Making sense of my photography hobby in retirement

Rangitoto Island

Evening Sky

Evening Light, Takapuna, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

There are some evenings when you just have to go for a walk. The day on which this image was taken had improved markedly after a late summer storm so we decided to take a walk around the rocks and along the base of the cliffs at the end of Takapuna Beach, near where we live.  An added incentive was the expected departure of a cruise ship from Auckland which carried some friends as passengers.  We hoped to watch the ship sail out through the channel that lies between the beach and nearby Rangitoto Island.  Fortunately the tide was well out that day, because after waiting until well after the expected departure (the ship didn’t sail because of engineering problems) we had to make our way back to the beach in far distance before the tide would force us ti climb over the rocks. As we turned to head home we were presented with this view to the Takapuna township and beach, and the evening sky reflected in the wet sand.


Evening Glow

Evening Glow, Takapuna Beach, Rangitoto Island, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

At the risk of presenting yet another image of Rangitoto Island at sunset I post the above image taken this evening from Takapuna Beach, which is where I live. You could say that there is almost a spiritual connection that attracts me onto the beach every time I witness another sunrise or sunset.  No two are the same.  The tide may be in, or out as it was this evening. There may be clouds that catch the setting sun, or none as it was this evening.

I particularly like the lines in this image, as well as the colors. There are tire marks that traverse diagonally from left to right, as well as rivulets travelling diagonally in the other direction.  The scene is infused with shades of gold, blue and green which are reflected in the wet sand.  I captured exactly what I wanted, and that makes me happy.  I welcome you to enjoy the scene for yourself.  Click on the image for a larger view.

Another Autumn Sunrise

This morning, fully clothed this time, I ventured onto the beach to capture another autumn sunrise.  It was different this time, not so red, but more dappled grays and blues.

We are lucky here to face the east and have a view out across the Rangitoto Channel to the island from which the channel takes its name.  During the day Rangitoto continually changes its mood as the sun  moves from east to west.  On some evenings the setting sun lights clouds over the island with red and orange light.  In storms it presents a very moody face.

This morning we were presented with a pre-storm view.  There is rain predicted for two day’s time.  On such occasions the atmosphere often clears and New Zealand’s fourth largest island, Great Barrier, shows clearly on the horizon.  That happened in the late afternoon yesterday.  Already the sky is overcast.  Let’s hope that the rain comes as predicted.  We really need it after the long hot summer.

I was going to show only two images from this morning, but I have decided to show five instead.  I have been wanting to take photographs from the eastern end of the beach in the morning for some time.  Here are the results.

Takapuna Autumn Sunrise, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Takapuna Autumn Sunrise, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Takapuna Autumn Sunrise, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Takapuna Autumn Sunrise, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Takapuna Autumn Sunrise, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Autumn Sunrise

When I woke this morning and looked out the window I knew right away I had to capture the moment. So, still in pajamas, I grabbed my camera and walked down to the beach to record the sun rising behind Rangitoto Island and the early morning crowd out getting their exercise.  A man passed nearby walking his Dog. “Good morning”, I said.  “Good morning”  he replied, no doubt wondering why I was still wearing my PJs on the beach.  It didn’t worry me.  I got my pictures and was feeling very happy.

Autumn Sunrise, Takapuna Beach, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Going …

Autumn Sunrise, Takapuna Beach, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

… and coming

Grey Dawn

Rangitoto Grey Dawn, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2009

Rangitoto Grey Dawn

Rangitoto Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf can be seen from many parts of the city. This volcanic cone guards the entrance to the Waitemata Harbour and all shipping entering the harbour passes through the channel seen in this view.  The mood of the island changes throughout the day and with the weather.  This image was taken just before 8.00 am on an early spring morning in 2009. The clouds reflect the changeable weather we have in Auckland at that time of the year.

Early Morning Run

Takapuna Beach, Rangitoto Island, Sunrise, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Early Morning Run – Sunrise over Rangitoto Island from Takapuna Beach, Auckland, New Zealand

I was on the beach at 6.30 am yesterday morning just to catch the sunrise.  It looked promising when I first looked out of the window so I took my camera and tripod onto the beach and waited.  This is just one of 40 images I took as the sun crept towards and then broke over the horizon.

Morning Run

Takapuna Beach, Rangitoto Island, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Morning Run

Caught this quickly the other morning just as the sun was trying to break through the clouds over Rangitoto Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf. Many people are on Takapuna Beach in the morning, fitting in some exercise to set them up for the rest of the day.

Rangitoto in Shades of Mauve and Orange

I have just reviewed the viewing statistics of my Flickr page and was surprised (and somewhat delighted) to find the most viewed image was this one taken early one morning about two years ago.

Rangitoto Island, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2011

Rangitoto in Shades of Mauve and Orange

Rangitoto Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf is a significant part of the view from my house.

According to Wikipedia “Rangitoto was formed by a series of eruptions between 550 and 600 years ago. The eruptions occurred in two episodes, 10-50 yrs apart, and are thought to have lasted for several years during the later shield forming episode The first episode erupted most of the volcanic ash that mantles Motutapu Island next door, and also produced the lower, northern, scoria cone. The second episode built most of Rangitoto erupting all the lava flows and main scoria cone at the apex.”

The island is reasonably symmetrical in shape and can be seen from many parts of Auckland.  All shipping that enters the Waitemata Harbour passes through the channel between the island and the Takapuna/Devonport peninsular.

Depending on the weather and time of day Rangitoto reflects various moods, as this image demonstrates.

Easter Sunrise – A Sign of New Hope

Every year for the past 30 years there has been a dawn or sunrise Easter service on Takapuna Beach to mark the hope for the world that the Easter story brings.  Each year the people who gather hope to experience a beautiful sunrise, but that doesn’t always happen.  This morning however, didn’t disappoint.  It is said that a red sky in the morning is a shepherd’s warning.  For those who live by the sea it usually heralds an approaching storm, or at least a period of rain – but not always.

This morning the sun rose over Rangitoto Island spot on time at 6.53 am and painted the clouds in various shades of red, purple and orange before fading into pale yellows and grays as it rose higher in the sky. The reflection on the Easter story given at the service was about new hope, peace and justice, perseverance against all odds, and seeing things differently.  The evolving sunrise showed a sign for all to see.

Easter Sunrise 2011 Takapuna Beach - Auckland, New Zealand

Rays of Hope - Easter Sunrise 2011 Takapuna Beach, Auckland, New Zealand

Long Bay Coastal Walkway – Auckland, New Zealand

A favourite for many Aucklanders, Long Bay Regional Park attracts well over one million visitors a year. The park takes its name from the great stretch of beach that stretches between cliffs at both the northern and southern ends. The large park has plenty of trees, including coastal Pohutukawa, that provide shade for the many groups and individuals that visit for a day out at the beach.  At the northern end of the beach a pathway leads up to the clifftop and winds past farmland along the cliff’s edge to the Okura Inlet.  The return trip can be made  along a rocky foreshore at low tide, but can be quite slippery for the unwary.

Long Bay Beach from Coastal Walkway

Long Bay Coastal Walkway

Grass Silhouette - Long Bay Coastal Walkway

View to Rangitoto Island - Long Bay Coastal Walkway

Pohututaka in Silhouette and Okura Inlet - Long Bay Coastal Walkway

Into the Western Sun - Okura Inlet, Long Bay Coastal Walkway

Looking North - Okura Inlet, Long Bay Coastal Walkway

Return Journey - Long Bay Coastal Walkway

Journey's End - Long Bay Beach, Long Bay Regional Park

Imagining Takapuna e-Book Project

This project started with a problem.  What do you do with your growing collection of photographs that have a common theme to them?  When you create the images you don’t necessarily have a specific project on mind.  The shot presents itself, you frame it and press the button.  Maybe you then post the resulting interpreted image on Flickr or a photo blog.

The idea of a photo e-book began to grow when some friends gave us a photo book of a popular local holiday spot .   Maybe I could produce one for our local area, I thought.  At about the same time one of my sons suggested that I look at Scribus, a piece of open source desktop publishing software.  He had used it to produce an in-house newsletter at his workplace.  Further investigation found that it could produce output in a PDF format.  This had some appeal as the final document could be output a PDF and sent to a book printer such as Blurb, provided it complied with their requirements, or it could be published as a viewable or downloadable PDF on the web. A project had been born.

Imagining Takapuna proved to be quite a learning experience, which can be broken down into the following stages:

  1. Learn how to use Scribus – This required finding and then following a on-line tutorial on page layout and import of text and images;
  2. Map out a book idea – Determine a storyline, themes, master layout, etc;
  3. Explore image portfolio to find image candidates for inclusion in the book;
  4. Build the pages with images and text;
  5. Edit, not once, but at least three times.  You can get too close to the project and overlook even obvious errors;
  6. Review – Have someone not related to the project to review the “finished” article and offer constructive feedback.  This will raise questions about why text or images have been included, and why others have not.  Maybe the text mentions something that is not represented by an image.
  7. Time out – Set the project aside for a few days to divorce yourself from it and clear your mind.  Then come back and take a fresh look.  It is amazing what you see (or not) after a break.
  8. Finalize – It is easy to tweak forever.  Reach a point of finalization and call it quits.
  9. Publish – Put your head above the parapet and await response.

This e-book “sort of ” follows the above process.  While it attempts to follow themes, it is by no means a comprehensive representation of Takapuna and what it has to offer.  It is more an experiment in production and a learning experience for the future.  It has helped to arm me for more intentional projects in the future that can be planned and deliberately executed.  If you view it in that light then maybe you will forgive me for any shortcomings in this first production.

Images in the e-book include sunrise and sunset, surfing, stand up paddling, Sunday and Christmas markets, Takapuna Criterium, cliffs and reef.

Imagining Takapuna can be viewed by clicking here on the cover image above. It is best viewed by downloading the file and opening it in Adobe Acrobat and following these viewing tips.

PDF Viewing tip
Make sure you’re viewing this in 2-page spreads if you want this to look its best.
In Acrobat go to: View > Page Display > Two Up.
Select “Show Cover Page During Two Up” to make sure the pages aren’t out of sync.
Select “Show gaps between pages” for the final touch.

Stand Up Paddlers

A noticeable trend at our local beach over the past 18 months has been the increase in the number of people who paddle large surfboards in a standing position.  I have come to understand that this “stand up paddling” (SUP) originated in Hawaii and has recently become a new opening for people who can’t surf anymore, or want to extend their surfing experience in a new form.  Non-surfers are also taking up the new “craze” as a different form of recreational activity.

Stand Up Paddlers - Takapuna Beach, North Shore City, Auckland, New Zealand

I was walking along the beach in the early evening several weeks ago when I saw these three SUP’s coming ashore after a late afternoon paddle.  What first caught my attention was the setting sunlight reflecting off the boards and the shading on Rangitoto Island in the background.  Mark, one of the paddlers, saw me take the photographs and asked for copies.  I was happy to oblige.  It turned out that Mark, the chap with the yellow board, imports and distributes stand up boards and is a prime mover behind getting more people involved in board paddling.  He has been behind promoting a number of community events for paddlers.

It seems that not all people in the surfing community are happy with this new phenomenon.  There have been dismissive articles in some surfing publications where SUP’s are accused of creating a danger in traditional surfing areas ‘especially beginners who cannot handle these new large boards in a responsible manner’.  This reaction reminds me of the debate that raged in ski areas when snowboards first came on the scene.  Unlike ski areas that are managed by ski patrollers however, surf areas are not regulated and the old and new breeds of surfer are having to find their way towards a manageable working relationship, perhaps with a few “understood” rules of the sea.

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


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


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


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

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