Making sense of my photography hobby in retirement

Archive for January, 2010

Bottlenose Dolphin & Calf

Whenever one goes to sea there is always the hope of seeing a dolphin, or better still, a school of dolphin.  Recently we took a guided trip of White Island, an active volcano in the Bay of Plenty off the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand.  The day was perfect; slight breeze, gentle swell, blue sky, high thin cloud.  After 20 minutes of cruising on the 70 metre launch “PeeJay V” the first pod of dolphins was sighted.  Soon a dozen or so Bottlenose dolphins were riding the bow wave and darting under the boat to surface on the other side to catch the waves there.

The group included this mother and calf which I captured just as they broke the surface with a shower of spray on the port side of the vessel.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/30 sec, F16, ISO 100, Sigma DC 18-200 lens at 60mm

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Tui at Dawn

One of the most common of bird species on Tiritiri Matangi Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf is the Tui.  It’s distinctive tuft of white feathers at the throat helps to mark it out from other “black” birds on the island.  So does its melodious call.  As the Auckland region became more urbanised and land cleared for housing, the call of the Tui became a less frequent occurence near where people lived.  However, tree planting on Tiritiri Matangi and  establishing urban green belts has brought the Tui back to the suburbs.  Tui tagged on the island have been found in parts of urban Auckland in recent years.

I captured this image on Tiritiri Matangi last weekend during an early morning walk to experience the “dawn chorus”.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/400 sec, F6.3, ISO 200, Sigma DC 18-200 lens at 200mm

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An Open Sanctuary

Tiritiri Matangi is a unique island located at the end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf.  The island is an “open sanctuary” where visitors are encouraged to visit and see rare and endangered native birds in their native habitat.  According to the Island’s official website “120 years of farming saw this 220-hectare island stripped of 94% of its native bush, but between 1984 and 1994, volunteers planted between 250,000 and 300,000 trees. The island is now 60% forested. The remaining 40% will be left as grassland for species such as the Takahe.”

We were fortunate to visit Tiritiri last weekend and stay overnight in the bunk house near the island’s historic lighthouse.  This lighthouse was an important navigational aid to shipping entering Auckland’s harbour before the era of GPS and satellite navigation. Built in 1864, the cast iron lighthouse was pre-fabricated in Pimlico, England and transported by ship in sections which were bolted together on site. It is over 21m tall and 4.7m in diameter at the base and was originally painted red. It is now fully automated and flashes every 15 seconds.

One of the treats available to overnight visitors is to hear the dawn chorus as the birds greet the new day.  This image was taken from the Wattle Track before it enters the bush canopy and captures some of what the island is about.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/640 sec, F5.0, ISO 200, Sigma DC 18-200 lens at 55mm

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Early Morning Display – Takapuna Beach and Rangitoto Island

I was up at 5.30 this morning.  The night had been hot and as I’d  had a fitful sleep so I decided to start the day early.  You have to be quick with sunrises.  What got me on the beach was the sight of the rising sun catching in the hair of a girl running with her dog.  It would have made a terrific photograph, but you have to be in the right place to capture it.  By the time I reached the beach the sun had already broken over the horizon in the east, but the blues and oranges in the sky were great.

Of the three images I captured of the sun showing through the clouds, this one is the best.  I love taking sunrises and sunsets, and slowly I am learning what works and what does not.  With more time I could have chosen a different viewing point, but as I said, you have to be quick to capture the moment.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/13 sec, F22, ISO 100, Sigma DC 18-200 lens at 18 mm


My Auckland

For most of my life I have lived on the North Shore of Auckland.  I attended university in Auckland and worked in the city for nearly all of my working life. But the North Shore is my home.

This morning I visited North Head, a headland in Devonport on the north shore of the Waitemata Harbour, around which all shipping entering the harbour must pass.  I was there to  photograph a car that I’m selling for one of my sons.  Having completed that duty I went to one of my favourite viewing areas which looks across Devonport to New Zealand’s largest city. There is a distinct contrast between the village nature of tranquil Devonport and the hustle and bustle of corporate Auckland City and its iconic Sky Tower. Tourists visiting Auckland “escape” to Devonport to browse the galleries, antiquarian bookshops and to sample the offerings of an eclectic choice of cafes.

I captured this image at about 8.30 am, at the start of a beautiful hot summer’s day.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/250 sec, F11, ISO 100, Sigma DC 18-200mm lens at 60mm


View of Rangitoto Island

Rangitoto Island, Auckland, New Zealand

Rangitoto Island is the gatekeeper for Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour.  It looks very much the same from wherever you view it and forms the major feature in the view from where I live.  When European settlers first arrived in Auckland in the early nineteenth century there was very little vegetation on the island, just a scoria volcanic cone which arrived as part of a series of violent eruptions some 600 years ago.  Rangitoto is now covered in native vegetation which acts as a habitat for native and exotic birds.  The island is now a regional park which can be visited for day trips by a short ferry ride from Auckland.

This view is from a large sandy beach below the cliffs at the eastern end of Takapuna Beach on Auckland’s North Shore.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/125 sec, F 16, ISO 100, Sigma DC 18-200 lens at 18mm


Cliffs and Clouds

Cliffs at Takapuna Beach

The cliffs at the eastern end of Takapuna Beach are sandstone and soft. It is not unusual to find that another piece has crumbled away after a severe north-easterly storm when the wind and waves are at their greatest. In the morning sunlight they area are a lovely golden brown and the layers of sandstone sediment can be clearly seen.  Pohutukawa trees (New Zealand’s so-called “Christmas Tree”) cling tenaciously to the clifftop, doing their best to hold the cliffs together.

Yesterday , while on the photowalk with my grandson, this view caught my attention.  It had rained the previous night and white fluffy clouds hung in the sky for most of the day.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/125 sec, F 16, ISO 100, Sigma DC 18-200 lens at 18mm


Budding Photographer

Rangitoto Island

This morning I took my eight year old grandson on his first photowalk around the rocks at the eastern end of Takapuna Beach. It was part of his Christmas present, to “have a photo session with Grandad”.

After a brief introduction to the camera, a Olympus Stylus 800, we set off on our walk. The “rocks” are the remains of eroded sandstone cliffs.  There is plenty of variety to keep a young inquisitive mind engaged – wierd shapes, rock pools, cliff vistas, waves, Rangitoto Island in the distance, and more. Although he had taken the occasional picture with his Dad’s Canon EOS 45oD, this was the first time he had been given a camera to use and choose to photograph whatever caught his attention. He has a surprisingly good eye for composition for one so young. This image shows our intrepid photographer sneaking a quick shot of Grandad with Rangitoto Island in the background.

The adventure lasted about an hour and a half. Once we returned home we downloaded the photographs to the computer for viewing and very basic editing before the finished product was exported to a CD to take home and showed to Mum and Dad.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/125 sec, F 16, ISO 100, Sigma DC 18-200mm lens at 18mm



I love street markets.  Whenever I am in a new town and there is a market I try to visit it and take in the variety and activity that is part of what the culture of the place is about.  There is lots of colour especially in the fruit and vegetable stalls.  If I can include the price signs, I usually will.

These capsicums caught my attention at today’s Takapuna Sunday Market. I liked the fact that there were three colours on display and the early morning light warmed them up.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/100 sec, F 5.6, ISO 100, Sigma DC 18-200mm lens at 100 mm


Red Robot – Takapuna Market

Every week the Takapuna Sunday Market is held in the central car park. Vendors come from all over the Auckland region to sell a variety of fresh fruit, vegetables, breads, fish, flowers, clothing, arts and crafts, and bric-à-brac.  So are shoppers looking for a bargain, or just to soak up the festive atmosphere.  While wandering around the stalls it is likely that you will bump into friends and neighbours browsing for an interesting item. There is something on offer for everyone, from fishing rods to frilly nighties.

This morning I found this red and blue robot on a secondhand table next to a used violin and a wicker wine rack.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/250 sec, F 5.6, ISO 100, Sigma DC 18-200 mm lens at 18 mm


Sea Shells


When I was young Boy Scouts use a piece of sea shell as a “woggle” to hold their neck scarves together at the front instead of having to tie a knot.  I suppose this made it easier to get the scarf on and off.  Often when at a beach I would go in search of “woggle” shells along the sea-shore.

While walking along the rocks under the cliffs at the northern end of Mangawhai Beach in March 2009 we came across this mass of “used” shells washed up by the tide.  There was a large bank of them that stretched for about 20 metres. And yes. there were “wogggles” among them. Of course, the “woggle” is the hard opening in the shell remaining after it is broken and worn smooth by constant agitation of waves crashing against the shore. I still don’t know what type of shell it is!

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/1000 sec, F 13, ISO 400, Sony DT 18-70 mm lens at 60 mm


Magical Mangawhai

The locals call it Magical Mangawhai. It is a vibrant beach community with local shops, galleries, a surf club, long sandy beach, cliff-top walk with views out to the Hen and Chicken Islands and Whangarei Heads, as well as an annual walking weekend.  Aucklanders drive an hour north to spend the weekend there in their holiday “baches” to go fishing, surfing, play golf and sample the growing number of food delicacies. Who would want anything better?

This image is toward the southern end of Mangawhai Beach near the Surf Club.  A stone breakwater at the estuary entrance gives a clear passage for the fishing and pleasure boats that anchor or are launched there. It extends to the small haystack island just off the shore.  Beyond the breakwater are sand dunes that lie between the estuary and the ocean that is the nesting area for a colony of Fairy Turns.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/1000 sec, F 13, ISO 400, Sony DT 18-70mm lens at 45 mm


Fire in the Sky

Mangawhai Heads is one of our favourite places in New Zealand to visit. In March 2009 we were there both to visit friends and to take part in the annual Mangawhai Walking Weekend.  I woke early on the Saturday morning, which is something I normally do when sleeping in a strange bed, and discovered this magnificent red and orange sky silhouetting Little Barrier Island in the distance. The street lights in the foreground were like Christmas tree fairy lights twinkling in the remains of the night. Early morning mist envelopes the valleys between between me and the sea.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/10 sec, F 29, ISO 400, Sony DT 18-70 lens at 45 mm


Buddhist Monk at Gulguksa Temple, Korea

Of the many images captured during our visit to Korea in 2008, this one keeps coming back to me.  We were in Korea to visit the parents of our daughter-in-law and during our stay we experienced tremendous hospitality and generosity.  Koreans are very proud of their country and our hosts ensured that we saw and experienced as much of the Korean way of life as possible during our three week stay. This included a trip to the historical Gyeongju Province and the many palaces, museums and temples for which the area is famous.

Gulguksa Temple is a World Heritage site and is “No. 1 tourist site in Korea”. While viewing one of the smaller temples on the grounds this Buddhist monk came into view. The bright summer day seemed to make the colours of the temple more vibrant and the monk glow in the sunlight.  In a flash he was gone, but in that flicker of time the image of him walking through the view seemed to capture what this place was all about.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/250 sec, F 10, ISO 400, Sony DT 18-70mm lens at 60 mm


Rain in the Hills – Bay of Islands

It had rained the night before and the hills around bay where we had anchored for the night were still shrouded in mist and low clouds at dawn. We left our anchorage at about 8.30 am for a day of fishing in New Zealand’s beautiful Bay of Islands. As we drew away from the land and looked back we could see that it was still raining in the hills. The early morning light emphasised the layers of hills receding into the distance.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/100 sec, F 13, ISO 100, Sony DT 18-70 lens at 40 mm


Into the Rising Sun

This is the last in this series of dawn images from 5 January.  As the sun rises above the horizon the number of people on Takapuna Beach increases.  Even in the middle of the night you will find someone out walking, as well as the occasional “wally” shouting loudly as a result of late-night drinking. However, in the cool of a dawn morning only the keen early birds can be found soaking up the freshness of the newly breaking day.
Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/80 sec, F 11, ISO 100, Sigma DC 18-200 lens at 18 mm

Daybreak – Takapuna Beach

This is another image taken of the dawn light on 5 January at Takapuna Beach. The sun is just breaking over the horizon and the day soon brightens into another great summer’s day.  Friends comment that this is a summer like we used to have when we were children.  Maybe they are right, but maybe also life was simpler then. In a larger version of this picture one can just make out the outline of a small cruise ship in front of the island at left on the horizon as it enters the Waitemata Harbour and the Port of Auckland. It is the height of the cruise season and barely a day goes by that at least one ship visits Auckland as part of a Pacific cruise.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/40 sec, F 11, ISO 100, Sigma DT 18-200 lens at 28 mm

Rangitoto at Dawn 5 Jan 2010

The light at dawn yesterday morning was just great. I walked onto Takapuna Beach just as the morning sky was brightening but before the sun had risen above the horizon.

Rangitoto Island is at the entrance to the Waitemata Harbour, the main shipping port for Auckland, New Zealand. Ships travel through the channel between the island and Takapuna Beach on the North Shore of Auckland. I love the beach at this time of the day. Apart from the occasional runner, early morning stroller and dog walker, you have the beach to yourself. You can watch the day develop from black to dark blue, then the dawn shades of orange and mauve develop as the sun gets closer to breaking over the horizon. It’s an experience you never get tired of.

Sony Alpha DSLR, 1/3 sec. F 11, ISO 100, Sigma DG 18-200 lens at 18 mm

Sunset – Lake Waikaremoana

On the day we arrived at Lake Waikaremoana in January 2009 there was a wonderful sunset. Our group had arrived at the camping ground throughout the afternoon, had its usual animated and jovial conversation over a barbeque dinner and then take a short walk along the lake shore to observe the setting sun. The evening could not have been more perfect and set the scene for the days of hiking that followed.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/60 sec, F 14, ISO 200, Sony DT 18-70 mm lens at 70 mm

Korokoro Falls – Lake Waikaremoana

This time last year we were about to set off on a journey to the Urewera National Park which lies between Rotorua and Gisborne on New Zealand’s North Island.  There is about 100 km of winding unsealed road from the Rotorua end to reach Lake Waikaremoana deep in the park area. Urewera is the land of the Tuhoe people, a Maori tribal group known as “The People of the Mist”.

One of Lake Waikaremoana’s claims to fame is its round the lake walk, which usually takes about 4 days to complete.  On a previous visit to walk around the lake we encountered four days of continuous rain.  We were thus able to enjoy the wonderful native forest dripping with water and enveloped in the mist for which it is so famous.  We didn’t however, get to see the glorious views from the highest levels on the walk along the ridgeline that leads to Panakiri Bluff.  Last summer’s trip with a group of friends presented us with a wonderful spell of fine weather and thus the spectacular views were seen at last.

A side trip from the track around the lake leads to the Korokoro Falls.  During our wet trip water was cascading over the lip as a result of the sustained period of rain that we experienced. This time we saw the falls without the cascade, but bathed in late afternoon sunlight.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/25 sec, F 6.3, ISO 200, Sony DT 18-70 mm lens at 26 mm

Kiwi Summer

This image was also taken on New Year’s Day and typifies how many New Zealanders spend their summer holidays.  Takapuna Beach on Auckland’s North Shore is approximately 1 km long, very accessable, safe and popular with local families and visitors alike.  At the northern end there is a volcanic reef, camping ground and boat ramp.  At the southern end there are sandstone cliffs. The view from the beach looks out on Rangitoto Island as well as other numerous small islands dotted around the Hauraki Gulf.  All international and local shipping passes through the Rangitoto Channel.

Sont Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/320 sec, F 11, ISO 100, Sigma DC 18-200 mm lens at 18 mm

Kiwi New Year’s Day

Every year New Zealanders hope for a fine summer for their Christmas/New Year break. This hope prevails even though most people know that the best weather comes after they have gone back to work in January.  Often the weather over the holiday period between Christmas Day and the end of the first week in January is unsettled with occasional showers and cold winds from the south-west.

New Year’s Day 2010 started with overcast skies and the threat of rain but clears up during the morning to produce a wonderful summer’s day which brought locals and visitors to the beach to soak up the sun and have a dip in the sea. This image was taken at about 5.00 pm as the sun was losing its brightness of earlier in the day.  Visitors are beginning to pack up to go home to their barbeque meals.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/250 sec, F 11, ISO 100, Sigma DC 18-200 lens at 18 mm

The Wheels on the Train …

Our grandchildren were with us when we visited the Glenbrook Vintage Railway “operating day”, so the title of this image seemed appropriate.  I remember trains like this one as a young child and being both scared and fascinated as they rolled into the station hissing and snorting and bellowing black coal smoke from their funnels.

This image of Ja1250 “Diana” was taken at the repair workshop and , for me, captures some of the feeling I had in my childhood.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/2 sec, F 5.5, ISO 400, Sigma DC 18-200 lens at 18 mm (hand-held)

Locomotive JA1250 “Diana” NZGR

An excerpt from Glenbrook Vintage Railway website “Locomotives and Rolling Stock”.

“A 4-8-2 “Mountain” class locomotive designed for main line service of the New Zealand Railways, a variant of the “J” class. Usually the coal-fired versions operated in the South Island, and the oil-fired ones in the North Island. Originally designed and built with streamline fairings, these were later discarded in favour of ease of maintenance.”

According to a brass plate on the side of the locomotive, “Diana” was built at the NZGR Hillside Workshop in 1949. This image was taken at an “operating day” at the Glenbrook Vintage Railway, Waiuku, New Zealand.

Sony Alpha DSLR – A200, 1/10 sec, F 3.5, ISO 200, Sigma DC 18-200 lens at 18 mm