Muriwai, 2013

The black sand. The water worn rocks. The steep cliffs. Offshore island.

Muriwai has for a long time been an important, yet mythical place for me. I had heard about it for a long time, but have never been there. Until recently, it had just been a well used name in Colin McCahon’s paintings. My early influence in art were McCahon’s text and black paintings, and through studying through his work and life, realised that Muriwai was a huge part of him, as he was of it.

So whilst visiting friends in Auckland, the opportunity arose to visit Muriwai beach. Upon arriving it was very obvious what I was going to do. I no longer make artworks like I used to, and instead have taken up a more serious liking to photography. I decided to use my new chosen medium to recreate some of McCahon’s paintings and drawings of Muriwai, 40 years after McCahon painted it. Each one was taken at the location, and I tried to keep the post editing to a minimum. Any editing that has been carried out on these photos to make them look like the painting has been done using relatively simple techniques. These ten frames are my photographic homage to Colin McCahon, and to Muriwai.

Muriwai, 1969; 2013

Muriwai, 1969; 2013 mccahon-muriwai-1969

Possibly not the exact spot that McCahon had intended from. The horizon line is a little higher, so it is possible that the painting is actually of the hills, rather than of the rocks. But the photo still works.

Muriwai no. 3, 1969; 2013

Muriwai no. 3, 1969; 2013. mccahon-muriwai-no-3

McCahon probably painted this one looking down at the black sand as the waves came in. I was out on the rocks for this one. I darkened the sky to mirror the painting a little better.

 Muriwai no. 6, 1969; 2013

Muriwai no. 6, 1969; 2013 mccahon-muriwai-no-6

This was one of the first photos I took in order to try and recreate one of the paintings. I like the relationship in the contrast between the solid rock, and the fluid water crashing against it. I decided not to push the photo too far into being the same as the painting, but let it hold it’s own.


 Muriwai no. 7, 1969; 2013

Muriwai no. 7, 1969; 2013 mccahon-muriwai-no-7

For this photo, I climbed up the sand dunes behind the beach. When I look at this painting, I see the black sand curved, and had to capture this in the photograph. The main thing missing is the darkened sky, which is created using post-processing.

Light falling through a dark landscape, 1971; 2013


Light falling through a dark landscape, 1971; 2013 mccahon-necessaryprotection-1971

This photo I had fun trying to recreate. It was all quite hard to get the sharp square edge in nature, and it was going to require a bit of luck to get a splash of “light” to enter into the stretch of rock out at Muriwai.

Low tide, Muriwai, 1972; 2013

Low tide, Muriwai, 1972; 2013  mccahon-lowtide-1972

This painting was done with some artistic license from McCahon, or it was done at night. Either way, it was something I couldn’t recreate with the photo. The iconic black used in McCahon’s paintings is directly linked to his ‘depression’, but also more literally for this painting to the black sand at Muriwai. So I used the black sand for the basis for this photograph and use parts of the water to help create the lines.

A5, 1973; 2013

A5, 1973; 2013 mccahon-A5

This photo was one I took as a back up for a different painting. But I found McCahon’s “A Series” to be very enlightening, and thought it appropriate to recreate it using the rocks that are out at Muriwai.

Kites at Muriwai, 1973; 2013

Kites at Muriwai, 1973; 2013 mccahon-kites

It seems funny that all those ago people were at Muriwai flying kites in the breeze, enjoying the summer sun. And on this day, 40 years later, people were still here doing the same thing. As we were leaving, two kites launched into the air. Originally I captured it to replace the “Jet” in McCahon’s other paintings, but I found this drawing, and it fits too well.

Oaia, Muriwai, Godwits, 1973;2013

Oaia, Muriwai, Godwits, 1972; 2013 mccahon-oaia-muriwai-godwits-1973

This one photo of Oaia Island was the only one that I could link into one of McCahon’s paintings. The rest of his artworks with this subject included pillar structures in them, and I had framed my sample photos all wrong for them to fit his paintings. However, I did find this one, and used some of the seagulls that I had shot to fill out the frame. I am quite happy with how the photo turned out. I also love McCahon’s drawing of this.

Jet out from Muriwai, 1973; 2013

A Poem for Muriwai Beach, 1973; 2013 mccahon-poemofmuriwaibeach

One of the first drawings I saw and remember of Muriwai appearing in McCahon’s work is in ‘Poem for Muriwai Beach, 1973’. It was only right then that this one photo I tried to get, more than any else. Unfortunately, there were no ‘Jets’ in the sky today, and so I had to capture one of the many seagulls that were flying over head. I am incredibly happy with how this turned out, even though the original painting depicts a cross as a symbol for an aeroplane in the sky.


Walking away from Muriwai I had a greater appreciation for the beach. I realised that I was just a little part of it’s history. It was awe inspiring driving down the road thinking that McCahon himself had probably travelled the same road many, many times before me to try and capture this same location I was going to photograph. It was a great exercise and I hope that it has somehow inspired you to look at landscape photography not just thinking about the location and what you see, but also seeing the scene in history and how others have depicted it.

One Tree, 2013

This weekend I had the opportunity to go up to the top of One Tree Hill, Auckland. Armed with my trusty camera, I decided to document the site, as well as tell the story that makes this photo somewhat more significant than a patch of parched grass looking out to a modern day metropolis. Hopefully, you too may come to appreciate this site as I did when I was up there.

One Tree, 2013

This was once the place of a tall and solitary tree. In fact, the last time I was here it towered and overlooked the city as it grows. It’s glorious branches stretching into the sky and it seemed to take on an aura more than just a tree. This was a tree that meant something. This was a tree on which the place took it’s name.

The site now stands lifeless – barren, missing.

Once a vibrant Māori pā, the largest and most important in New Zealand prior to European settlement, the site now is void of any of that. The plaque that embellishes the obelisk that is the only thing that marks this hill as anything important in the history of this city. The obelisk itself can be seen for miles around, and serves as much of a metaphorical tree as we are ever going to get in the near future.


The obelisk; in accordance of John Logan Campbell’s will was erected in recognition of his admiration of the Māori people is all that now stands on the top of this national landmark. Logan Campbell was one of the first European’s to settle in the area in 1840. He built the first house in Auckland, which still survives today, and became the Auckland mayor in 1901, where coinciding with the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York at the time, donated Cornwall Park to the people of New Zealand. There is no doubt that the monument is an enduring symbol of the mutual respect of Logan Campbell and the Māori people and serves as a substantial reminder for us today.

More than One Tree

The tree was once a grand Tōtara tree. The pā was deserted when European’s settled in the area, and the tree is said to have been cut down by an English settler and used for firewood. Logan Campbell himself tried to regrow a variety of native trees on the hill, in order to try and rectify the mistake his fellow settler had made, but none survived in the harsh conditions of life at the top. Two pines that were planted to provide some shelter for the natives from the prevailing wind survived. One was cut down, once again, supposedly for firewood. Once again, one tree remained on the hill.


In an ironic twist of fate, the tree that Logan Campbell had established in order to apologise to the local Māori, now stood as a symbol of the oppression Māori activists say the New Zealand Government have inflicted on them in past years. The fact that it was a non-native pine deemed it inappropriate by some for such an important place for Māori. It was attacked with a chainsaw in October 1994, coinciding with the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of 1835. A second attack 6 years later in October, 2000, damaged the tree beyond recovery, and the Auckland City Council were forced to remove the tree safely before it caused any damage.

The Photo

My photo marks the location of the tree, on the edge of this hill overlooking the city. It used to lean, into the frame as it were, pointing towards the new landmark of the city, the Auckland Sky Tower (which can be seen in the city on the horizon). The barrenness of the foreground stands as a simple reminder of the empty feeling you get when you think of the history of this place. It was with complete sadness that I viewed the scene. Something was missing, it was quite obvious.

Twelve years have passed since it was cut down. And there is still debate as to what tree should be planted, and other Treaty of Waitangi claims by local iwi that is causing the delay in reviving this iconic spot. I hope that one day, one day not too far away, I might be able to return and photograph this location again with a slightly different view – maybe one with Pōhutakawa or Tōtara bark blocking out the city on the horizon, and the site can return to it’s peaceful resting state.

See the version of this photo.

Related Reading

10 Ways to Improve Your Photography

Everyone who starts out in photography begins at square one, snapping off photos. But how do I get better at it? What are some things I can begin to look for in order to become better at this art-form? What makes a good photo? What should I take photos of? In the next few pages I will try and narrow down everything I know about photography into 10 ways you can improve your photography. These are some tips and tricks that I have picked up over the years and have used in different ways to develop my own photography and photographic style.

1. Rule of Thirds

Well, this one is said time and time again, and it is a little cliche. But none the less, using the rule of thirds will improve your photography no end. In saying this, you can begin to break the trend if your photos are looking too prescribed, but as a starting point, use the thirds guidelines available on most cameras to begin with. This will give you a starting point, and if you want to off set subject matters, or push the boundaries a little bit more, then you can. The rule of thirds is actually all about composition, and learning to compose your shot is the number one way to improve your photography.

2. Change Your Perspective

One way to make your photographs a little different, a little less standard is to change your perspective. Rather than taking your photos from eye height all the time, try going down on your haunches and making the shot. Try lying down on the ground, or moving off to the left or right of the subject. You’ll be amazed at how being below your subject matter can change the photo entirely. Even with landscape photography, I’ve found that many of my best shots have not been taken from up hight, but actually been taken by lowering my tripod right down below my knees.

3. Go Manual

Going Manual is possibly the best thing I did. For a very long time I shot in Aperture priority  mode. I found aperture a lot easier to understand and control than shutter speed and ISO. But, once I worked out that switching to M mode, I can control all three simultaniously, and I worked out how to use the light meter correctly to get the right exposure, it has really put me in a place where I feel like I am in complete control of the camera. It’s a bit like driving an automatic car which does the gear changes, looks after the clutch and all of that, compared to driving a manual car where you get to control all of that yourself. I know I prefer manuals because I feel more comfortable being able to control all of those things myself. The same applies for photography.

To understand more about using aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, I recommend reading The Exposure Triangle blog post.

4. Look in Black and White

Possibly one of the most difficult things to do is to begin to see scenes in Black and White. This can help you, not necessarily just for Black and White photography, but will help you to see things like tone and contrast in a shot. There has been many a time where I’ve come to a scene and been able to say “This will make a great monochrome shot”. How? Just by looking at the tones and the contrast. So even if it doesn’t work in colour, I can always try it in Black and White and it could be that you get that magic shot you’ve been looking for.

5. Find Lines

One way to get people to look into your photos is to try and draw them in. Use some perspective lines to pull them out to the horizon or the middle of your frame. That way they’ll have a look around at what else is in your photo.

Below is a couple of examples that I have taken that use lines to draw in the viewer in different ways.


6. Use a Tripod

I maintain that a great photo can be taken on any camera. So gear does not always play a big factor into improving your photography at all. Certain cameras will let you do certain things better, and achieve certain results easier, but the foundations of photography will be able to be captured with any camera.

In saying this however, there is one piece of gear that will dramatically improve your photography, and that is a tripod.

There is only so much shudder a camera can take. When you take into account your breathing, your unsteady hand, the mirror locking in the up position, the wind blowing, and a less then impressive shutter speed due to low light, you can start to see how a good photo can become a blurry one.

The key to getting a sharp shot, one that the eye can appreciate, is using a tripod.

Any tripod will do, but obviously, the more stable and sturdy your tripod is, the less shake you will get and the cleaner your images will be. There are other things that can also help with this, such as a remote shutter, or use the 2 second delay instead of pressing (and moving the camera ever so slightly) with your finger.

7. Try Different Things

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. There are heaps of things you can try in photography without buying expensive gear or anything. For instance, use your body cap, a pin, a piece of tape, and a piece of aluminium foil to transform your DSLR into a pinhole camera. Or maybe try holding a magnifying glass between your lens and your subject for a macro effect. Try using a Pringles can as an extension tube to get even more macro. Or you could try “painting” a subject in light in a dark room whilst your camera shutter is open, and see what you can achieve. Get out and try it. You never know, it could become what makes your photos stand out among the crowd, and you may begin to develop your own style.

8. Learn Your Histogram

I recently read a great article in a free e-book by Craft and Vision about how to use a histogram to collect the most “data” on your digital sensor. I had previously not given much thought towards the histogram, and thought it was just a computer gimmick that Adobe Photoshop Lightroom had implemented, and some cameras used the same technology. However, learning how to use it to the photographers advantage, by making sure you don’t over or under expose has already helped my photography, especially since after you’ve captured the photo, you can edit it with the data as long as it’s not over or under exposed.

9. Look First, Shoot Later

One exercise I have used in the past is the 15 minute task. Take 5 minutes to walk into a spot, environment, or place that you want to shoot. Get to know it. Walk around it. Sit down. Look at it in different angles. See the little things. See the big things. Eventually, once you have looked with your own eyes, you will be able to see your subject, and be able to make the photo. I often do this before I shoot – even with familiar places that I have photographed before. Then spend 5 minutes setting up your angles, positioning your camera in different spots and getting the angles that you found work best. The last 5 minutes, of course, is to take the photo.

10. Take Photos

Okay, so now you have read all about how to improve your photos. Now you need to get out there. Take photos. And when you feel like stopping. Take ten more. The reality is, you can read all the books you like on swimming, but the only way to become a good swimmer is to jump in the pool. Likewise with photography. You can sit here and read my entire website and tips and tricks on photography, you can look at countless photos on 500px for inspiration. But the only way you’re actually going to get better at taking photos, is to get out there and snap away. If you’ve joined us in the digital age of photography, consider yourself lucky that you’re not limited to 25 frames and a 2 day wait to see the results. These days you can see results of your shot and whether you got it right in fractions of seconds. Use that to your advantage and just get out there and snap away!


11. Embrase the Digital Darkroom

What’s this!? A bonus tip! All for free. Actually, it will be three bonus tips! Even better.

I want to encourage you to sort yourself out some digital darkroom software. To improve your photography you have to be able to make adjustments to it to create the feel and develop your own style. It’s also terribly important to make corrections, such as cropping, straightening etc, which can make or break a photo. I generally will take a range of photos, and then go through and select the ones I will take to the next stage. I can spend a good 30 minutes on one photo, pushing levels, checking the crop sizes, straightening, sliding adjustment sliders, adding vignetting, fixing dust spots, and trying Black and White with some split toning options. All of this is the same as what you would do in a dark room, except that this time, it’s all digital.

To be honest, I don’t actually use Photoshop for much other than HDR on the odd occasion I try that out. For the most part, I use Adobe Lightroom, which is a by-product of Photoshop, but specifically for photography. And considerably cheaper.

12. Showing Off Your Work

The other aspect to the digital nature of photography is about showing off your work. There are many websites out there now where you can show off your photography. Initially I published a lot of my photos on Flickr. This was because it was/is very mainstream and has a lot of people on it who can then view your work. It also allowed you to integrate your Flickr photos with websites, especially those running WordPress like my site does. This made it very easy to publish once, and have the photos both in Flickr and on my website.
Another website I now use religiously is I was suspicious at first to begin using this, but ever since switching to using this instead of Flickr, I have found it to be much, much better. Firstly, 500px is mostly filled with photographers. Flickr widened it’s range to far too many people and every man and his dog was using it to put pictures that they had merely taken of their holiday to the beach straight from their cameras. That’s where 500px storms ahead, as, for the most part, the users are there to promote their work and use the site for their personal portfolio. It also integrates with other websites, thus making Flickr somewhat redundant for me. I now tend to use Flickr for some rubbish photos that are reasonably okay as a way of backing them up somewhere, rather than showing off my work.

One thing that Scott Kelby (see below) mentions in his box set is to make sure to only publish your best work. This is something that I have taken to heart, and I rarely will publish every photo that I take into post process, and instead will only publish photos that really mean something to me, or ones that I find invigorating and beautiful. This is about quality, and the fact that your portfolio will look much more accomplished in the long run. But at the same time, it helps you to be much more critical of your own work. It makes you work hard to get a photo up to your own standard. It helps to improve your photography as you begin to compare, rate, and take into account improvements to your skills.

I publish the ones that I think make the grade to 500px as part of my portfolio, and then link to them both in my website, and also on my other social media pages to spread the word.

13. Find Inspiration

This tip is essentially what you’re trying to do now. Get schooled! Read different photography websites, magazines, books. Visit galleries, meet other photographers, watch you tube clips. All of this will give you some know how to inform your photography, and who knows what ideas you will pick up along the way.

One thing I like to do is each Saturday morning when I wake up is to watch DigitalRev TV on Youtube, and catch up on the latest reviews of camera gear, as well as some interesting tips and tricks on other ideas of photography. Another good one is AdoramaTV. Both of these also have very good websites.

Two authors I’d recommend are Scott Kelby (especially his Digital Photography box set) and Joe McNally, both who have a lot of experience with cameras, and Photoshop. They have both helped me to get up to speed with my camera, the technicalities of photography, and with the digital darkroom.


And that is it. With that, stop reading up on how to get better at photography, and go and do it. At the end of the day, telling you these things will only get you so far. Now you have to take it, and run with it. Let me know how you get on!

Screen Shot 2012-11-16 at 9.05.48 PM

10 Amazing Photos of the Starry Night Sky

I have always loved looking up at the night sky. I’ve always enjoyed staying up late, and having developed my photography skills, I’ve become fascinated by night sky photography.

500px is a great place to find inspiration on the matter. The following are some of my favourites from a selection of photographers that dedicate their time to hiking into remote locations to get that shot. One day I will do the same. In the mean time, enjoy these photos!

1. Milky Way and bad water – Ani Pandit

I am amazed at this photo. There is such clarity in the sky, and a crispness to the ground in the foreground. It really takes you away into another place. Beautiful.

2. Oh! Did You See That One? Hurry, make a wish – Ben Canales

This is what I talk about the dedication to get that crisp night sky, to the point where the photographer is out camping in the surrounds that he photographs. Top stuff!

3. HOTEL in Muktinate – Sarawut Intarob

This photo is great. I love the crispness in it, even at ISO 5000. I suspect some good noise removal software has been in place. Obviously having a wide angle lens is paramount to get a shot like this.

4. Ignite the Dark of My Night – Joel Sjaarda

I love this shot because of the vibrancy in the colours, with the setting sun merged with the glorious heavens above. The wide landscape shot is a little different for these kinds of photos.

5. The Sentinal – Greg Gibbs

Once again, I am blown away by the crispness in the foreground, coupled with the amazing display overhead. The purple flash in this sky really sets off against the yellow in the light on the rock.

6. Shoot Me to the Stars – Dave Morrow

This one includes a couple of shooting stars, which kind of ruin the shot actually. Regardless, it is still a beautiful example of constructing the shot and using the landscape as a focal point for the stars to grace.

7. To Infinity – Andrea Di Giampasquale

I love this photo because it captures the night sky, the foreground is striking and well lit, as well as the remains of the sunset on the horizon. All three seem to work together really well.

8. Midnight Rainbow – Greg Gibbs

Another of Greg’s photos, this time with no foreground, but a very striking silhouetted horizon line.

9. Celestial Existance – Scott Smorra

I like the purple tones throughout this photo. There seems to be a symmetry between the flowers and the sky, which is the beauty captured in this frame.

10. When Worlds Collide – Dave Morrow

Another amazing photo by Dave Morrow. I love the spectrum of colour through this photo. I’m not a fan of the slanted trees, but they seem to work in really well with the direction of the milky way in view on this photo.

I hope you have enjoyed perusing these photos as I have. It is hard to come away from them and think that there is any chance of reproducing anything similar. But I see them as inspiration, as encouragement, to keep on practising, keep on trying, and keep on pushing the boundaries.

Below are a couple of my own attempts of Star photography. I wouldn’t begin to suggest they are any fine example of night photography, but they are my beginnings without even the use of a wide angled lens.

Screen Shot 2012-11-15 at 10.10.53 PM

Latest and Greatest

Having recently been looking at my statistics on I noticed that there was an interesting and positive trend that most photographers want to see.

That is that my latest photos are the ones getting the most popularity. Maybe it’s a case of more people are following my photos, and so my latest photos are getting more comments than when I first started out, but it’s encouraging just the same that my photography is improving, not just in my own eyes, but in the eyes of others as well.

Abandoned, 2012

Abandoned, 2012 – How it Happened

Last weekend I came across this spot whilst on holiday on the Kapiti Coast. I had been taking photos all day, and had just headed up in a different direction to before. Upon hitting the beach down a sandy path, the scene jumped out at me and I stopped. I stopped, put out the tripod and began getting the levels.
Switch: M Mode. ISO 100. f/8. 1/200 sec. Focal Length 17mm (as wide as possible). Live View (avoid mirror shake)
Snap: 2 sec delay (avoid hand shake). Medium JPG. Check exposure. Done. Happy.
Switch: Medium JPG + RAW.
Snap: Medium JPG + RAW. Check exposure. Done. Happier.
Wait: To get home to process the photo.

Usually when I get home and off-load the photos onto my laptop, I go through and cull a whole heap of the duds, and then put them into a collection to keep them organised. This time, I honestly couldn’t wait to scroll through the photos, find this one, develop it. So I did.

Step 1: Original Photo.

Need to: Lighten. Add contrast. Sharpen. Add Clarity. White balance. Vignette.

Step 2: Lighten. Straighten.

Lightened. Straightened. Clarity added. Sharpened.

Step 3: Final Image.

White balanced. Lightened. Push Contrast. Vignetted. Done.

Once I had developed it and was happy, I uploaded it to my favourite photo site,
Within seconds there was a vote and a comment.
Within minutes it was listed in ‘Upcoming’.
Within 2 minutes it was listed as ‘Popular’.
By the end of the day, it had a rating of 99.2 out of 100, and made it to the top 4 pages of Popular photos for the day. 20 images per page, that makes it in the top 80 photos on 500px on October 22, 2012.


Canon 7D: an amateur’s review

Last week I purchased my first new DSLR camera. It wasn’t a difficult decision given the current range and my photography background.

My Background

In February I had upgraded from my 2 year old Canon EOS 350D to a second hand Canon EOS 550D. I was suitably happy with the 550D, but I soon realised it wasn’t going to cut the photographic mustard. What I really needed to do was upgrade to the more robust and photographically sound Canon EOS 50D.

At about this time I realised that I could sell up, and for a bit more, just go for the 7D.

The reason this camera was the obvious choice is for a few reasons. Firstlly, my main lens (Canon EF-S 17-85mm) is an EF-S lens, which does not fit on full frame bodies. So that eliminated the 5D Mk I, or MkII or anything above. I didn’t like the 60D because of its swivel screen which gave it a movie camera aspect, rather than a dedicated photographers camera. The 50D is a bit long in the tooth. This left me with the 7D, which whilst it still has a movie mode, has many redeeming photographic features that suit my aspirations for a camera that is going to last me for quite a long time.


The first thing you notice about the Canon EOS 7D is what they call “build quality”. It is completely solid.

It fills the hand and sits firmly in your palm. It is much heavier than the entry level cameras, and isn’t made of the flimsy plastic that once felt so solid. The buttons are soft touch and this is the first thing you notice as you access the menus, once again, just how clicky and plasticy the buttons were on my former cameras.

The weather sealing doesn’t stand out immediately, but as you begin to hold and use this camera, you do notice the better build quality across the board compared with cheaper models.


So obviously the very next thing I had to try out was the high-speed continuous burst rate of 8.0 frames per second.

One word.


The flicker of the mirror snapping up and down sends shivers down the spine. It is a far cry away from the 3.7 continuous burst rate of the 550D.


The next thing that you notice is the buttons are all soft touch. They don’t click into place like plastic counters stuck in a world of tiddlywinks. You press them and they gently apply pressure easily enough to register the command, and you’re away laughing. The shutter release button also glides into place, and if I’m honest, is a little difficult to get used to, as it is more refined in its definition between half press and full press. Let me put it this way: The half press on the 550D feels the same as when you fully press the 7D’s shutter button, thanks to the soft touch button.

The combination of top dial, bottom dial, and the joystick on the back make for a very interesting use of the camera. It’s rather intuitive, although it takes a little bit of time to get used to which dial does what, but once you know the top does the top menus, and the bottom does the bottom, then it makes it slightly easier.

Final Word

The Canon 7D is a absolute monster. I know longer feel inconspicuous taking photos around the place. Instead, I feel like I should be there. I feel like I’ve been given a license to kill. Or at least shoot photos. It’s definitely a camera that I will be using for a fair while, as I don’t see the need for me to upgrade from this camera given my photographic exploits are limited to my own creativity and use, rather than trying to make a living from them.

Note: As you can see, I’m not really a good reviewer. It seemed like a good idea to write something about my camera, but I didn’t know what. For a more comprehensive review of the Canon EOS 7D, please visit the kings of camera reviews (and who I go to when looking for info on cameras)

Photography Sunset: Step by Step

Tonight I headed out to Port Road to take a few photos of the sunset. Its been a while since I’ve been out. When I got back I thought I’d go through the process that I do with the majority of the photos that I want to keep, and I thought I’d put together this post to share with you all. I use Adobe Lightroom to look after all my photos. It seems to do a good job at the two things I want it to do, which is organise my photos, and also be able to adjust and edit photos.

Before I begin, there are a few things I do. First is the cull. I go through and red-flag all the photos I don’t want. Then I go back through and look at the double shots, or the similar shots and choose the best one between each option. This usually truncates a 80 photo shoot to about 20 or so photos, sometimes even less!

Then I look through and select a few that I’m going to put some time into in post-processing. The rest get catalogued.

Here I have chosen one of my photos. This is in no way one of the better ones, as I want to show you how you might be able to take a mediocre photo and push it a little bit. There’s certainly no substitute for a well composed or exposed photo. I also want to keep some of the mystery around how I get that good shot!


This is the original shot, straight out of the camera. As you can see, this would actually print out just fine as it is, but I’ve used it in this post just to push a little bit further to show you what you can do.

First step I take is to straighten and crop. This will take into account the barrel distortion for my lens (notice the curved horizon above).

With the now straight horizon line, I put on a graduated filter across the top, just to darken up that sky and add a bit of contrast.

After putting on that slight sky adjustment, I take to the rest of the photo, adjusting the colour and contrast, as well as some of the clarity, especially for the smaller clouds.

Next I adjust the white balance. If I’m honest, I might have pushed the yellow a little bit too much – I don’t like the sky; but I’m quite happy with how the water turned out with that warmer tone.

Now, because of that yellow, I could go two ways. Go back to a more natural white balance, or I can try pushing a slightly different tone, and maybe make a bit of a difference, so that it doesn’t become just another sunset photo.

Finally, I always like adding a bit of vignette. I like how it adds a bit of a brood, especially in skies, but it also just frames it a little bit more. I especially like using this effect when working with more muted tones, such as in this photo. I also like how there’s still enough colour that theres a hint of the blue sky at the top.

And there you have it. The final photo!

Below, I have put the original photo next to the final processed photo.



DIY: Flash Diffuser

Recently I added to my photography collection a dedicated flash unit. And immediately realised that with my style of photography, I was going to need to get a diffuser.
A subsequent search online for diffusers showed a variety ranging from $7 to $30 (NZD), with guarantee that they would fit my flash.
It was only when I was doing the dishes thinking about this, that I found almost the perfect piece of plastic to modify into a diffuser box for my flash.

Unfortunately, it was in the form of my wife’s Tupperware lid for one of here prized square rounds.
Permission was granted.


I marked around the flash end of the unit to get the size.


Then cut it into a simple box by chopping out the unwanted corners.


A round of cello tape to hold it in shape, the air-tight designed edges act like clips as it fits snugly around your flash.





Exhibition – A new way of looking at Flickr

Whilst I was away in the Hawkes Bay, I had a vision to use a Flickr Feed and some jQuery magic to create a realistic “Gallery Wall”.

The design is to look like a photography exhibition, as it would be on the wall of a museum or art gallery.

The great thing is, I’m releasing it to the world for people to use on their personal sites. It has very minimal requirements, and simply needs a few set up lines of code to be edited.

How to Use:

  • Edit the setup.php file: Add your Flickr User ID.
  • Add a default tag: Can be left blank. Add ?tag=photography on the end of the url to make a gallery page that shows all photos tagged with “photography”.
  • Change the Gallery Name: The title of the page, plus the logo in the top right hand corner.

And you’re ready to go! Upload to your server (must have PHP) and enjoy!



Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand License.