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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