Thursday, December 30, 2010

What are these plants?

These pretty plants have graced our driveway since we moved in several years ago and I'm still none the wiser as to what they are!  They seem to flower throughout the year and give a great show when a few of them are in bloom simultaneously.

I used the 18-200mm lens with f-stops 5.6 and 8 as I wanted to blur the background, but also have a reasonably sharp flower.  Let me know what you think ... but better still, perhaps tell me what the flower is ;-)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

At the beach :-)

Just couldn't resist heading up to Orewa to see the sea.  A little overcast as can be seen in the first image, but really, the weather was superb, and we had a wonderful time on the beach.  Strolling down the beach in shorts it was rather difficult to imagine all those folks in the USA and Europe stranded in airports or even on 'planes.   
On the TV news tonight there were people on stretcher beds in airports waiting for flights ... with an expected departure date of the first or second of January!  Haha!  I think I'll just head up to Orewa again for another stroll.  A bit more fun with the frisbee on the beach, a bit of a stroll and a swim.  For those of you in cooler climes ... wearing gumboots as you head out into the snow ... just bear a thought for us downunder in the sunshine with our jandles :-)

Friday, December 24, 2010

In the garden :-)

Time at home to get on with some jobs and I must admit that it's been quite hot outside these past few days.  So much so that I've been working inside where it's a bit cooler.

This morning, however, after dropping off my daughter at work, the light seemed so "gentle" that I took a stroll around my garden with camera in hand to take some shots of the plants that haven't succumbed to the lack of rain.

All shots taken with my trusty 50mm lens.  All being well and time permitting I'll head off out with a wider angle lens later and get some different shots.  For now though, take a squiz and let me know what you think ... and if you don't hear from me again soon, all the very best for a Happy Christmas!


Flax flowers and seed heads to the right.  Tuis love these :-)

Fuchsia.  I was told this particular plant was an NZ native.  Is it?


Inga Bean.


Next door's cat.  Surprising what you can find in the garden if you look hard enough!


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Let the holidays begin :-)

Just finished work for Christmas!  Hard to believe it's Christmas already.  Can't say it feels like Christmas.  Even after living in New Zealand for the best part of twenty years, Christmas still feels odd when outdoor temperatures are in the high 20C and there's no hint of snow at all!  Lots of people are in the festive mood though and there's number of houses nicely decorated with Christmas lights.

After watching the news and seeing Heathrow airport struggling with snow and ice I thought the following images from Auckland, New Zealand might warm the cockles of your heart :-)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Slot cars ... and a flash gun!

We've put up the race track ready for the holidays.  I've always liked slot cars and must admit to thoroughly enjoy racing the cars.  This evening we tried shooting the cars with a slow sync on the flash gun.  Not at all easy!  We selected a pretty slow shutter speed to get the blur and a rear curtain sync to freeze the car at the end of the exposure.  The first shot isn't as sharp as I'd hoped, but it does give the impression of motion.  The second shot is a bit sharper, but doesn't have quite as much motion blur.  All great fun all the same.  Quite tricky deciding when to press the shutter release when my son is racing the cars round the track!  An infra-red trigger would be quite handy ... but perhaps not so much fun?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The tree is up!

The tree is up and decorations have started so Christmas must have arrived.  This year, for a change, we've decided to have a "real" tree instead of the imitation version we usually have.  The pine fragrance is filling the house and the pine needles are starting to fill the vacuum cleaner!  I suspect next year we'll be back to the imitation tree and will delight in the lack of needles on the floor.

So, as darkness approached and the lights were switched on I couldn't resist pointing my camera at some of the ornaments.  Tripod and interval timer were used to try to minimise shake and exposures were in the seconds.  My 50mm lens was selected, wide open (to blur the background) and a few shots taken just for fun.  What do you think?  Festive?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The chipper!

It seems ages since I've been here, but I think it's about a week.  Last time the back yard was full of branches, which I'm happy to report have now been converted to mulch to spread around the garden.  I managed to collect the chipper late on Friday.  The image in this post shows the chipper on its little trailer (which I have to admit did feel a tad top heavy on the bends) and some of the mulch we created with the device.  There's a lot of it, so I can imagine I'll be busy for a wee while yet spreading it around the yard!

Image left, as it happens, is an hdr shot processed in the klatest version of Photomatix Pro ... v4.  Quite different to v3 and I think I like it.

Other developments are around my new website.  I've been playing with Apple's iWeb with some help from number one son.  It's quite easy to use ... somewhat limiting in certain areas, but definitely quick to get a webpage going.  Take a look and let me know what you think.  I've also started to create profile pages for each of the musicians I've been photographing ... time consuming?  You bet!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Moana Pasifika Festival

Superb.  The Moana Pasifika Festival was superb.  You just couldn't keep your feet still.  The bands were great and what an atmosphere.  The Sir Barry Curtis Park was a good choice for the venue with plenty of space for people to enjoy themselves.  What's more ... the whole thing was free!  You can't get better than that!

First shot in this post is Ross Devereux.  I'm not seen Ross in quite some time and it was a real joy to hear him on Sax again.  Ross was playing with Malcolm Lakatani, Dylan Elise, Semi Leo and Karl Benton.  Whoa, what a combination.  If you ever get the chance to see these gents perform then take it ... you will not be disappointed.

A bit of a rush today, so no more words, just some more shots from the event to perhaps give you a bit more of an idea of the wonderful atmosphere; great family fun ... haha!  Even the Police helpers were having a good time as you'll see in the third shot.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Pruning the trees!

Thinking about friends back in the UK where it's cold and almost certainly snowing right now, I thought a shot of our back yard where we've been pruning the trees may be amusing.  It's been quite a warm day today with not a snow flake in sight!  The impatiens are in bloom as you can see bottom right of the image and I now have a mountain of twigs and branches to chip/mulch.  Mind you, the larger chunks of wood will keep me warm when winter comes to New Zealand :-)

Sadly the wood isn't the best for burning ... rather soft ... so it doesn't give the greatest amount of heat and tends to make a lot of ash.

Anyway, the chipper is booked, so that's decided what I'll be up to next weekend!  Problem now is finding places in the garden for all the mulch!

Friday, December 3, 2010

It had to happen one day, and today was to be the day. has arrived.  Thanks to my son, I now have my very own website.  I was recommended GreenGeeks and the deal seem pretty good, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.  GreenGeeks were great.  No issues there.  The problem was setting up the site.  We tried some of available website building tools from GreenGeeks, but with time contraints to get some images available for viewing we fell back on ftp and familiar tools like Apple's iWeb and Adobe's Lightroom.  So what do you think?  For a first attempt by father and son to get some images of musicians on the web did we do good, or did we make a mess.  Take a look and let me know what you think.  Haha! You can even email me at
Looking through the images made me realise just how many shots of musicians I'd taken since I got the Nikon camera.  First shot on the post was taken back in April this year at the Ivory Lounge.  It's not the same image as you saw last time, but certainly very similar.  I was using Nikon's NX2 and remember being seriously frustrated with the red lights used at the Ivory Lounge.  The image of Ross in this post has been processed in Lightroom and converted to monochrome.

The last image in the post is of a weed in the garden I spotted the other day.  I've added it to this post just for variety really, but also because both shots were taken with the same lens.  Nikon's 50mm f1.8.  This is Nikon's cheapest lens and without doubt the best value for money optically speaking Nikon offer.

If you're in Auckland and fancy a 50mm lens of your own, take a trip down to Progear ... they always have good deals on cameras and lenses :-)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Flash :-)

A long time ago ... perhaps before a number of you were born ... in a land far away from where I now live, I bought a flash gun.  Yup, 1980, Coventry in the UK, I bought myself a SunPak Autozoom 3600 Thyristor.  In those days, to get a flash with enough power to let you bounce light around the room required what was referred to as a hammer head flash.  It didn't attach to the hotshoe, but via a bracket under the camera and wire to the x-sync socket on the camera.  I loved it.  It served me well whilst shooting film with my Pentax MX.
The shot you see in this post was taken back in 1982.  Kafka the cat.  Sigma 80-200mm lens on the Pentax MX and shot on Ilford FP4 monochrome film.  What you see here is a scan from a 10x8 print I made in the University darkroom the best part of 30 years ago!

I'd mount the flash on a tripod and use extension cables to allow me to move away from the flash.  It was great.  I didn't get the horrible shadows behind the subject and there was a lovely even light to the shots.

Move on to the present and the Autozoom 3600 is still in working order.  Problem is the Nikon D300 isn't warranted to connect to this flash due to the high voltages returned from the flash.  The solution?  A Phottix Aster Wireless Flash Trigger Set.  I got mine from Progear in Newmarket.  I needed an adapter from the old x-sync connector to the 3.5mm jack used on the Phottix receiver, but now I can shoot with flash ... without wires!  Pleased?  I'm stoked :-)  After the frustrations at the Mangere Arts Centre the other night it's great to have a combination with which I'm familiar and works!  Watch this space for a few more flash shots over the coming weeks.  Oh, and let me know what you think of Kafka :-)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Miss Tasha Lee

A night of fashion at the Mangere Arts Centre courtesy of Miss Tasha Lee.  Great fun, but a huge challenge for me as the flash I was using was not performing as expected.  The unit seemed to have a mind of its own!  Getting anything worthwhile required camera and flash settings to be set very different indeed.  Quite bizarre.  I'd understood both devices to be compatible ... especially as both come from the same manufacturer, Nikon.

Never mind, I managed a few shots before the event started of the girls and what a gorgeous collection of beauties we had to model Tasha's creations.  You can see some of the girls in the first image ... Miss Tasha Lee is in the second shot in this post.

Tasha's creations were stunning, colours vibrant and really accentuated the beauty of the girls.  As I said, a great event.  More photos are available here on Facebook ... let me know what you think.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Take Note ... take 3

Neil Stewart on drums, Take Note, Lynfield Cock 'n Bull
Friday night at the Lynfield Cock 'n Bull with Take Note was a blast.  I wasn't really sure what to expect as I'd never been to the Lynfield Cock 'n Bull, but it was great.  I'll be back :-)

Jason (Smith) fired up the smoke machine, enthusiastic dancers hit the dance floor and the band as a whole seemed much more relaxed than last week, and ready to party.  They played the same songs as last time, but I thought there was something different with the delivery.  Perhaps it was the girls on the dance floor, perhaps they were less concerned with yours truely snapping away with a camera.  I'm not sure, but they were really good.

Lighting, as last time, was wonderful for me.  I was able to use a wide angle lens with a minimum aperture of f4, get ISOs down to 1600 and use shutter speeds over 1/100sec.

Jason Smith, lead guitar and vocals, Take Note, Lynfield Cock 'n Bull
This wasn't the case for all shots though.  The first shot in this post has Neil Stewart in the midst of the smoke machine output.  The drummer is invariably at the back of the set, and this is no exception with Take Note.  As such my wide angle lens wasn't really long enough to capture Neil.  The shot of Neil was taken with a 50mm lens, f2.2, 1/80sec and ISO 2500.

I don't find it easy taking shots of drummers and have been trying a slower shutter speed in an attempt to get some motion in the sticks.  In a number of the songs Neil's head stays reasonably still, but his hands and sticks fair fly.  Using shutter speed down to about 1/50sec lets me get some blur in the sticks.  Problem is, if there's too much blur the the stick becomes so faint that you don't really see it.  As I said.  I find it hard.  Anyway, let me know what you think of the first shot.

The second shot has Jason Smith in some of the smoke.  The smoke gives a lovely atmosphere and I need to play with its effects more to fully appreciate what you can do.  I must admit to being amused that at one time no smoke machines were necessary as the pub's patrons acted as smoke machines ... probably generating significantly more smoke that Jason's machine could ever hope to manufacture.

Jason Wilson on Bass Guitar, Take Note, Lynfield Cock 'n Bull
Shot three has Jason Wilson on bass guitar.  Last week Jason seemed to be holed up in a corner and out of the way, but this evening we got to see rather more of him.  This third shot has been desaturated as the coloured lights didn't really flatter the scene at all.  Sadly you don't see the lovely grain in the body of his guitar.  This shot from last week may give you a better idea.

The last shot shows Sue Dyson at the microphone fulfilling her role as vocalist for the group.  There's a few more shots of Sue here that have been converted to black and white.  Perhaps let me know what you think of the monochrome images as compared to the colour image in this post.

So there you have it.  A shot of each of the band members taken at Lynfield's Cock 'n Bull.  They're a great band and well worth going to see, and dance to!

Sue Dyson, vocalist for Take Note at Lynfield Cock 'n Bull

Monday, November 15, 2010

Take Note ... take 2

Take Note ... in monochrome.

Black and white images have interesting properties and can often convey a better impression of an event than a full colour shot can.  Is it because you look more at the shapes?  Perhaps you're imagination fills in the gaps?  Then again, perhaps the photograph can focus your mind on the more salient aspects of the image?  I'm not sure, but a good black and white image is VERY hard to beat!  Sadly,  can't claim to have the ability to craft these stunning monochrome images ... but that doesn't stop me trying.  Sorry :-(

So, this post has a few monochrome images from Take Note's performance last Friday night at Ellerslie's Cock 'n Bull.  Take a look at let me know what you think.  Part of me things the "noise", lack of precise focus or movement in the image is acceptable and almost expected in certain shots.  Hints and suggestions are more than welcome by the way.