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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.

 

 

 

In the (not so) bleak mid-winter.

As I write this, my Facebook photography page now has more than 2200 followers which is very humbling. I'm thrilled so many people admire my photography. It is not easy to build a profile like this on Facebook these days, requiring a lot of patience, interaction and acknowledgment of followers comments and questions. My philosophy is that if people take the time to comment or ask questions then they deserve respect, recognition and thanks. From the comments I get, many images invoke quite an emotional response and connection especially to those who are living away from 'home'. In the end, my pleasure is in bringing pleasure to others to the extent that they want to follow my photography feed and it's a lot better to consume, even gorge on, from a health perspective, than junk food (although I have no scientific evidence to support my claim).

I was intending to focus on street photography in this update but the not so bleak winter has afforded some great photography opportunities. We have been fortunate that the most glorious summer in decades was followed by a beautiful warm autumn and now a mild winter with some stunning clear, sunny, calm, crisp days, although when it has rained it has really rained. I love the dawn and dusk tones at this time of year. It may be an illusion but they seem to take on richer deeper tones than in the days of summer. I find it quite mesmerising at times. I feel like there is an unseen energy at work, a kind of spiritual thing.

The following photo was taken on the coldest morning this year. At the time I took the photo it was a finger tingling toe tapping 2degC, but the cold is bearable when you see what you wouldn't have seen if still tucked up cozily under the duvet.

First light, Mount Maunganui Beach, Tauranga, NZ 2 July 2016. 1/100sec, f/4, ISO 200

First light, Mount Maunganui Beach, Tauranga, NZ 2 July 2016. 1/100sec, f/4, ISO 200

Its undeniably a little hard to get up from a warm bed and venture out early under a dark star splattered sky on a frosty weekend morning with the intention of photographing the first light of the new day. I can say it's much harder after a couple of wines the night before. What drives me (apart from the car)? Well, it's not putting the previous night's wine bottle out in the recycling bin, letting the dog out, or opening the curtains. It sort of includes milking the weekend for all its worth and from a photography perspective it's the anticipation of what may come. Will the new day take to the stage in a blaze of glory? Will I click the shutter button and think 'that's the one!' It's such a wonderful feeling to come away thinking that I got a 'money shot'. 

First light, first flight. 1/500sec, f/10, ISO200

First light, first flight. 1/500sec, f/10, ISO200

Over many years I have climbed to the summit of Mauao (Mount Maunganui) hundreds of times, more than my aching legs would care to remember. At one stage it was 2-3 times a week, but then I had an attack of commonsense and now go up there just once a week, usually at dawn on a weekend morning and taking the steepest route. The weather and the light is always different and the views are truly spectacular. I have been up there in screaming gales, torrential rain, and on the calmest sunniest of days. The torrential rain experiences; well they have been by accident rather than intention; a result of miscalculating the chances of rain.

New day in the bay. Sunrise from 230 metres above coastal Mount Maunganui, Tauranga, NZ. 1/160sec, f/13, ISO 1250

New day in the bay. Sunrise from 230 metres above coastal Mount Maunganui, Tauranga, NZ. 1/160sec, f/13, ISO 1250

Its a fantastic spot to gorge on sunset. For a few minutes everyone seems transfixed by that beautiful stage show as the sun sinks in the west behind the Kaimai Ranges. I have been there as dusk closes in, when the only sounds have been the distant surf and the call of Morepork owls.  It's absolute magic.

Contemplation as the sun sinks below the Kaimai Range in the Western Bay of Plenty, NZ. 1/400 sec, f/9, ISO 200

Contemplation as the sun sinks below the Kaimai Range in the Western Bay of Plenty, NZ. 1/400 sec, f/9, ISO 200

As previously mentioned, the beauty of a clear, calm, cold winter dawn is in the colours. I always scope the scene for some sort point of interest. Of course I live in hope of a whale breaching, a pod of dolphins or orca, or an alien spacecraft appearing just for me. Well, hope springs eternal. In the following photo as luck would have it, a kayaker seeking a taste of arctic paddling appeared and gave me an added focal point.

I have been guilty of not using one of my most expensive and critically acclaimed pieces of camera gear, the superbly built Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron f/1.2 lens. This beautifully engineered lens is primarily designed for portrait and street photography and with a f/1.2 aperture has fantastic light gathering ability in low light situations. I love just looking at it, let alone taking photos with it. As a portrait lens it is sublime. I decided having re-read reviews that I'd use it almost exclusively for a while over a few weeks and test its ability with sunrise and sunset photography. I'm stoked with the fantastic results. I was blown away by just how good it was when I decided to use it for a recent sunrise expedition.

Dawn kayaker. Mount Maunganui, NZ. 1/320sec, f/7.1, ISO 200. Olympus O-MD E-M1 & Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 lens.

Dawn kayaker. Mount Maunganui, NZ. 1/320sec, f/7.1, ISO 200. Olympus O-MD E-M1 & Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 lens.

So, it has indeed been a not so bleak winter to date. We are past the winter solstice now and slowly but surely the daylight hours will lengthen and hopefully the power bills will start reducing. I intend to produce a 2017 calendar and am in the process of choosing images for each month. I'm also looking at other options for foisting my photos on the world. Aside from that I'm trying to go dairy free. The good thing is, that it won't preclude me from photographing cows, should I be so inclined.

Until next time.....

If you'd like to subscribe to this blog automatically by email, email chris@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.