Thursday, June 30, 2011

Garden shots

Early morning light walking through the bush on the way to the Botanical Gardens.  It was really quite dark and I suspect you only really get the best effect when you see the image REALLY big.  It was the rays of sunlight passing through the upper canopy and the way it illuminated the ferns and palms that really caught my eye.  If you click on the image you'll see it a little larger.

Exposure was 1/5 sec, f11 and ISO 200.  Didn't take a tripod so this is a handheld shot (well I did support myself on a tree trunk) Nevertheless I think you'll agree Nikon's VR is pretty good!

I took seven shots with the intention of either merging them into an HDR image or picking what I thought was the best in the bracketed set.  As it happens I wasn't impressed with the 7 shots merged so selected the single shot closest to what I could remember and pushed this image through Photomatix Pro.  Perhaps let me know what you think.

I suppose I was quite taken with "light" today and how it changed the appearance of objects when the sun was behind, or in front of the camera.  The next two shots illustrate the different effects of shooting into the sun, or with the sun behind you.  I can recall being told to always keep the sun behind me when shooting, but I really quite like the effect of shooting into the sun.  Perhaps let me know which you prefer?

The last shots in this post are of some fern koru.  Today was glorious ... a wonderful sunny clear blue sky day and the unfolding koru on the ferns against the blue sky was just stunning ... well I thought so anyway!

The old mill ...

Helmshore Mill in the UK.  Did I show you these images already?  I really can't remember!  Perhaps it's an age thing or the bump on the head?  Anyway, recently on the Facebook HDR group page one of the gents (Peter Donnan) posted an image of an old mill.  This jogged my memory about the Helmshore Mill I visited last year whilst over in the UK.
To be honest, it was a miserable day!  It was cold and wet and generally a day you'd have rather stayed indoors.  However, the grim weather did nothing but enhance the atmosphere of the place.  The millstone grit glistened with the rain and the cloudy skies helped add a bit of mood to the shots.

Helmshore Textile Museum is definitely a place to visit should you have the time.  It isn't a dry and boring museum, but one in which the guides explain the history and demonstrate the equipment working.

I mentioned it was raining so the shots are all quick single shot grab shots really!  I was using a 12-24mm Nikkor at its widest setting most of the time and really wasn't keen to get it wet.  I must admit to being very impressed with this lens. Processing is courtesy of Photomatix Pro with a little twiddle in Lightroom ... mainly to get the watermark on the shot!

The last shot in this post is of the backs of nearby houses.  I was somewhat amused by what seemed a plethora of wheelie bins of varying colours for all the different types of rubbish the locals generate!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Matariki celebrations at the Aotea Centre

Stan Walker at the Aotea Centre, Auckland.
What a treat!  The Tiramarama Concert at the Aotea Centre in Auckland with performances by, amongst others, Ardijah, Adeaze, Stan Walker, Hinewehi Mohi, Tama Waipara and the Auckland Chamber Orchestra.  This was a truely wonderful event, a real delight.  You may recall I took some photographs of Rico Tali at a local bar the other day.  I wasn't impressed with the lighting at the bar, so the concert in the Aotea Centre was a chance to get some better shots.
Stan Walker with members of the kapa haka Te Waka Huia.

Rico Tali
The lighting was good, but not as intense as I would have liked.  ISO was still up high at 3200 and my minimum aperture was f5.6.  Nevertheless I managed a few reasonable shots.  

First image in this post is of Stan Walker.  Stan won the Australian Idol Competition back in 2009 and his careeer has gone from strength to strength since then.  Hugely popular with the crowd, especially when he performed the Kapa Haka Group (second image).

You can see Rico in the third shot in this post.  Much better light than at the local bar and I must admit to being quite pleased with the results.  ISO3200, f5.6 and 1/15sec.  Focal length was 250mm, in 35mm speak, so I think you'll agree that the VR on the Nikkor lens is pretty good.  Well, either that or I have a very steady hand!  The image has been sharpened slightly and then I've used the "black clipping", clarity and vibrance to get a bit more contrast into the image.
Betty-Anne from Ardijah

The fourth shot in this post is of Betty-Anne Monga, lead singer of Ardijah.  I first met Betty-Anne last year at a free concert in Mangere.  I must admit to being enthralled by her performance.  She played an electric ukelele as well as sang and I was totally smitten.  She was wonderful.  Same again this evening.  Wonderful performance.

The fifth shot in this post is of Hinewehi Mohi.  You may recall Hinewehi for her Oceania CDs.  More recently she is perhaps better known for her work with the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre.  A recent article gives a bit more insight into her involvment with the Centre.  As always, a beautiful voice and a wonderful performance by Hinewehi.

Hinewehi Mohi
The last few shots are of Adeaze (Nainz and Viiz Tupai) and Grace Ikenasio.  These guys can sing ... whoa they can sing.  They came on stage and I was quite stunned by their vocal talents.  Wonderful.  Haha, and then to top it off they get Grace to sing with them as well.  What a treat.

So, as I said at the start, this was a VERY special evening.  Great performances by some of New Zealand's best musical talent.  Hopefully the few shots you see in this post will give you a small taste of what we enjoyed.  Please follow the links in the post to the different artists websites and check out their music.  I suspect you won't be disappointed.
Grace Ikenasio.
Logovi'i Tupa'i, Adeaze.

Feagaigafou Tupa'i, Adeaze.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hillpark Fantail

Rain had been forecast for today and I was keen to get out for a walk before outdoor activities were rained off.  I took my 18-200mm lens and headed off to town.  The local newspaper had published a few old photographs of the area from many years ago.  This led me to think about the type of photographs I could take that would give people an idea of what Manurewa looked like in 2011.  I'd decided I'd get a few shots of the local shops, the main street, perhaps the railway and bus stations.  Well, none of this happened!  Instead of taking shots in the local town, I ended up taking a few shots of a Fantail in small reserve in Hillpark.
Light levels were really quite low.  It was overcast as rain was expected and I was under lots of trees.  As such the ISO was way up at ISO3200, aperture was f5.6 and shutter speed were 1/100sec or less.  The little Fantail was very active, hardly ever sat still, and was a challenge to capture in such low light levels.  My 18-200mm lens isn't the best performer at 200mm and f5.6, but you perhaps get the idea of the bird.

The Fantails often come quite close to you and that was quite fortunate.  It meant I didn't really have to crop the images to get an reasonably sized bird in the shot.  Nevertheless, you may notice the shots aren't as sharp as they could be.  It would be good to compare how a faster 200mm lens would have performed under the same conditions, but until I get a sponsor that's not going to happen in a hurry!  I suspect with an aperture of f2.8 I may have realised a more pleasant bokeh and reduced the noise levels.  It would be nice to compare, just to see if the extra money for a fast lens really makes that much difference.

Needless to say, the expected rain arrived and I never managed the shots in the town.  Perhaps that will happen on another day.  For now though I'll leave you with the couple more shots of the Fantail.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Caught in the rain

Walking off to the Botanic Gardens was seen as a way to clear my head.  I keep suffering from headaches, so a gentle stroll off to the Gardens was considered a possible remedy.  A bit of fresh air, some gentle exercise ... Sadly it hasn't worked, but I managed a few photos I thought you might like.

The first shot was taken outside the Visitor Centre at Auckland's Botanic Gardens.  As you approach the visitor centre there's three "manufactured" palm to the left of the entrance that you can see in the image above.  On the right of the entrance there's some natural palms.  Quite a nice contrast, but today I was quite taken with the man made palms.  Steely blue came to mind, hence the tones and colours you seen in the image.  I left the more curvy twiggy bits top right to support the curvy contrast of the wall.  Perhaps let me now what you think of the image.

Second shot in this post was taken in the herb garden.  I was playing with my 50mm lens and enjoying the shallow depth of field achievable when the lens is opened up a bit.  I'm not sure what the flower is, bit it seemed quite pretty.  I wanted to get the small blooms in focus on a diagonal but get a buttery bokeh effect of some greens behind the flowers.  Lightroom was used to pull back the white flowers.  Quite a bit of contrast in this shot and I wanted detail in each of the flowers without making the background too dark.  A pleasing image?  Perhaps let me know what you think.

Something you may have noticed that intrigues me is the way rain drops sit on foliage.  During today;s walk I was really spoilt for choice as I got caught in a rain shower.  There was rain drops everywhere!  Anyway, a couple of my favourite shots from today are images three and four in this post.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Playing trains ... with a bit of HDR

The trip by train into Auckland City from the South passes through Westfield station, just a little north of Otahuhu station.  There's a marshalling yard and some railway workshops here and I've long thought it'd be a good place to get some photos.

Today, however, was a tad disappointing.  The weather wasn't the brightest, pretty gloomy really, the marshalling yards were almost empty and I can't say I was feeling the best.  Nevertheless I took a few shots and then played with them a little in Photomatix Pro.  I felt a bit of HDR might enhance the images ever so slightly.  Concrete and things industrial seem to come out quite nicely with HDR ... adds a bit of grit to the shots.  Anyway, take a look at the images and let me know what you think.

The last two photos in this post are five shot HDR images; the first two images are single shot.  I used single shot as there was some movement in the frame.  Locomotive 7010 was relocating some carriages, but I quite like the way it lined up with 4444 and 5016.  It was almost like the start of a race!

I've posted the third image in this post to flickr.  Looking at the image below things look very grey, which is pretty much what it was like today as it happens.  However, I added a little bit of warmth to the shot and posted this warmer version on flickr.  Please take a look and let me know which you prefer.

I suspect the images look better when seen larger.  However, I've restricted the max size to 1280 pixels along the longest edge.  To see this size just click on an image.  As always I'd be intrigued to know what you think.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A couple of Proteas

Well, perhaps not proteas as such, but certainly part of the protea family.  I've always been fascinated by these plants.  Their blooms can be quite strange as well, and, in some case quite large.  They often have "hairy" parts to them ... to collect moisture I suppose?  These hairs are perhaps necessary as the plants originate from a somewhat dry part of the world where rainfall is quite low.  I can recall them not doing well in damp parts of the garden.

All shots in this post were taken with the 50mm f1.8 lens.  Apertures at f2.8 and ISO set to 200.  I must try using ISO 100, but have been told the contrast levels are rather low when using ISO100.  I can recall in the days of film that ISO 200 was seen as quite fast and I often used Kodachrome 25!  How things have changed.  Are the photos any better?  I'm not really sure about that ... but I certainly take a lot more than I ever did with film!

I'll finish this post with a couple more shots of the flowers.  Perhaps let me know what you think.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Quite a bit of rain of late so I was glad to have done a few jobs in the garden last week.  I suspect this week isn't going to be a gardening week, everything is just so wet and soggy now.  Sadly many of the nice blooms have been battered and bashed with the wind and rain, but this particular hibiscus seems to have faired rather better than most.  Looks quite pretty with the raindrops don't you think?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Night time HDR

Each time I've come home down Great South Road I've been taken with the sight of the Telstra Clear Pacific Centre and the way it's illuminated.  Tonight I decided to take a tripod and a few shots to see if you think it's as impressive a sight as I think it is.  5 shots, in the order of 20 seconds each, combined in Photomatix to give the effect you see here.  The dots in the sky are stars.

I took a few other shots, not all of them HDR.  The next shot is also a 5 shot HDR image, tajen from a slightly different angle and without any cropping.

The third is just a long exposure of the new junction at Manukau.  I've always liked the streaks from the car headlights in photographs.  Problem tonight was there was hardly anyone about!  I had to watch for the cars to come and set the exposure to 30 seconds to be sure I'd get a few vehicles in the shot.  I suppose that's the problem with living in New Zealand ... there's hardly anybody here ;-)

The last shot was just a bit of fun with the multiple exposure setting on the camera.  I wasn't sure what would happen, but it's not too bad for a first attempt.  Perhaps let me know what you think of the shots in this post?

Friday, June 10, 2011

The waterworks ... cropping

I'm still looking through some old photos and came across this set of bracketed images I took whilst back in the UK.  The shot is of the waterworks close to the Lancashire town of Edgeworth.  Behind me is the Wayoh reservoir that feeds the water works you see in the first shot in this post.  I suppose I was quite taken with the mass of concrete and I quite like the effect HDR has with concrete, but somehow this image just seems to be missing something.  Perhaps there's just too much in the shot and the eye gets confused?  With this in mind I tried a tighter crop ... not of the waterworks, but of the three storey buildings in the hillside opposite; I wanted to retain much of the sky and clouds.

So, what do you think?  Better before, or after the crop?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A bit of black and white ...

I've been looking through some old photographs ... well, not that old really, just a few months old.  The shot you see in this post brought back quite a few memories.  It was taken last year whilst visiting the UK.  I'd been walking around Westhoughton and spent a bit of time in the graveyard and this particular monument caught my eye.  The light was quite pleasant, but I was shooting into the sun.  As such I tried a bracketed set of shots and combined them into an HDR shot with Photomatix Pro.

The memorial is for the 344 men and boys who lost their lives in the Pretoria Pit as a result of an explosion.  This tragedy is Britain's third largest loss of life from a single mining event.  The explosion occurred at 7.50am on a Wednesday morning and took everyone by surprise.  There's a quote at the foot of the inscription on the memorial which says,

"Be ye therefore ready also, for the Son of Man cometh at an hour when ye think not"
 Luke 12. v40

Quite a fitting quotation I thought.

I must admit to being quite stunned by the magnitude of this event.  Westhoughton is much larger now than it was back in 1910 and 344 deaths would have a big impact on today's town ... it's hard to imagine what effect this event had back in 1910.

Interesting what you can find if you look in old graveyards, and how thought provoking some of those finds can be.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A bit abstract?

I'm really not sure what possessed me to take these shots you see in this post.  I suppose there's something about the shape of the water droplets?  Perhaps it's the variety of lighting on the leaves?  Then again, it could be the contrast between the roundness of the droplets and the straight lines in the dracaena leaves.  Whatever it is I must admit to being quite intrigued and inspired to take a few shots.  Perhaps let me know what you think ... you may be thinking I've lost the plot ... totally!

The second shot was taken at the same time.  It's a tighter crop and I've both darkened and enhanced the vibrancy slightly.  Perhaps let me know which you prefer.  One is quite light, pretty well as I saw the scene, the other is quite dark ... perhaps more like I imagined the scene.  Oh, if you click on the images you should see them a little larger.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

At the FloBar ...

The Flobar in Newmarket, Auckland.  It used tio be know as the Osborne Street Bar ... probably because it's on Osborne Street.  Anyway, I went along to see STKS ... you may remember him from the Grassroots Mixer a wee while ago?  Quite a few people got up on stage to play a few numbers.  Great talent, great music and a great atmosphere.  I've just come back and downloaded some shots off the camera.  Light levels were low (as was the case when Flobar was the Osborne Street Bar), but I may have a few reasonable shots.  I'll let you be the judge.  I need to have another look at the images, but couldn't resist posting a few of the performers for you.  Perhaps I'll see you at the Flobar one day?  If you know the names of the performers I haven't identified, please leave a comment.  You could perhaps let me know what you think of the shots too.  There's a few more images here on Facebook.

C'rla Flavell

C'rla Flavell

Dylan Elise

Dylan Elise

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Rico at the Bellbird

Earlier this evening I went down to see Rico Tali playing with Oceania Storm at the Bellbird in Manurewa.  It's a really good band and the folks there were having a great time dancing along to the music.  The light was probably the best on Rico ... hence the shots in this post are all of Rico!  Unfortunately the lights were quite low down which tends to give a somewhat ghoulish appearance to the performers and presents some unpleasant shadows from the stands and microphones.  Ah well, the sound was good even though it was hard to get some shots.  Perhaps next time?  I'll close this post with a couple more shots of Rico.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Flash for fun

25 second exposure, no flash, only illumination is from the house lights.
I quite like the effect the lights in the planter and above the front door give at nighttime, but have often thought I could do something to get a better image.  The first shot in this post was taken with camera on tripod with ISO at 200, a 25 second exposure and aperture at f11.  In no way does this give the effect I see when I come home as the trees to the right are more illuminated ... in this first image they're just a black blob!

A friend from work had mentioned using flash, so, with an energetic son we tried firing the flash at the trees to get a different effect.  We didn't want it to look like daylight, bit we did want more detail in the trees and other parts of the front yard.  Hmm.  Well, perhaps not quite so much as you can pick out in the second shot.  Here you can see I need to tidy up the leaves and other junk that's accumulated after mulching etc.
25 second exposure again, but this time with additional speedlight flashes aimed at the trees and the house.
So which do you prefer?  Haha ... perhaps neither!  What it did do was expend much of that spare energy my son had as a result of him running up and down the driveway firing the flash at the trees.

Interesting for me is that my son doesn't appear in a ny of the shots, yet he was all over the driveway firing the flash at the trees.  You may recall Louis Daguerre's photograph taken in 1838 of a very busy street.  You'd never know it was busy from the photograph as the exposure was so long that moving people didn't have time to register on the image.  Well, all apart from the shoe cleaner and his customer.  So, with a 25 second exposure and an active son it's hardly surprising he doesn't appear on the image.

Click on the images to see them a little larger and perhaps let me know what you think ... and which you prefer.