Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Coal Mining Controversy

Denniston Plateau, West Coast of South Island of New Zealand

Coal has been mined on the Denniston Plateau on the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand since the mid 1870s.  Mostly, this was underground mining, so the recent the proposal for a large, open cast mine on part of the plateau has had environmentalists in uproar.  The controversy has sparked great interest in the unusual geology, flora and fauna of this isolated area at 600–700 metres above sea level.  The soils are poor, and the climate relatively harsh.  I visited the area recently with the Nature Photography Society of New Zealand, and was particularly impressed by the colourful rocks.

We saw a number of different birds, including this little fernbird (Megalurus punctatus).  Fernbirds have a distinctive short call, but are often difficult to see as they skulk in the shrubbery.  We were fortunate that a pair of them made brief forays out from the deeper parts of the bushes.

fernbird (Megalurus punctatus)

A popular place for my photography group to go for sunset photographs is Tauranga Bay, just south of Westport where we were staying.  I have to admit that these white fronted terns were disturbed by some of our photographers coming down onto the beach.  At least we didn’t have any dogs with us.  The beach glowed a deep, golden colour as the sun went down.

White fronted terns

Sunset at Tauranga Bay

On our way home, we stopped at the Irimahuwhero Point lookout, which, as usual, afforded spectacular views.  The mist added atmosphere on this occasion.  I spent a while finding a good foreground, as mostly the vegetation was tangled and messy.  This gap gave me what I was looking for.  It is good to have the luxury of time.  The light is often changing so fast that there is little time to fine-tune a composition.

View north from Irimahuwhero Point, Punakaiki

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Wild Garden

I am fortunate to have plants growing naturally right on the doorstep here in our garden.  Although the original Marlborough daisies were planted here, they now seed readily and new plants grow.  They often germinate in a crack in a rock, and the tap root burrows down through almost impenetrable substrate to source water an nutrients.

The Marlborough daisy (Pachystegia insignis) grows naturally on dry, exposed cliffs and rocky outcrops in the northeast of the South Island.  I converted this image to monochrome to emphasise the lightness of the seed heads.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Photographing where you live

I have heard several photographers say that the best photographs are often obtained not in exotic locations, but close to home, in the area where you live, that you know well.  I am fortunate to live on the edge of the city, on the hills, and with a large garden.  So there are ample opportunities for exercising my camera.  Today I am posting just two images, different interpretations of windy weather that we've experienced recently.

Banksia and Eucalyptus growing in a garden on the Port Hills, Christchurch.

I took the first photograph in our garden on a slow shutter speed to show movement in the wind.  The second is also from the garden, and shows the approach of a southerly front, and the clouds are moving rapidly.  The cabbage trees in the foreground are being blown violently by the wind. 

Southerly front approaching, Port Hills, Christchurch

I am not pretending that these are high quality images, but being on the spot enables me to try out different techniques when the weather cooperates.  In this way I hope to improve so that when I am travelling I am able to take advantage of opportunities that offer themselves.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

New Zealand Nature

Valley mist, from Amuri skifield

I am posting some images from nearer home this week.  Ten days ago, I went with a group of Nature Photography Society of New Zealand members to the Amuri ski field lodge, near Hanmer Springs, for a weekend of photography.  The conditions were excellent for sunrise shots on both Saturday and Sunday mornings; nor’west winds brought broken high cloud and great colour.

Sunrise from Amuri skifield

Sunrise from Amuri skifield

On Saturday, after shooting the sunrise from a ridge just by the lodge, we walked to the summit of Mt St Patrick.  The views and the alpine flowers were superb.  In the wind, mat plants (vegetable sheep as they are known locally) were the most suitable photographic subjects.


Raoulia and Haastia

I woke before dawn on Sunday morning to a dull, red glow outside the window.  So in spite of the strong wind that had battered the lodge all night, keeping most of us awake for much of the time, I got up to head outside.  My intention had been to grab a few quick shots and retreat indoors again, but the light was too good to ignore, so with camera on tripod I returned to the ridge where I had been the day before.  Fortunately I knew the way this time, so it wasn’t hard to negotiate the route in the half-dark.  The clouds were moving fast, and this was the last shot I took before the sun rose above the horizon.  At 1/20 sec exposure, those little red clouds must be moving in the frame, but fortunately it isn’t obvious.  The articulated screen on my camera was blowing in the wind, so I had to lock it down and almost lie on the ground to see what was happening.  The camera was low to the ground, and rock solid on the tripod, so the image is sharp.

Second sunrise from Amuri skifield

As the wind continued to strengthen, we decided after breakfast to clear up and head straight down the road.  It was calmer in the valley, although still windy.  We stopped to explore an old woodshed.  Also, at the beginning of the St James cycle way, we found an incredible field of gentians, in perfect condition.  Of course they were blowing violently in the wind, and I’m looking forward to seeing images from one of our members who, living locally, intended to return the next morning.

Changing weather, looking down to the Clarence River