Friday, March 30, 2012

Westhoughton ...

I'd noticed a program on the TV here in the UK about a photographer called Francis Frith.  This gentleman attempted to photograph each city, town and village in England using what was then the new photographic camera.  We're talking about the 1850s and later.  I was seriously impressed with the quality of the images Mr. Frith and his photographers achieved and decided I'd take a stroll into Westhoughton to the library to see if they had any books about the man.  Sadly I found nothing, but did manage a couple of shots of the town on my travels.  After watching about Francis Frith I had to convert the shots to monochrome now didn't I?
Looking towards the town centre with the town hall the dominant feature centre right of the image.

Looking down the main street towards the church.

The town hall, built 1905.  Quite stunning in a very red brick.

Pennington Flash

Just couldn't resist showing you this sign besides the canal.  Obviously keen for pedestrians to do a bit of swimming!
Pennington Flash is a pleasant area of open water, reed beds, scrub, maturing woodland and grassland close to Leigh and alongside the Leeds to Liverpool canal.  It's a great place to visit to see birdlife as there are many hides within the park that let you get quite close to a large variety of bird species.  The first shot in this post gives you a glimpse of the canal.  I must admit to being somewhat amused by the sign.

So what is a "flash"?  I'd never realised this, but apparently, flashes are lakes formed over time from mining subsidence.  I understand the area around Pennington was often liable to floods, but in 1905 the land began to sink, two farms were submerged and some of the railway lines were flooded.  Huge amounts of coal had been extracted by local collieries to cause the effect.  The flash is quite large, but not as large as it was originally.  Colliery and domestic waste has been used fill in certain parts of the flash to prevent flooding.  Now it's a lovely place to visit to relax, have a gentle stroll and enjoy the local birdlife.  I was quite taken with the trees coming into bud and new leaves appearing.  Many of the trees back in New Zealand are evergreen and we don't see the wide scale effect of large numbers of apparently dead trees sprouting new growth.  I'll close this post with a few shots of "spring" from Pennington Flash.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hall Lee Bank Park, Westhoughton.

Hall Lee Bank Park, Westhoughton.
What a glorious morning today here in Westhoughton.  The weather has been quite lovely for the past few days and today was no exception.  The light coming through the trees has a lovely warm look and feel to it and it makes things look really quite special.

I took a wee stroll through Hall Lee Bank Park and was really quite taken with the way the light shone through the new growth.  For the first shot in this post I really wasn't sure what to do.  There are some very dark areas as I was shooting into the sun and some very bright areas on the water.  I decided to take several shots at different exposures and blend them together in Photomatix Pro.  Please click on the image to get an enlarged view and perhaps let me know what you think.

I must say that it was really very lovely to see things springing into life and looking so new, fresh and clean.  For the rest of this post I've added just a few more shots from my stroll through the park to amuse you.  In the one with the hawthorn, perhaps you can let me know what the large brown growth is.  I haven't a clue but I'm sure one of you reading this will know.
I just loved the way these new leaves were illuminated by the sun
A hawthorn tree, but what is that brown growth?!?  It looks like a conker ... but it isn't!
New growth on a sycamore tree.  Gorgeous the way these leaves unfold from the buds. 
Daffodils lit by the morning sun.  A really lovely time of the day.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Back in the UK now and the weather is glorious!  Amazing I know.  Not renown for good weather, Manchester is normally associated with dreary, wet and miserable conditions, but not just now.  The skies are clear and blue.  Yesterday I couldn't find a cloud in the sky.  It's also warm.  Record highs are being broken for this time of the year and we're enjoying temperatures in the low twenties.  Very pleasant indeed.  There's also lots of flowers and blooms springing in to life.  It's really a very pretty time of the year and the weather is just perfect.  The first two shots in this post are of some blooms in my parents' front gardens.  Very pretty.
New leaves ... spring very much on the way here in the UK.
All this lovely weather is causing some problems though.  They're now a little short of water!  The next two shots were taken at Anglezark, a local reservoir.  In this you can see just how low the water has gone and imagine how low it will go if this lovely weather continues.
Anglezarke reservoir.
Anglezarke reservoir.  Geese in the foreground, blue skies, and very low water levels.


Changi Airport control tower and the Crowne Plaza Hotel on the left.
Here's a bit of a change ... some photographs from overseas!  I was very fortunate to spend a few hours in Singapore just recently and had a wonderful time.  I was expecting it to be very hot and humid, but it wasn't too bad at all.  I was quite amazed by how clean and tidy the place was.  The rail system was wonderful.  Very efficient and quite cheap too!  And then there's the architecture.  Wow!  Some of the buildings they have are quite amazing.
View from atop Marina Bay Sands hotel.
I suppose one of the more impressive buildings was the Marina Bay Sands hotel.  This stunning building comprises three towers of 57 stories each with a pool complex, gardens and restaurants at the very top on what looks like long "plinth" that stretches across the three towers.  I haven't made it sound anywhere neer as impressive as it is in real live ... perhaps the next two photos may give you a better impression of this stunning building.
Marina Bay Sands Hotel
Marina Bay Sands Hotel with the Helix Bridge in the foreground.
I think I mentioned that the architecture is really quite stunning.  To be quite honest I was very impressed with what I saw.  It's a clean place, and I felt very safe walking about at night time.  Facilities and services were superb and things seemed new, innovative and exciting.  I'll finish this post with a couple of this fascinating city.
Part of the Museum at Marina Bay.

Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Somewhat damp!

Fern clinging to the wall.
It's been pretty wet today here in Auckland.  Grey skies and rather damp to be honest.  Thankfully we haven't suffered anywhere near as much as other areas of the country where they've received a couple of months worth of rain in a day or two and are now mopping up after the floods.  No, we're rather more fortunate and the rain is just an inconvenience really.

So there I am, keen to take some shots, and it's rather wet.  I did notice, however, this little fern, clinging to a small crevice in a wall near the house.  The plant wil have to go as its roots will just remove the concrete and damage my wall, but the contrast between the bricks and the fern were rather pleasing to my eye.

I shot this image at quite a wide aperture and was more than slightly intrigued with the effect on the bricks to the right of the image.  Somewhat strange how the layer of concrete seems to grow whereas the bricks, if anything, seem to shrink.  Very odd!

I'll leave you with a few more shots of the fern.  Perhaps let me know if you prefer the landscape or portrait shot and also monochrome or colour.
Monochrome version of the first shot in this post.
Landscape version of the image, in colour. 
Same as shot #3, but now in monochrome with special emphasis on the fern's green leaves
A cropped version of shot #3.
Cropped version of shot #3, with a monochrome treatment,

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Front yard Fuchsias.

Front yard fuchsia.
We seem to have rather a lot of these fuchsias in our front yard.  They're not particularly dramatic as some of the other fuchsias we have, but they're rather pretty all the same.  I thought I'd try a few shots with a longish focal length (somewhere in the order of 200mm) and a shallow depth of field to see what type of shot I could get.  I was particularly interested to see how my lens would behave with the bright highlights in the background.  Would I get a nice even blur, or would I get lots of bright circular highlights?

The first shot has some quite bright highlights, but pleasantly displayed as circles.  Shooting into the sun gives a nice "halo" effect on some parts of the buds and flowers.  Compare this with the fourth shot in this post where your eyes are somewhat overwhelmed by the background highlights that it's hard to notice the fuchsia blooms!

The second shot in this post has some more fuchsia blooms in the right of the image, but with a shallow depth of field these have become confusingly blurred.  Looks rather smudged and really detracts from the pretty flower to the left centre of the shot.  As I look at this image I keep being drawn to the smudge of colour to the right of the image.

The third shot has a less confusing background blur (bokeh).  Perhaps not as smooth as I might like, but certainly beter than that in image 2.  Perhaps let me know what you think?

Fuchsias with interesting bokeh effect on image right.

Fuchsias again with a less distracting bokeh.
Confused background?  Lots of bright highlights distract from the fuchsia blooms.

Back to the Cock 'n Bull ...

A chance to see Allegro at the Newmarket Cock 'n Bull last night wasn't to me missed.  I've not seen these guys perform together for what seems like ages, and they were good.  Semi Leo and Malcolm Lakatani (bass and lead guitar) you've seen a few times on these pages, and Grace Ikenasio (vocals), but you've not seen so much of Saylene Ulberg (keyboards) or Patrick Tanielu (drums).  Great sounds from the band last night and they "gel" very well together to produce and nice tight sound.  Great fun.
Patrick Tanielu playing drums for Allegro at the Cock 'n Bull, Newmarket.

It was a few weeks ago that I tried the Nikkor 85mm f1.8 with Semi and Malcolm at the same location.  Quite a nice lens, but focussing was a problem in low light.  Last night I was privileged to try the 85mm f1.4.  Huge difference!  This lens was fast to focus and really didn't give me any concerns at all.  I was always anxious with the f1.8 that it was going to hunt for focus, no such concern with the f1.4.  This lens was wonderful to use.  As when I used this lens before I decided to shoot wide open at f1.4.  The lens isn't the sharpest at this aperture ... peaks at about f4.  Even so, resolution is still very good indeed in the centre when wide open.  The edges suffer a bit and go quite soft, but that's fine for the type of shots you'll see in this post and often adds something special to the shot anyway.  Background blur is deliciously smooth so this lens is definitely worth considering ... even if it is three times the price of the the f1.8!
Saylene Ulberg playing keyboards for Allegro at Newmarket's Cock 'n Bull.

The second shot in this post illustrates to some extent the blur you can achieve with this lens.  The lamp to Saylene's left is the same lamp you can see in the shot of Patrick but it has been smoothed beautifully and the highlights appearing and lovely circles.  Both lenses have curved aperture blades and both lenses provide gorgeous bokeh.
Malcolm Lakatani ... wonderfully playful (as usual) on lead guitar.
Shot three in this post has Malcolm Lakatani on lead guitar.  Malcolm oozes talent and really engages with the audience.  His naturally playful character shines through in his performance ... we even saw him on the dance floor last night giving a few pointers to some of the patrons.

Again this shot is wide open and you can see the effect this has on the potentially distracting background.  The wall behind Malcolm is a collection of framed pictures, but all you see in the shot is a smooth blur.  Very pleasing behaviour from this lens.

Semi Leo on bass guitar with Allegro at Newmarket's Cock 'n Bull.
Shot four has Semi Leo on bass with the street lights shining through the window behind him.  Lovely treatment of the highlights, but you do notice a bit of colour fringing on the highlights at the wide aperture. Something to worry about?  In this shot I don't think so.  You'll  also notice in this shot the very shallow depth of field.  Semi's left eye is focussed, but look along his shoulders and you'll notice how quickly things go out of focus.  In my eyes, very nice.

I'll finish this post with a couple more shots.  You'll get to see Saylene in colour, and then a shot each of Malcolm and Semi in monochrome thanks to Silver Efex Pro.  If you are converting colour shots to monochrome it may be worth you checking out Silver Efex Pro by Nik Software.  It lets you do many of the things you used to do in the darkroom on your computer.

I hope you enjoyed the images ... perhaps let me know what you think?
Saylene Ulberg

Malcolm Lakatani in monochrome with a copper treatment (SilverEfex)

Semi Leo in monochrome, this time with a selenium treatment (SilverEfex)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fibonacci ...

Well, here's a change!!  My daughter had to calculate the ratio of the (n+1)th and nth elements in the Fibonacci series.  Not that bad really.

The Fibonacci series goes like this;
1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34,  and so on.

You can see how to calculate the next number in the series ... you just add together the previous two.  So, bear with me a little now.  We need to know the ratio of adjacent entries in the series as we go long way down the list.
I can represent the ratio and the value to which the ratio will "tend" as we go further down the list with the the equations you see to the left.

Solving the final equation will give me the solution required.

But why am I showing you this?  Well, in nature, you will notice many things in a proportion known as the Golden Ratio, or Golden Mean.  This ratio is just what the Fibonacci Series tends towards as you go further down the list.

Now lets look at something else.

Often when people are taking picture they talk about the "Rule of Thirds".  This is where the image is split into three equal parts and instead of placing important parts of the image in the middle, they'd be placed on a third.  For example, you'll often see the horizon is placed on a horizontal third.
Splitting the frame into thirds for "better" composition.
This "rule"of thirds is very common amongst photographers, but isn't really a "rule" at all.  It's just an easy way to get a safer composition than placing objects of interest smack in the middle of the frame.  What may be a better thing to consider is the Golden Ratio.
Lets split our frame vertically in some ratio, say a:b. The Golden Ratio says the ratio of the smaller part to the bigger part is the same as the ratio of the bigger part to the whole frame (little plus big).

OK, so we can do a bit more math now and see what pops out.  Take a little look to your left and you'll see I've solved the equation (look familiar to the Fibonacci series equation earlier?).  Now you'll see that the ratio of small to big isn't 1:2 and is the case with the rule of thirds, but 1:1.62, or very crudely 3:5.

The thing that is particularly fascinating is how often this Golden Ratio appears in nature, and also how much more powerful your photographs will be if you use the Golden Ratio instead of the rule of thirds.  Take a look at some really good photographs or paintings and check just where the objects of interest are placed in the image.  Are they on thirds, in the centre, or perhaps somewhere closer to the Golden Ratio.

Oh well, just a bit of fun with some math thanks to a question from my daughter.  Hopefully I didn't bore you witless ;-)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Grace Ikenasio and her band

The lovely Grace Ikenasio on the Samoan stage, Pasifika 2012.
The Samoan stage at the 2012 Pasifika Festival, Western Springs, Auckland was where I got to see the delightful Grace Ikenasio performing a few numbers with some serious musical talent.  This girl can really sing and what a treat to have her backed by such talent.  Short post this morning, just a few shots for you to enjoy from a wonderful Saturday at Western Springs.

The backing vocalists ... sweet.

Magi Nuualiitia, very talented drummer though!

Grace again.  Gorgeous voice.

The videographer ... cheeky lady ;-)

Chrismas Ropati ... now this guy can play!!  Whoa can he play.

Malcolm Lakatani ... smooth as ever, but this time on keys!

Ross Devereux on sax.  Gorgeous melodies, highly talented gent.  

Izak Etimani on bass.  Lovely sounds from this talented musician.