Sunday, February 27, 2011

Help Me Help Christchurch

Before the September earthquake last year I had the pleasure of walking around Christchurch, just talking to people and taking their pictures for a commercial job. On a busy weekday in the square, nearly everyone I approached was happy to help and generous with their time.

Just after lunchtime on Tuesday 22 February, I felt the house shake. I knew right away that another earthquake had hit Christchurch, 374 Km away.

As we know, the devastation was Biblical.  Their beautiful cathedral is rubble as is much of the city, many of its good people injured, homeless, dead or missing.

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If you were planning to visit New Zealand any time soon, please don't let this put you off. The rest of our beautiful country is unscathed and you'll find a very warm welcome here. But if you're not visiting any time soon, there's another way to see a little of our place and help Christchurch.

I'm selling some of my pictures (my landscapes - not the folks above) and donating to the Canterbury Earthquake Appeal. For details, click here.

You can follow the links to find some of my favourite pictures for sale. But if there are any pictures at all on my blog that you like, get in touch. For the month of March, you can buy anything you want here, and I'll donate on your behalf.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dear Christchurch

Yesterday I felt the quake at my desk here in Dunedin. We all thought last time was bad, but since the jolt, Mrs C and I have been watching the devastation that has struck Christchurch and it's clearly much worse. New Zealand is a small country, and we'll all be touched in some way by this tragedy, so know we're with you. We'll help pull you out of the mess, and in the new days to come, we'll help you rebuild.

Mrs C just sent a bunch of lunch packs to help feed the student army of volunteers who are helping to clean the city up.  I'm going to sit and figure out how I can use my skills to help.  Meanwhile, this one's for you.

Saddle Hill Sunrise

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Wonder of Sex

The Wonder of Sex

Well if that isn't a title to get me some hits, I don't know what is. Unfortunately it's not really mine. It's the title of an upcoming show at Dunedin's Fortune Theatre. Just before Christmas I had the pleasure of shooting some promotional material for the fortune's upcoming season and now that they've had their live preview it's okay for me to share a few shots.

This one is of 'The Wonder of Sex' writer Patrick Barlow. I knew Patrick in a previous life when I was writing a kids science show for TV and Patrick was acting in it. For this shot, since we were shooting for a few different productions on the downstairs stage at the Fortune, it made sense to take my studio lighting kit. We could have relied on the house lights to get the full theatre effect, but I didn't have time to muck about with an unset lighting grid. Gotta say I'm not in love with the grey background and the line through Patrick's head, but the shot was to be cut out and photoshopped later.  On the Fortune's Website, you can see their graphics maven Nikki has done some saucy Photoshop magic on the original. I like it a lot.

The shot below reveals my set-up reflected in Patrick's eye: Octabox high left for Key, softbox left for fill, and a kicker/separation light high left rear, provided by one of my bare Canon flashes.

Reflections on Lighting

And there, if you look carefully in the middle of it all, is me at work -something you often have to look very hard to find.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Photographic Assignment With Almost Everything

You can click of any of my pictures to go to my Flickr site for a larger view. For a really good look, click again to view them on black.


Some days one of those assignments with almost everything lands in your lap.  Just before I left for family vacation, I got a call from a client looking for someone to photograph the transport of some wind farm components from Dunedin Wharf to the installation site above Lake Mahinerangi. I'd have to take some days out from my camping holiday to do it, but this job had it all - cool stuff to photograph, technical challenges, and a great excuse to get up before dawn.  My only disappointment was that wharf security wouldn't let me as close as I wanted to the ship, let alone on board, or that I couldn't ride on the trucks.  It would have been nice if there'd been a budget for aerials of course, but apart from those tiny niggles, the only drawback was the lack of an insulated coffee mug with a one litre capacity.



The shipments rolled out from the wharf at 4.00 am, which meant 3.00 am starts for me. I love any excuse to light shots, but my chances here were limited since nobody was going to wait around for me to faff around with flashes, stands and radio triggers, and the safety guys were not prepared to risk me dazzling their drivers, so while I did manage to quickly pop a flash into the cab of one of the trucks (top) and some others on the payload, much of my pre-dawn work had to be done with the ambient lighting at high ISO and long exposures - as well as a little of Lightroom's fill light slider.


I spent a little time up on the Saddle Hill overbridge trying to combine second-curtain flash with long exposures to get some light trails leading up to a static image of the vehicles. One reason for my choice of position was to show more of the payload rather than the tractor units (the main part of the brief) as well as show where the stuff is heading to rather than where it's coming from. The other reason is that it shows the trucks heading down the wrong side of the motorway out of town. Some units were so long, they wouldn't be able to negotiate the Mosgiel roundabout or some corners on the left-hand side of the road. This was a hard shot to get right. Only 3 trucks make the trip at a time, and because the weights of the components are different, they travel at different speeds, making the exposure for the light trails different every time. Add to that the fact that nearly every time a truck went under me, a logging truck went by me just a meter away on the overpass, making the whole thing rumble and sway.


Nice shots to be had as the trucks started climbing the hills above the Taieri Plain, but again, without the risk of dazzling the driver, I couldn't employ second-curtain flash and shutter drag to get the effect I really wanted - not that I think my flash would have been as distracting as the lights of an oncoming vehicle, but safety first.



Dawn saw the 3-truck convoy come together at the Mahinerangi Road turn-off, where I was able to use a little flash during the drivers' short break. Again I would have liked to go all Joe McNally or Strobist on it and place flashes in cool places, but there was really only time to keep the flash on camera and do the old run-and-gun.



It was hard to get a meaningful perspective on some things other than from far away - the blade units are 44 metres long, not counting the added length of tractor unit or trailer. Get up close, and they're just weird shapes tapering to a tiny tractor unit half a rugby paddock away.

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Finally there was the long slow grind along gravel roads up to the wind farm site above Lake Mahinerangi. I'm not a huge fan of these things in our valuable high country landscapes, but this is a pretty good location: lots of wind naturally but it's way out of view in pasture land overlooking an artificial lake, surrounded by pine plantation forest. This place lost its natural values a while ago. And these things do look kind of cool in their own right.

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Images captured, lessons learned as always. Now I just have to wait and see if the client is happy - and catch up on a little sleep before the next job.