Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Auckland at night

Inspired by the photowalk with Trey Ratcliff earlier this year a few of us headed out with cameras to grab a few shots early evening shots in the city.  We obviously couldn't avoid taking a few shots for HDR processing.  Hopefully Trey will be impressed with our efforts!

It was a 6pm meet at Burger King on Queen Street, next to the Borders Bookstore.  Only four of us managed to get there ... perhaps a Monday night wasn't the most convenient of times?  Nevertheless we had a great time.  I'm always fascinated with what fellow 'togs see that you may have missed.  Much to learn from fellow enthusiasts.

The first shot in this post is of the meeting place.  This is a five shot HDR image processed in Photomatix Pro.
The second shot is from just across Queen Street looking over towards the Borders bookstore to see a hint of Skytower.  I was quite surprised with the amount of colour in the city.  This shot is a single shot HDR image ... again processed in Photomatix Pro with a bit of a twiddle in Lightroom.

I took a tripod and used quite long exposures at a low ISO.  However, when moving between venues I detached the tripod, boosted the ISO up to 3200 or 6400, opened up the lens tried taking shots of people on the street.  I've converted these to black and white ... sometimes black and white seems more appropriate - and it also helps reduce chromatic noise :-)

First shot shows a couple of runners heading up Queen Street (some folk are masochists!), second shot has a couple friends enjoying an after work glass of wine, shot three is a University student checking her notes and shot four is of a couple of girls waiting for the lights to change  before crossing Queen Street.  What do you think?

There's a few more HDR shots in my Auckland HDR set on flickr. Check it out and let me know what you think.

I'll close this post with a couple of grainy hand held colour shots taken at a high ISO in an attempt to get a bit of atmosphere into the city night time shots. First shot looks towards the City's Town Hall, the second shot is looking down Albert Street. Comments, as always, are most welcome.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


When I start to see the toadstools pushing their way through the soil under the silver birch trees I know that summer is over and autumn is definitely with us.  The first shot on this post is a single shot HDR image of a toadstool covered in some of the moss it's just pushed its way through.  For some obscure reason I wasn't expecting many toadstools as it's been so dry.  Nevertheless, we don't seem to have the same variety as we once had.  Here's some toadstool shots from previous years.

As you will imagine, as autumn heads towards winter the sun sits lower in the sky and we get the very pleasing warm glows.  Temperatures are starting to drop at night time so it's time to ensure we have enough wood for the fire and get the quilts and blankets out of the cupboards.

Second shot in this post shows the lichen on a silver birch tree in my front garden illuminated by the setting sun.  Nice warm tones I thought.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

At the graveyard

Looking for a shot for my 50mm project I wandered around a very old local Anglican Church not far from my home.  The church itself is a lovely timber structure, but using a 50mm lens I really couldn't do it justice.  Perhaps when I have a wide angle lens available I'll take some more shots for this blog.

Frustrated with my lack of ability to get a worthwhile shot of the church itself I headed for the graveyard.  I'm always taken by the way significant effort goes into creating the grave and headstones and how quickly they seem to be forgotten.  The feeling of decay is enforced by the number of prickly weeds, rusting fences and cracked concrete and headstones.  The image on this post is a single shot HDR taken  across a grave surrounded by rotting metal railings and dying weeds.  Just the one flower remained, the rest have gone to seed and the plant is slowly withering away.  I was quite taken with the colours in the shot, yet remain intrigued by how quickly people's forebears are forgotten.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Ivory Lounge

Wonderful event at the Ivory Lounge, Parnell, Auckland, New Zealand the other night.  Anonymouz, the Hypnotics, Semi Leo, Malcolm Lakatani and Ross Devereux played a variety of songs to the delight of the people in the bar.  I'd gone with a friend from work and, of course, a camera.  It had been suggested some time ago that my previous images of performing musicians lacked emotion.

I was conscious of this criticism at the Ivory Lounge and really wanted to improve on my previous attempts.  I'm quite pleased with some of the images and would welcome your thoughts and comments.

The light wasn't the best.  I was shooting at ISO 3200 with my 50mm lens set at f1.8 or f2.8 most of the evening.  I'd set the camera to under-expose by about 2/3 stop and wonder now whether I should have set this a little higher.  Most shots look VERY red (due to the types of lights at the venue) and tend towards being over-exposed even though I was using spot metering.

Shots taken RAW have been easier to work with than my JPEG efforts.  Problem is that the speed with which I can write to my CF-card is seriously reduced when shooting RAW.
Conversion to "Black and White" has been done in Nikon's NX2.  I tried Nik's SilverEfex, but the effects from NX2 and the speed with which the conversion was made seemed best achieved in NX2.

The first shot in this post is of Jessica Matthews.  Gorgeous smile and a wonderful voice!  The second shot shows Ross Devereux, shot three is of Anonymouz, shot four is of Dylan Elise on drums and last, but not least, there's Semi Leo on bass guitar.  If you're interested, there's a few more shots are on flickr.

Don't forget to let me know what you think.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Early morning light

It was on Friday I started to feel like I was coming down with a cold, but today it's been in full force.  My 50mm lens project requires me to take a shot each day, which, when you're feeling like death warmed up, isn't the easiest of tasks to complete.

Straight after getting out of bed this morning (after a somewhat disturbed night I might add) was, I thought, my best chance to get a shot.  I wasn't feeling too bad, and the light passing through the Canna Lilly leaves was lovely.  I really like the colours, shapes and textures these leaves present when the light is behind them.

Autofocus and a tripod were the order of the day as my eyes are pretty blurry and I wasn't very steady holding the camera ... wow the things you do for these self imposed projects!  All shots were taken at ISO 200 with spot metering and exposure.  When I got the camera at first I used an average metering but have switched now to spot.  If there's a chance of blowing out some areas, or losing details in the shadows in others I'll use exposure bracketing and take several shots (and then perhaps play with HDR).  There's different types of bracketing ... I've only played with exposure bracketing.

After taking the first shot I noticed a small spider on the leaf, which led to the second shot.  This has been cropped slightly.  Click on it to see an enlarged view and let me know what you think.  There's another version on my 505050 page.
On the way back inside for the pills, potions and hankies I took this shot of some flowers near the back door.  I was quite taken with the bokeh effect from a shallow depth of field (f1.8) and the way the blooms seem to be straining towards the light.

Hopefully the sore throat, coughing and sneezing will clear up soon and I can get some better shots.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Auckland City and a bit of HDR

Auckland City HDR #13, originally uploaded by nzcjs.
Lovely warm and sunny day today in Auckland so we decided to take a walk around the Viaduct Basin in downtown Auckland. Easy to park down near the fish markets and only a couple of dollars for four hours.

I took my 18-200mm lens and we enjoyed a wonderfully relaxing walk around the Basin. I've put a few more shots up on flickr for you to have a look at if you so desire.  the flickr shots are all HDR shots, I suppose it's because there seemed so much contrast that I thought this would be the best treatment.

Besides taking photographs of the views I also took a few shots of people.  Street photography?  Perhaps you could call it that.  The first three images are taken with the 18-200mm lens, the last three images with the 50mm lens in Manukau City.  None of the 50mm lens images have been modified ... just a bit of a crop.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


It's official.  We're in a drought zone ...
Government declares drought in upper North Island

Drought-stricken farmers in Waikato and the Rodney, Papakura and Manukau districts are to get assistance from the Government.

Agriculture Minister David Carter today declared the areas as medium-level drought zones, triggering government relief measures. Drought was declared in Northland in late January.  The measures offered include tax assistance for farmers under the Income Equalisation Scheme, farm management advice, welfare support and funding for Rural Support Trusts to provide help.

Sadly as I'm not a farmer I won't benefit from any of the tax assistance measures on offer even though, as you can see, my garden is falling apart due to the same lack of water the farmers have been experiencing.
Apparently, according to NIWA,  it's been a record dry March for Auckland.  That probably explains the cracks in the ground you can see in the first image in this post.  Apparently we've had less than 50% of the usual rainfall for March this year so it's hardly surprising that many of the plants are suffering and turning yellow or brown.  Sometimes the colours are quite pleasing as you can see on the second image in this post.

Forecast for the weekend weather?  Hot and sunny of course!!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Back in the garage!

As I mentioned yesterday, there's a lot of stuff I've managed to hoard over the years.  At the back of the garage there's quite a few old parts of Austins that don't usually see the light of day and I wondered if there was any merit in taking a few shots in subdued lighting and then processing with Photomatix Pro.  The HDR treatment of images often seems to enhance the textures of objects within the image and none more so than these rusty bits you can see in the first image in this post.  I wasn't sure about the colours in the image so tried a monochrome version, but I'm still not sure which I prefer.  Perhaps the monochrome image?

Don't forget to click on the image to see a larger version.  I think it's better bigger.  Also, if you'd like to get blog updates via email just click on the subscribe via email option on the right.

I'll add another image of rusty junk from the garage to this post.  I have to say I'm quite pleased with this image.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


I seem to have this in-built ability to hoard rubbish.  I've cleared a good amount of rubbish out of the workshop, but there's still more to go at and then there's the garage!

The first shot in this post is a 5 shot HDR image of an area in the garage I haven't visited for some time!  I "inherited" a significant number of spares for an old Austin A40 Devon that I used to use as everyday transport.  I still have the car and it'd be great to restore it to its former glory, but it'll involve significant time and money, bit of which seem rather lacking presently!  I suspect a trip to the scrap yard with some of the bits may be happening sooner rather than later.  Who knows, I may even get a few dollars for my trouble.

Today is the last day of my Easter break.  Tomorrow will be an early start and will, I expect, be rather busy as there's quite a few projects coming to a conclusion.  We decided to make the most of today and took a walk around Auckland's Cornwall Park.

The second image in this post is of the obelisk at the top of One Tree Hill.  This obelisk was built to the specification of Sir John Logan Campbell and provided for in his will, but was not unveiled formally until 1948.  It is a memorial to the "Great Maori Race" to use Campbell's term.  Campbell had a close association with Maori when he first arrived in New Zealand. 

It seems rather strange these days to refer to the hill in the middle of the park as One Tree Hill when there's no longer a tree at the summit.  Perhaps we'd better start to use the location's Maori name Maungakiekie from now on?

I've always liked Cornwall Park.  One thing that always comes to mind is the way the designers knew they'd never see the finished result yet designed, planted and built a park for future generations enjoyment.  One great example of this is the Twin Oak Drive.  You can see a little bit of Twin Oak Drive in the third image in this post.

We have a very pleasant climate here in Auckland that seems to be enjoyed by a large range of tree species in the park.  Today, however, we took the opportunity to collect some signs of autumn for the pre-school nature table.  Walking down Twin Oak Drive you couldn't help but notice hundreds upon thousands of acorns ... you can see a small selection in the fourth image in this post.

I think I'll head up to the top of
Maungakiekie next time I visit, take a tripod and try to get a panorama shot.  The views from the summit are superb and it's well worth a visit is you ever get the chance.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A day off work ;-)

Easter Monday and another day off work.  I must say that I rather relish these days off work and today started with the sunlight streaming through the liquid amber's leaves on my driveway.

It had rained a bit in the night and everything was looking washed and refreshed, bright and colourful.  I was especially taken with the image to the left with the layers of leaves and general "greenness".  Hard to believe this shot was taken from my front door looking across my driveway rather than in some forest don't you think?

After a bit of breakfast we headed for a walk through Totara Park.  The light in the bush was lovely with the sun's rays picking out ferns and cobwebs; it was especially pretty due to the washing the rain had provided through the night.

In the second shot you may be able to pick out the steam rising off the fern leaves and the sun's rays evaporate the night time rain.  There's a spider's handiwork on the left of the image glistening with moisture.  Both shots were taken with my 50mm lens and are unmodified.  They had the potential to become shots for my 505050 project, but in the end I selected one from Auckland Botanic Gardens.

I was quite taken with the light on the ferns and wondered about a new project to take images of ferns and palms in some of the native bush areas near my home.  What do you think?  Interesting idea perhaps?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday and clocks went back last night.  You'd think we'd feel like "a box of birds" this morning, but I don't think that extra hour in bed did me any good at all!

The first shot in this post is of a tiny fern clinging to life in a small crack in the wall outside my laundry.  I keep meaning to remove it before it removes more mortar and then causes a problem with the wall!  However, I've been quite taken with the composition of the fern, the bricks and the trees as a backdrop.  Until I get a reasonable photo I think it can stay!

The shot was going to be today's 505050 shot, but I decided on something else more topical for that. A wide aperture was selected to keep the trees out of focus, but I think I need more of the bricks in focus.  Any comments?

A wee tradition in our household is to hide and then hunt for Easter Eggs.  Even though the children are getting older and you'd think would have grown out of the event we still keep on doing it each year.  I suspect it's the chocolate more than anything else!

The second image in this post is of one of the garden gates.  You may have seen this gate before?  Today's effort was taken from a slightly different angle and has has a bit of work done to with Photomatix HDR software.  What do you think?  Was it worth the effort?

Don't forget you can subscribe to my blog either by RSS or email.  Just check out the links to the right.  You can also make comments on what you see at the end of the page in a comments box.  Go on, give it a try and let me now what you think.

Finally, and most important of all, may I wish you a very Happy Easter.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Mangemangeroa walkway to Shelly Beach

I've been busy in the workshop today trying to get rid of some rubbish and generally tidy up the place.  Most members of the family have been using the workshop as a general dumping ground for "stuff" and we'd reached the stage where it was becoming increasingly difficult to even get into the room.

So, after wielding a broom and bin for a morning in the workshop it was time to leave the house and enjoy a bit of New Zealand's outdoors.  We decided to go on the Mangemangeroa walkway down to Shelly Beach.  It was a lovely warm day and I was really hoping I'd get some nice "picture postcard" shots.  Sadly the sky wasn't as clear blue as you might like for a postcard and things just looked a little flat really.

The first shot in this post is looking over Shelly Beach from the walkway up to Sandspit Road.  I've used a bit of HDR to enhance the mood in the clouds and get a bit more drama into the water and sandspit.

The second shot is from the same stairway up to Sandspit Road from Shelly Beach, but this time we're looking a little more to the north (or left of the last image).

Again, a little bit of HDR treatment on a single frame to get a bit more drama into the sky.  I was really quite taken by the reflections on the water that you can just abut make out on the upper right centre of the shot.  I didn't think much of the image compositionally when I zoomed in the reflections and I was also finding it hard to hold the camera still; I was huffing and puffing after climbing heaven knows how many steps!  Who knows, if I venture out a bit more I may get a bit fitter ;-)

I've added a new widget over on the right that you may find handy. This new widget will let you subscribe to the blog so you'll receive blog updates via email.