November 23, 2015

Morning Has Broken

Morning has Broken

As I sit in my warm car in between rain squalls I am looking out at the Okarito Lagoon. The air is moist and everything is cast in gray, a stark contrast to the brilliant greens in the gorge the day before. 
The mood is quiet and still, even with the birds fluttering about. 
Among some brilliant mountain peaks that were meant for a less cloudy perfect sunset location. However even last night the showers and mist prevented a peak at their grandeur. 
A small boat house is sitting proudly at the shore of the lagoon. A simple 'Information' sign is at the top of the ramp. 
The rain has stopped for a moment, perhaps I'll have a closer look. 

The processing for this image includes a texture later from the boat house siding. I captured the image with the hope that it would be fun to use. 

November 16, 2015

Smash Palace - New Zealand

What is this girl going to do when she's driving 100 km down a country road at 8:30am and sees a sign pointing turn right now for 'Vintage Car Museum'? Put on the brakes fast, but not fast enough and figure a safe place to make a U-turn.

As I approach I saw rusty vehicles everywhere, acres of them. Piled high, rusting into the ground, with ferns growing out of them, with wooden wheels, most with steering wheels on the left and there were even sheep milling about to keep the grass down-how awesome is that. 
A dream come true. 

I find rusty fascinating. The patterns, textures and color as they deteriorate   The models of cars here in New Zealand vs the places in the US were so new and different. Many small cars, few hot rods, even the trucks and buses were tiny. 

After spending only 1.5 hours outside I finally went into the 'museum' for a $5 donation admission charge that was promised would go into a fund for the 'new' museum. 
I walked up a narrow steep stairwell and found what can only be described as: a car part hoarders dream! Millions of organized chrome gems. Starters, grills, license plates, chains, hub caps, head lights, carburetors, electric wiring, radios - every piece from those gutted shells in the junk yard outside - AMAZING! 

Walking around I was quite careful, even tiptoed when observing the floor bowing under the pile of complete motors. Wondered how the building didn't collapse under the weight of so much metal. 

What a rewarding morning I had!

November 13, 2015

To Paris with Love

Feeling very sad that there is such cruelty in the world. Caused me to pause and appreciate my life a bit more. Hug the ones you love, life is uncertain. 

Fear Not - Adventuring in New Zealand

Fear not the unknown my friends, 
Celebrate the adventures,
Discover your limitations along your journey,
Not through an imagined barrier. 

Seek with confidence, love whole heartedly,
Find happiness, contentment and joy
It is all within you.
Now go!

November 12, 2015

Morning in Fantasyland

Today I was a canvas being painted over and over again. The motions were smooth and precise, a wonderful practiced rhythm with just the right amount of pressure.  The paints were silky at times, cool then warm, slightly scratchy then sticky. The smells were incredible; pleasantly floral, light and heavenly. I even once licked a slightly sweet honey from my lips. 

I encouraged myself to be present and in the moment. To allow complete relaxation while not falling asleep. To be appreciative of each stroking touch. 

I was rewarded by feeling lighter, a weight noticeably pulled away from me, replaced with a peaceful smile through me. The sensation was one I never experience before and long to feel again. 

An hour Timeless Facial at the Polynesian Spa was a unforgettable experience. 

November 8, 2015

Moment Lenses Comparison at Cape Reinga

Native Camera Lens
18mm Moments Lens

60mm Moment Lens

Cape Reinga

Being a spiritual person I enjoyed my too brief visit to this place on earth. I was ever so grateful to read the Māori beliefs that this most significant land held.  
A simple pōhutukawa tree that survived on a rock cliff for so many years, is known locally as the kahilka. Significant for many reasons, one is that it has never blooms and more importantly its roots help guide the dead to their final resting point. 
So many other plaques shared the Māori tales of awe and wonderment. 

To tourists the most obvious site is the lighthouse as it contrasts white among the greens and blues. I too was captivated by the scene. 

I used vividHDR to capture these images. The first one is without any lens attachments. The second is with Moment 18mm and the third is Moment 60mm. In my opinion, the Moment lenses are the best in the market. 

For fun I also included this mileage sign post that can be found at the base of the lighthouse. 

New Zealand Giant Dunes

Te Paki Stream and the Giant Sand Dunes

Excited is how I felt when driving the 3km from the main road to the Giant Dunes, hoping to explore both the dunes and access Ninety Mile Beach. Arriving about 8:30 am there was a couple eating breakfast at a picnic table and a photographer returning to his car, otherwise empty in this expansive landscape. 

At the end of the dirt road I was confronted with whether or not to drive down a sandy bottom stream to access the beach. The option was intimidating, so I chose to be smart, park the car and walk. Ugh... Even though I hate defeat, this girl knows her limitations. 

Along the shore there was evidence of many birds that spent their morning looking for morsels. Some prints were 4 inches long, while others were merely three dots clustered together. 
The stream was shallow, only 4" at the deepest point, with a firm bottom of rich red sand that had various patterns sculpted in it. Gorgeous!

After walking for about 15 minutes I had yet to reach the ocean nor could I see it, so I climbed up one of the massive dunes. Taking small steps and being mindful of my recent sprained ankle, it took some effort to reach the point to where a glimpse of the Tasman Sea was present. 

With the dunes still towering above me and the sea so far in the distance I felt very small, very humble. I sat. While sitting I began to hear so much:

A slight breeze 
Trickle of the stream
Ocean waves crashing in the distance
Faint sporadic variety of bird calls 
A fly buzzing past
And at the same time it was almost silent. 

After a few moments the artist in me was anxious to take some playful photos. So off I went with a photographer's eye looking at angles and for subjects. 

With all this searching about the dunes were quite messy with the presence of my butt and scattered foot prints. However the evidence of my adventure was only fleeting, as Mother Nature would easily blow away all evidence of disturbances in her dunes so simply, making the elegant patterns complete once again. I just love that!

New Zealand Bush Tour

Farmer Wayne's Tour

New Zealand is full of eye candy around every bend. The rolling hills are full of every shade of green. Reminders of past travels to Hawaii, Chile and Costa Rica are seen within its lush vegetation. While driving I scan the surrounding for scenes that speak to me to capture them. 

And so I was positioning my tripod in the perfect location to capture an old building surrounded by trees among the lush grassy hills where cows were roaming, when Wayne drives along the shoulder to tell me that this was his farm. To which I replied, "I love it!" 

Wonderfully his response was, "Would you like to take a tour." To which I excitedly responded by following his car into the gate. We then chatted a bit about his farm and how he was going to let me take a nature walk through the bush. He explained that he first needed to move the cows to a new pasture and I was welcome to follow him in my vehicle. 
So off we went past some wild sheep - very few are in New Zealand. You can tell because they are brown not white and they will run if they see you approaching. Next we drove through a few gates, up and over grassy hills to where the cattle were. 
Wayne proceeded to opened the gate and yelled, "Come On!, come on!" Drawing out the "on." The cows were slow to respond as they positioned themselves closer but not through the gate. "Cone on," he kept repeating and finally one cow stepped through and they all started to follow, mooing loudly and proudly. Most followed the first, but two stepped out of line to which Wayne quickly responded with a confident stride that even cause a bull to back up while in his ready to fight stance. It was quiet impressive. - see Facebook video posting 
Next Wayne took me to where I would start my 400m tramp. He explained what I would see and that nothing dangerous is in the New Zealand bush, no snakes. "Or grizzly bears", I added jokingly. Then he explained his idea of giving tours and wanted my opinion. I was honored and anxious to get started. 

The tramp started up the grassy field to a gate where I was to go through. Once the gate was closed behind me the path was clearly defined as it was often used as a road. Since I hadn't been in the bush before I took my time embracing the sights and sounds. The plant variety was amazing. Soon I wished more information was provided  - to know their names, did they flower?, produce fruit?, how old were they? do any of them have medicinal qualities?
While continuing to walk the sound of many birds singing their various songs filled the air. Sadly few were visible.  So now I wished to knew what the birds looked like so maybe just maybe I could match them with their melody when I spotted them. 

All of the sights and sound were wonderful but nothing prepared me for the beauty in seeing the magnificent 150 year old trees toward the end of the path. I just stood there in awe, while my eyes followed their weathered, wrinkled trunks, to the wonderful broad canopy so high in the sky. Yes I thought, a tour would be wonderful!

After spending time just absorbing the tranquil environment, the photographer in me took out the camera. 
Lots of ideas for tours continued to pour out: activities for kids - a treasure hunt perhaps? Can those vines hanging from the trees really be used as Tarzan ropes? What about making a project with plant leaves? And let's not forget a tree hugging photo as long as everyone understands the importance of respecting the elder giants. 
In conclusion, I think a tour of the bush for tourists and local school age children would be a wonderful idea. I believe that educating along with fun adventure is always a welcome option. Maybe you will have a chance to visit Wayne too someday. 

November 5, 2015

The Dawning of Friendship

Good Morning Bay of Islands

Woke this morning much too early, 4:15am. The newly purchased air mattress lost enough air that my hip was getting sore. Since sunrise was in two hours the search for best location in the dark commenced. 
Parked along a sandy beach in Paihia and waited until dawn broke and glimpses of sailboats in the bay among small islands covered in trees appeared. I smiled knowing that this spot was full of photographic opportunities. Got out of the car and slowly (my ankle got very swollen in the airplane and is a bit stiffer than I hoped) walked down the beach to some rocks along the shore. 
Started setting up the tripod looking at the angles, positioning the sailboats, checking the app 'StarWalk' to make sure of where the sun was rising, when 5 girls in their early 20's approached and proceeded to the end of a rocky bulkhead. 
Continuing, I walked around the area trying to decide if the shot was of the sun itself or of the scene it would illuminate. When turning back toward the sun, the perfect subject presented itself. 
Now with a subject to focus on, the rest of the time was spent positioning it into the best composition. Walking the shore, climbing up and down the rocks, positioning tripod legs up and down and racing to beat the sun as it approached the horizon. 
Using the 60mm Moment lens with vividHDR I started to shoot, now just making minor adjustments to the tripods location. Clicking before, during and after the sun past the horizon. Got it!
Now to approach the girls and share this intimate moment with them. But first to decide on the best shot and processed it in Snapseed, no need to share the many test shots that were captured. 
Approaching, thoughts of 'What happens if they are upset with me for taking their photo without permission' and 'Maybe I should just leave' came to mind. Bravely, walking closer and excusing myself for the interruption, confidently and proudly I shared the image with them. 
Happily they squealed their appreciation as the camera was circulated among the group. One even apologized for being in the shot. My response let them know they made 'my' morning by being in it. We then exchanged email addresses so the image could be shared among the group. 
Interestingly they just met a week ago on a group tour that will take them to both the North and South Islands. Fast friends already. All are from Europe on extended holiday.  How great is that!

November 2, 2015

New Zealand Gear List - iPhone

iPhone Gear List to New Zealand - 42 days

Complete gear 

What I'll bring when backpacking. 

So excited for this adventure. I hope you enjoy virtually traveling with me. 

Tomorrow I fly to New Zealand for a 42 day car camping/backpacking adventure on the North and South Island. I will arrive on the 5th after a stop over in SFO and the time change. 
I am planning on first exploring the tip of the North Island spending 10 car camping along the way to Wellington. The remainder of my days will be on the South Island with two 5 day tramps planned and the remainder of the time car camping to wherever my heart desires. 

I hope to blog when I am connected to WIFI along my journey either on my iPhone or iPad. 

Here is my gear list:

iPhone 6s Plus 128gb with Apple Case
iPhone 6 Plus 128 gb - as a back up camera in Tigra water resistant case

Moko waterproof case 

iPad and case

Velbon Carbon Fiber tripod -2006
Slik SBH-100DQ ball head with two plates. 
RetiCAM iPhone holder

(Yes the tripod is big and bulky. I have tried others that are lighter and therefore many times less sturdy or not as tall or not adjustable. So I keep using the Velbon.)

SanDisk Ixpand 128gb Flash drive - for backup. I also backup to Dropbox when connected to WIFI

Moment Lenses 60mm and 18mm

3 Jockery battery packs - 12000mAh, 6000mAh and 3200mAh
2 cords to charge battery packs 


2 earbuds
2 - 6" charge cords
1 - 3' charge cord

Olympus Pen E-P5
Olympus 14-150 mm lens with hood lens
2 Olympus Batteries with wall charger 
2 - 32gb Sandisk Extreme sd cards
Tiffen Neutral Density 1.2 filter
Tiffen Neutral Density 3.0 filter
Think Tank Digital Holster 5 - camera case
SD card reader
Adapter to transfer sd card images to iPad so I can use the iPad to process the images. 
Towel to wipe off moister

(The Olympus has been a camera of mine for 2 years now. I rarely use it.  I am bringing it on this trip because I recently bought a new lense for it and maybe now I'll use it more. I am looking forward to having a 150mm telephoto lense.)

FujiFilm instax share sp-1 printer with 40 prints

Business Cards

Eagle Creek case to hold all the little items. 

Hope this list is helpful to those who are planning a similar adventure. I will let you know how it worked out for me. 

October 20, 2014

Capturing Quality Light - iPhoneography

Image captured just after the sunset

Yesterday while at this iconic location in Yosemite, a photographic tour leader made comment about iPhoneographers, tripods and the seriousness of photography when he saw me and my iPhone yielding tripod amongst those with $5000 cameras and $2500 tripods. 

As those of you who follow my blog know, I am a very serious photographer who just happens to love taking photos with my iPhone. It really doesn't surprise me however that I am not taken seriously as most people who take iPhone photos capture a snapshot of a scene. 

I arrived to capture my iconic Yosemite Valley image about 1 hour before sunset. A few photographers had already staked their claim, tripod poised, shutter release in hand. 
I walked around using my tripod to balance as I walked through the rocks looking for my favorite location. Once I settled I actually found the light quite harsh and the image quite uninteresting.  I took a few shots and waited.
I was waiting in anticipation to capture the alpine warm glow on the granite cliffs just as the sun crossed the horizon. The glow never came. However just as the sun set the harsh light was gone and the beauty (IMHO) emerged. 
After I finished capturing what I believed was the best shots of the evening, I noticed that everyone had packed up and was walking to their cars. They missed the beauty that I saw. 
While packing up ourselves, Mark and I discussed how photographers prided themselves on arriving well before dawn to capture wonderful morning light, but few seemed to appreciate nor wait for the post sunset light to emerge. Why is that?

The image I found to be uninteresting. 

October 8, 2014

Car Camping in the Palouse

Car Camping 3:45am

Wake up, look up!
A billion, trillion, zillion stars I see,
One moon that glows blood red.

So quiet and then,
Two packs of coyotes howl and yippee.

How wonderful, how joyous to be embraced in Mother Natures wonders,
While parked next to the Lone Tree in the draw of Tennessee Flats.