15 May 2015

New Zealand (work in progress!)

Cat and I have just returned from a 20-day trip to beautiful New Zealand. Unfortunately I haven't had time to process many of my images before heading off to run my next workshop in the Yorkshire Dales. Because of this I have decided to gradually update this diary entry, adding at least one new image each day this week.

Our trip started very wet, followed by light rain, some showers a bit of drizzle and finally torrential downpours! Although it's fair to say the weather "hampered" our photography somewhat, this was still a very enjoyable and productive trip, if mainly from a research point of view. We found so many places worth returning to that we are bound to head back there soon.

I had been invited to New Zealand to speak at the Photographic Society of New Zealand's annual convention at Tauranga on the North Island. This was a great success with well over 300 people attending the 5-day convention. The other speakers were Julieanne Kost (Adobe specialist from the US), Christian Fletcher (landscape photographer from Australia), Kevin Clarke (sports photographer from New Zealand) and Ken Wright (landscape photographer from New Zealand). The weather during the convention (when we were all stuck inside) was superb! Thanks to Jay Drew for the two images below.

The image above was taken on the Coromandel Peninsula on the only sunny morning we had on North Island. It shows Cathedral Cove shortly after sunrise. This is a popular location with photographers, so we were surprised to have it entirely to ourselves. It would be best at high tide when the rock in the foreground is covered with water, as it was impossible to exclude it from the composition. Still, it was a beautiful location with loads of potential for many different compositions.

During the convention I ran a couple of fungi workshops at McLaren Falls Park. There was plenty to photograph, but I never got a chance to get my own camera out. This pair was taken in the rainforest on South Island. It was almost dark when we found them so these are backlit using my head torch. They had quite a strong green colour to them. This image is taken using the Canon 100-400mm f4-5.6L IS mkII with a 25mm extension tube. So far this lens is performing very well for close-ups!

During our time around Milford Sound we saw almost nothing at all due to heavy rain and low cloud. The image above was taken during a brief break in the weather late in the day. It was obviously a spectacular location be we'll have to wait for a return visit to see its full splendour. A long expsosure helped to smooth out the water and the moving clouds to give them a more misty and atomspheric appearance.

The New Zealand or Hooker's Sea Lion is the world's rarest sea lion. We were lucky enough to encounter one on a beach at Kaka Point on South Island. Being used to the UK's cumbersome grey and common seals I wasn't quite prepared for how quickly these enormous creatures can move on land. They lift their whole body weight up onto their flippers and run very quickly - in this case towards me when I lay down on the wet sand to get a lower angle....an "impressive" sight through a 400mm lens!! I kept my distance and she eventually made her way back into the sea. A fantastic animal.

We had one morning at the Moeraki Boulders so we were grateful that there was a colourful sunrise. Unfortunately, with about twenty other photographers on the beach at 6am, it was not easy to choose a composition. Severely compromised by this we managed to take a few decent images. This one was taken with a 100mm lens, making use of the distant headland.

Although taken in the pouring rain, the Keas at Arthur's Pass were one of the most memorable parts of our trip. These large alpine forest dwelling parrots have no fear of humans and are highly photogenic. As soon as our car pulled up it was descended upon by a gang of these feathery thieves and muggers! They immediately began dismantling the car as much as they were able to - pulling the rubber trim from around the windows, removing wiper blades and yanking on the aerial! We had already been warned not to leave camera equipment unattended as they will steal or damage it. Their green plumage looked great covered in glistening raindrops.

We visited the spectacular Clay Cliffs near Omarama on South Island late in the morning (the panorama shows them from a distance soon after sunrise). Hard to see at this size but Cat is stood at the base of the cliffs on the lower right side for a sense of scale! At this time of the year the interior of the cliffs is never illuminated by the sun, so there was extreme contrast to deal with. For the first time I used the new HDR function in Lightroom CC to merge five exposures at 2-stop intervals taken to record the full dynamic range. I think the result is impressive and it should be easy to capture much more natural results using this method compared to other HDR software (note the lack of halos, strange contrast and colour shifts). I will be testing this over the coming weeks and will report my findings in my next newsletter.

The landscape in parts of the Otago region of South Island is very much like the rolling countryside in parts of southern England. This image was taken near Balclutha shortly after sunrise. On clear blue sky days I like to find a high vantage point that enables me to compose an interesting area of landscape below, excluding the sky from the frame altogether.

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