Making sense of my photography hobby in retirement

Archive for December, 2009

Westinghouse Train Brake

When I was very small my father worked for the New Zealand Government Railways, having returned from service in Egypt and the Western Desert where he was part of the 2nd New Zealand Railway Operating Company attached to the British Army.  At that time trains were pulled by steam locomotives like the one that this Westinghouse brake is a part.

JA1250 “Diana”is a JA Class locomotive built in 1949 at the New Zealand Government Railways Hillside Workshop, Dunedin.  It is now in the proud possession of the Glenbrook Vintage Railway, Waiuku, south of Auckland, New Zealand.  This image was taken during a visit to a “operating day” with our grandchildren.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/10 sec, F 4.5, ISO 400, Sigma DC 18-200 mm lens at 18 mm, hand held.


Kariotahi Beach

The west coast of the North Island of New Zealand in the Auckland region is the realm of wild extensive black iron-sand beaches. The black sand is dredged and piped to New Zealand’s only steel mill at Glenbrook near the small rural town of Waiuku.

Kariotahi Beach is reached from Waiuku and is approximately 16 km long. Because of the danger of big surf and tidal rips it is a dangerous place to swim at ans the local volunteer surf patrol is kept busy during the summer months. Apart from swimming and surfing, walking, sand yachting, horse riding, fishing and four-wheel driving are popular recreational past-times at the beach.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1-200 sec, F 13, ISO 100, Sigma DC 18-200 mm lens at 18 mm

Night Baker – Itaewon, Seoul

Itaewon in Seoul, Korea contains a small Islamic district clustered around a mosque at the top of a hill.  As you walk up the narrow street towards the mosque you pass a cluster of shops selling Islamic food, clothing and other items one might think of being usually associated with people of that faith.

At the time of our visit to Itaewon the call to prayer at dusk had been broadcast.  People were hurrying toward the mosque, passing this baker who was preparing bread for the oven, maybe to be ready for the faithful when they returned from prayer.

Sony Alpha DSLR A200, 1/8 sec, F5.6, ISO 400, Sony DT 17-70 mm lens at 35 mm (hand held)


Kids love bubbles. There is a fascination with how they are formed and float off into the air and then finally pop and disappear.  Sometimes it is also a challenge to create the biggest bubble possible and keep it whole for the longest time.

This image was taken in the late afternoon against a blue sky with high thin clouds.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/640 sec, F5.0, ISO 100, Sigma DG 18-200 mm Zoom Lens at 40mm

Family Band

The day after Christmas Day in British Commonwealth countries is called Boxing Day. The tradition of Boxing Day  goes back several centuries although its origin is uncertain.  However, on Boxing Day this year we were invited to join the family of long-standing friends at the local band hall to celebrate the recent wedding of their son which had taken place some months earlier.

The family has been long-time supporters of the local brass/silver band.  The father of the groom and grandfather and all of the uncles on the groom’s mother’s side of the family have been members of this band, some of whom are current or past New Zealand band champions.  No wonder then that part-way through the afternoon the instruments came out and a recital of Christmas Carols was given.

Leading proceedings was Uncle Ricky McDonnell on the Euphonium, accompanied by five other family members (including the bridegroom)

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/500 sec, F5.6, ISO 100, Sigma DG 18-200mm Lens at 100 mm

Silk Embroiderer

China has a long tradition of silk making, dyeing, and tapestry making.  Many fine exhibits can be found in museums around the world and up-market shops throughout Asia.  Then there is the tourist market,  Hardly a tourist goes to China without being exposed to a constant barrage of attempts to lure dollars from their wallets in special tourist silk shops, street markets and the gaggles of street vendors near any major attraction.

Such was the case on our journey from the airport at Yichang to the city which was escorted by China National Tourist Corporation guide and driver – first stop a silk embroidery demonstration and shop.

Sony Alpha DSLR A200, 1/13 sec, F5.6, ISO 400, Sony DT 18-70 mm Lens at 45 mm

Family Time

At this time of year we think very much about family and the opportunity to spend time together. For many it is to celebrate Christmas, but for others the season offers an opportunity to gather as a family to celebrate in other ways.

We were in China last year on the day that the Chinese celebrate there national day.  On that day we were in Chongqing on the Yangtze River.  Crowds of people gathered in the large courtyard in front of The Great Hall of the People to watch traditional dance and drum routines being performed, while wedding parties assembled on the steps leading to the hall to have their photographs taken.

This family took a little time out to play and get a picture of father and daughter at the base of one of the columns at the entrance to the Great Hall of the people. That’s what family time is all about.

Sony Alpha DSLR A200, , 1/160 sec, F9.0, ISO 400, Sony DT 18-70 mm Lens at 50 mm

All Laced Up

Weddings are wonderful. The close family and friends gather, the bride wears the most expensive dress she will most likely ever wear and, all going well, the ceremony and after match function are a great success and the couple live happlily ever after.

We have attended two weddings this year, both in the same family. One was very relaxed on a remote Fijian island and the other more formal on a farm and at a winery.

In a moment after the ceremony while the bride was talking casually with some of the guests I managed to get this shot of the detail of the back of the bride’s gown.

Sony Alpha DSLR, A200, 1/400 sec F8, ISO 100, Sony DT 17-70 mm Lens at 70 mm

Royal Arcade

If you have the time during a visit to Melbourne in Victoria, Australia then visit the Visitor Information Centre at Australia Square and get information on a tour of the lanes and arcades of the city.  The walk takes about two hours and leads to some fascinating nooks and crannies hidden away between the surrounding buildings.

The Royal Arcade is one of the largest and most beautiful in the city with its high glass roof and the clock at the southern entrance guarded on each side by the mythical figures Gog and Magog.
Sony Alpha DSLR A200, 1/50 sec F8, ISO 100, Sony DT 17-70 mm at 26 MM


Ballarat is  about a one hour drive from Melbourne in Victoria, Australia and, among other things,  is famous for its heritage gold mining attraction at Sovereign Hill.  According to Wikipedia, Ballarat is Australia’s largest inland city and is well-known for its history and heritage and is a major regional centre in the Goldfields region of Victoria.

Gold was discovered near Ballarat in 1851, and the influx of over 10,000 miners in less than a year transformed it from a pastoral town into Victoria’s largest settlement.  Today the heritage of gold mining is celebrated at Sovereign Hill, a recreated 1850s gold mining settlement where people in period costume play out the normal day-to-day lives of their counterparts from the past, without the everyday discomforts of their forebears.

This little huddle caught my attention during a recent visit.  It’s a scene that you might encounter in school playgrounds all over the world, except this one was in period costume.  It seems that girls will be girls!

Sony Alpha DSLR A200, 1/20 sec, F20, ISO 100, Sony DT 17-70 mm lens at 45mm

Imperial Guard

Each day at the Deoksu Palace in Seoul there is a parade in period costume of the imperial guard.  Its a colourful display of marching, drums, banners and standing around for photo opportunities.  This fellow obligingly stood at the palace gate while fellow tourists took or had their photos taken of and with him.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/400 sec, F5.6, ISO 400, Sony DT 17-70mm 3.5-5.6 at 70mm

Coastal Walkway – New Plymouth, Taranaki, New Zealand

I visit New Plymouth at least four times a year but last week was the first time I have managed to get in an early morning walk instead of having to rush to the airport to catch the plane back to Auckland.  New Plymouth is the home of New Zealand’s oil industry which has brought prosperity to the region over the past 30 years. One of the beneficiaries of this wealth has been the creation of a coastal walkway from the city centre around the cliffs to the north.  Throughout the day people walk, jog, ride their bikes and exercise their dogs along the concrete concourse.  Occasionally viewing platforms are provided like the one featured here.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/50 sec, F16, ISO 100, Sigma DC 18-200 3.5-6.3 zoom lensPreview


One of the things that some say one must do before you die is to go hot-air ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey. So it was that on a crisp, clear, windless morning in 2007 that we were picked up from our hotel at 4.30 am to travel to the launch site by bus.  Dawn was just breaking when we arrived to observe much frantic activity as the balloon crews were readying some 20 hot-air balloons for the morning’s flights.  When all was ready we climbed aboard, the anchor ropes were released, and we started our accent.  The roar of the burners overhead took the chill off the morning air as we slowly rose over the fairy landscape that makes this part of Cappadocia so famous.

This image was captured during take-off and is one of my favourites from the photographs taken that morning.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7 1/100sec, F4.0, ISO 80

Waiting in Line

When passing through the Hong Kong international airport last year we came across this line of luggage trolleys parked in a less frequented passage way overlooking the car and bus concourse.  The lines and reflections are what caught the attention.

Sony Alpha DSLR A200 1/160 sec, F9, ISO 400, Sony 17-70 mm Kit lens at 35 mm



One recent fine morning I happened upon this scene of a girl contemplating the scenery in front of her.  The wall where she is sitting is at the northern end of Takapuna Beach on Auckland’s North Shore and is one of the most popular walking and bathing spots in the city.  I think this greyscale image captures the mood of the moment.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, Sony 17-55mm kit lens at 60mm, 1/80 sec, F11, ISO 100


The day we arrived in Istanbul was grey and wet. Our tour of Turkey was due to start the next day with a meeting of the tour group at the hotel in the evening. The weather for the beginning of the tour didn’t look promising, but the following morning was brilliantly clear for our “free day” before the tour.

Late in the afternoon we visited the famous  Sultanahmet Camii (Blue Mosque) just as the call to prayer was broadcast over Istanbul. From the courtyard of the mosque I captured this image of a minaret silhouetted by the late afternoon sun.

Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ7, 1/400 sec, F 6.3, ISO 80

Bull Rush

A popular game of old that has fallen out of fashion in recent years is Bull Rush.  The person in the middle has to tag or tackle as many as possible during a series of mass Bull Rushes until there is no-one left to capture.  Kids love it but risk-averse parents are not comfortable with the game. The version played here was of the “tag” variety and the kids had a ball trying to evade the dads in the middle.

Two small children sit and watch as the game rages around them.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/20 sec F22, ISO 100, SigmaDC 18-200mm zoom lens at 22mm

Downhill Forward Roll Race

Our granddaughter turned six this week and had her birthday party at a local park.  One of the party games was a downhill forward roll race. The children were lined up at the top of a small slope and on the command “GO” they set off on their tumbling to the bottom.

This image was captured just as the race started. I love the way the three-year-old watches the tumblers with fascination and seeming active encouragement.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/400 sec F8, ISO 100, SigmaDC 18-200mm zoom lens at 26mm

A Glimpse of Sky

During a trip to Northland with friends earlier this year we visited the pioneer settlement of Houhora. A local character in the early days was “King Bill” who was a trader, publican, land owner and general entrepreneur.  The local hall owned by “King Bill” was a centre of activity in those days and was variously used for meetings, dances, weddings and church services.  The building, which is near the pub that is still in use, is no longer used and is in an advanced state of decay.

This image was taken late in the day and captures a glimpse of former glory days.

Sony Alpha DSLR A200 1/25 f22 ISO100 Sony Kit Lens 17-70mm at 18mm

Craft & Vision

David duChemin is a Vancouver, Canada based humanitarian photographer and author of several books and a blog which promote the idea of Vision in photography. His first book “Within the Frame – A Jouney of Photographic Vision” was widely acclaimed by photographers seeking answers to the “why” of photography, rather than the “how”.

David has also authored a collection of e-books that offer great insights to budding and experienced photographers alike that are collected together under the banner Craft & Vision.  I have read all six published to date and highly recommend them, not only for the insights offered, but also for the stunning imagery that accompanies the text.

e-books published so far are:

“Ten”, “Ten More”, “Drawing the Eye”, “Chasing the Look”, “The Inspired Eye – Vol 1”

Awanui Church at Sunset

Awanui is a small settlement just north of Kaitaia in Northland, New Zealand. This image was taken at the end of a day’s sightseeing around some of the beautiful beaches in the surrounding area.  As we were passing through Awanui on our journey back to Manganui this view caught our attention.  This is one of a number of small white wooden churches that are dotted around the Northland region.  The colour of the sky and the shadowing in the long grass in the foreground are what caused us to stop to capture the moment.

Sony Alpha DSLR A200 1/250 f8 ISO100 Sony Kit Lens 17-70mm at 50mm

Call to Prayer

Korea is nominally a Budhist country, but also has a strong Christian following.  However, there are pockets of other faith communities such as the Muslim community in Itaewon in Seoul.  We spent an afternoon wandering around Itaewon when we heard the evening call to prayer and followed the worshipers to this mosque, sited at the top of the hill at the end of a narrow lane. There was a rush of worshippers up the steps of the mosque who were attempting to be in place before prayer-time.

Sony Alpha DSLR A200 1/30 sec, F3.5, ISO 400, Sony 17-70 mm Kit lens at 18 mm

Spider over Seoul

Outside the Samsung Leeum Museum of Modern Art in Seoul, Korea stands this giant spider statue, Maman by French-born American sculptor Louise Bourgeois. The sculpture, which resembles a female spider, is over 30 feet high, with a sac containing pure white marble eggs. It is a very imposing item and my wife Valerie was able to capture it against a beautiful September evening sky with the city buildings behind catching the last hints of  sunlight.

Canon Powershot A700 IS, 1/320 sec, F4.0, ISO 80

Vacant Seats against a Winter Sky

July is the start of winter in New Zealand. While my wife and I were walking our granddaughter in a park near her home in West Auckland we came upon this scene which was just waiting to be captured. The next day it rained.

Sony Alpha DSLR A200, 18-70mm DT 3.5-5.6 Kit Lens at 28mm, 1/500 sec, F14, ISO 400