Monday, November 14, 2011

Another day, another sunrise

The thing about sunrises is, every one is different. Same spot, same time, different weather.

Highcliff Sunrise

A nice little sun-up, but not nearly as much colour in the sky today. Oh well, one of these days I'll get the shot I'm after. At least it's just a 10 minute drive from my house. Ansel Adams didn't have it so easy.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Lighting the Sunrise

My good friend Producer/Director/Writer Mark Strickson has a wonderful phrase: "let's not over-egg the pudding". It's sort of another way of saying 'gilding the lily'. It came to mind this morning when I was out trying to light my sunrise shots. I just needed the foreground rocks lifted a little, so was downslope with a 580EXII flash and CTO gel, while I had a remote trigger on my camera. There I am with the flash in the corner of the shot below:

Highcliff sunrise

Not quite over-egging the pudding I hope, just adding a little light to bring out the lichen pattern in the rocks, while the sunrise did its thing. Unfortunately it wasn't the spectacular one I was hoping for, but I did get a little colour and was ready when the colour in the sky peaked.

Highcliff sunrise

A few minutes later and most of the colour had gone.

Highcliff sunrise

So after my setup I got a few unlit shots, while listening to the Yellow-eyed penguins calling on the beach below.

Highcliff sunrise

There was also a sealion playing in the waves. Guess I'll be carrying on down the track in a few days to see if I can get any pictures of the wildlife.

Highcliff sunrise

Between shots I checked for twitter updates on my smart phone (as you do). Looks like the Otago Daily Times has decided to show an interest in the local Occupation and have run an interview with Kieran Trass this morning. Shame they couldn't get a better picture of him.

In other news, Mike and Fran Thorsen have ended their sojourn on St Helena. You can read their final post from there in their Banzai Chicken blog. It's going to be interesting to see where they wash up next. I'm guessing we could be seeing some cool shots of post-earthquake Christchurch one day soon.

The shrubs around these Highcliff rocks?  Coprosma crassifolia. Thanks for the botanical steer Mike. And thanks Jaq Tweedie for proofreading services. Gilding the Lily.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Occupation

Occupy Dunedin

This all started after a brief correspondence with my friend Andrew Read, a Professor at Penn State. Andrew mentioned the students were close to rioting over  the tragic situation over there regarding football coaches and allegations of sexual assaults. It made me think.  I'm not that much of a rioter but I think the worst thing you can do is to ignore some stuff, especially when it's in your neighbourhood.  After a couple of weeks of being pretty dismissive about our local branch of the Occupy movement, I decided I owed it to myself to go down to the Octagon and talk to people there, so I could at least be entitled to my opinion. And of course, I could take my camera.

Occupy Dunedin

Occupy Dunedin      Occupy Dunedin      Occupy Dunedin

My uninformed position was that here were a bunch of people jumping on a bandwagon, protesting against a whole bunch of social ills - wanting financial and political reform, but perhaps not being the ones directly affected by all of those problems. After all, there's a lot of nice camping equipment, smart phones and laptops in that campsite. It looks like a bit of a lark.

I had short chats with Michelle above, and with Kieran and Anton.

Occupy Dunedin

Occupy Dunedin

OK the lark part was the first thing I was wrong about. Nobody's having that much fun. I can't conceive of camping without some beers and a barbecue any more. Chuck in the sleepless nights in the open, noisy city centre, the occasional bit of abuse, hassle from the City Council, and being away from the comforts of home. It's a little like something a family member said about the notion that being Gay was an unwise lifestyle choice: "With all the crap we go through, why do you think anyone would choose this?"

Occupy Dunedin

So what's their point?  What do they want and when will they be satisfied to pack up and move on? That's hard to answer. The financial reform agenda of the original Occupy Wall St event has attracted a whole bunch of people with different issues to voice. What they do agree on is that in the current political and financial state of affairs, our democracy isn't working as well as it should. They feel that dissenting views on a whole range of issues - from deep sea oil drilling to fluoride in the water and the cost of our new stadium - aren't being given a fair hearing. What they all agree that they want is a better dialog between ordinary people and those who represent them.  Who can argue with that?

Occupy DunedinOccupy DunedinOccupy DunedinOccupy Dunedin
Aaron, Jesse and Miche

Sure, there are plenty of young people here, but this isn't a crowd of benefit bludgers and bleeding hearts. There's a fair smattering of ordinary people who have put aside their own businesses for a while, taken time out from their jobs, or leave home and family for a few hours a day to lend weight to the message that they'd like to start a discussion. I also presumed that a lot of the Octagon business owners would be putting the heat on the city council to move them on, but while I was there, a few local business people were sending over food and messages of support.

Occupy Dunedin

I'm no journo. I'd really like to see our local media get inside this story a lot more than they have. So far the coverage of this event seems to focus on how these peaceful protesters are disrupting events in the Octagon and when the DCC will harden up and find a way to evict them. The official police line is that they have a right to peaceful protest and they're not in favour of a forceful eviction. When will this all end? I guess when these guys feel they're being listened to in a meaningful way. When will that happen? I really don't know. But at least I have a better idea of what they want. A better public conversation.

Is that a bad thing to stand up and ask for?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Landscape - step by step

Boulder beach sunrise

Today I finally got out for the dawn start I've been waiting for. The weather wasn't perfect, but I really want to start nailing my Peninsula landscape locations, and that just means going there again and again until I'm 100% satisfied I can put my clients onto great shots. I was actually a bit late for the best of the sunrise. I only just got there as the sky was reaching peak colour and after a few minutes it was gone. Still, I got a lot out of the visit.

Boulder beach sunrise

I keep returning to this spot because I've got some good shots here, but not yet the great ones I know there are. The problem is, I'm not sure what those shots are yet. My subconscious knows, that's why I'm attracted here, so I just need to spend more time until the pieces come together. Today it started. It's about bringing all the elements together - the right light, the great backdrop and the boulders. I need to go Strobist on the landscape. By the time this dawned on me the sunrise had peaked, but I did a few test shots with flash on camera anyway, just as a step in the right direction. Next time I'll be there earlier with a good plan, maybe a couple of light stands to get the flash off camera, experiment with some coloured gels and I'll be a step closer.

Boulder beach sunrise

Thanks to some great work by my friend Tourism Consultant James Hacon, Martin Bailey and I are ready to go live with our Southern New Zealand Photo Adventure. We're taking bookings here on Martin's site, so check out the details. It's going to be the trip of a lifetime.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Boulder Field

Highcliff East

Yesterday I popped over the hill to Highcliff to get in a little more practice shooting video with my slider and think about including the spot on my Southern NZ Photo Adventure with Martin Bailey. Unfortunately the wind was a bit strong and despite my best efforts I just couldn't hold my gear steady enough to get any smooth camera movement. As well as the rig shaking, the wind was actually buffeting my arm so much I couldn't move the slider with a nice fluid motion. Never mind, another good lesson learnt - things have their limitations. I did manage to get a few nice shots of the place though. Nothing award-winning, but fun to get.

Highcliff bouldersIt's a magic spot, even on a less than ordinary day. The round basalt boulders and their lichen patches are so intriguing. I even found one that had split, which seemed fairly rare. More Highcliff Boulders

What caught my eye yesterday though was the hardy little shrubs that grow between the boulders. It's a very windswept spot, and these are the only things higher than grasses and lichens that grow there. I think they're a Coprosma species, possibly Coprosma propinqua? I'm hoping my botanical photog mate Mike Thorsen will post a comment to put me right here. When not running photography workshops for the locals on the island of Saint Helena, Mike is photographing and helping conserve the local flora.

  Highcliff Coprosma

I recall hearing at school that NZ Coprosmas evolved a handy way of protecting their leaves from browsing by giant Moa birds by keeping them on the inside of the body of the bush, rather than on the tips of twigs. An interesting story - I'd be tempted to believe it's an adaptation to coastal wind.

 Dense foliage

Boulder moulders

There's an obvious relationship between the shrubs and boulders, I'm guessing the boulders provide just enough shelter for the young shrubs to establish. As they grow, they mould into the rocks, but ones that are especially rocked by the wind seem to have an additional bit of personal space, while still moulding to the form of the rock.

 Boulder moulder

 Adaptation, isn't it grand?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sliding on Otago Peninsula

I had a couple of spare hours yesterday so went out with my latest piece of kit, the Glidetrack Shooter SD. Its a set of slider rails for smooth video camera movement. Yeah, we're almost getting off-topic here: Video. But with the convergence of DSLR and Hi Def video, in my opinion stills shooters need video skills up their sleeves. And I'm not just a stills shooter, I like to think of myself as a content creator.

Anyway, I popped out to a couple of my favourite spots 10 minutes drive from my house on Otago Peninsula, Sandfly Bay and the derelict farmhouse on the Nyhon track, Hoopers Inlet. The slider is only 75 cm long, but gave really good results on the ground or mounted on my Induro tripod legs. I was so over television, but this could get me back into moving images again! Very brief Youtube test clip below.

The music is from "Our Universe" by Professor Kliq. Shots taken on my Canon 7D with the EF-S 10-22mm and EF L 24-70mm 2.8 zoom lenses.


Now Santa, can we talk about that fluid drag head, follow focus and set of LED light panels? LCD monitors never offend...