Birthday surprise

For my birthday, D.C. gave me (us) the chance to take part in a Sunset and Night Phototour. This necessitated an unexpected trip to Auckland, with the unusual luggage addition of a tripod, but it was worth it.

(I think – hope – that if you click on a photo, you’ll see a larger version. I may have to go and have a play with Flikr.)

When in Auckland we stay at the Econolodge City Central, because it’s so, erm, central. Only one block from the Aotea Centre, across the road from the Civic Centre, around the corner from the InterCity bus terminal, and, most importantly, within bag dragging distance of the Ferry Buildings for trips to Rangitoto Island. It’s an old Art Deco style building, and is showing its age somewhat, but the staff are friendly and helpful, the rooms largely comfortable, and the breakfast tasty.


Brett Lees from Unique Visions Tours turned up at in the minibus at 5.30pm, like he said he would, and managed to call me Louise in the first minute of meeting us. We set him right. We were the only ones on the tour, which was good as D.C. had the front seat, and I had the middle seat behind and we could all see straight ahead. It was even better as Brett was able to devote all his attention just to us. And when D.C. decided that her (otherwise excellent) point and shoot didn’t have the capabilities to photograph at night (I did say she could use my Gorillapod tripod) it meant that I got some one on one tuition!


We had a good chat on the way to the North Shore on the other side of the Waitemata Harbour. Brett was very interested in the bach situation on Rangitoto, and we were more than happy to tell him all about it.
Our first stop was Mt Victoria. Brett can’t have done the tour for a while, as he wasn’t sure if cars were allowed to the summit any more. So, he left us as far up the hill as he could, and we walked the rest of the way while he went and found a place to park. Our first photos were (funnily enough) of Rangitoto. We’d got them by the time Brett caught up with us, even though there wasn’t much light.

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Brett led us to the other side of Mt Victoria (where we interrupted a courting couple) and we got some photos of the city and some car light trails.

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Once Brett told me to turn the image stabilisation off (believe it or not) and with a little composition guidance, my photos started to look more in focus and I was able to concentrate on the exposure triangle – exposure, shutter speed, and ISO – and composition.

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Looking up the harbour towards the Naval Base and the Skytower.


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I often wonder if photography had never been invented, and some bright spark came up with the concept today, if we’d still have to deal with all that. One thing that I am sure of is that it wouldn’t be so confusing. F2.8 actually creates a bigger hole for light to pass through than F16 – but F2.8 results in a smaller area in focus from the focal point. Confused? Try contemplating that in the field.

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I liked the way the trees framed the view on the way down the road from Mt Victoria…


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…that was until someone shone their torch at the stop sign


We walked back down the hill to the van and our next stop was Stanley Bay wharf. There we got the lights of the city from “sea level” with a shed in the foreground for a focal point. Then we walked down the wharf and got more photos from a different angle.

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See the differences in the water between this photo and the one below?


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This photo was taken at a faster speed, which meant the lens remained open for a shorter time, not causing the water to blur.


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See the difference in the water between this photo and the one below? In order to allow this photo to have a more ethereal feel to the lights on the water, I had to increase the length of time light could enter the camera, whilst decreasing the size of the hole that light passed through – so that, in effect, the same amount of light entered the camera.


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Back in the van and around to what was known in years gone by as Fisherman’s Wharf. There was a wedding function going on here, but we went behind the building to photograph the Auckland Harbour Bridge. It looks even more impressive now that it’s got the new LED lighting decorating it… Maybe a thought for the old Kopu Bridge?

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See the difference in the street lights on the bridge – how in this photo they’re star bursts…?


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…whilst in this one they’re softer? That’s a result of the depth of focus. And now I’m going to have to remind myself if that’s a shallow depth of focus or not.


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The wharf at Fisherman’s Wharf. I like the symmetary.


After that it was back in the minibus and across the Auckland Harbour Bridge to Westhaven Marina – next to the Auckland Harbour Bridge – and an overpass over the motorway to photograph light trails from cars passing underneath. We weren’t the only ones there – there were a couple of guys getting their own light trail photographs. But everyone happily kept out of each other’s photographic way.

At the moment Auckland is hosting the Haier Big Hoot.

“The Haier Big Hoot is a large scale art trail event that is now swooping through the streets of Auckland City and its surrounds for nine weeks from the 3rd of March to the 6th of May 2018.

There are 47 bespoke-designed, fiberglass 1.65m tall Owls being displayed on the trail. Each owl is sponsored by a business, educational institution, community group or individual, and bespoke designed by artists, both established and emerging artists…

At the end of the event, each large Owl will be auctioned to raise funds to help support children with cancer and their families throughout New Zealand.

This project is presented by Child Cancer Foundation in partnership with the International creator of the event, Wild in Art.”

They’re all over Auckland, but during Easter, when we were coming back from Rangitoto Island, and this weekend, whenever I’d see an owl, I’d get a photo. They’re a lot of fun.

The following day we went to Escapade – The Kiwi Escape Game. You are “locked” in a room and have to solve a variety of puzzles to get yourself out of there. As I’ve played something similar on an “app” I’ll use that to give you an idea, so as to not spoil the fun if you ever decide to go. You have a combination lock with four numbers and there are four pictures of kittens on the wall. The first picture has four kittens, the next six, the next two, the last five. You enter 4-6-2-5 into the combination lock and it snaps open.

The two of us took 1.33 hours (and quite a few hints) to do what you normally only have an hour to do it in. But we both enjoyed it.

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Well – it was only taken by an i-Pad – and put onto Facebook by Escapade.



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I think this one is my favourite


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Captain Owl: This owl is looking smart and getting ready to go places! Inspired by concepts of natural flight and man made travel. Owls can fly, but this owl can really fly! Preparing to travel higher and further than any owl before it!


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Owl-Black: In this design, the owl takes on the iconic black jersey, which is no longer just a sporting symbol, but representative of the values and pride of a whole nation. Something not only recognisable by us as Kiwis but internationally recognised as respect for our achievements as a nation. It is a recognisable legend, and in this representation signed here by many legends… He’s got a nice face, even if his jersey’s signed by All Black rugby players


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Whirikoka (Strength): meshes broad-ranging references from traditional Maori weaving, European tapestries, to modernist geometries and DNA sequencing, to the pixilation of digital images. Larkin’s attraction to repetition is paralleled by her fascination with the notion of ‘the other’ in opposing binary pairings such as indigenous/colonist, science/art, male/female or cultural traditions and cutting-edge technology.


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I’m Puzzled: illustrates the timeless romance of balloon flight. This almost organic escape to the heavens will always belong in the domain of the romantics where even the most factual of us will be allowed to live our dreams.


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Enchanted Frosty River Owl: nspired by the majestic interior of the latest Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Ship with its beautiful dusty pink and gold, Ema added a touch more ‘Frost’ with her well-known favourite blue/green that represents the river this ship sails on. Her signature hummingbirds adorn this River Owl giving it a dreamlike, whimsical feel that her works are known for. Check out the back (back, back) ground.


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Kintsukuroi is the name of the art of repairing pottery with gold. It treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise and be ashamed. Embracing the flaw of imperfections in life itself and coming back stronger in the weaknesses. This is a metaphor for porcelain patterns reflecting that life is beautiful and fragile.


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To the Land Where the Ponga Tree Grows: inspired by the famous Owl and the Pussycat poem by Edward Lear. By depicting the Owl and the Pussycat in the boat this design is focussed on the journeys that are part of life both internally and/or physically. The land and the sea are painted with a strong and obvious influence and celebration of the beauty of New Zealand colours and landscape, seas and skies. The use of gold has layered suggestions from the artist about what we can contribute, and also the value of compassion and charity as part of society. The ponga tree is a central and strong element, yet with its own twists and turns. The stones are indicative of being grounded and focussed, and again a nod of antipodean respect to rivers and coastlines of this wonderful country and landscape.


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Ruru Kakotea: the legend of Pounamu and perfected a faux finish technique for the polished and the uncut rock. Kakotea, a particular shade of greenstone, applied to the owl, along with faux wood and shell finishes to the eyes with glittered claws and pupils and plaited leather rope creates an oversized souvenir. A modern trinket for the supersized age of the last remaining native owl.


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Full Moon Ruru: Away from Auckland’s city glow, moonlight becomes obvious and a full moon shines a bright light over the bush, casting a blue hue over the world of the Ruru and other bush creatures. The dapple pattern that covers the owl is made up of different bush creatures representing what the Ruru may hunt.


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Geometric Owl: Inspired to explore abstract forms to create a composition in the style of geometric abstraction, the design draws on a palette of matte, metallic and fluorescent paints to bring a contemporary edge to the design. There was a dog and families day on at the Silo Park in the Wynard Quarter. Just as I clicked my first photo, a lady’s dog went behind the owl and crouched – much to the owner’s embarrassment. I was just laughing.


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BB-Owl: the shape of the owl makes a perfect BB8 owl.


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The Guardian: channels the delicate and intricate nature of patterns, using their natural language to converse with audiences. In honour of Child Cancer Foundation, Taren’s creation illustrates the concept of comfort for children and the families who walk alongside them on this journey. Drawing from her homeland Cambodia, and with respect to the symbolism of a mandala, Taren delved into her cultural roots to manifest a visual representation of inner strength and protection. It struck a chord with this young child – I was a bit slow clicking the shutter to catch the kiss.


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Big Hoot: A contemporary, colourful and abstract design. This owl features bright geometric graphics in an Aztec style and is the iconic face of the Haier Big Hoot Bold and exciting, the Big Hoot owl celebrates creativity and imagination, and was designed by OWB in the UK for the Haier Big Hoot art trail.


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Hipster Hoot Hipster Hoot is inspired by independent thinkers, dreamers and creativity. Hipster Hoot is trendy, hip and fun!


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Athena of Aotearoa: In Greek mythology, the owl is the symbol for Athena, the goddess of wisdom. Anna’s design celebrates the beauty of multi-culturism with the Land of the Long White Cloud.


 Two I’d wished I’d seen – and we were only about 100m away from them!

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