Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A walk with my daughter :-)

Out for a walk at Duder's Regional Park a little earlier today.
I can't say I was feeling the best at the start of the day, so the suggestion that I went for a walk with my daughter seemed a much better idea than working in my office.  We headed off to Duder's Regional Park which is between Clevedon and Maraetai here in South Auckland.
My daughter enjoying the view.
The plan was to take the usual route up the hill to get some views from the high points in the reserve.  However, tempted by a route to a beach, we headed for the water.  As it happened, the tide was out, so we managed to walk right the way around the headland.  It was wonderful.  We had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed the walk.  We'd always been much higher up looking down at the sea, but now we enjoyed quite different views.
View from the coast as we walked around the headland.

Getting back to the car was rather more of a challenge than we expected.  Some challenging hill climbing was necessary to get back on the track and thankfully neither of us was injured nor was anything dropped.  I must admit that the hill was significantly steeper and higher than we originally thought.  Views from the top were quite special, but as you can see from the photos ... we need rain!

Most of the images may be viewed larger than you see in the post if you click on them.  The first image should go quite large.
My daughter enjoying the view from close by the trig point
View from the trig point.  As you can see ... we need rain!
Looking out toward Kawakawa Bay.  Such lovely blues in both sea and sky.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

At the Temple ...

Fo Guang Shan Temple, Flat Bush, Auckland, New Zealand
I'd gone to see the Police's Family Day at the Sir Barry Curtis Park, but it was pretty hot with no shade and I soon decided a change of location would be a good idea!  Just across the road is the Fo Guang Shan Temple which, I have to admit, is a bit of a sanctuary of peace and tranquility.  Plenty of shade and quite a lovely place to just unwind.

There's a number of buildings on the site and I really wanted to take some images that gave the viewer the sense of space inside the complex.  The first shot in this post was taken with a fisheye lens and gives a wonderfully wide view of the place.  The next two shots I've added so you can compare the difference between the fisheye and a 24mm lens which, when I was much younger, was a dream wide angle lens to have in your kit bag!
Fo Guang Shan Temple with a 24mm lens
Fo Guang Shan Temple with an 8mm fisheye lens
I haven't attempted to correct the distortion on either image.  The 24mm shot seems surprisingly free of distortion, but the 8mm lens is very bendy!!  Maybe let me know what you think?

One thing I do find difficult with the fisheye lens is exposure.  I'm not sure if it's because, as the field of view is so large, the difference in light levels within the scene is often greater than my camera can capture with a single shot.  As such I usually bracket the shots (5 with the sun behind me, 7 when shooting into the sun) and then blend them together later.  Each of the fisheye shots above are 5 image blends done with Photomatix Pro.  The 24mm shot is a single shot.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Night time cats.

Some of you may be aware that there's a stray cat that frequents our compost heap. Tonight, the mother cat and a kitten came to the back door. It was dark, but I thought I'd try a few shots anyway. Lens wide open at f1.4 and ISO 5000 I thought I's get some reasonable shutter speeds and avoid blur.  Just a few quick snaps, but I quite like a couple of them.  Perhaps let me know what you think :-)
Mum approaching me obviously thinking the camera is a food dispenser!
Kitten waiting to see what happens to mum.

Very shallow DoF at f1.4, but look at those eyes!!
Ever hopeful there'll be some food!
Interesting light on the kitten keen not to miss out on any food!
Always wary of any move I make and ready to run for cover.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

St. Luke's Anglican Church

Fisheye lens view of St. Luke's Anglican Church in Manurewa.

I must admit to being more that a little intrigued with the history of my local town, Manurewa, here in New Zealand.  You may recall an earlier post about Orford Lodge?  Orford Lodge was the second home of the lawyer Mr. Edward Russell after whom Russell Road is named.  Mr. Russell's first home, "Sunlands", used to be accessed via a long driveway from Russell Road, but it now has a reduced section size and is just another house amongst many others in a South Auckland sub-division.  I was going to take some photographs of the building, but as it is now a private residence I wanted permission first.  It's certainly interesting to see the similarity in style between Orford Lodge and Sunlands.
Vertical fisheye view of St. Luke's Church
Besides having two houses built in a similar style there was also an Anglican church built that has a similar appearance.  I found it quite interesting to see the same style of exterior wall and window in the two houses and church.  This church still stands today and in this post I've added a few images for your amusement.  There is an early photograph of the church from the 1920's that may interest you.  The church seems very similar now to back in the 1920's.  The trees are considerably larger now and the building seems also to have grown in length!

I suspect there are a few more buildings of interest in Manurewa, but they're a little hard to find!  However, should I find anymore I'll be sure to post some images on here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Orford Lodge

Orford Lodge, Manurewa
Quite a surprise to see such a lovely old building amongst the more modern buildings in the Hillpark area of Manurewa.  Built in 1910 by the lawyer Mr. Edward Russell this building carries the name of its 1928 purchaser, the Earl of Orford.  Interesting to note that the Earl of Orford was a descendant of Sir Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister of England.  Not just an ordinary house then, but one with quite a bit of history associated with the people who have lived here as well as the structure itself!

The grounds to Orford Lodge were quite extensive at over 20 acres and a team of up to nine gardeners would maintain the immaculate grounds.  I'm not sure what happened to the gardens during the war as both the lodge and grounds were used by the US Army.  The gardeners cottage and "garage" was used as the officers' mess and apparently many of the officers' signatures remain on the fireplace.

The attached image to this post is a five shot HDR image processed in Photomatix Pro and then antiquated thanks to Silver Efex Pro.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Car park view.

Carpark rooftop view, Auckland, New Zealand
I must admit that when matters medical arise I prefer to leave.  Today I was required to visit the hospital for a checkup which didn't exactly fill me with glee.  Thankfully, all is good, so the visit was short and sweet.  Just the way I like it!  Parking on the top floor of the hospital carpark afford some rather pleasant views however, so I thought I'd take a few images to share with you folks.
Looking towards Skytower from Auckland's Hospital
I took a fisheye lens with which I must admit to finding exposures awkward.  As a result I usually bracket the shots, and then ... well ... they usually end up being processed in Photomatix Pro.  That's what's happened here.  I often find the clouds look VERY ominous and black with a very heavy and dark feel to them.  Hopefully they're not too bad in these images.

Looking across to the city from the carpark I can't help thinking some night time shots with all the tower blocks illuminated may be a good idea one day.

No tripod today, but plenty of things on which to rest the camera ;-)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Just a thought ...

I was curious, and somewhat intrigued really, but the way our behaviour changes.  When I was much younger, telephone conversations and letters were the way we would often communicate with people out of earshot.  Telephone calls weren't always the most cost effective way of communicating, however.  I can recall international calls costing significantly more than the old aerogrammes.  I also remember that on every holiday we took there'd be the ritual postcard writing session! I suppose these days it's as quick to post things on Facebook, G+ or your Blog ... and it's rather more personal as you took the shot.  Mind you, I still find we buy a few postcards when we visit places.  Often postcard images are taken at times that show the venue off to its best advantage.  Sometimes, however, it's difficult to obtain postcards of the place you're staying. Unless the town is a regular tourist destination the chances are there won't be a postcard for the place.  This makes me think of Frances Frith.  Frances Frith and his team were pioneering Victorian photographers who embarked on the colossal project to photograph as much of Great Britain as possible during the second half of the 19th century.  Many of these photographs remain and the Frances Frith Company is still selling prints of these images from a era long past.
Nathan Homestead, Manurewa, Auckland, New Zealand
I suppose I'd be curious to know if you buy postcards ... and if you do ... why?  Where I live, in South Auckland, there are some quite lovely scenes and locations, but hardly any postcards of this area.  Is this because nobody wants to buy them, or are the margins so small that the various postcard companies only supply the biggest selling images?
"Family" sculpture, Manukau, New Zealand
Perhaps people pass through South Auckland as fast as they can to get to the "famous" places in New Zealand?  If so, then I could well imagine little demand for postcards for any town not on the main tourist routes.  Maybe it's Flickr or Google Maps that people rely on to see "what's there"?  Somehow though, when I look at Mr. Frith's images I can't help feeling we'll be missing something in a few years time.
Wiri, Auckland, New Zealand

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Conifer Grove for a stroll.

f16, 1/1600sec ISO 100
It was such a lovely evening that we decided a walk was a good idea, especially if there was a chance of a sunset over the water.  An acquaintance of mine had emailed me with some sunsets and was asking a few questions.  I thought I'd take the camera along with me and take note of what I did ... and didn't do when taking sunset shots. Bear in mind that this really was a evening walk with my wife, so I didn't take my tripod which os really something I like to use for landscapes and sunset photographs.

f16, 1/800sec ISO 100
Well, to be honest, I like to use the tripod wherever possible!  Anyway, back to the sunsets!  Often I find that what I thought I saw as the sun started to set, and what I captured with the camera are quite disimilar.  It's not a fault of the camera, and I suspect it's not a vivid imagination on my part, it's just the way the camera interprets the scene and exposes the frame for the available light.  Colours also tend to appear less vivid or intense as I remembered them, but much of this can be resolved when you get home.

f16, 1/400sec ISO 100
One of the reasons for taking the tripod is ensure that if multiple shots are taken there's a good chance I can line up the images if I was to blend any together.  I was told some time ago by an HDR guru that he takes seven shots at 1EV intervals when shooting into the sun, so that's that I did last night.  Down the left hand side of this post you'll see seven images at varying exposures and can see how the scene varies as exposure times are modified.  The one at 1/400 second is the one the camera thought was the "correct exposure".

f16, 1/200sec ISO 100
As you look at the images you'll notice how foreground detail is lost in the top shots, but preserved in the bottom shots.  However, sun, cloud and sky detail is lost in the bottom shots, but preserved to some extent in the upper shots.  The problem with this scene is the large variance in light levels that are difficult to capture in one image.  A "trick" sometimes used by photographers with digital cameras is to blend two or more images to preserve the details in the very light and very dark areas into a single image.

f16, 1/100sec ISO 100
This can be achieved by using layers in Photoshop and "painting-in" the lost detail in one frame with the detail from another, or, several frames may be combined "automatically" with HDR software.  In this post I used the latter technique and allowed Photomatix Pro to work it's magic on the seven RAW images you see on the left.  There was a little breeze last night causing a little movement in the leaves to camera left.  Fortunately, there is a reasonable de-ghosting feature in Photomatix to help out with this!

f16, 1/50sec ISO 100
Once in Photomatix you can play around with various sliders to get the effect you're looking for.  Very easy to get carried away with the effects.  I chose to keep the result quite natural in an attempt to recreate the scene as I remembered seeing it.  Well, apart from the lens flare in the trees to camera right!  Something I don't get with my eyes, but can sometimes add to the scene in certain photographs.  I then use the contrast, colour and sharpening options to fine tune the effect before loading the resultant image into Photoshop.

f16, 1/25sec ISO 100
Conifer Grove Sunset.  7 shot HDR image processed in Photomatix Pro.
The main reason for using Photoshop is to tidy up the edges - remember the shot was handheld, so the images won't align perfectly and you'll get some rough edges afte the images have been combined.  I'll also use a little lightening or darkening in certain areas before moving on to the next shot.  Sharpening will have a big effect on the final image, but can give a "grainy" effect if you're not careful.  Sometimes this is desirable, but not always.  The large shot below has just been cropped in Photoshop to sort out the rough edges, but otherwise it's as Photomatix would output the combined files.  I think, if you look at the colour saturation in the final image and the detail retained in the light and dark areas when compared to the seven shots above you'll agree it's an interesting technique to investigate and perhaps add to your arsenal of image processing methods for that tricky lighting situation.

Just in case the above image is a little too saturated for you, I've attached a monochrome HDR image taken on the same walk, just a little later in the day.  Any preferences?  Maybe message me and let me know.
7 shot HDR image processed in Photomatix Pro and converted to monochrome with Silver Efex.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mellons Bay

Mellons Bay Reserve, Howick, New Zealand
I couldn't decide whether to take my camera or not.  When going to the shops I never like to leave things in the car, and I often feel a bit self conscious when I'm doing some shopping with bags of camera gear in tow.  Problem was, if the shopping finished early I might miss a photo' op'.  In the end I took the D300 and a 12-24mm lens.  The shopping was quick - just the way I like it and I did have about 10 minutes spare time before I had to collect my son from school.  Great excuse to head down to Mellons Bay and see if there was anything worth shooting.

In some ways I was disappointed that I hadn't brought a longer lens as the light on Rangitoto was really quite lovely.  Rangitito is the green volcano you'll see in the distance.  The clouds were lovely and, to be honest, I could have stayed a lot longer if I wasn't required to collect my son.  Maybe next time I have to collect him I'll take a picnic and stay a little longer ;-)

I'll close this post with a few more images from my brief pause at Mellons Bay.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Clevedon Jazz and Wine Festival

The Alan Brown Project on a somewhat "rural" stage.
After being somewhat challenged shooting Alan and the band at the Grand Central with very low light levels, a chance to take photographs during the day seemed like an opportunity not to be missed.  New challenges now though!  As you can see from the first image in this post, the stage setup was a little different to say the least.  Tractors, Ambulances as well as a very large rescue boat were background objects not normally found at a jazz performance.
Nathan Haines

A special treat for the listeners was the appearance of Mr. Nathan Haines performing along with the Alan Brown Project.  On vocals we were treated to the very lovely Cherie Mathieson.  So there you have it, a wonderful line-up, but something you can enjoy every other Thursday at the Grand Central in Ponsonby.  Maybe I'll see you there one day ;-)

Thankfully, unlike today, the weather was warm and sunny, with stalls providing plenty of food and drink to help make it a lovely afternoon.

I'll just leave you with a few more images of the band on stage and encourage you to take a look on my Facebook page where you can see some more photographs.  Perhaps you might "Like" what you see ;-)
Karika Turua

Andy Smith

Alan Brown

Cherie Mathieson

Cherie Mathieson

Jono Sawyer

Jono Sawyer