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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

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

 

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.