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Photography with Kodak Ektar Brendan Moyle Jul 11

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It is becoming a challenge to keep up the film photography, so last month aI made a concerted effort to get through one roll at least.  This was also my first chance to shoot with the Kodak Ektar 100 film.  This is reputed to scan well and to have a very fine grain.  Not being able to find anyone in NZ who stocked it, I imported it from the US.

The first subjects I tried were of the stream in the Pohuehue Reserve, which lies between Warkworth and Orewa.  I think one of the advantages of film is that it still has a wider dynamic range than digital.  So there’s less risk of the highlights blwoing out.

So we’ll start with a couple of shots from there.

 

#1 Rivelet

 

This second shot looked much better than digital version.  The bright sunlight streaming in at the rear of the scene threw out my DSLR’s attempt to capture the scene.

#2 On the edge

I then tried some ‘painting with film’.  In these shots, rather than keeping the camera solid, I’ve tried a long exposure to create a more impressionistic scene by moving the camera up and down to mimic brush strokes.

#3 Native Trees

#4 Nikau Palms

And finally

#5 Fern Spin

So, after a few forays out, I’m afraid it is harder to keep up the shooting with film.  While it remains the best medium for a film look and the dynamic range is superb, a number of problems persist.  The lighting is critical.  The difference between a good shot and a so-so is much more sensitive to light.  You can’t adjust white balances or contrasts or the like later.  If lighting is good, the shots will turn out great. If its poor- as more foray to Waterfall Gully was- the shots become duller, faster.

There’s also issue of having the ISO fixed.  You’re destined to shoot at the set ISO, and for film, that’s usually low.  That means a lot of shots can’t be attempted.  You can get a shot with a DSLR when you can’t with film.  And for long exposures, it’s very tricky.  You don’t get any opportunity to review the exposure, so the guess and hope factor becomes higher.

A winter visit to Waterfall Gully Brendan Moyle Jun 29

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Youngest child had a ‘thing’ on the Whangaparoa Peninsular on Saturday morning.  So we ventured north at a pre-dawn hour to get him there in time.  While he was engaged, I made a side trip to Shakespear Regional Park (yes, Shakespear is spelled without a final ‘e’).  There’s a waterfall in the bush there.  Usually it’s not impressive as it doesn’t get a lot of water flow over it.  On the other hand it has been raining regularly this winter. A lot.  So I thought there was a chance of a better flow.

It was also a chance to put my new Lee filters to the test.

The waterfall looked better than in summer months.  It’s nothing I guess, that anyone will put on a postcard.  But the setting in the native forest still appeals to me.

In the first shot, I’m using the a900 with the 20/2.8 Minolta lens.  The goal is to use the curve of that ventral bank to lead into the fall.

In the second shot, I’m getting all of the fall in the same shot.  Same lens as before.  

If you would like a close up of the top of the fall


Then I went further into the short bush.  One thing I’m struggling with is how to photograph NZ bush that still has the elements of a good photo.  The wall of dense vegetation tends to rule out isolating tree pictures, and often leaves little in the way of leading lines.  On the other hand, a stream might stand in.  

This required liberal use of an ND grad filter to balance the bright light at the canopy level with the shade at the bottom. I’m employing the very useful Minolta 28/2.0 lens here.

And just a stream pic to finish the hike off

Monday night spiders Brendan Moyle May 20

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Well, I seem to have got off on a classic Minolta lens binge at the moment.  Minolta made the first popular auto-focus camera back in 1985, with the Maxxum (or Dynax) 7000.  This was followed by a series of new AF lenses for this mount.  These replaced the existing manual focus lens (MD or MC). 

In the film era, camera companies tended to produce lenses with slightly different characteristics.  For Minolta, the thing that made their lenses stand out was the colours.  They had a colour fidelity and richness that appealed.  If you ever hear some photographer talking about ‘Minolta colours’, that’s what they mean.  I’m finding as I do more landscape photogaphy, this is what appeals to me.

As an indication of the lead Minolta built up in the 1980s, they had the first auto-focus 100mm macro lens.  This was such a superb design, the modern Sony lens equivalent has made only minor changes to it.  I acquired the RS version yesterday (this model went out of production in 1993).  I wanted to see how it lasted, so gave it a try with my a900 last night. 

These two spider shots are all done in manual mode.  I’ve selected both the exposure (shutter speed, aperture) and the flash setting for my twin flash.  The first spider I saw was a juvenile nursery-web spider- Dolemedes minor.  It was on some pruned back flax. 

The second was the nervous and wary Cambridgea sheetweb spider.  By this time one of the local cats had come to help me.  Despite this not being fully mature, I didn’t need to crop this pic at all.

Well, the good news is that the lens is in near perfect order.  Despite its age and who knows, how many owners, this has survived nicely. 

Going feral for the day Brendan Moyle May 09

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At the moment I am trying to write three papers at once on the research I’ve been doing on elephant ivory. It’s a bit ambitious, and it’s on top of a lot of other things.  So yesterday, I went ‘feral’ and disappeared into the Pohuehue Reserve up to the north of here.  The area has a waterfall I haven’t seen yet, and I hoped the stream would also give me some interesting shots.

So, gearing up.  Well, first there’s the tripod.  The tripod I have is heavy, it is actually the heaviest I could buy at the time because not only do I want it holding some heavy camera gear, I also want it to stay stable in extreme cases.  Then there’s the tripod head.  I run with a geared head.  This allows for precise, three way positioning of the camera and once the shot is there, it won’t budge, or drift down or anything. The camera stays exactly where you want it to be.  These aren’t light either.

Then its the lenses.  I’ve got two vintage Minolta lens.  One is the 20/2.8 RS and the other is a 28/2.0.  They’re compact.  Good to carry.  The 70-200/2.8 G isn’t.  That’s closer to 1.5kg.  I like my Minolta lenses.  They have a colour fidelity that I just can’t see in others. 

Two cameras- a Sony a900 and a Minolta Dynax 7.  The Minolta is a film camera by the way.  Plus filters to get long expsoures.

Then we need some good hiking boots for slippery conditions, some gaiters for the wet and muddy ground, and we’re away. Part of the fun here is being out of the office, away from computers, and just doing something physical with a bit of heavy gear to manage.  Conditions were pretty slippery.  The rain, leaf litter and rocks combine to force a slow and steady pace in places.

So, here’s the falls.  This is with the 20mm lens.  I don’t think it is the most spectacular falls in NZ, but I liked the lines on the shot and the light and dark areas.  I’ve avoided the front-on ‘post card’ look.

The second is with the 28mm lens.  As you can see, I got wet :).  This is one of my favourites.

And last of all, something with the 70-200/2.8.  A rivulet, done as a long exposure.

ANZAC Day 2014 at Browns Bay Brendan Moyle Apr 25

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Today was the 99th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing in World War One, and for Australia and New Zealand, an event that left its mark on the numbers of men killed and wounded.  It is a poignant time. There is a sadness that propagates through the generation, in the stories, and in the quieter and sadder tone we grew up listening to.  Within my family, of the six men who went off to fight in World War One, only one came back alive.

It’s not a time for constant photography, or watching the event through the viewfinder.  So I mostly stood, listening to the service.  What I’ve tried to do is get a very small number of shots that depicted the event.

#1 Flagbearer at the start of the parade

#2 Getting a lift- not all are able to march in the parade anymore

#3 The Last Post- this is the most evocative from this morning. I was focusing on the bugler to the right of the picture (he can be seen very defocused there still) but as the notes from the Last Post played, I noticed the face and emotions on the young guard.  I switched over to focus on him

#4 Veteran lowering flag

#5 Veteran laying Wreath

#6 The young laying wreath

#7 Veteran with medals

#8 Veteran in Uniform

 

Tiger time in the Sping Thaw Brendan Moyle Apr 24

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Well as part of the last expedition to China we got up north. Very north.  There was still snow on the ground even though it was early spring.  This is one of the times when having a good relationship with the Chinese SFA matters. Got to see a couple of Amur tigers which I was able to photograph.

 

They seem to be enjoying the thaw and the sunshine.

 

 

 

Urban Grit Brendan Moyle Apr 16

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I think one of the challenges to travel photography is finding ways to capture the feel of a place.  The reason this becomes a challenge is that often, the feel is not the same as the tourist postcards. Beijing for instance, is not blue skies and the Forbidden Palace. It is a large urban city, and at times, that dominates your experience.

These are some shots I tried to get to capture some of that industrial, gritty feel. These were all taken with a Sony a900 camera and a 70-200/2.8 G lens. We’re in the general area of the Beijing Forestry University.

 

#1- The Tank

#2 The Crane

#3 Road Sign

#4- Impromptu Rubbish Bin

Good weather not required- a visit to Te Puia Brendan Moyle Feb 07

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As most of us know, this summer hasn’t quite been up to the relentless hot weather and clear summer days of the past.  We did manage a trip to the popular tourist spot of Te Puia in Rotorua, but even then, rain shortened the stay.  This meant there were not chances for geysers going off on a background of blue sky.

 

I took a different tack therefore, with shots I thought would be interesting with the overcast conditions.  The first is of a thermal pool, framed by the rocks in the foreground and vegetation in the rear.  The second is of a stream in the area, wreathed in steam.  These photos are in my “It’s a beautiful world” album

The final shot I thought merited a black-and-white conversion.  This is also in my “Colour Free” album.

Time on the beach Brendan Moyle Jan 22

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One of the consequences of our fondness for beaches is pressure on native birds that live there.  Whilst sea gulls may seem very robust, other birds are less so.  One is the endangered NZ dotterel or tūturiwhatu.  There’s only about 1700 birds left of this species, and the North Island populations are only found in the upper north.  The nesting strategy for this bird is a simple scrape in the ground.  This means the nests are easily damaged or disturbed by well, almost anything.  This includes people, dogs, SUVs etc. 

Close to where I live is the Okura reserve and there is an isolated sweep of beach (near the old Dancre cottage) that has a small population.  Some days I’ve hiked out there with one of my sons and we’ve just sat, watching them through binoculars.  I have for sometime, been trying to get some good pictures of them as well.  Open beach is not easy to get close to birds with, and avoid startling or scaring them.

Last week I succeeded with a bit of planning and a bit of luck.  One the planning side, I dressed carefully in stone or khaki clothing to blend into the beach.  A stone-coloured brimmed hat finished the look, and I eschewed sunglasses.  There would be no dark areas on my body or outline.  There was also a large log washed up on the beach I could conceal myself behind by laying beside it.  I had about an hour there, able to watch and take pictures.  For the first time I ended up with a series that didn’t require cropping.  In fact, the birds seemed curious about the shutter sound and came closer than I expected.  Here’s a sample:

 

 

Small hitchhikers Brendan Moyle Dec 03

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This time of year you might notice some flies repeatedly shaking their legs. A closer look will show a tiny, pale brown thing attached to the leg.  This is actually one of our native pseudoscorpion Thalassochernes tairiensis. What is is doing is hitching a ride on the fly.  This is a habit known as phoresy.  It’s a way for the animal to get a ride somewhere else.  For minute animals unable to cover a lot of ground, phoresy is quite handy.

Pseudoscorpions are an order of arachnids that are widely distributed.  As an order, they are on par with spiders or scorpions or harvestmen.  Despite being even more widely distributed than scorpions, most people are not aware of them.  The reason is simple.  These arachnids are tiny and cryptic.  They dislike the light and move away from it.  They’re usually very small.  Most are much less than 2mm long.

They have a number of appealing traits however.  The female feeds nymphs a nourishing liquid.  They also have small silk glands, which in some families are used to make little domes to protect the female and her nymphs.  Despite their pincers and segmented body, they’re not a descendant of scorpions.  Their poison apparatus is on a tiny tooth, on one of the fingers of their claw.  It’s pretty lethal if you’re a mm long and have 6 legs. 

To get these pics I waited for the pseudoscorpion to detach herself.  To boost the magnification (the arachnid here is about 2mm long) I attached a 24x Raynox microscope adapter. Then my macro flash (the two small heads of this are much easier to work up close than a ringflash) was attached to boost the shutter speed. I had hoped I could get some shots hand-holding the camera but this was impossible. The depth-of-field was critically narrow and for a moving subject, impossible.  So it was then on to the tripod (and thankfully, the geared head).  

Even with the 24x magnifier I still couldn’t see the edge of the carapace so a bit of guesswork was involved. At least with the arachnid being blind, I didn’t have to worry about getting the eyes in focus.  They have a number of long, sensitive seta (trichobothria) on their claws that are used to locate prey.

Bear in mind with these pics, almost all the detail shown here is invisible to the naked eye.

 

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