Japanese Anemone

I’d seen this plant growing through spring and couldn’t imagine what is was going to be. To be honest, I thought it was a weed. It seemed vigorous and kept getting taller and taller with quite lush leaves. Next there was a dramatic increase in the number of buds on the plant. The photo below, taken with a reversed 50mm lens, shows the buds on this plant.

Japanese anemone flower buds.

Several days after the buds appeared a few started to open and they are glorious as you can see in the main photo for this post. Seriously relieved that I didn’t pull these plants out these blooms are proving to be very popular with the bees. These plants would also seem to be very easy to grow!

Heading home

I’ve been stuck at home due to lockdown and it’s quite frustrating as the weather is so good. Spending time in the garden I’ve been noticing quite a few hoverflies. I wanted to try and get photos of these creatures whilst in flight, but this was close to impossible. Without a camera they are happy to hover close by, but as soon as you raise a camera to get a shot, off they go.

Focus was a challenge as these creatures were quite fast moving and stayed still for such brief moments. I tried using a 105mm macro lens to maintain a reasonable distance between camera and insect whilst also providing a fair level of magnification. I really wanted the insect to face me, but all I seemed to get was a rear view as they headed off from whence they came.

All the same, great fun whilst stuck at home during lockdown.

It’s cold

I’d forgotten just how cold it gets in winter here. I’d not experienced an English winter for close on 30 years and the bitterness of the breeze was something I’d long forgotten. Even with no snow outdoors is a bit of a sad place to be. It goes dark early, and the sun doesn’t rise until late. It feels damp and most of the trees and bushes look dead without their green coats of foliage. All the same, it’s a great place to be to take a few photos. I felt the shots look best in black and white … well, to be honest at this time of year things do look pretty grey!

Shot with a 50mm lens at f2.8. I didn’t want to take anything heavy or cumbersome out with me … something that would fit inside my coat was the idea, just in case it started raining again!!

A big boat!

Ovation of the Seas
Ovation of the Seas on the Watamata Harbour, Auckland, New Zealand.

What a huge boat! 348m long, 48.9m at its widest with 18 decks and a maximum passenger capacity of 4905. This is a very large cruise ship. So large in fact that it was unable to berth at any of the usual wharfs in Auckland. Passengers were required to use the tenders to get to shore and back. You can make out a few of these small yellow boats alongside the ship. Looking at these little boats and realising there could be over 6000 people aboard, it does makes you wonder how quickly they could get everyone off the ship and away on the tenders and liferafts should a need to abandon shop arise.

In the background of the photo above you can just make out Auckland’s Harbour Bridge. You can also see the viewing deck that rises above the vessel on a huge arm providing people with spectacular views of the various locations the ship visit. I suspect the ship would have difficulties passing under the harbour bridge with the arm extended, but what about when the arm was lowered?

The next photo shows the ship on its way out of the Waitamata Harbour heading east towards Devonport’s North Head. You can make out Auckland’s Skytower in the background.

Ovation of the Seas
Ovation of the Seas with Auckland’s Sky Tower in the background

In the Hunuas

Sunrise in the Hunuas
Sunrise in the Hunuas

Well, what a treat! This is a really lovely part of the country with some gorgeous landscapes and views. There’s a section for sale and it was decided to take a look from this section, at dawn, at the views. I’d never visited the site before and the maps didn’t really prepare me for what I was going to see. Often when people rave about a view it’s because you can see the sea. From this section no sea views and sadly not a particularly spectacular sunrise … but I know where the place is now and will return!

We watched for a sunrise and took a few images until I decided to walk down the hill slightly to look round a bit of a bluff. Losing a bit of height and being able to see more of the valley presented some glorious misty early morning views.

Sunrise in the Hunuas ... complete with lens flare ... arrrggghhh!!!
Sunrise in the Hunuas … complete with lens flare … arrrggghhh!!!

Such a gorgeous place and I’ll be back to take more photos. These first images suffer from a bit of lens flare which is really quite annoying, but hopefully we’ll avoid this issue the next time I visit. Hopefully you like the view as much as I did.

Oh … if you like the views and fancy having a look with the intention of buying your own slice of paradise, contact Shona Brown at Ray White in Drury.

Early, misty morning in the Hunuas
Early, misty morning in the Hunuas

Back to the D300 …

First signs of autumn colour? Silver birch leaves in my front yard.
First signs of autumn colour?

A few delays this morning getting ready to start work. Looking out of the window I noticed several leaves starting to turn. Many trees near where I live are evergreen so I miss the overwhelming colour changes you see with large deciduous forests. The one leaf changing colour on my silver birch in the front yard doesn’t have the same effect! The car was all packed, so I used my old D300 for the shots you see in this post.

Silver Birch seeds.
Silver Birch seeds.

I can see the silver birch trees from my bedroom window and I keep an eye on them as the seasons change. At this time of year most of the “seed pods” have changed colour and are in the process of dispersing seeds all over the garden! The leaves will go more yellow and then fall to leave only the stark skeletal structure of the tree until next spring.

Silver Birch Seeds.  These things get EVERYWHERE!!
Silver Birch Seeds. These things get EVERYWHERE!!

I quite like this last shot … shallow depth of field and quite a pleasing bokeh. Hopefully you like the photos too.

Houses for sale?

It’s been a pretty busy week this week taking photographs and videos of properties in and around South Auckland.  Usually on my blog I don’t post much about houses I shoot for real estate companies, but today I thought I’d do something a little different.  Not wishing to bore you witless, I’ll just post a couple of images from two homes that really caught my eye this week.  I suppose this could develop into a regular Friday feature … then again, perhaps not.  Let me know if you’d like to see more highlights of the houses shot during the week.

To the houses then!  One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the range of quality homes here in South Auckland and their affordability when compared to other parts of the city. I’ve added a couple of images below; one image of a more modern family home, the other of a classic home built from native timbers. Both homes are within easy walking distance to the railway station and offer an ideal car free commute into the city.

The first home is in the Hillpark area of Manurewa and close to Nathan Homestead, David Park, Orford Park and, of course, the shops in Manurewa.  The shot below was taken last night on not the best of days for a dusk shot, but what a lovely outdoor area to entertain family and friends … complete with pool and spa!

The second home was a treat to photograph.  So much native timber and character, lovely high ceilings and a real homely feel to it.  I must admit it was definitely not what I expected to see when I arrived to take photos!  This home is also close to parks as well as the shops in Manurewa.

Just trying something a little different in this post, if you click on the images below you should be directed to the agent’s webpage from where you’ll be able to see a few more images as well as get more details on the properties.  I was seriously impressed with these homes … both of which well exceeded my expectations after looking for them on Google Maps!

Wonderful private family home in Manurewa
Wonderful private family home in Hillpark, Manurewa. Click on the image to get more details.

Gorgeous central manurewa home. Click on image to see more of this lovely home.
Gorgeous central manurewa home. Click on image to see more of this lovely home.


Whilst enjoying this view towards Kawakawa Bay from Waitawa I noticed the flowers in the following shots.
Whilst enjoying this view towards Kawakawa Bay from Waitawa I noticed the flowers you can see in the following shots.

Out for a walk at the regional park I spotted a rather lovely looking bloom … is it a wildflower or an escaped exotic? I only had my 24-70mm lens with me … wifey not keen on me taking lots of gear with me when we’re supposed to be having a walk! The question then … do I shoot to isolate the bloom from the background, or do I let you see a little more of the view in the image as well?

Two images below for you to consider. The first image has the lens stopped down to f10 to get a reasonable Depth of Field (DoF). In this shot the clouds, the Coromandel Peninsular and the sea have a bit of detail, but not too much to detract from the bloom. By opening up the lens to have a larger aperture (smaller f-stop) it’s possible to reduce the detail in the background and can be seen in the second shot.

Flower shot with lens stopped down (f10, 1/250sec)
Flower shot with lens stopped down (f10, 1/250sec)

This second shot was taken with the lens wide open at f2.8. Now there’s significantly less detail in the background and the flower stands out more. Just a few clicks of the aperture ring, and two quite different images. Just curious, but which do you prefer?

Flower shot with lens opened up (f2.8, 1/2500sec)
Flower shot with lens opened up (f2.8, 1/2500sec)

Panorama Photomerge at Waitawa

Well, what a wonderful day today to be out in the countryside … and what a glorious countryside to be in! South of Auckland, on the way to Kawakawa Bay, is a newish Regioanl Park called Waitawa. This ex-ICI explosives storage and manufacturing plant has been transformed into a park where people can enjoy spectacular views across to Waiheke and the Coromandel Peninsular as well as enjoy walking track, mountain bike trails, fishing and swimming. Well worth a visit if you get the chance.

The views are superb. However, to get the whole scene in a shot requires taking multiple images with the camera turned slightly and then stitching all the images together to get a nice panorama. You need to be a little careful with exposure with shots like this. I usually examine the scene and select the frame I want to expose for, then set the camera to manual exposure such that all images are exposed at the same settings. Using an automatic mode may result in a variety of exposures and difficulty matching brightness levels in the sky, sea and land. It’s also a good idea to use a tripod … which I’m a little embarrassed to say I failed to do today!

I usually use PTGUI Pro to stitch my images, but today thought I’d try the Panorama Photomerge option in Lightroom CC. This seems to do a reasonable job … what do you think? The image you see below is constructed from 12 separate images (obviously with a reasonable overlap to assist with stitching). Click on the image to see an enlarged view … and click again to zoom in even further!

Looking at towards Waiheke Island from Waitawa Regional Park
Looking at towards Waiheke Island from Waitawa Regional Park

Sensor cleaning time

Couldn’t help but notice a few spots appearing in my images that usually means some dirt on my sensor. Time to clean the sensor! I use the Visible Dust liquid and swabs and have been quite pleased with the results. I can recall cleaning my old Pentax film camera and being somewhat relaxed about the process. Strange, but I’m always a tad apprehensive when cleaning the sensors on my dSLRs.

After cleaning I decided to take a few test shots to make sure things were nice and clean … and then head out into the garden. Most of the time I seem to use wide angle lenses, so today, for a change I used my 70-200mm lens. This is a gorgeous bit of kit … I really must find excuses to use it more. Anyway, take a squiz at the shots below and perhaps let me know what you think?

It’s the first day of autumn today. The liquid amber is full of seed pods, but the leaves haven’t started to change yet. I’m quite looking forward to those gorgeous yellows, oranges and reds.

Liquid Amber
Liquid Amber

Speaking of yellows … look what’s turned up in my front yard! Pesky weeds!! I so wish I had as much success growing other plants as I do with weeds! Looking at the last shot in this post I reckon there’ll be rather more weeds appearing soon!!

Pesky weed in front garden!
Pesky weed in front garden!

I so hope you like this last shot. I had to get down quite low next to the wall in my front yard, and, it would appear, close to an ants’ nest! I was covered in the wee beasties!

Yet more weeds on their way!!
Yet more weeds on their way!!