Monday, April 30, 2012

Wide Angles in the front yard!

I was shooting the silver birch in the front yard for my 85@85 project, but really the 85mm lens was just too long.  These shots taken with a 12mm lens seem much better to me.

Shot at ISO 200, f8 and 30seconds there's something rather nice about the light and the mood.

Shot two is very similar to the first image, but has a slight more accurate white balance.  Shot three is a view looking up one of the silver birch trees and for the last shot I've used a bit of pixel bending to give more of a "twirly" effect to the branches and twigs.  Fancy having a go a pixelbending?  Pop over here to download a free pixelbending filter for Photoshop CS5.

Just a bit of fun in the front yard.

A little bit of fun with a free Photoshop pixelbending filter.

Kumeu with Sue

Country and Western singer/song writer Sue Dyson
Did I have fun?  You bet!  Out in the country with a pretty girl taking photos, who wouldn't!!  I met Sue about lunchtime then headed off to meet Jolene Trask at HairArt.  Jolene made an already good looking woman into a stunningly pretty lady.  Hair and makeup added to emphasise Sue's features and natural colours.  Jolene did a wonderful job and came with us on the shoot to make sure everything kept looking good as we worked the scenes.
Sue Dyson out on the farm.
I wasn't too sure what I was going to find at the farm, but was hoping I'd bet a chance to use the 70-200mm lens.  In fact this was the lens I ended up using most of the time.  Having said that, the first two shots in this post were taken with the 85mm prime.  The problem I was having was the perspective and compression offered by the longer lenses necessitated me standing a reasonable distance back from Sue.  Mind you, the gorgeous bokeh achievable when using at large apertures with longer lenses made it worth it I think..

Lighting was all natural, apart from the occasional kick from a gold reflector.  Monochrome effect created courtesy of Silver Efex, which I must admit is a product of which I'm becoming increasingly fond.

I leave you with a few more shots of Sue and a link to her website.  Perhaps you'd like to listen to her as well as look.  Oh, and if you click on an image you'll get to see the shots a little larger.
Gorgeous bokeh.  70-200mm lens at f2.8

Sue Dyson holding on to her hat.  70-200mm at f2.8

Shot with the 85mm prime.  Light was starting to fade now, but we managed a few shots. Lovely golden colours.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Aqstik Soul at Szimpla

Malcolm Lakatani, 180mm, f2.8, 1/25sec, ISO 3200, hand held.
Off to the Szimpla Gastro Bar last night to see Aqstik Soul.  I'd never been to Szimpla before and was really impressed with the place.  It has a lovely atmosphere with half a dozen separate areas to either sit and chat, eat, watch TV or listen to musicians.  It was great.

Anyway, I took my 70-200mm lens as I thought this'd be a good place to see how well it performed shooting in low light, and, perhaps more importantly, whether or not could I hold it steady!

Not the lightest of lenses, the 70-200mm weighs in close on 1.5kg, but I must admit that it was a pleasure to use.  Focus was lovely and snappy, and I don't think I did too badly holding the camera still at 1/25sec.  Oh, the body is a D300 with a cropped sensor, so the effective focal length was 270mm.  The colours are lovely and rich and I was quite pleased with the result.  I think I'll have a lot of fun with this lens!

The other member of Aqstik Soul is the very talented Semi Leo on bass guitar.  I'd decided 1/25 sec. was a little slow, so switched lenses to my 85mm for the next shot.  I was now able to get a more respectable shutter speed of 1/100sec, but the 85mm has no VR.  Nevertheless, the shot isn't too bad and the bokeh is rather tasty don't you think?  makes Semi pop out of the shot.

The rest of the time I used my trusty 50mm f1.8.  The zoom was just too unwieldy in the bar area and the 85mm was just too long for what I was trying to shoot.

So there you have it.  A great night out at a wonderful venue not far from the airport.  Very friendly staff and a warm and welcoming atmosphere.  I reckon I'll be back!

Semi Leo, 85mm, f1.4, 1/100sec, ISO 3200
Such friendly staff at Szimpla, and rather nice cocktails too!!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Guacamole ... in the making.

Avocados in my back yard.
I've been busy today doing a range of tasks and chores, not least of which has been preparing some guacamole.  Well, not really.  I just noticed the fruits on the tree and as you can see by the colour, I may need to wait a wee while before I harvest them all.  One fruit looks ok and will make a nice spread, but the guacamole will have to wait until I get a few more fruits.

Known to the Aztec's as the fertility fruit, although I'm not sure why.  I had heard that Marks and Spencer introduced avocados into the UK under the name "Avocado Pears" back in the 1960s.  M&S customers purchased the "pears" and served them with custard as was the trend with other types of pears at the time.  Needless to say these customers complained to M&S saying the fruit was inedible.  M&S then dropped the pear off the name.  Can't say I'd fancy avocado and custard, would you?

Amazingly the avocado is poisonous to some birds (our blackbirds, silver-eyes and thrushes seem ok on the fruit by the way), as well as cats dogs and horses.  Even so, the avocado is under research for possible uses against cancer.  Amazing what grows in one's garden isn't it ;-)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What are these "things"?

NZ Wood Pigeon dropping perchance?
My wife has been collecting leaves and other autumnal matter for pre-school for their nature table, leaf rubbings and the like.  Whilst looking for suitable stuff and I came across these "things".  Looking at the second shot, the fact that this collection was underneath a tree and that I'd seen a wood pigeon in the vicinity a little earlier, makes me think perhaps these are seeds from some fruit the bird had been eating ... but which plant is the seed from, if indeed that's what they are?

Don't worry, none of these things have gone to pre-school!!

So, can you help?  Do you know what they are?  Hopefully somebody does and will let me know.  I must say they have quite a nice pattern to them don't you think?

Mystery seeds?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Anzac Day

Anzac Day marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.  ANZAC is an acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, and the Australian and New Zealand soldiers were known as the ANZACs.

25th April is the day the ANZACs landed at Gallipoli as part of Winston Churchill's plan to open up access to the Black Sea.  The campaign was unsuccessful and many men lost their lives.  News of the event had a profound effect on Australians and New Zealanders back home and the 25th April soon became a day of remembrance for the many soldiers who lost their lives.

Sadly, World War I was not the war to end all wars and many more soldiers have lost their lives on the battlefields.  ANZAC day has now become the day to remember all fallen ANZAC soldiers and the sacrifices they have made for our country.

I'd like to think we'd appreciate the sacrifices made by our soldiers on more days than just the 25th April, and that perhaps we'd start to learn from our mistakes.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Off to the Gardens with the 85mm

Auckland's Botanic Gardens have some lovely blooms on display right now and really are worth a visit if you're in the area.  I headed off there earlier today to get a shot for my 85@85 project.  I can't say as I'm finding it easy to think of shots I can get for the project and I have 83 days to go still!!

I started walking up from the Everglade end of the gardens and was really taken by the wonderful Hibiscus blooms on show.  There's quite a variety of colours and shapes to see.  I've just posted one shot of a very vivid bloom.  Gorgeous flower, but not one I wanted to use for my 85@85 project.

I suppose I was looking for something a little different.  Something more abstract and "arty".  I'm sorry to say this doesn't come naturally to me, but I was quite taken with the light on the Ligularia leaves you can see in the second shot.  Then the brick footpath into the herb garden caught my eye.  Lovely textures and patterns and the way the sunlight bit the brick was quite lovely.  Almost a monochrome effect as you can see in shot number 3.

I still needed a shot for my 85@85 project, but these weren't the ones.  Neither was the image of the autumn leaves, although I must admit I rather like this shot.  The leaves are pretty damaged, but the colours are quite special.  Curious which image I used and why?  Take a squiz here ;-)

Gorgeous Hibiscus Blooms.  Unbelievably vivid in colour.
Wonderful light on these Ligularia leaves.
The footpath.  For some obscure reason I quite liked the shapes!
Liquid Amber leaves again.  Autumn is upon us!

Sunday, April 22, 2012


A new blog!  Perhaps you can remember a couple of years ago I took 50 shots on 50 consecutive days with a 50mm lens?  The project was called 505050 and there was a blog created so folks could keep track of my progress, offer constructive criticism and encouragement.
Very shallow depth of field from the 85mm lens.
Just recently I was fortunate to become the owner of a rather nice 85mm lens.  I obtained the lens really for portrait work, but perhaps I can use it for other things too?  What better way to get to know the lens than to use it in anger for 85 days?  Please take a look at the new blog, let me know what you think of the shots and, as 85 days is a long time, perhaps offer a little encouragement as I take my shots.  It'd be lovely to see your comments on the blog.  Where is it?  Check out

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Back home

Can't say I'm feeling the best after my trip back to New Zealand.  Quite a bumpy ride due to turbulence, and, well, it's a long way from the UK to NZ no matter which route you take.
Backyard hibiscus.

I enjoyed my time in the UK.  In fact, I was sorry to leave.  There are so many things to see and do there.  The weather was surprisingly good and the chance to see the trees come to life with their new leaves and blooms was really quite special.  So much history around also, but I also got the impression that there's a lot of unhappy people.  Seems there's a reasonable amount of unemployment and the gap between the rich and poor continues to widen.  Lovely to visit for a holiday, but perhaps not the best place to live unless you're wealthy?  Whatever the case, I'm back in NZ now and the weather is, well, rather pleasant.  First thing I noticed when getting off the 'plane was how clear and bright it was here in Auckland.  Glorious blue sea and sky and you could see for miles.  Oh so very very different to the Manchester Airport I left about 36 hours earlier.  It was cold, grey and wet.

Anyway after a sleep I awoke this morning at 6am convinced it was 7am as the clock have changed whilst I'd bee away and I hadn't changed them being as I was in the UK.  Looking out the window I saw these lovely hibiscus.  not something you'd see outside very often in the UK!  And then in the front garden a Monarch butterfly on the Callistemon.  I suspect this'd be yet another rare sight in the UK :-)

I'll close this post with a few shots of the front garden butterfly.  I'm not feeling the best after my trip home, so I suspect I'll be heading back to bed now :-(
Monarch butterfly on Callistemon "Little John"

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The White Lion ... and beyond!

The White Lion at Barthomley.
Great place for lunch, the White Lion at Barthomley.  Not your normal pub, this lovely old thatched public house dates back to 1614 and sits in the gorgeous little village of Barthomley.  Very picturesque and the food was wonderful.  Just to add to this "oldy worldy" look there was a delightful Morris Eight parked opposite.  Beautifully restored and a perfect vehicle for touring these quaint English villages.
Morris Eight at Barthomley.
The third shot in this post is a shot of the Morris as I imagined I might see in some Morris advertising brochure.  I was very impressed with the lovely honeycomb grill pattern.  Lovely detail in the old car.
The Morris Eight.  I love the honeycomb pattern to the grill.  White Lion in the background.
After a sumptuous lunch we headed off to Biddulph Grange.  These lovely gardens are quite special and are home to some lovely plants collected by one of Charles Darwin's contemporaries, James Bateman.  Talk of coincidences, James Bateman was born in Bury (perhaps you can recall an earlier post where I showed images of Robert Peel).  James Bateman was an expert and collector of orchids and his magnificent house still stands in its wonderful grounds today ... complete with tea-rooms and gift shop!
Biddulph Grange.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hall i' th' Wood

Hall i' th' Wood
This 16th century building was only a short walk from my school, Canon Slade Grammar School, yet I never visited the hall until yesterday.  For a 13 year old boy, fish and chips were much more appealing than a Grade 1 listed building from the 1500s.  Both the "chippy" and the hall were about the same walking distance from the school, but the chips always won out in the seven years I was at Canon Slade.

Samuel Crompton was one of the more famous inhabitants of the hall and it is here that he both designed and built the first Spinning Mule.  Crompton's mule was quite basic in comparison to its derivatives that were developed in the 1800s yet produced a strong, thin yarn suitable for most types of textiles from its 48 spindles.  Amazingly, at the peak of the cotton industry in Lancashire there was in excess of 50,000,000 spindles.  With 1320 spindles per mule and about 60 mules per mill you can appreciate just how many cotton mills existed in Lancashire alone.  The mule, incidentally, was the most common form of spinning machine from about 1790 through to 1900.

Samuel Crompton's birthplace  at Firwood Fold
Samuel Crompton was born in 1753 at 10 Firwood Fold Bolton.  Samuel's father died whilst Samuel was still a young boy and this required Samuel to earn money to support the family.  Samuel earned money spinning yarns after his father's death but was convinced there was a better way to do the task.  He toiled away for several years before he came up with his invention, which, sadly, he had insufficient funds to patent.  Various promises were made and broken and in the end Samuel Crompton died in poverty even though it was his invention that really helped Lancashire become the dominant textile producer in the world.

Very easy to find, both Hall i' th' Wood and Firwood Fold and well worth a visit if you have time.
Samuel Crompton's birthplace to the left, the schoolhouse to the right.  Lovely old cobbled street at Firwood Fold.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A bit of a treat!

What a surprise!  I took the train into Manchester as I wanted to have a look around the town hall again.  Leaving the train and heading over the overbridge I couldn't help but notice the dirty windows looking over the tracks below and thinking how it reminded me of the days of steam.  There was I reminiscing of the days of steam when lo and behold in steams Stanier 8F 48151 on an enthusiasts special heading for York.  I couldn't believe it!  What a wonderful surprise!  Talk about being at the right place at the right time.

Not usually associated with passenger trains, the 8F was a stalwart of the LMS freight workings, but freight or passenger, 48151 looked stunning simmering away at the end of Manchester Victoria's Platform 3.

Even though it was bitterly cold with rain and sleet I still managed a few shots that I'll share with you here.  All converted to monochrome ... well ... what else for moody shots of steam engines?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Views from Victoria

Here's a few shots taken at Victoria Railway Station in Manchester whilst I waited for my train.  Some quite good views are afforded from the footbridges across the railway lines.  Please click on the images to get a larger and more detailed view ... they look a little "pixelated" in the post and seem much better when they've been enlarged.  Perhaps leave me a message and let me know what you think?
Looking towards Machester's cathedral with Chethams School of Music on the left.

Impressive ironwork facades to the railway bridges as the bridge the gap into the station.

Old and new.  The Arndale Centre, Chethams School of Music and Manchester's wheel.

7 shot HDR image looking away from the station.

Hmmm.  Is that my train?

Spring daffodils

Wow!  What glorious light this afternoon.  I took a short walk in Hall Lee Bank Park to see if the bluebells were out, and, sorry to say, they're not.  No bluebells, but the daffodils were out and the light was quite special.  Anyway, I couldn't resist sharing these two photos from my walk earlier today.  I hope you enjoy them ... perhaps let me know what you think?

Both shots taken at 85mm and f2.8 in an attempt to blur the background, but keep the flower sharp.  Of the two shots I think I prefer the first.  A dreamier shot than the second.  Maybe let me know which you prefer?

A trip to Bury ...

Statue in memory of Robert Peel in front of the Parish Church, Bury
It's been a very long time since I visited Bury ... a very long time.  I used to live near Bury and this was the town we'd often visit to do our weekly shopping.  It was also the town we'd head to in order to catch the train into Manchester if there was anything special we needed to buy.  However, after moving to Bolton in the late 1970s, visits to Bury became less frequent.  There was a brief burst of visits when I worked at Peel College in the early 1980s, but I didn't really go into the town.  Just commuted to the college really.

So, with a desire to look again at what was once quite a pleasant town I took the train into Manchester and then the tram from Manchester's Victoria station into Bury.  The train pretty well took the same route as the train took when I was much younger.  A few of the stations have changed from the days of the old electric trains, and there seemed rather more rubbish and waste scattered around the area.  Similar to how I remember the area, but rather more different than I was expecting.

On arrival at Bury it seemed less welcoming than I could recall.  Kay Gardens is a shadow of its former glory and the area just seemed somewhat dirty and run down.  I headed off towards the Parish Church as I wanted to see the barracks and the statue of Sir Robert Peel.
Sir Robert Peel.
Robert Peel is one of the more famous people born in Bury.  Whilst Home Secretary Robert Peel helped create the modern concept of the police force.  Named after Robert Peel the new police officers the new "Bobbies" or "Peelers" were the forerunners of the familiar police officers of today.

Subsequent to Robert Peel's sudden death a public meeting in Bury's court house determined that a monument be erected as a perpetual memorial to the town's eminent townsman.

A Bury local told me that  the sculptor of the bronze statue, Edward Hodges Baily, committed suicide when he noticed the mistake in his statue.  Take a look at the image of Sir Robert Peel and see if you can see the mistake.  I'll tell you what the mistake is at the end of this post.  Not sure the story of suicide is correct, bit the mistake is definitely there.

Close by the statue of Sir Robert Peel and the Parish Church you'll find the barracks.    This building is quite impressive and probably not noticed by many of Bury's visitors being hidden away behind the main streets.  The third shot in this post is a four shot panorama stitched together which may explain the slight distortion in the building, but at least it gives you an impression of the building.
The barracks at Bury.
No town of significance in the Victorian era was without a railway, and Bury was no exception.  Bury had two stations and a signifiant number of lines linking it with its neighbours.  In the 21st century the link to Manchester remains and the East Lanacashire Railway now runs steam and diesel trains to Heywood and Rawtenstall from Bury.  It's a good run and great fun.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself on the trains.  The next few shots were taken on the line ... converted to monochrome to give that expected 1940s/1950s look.  Click on the image to see a larger and clearer view of the shots an please let me know what you think.

Thought I'd forgotten to tell you the sculptor's mistake?  Not a chance.  The mistake is with Sir Robert Peel's waistcoat.  Men's clothes wrap left over right, ladies go right over left.  Look carefully at the image and you'll notice that Sir Robert's waistcoat is buttoned in a ladies style rather than a man's.