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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.

 

 

 

Streets ahead

While I predominantly point my camera at seascapes and landscapes, I really love street scenes and love poring through street photography books. Like many others though, I have an unease about photographing random people. It's a matter of being discrete and unobtrusive. Camera gear also has a bearing on that discreetness. No one would feel comfortable seeing a lens the size of a telescope being pointed at them. Phone cameras make it a lot easier as do small cameras and small camera/lens combinations. 

Anyway, before taking to the street, let me tell you a cautionary tale about getting too close to a raging surf. This morning I was on Mount Maunganui Beach getting up close and personal with a raging surf. As a bit of a rogue wave washed ashore I walked backwards quickly and oopsie, did a Frank Spencer

Betty: Frank, what are you doing?

Frank: Taking photos on the beach

Betty: Will you please stop it, you'll do your self an injury

Frank: I told you yesterday I'd like to try out some new positions

Betty: I wasn't quite sure what you meant?

I fell backward over the top of a very large rock. The outcome was the rear end of my camera partially buried in wet sand and me with an elevated level of embarrassment. Fortunately I was the only idiot on the beach. Did I get any photo's apart from one flat on my back?

Wild weather. Mount Maunganui Beach, Tauranga, NZ. 23 July 2016 1/400sec, f/4.5, ISO 200

Wild weather. Mount Maunganui Beach, Tauranga, NZ. 23 July 2016 1/400sec, f/4.5, ISO 200

Well, yes, I did manage to get a couple of photos. Its probably not a good environment for a camera. Salt spray is not kind to many objects but sometimes you do these things as a deranged photographer to add that little bit extra to the photo.

So, back to street photography. Unlike landscape, seascape, or still life, you never know just what you will see walking the streets.

Sydney, Australia. May 2016. 1/500 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200

Sydney, Australia. May 2016. 1/500 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200

When I walked around a corner one day on the summit of Mauao, Mount Maunganui, I couldn't believe what I was seeing taking place between a rock and a hard place 230 metres directly below. Talk about extreme yoga!

"It's yoga, but not as we know it Jim". 1/500 sec, f/4.0, ISO 80

"It's yoga, but not as we know it Jim". 1/500 sec, f/4.0, ISO 80

I couldn't get my camera out fast enough! There wasn't much time to check settings, so I just took the photo and fortunately it came out pretty good. This is an example of 'a fleeting moment' in street/people photography, where that special shot isn't going to hang around while you have a sandwich before getting the camera out.  

You are seldom the only one about with a camera. In the photo below a well known local photographer made a guest appearance in the background of this photo I took at a Diwali Festival in my city last year.

Caught on camera. Diwali Festival, Tauranga, NZ. 1/320 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200

Caught on camera. Diwali Festival, Tauranga, NZ. 1/320 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200

There is such a wealth of opportunity in street photography and if you have an interest in it, then keeping an eye on upcoming events and festivals creates more and often special photo opportunities that you'd not normally see day to day.

'Where were you in '62?' Wheels on Mainstreet, Mount Maunganui, Tauranga. 1/250sec, f/4.0, ISO 200

'Where were you in '62?' Wheels on Mainstreet, Mount Maunganui, Tauranga. 1/250sec, f/4.0, ISO 200

Its not always at street level. This is the roofline of a police station in Paris, France.

'The Magnificent Seven'. Paris, France. 1/800sec, f/3.5, ISO 80

'The Magnificent Seven'. Paris, France. 1/800sec, f/3.5, ISO 80

So there is a lot of colour to be had out there in our towns and cities. Its the colour of life.

'The colour of life'. Tauranga, NZ. 1/250sec, f/2.2, ISO 200

'The colour of life'. Tauranga, NZ. 1/250sec, f/2.2, ISO 200

The week that was

Last weekend while taking the beach route alternative home from the local shopping plaza, I thought I'd hang around in the bitterly cold southerly chill for another 15 minutes on the off-chance that the sunset may produce a scene worth photographing. Even our dog started crying about the cold! It didn't look promising but as the reflections of the setting sun started to light up a stormwater outflow stream I thought something special may just happen. For just a few glorious fleeting minutes, land and sky were bathed in the most beautiful light.....and there was the picture. This photo which I loaded to my Facebook photography page has to date been seen by nearly 74,400 people and has been shared 505 times. I have had comments from several countries and it has certainly brought pleasure to locals and so many ex locals and others who have made the decision to relocate to this beautiful part of our beautiful country.

Sunset on Papamoa Beach, Tauranga, NZ. 16 July 2016. 1/320sec, f/7.1, ISO 200

Sunset on Papamoa Beach, Tauranga, NZ. 16 July 2016. 1/320sec, f/7.1, ISO 200

A large drop of sun lingered on the horizon and then dripped over and was gone, and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone, and a torn cloud, like a bloody rag, hung over the spot of it’s going. And dusk crept over the sky from the eastern horizon, and darkness crept over the land from the east.
— John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

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Until next time..................

 

 

 

 

Taking control

In this blog entry I thought I'd share my thoughts on using the dreaded 'M' for Manual camera function. Why would you bother? After all, with an automatic function, and on many cameras a multitude of other presets which are a part of the cost of and simplicity of operating the camera, it should be expected to drive itself. Manual seems so last decade or last century.

For all the technology packed into the camera body though, none of it takes care of the intangible. The camera cannot read your mind and really know exactly what you see and what sort of image you want to capture. If you use the set and forget preprogrammed functions like aperture priority, shutter priority, landscape mode, portrait, beach, sport, night or a host of other functions many cameras offer, you'll probably get a pretty good photo, but only probably. Probably may be good enough but if you want to apply some creativity, using the Manual option allows you to override and maybe outsmart the camera presets. You can 'tweak' the three important settings of shutter speed, depth of field, and ISO, the latter determining the level of graininess, otherwise known as 'noise' in the image. ISO is a matter for future discussion. 

My 'Toki' pendant. Signifies strength, control, determination, focus. 1/160sec, f/2, ISO 200

My 'Toki' pendant. Signifies strength, control, determination, focus. 1/160sec, f/2, ISO 200

Using a Manual setting for fast action 'need for speed' shots is not recommended. Manual mode should be confined to use in a non-rushed situation otherwise by the time you have set the camera up and fiddled with the settings the magic moment when for example, the alien in your garden gives you a wave, may be gone. Manual is no good for sports, birds in flight, or a fast moving UFO. It can be very good for landscapes, waterfalls, still life, or portrait photography though.

One of my daughters, and one of her twin daughters. 1/160sec, f/1.2, ISO 1600

One of my daughters, and one of her twin daughters. 1/160sec, f/1.2, ISO 1600

In a relaxed situation, but not so relaxed so as to be in a trance, for a landscape photo the camera could be mounted on a tripod allowing use a slow shutter speed to maximise light recorded by the camera and a high f/stop number to maximize depth of field. In the following photo I have used f/18 which has given quite good depth to the image. A low ISO setting could also be selected to minimize the amount of graininess or 'noise' in the photo. A number of experimental photos could be taken slightly tweaking each setting to give a higher chance of getting a 'that's it!' image. Some cameras (mine included) have a function called Bracketing. With my Olympus E-M1, if I use the bracketing function, when I click the shutter button it will take three photos, each with slightly different settings and then I can choose the most appealing of them.

Misty morning stillness at the end of my street. 1/400sec, f/18, ISO 1250

Misty morning stillness at the end of my street. 1/400sec, f/18, ISO 1250

Photography is all about available light and sometimes lighting situations can be too difficult to get a great image even using Manual mode and you will need to improvise with either additional lighting in a dull dark situation or some sort of light diffuser in a very bright situation. 

Shine a light. Mauao, Mount Maunganui, NZ. 1/250sec, f/10, ISO 200

Shine a light. Mauao, Mount Maunganui, NZ. 1/250sec, f/10, ISO 200

This is just an overview on using Manual mode from my perspective. There is a wealth of on-line and written tutorial information on this and other camera modes. 

My photo choice

I took this photo last year while touring a section of the west coast of Ireland from the Cliffs of Moher up to Galway and Westport. It is Kylemore Abbey set in a beautiful location in Connemara. It is regarded as Ireland's most beautiful castle.

Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, Ireland. 1/80 sec, f/14, ISO 400

Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, Ireland. 1/80 sec, f/14, ISO 400

Kylemore Castle was built as a private home for the family of Mitchell Henry, a wealthy doctor from London whose family was involved in textile manufacturing in Manchester, England. He moved to Ireland when he and his wife Margaret purchased the land around the Abbey. He became Member of Parliament for County Galway from 1871 to 1885. Construction of the castle began in 1867, and took one hundred men four years to complete. The castle covered approximately 40,000 square feet (3,700 m2) and had over seventy rooms with a principal wall that was two to three feet thick. The facade measures 142 feet (43 m) in width and is made of granite and limestone. There were 33 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 4 sitting rooms, a ballroom, billiard room, library, study, school room, smoking room, gun room and various offices and domestic staff residences for the butler, cook, housekeeper and other servants. Other buildings include a Gothic cathedral and family mausoleum containing the bodies of Margaret Henry, Mitchell Henry and a great grand-nephew.

The Abbey remained in Henry's estate after he returned to England. The castle was sold to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester in 1909, who resided there for several years before being forced to sell the house and grounds because of gambling debts. In 1920, the Irish Benedictine Nuns purchased the Abbey castle and lands after they were forced to flee Ypres, Belgium during World War I. The nuns continued to offer education to Catholic girls, opening an international boarding school and establishing a day school for girls from the locality. The school acted as the main educator for most girls from Renvyle, Letterfrack and further afield for almost a century but it was forced to close in June 2010.

The Estate includes large walled Victorian Gardens. Since the 1970s these have been open for public tours and 'nature' walks. The Benedictine community has restored the Abbey's gardens and Cathedral with donations and local artisans in order to be a self-sustaining estate. (Ref: Wikipedia).