Sunday, June 28, 2009


We've been looking at the water catchment area near our home. We had a great walk to the source of our local stream (see left for source of Puhinui Stream) and then walked downstream where we noticed other 'feeders' swelling the flow of the stream. Pretty boggy in parts, wet feet when we got home, but good fun and great to be outdoors. Intrigued by how water collects and then forms into a stream we decided to create an aquifer at home in an old fish tank.

Creating the aquifer was quite easy. First make a layer of sand at the bottom of the tank with a bit of a hill in one corner. Next spray water onto the sand until it starts to pool. Don't pour water onto the sand, but spray and be patient as the water needs to soak through.

With wet sand lay two pieces of clay on top of the sand. The gap between the clay pieces will represent a river. Make holes in the sand and push drinking straws through. These straws will be trimmed later and represent boreholes or wells. On top of the clay put some small stones or pebbles and then trim off your straws. (Full details can be found in Mary Gardner's book Investigating New Zealand Waters).

Next we sprayed water on the pebbles and noticed how the water made its way to the river. We also "polluted" the area by dropping food colouring into the bore holes or onto the stones. It was fascinating to see how quickly things became "polluted", the area affected and how difficult it was top clean it up afterwards. It was good to get water from a bore hole and see how our pollution of the area affected the quality of water we obtained from the bore. Very interesting and rather worthwhile I thought.

This week is the bird survey week I mentioned previously. We've been entertained by the silver eyes on our makeshift bird feeders. We strung a wire between the house and a tree and then hung inverted plant pots from the wire. Using this technique we've been able to get some feeders very close to the house which enables us to get a good close look at the feeding birds. The silver eyes are sufficiently acrobatic to get the food from the feeders, the sparrows wait on the ground for bits to fall off. Great fun, very entertaining and educational :-)

A few more pictures of the silver eyes are here. In case you're interested it was quite a dull day. Shots taken at ISO 3200, focal length of 300mm in 35mm speak, f5.6 and 1/320sec. Images have been cropped slightly. Let me know what you think.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I won!

Whoa! Petapixel just announced me as a winner of their first license giveaway. Some HDR software by Unified Colour called HDR PhotoStudio I'm so pleased :-)

My latest effort was taken at Atiu Creek Regional Park and I was quite impressed with the results. I can't wait for this new software to arrive then I can try it out and, hopefully, get better results and also, understand what I'm doing!

Great news and thank you Petapixel!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Out of condition!

Decided to have a trip to Atiu Creek Regional Park as it is supposed to have reasonable mountain bike tracks. It took about two hours drive to get there and the journey was fine. The view from the carpark was great and the site itself was very pleasant indeed. It was just that I was so out of condition that the slightest hill was hard work. Long damp grass was a strain also. Very disappointed with myself and keen to do more exercise so that next time I'll be able to have more fun. Legs with this jelly feeling and a serious lack of stamina :-(

Atiu was quiet when we were there and there are some lovely views out over the Oruawharo river. I've uploaded some images to flickr should you wish to have a look.

On the way back we were discussing how pleasant New Zealand is when you get out into the countryside. You hear people saying it's like paradise and I've often heard NZ referred to as Godzone, but this roadsign was quite a surprise! Click on the picture to enlarge and check out the name of the road.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Looking at nature

Great project starting for kids young and old, the New Zealand Garden Bird Survey. Check out Landcare Research's website and use the keyword "bird survey". The survey runs from 27/6 through to 5/7 this year. There's a number of resources available from the website (the poster on the left is available there for example).

Whilst thinking of matters natural you might like to learn a bit more about Monarch butterflies. Apparently, these butterflies used to head for Butterfly Bay in Northland - where else you might ask! Numbers have fallen significantly and there's a lack if understanding of butterfly numbers and distribution. Follow the link to learn more and update the Monarch butterfly website with sightings. Again, a great activity to do with your kids.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Bus driving the old girls was, as you'd expect, great fun. Highly amusing characters with some wonderful stories. Weather was a bit wet, but that didn't dampen their conversation. Next time I get to drive the bus is August.

Grocery shopping at Botany's Pak'n Save and guess what I found? Scottish kippers! Whoa, I haven't had kippers in ages and could smell and taste them even though they were frozen and in the packet. As you would expect, as soon as I did take them out of the packet to cook them, everyone in the house could smell them! Wonderful meal :-)

Tried a bit more with HDR - this is turning out to be an art for which I believe I have little talent. I suspect here's a significant amount of work to do to get the image you want, but the effects can be quite stunning. A recent attempt (see left) didn't come out too bad. A higher resolution image can be seen here. Other people have created some fantastic pictures and there's quite an active group on flickr you may wish to check out.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Busy day

Busy day today working in the house. Only when you start to clean the place do you realise how much of it there is! Outside most of the leaves have fallen, and sadly its in all the wrong places! This means there's some cleaning up to do outside. Before the leaf sweeping started I thought another photo was in order. Another attempt at HDR. I can't say I'm overly impressed with the image, but I do like the paint like effect that has been achieved. I think, to be honest, I need some help to better understanf what would make a good subject for HDR, and what to do to get a good HDR image.

Tomorrow it's duty as the bus driver again as I collect the old girls. Great fun!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

HDR ... again

I can take lots of pictures with different exposures, but the combining of them to get a picture with a high dynamic range is becoming more of a challenge than I thought it would be. qtpfsgui isn't as easy to use as I'd hoped and the results I'm getting from it are less than impressive.

I regularly pass the Otahuhu power station near the Highbrook interchange on the Southern Motorway and it looks like an ideal candidate for a night shot with HDR. A clear night, spotlights illuminating the facility and smoke and steam rising into the night sky; it looks quite good! There's a couple of shots that demonstrate my inability to get a good effect here and here. Please, if you have any hints make a comment and help me out.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

High Dynamic Range

HDR, seems a cool concept; the ability to increase the dynamic range of a photograph by combining a few images taken with different exposures. Just downloaded qtpfsgui and had a bit of a play. Can't say I fully understand what I'm doing but remain seriously impressed by the efforts of others. Just been to the railway station and feel there are options for HDR with night time shots. Could the shot alongside benefit from HDR? (Shot taken at ISO 6400 so it's quite noisy). If you have any hints, please add them as comments!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Time to spare?

Fun task this weekend was to act as bus driver for a few old ladies. The ladies were charming and we had a great time chatting to each other as we tried to work through the traffic. The ladies had so many interesting stories to tell of their lives that it was disappointing to finish the journey. It struck me that so often we rush to complete tasks of dubious value when personal relationships and friendships can be developed by just spending a few moments listening to each other. These old girls had so many things of interest to say, yet not many people willing to listen. I found this rather sad.

With this in mind I recalled my mother's favourite poem by W.H.Davis called Leisure. I'd visited a place called Puhunui Reserve, not far from Auckland's International Airport, and took the picture you see to the left. I thought the combination of the picture and the words was quite nice. Click on the picture to enlarge it - you'll then be able to see the words! What do you think? Makes you think about slowing down a little perhaps?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Worthwhile read!

Just got Michael Freeman's book, "The Photographer's Eye", out of the library. I'm very impressed and will have to buy a copy. If you want to know what to look for in order to produce a good photograph then this book has got to on the list of worthwhile reads.
Published by ILEX, ISBN 9 781905 814046

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Silver Eyes

Bitterly cold morning again and the birds have been glad of the food we put out for them. The acrobatic birds in the garden are the Silver Eyes. Very quick and highly entertaining to watch. These birds have no difficulty hanging upside down to get inside the feeders. Only difficulty is capturing the birds with the camera. The frustrating thing is that there's always other tasks getting in the way and never enough time to concentrate on getting a nice picture. Invariably the photograph ends up as a quick snapshot.

Lovely colours this evening and we made the most of it with a walk around Auckland's Botanic Gardens. Noticed an interesting use of the town's old recycling bins as planters. The old green and blue bins have been decorated with exterior paints by children from local schools. Some of the planters were very good indeed.

Even though it's winter there's a surprising number of flowers. The display of Californian Poppies was quite special up near the visitor's centre. Have a look at my flickr page for some more poppy photos.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bird Food Recipe

Very cold this morning and not an easy decision to get out of a nice warm bed. Last night we made a special mixture for the birds and put out some bird feeders ready for the cold weather. We didn't really expect it being so cold today, but the birds were glad of the food! I've been at work all day, so no pictures I'm afraid. I'll attach the recipe we use below. Let me know whether the birds in your area enjoy the food as much as ours do here in Auckland, NZ.

Recipe ingredients: 2 cups peanut butter, 2 cups lard, 4 cups rolled oats, 4 cups cornmeal, 3 cups bird seed.
Recipe method
: Melt lard and peanut butter in a pan then add in the oats, cornmeal and seeds. Mix well, then, when cooler, press into pine cones or coconut halves and hang for the birds. We keep unused food in the freezer. Give it a go! I'm sure the birds will love it and you can then tell me how you got on.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Winter has arrived

1st June, Queen's Birthday and the first day of winter. A quick trip south of Auckland to Port Waikato to see the sea. Quite bracing really! There's a few images on flickr that may give you an impression of the place. Not a bad winter's day really!