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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

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.

 

 

 

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