Thursday, December 29, 2011

Black & white forever

Fifty years ago everything I took was black and white. Then came colour ... then came digital and everything was colour by default. And yet ... some pictures still work better in black and white than in colour. This candid portrait of our Granddaughter; taken on Christmas day with available light was one of those pictures.
Lightly toned for warmth, in my opinion the colour version just doesn't carry the 'presence' that comes through in B&W. Nikon D80, 50mm, ISO 400, 1/45 sec @ f2.8.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Another one from the archives ...

This one was a real challenge; It was about the sky - a deep blue Canterbury spring sky. But, whenever I pushed the saturation and luminescence sliders to get the depth of blue I wanted, all I got was horrific posterisation (banding) in the sky - even editing at 16 bits. Eventually I decided on a masked multiply layer rather than pushing the individual colour values and this had the desired effect without any banding artifacts. Another lesson learned.

Eyre River, near Oxford, looking towards the Alps. Two frame stitched panorama, 50mm, 1/160, f11.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Two years later ...

It's amazing the difference two years experience can make. I took this image in 2009 but it has languished on  the hard drive for two years because I couldn't get it looking right. The main problem was noise. there were huge areas of noise in the mid-ground trees and even to reduce the noise to that level, there was excessive smearing of the distant details. In short it looked a mess.

Since then I have acquired better tools (Topaz) and a better understanding of how to use them. Installing Lightroom 3 this week, the original image resurfaced and so I took another shot at it using the new tools and a more refined workflow:

Now it looks the way I originally wanted it to; no visible noise and nice sharp detail all the way from the foreground rock to the mountains - 14mm, 1/350, f16, IS0800 (hence the noise problem).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Symbol of privatisation

Track maintenance gear sitting unused at Springfield, since the railways were privatised way back when. Then, when the private owners can't screw another buck out of the project, our kind government buy it back at some inflated price to restore it to working order. Of course by then the gear is all rusted and useless ...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Container City

Yesterday we went to 'Container City' the new and emerging heart of wounded Christchurch. Visited the Apple Store, Johnson's the Grocer and Scorpio Books - all buzzing with lunchtime activity. It's so good to see the Central City begin to show signs of life again. Who knew that containers could look so good?
 More pictures at:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Glentui Bush

Took a walk in Glentui Bush on Monday with the intention of refining my processes for High Dynamic Range photography in general and panoramic HDR in particular. This was the second trip as I totally messed up the process on Sunday and came back with only half decent material. The second time was much better and the process seems pretty solid now (if a little time consuming).

This shot is the compilation of a 3 frame x 6 exposure sequence (18 images) taken at ISO 100, f8 and speeds between 1/500 and 1/15 second. Each exposure sequence was combined in Photomatix Pro and the three images stitched in AutopanoPro. Further processing was done in Photoshop using Topaz filters.

More pictures from this outing can be seen at:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The wonder that is us.

"From conception to birth" - a 'must watch' TED video for every mum and dad or mum and dad to be. Beautifully presented ...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Come to sunny Oxford (NZ) ...

... where the justice is slow and lingering. Rumour has it he was put here several years ago by the good citizens of Oxford, who hadn't the heart to run him out of town.
For those law-breakers of an outdoor disposition, the stocks are just outside the jail. Welcome to Oxford :-)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Charlie Todd: The shared experience of absurdity | Video on

After a long day assembling furniture, this TED video brought a smile to my face. "IMPROV Everywhere" do odd things to make people laugh - sounds like a worthy occupation to me.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Don't play on the tracks!

I wasn't; I was walking along the maintenance walkway at the side of the track. Halfway to the centre of the bridge and back again. I had just stepped off the walkway when the freight train came along allowing me to get this picture:
The scary thing was how much of the walkway the freight train took up - I had thought I would be safe against the hand rail but, no way. Another photographic near miss :-(

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Bridge too far ...

The suspension bridge that crosses the Eyre River at Wolff's Road is a majestic though dilapidated structure with its ends buried deep in bush. Built in 1945 to carry foot traffic, it's span is about 80m give or take a bit. One can be excused for wondering why it was built; the river floods on only a few days a year and there are other crossings readily available by car. But, in 1945 the alternative crossings were either Oxford or Mandeville and, as The Press observed, the flooded river "kept children from school, farmers from stock, cream from porridge, and urgent supplies from the farms." Today, only the foolhardy would attempt to cross the broken structure, but it seems a shame if its only destiny is to become rotted wood and rusted steel.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Economic inequality; it hurts

In this powerful talk, Richard Wilkinson argues that a society that supports economic inequality is a sick society. Whether you agree with them or not, Richard puts a statistical finger on what 'Occupy Wall Street' (and its clones) are all about. Well worth a watch.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Not so much a game

It's black on blue - again.
Some think it's just a game
while others that it's life or death.
There will be casualties.

It's black on blue - again.
The money's on the black or
in the boxes, anyway.
It's all about the money.

It's black on blue - again.
We look on, helpless or turn
away, unable to bear the sight.
Tell me when its over.

Its black on blue - again.
A stadium of four million
watching as the black runs out.
"Go the blacks" they shout.

Its black on blue again.
Two sides in a well matched game
Played on the Astrolabe fouled reef.
Blue, may you beat the black.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rediscovering the opalotype

Photographic history is littered with now obsolete processing methods, like the cyanotype or the daguerreotype. One of the advantages of today's digital darkroom is being able to revisit some of these processes without needing to acquire specialist materials and chemicals and engage in strange rituals in darkened rooms. One such process that I am really enjoying is the opalotype.

Opalotypes were produced on milky white glass plates and the resulting monochrome image was then hand tinted to produce pictures that were (according to Wikipedia) "close to watercolour or even pastel in its softer coloring and tender mood." I suspect that it is probably this quality that draws me to the effect for certain subjects; like the Old Iron Bridge near Twizel in South Canterbury .

What do you think of the opalotype; nice and subtle or too last, last, century?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mind bogglingly big

Last weekend we ventured far into the southern depths of Canterbury in search of some r&r. But we also wanted to see the hydro scheme and to visit Mt. Cook. This is MacKenzie country where, even in Spring, the grass is brown and the trees few. The 'brownness' of the MacKenzie is a bit disconcerting at first until you realise that the monotone simply draws attention to the broad sweep of the landscape.

This is HUGE country, where even a road seems little more than a temporary pencil mark on the land. The hills roll ever onward in their brownness eventually to be dwarfed by the towering peaks of the Southern Alps. It makes one feel small; not much bigger (nor significant) than the rabbits that seem to find it all to their liking.  But again, the bigness of the landscape points to another bigness: the bigness of what human beings have achieved in remoulding this landscape for the hydro scheme.

Of course there are the lakes, but they only require a dam to be built and filled with water. More amazing is the extent of the earthworks that have been necessary to reshape the land so that broad canals can gently carry water from one lake to the next. It's a big land which has been levelled and built up to suit man's needs, rather than natures whim. To stand there and ponder the amount of work necessary to sculpt a land in this way just makes the mind boggle.

Part of the canal running from Lake Ohau and, eventually, into Lake Benmore

Friday, October 7, 2011

Playing in the rain

The advantage of rainy days is that I can sit at my computer and play with new ideas and approaches to pictures, without feeling guilty (about the length of the grass, the weeds and the vegetable garden). Having upgraded Photoshop Elements to version 10 (from 8) and Topaz Black and White effects to version 1.1, I have had quite a lot to play with. This large format (100 cm width) picture was the result of a couple of days 'play':

Originally taken with a 10mm lens on a Nikon D80, it is now a 7,800 x 5,400 pixel image file on a canvas texture, as shown in this 100% crop from one edge:

I have been hugely impressed with the Topaz line of digital filters and, now that PS Elements has proper layer masks (from v9) the combination of PS Elements and Topaz filters makes for a great post processing suite at a reasonable cost.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Spotlight on Stonegrooves

Every month we take down one exhibition and hang another. If I get a chance, I like to grab a few pictures from each exhibition - mainly for my own records. This last exhibition included work by Ruth Killoran an artist from Christchurch who is both a sculptor and a painter. This picture is taken through one of Ruth's sculptures towards one of her pictures.

I was fascinated by the abstract lines and shapes and the contrast with the rectangular painting. None of which shows off Ruth's work to best advantage of course, so if you want to see the beautiful work she creates, hop on over to her website at:

Monday, October 3, 2011

From words to pictures

Good to be getting back to the visuals after spending the last few months shovelling words from one pile to another. Of course, it was raining today, so it was back into the archives to try out some new ideas and processing techniques in black and white. Well actually, these were a pair of quad tone pictures; sort of leaning towards towards sepia but not quite.

Both taken with a 15mm (efl) lens on a Nikon D80 earlier this year. The bridge is the Waimakariri Gorge Bridge, now a single lane road bridge, but originally built for rail.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sanity is a good backup

As I write this, I am being saved - or at least my data is. My HP laptop which has been little more than three years of extended and expensive malfunction, has finally died. Good riddance is all I can say. Problem is it took my business data with it. Darn.

I do, of course, have backups - on an external drive. But, they are a few weeks old now. You know how it is; busy, always in a rush, forget to kick off the backup. So the latest invoices, the last half day accounting marathon, isn't there. Again, darn. Fortunately, I do have another backup, a Carbonite backup.

I started using Carbonite two years ago as my 'off site' backup solution. It costs me about NZ$70 a year but I figured it was worth it. Carbonite sits there in the background, copying everything in selected folders to the Carbonite servers without any intervention on my part. Fortunately, I haven't needed an off site backup yet, but Carbonite just proved it was a more meticulous on-site backup solution than my own local setup.

There it's just finished restoring my files now and, again, yes; absolutely every last item is there, all safe and sound. Thanks Carbonite. You might want to check them out, that's

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Doodling - a fresh perspective

An amusing and informative TED talk by Sunni Brown on the practice and purpose of doodling. Take six minutes; it's worth it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

No stupid questions

I've always enjoyed Scott Adams' 'Dilbert' cartoons. So, I was quite happy to find an Android application called "Fast Dilbert Reader" for my phone. FDR gives you access to all 22 years of Dilbert cartoons and, I am afraid, that my addiction is such that I started to read from somewhere back in 1989.

When teaching adults, I often used to tell them that there was no such thing as a 'stupid question' and that they should ask if there was anything they didn't understand. This Dilbert from November 1989 made me smile:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A new home

... shakes head and looks around ...

This must be a new site. Clean isn't it? Won't be for long though, I seem to have the knack of making places look 'lived in' really quickly.

Oh yes, before I forget, I'm 'Fordy'; a somewhat introverted idealist who most people think should have grown up by now. But, after sixty odd years of trying (to grow up), I've decided to stop trying, kick back, and enjoy being 'me'. Truth seems to be that 'me' is just a big kid that enjoys playing, having new toys, and doing things just because he feel like it. I'm not going to let that guilt me any more (nor the fact that I just abused the English language). If that scares you then let me add that I am known for being mostly quite harmless and have even been described as a 'big teddy bear' (probably one with no arms and an eye hanging out).

Anyway, that be as it may, I'm slowly detaching from my previous professional life (in management and technology) and spending more time doing things that give me pleasure (if not money). That means writing, photography and art in general. Consider this site to be a sort of bred-crumb trail of the journey from a manager's desk to a ... well, actually, I don't know where to yet, and maybe that's the attraction; breaking with the tediously familiar to explore strange new worlds and to go where no ... [old geek alert - danger, danger!]

String along if you want, there might be a few laughs to be had (probably at my expense). Anyway, this is just the start so, let's see where it leads...