We have moved

26 06 2011

I now have a new website http://www.rodsphotoscapes.co.nz


The blog is now part of it please check it out.

Jack of all, Master of None

22 01 2011

This may seem at odds with the preceding blog but not completely, there are degrees of difference.

Take a look at the body of works of many truly successful photographers like:

  • Ansel Adams
    Henri Cartier-bresson
    Nick Rains
    Heather Angel
    Andy Rouse
    Joe Cornish
    Steve Mcurry
    Frans Lanting

Ask yourself what sort of photography does this photographer do? In most cases you can give a simple answer e.g. Nature or Photojournalism or Landscape etc. This is where I believe the approach taken by photographic society’s and camera clubs fail.


If you play a musical instrument you will understand you don’t learn a piece of music by playing it through once then move on to the next. You have to keep on practicing it until you get it completely, dynamics included. There is a parallel here. You don’t take a picture in one genre then move on to something else.  You have to practice in that genre to truly get mastery.


This is why specialisation in a particular genre is important for growth. So whilst its is good to stretch yourself, it is important to stick at something and be passionate about it in order to get to a level of mastery that’s not superficial or indeed, without feeling. Unfortunately the wildly varied themes set by many photographic societies actually encourage superficial forays into various genre without really spending the time and effort to excel in any of them.


The rationale behind this is often “Oh it stretches everyone and gets them out of their comfort zone!”  Athletes needs to do more than just stretch to excel in their disciplines. They don’t get good at golf by playing cricket, baseball and football. So stretching is good but it is best if it is confined to the genre you have chosen.


Learning New Tricks

2 01 2011

So 2010 has gone and now its a whole new year to enjoy learn and grow in all facets of our lives. One way to grow as a photographer is try something you have not done much of before this is sure to stretch you and help even in areas you are more comfortable with.


I have been fortunate enough to acquire a new 180mm macro lens and have been learning all about how to do effective macro work with all its attendant difficulties and challenges. Some of the more flighty subjects require the use of flash to ensure a sharp result others are more happy to pose.


Naturally I have much to learn but already I have learnt a lot and the feeling of accomplishment is reward enough. So here’s wishing you all a happy and prosperous new year don’t be afraid to stretch yourself in natural things and indeed spiritual remember that Columbus didn’t discover the New World by staying at home.

Eye on the landscape

2 12 2010

6 of my images have been published in this latest book of New Zealand landscapes.

Potton book

This is a first for me and the book is full of many images from PSNZ members there is some great stuff though some of the picture technical quality seems a bit low but the artistic intent is great I can give a biased recommendation.


3 05 2010

We know that to a certain degree luck does play a part in landscape photography as we can’t control the weather.

Sometimes we head out and the sunset phizzles out with little or no colour other times a bank of cloud comes at the critical moment.

Otamure Bay Sunset

This being true we have to live with that part of the equation so learn to manage the things we can control so that when things do come together we are ready.

Things like planning our outing to be in the right place at the right time.  There is no good floundering around looking for a good location at 5 am. It is important to have a good idea of what we hope to photograph and where. If you are looking for waterfalls its no good going in the dry season and so on.

Get familiar with your equipment so when luck happens you wont be trying to figure how do I get the camera to do that.


Check your equipment before going out flat batteries missing memory cards all can leave a sinking feeling as you realise you have missed the magic moment.  Ensure the camera is set to a default state before going anywhere indeed you should do this after every different subject

Check settings before and after you take the shot. You don’t want to get home and discover the masterpiece was shot at iso3200 or you forgot to turn AF on.

The final part is simply persistence don’t just give up if it didn’t work that time go back and try again and again until it dose,

It is true luck plays a part but luck comes through perseverance and effort.

A Tale of Two Tripods

16 03 2010

As some of you will know I had the misfortune to have my Gitzo tripod blown into the sea at Bethells beach a month or so back. Fortunately the insurance came to the party and paid out for a new tripod. I thought Id write a short piece about tripods and give some recommendations based on my experience.

Rule#1 Get a sturdy tripod and take it with you always.

Rule#2 Don’t skimp because buying several cheaper tripods works out just as expensive as buying the good one first time round.

Rule#3 Choose a tripod that’s the right height for you. Without the column extended ideally you should be able to stand and look through the viewfinder without stooping.

Aluminium tripods tend to be heaver but cheaper than the carbon fibre equivalents I think the weight savings is worth the expense especially as the tripod goes everywhere with me.

My previous tripod was a Gitzo basalt series and I think it was very well made the only negative  for me was the rotary leg locks which I found to be a pain.

The replacement is the Manfrotto 055CX Pro which has lever locks and some neat column features on the whole I feel the Gitzo was a touch more ridged due to the simpler column but I am enjoying the lever leg locks.

Oh and finally don’t leave an expensive tripod where the wind can blow it into the sea.

Photography Books

24 01 2010

Haven’t posted in a while having been occupied so to get back into the swing of things.

We have begun a new year and it’s good to look back on the previous year and think about what was achieved and what we would like to see accomplished in the New Year.

I find it helpful to have a look at what other photographers have been doing and draw some inspiration from that.

To that end here are some books I have found to be instructive and inspirational in 2009 if you haven’t read them I can recommend them for your reading list of 2010.

In regard to photography books there are so many how to books out there but having gotten beyond the beginner stage I find books that focus on the why are far more helpful than those that focus on the how.

The Landscape within David Ward

First Light Joe Cornish

Waiting For The Light David Noton.

The Making of landscape Photographs Charlie Waite

Within The Frame David duChemin

Looking Beyond The Obvious

21 12 2009

Learning to see not just the big picture the grand scenic which is the heart of landscape photography but also the the details and the abstracts that tell the story on a more personal level.
David Ward a leading British landscape photographer calls these shots “Inner landscapes” and learning to see these is a skill I want to develop more. Sometimes less than ideal conditions for the grand landscape will work well on details thus increasing the opportunities in the field.

Kelp Oneils Bay

A recent example while waiting for sunset I saw this kelp with the sun back lighting it and decided to get in close with the 70-200mm . I tend to  use the 17-40 stuck at 17mm for a lot of my work so its good to look at the tighter detail too and increase my vision.

Trackside Ferns Waitawheta Tramway

Another detail on a hike earlier in the year I saw these ferns on the track side and was attracted by the symmetry of the leaves also on the same walk there is this delightful little waterfall the light was too contrasty to show the complete scene but there was this  little detail complete with rainbow .

Flossies Falls Waitawheta Tramway

I need to learn better how to see the trees for the forest sometimes. The simple images are often the most effective.

Sunrise Sunset

12 11 2009

Ever notice how it is every time you have other commitments or couldn’t be bothered there always seems to be a spectacular sunset/sunrise?

Then when you make the effort like as not the sunset was a fizz-er. Well that’s the way it often seems to me.There is a certain element of luck as well as planning involved in getting those spectacular shots . The planning part is finding a location and knowing where and when the sun will rise or set because blundering around in the dark of the morning looking for a location isn’t going to work. At sunset you have the opportunity of getting there an hour or so prior in order to find the ideal shot. The luck part is over to the weather but if your not there you won’t get the shot so  to a certain degree we have to make our luck. 

Clear skys are invariably disappointing you need a few clouds to show some colour of course too many clouds can be problem too because you won’t see the sun at all . The most colourful sunsets/sunrise are often when there are lots of cloud with a clear area just on the horizon allow the sun to light up the clouds underneath.Many times it all won’t come together as you had hoped but its always enjoyable to have got out in nature and often you come back with a compelling image even if it didn’t happen as you had hoped. Then there are the times when it all comes together and that makes up for the disappointments. The biggest technical challenge in photographing at these times is controlling the contrast,  making the use of graduated neutral density filters very helpful to retain detail in all parts of the image.

As a landscape photographer I favour these times of the day when the light is warm and directional showing creations splendor to it best advantage.

Tawharanui Regional Park

28 10 2009

Another jewel in the crown of the Auckland region a beautiful park within easy drive from Auckland featuring beaches and bird life. We spent labour weekend camping here a nice spot though the facilities are basic. Number one Son enjoyed himself but the wee girl was ill and out of sorts vomited on the way in fun fun!

The 588-hectare park is New Zealand’s first integrated open sanctuary (mainland island) where farming, public recreation and conservation of native species combine. The name Tawharanui translates as “the abundant bracts of the kiekie vine”. The iconic Anchor Bay is named after the anchor of the Phoenix, a vessel wrecked on the Tawharanui coastline in 1879.

The weather was kind to us and only rained on the final monday as we were packing to go. I managed sunrises and sunsets every day getting up at 4.15 am to walk to Tokatu Point for Sunrise one morning.

The mornings were the best as I had the place to myself and could enjoy the scene sans drunken louts and other inconvenient persons who at sunset do insist on getting in the way.

I mostly focused on landscapes but there were opportunity for bird photography too which I shall do more of next time.