Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gasworks III

Arch Reflection

Another day at the Gas Museum, and again I was the only visitor there. Sad, but it lets me practice undisturbed. Boy is it a tough site to photograph. Fascinating yes, pretty no. But I did manage to get a shot that sort of marries the pumphouse to the gasholder frame outside without the vehicles and clutter of machinery spoiling the shot. Inside the challenges continue. I think you've got to be a Joe McNally or David Hobby to light the spaces and the large machines. To make the interior of the pumphouse look pretty would take great expertise, a load of flash units, stands, gels and an awful lot of patience.

Gasworks Room Gasworks pump

Corner exhauster

I just haven't got the hang of lighting the room attractively yet. The walls are close and the complex machinery creates lots of distracting shadows. There are windows close to a lot of machines that complicate the lighting equation. I could go on. Maybe on my next visit I'll apply myself to lighting something large. For today, I experimented with the big stuff, and moved on to what I could light simply.

Wallers Patent Worm Gear Bryan Donkin Piston

It's serious boys' stuff. A Mega-Meccano set. Machines from the golden age of English and Scottish mechanical engineering firms. I think the Donkin Engineering firm that built most of this stuff is still in operation.

Gas Brass Electric Booster

There are also a few of the old tools that were used to maintain the equipment out on display:

Steam Tools Blow Torch 2

And then there are the domestic gas appliances:


But the real treasures here are Stan and Bill, who fire up the boiler and run the pumps every Tuesday and every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month. I get the feeling that these machines are kind of like their children. If not for them, I'm not even sure the stuff would be here, never mind be in working order. Today they were trying to get the water in the oil-fired boiler to run clean. Not a bad place to be on a winter's day in Dunedin.



In the low light, these young fellows moved too quickly for me to pull of an exposure that did them justice. I guess I'll just have to go back and hang out with them again. I think I can handle that.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tunnel Beach

Tunnel Beach WS

It was another of those fine clear winter days in Dunedin, so I took the family for a walk to Tunnel Beach. Ali couldn't believe I've never actually been there before. I dunno, I'm just not the beach kind, and it never really appealed.

Walk to Tunnel Tunnel Lookouts

It's a cool place. A bunch of eroded sandstone cliffs that get plenty of visitors.

Tunnel Jump

The tunnel down to the beach was cut by entrepreneur and publican John Cargill in the 1870's. When we got down there, the low winter sun made it a great time to try a bit of cross lighting. Unfortunately for me, Georgia wasn't a very willing model or lightstand, so I got the hang of it with a few quick experimental shots, but nothing I really love yet.

George races the waves

Tunnel George 1

The caves and foot of the cliffs other nice spots to practice balancing flash with ambient. Again, I only had time to get the hang of things before the girls were off somewhere else.

Tunnel Beach Cave Tunnel Cliffs

Tunnel Cliffs Georgia

Nice walk, some progress made with the photography. Then it was time to head for the tunnel back up to the car park. Yet again, the girls were in to mood to hang around and wait for me to get the perfect exposure, so I had to make my obligatory tunnel shot out of a composite. Oh well, it was a nice day.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

It's like, Time Travel.

Engines of Creation

The Gasworks Museum visitor's book claimed I was the only punter today. I wandered in, yelled hello, and a shout from the smoko room led me to Stan, Tom and Bill, the blokes who run everything. Stan and Bill may be older than much of the machinery around here, if not the building. We exchanged conservative opinions on a few current events for a while and then I left them to it and went to take some pictures.

From my last visit, I knew I'd need to light the machine room to really show off the amazing stuff in there. I wanted to knock down the outside ambient so it wasn't a distraction, and get some nicely angled light bouncing off the machines. I also had some steam to play with, as well as some semi-transparent oil reservoirs.

Elixir 3 Elixir 6

There was so much to consider, lesser men would have been daunted, bit not me. I dove in and after a while managed to produce a modest handful of flops.

It was a start, and soon enough I was getting a few images that didn't make me sigh. About 5 more visits and I'll probably have some idea of what I'm doing in here.

After about half an hour shooting one of the old gas pumps, I moved on to my real purpose: a recce of the boiler rooms. One is a lofty victorian brick cavern with a mammoth boiler in it. Bill graciously shuffled by to give a sense of scale to the behemoth. (Despite its size, I don't believe it saw much use. It was bit of a white mammoth by all accounts. Possibly a DCC job). More lighting challenges here. There's some useful ambient to play with in the day, coming from a high row of arched windows, but the boiler and walls could still use some artfully placed flash units.

Bill and the boiler

There's a lot of material to play with here. Next to this cavern, there's a smaller room with a hard-working little boiler. It's a busy little space, but there are some ladders to a poorly-lit platform above and that I have plans for. I'm having so much fun in this place. It's teaching me lots, and I love hanging out in these sooty old cathedrals with their curmudgeonly occupants. It's like time travel.

Dark Roast

Roof 1

The Gasworks Museum is open with the machinery steamed up on the first and third Sundays of the month from 12 noon to 4:00 p.m. It is also open every Tuesday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. You can find it in Braemar Street, Dunedin.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Feet in the Clouds

I once met a scientist who was working on a theory that the earth's magnetic field was responsible for the "high" you get on hill and mountain tops. Whatever the cause, I can't deny the feeling. So here are a few more from my time at Treble Cone.

Feet in the cloulds

St Bathans Range

Gods Knuckles

Being up here was certainly a cure for the winter blues.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Otago Wildlife Photography Competition 2009

Tree Frog

Okay, I know it's hard to shoot wildlife in winter, but everyone with a shutter finger should be thinking about the Otago Wildlife Photography Competition 2009.

You can find all the details by clicking on the link, but here's the headline: $1500 worth of prizes.

Any amateur can enter enter any of their shots taken after 1 January 2008. That's great if you've got a good one in your archive and don't like going out in cold weather, but here's my advice: Put on some thermals and get shooting. My old writing guru always told me: "Beware your last great idea, it can get in the way of seeing your next great idea."

3 categories: Plant, Animal and Human Impact on the Environment.
2 Age groups: 14 and below, 15 and above.

Like I said, more details at the link. Your deadline is 5 pm, Wednesday 2 September. Get shooting!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The High Life

The High Life

I love the Southern Alps. The landforms, the weather, the flora and fauna. I guess that's one of the big attractions of skiing for me, and Treble Cone has it all.

Treble Chopper

The weather has been consistently good for nearly ten days, something quite rare. Even more surprisingly, the snow has stayed in great condition, so I've skied just about every day, and not taken as many pictures as I'd have liked.

Spaniard Shadow

I've missed capturing some great stuff... the sunrises, half-seen machinery in the clouds, high country sheep clustered on a salt lick... but I have managed to get a few icons, like the spaniard grasses and keas.

Spaniard FlowerSpaniard 1Last Years Model

I'd love to come back some time, just to put what I've learned here into practice. I'll get up earlier, play the light better, get my shots sharper. But now it's time to leave the alps and head home.

Kea Hop

Sunday, July 12, 2009

What The Birds Taught Me

Kissing Keas

Family vacation. If you're a parent, you'll know that means not a lot of time for photography or hobbies unless you're either very selfish or very disciplined. I hope I'm not one and I'm afraid I'm not the other. We're skiing, so I forced myself to take a few hours off the beautiful snow and steep slopes to chase Keas around the car park at Treble Cone, Wanaka. What I learned is that it's easy to get really ordinary shots of keas sitting around. It's harder to get good behaviour. The best I got was a lot of blurry birds in flight. The thing I'll do next time is crank up my ISO so shutter speeds are higher. I did manage to get these two interacting. I think they're a couple of juvenile males. Sounds like numbers aren't so good at Treble this year. Predators like stoats are being caught higher up the mountain than before. That's a shame. I love these cheeky characters.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Donated To Science II

I caught up with Paul Trotman at the Med School for some portraits again yesterday. The first we did was in the Anatomy Museum. I wanted something a little more stylish in there, it's so full of great props. Being a museum though, the place was a little cluttered, but we rearranged some props, used a flash into an umbrella to blast away the ambient light and lose the clutter in the background and came up with a shot we both really liked very quickly.


I had to pick my daughter up from school, so we didn't have a lot of time to get up into the dissection room for something a little documentary style - Paul in the primary location of his film. I'd have liked to stay a little longer to light the room and body bags some more, but we pulled off something acceptable in the few minutes before I had to go. I lit paul with the umbrella and aimed another flash to the back of the room just to pick out one or two body bags. This is something of a setup shot. If you look you can see the second flash on one of the dissecting tables.

The Dissecting Room II

Paul D Room 6

This shot is actually one of the first, using my 50mm 1.8 lens and just ambient light. Not so dramatic, but I like the soft focus on the body bags that the shorter depth of field provided.

I'm taking the family skiing on Monday so this may just be my last post for a couple of weeks. Hopefully I'll find time for Strobist Boot Camp II assignment 2 and have some other interesting stuff to post when I get back.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Location Location Location

I'm going to share one of my favourite locations with you: The Dunedin Gasworks Museum.

Gas Arch

There are only three preserved Gasworks left in the world.

That fact staggers me. Imagine waking up in just fifty years time to discover that there were only three remaining power stations left. This immensely important part of city infrastructure has dissapeared all over the industrialised world, with little fanfare. Not that I'm saying "bring it back", it was a dirty, difficult, dangerous way to deliver energy. But it's a part of Dunedin that quietly disappeared in a short space of time. Not completely though. A fraction of the original Dunedin gasworks site and machinery remains but Sir Neil Cossons, the Chairman of British Heritage described this place as the best example of a city gasworks in the world.

Still Life With HacksawThe Sum of the Parts

The sad thing is, hardly anyone even knows it exists. It's beautiful... in a victorian-come-early-20th-century industrial way. Next to no-one visits this little gem. I've almost got it all to myself as a location for photographs. But that will change eventually. The Museum Trust is working to fix that and I have to say that after spending just a few hours in the place, I'd love to help them.

Gas Face

The Trust is going about raising funds to preserve the machinery and buildings they've got, restoring what's been neglected or removed, and bringing people in to marvel at this little cathedral to industry.

BehemothThe Workshop WindowThe Lockers

I've joined the trust to lend a hand. And I'm definitely going back to take more pictures. I'd love to shoot some models there some time. What you see here is just a taste of what's there. The site is a long way from its potential and some of the really interesting parts like the boiler rooms aren't yet open to the public, but if you're in Dunedin, do yourself a favour and get yourself down to Braemar Street some time.

Number 3412


The Gasworks Museum is open with the machinery steamed up on the first and third Sundays of the month from 12 noon to 4:00 p.m. It is also open every Tuesday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.