Thursday, May 19, 2016

Time Travel

I had fun yesterday using my old Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 (described in this post). The long focusing throw is very satisfying to use, and took me back to my early days in photography when the "normal" lens--and the only one I owned--was a 50mm. Auto focus was in the distant future (we didn't even have auto exposure, hard as it may be for millennials to believe) so making careful use of the viewfinder was the only way to get things in focus. 

The fifty looks peculiar, almost stunted, on the camera compared to my other lenses, but it is pleasingly lightweight. After all these years the focus and aperture controls still work smoothly. The images are nice too, if maybe not as painfully sharp as those from today's lenses. And I don't have another lens with an aperture below f/2.8 so it's nice to get reacquainted with shallow depth-of-field. 

(I don't know the name of this flowering bush; we've asked our friend and landscaper, who planted it last year, but his recall failed him uncharacteristically. If you know, please leave a comment and enlighten the rest of us.)

It might seem horse-and-buggy to a modern photographer, but I think it's fun to use this old piece of equipment. It probably gives my patience and attention to detail a little workout, and that's not a bad thing. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

New Zealand's South Island

Photography is a wonderful pastime. With a bit of equipment and free time you can explore and create worlds of entirely new images. Heck, you can create new images without setting foot outdoors, not to mention what you can do in software.

Landscape photography, on the other hand, pretty much requires getting out and going to the places you'd like to capture. If you can combine a love of landscape shooting with some wanderlust, you're a lucky shutterbug. I felt lucky indeed to spend time on New Zealand's South Island, more than 9,000 miles from home and surrounded by scenic riches.

South Island's western coast is marked by steep green hillsides and rocky outcrops. At Punakaiki are the Pancake Rocks, formed by the differential weathering and erosion of thinly layered limestone into stacks, blow holes and surge pools. 

West Coast of South Island

Pancake Rocks

Towers at Pancake Rocks
Near the coast in the Southern Alps is the Franz Josef Glacier. It has advanced and receded often in historical times but has been receding since 2008. It ends about 12 miles from the Tasman Sea. A hike up its rock-strewn valley was exhilarating and eye-opening.

Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier terminus

Waiho River below glacier
Braided rivers are common in New Zealand. We saw them on the North and South Islands, and not just where glaciers are feeding them large amounts of sediment.

Waimakariri (?) River, a braided channel

Further inland is Queenstown on the shore of Lake Wakatipu, a big beautiful lake surrounded by striking mountains. 

Lake Wakatipu and Walter Peak, from Bob's Peak
Cecil Peak and Lake Wakatipu
And there's more: the fjord known as Milford Sound. It deserves it's own posting so I'll end this one here.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Landscapes of Central Australia

Central Australia is justifiably famous for its landscapes. We visited Alice Springs and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, located near the southern border of the Northern Territory. The area is very dry, not quite desert, but visually engaging with unique geology and complex ecology. Uluru (formerly called Ayers Rock) is likely the most photographed hill in Australia, if not the world. Throngs of tourists gather every evening and morning, as did we, to watch and record the changing light on the red rock. It is unique and spectacular.

Uluru, sunset
Uluru, sunrise
Famous Uluru overshadows an equally photogenic range of hills named Kata Tjuta. With strata less steeply tilted than Uluru (15 degrees versus almost 90 degrees) and composed of a coarse conglomerate instead of Uluru's arkose, Kata Tjuta presents a more rounded profile and more distinct segments. I found it gorgeous.

Kata Tjuta
It's a remarkable park that has such sights in rather close proximity, let alone the many significant cultural and biological features. No surprise that it is a World Heritage area.

Uluru and Kata Tjuta at sunrise
At Alice Springs Desert Park we watched a great bird show and also marveled at the ancient landscape.

Ridge, Alice Springs Desert Park