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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

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

 

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.  

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..............