Living near a coast with views to the north and east (I’m talking about the southern hemisphere here) you are presented with a range of moods in the sky and on the water that is driven by the weather. The sea can be angry, or placid. The sky can be clear, or cloudy. Visibility can reach to the horizon, or be no more than fifty meters. All of this presents an infinite menu of photographic opportunities.
This image was taken in early May last year from Takapuna Beach on Auckland’s North Shore. It is looking slightly east of north just before 9.00 am. An overnight storm is clearing and the sun is struggling to break through the clouds, while blue sky begins to show itself overhead.
On the coast and in the mountains are two of my favorite places at sunrise and sunset. These are the times when clouds are lit at their most interesting best. Because both places are fully exposed to all that weather systems can throw at them, they are also exciting (and sometimes scary) places to be in a storm.
It has been a while since I got up early enough to capture a sunrise. When I looked out of the window early this morning It looked as though we would be in for a show. The clouds looked great and the glow was beginning to show. I was not disappointed.
Misty Dawn – Catlins
Another morning, another dawn. We moved to the Catlins Coast in Southland after riding the Otago Central Rail Trail for a different South Island experience. Our accommodation was at Hilltop Backpackers at Papatowai, a one store settlement between Dunedin and Invercargill near the rugged Catlins coast. Backpackers accommodation is not our usual style, but places to stay are in relatively short supply in that part of the world and Hilltop had good reviews on the web. Being sixty something and not really wanting bunkroom style accommodation, we took the en suite double room which turned out to be a nicely furnished quaint period room in the old house overlooking the valley leading to the sea.
Fellow travellers on that first night were from Hong Kong, Germany and New Zealand. A retired school teacher and hotel concierge from Hong Kong, a PhD student from Germany, an office administrator from Auckland, and us – all fetched up on a hillside in the middle of remote Southland.
We had arrived at twilight. Being concerned that we had turned up at the right place we weren’t fully aware of the surroundings. Sheep were wandering around nearby – one even surprised me in the dark as I unloaded the car by appearing out of the gloom to observe what was going on.
In the morning there was rustling outside our room which turned out to be one of our Hong Kong travellers photographing the mist and the sunrise. It didn’t take much to get me out there as well, and this is the result. What a great welcome to the Catlins Coast.
Dawn Sky – Central Otago
As I wonder what each day will bring when I wake in the morning one of the first indicators I look to is the dawn sky. I love dawn skies for their brilliant colours and how the shades of blue, orange, yellow and mauve change as the sun gets closer to the horizon.
The overcast conditions we experienced on the Otago Central Rail Trail produced this show of colours. It developed slowly from mostly dark blue clouds tinged with red, to this show of orange just before the sun appeared. The morning was cool, but not cold. Even while I set up the tripod the colours changed. I was all fingers and thumbs in the dark as I hurried to get ready. “More haste, less speed”, my mother used to say.
So, what sort of day did the dawn herald? A ride through the sweeping Maniototo Plain with the Rock and Pillar Range ahead and the Kakanui Mountains on the left. The landscape colour is mostly brown and gold. With the overcast sky it was also moody. The Central Otago painter and artist Grahame Sydney accurately captures this moodiness in his many paintings of the area.
In the winter it is cold on the plains below the mountains. At nearby Ophir in the centre of the historic gold rush area New Zealand’s coldest ever temperature of -21.6 degrees celsius was recorded on 3 July 1995. In the summer Alexandra near one end of the Rail Trail often has the country’s highest temperatures. During autumn, when the frosts hit the trees, the countryside is ablaze with yellow and gold. In the winter the surrounding mountains are capped with snow. This set of seasonal changes has its impact on “Central”, which makes it such an alluring place to visit.
I know that not every day can start with a blaze of early morning colour, but I still look forward in the hope that it will be there.
Early Morning Ride
This image was captured on the same morning as the one in the previous post. To try something different I processed it as a split one image and am quite pleased with the result as, for me, it captures the mood of the moment – early morning, overnight rain clouds still hanging in the hills, small children being taken for a ride around the bay in an inflatable dinghy, and just plain peacefulness. Click image for larger view.
Sony Alpha DSLR A200 1/50 sec, F5.6, ISO 100, Sony DT 18-70 mm lens at 18 mm
A Hint of Light
This time last year I was invited to accompany some friends on a fishing trip in the Bay of Islands, Northland, New Zealand. Usually our annual fishing trips goes from Auckland to Great Barrier Island but the boat had engine trouble which resulted in a change of plans. A storm developed as we drove north from Auckland and by the time we arrived at our charter vessel at Opua it was raining quite hard and the wind was increasing. The charter boat was quickly loaded and we moved quickly to find as safe anchorage for the night.
During the night the wind howled through the rigging and the rain lashed the decks, soaking anything that was left uncovered. By morning the wind had eased, allowing us to set sail and journey into the historic Bay of Islands for three days of fishing and cruising.
This image was taken at dawn on our last morning. There had been light rain overnight and the cloud was still hanging low over the hills in the morning. A suggestion of sun and the fine day ahead shows in the distance.
Sony Alpha DSLR A200 1/40 sec, F4.5, ISO 100, Sony DT 18-70 mm lens at 26 mm
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
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
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
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
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