Let the light guide you

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned with landscape photography is to let the light guide you. Often I get too focussed on a location and try and make the light conditions work around it. These days I am becoming more aware of how good light can transform any landscape. As an example, I recently went out for an evening shoot at a local place I enjoy called Tunnel Beach. It’s only about a 10 minute drive from home and I can take a few different routes to get there. On this occasion I decided to drive through the local suburb shops of Green Island and cut up a back road to get over to the coast and Tunnel Beach. I was driving up a steep street and as I wound my way up I caught a glimpse of a lovely view between houses of Green Island and Saddle Hill beyond. Not long ago I would have kept driving with tunnel vision to Tunnel Beach. However, I have now learned to let the light guide me. So I pulled over and with the narrow space I had to shoot, waited for the right moment. When the light really hit, the whole scene exploded with autumnal colour, and this image has become a personal fav for 2019. So, all I’m suggesting is, embrace photographic opportunity when it arises, don’t get caught up in where you think you need to be, and if you are lucky, you may well be rewarded with images beyond your imagination.

Green Island, Dunedin in Autumn

Shag Point Landscape Photography

Shag Point is a wonderful destination with plenty of interest for the whole family. Situated about 1 hours drive out of Dunedin it makes a perfect day trip for the family, or in my case the landscape photographer. At Shag Point you will find cribs and holiday homes and maybe a small smattering of tourists who mostly visit the area for the stunning New Zealand Fur Seal colony. The seal colony is a real treat and provides a wonderful view of the animals as they lounge on rocky outcrops by the waters edge. However, wildlife is not what takes me to Shag Point. I am there for the same reason tourists flock to Moeraki, to photograph boulders. There is something to be said for being the only person on the beach when I took this shot below.

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The Moeraki Boulders are stunning, but the boulders at Shag Point are bordering on epic. Often the largest ones are located right by the cliffs at the back of the beach. The rock below was massive.

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There are key differences between the aesthetic of the Moeraki Boulders and those found at Shag Point. At Shag point colour and texture is extremely prevalent with algae, seaweed and rocks bejewelled with tiny shells. For me, Moeraki just doesn’t come close.

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I could wonder for hours on the Shag Point shore line investigating rock pools and mind blowing rock formations. One thing to be aware of though is Sea lions, I met two on this particular visit. They really do look like rocks and the only reason I knew they were there was on both occasions the rock turned over and growled at me. Give sea lions plenty of room, if they want to move they can do so extremely fast. Also, I was attacked by 2 feisty oyster catchers who must have been protecting their nest, so I moved on quick smart. All in all, Shag point is a fantastic destination for an enjoyable day out with your camera.

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Greenpoint Shipwreck Graveyard

I was recently invited to a good mates engagement party in Invercargill (congratulations Simon and Ash) so I thought I might squeeze in some landscape photography while I was there.  To be honest, I had no idea Invercargill had a shipwreck cemetery.  The only reason I found out was because while I was researching possible locations for my photography adventure I came across a shipwreck image.  I was immediately hooked.  I set myself a goal to take at least one keeper from the location.  I travelled down from Dunedin to Invercargill a day early, to have a catch up with Simon and maybe check out the shipwrecks.  It was the afternoon when I arrived and Simon, (who hosts More FM the only local radio breakfast show in Invercargill) had finished work for the day so we headed out together to see these shipwrecks up close and personal.

The Greenpoint Shipwreck Cemetery is located about 20 minutes drive out of the city on the state highway to Bluff.  There are signs, and with google maps, it's fairly easy to find.  Can I just say the local council should take a bow.  They have spared no expense in creating a stunning boardwalk surrounded by wetland fauna. The walkway gently meanders along the shoreline to the cemetery.  The walk takes about 15 minutes and is fairly flat the whole way.  At the end of the enjoyable stroll there are even a few steps to deliver you onto the beach with the shipwrecks pretty much right in front of you.  Again, this is brilliant.  I appreciated the information boards about the history of the shipwrecks, plus details on the stunning rock formations on the beach.

As it was late in the afternoon I didn't think I'd get much of a shot, but I have to admit I got my first keeper on that stunning blue sky afternoon.  As Simon was my host, I'll call it 'Shipwrecks for Simon'.  

 

These two ships moored together formed the basis of my subject matter for the location.  There are older more skeletal shipwrecks, but I found the size of these 2 really appealing.

These two ships moored together formed the basis of my subject matter for the location.  There are older more skeletal shipwrecks, but I found the size of these 2 really appealing.

So all that was left was to return the next morning and shoot the location.  After navigating my way through morning fog on the road to the location, I was hoping for some haunting fog to add some atmosphere to the images.  But that was not to be, maybe next time.

I wanted the images to include the natural life on the beach.  This helps put the shipwrecks in context to their natural environment.  Here the beads of seaweed makes for an interesting foreground texture in the composition.

I wanted the images to include the natural life on the beach.  This helps put the shipwrecks in context to their natural environment.  Here the beads of seaweed makes for an interesting foreground texture in the composition.

A similar image to the one above but further up the beach and about 15 minutes later.  Some of New Zealand's oldest rocks lead your eye toward the shipwrecks. 

A similar image to the one above but further up the beach and about 15 minutes later.  Some of New Zealand's oldest rocks lead your eye toward the shipwrecks. 

If you are ever visiting Invercargill I cannot recommend enough this simple day trip to Greenpoint Shipwreck Cemetery,  suitable for the whole family.  If I ever take my ten year old along I'll be sure to weave in tales of pirates, gold and sunken treasure. 

The Singing Cow

If I was asked to identify the most important quality of a photograph it would be one I could not see.  The image itself means nothing if it lacks this one simple truth.  A quality only each of us can bring from within our hearts and souls.  Simply put, the photograph and I are able to form a connection.  Without a connection, ultimately I am left standing wooden and cold before it.  I can admire it's composition, use of light and subject matter.  However, unless a spark of wonder,  joy or recognition forms within me, the image will just pass on to the next. 

As the photographer it's easy to make a fairly good connection with an image, hell I took it, I should at least have some sort of paternal love for my creation... But that is not always the case. 

Some of the landscape images I take will never affect me in a way others do.  They are nice but, well, they just don't have that special sauce.  But all is not lost, these images can often provide connection for someone else.  A sale of an image is always an indicator of some level of connection. If I am lucky the customer might share with me their own connection; the special place they are taken too, a childhood memory, a loved family member's special spot and so on.  When this type of connection happens, it is likely to be even more satisfying, it's like the joy of giving, and you get to hitch a ride on their rollercoaster.

So I suppose I should include an image I connect with.  Connection can come from left field.  This image of cattle in fog was taken on the Taieri Plains in Mosgiel.  To me, when I look at that cow with his mouth open, I see Frank Sinatra in full swing.  In my late teens I fell in love with Sinatra music and would listen to it on my CD walkman player.  He became a music hero.  I remember clearly where I was the day Frank Sinatra died, and yes, boom, this picture takes me to a rainy night in Austria.  All that connection from a singing cow. 

 

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Trev Hill is a Dunedin Based Photographer