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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

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

 

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.