Friday, October 28, 2011

Are You Ready.........

.............to join us in New Caledonia?????

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

New Caledonia Retreat

We took a drive one evening and discovered this little hide-away retreat not too far from Noumea. I get so frustrated when I see beautiful scenes in the middle of the day when the lighting is harsh and flat, but once in a while I'm in the right place at the right time! This was one such evening. Incidentally, I tried a little HDR on this, but it ruined it.  I love the shadows and contrast in the low light just before sunset just as I saw it, with very little editing.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Where in the World is New Caledonia!!!


We find ourselves in New Caledonia for about 10 days.  This is the view from our balcony.  (Our connection here does business with this hotel and was able to get us an amazing rate.) I know, I know, it's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it!!!!!  Unfortunately we did not spend the day lounging on beach chairs sipping an icy, fruity drink.  But we have had a great day.  With our Director of Public Affairs here, we visited an editor of the largest newspaper in NC, and then we were able to meet with the former president of the country!!  Who would have thought this was possible!!! Later in the evening we did the first of 3 training sessions. 

  A polarizer on my lens made the already stunning colors of the water, out of this world.  New Caledonia is surrounded by an immense coral reef cocooning the mainland in the largest lagoon in the world.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Phun Phriday

OREO COWS

At home we have Oreos and milk, in New Zealand they just have Oreo milk.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Napier, New Zealand

We traveled from Wellington up the east coast to the village of Napier.  It is known for its art deco architecture and the largest gannet colony in the world.  This photo reminds me of almost all the villages we have visited.  They all have beautiful little parks and well tended flower gardens in the center of town, all year long.  (This photo was taken late at night without a tripod.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Maraetotara Falls, New Zealand

This past week we have been back to Wellington to help with 'Books for Fiji'.  We worked really hard Monday through Friday, so we decided we would stay the weekend to see more of NZ.  We drove to Hastings and Napier, about a 4 hour drive over a beautiful mountain range and through beautiful rolling pastureland and charming country villages.  Here is a waterfall along the way.
The 'entrance' to the path to the waterfall.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Bach

A Glimpse Back Into Time
New Zealand is a thoroughly modern country in every way.  But part of the charm of this beautiful corner of the world are the glimpses of times long past that very easily coexist with life in 2011.  One of those delightful peeks into the past are the corner dairies that I talked about in the previous post.  

This post is about another uniquely NZ tradition called 'The Bach'.  A bach in the 1950s was a tiny shack thrown together on the beach, or other place one wants to stay.  It supposedly is short for a 'bachelor pad.'  Usually made of old plywood, or corrugated metal or other odds and ends, a funny definition of a bach is, 'something you built yourself, on land you don't own, out of materials you borrowed or stole.'  We still see these funny little shacks, usually near the beaches.  If you had more resources, you might have a little mobile home that you would park where ever you wanted to be.  We see these old mobile homes from the 1950s, 60s, tucked away in back yards, vacant lots, or on the beach.  (Today people still say they are renting a bach for a holiday, but it now means a small vacation home.) 

The tractor is also significant.  You see old tractors parked in driveways, or in yards in most of the beach villages, because residents use tractors to pull and launch their boats.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

YUM!!!

One of the quaint things about New Zealand is the little corner markets, usually called dairies.  Sprinkled throughout suburban neighborhoods, they are right out of the 40s, 50s and/or 60s.  It looks like way-back-when, people decided to build a little 'convenience' store onto the front of their houses, where a front yard would be.  So they live in the back and have a little business in the front.  Must have been before zoning codes.  Yes, NZ has very modern grocery stores,  just like you'd see in the States, but also these cute little reminders of years gone by. 


And most always these little stores advertise Tip Top ice cream.   Unfortunately, (for our waistlines),  we have discovered that NZ ice cream is delicious, so whenever we are on a Saturday drive, we find a dairy and stop for a double scoop.  They have strange and unusual flavors here.  Two of our favorites are Hokey Pokey and Gold Rush.  I think I've gained 10 pounds!!!      

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Wouldn't It Be Nice If..............

........the weather always cooperated when you wanted to be outdoors taking landscape photos?  Wouldn't that be great!  The chances of that happening, however, are about the same as always being at just the right spot during those golden hours when the light is perfect, or always being able to pick a day to shoot when the sky is a beautiful shade of blue and the clouds look like big cotton balls (see my last post).

Well today was not one of those days.  Today we saw some spectacularly beautiful scenery, but the day was overcast and dull.  I knew any photos I took would even be worse than what I saw, not only because everything was dull, but because of course, cameras can't see everything the human eye sees so there wouldn't be much detail in the shadows or highlights.  Before digital and Photoshop I wouldn't have even bothered taking photos on a day like this.

But I did take a couple of shots to remember what we saw, and thought I'd share one of them.  Several of you have asked how I edit my photos, and what programs and actions I use.  Today I'll show you a SOOTC shot and what I did to turn it into a nice photo, but certainly not a great one.  (Editing can help, but never takes the place of beautiful light, an interesting subject and great composition.) 

Before I start, however, I wish I could give a simple answer as to how I edit, but I can't, because I process each photo differently depending on what it needs, (if anything), the 'look' I am after, my mood, what appeals to me, etc.   

I can say that I always start in Lightroom, and make overall adjustments if needed, such as exposure or a crop, or to straighten a horizon, and I often use the clarify slider, a favorite of mine that adds subtle contrast.  If a photo needs more, I go to Photoshop and work on specific areas.  I have many different actions, plugins, programs to choose from.  (Maybe some time I will try to list all my favorites.)  I'm a big fan of HDR.  When using this technique sparingly, I can edit a photo to look closer to what I actually saw, bringing out shadows while not blowing out highlights.    My camera can't do this with one exposure.  The key to using HDR most of the time is to use sparingly...but not always.  I know many photographers cringe when they see an over the top use of HDR, but, hey it's art, and there are some photos that are show stoppers with a psychedelic look.

O.K.  here is the SOOTC shot....... 

Wouldn't this have been a beautiful scene if the light was beautiful, or there was either a golden sunset or nice puffy clouds, and the clouds didn't change the beautiful aqua colored water to gray?  Sigh, it wasn't going to happen today.  The flowers were colorful and lit fairly well, but the cliffs in the background are dull, and there was no contrast or definition in the sky or the water.  Now look at the post editing version:

Well, the first thing about this photo I would have changed has nothing to do with the editing.  I should have used a smaller aperture (larger number for you beginners), to have the background cliffs in sharper focus.  

This was really a simple edit.  In Lightroom I moved the clarify slider to the right just to give a bit more contrast  The foreground was well exposed so I wanted to leave it as is.  I then used Nik Software's HDR program.  (To make the best HDR image you need to use 3 or more shots of different exposures and then let the program combine them, but sometimes you can get passable results using just one photo, which is what I did.)  There are many sliders and presets to experiment with until you get the look you want.  After a few minutes I was satisfied that the color of the water was about what I saw, not real vivid but still with a muted shade of the color.  I also wanted to show the definition in the clouds and bring out the color and low light in the cliffs that I saw.   When I was satisfied, I brought the original and the edited photos into Photoshop.  I didn't like what the HDR program did to the foreground flowers so I stacked both photos in Photoshop with the edited one on top then 'erased' the flowers in that photo to show the original photo underneath.  Then I merged them both and removed some water drops that were on my lens that showed up on the sky.  And that's about it.  From start to finish only took a couple of minutes.  Not a great photo, but at least I have something to remember what we saw.