Marlborough Hotel, Russell, Bay of Islands.

Duke of Marlborough Hotel, Russell, Bay of Islands.

 

 

Hawke's Bay and a 3 day train journey to the other side of the bed

With autumn upon us and Easter being the last long public holiday weekend before winter, it’s a great time to get away for a change of scenery. The weather is invariably unpredictable no matter whether Easter falls in March or April, it could be fine it could be wet and this year was no exception. Right on the eve of Good Friday we had a raging tempest as the remains of former tropical cyclone Cook swept ashore on a southward track across the Bay of Plenty. It is likely to be the wettest April on record. Anyway thankfully the storm was short-lived and the predicted up to 150kph gales never eventuated. We made the decision to carry on with our plan to travel across to Hawkes Bay via Taupo for the long weekend accompanied by our son Mike and daughter-in-law Hayley.

I’ve always loved the ‘Great Lake Taupo’. I like to think that feeling is through wonderful childhood memories of being flown up there from Christchurch to stay with my grandparents. In those days it was an exciting flight on a Vickers Viscount from Christchurch to Wellington and then a low flying Douglas DC3 from Wellington to either Rotorua or Taupo. My grandparents house had a view of Mount Tauhara and I remember spending hours staring at the bush clearings on the mountain slopes thinking I might see a deer or wild pig. I was overly optimistic. I recall the neighbours had carnations growing everywhere and I helped water them in the hot Taupo summer and grew to love those flowers. I wonder what happened to the cute girl who lived next door? There was manuka scrub land so close to the house and it was really cool to play in. We’d do some trout fishing and then at night would help weigh and bag sweets for the snack shop in the Starlight Theatre. To this day I don’t believe I have seen a movie more times than I saw ‘The King and I’ at the Starlight Theatre on one holiday stint in Taupo. I'll never forget Yul Brunner (The King) dying over and over. I think it must have traumatised me. Today Taupo is a clean modern bustling beautiful centre of approximately 25,000 residents and I always enjoy my times there.

 Lake Taupo with Margie Taylor

Lake Taupo with Margie Taylor

The Napier Taupo Highway passes through the high rugged hill country of the Kaiangaroa Forest and descends to the Esk River Valley in Hawkes Bay with its vineyards and orchards. We arrived in this beautiful region mid-afternoon to 24C and not a breath of wind. The night before 15,000 people in Napier were without power after former Cyclone Cook raced across this region with high winds and driving rain. This night less than 24 hours later we were dining outside on a perfect evening in downtown Napier.

 Napier, Hawkes Bay, NZ

Napier, Hawkes Bay, NZ

East coast beaches are quite naturally ideal when it comes to seeing the sun appear at the dawn of a new day and I wasn’t disappointed in Hawkes Bay with great conditions of clear skies and rough seas and having accommodation adjacent to the beach. It was literally a hop, skip and a jump over the Napier Gisborne railway and State Highway 2 to the rugged shoreline.

 First light, Awatoto, Napier, NZ. Olympus O-MD E-M1 & Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 lens. 1/200 sec @ F/6.3, ISO 200

First light, Awatoto, Napier, NZ. Olympus O-MD E-M1 & Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 lens. 1/200 sec @ F/6.3, ISO 200

Napier is a city of great character having been rebuilt after the devastating 1931 earthquake in the Art Deco and Spanish Mission styles popular at the time. It has a vibrant centre not given the soul destroying treatment of the effects of large suburban malls which have turned other city centres into ghost towns.

 Napier. Art Deco Capital.

Napier. Art Deco Capital.

The waterfront is well developed for community use and also is home to the National Aquarium of New Zealand. Marine Parade adjacent to the beach, like a lot of Napier has some beautiful characterful buildings such as this group known as ‘The Six Sisters’. I only got five in the photo. If you are ever in Napier the coffee shop bearing the same name and visible in the photo below is highly recommended. I initially thought it got its name from six sisters who I hoped to see behind the counter but while taking a photo afterwards it clicked (literally) that the name referred to the buildings.

 The Six Sisters. Sorry, the sixth one is out of frame to the right. 

The Six Sisters. Sorry, the sixth one is out of frame to the right. 

For a panoramic view in all directions a drive up Bluff Hill does the trick.

 Napier from Bluff Hill

Napier from Bluff Hill

I was told that the Hawkes Bay Farmers Market in Hastings was arguably the best farmers market in New Zealand. I wouldn’t argue against that claim, it probably is. I have not been to any other farmers market that would rival this one. What a large vibrant weekly event in a truly beautiful setting. It is full of local produce, wines and artisan foods and Hawkes Bay is rich in all of these. It took no time at all to fill a bag with taste sensations. It would be easy to do a complete weekly grocery shop here. Absolutely recommended.

 Where did you buy the bag? Hawkes Bay Farmers Market of course. 

Where did you buy the bag? Hawkes Bay Farmers Market of course. 

From the Farmers Market we had a quick look at the nearby city of Hastings which was in the 1960’s-1970’s the fastest growing area in the country. From then on like a lot of regional New Zealand under the new neo-liberal economic doctrine which reared its head in the 1980’s it went into economic decline. Today however it is again doing well thanks to the orchards and vineyards around its flanks.

 Hastings, New Zealand.

Hastings, New Zealand.

Near to Hastings is the very attractive town of Havelock North (part of Hastings District) with Te Mata Peak rising behind it. A drive up the steep narrow road to Te Mata Peak is so worth it for the extensive views across this region.

 Havelock North and Hastings from Te Mata Peak, Hawkes Bay.

Havelock North and Hastings from Te Mata Peak, Hawkes Bay.

Directly below Te Mata Peak is one of many vineyards and wineries in this region, Craggy Range. What a beautiful complex and stunning location. It was a wonderful stop for lunch on Easter Sunday.

 Craggy Range Vineyard & Winery, Havelock North. 

Craggy Range Vineyard & Winery, Havelock North. 

 Craggy Range Vineyard & Winery, Havelock North. A family of charolais cattle sculptures by acclaimed British sculptor Paul Day.

Craggy Range Vineyard & Winery, Havelock North. A family of charolais cattle sculptures by acclaimed British sculptor Paul Day.

Not too far from here is Cape Kidnappers and while we did not get out to see the largest mainland gannet colony in the world we did get to remote Clifton Beach. The beachside camping ground/motor camp there (in the right of the following photo) is like stepping back in time to simpler days of non-high tech holidays. It almost looks like time stopped there a few decades ago and there is something oddly attractive about it.

 Clifton Beach and Cape Kidnappers

Clifton Beach and Cape Kidnappers

So that’s a bit of an overview of a long weekend in Hawkes Bay. This country has a wealth of beauty and they weren’t short changed in this region. With its sunny Mediterranean type climate, sweeping coastline, surfeit of orchards and vineyards, and spectacular sunrises, I could live here.

 First light, Awatoto, Napier, NZ.

First light, Awatoto, Napier, NZ.

Back to that title. The accommodation we stayed in had a super king size king sized bed. It was big enough for the entire cast of Modern Family (and their neighbours), After one wine too many (probably) and after the light went out I told Margie it would be a three day train journey to visit her on the other side of the bed. I must have drunk one wine too many as it took a while for me to reign in the laughter.

If you'd like to subscribe to email blog updates, email me at chris@christaylorphotography.net

Until next time....... 

Mellow days of autumn

The mellow yellow days of autumn are here. It's a favourite time of the year with the sun being kinder on the skin and temperatures being pleasantly warm rather than being oppressively hot. I really love the soft golden late afternoon light. While its been arguably nicer weather than the summer which has passed there have been bursts of very heavy rain. Its one of those things visitors to the bay notice but after living here for two decades its just an accepted part of life unless caught in a downpour without an umbrella.

 New swimming option at the end of our street. 5 April 2017

New swimming option at the end of our street. 5 April 2017

With a softer light and the sun rising later and setting earlier this is the time of year I look forward to sunrise and sunset photography. I'm not a fan of getting up really early to photograph sunrise but sometimes it is so worth it. A few days ago on 1st April, like an April fool I got up and walked up the Mount (Mauao) in the dark. A day or two later I went and bought 'a headlamp' for future excursions having found I was literally walking blind in the darker areas of the track. I wasn't anticipating anything special in the way of sunrises, I just wanted to take a dawn photo from the summit. As the first light of day started illuminating the stage and I started swatting the swarm of sandflies eating my ankles I could see there was indeed going to be something quite special.

 Fire in the sky. 1st April 2017. Olympus E-M1 MKII, Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 lens, 1/60sec @ f/6.3, ISO 3200 

Fire in the sky. 1st April 2017. Olympus E-M1 MKII, Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 lens, 1/60sec @ f/6.3, ISO 3200 

My camera has a very impressive built in '5 axis' image stabilisation which allows for handheld photography with a slow shutter speed in very low light levels. While a tripod is as permanent a fixture in my car boot as the spare wheel is, like the spare wheel, it rarely gets an outing. This image has been extremely popular on both my photography Facebook and Instagram pages. I love it!

It looks fantastic but there is an arguable flaw in that I unthinkingly used too high an ISO setting. The higher the ISO, the grainier the captured image. Its not that noticeable in what you see above even with Facebook's built in degradation of images. However, I would not look at putting this on a large canvas or large print as the annoying graininess would become distracting. Before I finish this blog I'm going to provide some settings that I have established in one of my camera's presets specifically for sunrise/sunset.  

There were many others up there taking in the sight of a new dawn on a new day.

 On the edge of daybreak. 230 metres between a rock and a hard place. First light 1st April 2017. 1/125sec @ f/2.8, ISO 6400

On the edge of daybreak. 230 metres between a rock and a hard place. First light 1st April 2017. 1/125sec @ f/2.8, ISO 6400

Composing a sunset shot is not difficult when you have a beautiful canvas virtually on the doorstep. The image below is a case in point. I love standing in the water but ever mindful that a fall would likely destroy thousands of dollars worth of camera gear.  There are times when the risk and reward equation becomes finely balanced. This photo was taken on an incoming tide. In the distance adding an element of interest is my other half Margie (who always adds an element of interest) and our lucky beach dog Toby. I watch the water lines in relation to the far focal point, in this case Mount Maunganui and depress the shutter button at that moment when the silent voice says 'now'. 

 Just a touch, a touch of paradise. Papamoa Beach, 23 March 2017. 1/320sec @ f/6/3, ISO 200

Just a touch, a touch of paradise. Papamoa Beach, 23 March 2017. 1/320sec @ f/6/3, ISO 200

One of the joys of being out and about for sunrise or sunset photography is in expecting the unexpected. I've heard of the old saying 'pistols at dawn' but in this case it was boxing gloves at dawn.

 No need to fight. There's plenty of beach for all of us. 

No need to fight. There's plenty of beach for all of us. 

One of my camera lenses is the highly acclaimed Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2. It is a very fast (which means its excellent in low light) primarily portrait and street photography lens. Its portrait renditions are superb. I have found however that it does a pretty damn fine job in the golden hour. The photo below was taken with this lens at Pilot Bay, Mount Maunganui. The fact that this lens has fast light gathering ability means I took this photo at a very fast shutter speed of 1/6400 sec.

 Olympus E-M1 MKII with Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 lens. 1/6400 sec @f/5.6, ISO 200

Olympus E-M1 MKII with Panasonic Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 lens. 1/6400 sec @f/5.6, ISO 200

Given that I'm drawn like a moth to a light to sunrise and sunset photography (also known as golden hour and blue hour photography) I have through research and advice of others established a basic camera preset so I can immediately switch to optimal settings for this type of photography.

The first preset is to fix the white balance to 'daylight', which gives richer tones at sunrise/sunset. I have also changed the Olympus in camera 'Picture Mode' from natural to vivid, again giving richer tones. I underexpose the image by -0.7 and have fixed the ISO setting at 200 to control the potential graininess or 'noise' levels in low light. When taking a photo, the only setting I change is the shutter speed which controls the amount of light hitting the camera sensor so that those presets can be maintained. I upload RAW files into my editing software Lightroom and invariably use a one touch preset I established named oddly enough 'Pohutukawa, the colour of summer'. I actually developed that preset obviously for a photo of a pohutukawa tree but it's fantastic for giving polish to my 'golden hour' photos. I guess I should think about renaming it.

Well, that's it for this update. Easter is nearly here and I'm heading to Napier & Hawkes Bay and the following week the Bay of Islands and hopefully Cape Reinga so I'm looking forward to letting the camera out for a walk and a feed of photographs in those areas. Its just a few weeks now until we return to England and Ireland for our second daughter's wedding and also to catch up with much missed family and grandchildren in Ireland. 

Until next time, have fun

 Autumn days. Mount Maunganui Beach, Tauranga, New Zealand. www.christaylorphotography.net

Autumn days. Mount Maunganui Beach, Tauranga, New Zealand. www.christaylorphotography.net

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

 

The new baby

It’s been a while since the last entry and that is because it’s been very busy both with photography and home and family events including our son’s wedding. This was closely followed by our younger daughter’s engagement announcement and we now have her upcoming wedding to look forward to this year in the UK. I’m looking forward to letting my camera loose again on those beautiful scenes in the UK and Ireland.

My 2017 calendars were a great success being despatched not only locally and nationally, but as far as Europe and Scandinavia. My photography is also hanging on quite a few other walls as canvas prints and I have also sold images for commercial use including a big roadside billboard which I pass fairly regularly (Coast, Papamoa Beach). I feel extremely fortunate as photography is a hobby primarily for my pleasure but it's so rewarding that it also brings pleasure to others via my Facebook & Instagram accounts and also via my webpage.

Late last year I was delivered a new baby after a painful protracted labour, the Olympus E-M1 MKII camera which supersedes my beloved Olympus E-M1. (Warning: Camera porn image follows)

I knew I would be fighting the urge to acquire this camera from the moment it debuted at Photokina, which is the world’s leading trade fair for photography. Like other manufacturers, the global shipping of this Olympus camera was delayed in part due to a series of strong earthquakes in southern Japan in mid-2016 that damaged factories manufacturing camera components and resulted in a shortage of camera sensors.

I was contacted just before Christmas to say I had the option on what was purported to be the first E-M1 MKII in New Zealand. These cameras are about 1/3rd more expensive than the MK1 predecessor so it was a very difficult yes, no, yes, no, yes, no, yes, no, yes sort of time. In the end the glowing reviews which I compulsively read just fed the hunger pains so I went ahead and got it. I must have agonised to the point where my wife borrowed the NIKE phrase ‘just do it!’ I console myself with the thought that there are other hobbies and pastimes which consume significantly greater costs.  I am now 100% satisfied with my photography kit (although that new Olympus 12-100 f/4 PRO lens sure looks very enticing), but no, I must snuff those thoughts out. I definitely know I will never part with $4300 to buy the Olympus 300mm f/4 PRO lens.

Anyway, I thought I’d share some images from the E-M1 MKII. It took me a few outings to get comfortable with it and familiar with the menu and sub-menu settings, which in true Olympus fashion are arguably highly over engineered and complex and will be an on-going education.

Now that I have achieved some good results amongst the hit and miss I’m starting to feel increasingly OK about upgrading to this camera.  

 Olympus O-MD E-M1 MKII. Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 lens and Olympus MC-14 Teleconverter

Olympus O-MD E-M1 MKII. Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 lens and Olympus MC-14 Teleconverter

One of the very first images I took with this camera from the summit of Mauao, which is about 240 metres above sea level. Launched in February 2017 the near new Ovation of The Seas is the largest cruise ship to visit New Zealand. It was an amazing sight as it cruised through the narrow channel entrance to Tauranga Harbour.

My speciality with photography is being out at the so called 'golden hour', aka 'the magic hour'. This is the time of day just after sunrise and just before sunset where the light is mellow and warm and enhances the colours of the scene. For some reason we seem innately attracted to sunrise and sunset. The time shortly before sunrise and shortly after sunset between day and night is known as 'the blue hour'. The following photo taken just before sunrise one morning this week at Papamoa Beach is a 'blue hour' image example.

 Papamoa Beach, Bay of Plenty, NZ. 1/200 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 200

Papamoa Beach, Bay of Plenty, NZ. 1/200 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 200

The following image taken at Mount Maunganui Beach this week just after sunrise is a 'golden hour' image.

 Mount Maunganui Beach, Bay of Plenty, NZ. 1/800 sec @ f/4, ISO 200

Mount Maunganui Beach, Bay of Plenty, NZ. 1/800 sec @ f/4, ISO 200

It had been many months since we have had a really wild ocean. Big seas are an aspect of photography I love so when I heard the ocean roaring in the night last weekend I just had to have a look the next morning. Knowing there was a surf lifesaving event along at Omanu Beach I headed there. Unsurprisingly the event appeared to be cancelled but this IRB provided a great focus point in the churning sea.

 Ocean fury. Omanu Beach, Bay of Plenty, NZ. 1/2000 sec @f/8, ISO 200

Ocean fury. Omanu Beach, Bay of Plenty, NZ. 1/2000 sec @f/8, ISO 200

I have four lenses in my photography gear and the wide angle 6-14mm f/2.8 lens, which I never thought I'd get a lot of use out of has become a real favourite. It probably spends more time on the camera than the other three. (Warning: Lens porn image follows)

 Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 lens

Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 lens

The following gob-smackingly beautiful sunrise was taken with the 7-14mm f/2.8 lens. Its awesome for landscapes but its not one I'd necessarily use in the bright light of day as its bulbous wide angle lens is prone to pick up sun flare. 

 Fire in the sky. Mount Maunganui Beach. Olympus E-M1 MKII & 7-14mm f/2.8 lens. 1/60 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 250

Fire in the sky. Mount Maunganui Beach. Olympus E-M1 MKII & 7-14mm f/2.8 lens. 1/60 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 250

Well, that's it for now. Start of a long fine warm holiday weekend in this part of the country. It's tough, but we just have to try and cope.

 

 

 

Well, where did that go?

I have been asked what I do with the photos I take. Well, to get some perspective at one stage I had circa 25,000 photo files on my desktop PC. Is that all you say? A couple of years back these were all imported into Adobe Lightroom, my photo editing application of choice. This was the beginning of some sort of semblance of order. The sheer volume of photos however created a bit of a nightmare when it came to searching for specific images. Fortunately Lightroom has several cataloguing options including sorting by year, or by camera model, or lens used etc.

It was apparent from the beginning that there were many duplicated images as well as images that were just not worth keeping. Over time I have sliced and diced my Lightroom photo catalogue down to around 15,000 images at the present time, a reduction of some 10,000 images. This is ongoing work and as I get time I will continue to cull photos that from my purely subjective viewpoint don’t make the grade.

Many of what I regard as prime images are now also copied into folders in Lightroom with titles such as Sunrise, Sunset, Beach, Street, Landscape, Family etc. This has further helped simplify searching. I have also started including the automatically generated photo file number with photos loaded on my website. This further helps find the file quickly when I receive inquiries for canvases, prints, or .jpeg files.

The key photo management strategy for me then is to keep reviewing and culling photos not worth keeping. When I take new photos. I firstly download them to an iPad, review them and delete the rejects and then load the rest to Lightroom in RAW (unprocessed format). Once in Lightroom, I review again and cull all but what I think are the best. I may initially take and download dozens of photos but ultimately keep only one, two or three. You have to be ruthless to avoid being overwhelmed.

I limit the number of images on my website gallery in order to ensure the pages are not slow loading and also so as not to overwhelm viewers with choice. If someone contacts me and asks if I have other photos with a specific element, say for example someone surfing while standing on their head, or dancing in the street then I will look through the Lightroom catalogue, select any contenders, copy them to a folder and send them (in low resolution) to the inquirer.

 Dancing in the street

Dancing in the street

My experience indicates canvases are preferred over framed prints, certainly for larger size images. I can appreciate that sometimes a frame can be a distraction and the glass over a framed print can also be annoyingly reflective. In the end it comes down to personal choice and the look people want in relation to their own décor. Framing is also often more expensive.

At home, we have recently embarked on a project to freshen up the interior using a white variant (double alabaster) for the walls. This immediately takes the eye to what is mounted on the walls. We have quite large canvases of beach scenes in the living areas. Initially we were thinking framed images but the canvases look great. I’m not a fan of wrapping the image on canvas around the sides of the frame. You potentially lose an essential part of some images. I prefer to have white or black sides to the canvases depending on the colour and mood of the image. It’s personal choice.

Canvases often come in lighter or heavier weight. Light canvases have a smoother glossier surface while heavier canvas has a more textured surface. My personal liking is for the light canvas. We also have a couple of my photos enlarged and in frames. This is one, which I think suits framing.

The good thing about hanging my photography at home aside from the satisfaction of seeing my own work is that it is a helpful means for people to see for themselves and visualise how they may look on their own walls. Sort of a mini-gallery (with the emphasis on mini).

I have always wanted to present and offer a quality product and with this in mind I have to know that canvas and print providers produce a quality end product true to my values. I got caught out one time by having two canvases for myself done by a supposed New Zealand supplier only to find they actually send the image files to China, have the canvases manufactured in China, no doubt at very low cost, and then shipped back to New Zealand. Needless to say the quality was dreadful. Even the frames were bendy plastic. I threw both in the trash. Lesson learnt. 

This year after being asked numerous times, I thought it would be worth testing the market with a 2017 calendar. My concept was for it to be comprised of purely local coastal images as feedback on Facebook and Instagram indicated those images to be the most popular. I think you have to stick to a niche or a signature photography and the coastal Bay of Plenty especially around Tauranga has become my signature. Signature photography is where you develop a particular style and/or subject matter and it becomes recognisable as probably one of your images.

 Images from 2017 calendar

Images from 2017 calendar

For the calendar, I sought advice from other photographers on suppliers. I had a sample calendar manufactured and was thrilled with the quality, the faithfulness of colour reproduction and the cost for larger printing quantities. I posted a grid of calendar images on Facebook and Instagram to gauge initial interest and knew very quickly this project was a goer. Without promoting anywhere other than on Facebook and Instagram I have found walls for approximately 300 calendars, many overseas to the USA, UK, Ireland and even Russia. This has been well beyond what I envisaged and the feedback has been 100% positive.

I have also sold .jpeg files for commercial use, for personal use, and for two ‘kitchen splash backs’.

My photography is a hobby, for my enjoyment and the enjoyment of others. Over time through a lot of hard work it has as a bonus started earning some money periodically. This is nice as there are so many costs including the camera equipment which in my case totals some 6kg when combined in a backpack (which is another cost). There is planning, travel and time in seeking out the location and determining what is to be photographed. Then there is the processing and editing time, the cost of editing software, the cost of a PC powerful enough to run good editing software, the cost of having a hosted website, the time involved in posting images and responding to comments and inquiries etc. A course in Complete Professional Photography last year also cost over $1000.  

Having my images adorn peoples walls is quite humbling. They won't be found in any shop and its unlikely you'll see them in the neighbours home. I'd probably have retired young if that was the case :) 

Until next time .............

It's a sign!

I'm very thrilled to see one of my photos enlarged and adorning this billboard for the prestigious beachside development Coast Papamoa Beach. Whenever I drive along Papamoa Beach Road now I can see my work. It also appears on the developer's website.

 Coast Papamoa Beach, Tauranga, NZ. My photo adorning the billboard and website.

Coast Papamoa Beach, Tauranga, NZ. My photo adorning the billboard and website.

Memories are made of this

Some of my most vivid and nostalgic holiday memories as a kid were the regular holidays we had at Charteris Bay opposite Lyttelton Harbour on Banks Peninsula. Although only 26km from Christchurch City, the trip seemed like an adventure in itself.

Before the Lyttelton Road Tunnel was opened in 1964 travel involved a steep climb up through the Cashmere Hills and through a stand of dark pine forest where I was always hoping to see some sort of wildlife, but I’m not sure what. We’d reach the Sign of the Kiwi at the summit and there in front was that beautiful vista of Lyttelton Harbour. From this point it was a steep descent down to Governors Bay, across the Teddington flats and on around to Charteris Bay. When I saw the old Charteris Bay wharf I knew we were there.

 Me with the matchstick legs second to left, with Steve, Rose & Brent.

Me with the matchstick legs second to left, with Steve, Rose & Brent.

Most of the time we stayed in a home owned by family friends Laurie & Eileen McIntyre or in their garage below which had been converted into a self-contained bach. Our days were filled with activity from dawn to dusk. In the early mornings on days when the tides were high, Dad, often with a neighbour or friend would row us in a big heavy row boat from the fine shell and rock beach out to a point which I think is known as Blacks Point. I also recall a time or two when we went out in our Christchurch neighbours motor boat. Once there we would drop our fishing lines into the depths of the milky green hued water which was so often flat and glassy in the early dawn. Its depths held the promise of the day’s catch. It never seemed to take long until a fat red cod was hooked and then they’d be hauled up one after the other.

 A load of CODlers. Charteris Bay many moons ago.

A load of CODlers. Charteris Bay many moons ago.

We’d go back to shore contented and then play on the beach, upending rocks to find dozens of crabs skittering for cover again, or we’d fish for sprats off the little wharf, or play up in the bush and hills behind the house.

 Charteris Bay boat ramp.

Charteris Bay boat ramp.

Some days we would help Dad and other adults drag a long net in a sweep across the bay and haul ashore a good feed of big fat flounder. Other days we’d wait until the tide was low and then walk out over the mud flats to the mussel beds. The mussels were always large and juicy. We’d watch the tide and make a bee-line for the beach once the tide was turning and starting to rise once more.

By now you’d be thinking this was quite a fishing person’s Eldorado. It was!

At night in summer we went to bed before dark and from bunks could see out the windows and across the harbour watching the rise and fall of the tide across the mudflats as dusk enveloped the bay. Then the distant lights of the Port of Lyttelton would start twinkling. Mum and Dad took their portable record player which was in a red and white plastic case. They’d play records out in the lounge/living area and from bed we’d listen to those early Beatles hits which came out in quick succession. After dark there were always possums about which added a bit of a reluctance to want to use the outside toilet until daybreak.

In the early days I recall the milkman would just pour the milk into metal cans or sauce pans. There was also a neighbour, a German (dentist) from memory called Doctor Landsberg. He lived alone and appeared to prefer his own company. He was very hirsute (hairy) and would regularly dive off the jetty to the left of the bay, swim across to the boat ramp on the right hand side of the bay and back again regardless of the weather. 

A hidden gem in those days and still today is Paradise Bay just beyond Charteris Bay. Hidden from the road and accessible from just a walking track it is an idyllic sheltered sun trap.

 Paradise Bay. My Dad in yellow shirt.

Paradise Bay. My Dad in yellow shirt.

They were such memorable days that I believe left me and my brothers and sister with an enduring sentimental bond with that coast from Charteris Bay to Diamond Harbour. Our Dad spent many days in his youth yachting there and I guess it continued to hold the same attraction for him.

To me, Charteris Bay hasn’t really changed much through all the decades. There are homes still perched on the hill side that were there when I was a kid. It’s an unsettling mix of nostalgia and loss whenever I return there. So many memories coupled with a realisation that so much time has passed. I think my experiences created a desire to provide our own kids with memorable childhood holidays and I feel confident that aim was achieved.  

 View across to Lyttelton from my bro and sister-in-law's idyllic home setting in Diamond Harbour a few bends in the road along from Charteris Bay.

View across to Lyttelton from my bro and sister-in-law's idyllic home setting in Diamond Harbour a few bends in the road along from Charteris Bay.

Sunsets are made of this 

Some of the most beautiful scenes are right on my doorstep and often found when we are going for an early evening walk. This was a fleeting moment recently in the stormwater catchment lakes and waterways which run for a few kilometres from Papamoa West to Papamoa East.

 Papamoa Beach sunset. Olympus E-M1 1/80 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200

Papamoa Beach sunset. Olympus E-M1 1/80 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200

Another image taken early evening at the end of the street when there was quite a stunning sky.

 Sky high. Evening tranquility at the end of the street. Olympus E-M1. 1/200sec, f/7.1, ISO 200

Sky high. Evening tranquility at the end of the street. Olympus E-M1. 1/200sec, f/7.1, ISO 200

The previous two photos were taken with the most recent addition to my lens stable. The wide angle Olympus 7mm-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens. I really hesitated in getting this quite expensive lens thinking I'd never have much use for it, but it has quickly become my favourite. The rather bulbous lens and short lens hood seen in the photo below means its picks up flare and ghosting fairly easily in bright light especially when pointed in the general direction of the sun. Its ideal place then is before sunrise, after sunset or in low light in the opposite direction of the light source as in the image above.

 Olympus E-M1 with Olympus 7mm-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens

Olympus E-M1 with Olympus 7mm-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens

I've been framed!

I have been thrilled with the interest in my photography on canvas. These three are hanging at home. I'm very happy to know that my photography which you won't find in The Warehouse is hanging on walls in other homes. Speaking of which, my 2017 calendar print of 300 is all but sold. It's been a great success. I now have a local holiday resort seeking my work, so its slowly but surely ratcheting up as a very satisfying hobby.

Cheers

Chris

 

 

 

Every cloud........

I have a fascination with the ever changing sky. I think I always have had. Cloud can be a bit of a regional trademark like the infamous easterly cloud and accompanying chill that sweeps over Christchurch from the sea, or the equally recognisable nor-west arch of the Canterbury plains. 

We are fortunate here in the Bay of Plenty to have some pretty awesome weather including brilliant cloud form. In the warmer months this could be because this is a weather convergence zone. A pool of warmer air often sits over the bay and when cooler air from the south arrives there's a bit of a tussle as the warm and cold air meet.  This can cause upwelling cumulonimbus cloud which at sunset is often a good reason to drag the camera out or alternatively just stare at the sky. 

 Thunderstorm over the Bay of Plenty coast illuminated by the last light of the day. 1/125sec f/4.5 ISO 200

Thunderstorm over the Bay of Plenty coast illuminated by the last light of the day. 1/125sec f/4.5 ISO 200

Some years ago I captured the most amazing thunderstorm cell I have ever seen. It looked like an atomic bomb test. I recall driving home and seeing this sky from another world out to sea. I couldn't get home fast enough! I rushed inside, grabbed a camera and sprinted to the beach. This thunderstorm was heading out into the bay after delivering a very generous amount of hail. Regretfully I no longer have that image in the precisely 19185 photos I currently have in my catalogue. The original was lost in one of my earlier desktop PC replacement/data transfers. By coincidence I did see it pop up in a Facebook feed not so long ago. Some guy in Whakatane was trying to pass it off as his.  Any way as a consolation prize here is another image of a storm front crossing the coast and heading out into the bay. The calm of the ocean belies the turbulence that must have been going on up in that sky.  

 Ocean bound storm front crossing the Bay of Plenty coast. 

Ocean bound storm front crossing the Bay of Plenty coast. 

Another 'armageddon' image taken early one very stormy morning. The wind blowing along the beach was so strong it was like being sandblasted. In the lower right of the image poor Toby the dog is getting a sandblasting. 

 Came a stormy dawn. Our dog Toby is getting sandblasted in lower right of photo.

Came a stormy dawn. Our dog Toby is getting sandblasted in lower right of photo.

Then there was a time when I couldn't be bothered carrying my camera gear but fortunately did have an iPhone in my pocket. I was near Pilot Bay in Mount Maunganui taking no notice of anything in particular when I turned around and saw this. Wow! Nearly ripped the stitches out of my jeans trying to pull the phone camera out.

 Anvil shaped thunderstorm cloud over the Kaimai Ranges, Bay of Plenty, NZ. Taken with an iPhone

Anvil shaped thunderstorm cloud over the Kaimai Ranges, Bay of Plenty, NZ. Taken with an iPhone

This cloud formation one recent evening was quite striking. I loved the alignment. New Zealand Meteorological Service picked up on this and featured it on their Instagram feed.

 Mount Maunganui Beach. 1/200sec, f/6.3 ISO 200

Mount Maunganui Beach. 1/200sec, f/6.3 ISO 200

These are just a very small sample of countless photos I have taken where the cloud has been the main attraction. They are often fleeting moments especially in the golden hour, that warm light period either side of sunrise and sunset. The last photo in this series (below) I took in Bray, Dublin, Ireland. On the day it was bitterly cold and there were intermittent snow showers. Standing on the beach promenade this menacing cloud decided it was heading our way. It brought with it a dumping of snow and sleet. It was then that a cosy little pub across the road became a very attractive place to be. 

 Bray, Dublin, Ireland

Bray, Dublin, Ireland

The silver lining.......They're out there! 

Earlier this year I was contacted by 'a long lost relative' who had read an earlier blog entry on our Wagner history.  Not only is he called Chris, but we also both worked for the same business in Wellington at different times back in the 1980's. He was finding markets for dairy products and I was collecting payments from buyers. When I wasn't doing that I was playing indoor bowls, or pool, or darts in the staff cafeteria. When I wasn't playing bowls, pool, or darts in the staff cafeteria I was drinking in the fully ranged staff bar on a Friday evening. What on earth happened to those glory days where work and play really was the same thing. 

 Chris Wagner & Chris Taylor. Ohope Beach, 1 Oct 2016.

Chris Wagner & Chris Taylor. Ohope Beach, 1 Oct 2016.

Chris's grandfather Herman Wagner and my great grandmother Lisa Wagner were brother and sister. It was wonderful to finally meet at Chris and wife Yulia's Ohope Beach motel complex and see that we had some common ancestry and some common photos in our family photo albums. We also have a common taste in wine, except I possibly, well probably, well ok definitely tasted too much of it.

Chris's wife Yulia is an astoundingly talented artist, painter, designer and special effects artist. We very much enjoyed our time with them and THAT bed was the most comfortable bed I can recall sleeping in, in a motel/hotel.

Well, time to run along for now.

Best wishes all and may the sun shine. No really, may it please shine! What a predominantly cloudy wet spring it has been so far.  

Just a touch, a touch of paradise

At the end of August my wife Margie and I travelled down to Nelson for the first time in over 20 years. Even much longer ago, 40 years to be precise, we had our honeymoon at Kaiteriteri Beach which is around 45 minutes drive from Nelson and very close to the boundary of the magnificent Abel Tasman National Park. Knowing that our 40th wedding anniversary was coming up I thought, why not return to the place where it all started?

 City of Nelson, NZ. Photo taken with iPhone 6s 

City of Nelson, NZ. Photo taken with iPhone 6s 

We stayed in a fantastic waterfront apartment Arrow Rock, which had a glorious view across the harbour and Tasman Bay. The photo below of a container ship entering Port Nelson is taken from the balcony.

 Dusk arrival, Port Nelson, Nelson. 1/125sec, f/4.5 ISO 200

Dusk arrival, Port Nelson, Nelson. 1/125sec, f/4.5 ISO 200

The day after we arrived we drove to Kaiteriteri and the start of a full day out in the glorious Abel Tasman National Park. Kaiteriteri is one of the most popular summer beach destinations in New Zealand with its golden sands and sheltered clear waters.

 Golden sands of Kaiteriteri Beach, Nelson. 27 Aug 2016. iPhone 6s photo

Golden sands of Kaiteriteri Beach, Nelson. 27 Aug 2016. iPhone 6s photo

It was a stunning late winter's day as we headed up to Bark Bay (Medlands Beach) and the starting point of our walk. On the way we saw young NZ fur seals and little blue penguins, but just watching this beautiful coast from the sea was terrific.

 Bound for Bark Bay in Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson, NZ. 27 Aug 2016

Bound for Bark Bay in Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson, NZ. 27 Aug 2016

After a look around Bark Bay and the last remaining illegal 'squatters cottage' in the national park we started walking south along a section of what is at full length a 60km coastal and bush walk with the most fantastic views. We did a four day walk way back in the 80's and so many memories came flooding back.

 Looking back to Bark Bay (Medlands Beach) in Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson, NZ. 1/320sec, f/6.3 ISO 200 

Looking back to Bark Bay (Medlands Beach) in Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson, NZ. 1/320sec, f/6.3 ISO 200 

It is easy to feel like you may be the only people on the planet during the off-season finding you can have the most beautiful of beaches to yourself. In the height of summer the track and overnight lodges along the way are 'heaving'. We were told it wouldn't be unusual to see 150 two person kayaks on the beach at Anchorage.

 Torrent Bay, Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson, NZ. 1/800sec, f/8, ISo 200

Torrent Bay, Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson, NZ. 1/800sec, f/8, ISo 200

Torrent Bay was named by French explorer Dumont D'Urville during his exploration and mapping of this area of New Zealand in 1827. The Abel Tasman coast has one of the largest tidal differences in NZ and these estuaries quickly fill and drain with the ebb and flow of the tides.

 Torrent Bay, Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson, NZ. 1/800sec, f/8, ISO 200

Torrent Bay, Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson, NZ. 1/800sec, f/8, ISO 200

Arguably one of the most beautiful bays and beaches you could visit. Anchorage is simply superb. It would be a great place to 'unplug' from the world for a few months. There is a very nicely appointed Department of Conservation Lodge overlooking the beach and this along with others is available for overnight accommodation for track walkers.

 Anchorage, Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson, NZ. 1/1000sec, f/6.3, ISO200

Anchorage, Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson, NZ. 1/1000sec, f/6.3, ISO200

 Margie near 'Cleopatra's Pool' in Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson, NZ, 27 Aug 2016. 1/60sec, f/4, ISO 800

Margie near 'Cleopatra's Pool' in Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson, NZ, 27 Aug 2016. 1/60sec, f/4, ISO 800

It was a truly wonderful day under a big blue sky and warm sun. We absolutely loved it and the sight of the water taxi approaching Anchorage brought it to a close much too soon. New Zealanders are often called the world's greatest travellers but all too often we are probably guilty of heading off-shore more than seeing our own country. I recall a marketing campaign many years ago with the catch-phrase 'don't leave home, till you've seen the country'. With so much awesome and diverse landscape and coastline, we don't know how lucky we are.

The colour of Nelson

 Love the history and character of Nelson, NZ. iPhone photos. 

Love the history and character of Nelson, NZ. iPhone photos. 

Where did 40 years go! 

 28 August 1976

28 August 1976

 Our pride and joy. Jennie, Louise & Mike

Our pride and joy. Jennie, Louise & Mike

 Cheers to 40 years. 28 Aug 1976 - 28 Aug 2016. 1/250sec, f/6.3, ISO200

Cheers to 40 years. 28 Aug 1976 - 28 Aug 2016. 1/250sec, f/6.3, ISO200

 

 

What becomes of the broken hearted?

I have travelled to Christchurch, the city I was raised in, several times since the devastating and tragic earthquake of Feb 2011. Each time I have been astounded by the destruction and the erasing of so many areas and structures that I knew. The feeling of loss lingers every time I'm confronted with it on return visits. 

In the heart of the city lies the remains of the shattered ChristChurch Cathedral. The cathedral built between 1864-1904 was envisioned from the early planning of Christchurch. It's quite surreal looking up and seeing loose building materials swaying in the wind blowing through the wreckage of the nave of what was once a city centrepiece. I well recall the tolling of the bells and climbing the internal staircase of the spire to views of the inner city and always tourists milling around the entrance. 

 ChristChurch Cathedral, Christchurch, NZ. 16 August 2016

ChristChurch Cathedral, Christchurch, NZ. 16 August 2016

I grew up in the eastern suburbs. New Brighton Mall was an almost mandatory Saturday outing. As a kid I recall we went there as a family most Saturday's always keeping an eye out for a goat tethered on the verge of New Brighton Road. It was vibrant and buzzing through the 1970's until the advent of nationwide Saturday trading in 1980.

 Where once was life. New Brighton in its hey-day. 

Where once was life. New Brighton in its hey-day. 

From that moment it started to bleed and nothing could arrest it's demise. What a dreadful cold empty place it is now especially in winter. Closed empty shopping and commercial premises and the streets devoid of people save for the couple getting happy smoking a joint in their car on the foreshore. The extent of 'the rot' crosses the road to the dirty empty rubbish strewn foreshore playground. Even the beachside library is closed and the books all under plastic wrap. Its tragic that a seaside location like this (albeit often battered by that legendary cold easterly wind) has been left unloved.

 New Brighton Mall, 16 August 2016.

New Brighton Mall, 16 August 2016.

A real asset to the New Brighton foreshore is the 300 metre long New Brighton Pier, the longest pier in Australasia. Completed in 1997 it will close later this year for earthquake damage repair and reopen in 2018. A few more attractions such as long talked about hot salt water pools and a revived retail scene could see this neglected part of the city regain some of its former glory.

 Last light on the New Brighton Pier, 16 August 2016. 1/250sec @ f/7.1 ISO 200

Last light on the New Brighton Pier, 16 August 2016. 1/250sec @ f/7.1 ISO 200

Whenever I return to Christchurch I feel a great sense of loss and loss of belonging. I spent some 40 years there and the entire suburb I was raised in has gone and been replaced by a wilderness vista. Much of the eastern side of the city looks pretty forlorn. In the central city much heritage has gone and for the time being large chunks of now cleared land are given over to parking lots. Where there is new development and rebuilding there are some very attractive designs and 'the new' Christchurch of the future is set to in decades ahead become a very attractive city again.

 Oxford Terrace, Christchurch, NZ. August 2016. iPhone 6s photo.

Oxford Terrace, Christchurch, NZ. August 2016. iPhone 6s photo.

There is one constant that defines Christchurch and that is its claim to be a garden city. There is arguably no better time to be in the city than in Spring. While a little early, even in August a walk through the botanical gardens daffodil lawns is a refreshing and relaxing experience.

 Daffodil Lawns, Christchurch Botanical Gardens, 6 August 2016.

Daffodil Lawns, Christchurch Botanical Gardens, 6 August 2016.

 Punting on the River Avon on a winter afternoon. Christchurch, NZ, 6 August 2016. 1/2500sec @f/4 ISO 200

Punting on the River Avon on a winter afternoon. Christchurch, NZ, 6 August 2016. 1/2500sec @f/4 ISO 200

The most recent trips to Christchurch were centred around my ailing father-in-law who sadly passed away on 13 August 2016 just a few months short of his 90th birthday. Rest in peace John and thank you for giving me my treasure Margie.

 6 December 2015

6 December 2015

It is so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.
— John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent

 

 

Streets ahead

While I predominantly point my camera at seascapes and landscapes, I really love street scenes and love poring through street photography books. Like many others though, I have an unease about photographing random people. It's a matter of being discrete and unobtrusive. Camera gear also has a bearing on that discreetness. No one would feel comfortable seeing a lens the size of a telescope being pointed at them. Phone cameras make it a lot easier as do small cameras and small camera/lens combinations. 

Anyway, before taking to the street, let me tell you a cautionary tale about getting too close to a raging surf. This morning I was on Mount Maunganui Beach getting up close and personal with a raging surf. As a bit of a rogue wave washed ashore I walked backwards quickly and oopsie, did a Frank Spencer

Betty: Frank, what are you doing?

Frank: Taking photos on the beach

Betty: Will you please stop it, you'll do your self an injury

Frank: I told you yesterday I'd like to try out some new positions

Betty: I wasn't quite sure what you meant?

I fell backward over the top of a very large rock. The outcome was the rear end of my camera partially buried in wet sand and me with an elevated level of embarrassment. Fortunately I was the only idiot on the beach. Did I get any photo's apart from one flat on my back?

 Wild weather. Mount Maunganui Beach, Tauranga, NZ. 23 July 2016 1/400sec, f/4.5, ISO 200

Wild weather. Mount Maunganui Beach, Tauranga, NZ. 23 July 2016 1/400sec, f/4.5, ISO 200

Well, yes, I did manage to get a couple of photos. Its probably not a good environment for a camera. Salt spray is not kind to many objects but sometimes you do these things as a deranged photographer to add that little bit extra to the photo.

So, back to street photography. Unlike landscape, seascape, or still life, you never know just what you will see walking the streets.

 Sydney, Australia. May 2016. 1/500 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200

Sydney, Australia. May 2016. 1/500 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200

When I walked around a corner one day on the summit of Mauao, Mount Maunganui, I couldn't believe what I was seeing taking place between a rock and a hard place 230 metres directly below. Talk about extreme yoga!

 "It's yoga, but not as we know it Jim". 1/500 sec, f/4.0, ISO 80

"It's yoga, but not as we know it Jim". 1/500 sec, f/4.0, ISO 80

I couldn't get my camera out fast enough! There wasn't much time to check settings, so I just took the photo and fortunately it came out pretty good. This is an example of 'a fleeting moment' in street/people photography, where that special shot isn't going to hang around while you have a sandwich before getting the camera out.  

You are seldom the only one about with a camera. In the photo below a well known local photographer made a guest appearance in the background of this photo I took at a Diwali Festival in my city last year.

 Caught on camera. Diwali Festival, Tauranga, NZ. 1/320 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200

Caught on camera. Diwali Festival, Tauranga, NZ. 1/320 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200

There is such a wealth of opportunity in street photography and if you have an interest in it, then keeping an eye on upcoming events and festivals creates more and often special photo opportunities that you'd not normally see day to day.

 'Where were you in '62?' Wheels on Mainstreet, Mount Maunganui, Tauranga. 1/250sec, f/4.0, ISO 200

'Where were you in '62?' Wheels on Mainstreet, Mount Maunganui, Tauranga. 1/250sec, f/4.0, ISO 200

Its not always at street level. This is the roofline of a police station in Paris, France.

 'The Magnificent Seven'. Paris, France. 1/800sec, f/3.5, ISO 80

'The Magnificent Seven'. Paris, France. 1/800sec, f/3.5, ISO 80

So there is a lot of colour to be had out there in our towns and cities. Its the colour of life.

 'The colour of life'. Tauranga, NZ. 1/250sec, f/2.2, ISO 200

'The colour of life'. Tauranga, NZ. 1/250sec, f/2.2, ISO 200

The week that was

Last weekend while taking the beach route alternative home from the local shopping plaza, I thought I'd hang around in the bitterly cold southerly chill for another 15 minutes on the off-chance that the sunset may produce a scene worth photographing. Even our dog started crying about the cold! It didn't look promising but as the reflections of the setting sun started to light up a stormwater outflow stream I thought something special may just happen. For just a few glorious fleeting minutes, land and sky were bathed in the most beautiful light.....and there was the picture. This photo which I loaded to my Facebook photography page has to date been seen by nearly 74,400 people and has been shared 505 times. I have had comments from several countries and it has certainly brought pleasure to locals and so many ex locals and others who have made the decision to relocate to this beautiful part of our beautiful country.

 Sunset on Papamoa Beach, Tauranga, NZ. 16 July 2016. 1/320sec, f/7.1, ISO 200

Sunset on Papamoa Beach, Tauranga, NZ. 16 July 2016. 1/320sec, f/7.1, ISO 200

A large drop of sun lingered on the horizon and then dripped over and was gone, and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone, and a torn cloud, like a bloody rag, hung over the spot of it’s going. And dusk crept over the sky from the eastern horizon, and darkness crept over the land from the east.
— John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

If you'd like to be emailed blog update notifications contact

chris@christaylorphotography.net

Until next time..................

 

 

 

 

In the (not so) bleak mid-winter.

As I write this, my Facebook photography page now has more than 2200 followers which is very humbling. I'm thrilled so many people admire my photography. It is not easy to build a profile like this on Facebook these days, requiring a lot of patience, interaction and acknowledgment of followers comments and questions. My philosophy is that if people take the time to comment or ask questions then they deserve respect, recognition and thanks. From the comments I get, many images invoke quite an emotional response and connection especially to those who are living away from 'home'. In the end, my pleasure is in bringing pleasure to others to the extent that they want to follow my photography feed and it's a lot better to consume, even gorge on, from a health perspective, than junk food (although I have no scientific evidence to support my claim).

I was intending to focus on street photography in this update but the not so bleak winter has afforded some great photography opportunities. We have been fortunate that the most glorious summer in decades was followed by a beautiful warm autumn and now a mild winter with some stunning clear, sunny, calm, crisp days, although when it has rained it has really rained. I love the dawn and dusk tones at this time of year. It may be an illusion but they seem to take on richer deeper tones than in the days of summer. I find it quite mesmerising at times. I feel like there is an unseen energy at work, a kind of spiritual thing.

The following photo was taken on the coldest morning this year. At the time I took the photo it was a finger tingling toe tapping 2degC, but the cold is bearable when you see what you wouldn't have seen if still tucked up cozily under the duvet.

 First light, Mount Maunganui Beach, Tauranga, NZ 2 July 2016. 1/100sec, f/4, ISO 200

First light, Mount Maunganui Beach, Tauranga, NZ 2 July 2016. 1/100sec, f/4, ISO 200

Its undeniably a little hard to get up from a warm bed and venture out early under a dark star splattered sky on a frosty weekend morning with the intention of photographing the first light of the new day. I can say it's much harder after a couple of wines the night before. What drives me (apart from the car)? Well, it's not putting the previous night's wine bottle out in the recycling bin, letting the dog out, or opening the curtains. It sort of includes milking the weekend for all its worth and from a photography perspective it's the anticipation of what may come. Will the new day take to the stage in a blaze of glory? Will I click the shutter button and think 'that's the one!' It's such a wonderful feeling to come away thinking that I got a 'money shot'. 

 First light, first flight. 1/500sec, f/10, ISO200

First light, first flight. 1/500sec, f/10, ISO200

Over many years I have climbed to the summit of Mauao (Mount Maunganui) hundreds of times, more than my aching legs would care to remember. At one stage it was 2-3 times a week, but then I had an attack of commonsense and now go up there just once a week, usually at dawn on a weekend morning and taking the steepest route. The weather and the light is always different and the views are truly spectacular. I have been up there in screaming gales, torrential rain, and on the calmest sunniest of days. The torrential rain experiences; well they have been by accident rather than intention; a result of miscalculating the chances of rain.

 New day in the bay. Sunrise from 230 metres above coastal Mount Maunganui, Tauranga, NZ. 1/160sec, f/13, ISO 1250

New day in the bay. Sunrise from 230 metres above coastal Mount Maunganui, Tauranga, NZ. 1/160sec, f/13, ISO 1250

Its a fantastic spot to gorge on sunset. For a few minutes everyone seems transfixed by that beautiful stage show as the sun sinks in the west behind the Kaimai Ranges. I have been there as dusk closes in, when the only sounds have been the distant surf and the call of Morepork owls.  It's absolute magic.

 Contemplation as the sun sinks below the Kaimai Range in the Western Bay of Plenty, NZ. 1/400 sec, f/9, ISO 200

Contemplation as the sun sinks below the Kaimai Range in the Western Bay of Plenty, NZ. 1/400 sec, f/9, ISO 200

As previously mentioned, the beauty of a clear, calm, cold winter dawn is in the colours. I always scope the scene for some sort point of interest. Of course I live in hope of a whale breaching, a pod of dolphins or orca, or an alien spacecraft appearing just for me. Well, hope springs eternal. In the following photo as luck would have it, a kayaker seeking a taste of arctic paddling appeared and gave me an added focal point.

I have been guilty of not using one of my most expensive and critically acclaimed pieces of camera gear, the superbly built Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron f/1.2 lens. This beautifully engineered lens is primarily designed for portrait and street photography and with a f/1.2 aperture has fantastic light gathering ability in low light situations. I love just looking at it, let alone taking photos with it. As a portrait lens it is sublime. I decided having re-read reviews that I'd use it almost exclusively for a while over a few weeks and test its ability with sunrise and sunset photography. I'm stoked with the fantastic results. I was blown away by just how good it was when I decided to use it for a recent sunrise expedition.

 Dawn kayaker. Mount Maunganui, NZ. 1/320sec, f/7.1, ISO 200. Olympus O-MD E-M1 & Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 lens.

Dawn kayaker. Mount Maunganui, NZ. 1/320sec, f/7.1, ISO 200. Olympus O-MD E-M1 & Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 lens.

So, it has indeed been a not so bleak winter to date. We are past the winter solstice now and slowly but surely the daylight hours will lengthen and hopefully the power bills will start reducing. I intend to produce a 2017 calendar and am in the process of choosing images for each month. I'm also looking at other options for foisting my photos on the world. Aside from that I'm trying to go dairy free. The good thing is, that it won't preclude me from photographing cows, should I be so inclined.

Until next time.....

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To sea or not to see

While not 100% obvious (well maybe 99%) obvious, my camera and I are not only an item, but are drawn to the seductive call of coastal locations. I don't think I could ever live far from the coast unless there was a lake or a river nearby. The restless sea is ever changing in its moods, it's sounds, and in the variable light and patterns that fall upon it. Sand, sea water and salt laden air arguably don't do much for camera longevity but they sure provide for endless photo opportunities.

 Bay of Plenty, NZ. 1/200sec, f/8, ISO 500

Bay of Plenty, NZ. 1/200sec, f/8, ISO 500

It may be that my love of the coast was born of many holidays around Charteris Bay and Lyttelton Harbour, Christchurch when I was a kid, or many days at New Brighton Beach, or Sumner Beach, or holidays at Kaikoura, the Marlborough Sounds, or Nelson. In this country the coast is generally never really far away. As a teenager my home for a few years was a few hundred metres from North Beach in Christchurch. Always loved the distant sound of the surf at the end of our street. I know those dunes could tell a tale or two.

I am fortunate to live adjacent to one of the most beautiful coastlines in a country rich in beautiful coastlines. The Bay of Plenty is a climatically favoured region and is a magnet for summer holiday makers. Living here feels like being on holiday. 

 Mount Maunganui, Tauranga, NZ. (taken with iPhone 6s)

Mount Maunganui, Tauranga, NZ. (taken with iPhone 6s)

While I enjoy walking the beach camera in hand, I think our dog Toby is in canine ecstasy when let loose on the sands. Being near to black in contrast to the glare of the beach makes for challenging dogtography. I took this photo by having him sit while I stepped backward for some distance, set the camera and gave him the signal to get those little legs pumping. He is running toward me at considerable speed and a 1/1600 shutter speed did a pretty good job of stopping him in his tracks.

 Toby in beach heaven. 1/1600sec, f/5, ISO 200

Toby in beach heaven. 1/1600sec, f/5, ISO 200

The coast presents many challenges and many rewards for camera toters. The contrast between sea and sky, the amount of wave action, the amount of available light, glare, salt air, bikini wearers, and the ever present risk of frying camera gear in salt water.

 Rough seas, Mount Maunganui, Tauranga, NZ. 1/320sec, f/13, ISO 200

Rough seas, Mount Maunganui, Tauranga, NZ. 1/320sec, f/13, ISO 200

Both aperture and shutter speed may need frequent adjustment when faced with capturing or freezing movement such as wave action, adding in surfers or kite surfers, fast moving boats such as surf club inflatables, swimmers, people running, moving vehicles on the beach, gulls, sea mist, noon day sun, sunrise, sunset, stormy weather etc.

 Papamoa Beach Surf Lifesaving Club. 1/1250sec, f/5, ISO 200

Papamoa Beach Surf Lifesaving Club. 1/1250sec, f/5, ISO 200

At times its just magic in its simplicity. Nothing going on in the next photo but I was attracted to the blues, whites, lines and symmetry.  

 Three colours blue. Caloundra, Queensland, Australia. 1/1250sec, f/4, ISO 80.

Three colours blue. Caloundra, Queensland, Australia. 1/1250sec, f/4, ISO 80.

In the high UV days of summer I'm not a fan of toasting on the beach in the noon day sun and the light at that time of day is not as conducive to photography as the warm light at each end of the day. Sunset is my favourite time. The benefit it has over dawn, as much as I like sunrise, is that I don't have to get out of bed for it. The aspect I like about sunset time is not really knowing just what sort a show is about to take to the stage. If there was a TV series called 'Sunsets Got Talent' then some would get the judges 'off the stage' buzzer pretty quickly, while others would get 'the golden buzzer'. Sometimes I wouldn't get the camera out, other times I can't get it up and running fast enough. One aspect that I silently remind myself to do is take time to enjoy watching the sunset rather than photographing it.

 Sunset magic. Papamoa Beach, Bay of Plenty, NZ. 1/500sec, f/7.1, ISO 160

Sunset magic. Papamoa Beach, Bay of Plenty, NZ. 1/500sec, f/7.1, ISO 160

And the seasons come and go

As someone who may suffer just a touch of seasonal adjustment depression, its always great to move past the winter solstice and the slow but certain increasing daylight hours which will become noticeable by August. Last weekend saw the annual polar plunge held at many beach locations around the country. The one below was down the road adjacent to the local surf lifesaving club. A good thing that bronze whaler sharks, a common sight along the coast here in summer move into deeper water. Anyway, some hardy souls celebrated the solstice with a race to immerse themselves in a relatively warm 17C ocean.

 Winter solstice 2016. Papamoa Beach, Tauranga, NZ

Winter solstice 2016. Papamoa Beach, Tauranga, NZ

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Until next time..............

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What poverty?

Some time back I read about Eastwoodhill Arboretum. Eastwoodhill is about 34km's inland from Gisborne City in Poverty Bay, Eastland. The Arboretum which comprises some 131 hectares, contains the largest collection of northern hemisphere trees growing south of the equator. It is renown for its brilliant autumn colour display. The best time to go is in mid-May but I had to shift the original travel plan back to June. Margie and I set out on a road trip to the east coast last weekend. It is winter so we knew there was a risk of rubbish weather in which case we would have shelved the trip. As it turned out the long weekend weather was glorious. We set off on a 260km road trip under big blue skies. Brunch stop was Ohope Beach in the eastern Bay of Plenty. Ohope holds the AA (Automobile Association) title of New Zealand's most loved beach as voted by members.

 Ohope Beach, Eastern Bay of Plenty, NZ. iPhone6s

Ohope Beach, Eastern Bay of Plenty, NZ. iPhone6s

The drive eastward from Ohope skirts the Ohiwa harbour and the Bay of Plenty coast to Opotiki where it really does start feeling like you are about to enter sparsely populated country. From Opotiki there is a right hand turn towards the Waioeka Gorge. The 144km drive through the Waioeka Gorge on a twisting highway under a cloudless sky is one of the most scenic of road trips through densely forested country and the Raukumara Ranges which separate the Bay of Plenty and Eastland. 

 Waioeka Gorge, Eastern Bay of Plenty, NZ. iPhone 6s. 

Waioeka Gorge, Eastern Bay of Plenty, NZ. iPhone 6s. 

Emerging on the east coast the landscape becomes noticeably different with brown hues replacing the greens. The road snakes down through the foot hills and across flat land towards Poverty Bay and Gisborne, 'the Chardonnay capital'. Bush gives way to sheep and vineyards, or dinner and wine (see photo below).

 Dinner and wine. Gisborne, the 'Chardonnay Capital' of New Zealand. iPhone 6s.

Dinner and wine. Gisborne, the 'Chardonnay Capital' of New Zealand. iPhone 6s.

With high sunshine hours and hot summer days, fertile clay loam soils and some of the most acclaimed winemakers in the country, Gisborne is famous for producing exceptional Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Viognier, Pinot Gris, Merlot and Malbec (gisbornewine.co.nz). 

Our accommodation was adjacent to Sponge Bay, about 5kms north of Gisborne. After a few hours in the car we were keen to get out and go for a walk, so walk to Sponge Bay we did. The sun was sinking towards the western horizon and the cliffs were bathed in warm evening light. The so called 'golden hour' is my favourite time to photograph. We seem instinctively drawn to the warmth of the light at sunrise or sunset. 

 Sponge Bay, Gisborne, NZ. 1/400sec, f/9, ISO 200

Sponge Bay, Gisborne, NZ. 1/400sec, f/9, ISO 200

Sponge Bay is a sandy/rocky bay and clearly a driftwood magnet. It looked like the tide was fairly well in when I took this photo. 

After darkness fell I went into Gisborne city to get a few food items and also found a pizza place where the extra large pizza size could easily have provided adequate shelter in a rainstorm for anyone who might feel inclined to balance the pizza on their head, and I guess if it was raining heavily you'd be silly not to (and silly if you did). Honestly, it was the widest pizza I can recall seeing.

Next morning I got up before daylight and headed for Wainui Beach hoping to get a nice sunrise photo or two. I wasn't disappointed. It must have been only a couple of degrees C above freezing. My fingers had lost any feeling and I struggled with the camera controls and setting up a tripod. Still perseverance paid off.

 Wainui Beach, Gisborne. 1/125sec, f/5, ISO 200

Wainui Beach, Gisborne. 1/125sec, f/5, ISO 200

 Gotta love that wave. Dawn at Wainui Beach, Gisborne. 1/400sec, f5.6, ISO 200

Gotta love that wave. Dawn at Wainui Beach, Gisborne. 1/400sec, f5.6, ISO 200

Mid-morning we drove inland to Eastwoodhill Arboretum. It's a terrific place for families with a myriad of walks for different abilities and great kids play areas. We did get frustrated with lack of directional signage within the arboretum. Would be fine if you were highly skilled at orienteering. We had missed the best colours of autumn but there was still enough to satisfy.

 Eastwoodhill Arboretum, Gisborne, NZ. 1/160sec, f/5, ISO 800

Eastwoodhill Arboretum, Gisborne, NZ. 1/160sec, f/5, ISO 800

From here we drove 12km's further into nowhere to the quite spectacular Rere Falls on the Wharekopai River.  

 Rere Falls, Gisborne, NZ. 1/20 sec, f/11, ISO 800

Rere Falls, Gisborne, NZ. 1/20 sec, f/11, ISO 800

Back to Gisborne and a walk along the coast and river and through the city. Gisborne has a laid back quiet feel to it and is very easy to get around. The river walk is beautiful. 

 Turanganui River, Gisborne, NZ. 1/320sec, f/9, ISO 200

Turanganui River, Gisborne, NZ. 1/320sec, f/9, ISO 200

As the sun slipped towards the west we drove up Kaiti Hill with the intention of doing some sunset photography as well as just soaking up the magnificent panoramic views from Poverty Bay and across the city to the surrounding hills.  

 Gisborne at dusk. 1/60 sec, f/4, ISO 200

Gisborne at dusk. 1/60 sec, f/4, ISO 200

Gisborne has a rich history being the first place British mariner and explorer James Cook stepped ashore in October 1769 having sailed from Tahiti in search of a great land mass or continent in the southern ocean. I guess he found that further west with Australia! Anyway it was in Gisborne that he met local Maori and misunderstandings led to several deaths and no fresh water or provisions were obtained by Cook. Thus he named the area Poverty Bay. It is widely regarded that this interaction between these European visitors and Maori marked the beginnings of the nation.

With its its warm sunny climate, fertile land, wineries galore, beautiful beaches and a city with much history and character this is a great destination in a very remote part of the country.  The alternative or optional drive up around East Cape to or from Bay of Plenty traverses the most beautiful coastline and is also a must do, but to do it justice it needs to be taken at a leisurely pace over a few more days. You'd have to be pretty miserable not to enjoy this beautiful region in this beautiful country. Poverty Bay? A misnomer.

 

 

You light me up

 Sydney Opera House in the shadow of the harbour bridge in the very last light of day. 27 May 2016. 1/320sec, f/5, ISO 200 

Sydney Opera House in the shadow of the harbour bridge in the very last light of day. 27 May 2016. 1/320sec, f/5, ISO 200 

I have been very fortunate to have enjoyed a few holidays in Australia over the years. Love it every time and for a city break Sydney is terrific. It would be fair to say that getting there this time was far from simple with a chain of events following the cancellation of the flight from home to Auckland. Amongst it all we even ended up with an unknown persons luggage in our car boot. But we won't go there. It was stressful enough at the time without reliving it.

 Dusk from Cremorne Point, Sydney. 22 May 2016. 1/40 sec, f/4, ISO 800

Dusk from Cremorne Point, Sydney. 22 May 2016. 1/40 sec, f/4, ISO 800

 Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge in sunset silhouette. 23 May 2016. 1/800sec, f/9, ISO 200 

Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge in sunset silhouette. 23 May 2016. 1/800sec, f/9, ISO 200 

 

At this time of year the Vivid Sydney light festival runs for 21 days. The festival expands more each year and the illuminations after dark are amazing and a must see. This is the second time my travel has coincided with Vivid.  

 Circular Quay, Sydney, 28 May 2016. 1/3sec, f/2.8, ISO 800

Circular Quay, Sydney, 28 May 2016. 1/3sec, f/2.8, ISO 800

 Sydney Harbour Bridge. 6 sec, f/7, ISO 1000

Sydney Harbour Bridge. 6 sec, f/7, ISO 1000

 

My my other real love of Sydney is the plethora of coastal and harbour walking tracks and the ease of getting to these places via a very efficient public transport system.  I can highly recommend the inner harbour walk from Spit Bridge to Manly, and the coastal Watsons Bay to Bondi, and Coogee Beach to Bondi walks. On the Watsons Bay to Bondi walk we saw a couple of humpback whales breaching but they were very distant. It is from about now that they are seen migrating north towards the tropical Pacific and Coral Seas.

 My sister Rose (left) and my wife Margie (right)

My sister Rose (left) and my wife Margie (right)

I can never go to Sydney without a visit to Fourth Village Providore in Mosman. What a visual and aural sensory delight it is. It is a food market and restaurant with a huge range of local, imported and fresh produce and delectable deli items. Its like the world of food in one shop. I could happily live in it, or certainly camp outside on the footpath hoping kindly shoppers might throw me a fine cheese on a cracker with one of the multitude of mouth watering relishes. I also love David Jones department store's lower floor food hall in the central city. I think I would have loved to have worked in and or owned a gourmet food place.   

While in Sydney I took the opportunity to acquire the Olympus MC-14 teleconverter. Made specifically for the 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens, it extends that lens's zoom capability by another 40%. I tested it out when taking photos of surfers at Bronte & Bondi Beach. From a considerable distance the lens and teleconverter combination produced very satisfying results. As the teleconverter has a negative impact on the light gathering ability of the lens I would not contemplate using it in low light situations. I bought the teleconverter from Gerry Gibbs Camera in Perth and had it delivered to Sydney. It was half the cost of buying at home. I don't especially like the camera shop options in Sydney. From personal experience they remind me of the rip-off camera outlets in San Francisco with similar sales tactics.

 Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens with Olympus MC-14 x1.4 teleconverter fitted. 

Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens with Olympus MC-14 x1.4 teleconverter fitted. 

Well, the warmest autumn on record in this region has departed the stage and left the fridge door very wide open as winter has not been shy in announcing its arrival. It's the time of year where my photography gear suffers from SAS (seasonal adjustment syndrome) and doesn't venture out except for a spot of weekend work. However, hopefully it will get a bit of exercise this weekend as I plan to capture the last of the autumn colour at Eastwoodhill Arborium over in Gisborne on the east coast and hopefully a few other scenes along the way. 

Going against the grain

In the last entry I said I'd mention ISO. ISO is an abbreviation of the International Standards Organization. It makes up the three most important aspects of photography with aperture and shutter speed. ISO is a measure of the camera sensor, or in the pre-digital days, film sensitivity to light. The lower the ISO number setting the less sensitive the camera is to light and the higher the ISO number setting the more sensitive it is to light. In a low light/dark situation you would need to select a higher ISO number which would make the camera sensor more sensitive to light (let more light through to the sensor) in order to get a well exposed photo. Sounds OK but there is a downside to high ISO numbers and that is as the ISO number increases so does the level of 'graininess' otherwise known as 'noise' in the photo. The lowest ISO number you can use with your camera will give the cleanest image with minimal graininess or noise. The sample below from exposure.com gives a visual understanding to what I have been saying.

 Left (ISO 100)                                                       Right (ISO 3200)

Left (ISO 100)                                                       Right (ISO 3200)

Every camera has a base ISO. With mine it is ISO 200 and it is this setting which will produce the cleanest best quality image from the camera. So why would you not just stick with that? In a low light situation you'd require a very long exposure to gather sufficient light to capture a decent image. Each step up in ISO values doubles the light sensitivity of the camera sensor. ISO steps are generally ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800, and maybe higher in some cameras. ISO 200 is twice as sensitive to light as ISO 100. ISO 400 is 4 x more sensitive to light than ISO 100, ISO 800 is 8 x more sensitive, ISO 1600 is 16 times more sensitive and so on.

If in low light you have ISO set at 100 you will require a slow shutter speed which may be say 1 second. In this case if you want a sharp image you will need to mount the camera on a tripod. By selecting ISO 1600 you can reduce that shutter time to 1/16th sec. This is still not fast and unless the camera has pretty impressive image stabilisation you'll still need a tripod. I used ISO 1600 for the following image I took at The Festival of Lights in New Plymouth, NZ in January 2015. I can highly recommend this festival which runs for around six weeks every year from mid-December to end of January.  

 Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, NZ. 1/25 sec, f/1.8, ISO 1600

Pukekura Park, New Plymouth, NZ. 1/25 sec, f/1.8, ISO 1600

I am very fortunate that my camera, an Olympus O-MD E-M1 has built in '5 axis image stabilisation. This makes it much easier to forego a tripod and hand hold the camera in low light situations and still get a sharp image. Without that feature, this photo would have needed a much faster shutter speed. There is a degree of grain or noise at ISO 1600, which is what I used for this photo but because it is a night scene it is not readily apparent.

I'm actually struggling to find a photo I have taken above ISO 1600 because I tend not to exceed that as the amount of graininess in the image increases noticeably (see first image in this blog). Here is another photo taken with an ISO setting of 1600 (16 x as sensitive to light as ISO 100). This was taken in a dark setting at Te Papa Tongarewa, the Museum of New Zealand. It is a very much larger than life realistic figure in the Gallipoli war exhibition.

 'Gallipoli, The Scale of Our War'. Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington NZ, March 2016. 1/15 sec f/3.2, ISO 1600

'Gallipoli, The Scale of Our War'. Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington NZ, March 2016. 1/15 sec f/3.2, ISO 1600

Once again I was able to hand hold my camera at a very slow shutter speed of 1/16th second and still get a very sharp image thanks to the stabilisation built into the camera. 

In summary, always aim to use the lowest ISO setting you can which is generally ISO 100 or ISO 200, which will give a clear grain free/noise free image. In some cameras ISO may go as low as ISO 50. Where low light situations require a higher ISO number to gather more light to the camera's sensor aim to not go above ISO 1600 or maybe ISO 3200 otherwise the amount of graininess starts to become obvious and distracting.

If paradise is half as nice

Since the days when the Bee Gees had the disco dance floors pumping and I wore bright red pants and white shoes we have had the pleasure of sharing good times with good friends Sue & Murray Johns and their simply stunning home location out in the very isolated eastern bays of Banks Peninsula in the South Island, NZ.

 Paua Bay, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury, NZ.

Paua Bay, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury, NZ.

The family property which Sue & Murray restored and revived after it had been vacant for some time is set in a breathtaking landscape. Murray's family have farmed this 900 acre sheep, cattle and deer farm for five generations. It really does feel like the last loneliest loveliest place in the world, a phrase used by Rudyard Kipling to describe Auckland in early settlement days. If only he'd ventured to the Eastern bays of Banks Peninsula!

 These massive rocks on the landscape of Paua Bay and environs were thrown here by volcanic activity between six million and eleven million years ago. 

These massive rocks on the landscape of Paua Bay and environs were thrown here by volcanic activity between six million and eleven million years ago. 

This is a breath-taking setting with the approach road providing sweeping views out over the vast Pacific Ocean. Whales can be seen passing by and the private beach is a haven for New Zealand fur seals. There are also still visible terraces above the beach attesting to pre European Maori settlement in this bay. Paua Bay Farm has been featured on television, in magazines, and now in a soon to be released movie 'The Greenstone'. It is a traditional working farm, a very friendly farm stay option, a place of genuine warmth and hospitality, and an excursion option through Paua Bay Farm Tours for passengers on cruise ships calling at nearby historic Akaroa to learn a bit of history, hear some stories, see and maybe engage in some sheep shearing, see some sheep mustering and indulge in Sue's home baking. Rumour has it (and I made it up) that Sue produces the finest scones between Paua Bay and South America beyond the vast blue ocean horizon.

Deservedly earning 5 star reviews on TripAdvisor, this really is paradise found. You can find out more and see more images on the Paua Bay Farmstay website. Honestly, if you are passing this way and feel like experiencing solitude and an overload of striking landscape and seascape its well worth a visit. 

Since we moved north we don't get to revisit heaven on earth too often but the memories linger and gnaw away sparking a desire to return again. 

 Dramatic wild atmospheric Paua Bay

Dramatic wild atmospheric Paua Bay

 NZ Fur Seal. Paua Bay, Banks Peninsula, NZ. Olympus O-MD E-M1 & 40-150mm f/2.8 lens @ 1/1000sec

NZ Fur Seal. Paua Bay, Banks Peninsula, NZ. Olympus O-MD E-M1 & 40-150mm f/2.8 lens @ 1/1000sec

Tie me kangaroo down....oops, that's a bit too Rolf Harris, so let's go for Waltzing Matilda.

I'm across the Tasman in Australia next week catching up with and enjoying the overdue company of family in Sydney and making the most of the countless experiences Sydney has to offer. I hope to give the camera a bit of exercise as well including the start of the Vivid Sydney Festival, a truly magical after dark experience.

Until next time.............

PS. If you would like email notification of new blog entries, please enter details on my contact page or just email me at chris@christaylorphotography.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking control

In this blog entry I thought I'd share my thoughts on using the dreaded 'M' for Manual camera function. Why would you bother? After all, with an automatic function, and on many cameras a multitude of other presets which are a part of the cost of and simplicity of operating the camera, it should be expected to drive itself. Manual seems so last decade or last century.

For all the technology packed into the camera body though, none of it takes care of the intangible. The camera cannot read your mind and really know exactly what you see and what sort of image you want to capture. If you use the set and forget preprogrammed functions like aperture priority, shutter priority, landscape mode, portrait, beach, sport, night or a host of other functions many cameras offer, you'll probably get a pretty good photo, but only probably. Probably may be good enough but if you want to apply some creativity, using the Manual option allows you to override and maybe outsmart the camera presets. You can 'tweak' the three important settings of shutter speed, depth of field, and ISO, the latter determining the level of graininess, otherwise known as 'noise' in the image. ISO is a matter for future discussion. 

 My 'Toki' pendant. Signifies strength, control, determination, focus. 1/160sec, f/2, ISO 200

My 'Toki' pendant. Signifies strength, control, determination, focus. 1/160sec, f/2, ISO 200

Using a Manual setting for fast action 'need for speed' shots is not recommended. Manual mode should be confined to use in a non-rushed situation otherwise by the time you have set the camera up and fiddled with the settings the magic moment when for example, the alien in your garden gives you a wave, may be gone. Manual is no good for sports, birds in flight, or a fast moving UFO. It can be very good for landscapes, waterfalls, still life, or portrait photography though.

 One of my daughters, and one of her twin daughters. 1/160sec, f/1.2, ISO 1600

One of my daughters, and one of her twin daughters. 1/160sec, f/1.2, ISO 1600

In a relaxed situation, but not so relaxed so as to be in a trance, for a landscape photo the camera could be mounted on a tripod allowing use a slow shutter speed to maximise light recorded by the camera and a high f/stop number to maximize depth of field. In the following photo I have used f/18 which has given quite good depth to the image. A low ISO setting could also be selected to minimize the amount of graininess or 'noise' in the photo. A number of experimental photos could be taken slightly tweaking each setting to give a higher chance of getting a 'that's it!' image. Some cameras (mine included) have a function called Bracketing. With my Olympus E-M1, if I use the bracketing function, when I click the shutter button it will take three photos, each with slightly different settings and then I can choose the most appealing of them.

 Misty morning stillness at the end of my street. 1/400sec, f/18, ISO 1250

Misty morning stillness at the end of my street. 1/400sec, f/18, ISO 1250

Photography is all about available light and sometimes lighting situations can be too difficult to get a great image even using Manual mode and you will need to improvise with either additional lighting in a dull dark situation or some sort of light diffuser in a very bright situation. 

 Shine a light. Mauao, Mount Maunganui, NZ. 1/250sec, f/10, ISO 200

Shine a light. Mauao, Mount Maunganui, NZ. 1/250sec, f/10, ISO 200

This is just an overview on using Manual mode from my perspective. There is a wealth of on-line and written tutorial information on this and other camera modes. 

My photo choice

I took this photo last year while touring a section of the west coast of Ireland from the Cliffs of Moher up to Galway and Westport. It is Kylemore Abbey set in a beautiful location in Connemara. It is regarded as Ireland's most beautiful castle.

 Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, Ireland. 1/80 sec, f/14, ISO 400

Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, Ireland. 1/80 sec, f/14, ISO 400

Kylemore Castle was built as a private home for the family of Mitchell Henry, a wealthy doctor from London whose family was involved in textile manufacturing in Manchester, England. He moved to Ireland when he and his wife Margaret purchased the land around the Abbey. He became Member of Parliament for County Galway from 1871 to 1885. Construction of the castle began in 1867, and took one hundred men four years to complete. The castle covered approximately 40,000 square feet (3,700 m2) and had over seventy rooms with a principal wall that was two to three feet thick. The facade measures 142 feet (43 m) in width and is made of granite and limestone. There were 33 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 4 sitting rooms, a ballroom, billiard room, library, study, school room, smoking room, gun room and various offices and domestic staff residences for the butler, cook, housekeeper and other servants. Other buildings include a Gothic cathedral and family mausoleum containing the bodies of Margaret Henry, Mitchell Henry and a great grand-nephew.

The Abbey remained in Henry's estate after he returned to England. The castle was sold to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester in 1909, who resided there for several years before being forced to sell the house and grounds because of gambling debts. In 1920, the Irish Benedictine Nuns purchased the Abbey castle and lands after they were forced to flee Ypres, Belgium during World War I. The nuns continued to offer education to Catholic girls, opening an international boarding school and establishing a day school for girls from the locality. The school acted as the main educator for most girls from Renvyle, Letterfrack and further afield for almost a century but it was forced to close in June 2010.

The Estate includes large walled Victorian Gardens. Since the 1970s these have been open for public tours and 'nature' walks. The Benedictine community has restored the Abbey's gardens and Cathedral with donations and local artisans in order to be a self-sustaining estate. (Ref: Wikipedia).