2 Weeks in NZ ... Did I Mention the SNOW?

Last month my son Mitch and I spent 2 weeks in New Zealand. We aim to catch up a few times each year to explore our shared passion for Photography … and coffee, banana bread, dark chocolate, schnitzels and a developing taste for dark beer! Usually it's a road trip, camping and hiking in Oz - this time flights to Queenstown to explore the south west of the South Island.

Mitch had done most of the planning this time, scheduling this trip for Winter to hopefully maximise "snow opportunities" … suffice to say it was definitely "maximised" ! 😃 More on this later!

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Within 10 minutes of jumping in the hire car at Queenstown Airport, with a lengthy drive south to Te Aanu ahead that evening, we'd pulled over to shoot the sun setting on the mountains … Queenstown's famous Remarkables … it was going to a very long 2 weeks!

Our plan was to target just a few key locations - Fiordland, Lake Matheson, Aoraki/Mt Cook and Wanaka. Quite a bit of driving which meant lots of time for catching up, music and podcasts!

We'd also arranged to spend a day with William Patino, exploring his "backyard" of Fiordland and taking in Williams approach and thoughts on Photography. I first met William back home, when he was just getting into Photography - officially he was still an Air Con Technician, but it was obvious he had a rare gift for Photography and a passion to match! Mitch and I were so keen to spend the day with him!

Just as we arrived in Te Anau the first major weather "event" hit … we had to quickly rearrange accommodation plans, and re-schedule our workshop with Will.

We headed north for an o'night stop at Cromwell, hoping that the "event" would send some snow to Lindis Pass. A great surprise along the way was The Coffee Bomb - a roadside van run by 2 lovely ladies - GREAT Coffee! Checking out the pass that afternoon, there was some, but not so much. Next morning, more on hope than anything else, we jumped in the car a couple of hours before sunrise and headed back to Lindis Pass. We were surprised with some lovely sunrise glow, a little extra snow and the satisfaction of watching a sunrise unfold in such a stunning location!

Sunrise / Lindis Pass

Sunrise / Lindis Pass

Next up was the long drive over Haast Pass and up to Fox Glacier to hopefully capture some nice shots of Lake Matheson.

Such a beautiful drive … but first Coffee! We found an awesome café in a new estate of Albert Town - great coffee and a great late breakfast! During our camping road trips back home, it’s not uncommon for us too make a “quick” 1 hr “detour” for good coffee!

Back to the drive … Lakes Hawea and Wanaka, Thunder Creek Falls, Fantail Falls and the Blue Pools - all lovely spots, in which to took opportunities to explore and shoot. After emerging on the West Coast, we were greeted by falling Snow at sea level! Amazing!

Lake Matheson was so much more stunning in real life than the pics I'd seen on social media! Absolutley Breathtaking! And to quote a good Aussie movie … “How’s the Serenity!” 😃

We made the most of our time there - scoping out potential locations and compositions that afternoon, then heading back there a couple of hours before sunrise to shoot some Astro. We were again greeted with a lovely sunrise as well. We had one technical hitch in getting to the lake that morning - the doors on our trusty Subaru were frozen shut!!! The ice on the windows so thick!!! So lucky we packed thermals, gloves, extra beanies, extra thick socks ……

Back again later in the day for sunset and some more Astro, then back to Neve Café for a couple of beers and their now famous "Cheese Burger" Pizza … just what we needed!

Next on our hit list was Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park. We could see it from Fox Glacier, roughly 36 klms as the crow flies, by car … 5 1/2 hours! Plenty of time for  a chat, chocolate, some podcasts and music! Another great coffee find back in Wanaka … The Coffee Shack, a converted garage!

We had planned to do the Hooker Valley Walk - unfortunately closed. We explored other options around the park (more Plan B’s) - though not really that difficult to find beautiful scenes with Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mt Tasman framing the valley!

The Way In / Aoraki/Mt Cook

Sunset / Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

Sunrise / Hooker River

Back to Te Anau now for our workshop with Will - something we had been looking forward to for months! 

Like most of our mornings, it started a couple of hours before sunrise, meeting at Will's home and jumping into his van, heading off into Fiordland. When we were here the week before, the weather "event" had caused the closure of the road to Milford Sound, and had kept it closed for most of the time since. Unfortunately, due to avalanche hazard warning it was still closed, despite the weather being much better.

A quick "team" meeting with Will and we mapped out a Plan B for the day, starting with sunrise at Lake Gunn, with a stunning mountain backdrop - I know - EVERYWHERE in NZ has a stunning mountain backdrop! A few of hours exploring deep into the lush Fiordland Forests … mountain streams and sun stars; misty, moss covered trees, all expertly guided by Will.

Sunrise / Lake Gunn

Chasing Waterfalls / Doubtful Sound

Chasing Waterfalls / Doubtful Sound

The day was capped off with a late evening flight over to Doubtful Sound from Te Anau, with Will skilfully directing our pilot to get the best angles and views along the way!

Breathtaking scenery!

With windows open most of the time, I’d forgotten how cold it gets at that altitude … So if you do it, don’t forget your beanies!

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Our penultimate stop was Wanaka. Again our planned hike along the Rob Roy Glacier Track was closed. Another Plan B required. We ventured out next morning (yes a couple of hours before sunrise!), heading west to do a sunrise hike. There was some light rain that we thought would clear … wrong!

The further we went the heavier it became, and the temperature dropped. Soon,  it looked like we were in a Star Wars movie, zooming through the galaxy onboard the Millennium Falcon!

So much Snow! SO MUCH SNOW!!

We decided to make the most of it, looking for scenes along the Haast Pass road, which, strangely enough we had all to ourselves! 😃

Hands frozen, the poor Subaru again frozen, but SO MUCH SNOW!

Amazing experience! Really Cool! 😃

Time to head back to Queenstown … our 2 weeks was nearly over. Just enough time to squeeze in another forest hike (95 Floors according to Buffy, my iPhone!)  and shoot the Remarkables on sunset and sunrise! Oh, and some great food and a Trivia competition at the Frankton Arm Tavern!

Sunrise / The Remarkables

This was the first time I'd been to NZ with "photographer eyes" … stunning scenery everywhere, hard to not see everything in terms of "composition"! Our day with Will was just what we had hoped for - If you ever get the opportunity to be part of one of his workshops - do it!

Big thanks to Mitch for all the time and effort he put into the trip - I'm so fortunate that we are able to have these times to share with each other!

Until our next trip Mitch!

Destination NSW Feature

I was recently invited to contribute some images to Visit NSW's Featured Photographer section for  Regional NSW, to help showcase "Destinations". 

Kinda tough choosing which images to submit ... never too sure what they are really after! :)

Anyway, submitted some pics, with a short Bio, and it's now available on their website!

 

Click on the pic to head over for a look ...

Careful What You Ask For ...

My mate Rob

My mate Rob

Karma  … Fate …  Destiny … Providence  … Happenstance  or  just good ol' Murphy's Law?

Weird and wonderful how the Universe often conspires to deliver what we ask for, whether we really want it or not!

Having made the commitment to improve my Portrait skills late in 2017, an "opportunity" to shoot a Wedding landed in my lap first week of 2018 - for a wedding on the second week of February. In the classic words of Monty Python, my first thought was to "Run Away, Run Away!". "I don't shoot weddings" , "Where would I start?", "What if my camera failed?" and on and on. I'd been asked a few times over the years if I would do a wedding, but always apologetically said NO.

The fear of failing the Bride and Grooms' expectations would always be echoing around my brain. I'd shot an "elopement" for a good mate of mine once, sneaking into the Botanic Gardens, a bit of direction here and there, a few nice shots …  more like a Family Portrait shoot I guess. Images turned out OK … and the lovely couple are still together! :)

My mate Paddy

My mate Paddy

This time it was different - I'd said to the Photography Gods I wanted to learn how to shoot Portraits and they had answered "Here ya go Greeny, Here's a Wedding for you to do!" Certainly not what I had mapped out in my spread sheeted plan! Anyway, I had 5 weeks to prepare, which is better than 3 or 2 or 1 week!  Lots of reading, watching Youtube videos, practice with a good friend and on our family equines - I kind of thought that was OK as the lovely couple are both "Horse People" :)  After a few meetings with the them, I became more relaxed about the shoot. I could see they were after a relaxed style of shooting and their special day was going to be fairly 'fluid'. I'd made a few suggestions on how the shoot would/could unfold which they took onboard.  A good friend of mine would loan me his camera and lens for the day, which made me feel a lot better as well.

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The big day finally arrived … a glorious summers day … off to a good start. In fact, the whole shoot went extremely well. It was a lovely wedding and I will admit to shedding a tear or 2 when Hope and Will read letters of commitment to each other as part of the ceremony - I do love a good wedding!

That morning I'd given my wife a crash course in shooting portraits ( she had never used a "real" camera before ), using the 70-200mm lens on the "back-up" camera. She did an amazing job - some awesome pics to complement the "close in" images I was taking. Between the 2 of us, I reckon we did a pretty good job! Hope and Will are very happy with the set of photos they now have that told the story of their special day and it was special! 

And I guess my Portrait journey has taken a bit of a leap …. forward, with still so much to learn.

Merry Christmas 2017

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I've decided to not do  a "Top 10" or "Top 5" pics for 2017.   Instead I'd like share just one of my favorite shots for 2017, and I'll explain why …

 

At the start of the year, my son Mitch and I started planning for a Road Trip in Winter, with our main goal being to attempt to shoot the Milky Way over Uluru. Winter in Oz is prime time for Milky Way shots, and our clear outback skies just lend themselves to this. I'd only tried Astro photography a couple of times before, with very limited success.

Since those  attempts, I've moved on to a full-frame camera, the Sony A7Rll, and purchased the Samyang 14mm f/2.8 Manual lens to use at night. Mitch had cut over to the Sony Alpha system a while before me, and I'd had a 'play' a couple of times with his new Sony and been very impressed with it's capabilities. The dynamic range was very impressive, which for landscape photography is important  … I was keen to see what the Sony (and I!) could do!

 

The image below is one of my all-time faves, taken on the Road Trip Mitch and I had planned - it's a single image, shot in RAW format, with the RAW image processed in Adobe Lightroom.

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On the right is the RAW file, unprocessed, straight out of the camera, below is the processed image.

At our local camera club, two "topics/questions/discussions" still occur a few times each year -

  1. Why do you shoot in RAW? and
  2. Why do you process your photos?

I've seen fantastic shots from our members that are shot using the default JPEG format, "processed" in-camera,  with little or no post-processing. I'm never going to rubbish anyone for not shooting in RAW. I'm just really happy that they are our shooting and enjoying this great hobby we share. To me this image is a great example of what a RAW image can capture and produce. There may be cameras that can produce just as good results with JPEG  … I don't know of them.

I actually enjoy taking control of the processing of the data captured in a RAW file. I want to control how to represent the image that my eyes and mind have seen, and then share that with other enthusiasts. RAW + Lightroom give me that.

The other reason I've chosen this image is that not only was I able to share the image with other enthusiasts, I was able to share the entire experience with Mitch. We both love camping, bushwalking, road trips, music, banana bread and photography, and a couple of times a year we get together and combine all of that - very special.

Having a photo-buddy is special too. I'll often go out for sunrise or sunset alone  - it's enjoyable, the solitude can provide a lot of clarity of thought. However, being on a shoot with a few friends from our camera club is great … they say "A joy that is shared Is a joy made double" :) It's true, even if the brilliant sky doesn't arrive, just being out with friends, catching up and then sharing a coffee later is a great positive experience.

Anyway, I hope you have enjoyed the images I have shared with you this year. I've thoroughly enjoyed every moment I've been able to get out and shoot - whether that has been a Road Trip, Camera Club shoot, solo sunrise shoot at the beach or just setting up along our country lane!

May this Festive Season give you the opportunity to reach out to those you love, and to those that love you, so that the good times and treasures of today become your treasured memories of tomorrow. 

Hoping you have Merry Christmas, and a Safe and Happy New Year.

Best Wishes, Craig

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CGP AIAM - April 2017

April Already! Lovely Autumn Days ... Here's what caught my eye in April.

Video >>> https://vimeo.com/217935933 <<<

March Birthday celebrations finally came to an end, time to get back to some photography!

Looking Down / Minnamurra Headland

I met up with my son Mitch for a pre-dawn session out at Minnamurra Headland - he's just purchased a drone, the DJI Mavic, and was keen to try it out. Actually, I think I as more keen for Mitch to try it out! I've seen some fantastic shots taken from drones as well as some amazing video.
I was also pretty curious to see how easy/difficult it was to fly and operate. I was surprised at how compact the Mavic is - Mitch is able to carry it around in his camera bag with all of his other gear. Operating it was easy - the controls are quire responsive. And the perspective, flying along the rugged coast was just stunning. Image quality, from the 12MP sensor, was good, and it shoots HD video. I have to say I'm just a tad envious  … will add a drone to my wish list and see what happens!

Second week of April started with a quick trip up to the Southern Highlands with a couple of mates from Camera club. We hoping to grab some of those magnificent autumn leave colours - not to be, we were probably 2 weeks early!

"Aquatogs!"

A couple of days later, the ocean swell and waves were roaring! Met up with Mitch at Kiama at a favorite headland to see if we could capture some of the action. On arrival, I noticed several other cars and vans there. These guys were some of the local Wave/Ocean Photographers … Aquatogs!   These guys are seriously crazy. One by one, with their wetsuits on, they scrambled over the headland and jumped into the ocean. They then battle the waves to get THAT close-up shot of the monster waves! Was impressive to watch them operate from the safeness of the rocky outcrop!

Next, a quick trip back up the mountain and we did manage to find a few of those autumn colours - not really satisfied, will have to try harder next year!

A late night trip into Bombo Quarry to practice some Astro photography, then a sunrise at the northern end of Gerroa Beach. It was low tide, lots of exposed rock, tide was coming in and the swell was quite large. This made for some interesting interplay between the rocks and the water. I was using my Samyang 14mm lens - it's fully manual, takes some getting used to, but can produce some stunning images!

View from Saddleback

I seem to be always drawn to the water with my photography, which I find a bit strange having been born and bred in the country. I seem to have to make a deliberate effort to shoot 'real' Landscapes … of Land! :) Luckily, just west of the here is some amazing rural country. I headed to Saddleback Mtn, which has some beautiful, winding country roads, gigantic Fig Trees, and provides a lovely view of the South Coast, looking north to Wollongong.

Mystery Bay is fast becoming one of my favorite camping locations. It's just south of Narooma, on the Far South Coast. The camp ground is beautiful, nestled in amongst tall spotted gums and banksia trees, and adjacent to both the main beach and Billy's Beach. It's bush camping, so limited facilities, but a great camping site! There's a lake nearby for some great 'reflection' shots, rock formations on the beach are great to shoot. I was there for 3 nights, and as a bonus, a massive thunder storm blustered it's way north one evening, just off the coast!

After a very, very wet March, we've finally been having some great Autumn days here. A slight chill in the air, but sun shine that feels great when it hits you! I spent one of these mornings in and around Kiama Lighthouse. It's lined with some great old pine trees and has many rocky outcrops and bays to explore.

Last outing was with a group of fellow photographers from work - we headed out to the Cascade Falls Walk at Macquarie Pass. This walk takes you through rainforest and tall eucalypt trees, along a creek, to a series of 3 waterfalls. Very accessible, with easy access down to the creek, filtered sunshine streaming down. I think we had planned to spend around an hour there … that turned into over 2 hrs for most of us - lots of opportunities to shoot!

 

All in a Month (AiaM) - March 2017

MARCH!!! My Birth Month! ARIES Rule! :)

Check the video >>   https://vimeo.com/216110487

So many tomatoes n strawberries!

So many tomatoes n strawberries!

March was a pretty busy month for me - a few photo shoots on my own, a few catch ups with my son Mitch, had a go at preserving my tomato's and lots of jobs on the farm ... oh, and created this new website! :)

Photography-wise, March started with a stormy sunrise shoot with my local camera club … with no pics.

Wind, rain and heavy cloud do not make for great Sunrise pics! :)       Since I was out and about already, I decided to do a road trip up to the Southern Highlands, to my ol' hometown of Robertson. There are quite a few nice waterfalls up that way and with all this rain … should be able to get a nice pic or two!

First stop was Sir Charles Kingsford Smith Memorial Lookout, for a sweeping view of Seven Mile beach, then a quick coffee stop in Kiama, before heading up to Jamberoo Lookout for that awesome view down Jamberoo Valley.

Next I headed to Nellie’s Glen - a beautiful bushland swimming hole and waterfall in the Budderoo National Park. This was our families' main swimming hole growing up in the 60's/70's. Well worth checking out along with the equally impressive Carrington Falls.  No trip to Robertson is complete without stopping in at the Pie Shop, where I worked on w/e's as a teenager. The wages were low, but I got eat soooo many pies! 

In the second week of March, the sea swell was massive! My son Mitch and I headed to our favourite "big swell" headland near Kiama - the waves were thundering in, making for some very interesting formations!

Bombo! That's Mitch in the beanie! :)

Bombo! That's Mitch in the beanie! :)

That same week we also took a trip up to one of our all time favourite locations, the Old Bombo Quarry. The swell was still big, we headed out for a quiet, intimate sunrise   … us and about 30 other photographers! Word was out … "Bombo was pumpin'! " :)

Later in March I headed up to Sydney to catch up with Mitch and his girlfriend, meeting up at one of those "blink and you miss it Asian café/restaurants" on George St. Food was so delicious! Stayed the night in Sydney and then next morning Mitch I headed to Austinmer Beach, for what turned out to be a fiery sunrise! Awesome sky colour! Mitch caught the train back to Sydney, I headed home on the highway.

Mitch was back down at the end of March for a Birthday Brunch for me ( Happy Birthday to me!) - Saturday morning up early we headed to Kiama's Black Beach for sunrise. Again, some great colour in the sky, waves rolling in, lovely light!

Final outing for the month was with a couple of mates from camera club, Matt and Alan. It was an unusually hot Wednesday, not much breeze, and many folk were heading to the beach after work …. We did likewise!   Gerroa is my "go to" location for a beachy sunset - awesome views south along Seven Mile beach, a few rocks on the waters edge for some foreground interest. As I was setting up, two ladies has decided that this was also the best spot to watch the day end, have a glass of red and let the sun, waves and wine wash away their worries.

 

 

I think next time I'll take a glass and join them! :)

To Blog or Not to Blog? and Howdy!

To Blog or Not to Blog? I guess that is the question for me right now! :)

Having just typed that I guess, while I'm considering this, the current answer is YES!

After a bit of research ...

  1. Blogging is easy ... Apparently
  2. GOOGLE Lurvs blogs => more visitors  ... Apparently
  3. Blogging helps other people - ok, I like the sound of that
  4. It helps you (me) think clearer .. hmm Ok
  5. It Challenges you (me again!) - don't mind that
  6. Blogging will help build my Audience and Promote my work
  7. It boost your (mine!) Creativity - definitely like the sound of that
  8. Blogging builds and maintains your Network.

Ok - looks like there are heaps of good reasons to Blog. At least, if you are interested, you'll get to find out a bit more about me!

Although I'm on the "other side of 50", I love the way technology is always expanding our capabilities and experiences, and I really do enjoy the whole Social Media side of Networking.

I've reconnected with long lost friends I'd played Volleyball with/against from back in the 80's   (btw I LOVE the 80's! - just thought I'd get that out nice and early); I've connected with old teachers (older than me - that's nice!); High School mates; but most of all it allows me stay connected with my extended family, especially my son Mitch. 

Mitch and I are pretty close, and I guess it would be a bit cliched to say he's my best mate. We get on very well, we don't always agree with each other ( try telling him Flock of Seagull's "I Ran" is a classic song!  it is! ) but it seems we see value in a lot of common ideas and experiences.

We also both love the challenges and experiences that Photography provides.

The best holidays I can recall are the ones camping with my family, both as a child with my parents, and now with my own family. Mitch and I try and get away for a couple of Photography road trips each year, travelling the backroads of our great country - just the two of us (I have a very understanding wife!).

There's usually :

  • a fairly well thought out location plan,
  • some photography and bushwalking ideas,
  • a music theme,
  • podcasts to listen to,
  • lots of great bbqs and stir fries,
  • and LOTS of banana bread! :)

This allows for some pretty good chat time between us.

Mitch is 25 now, working in Sydney, he has a lovely girlfriend, and it's great to see them also enjoy travel and photography together. This year they are travelling to Iceland, Vietnam and New Zealand - should be fantastic! When that's ended, Mitch and I have squeezed in another two week roadtrip.

Time to start stocking up on banana bread!

Oh, and I guess now, start on my next Blog!