From Bilbo’s Hobbit Hole

The Hobbit in New Zealand

It’s funny that I happen to be in New Zealand while all the financial wrangling about The Hobbit movie’s future. It’s all they talk about on the local news and the radio!

I only have a cursory understanding of what is going on, but I believe it had something to do with the unions, and the movie studio was getting a bit worried about committing a bunch of money to something unstable. At the last second, the NZ gov’t jumped in to toss $10mm in guarantees into the deal to ensure that the 2-part movie is made here.

Daily Photo – From Bilbo’s Hobbit Hole

When I was in a little town called Matamata, which Peter Jackson’s team selected as the perfect place for Hobbiton, I was lucky enough to receive a private tour from Ian Brodie (see Hobbiton Tours for more info!). Ian is also quite the HDR enthusiast (see Ian’s Photo Website), so it was great to spend several hours with the guy! I put a video of us together below… and we talked a bit about taking photos of the party tree.

After that, we got to adventure inside of Bilbo’s actual hole! Cool! I turned around to take a photo from the inside out. The huge tree there is the famous party tree, where Bilbo had his birthday party with Frodo before he slipped on the ring.

HDR Photo

Video – HDR in Hobbiton

I took this video earlier in the year with Ian. You can take the tour too! Just go visit Hobbiton Tours, and be sure to say hi to Ian if you see him while running around Hobbiton!

New Video – On Eden’s Farm

New Video – On Eden’s Farm

I had a wonderful evening with Eden Brackstone, even though he uses a Canon. I can overlook these trifle matters, but I do not forget them lightly.

We were in Gibbston, New Zealand, about 20 minutes from Queenstown. After a wonderful dinner with his delightful family, I popped out onto his farm to shoot some HDR. He started recording video on his aforementioned Canon-thing, and put together the little dealio below. Enjoy!

Daily Photo – The Pond and the Sunset Stormclouds

Here is the final photo that was taken just before we started recording the video above.

Nikon 28-300 Review

The Lake in Queenstown

Daily Photo – The Lake in Queenstown

We are having a wonderful time in Queenstown and the surrounding area. We just can’t find a place with a bad view! Thanks again for all the suggestions and info on the various neighborhoods that people have suggested via email, twitter, and the blog comments!

Gordon from Camera Labs, who lives here, made a good point that living in Queenstown is a bit like living inside of a national park. There are beautiful national parks around the world, but you can’t actually live inside of them… so this is really a remarkable place. Even better, the main mountain range here is called “The Remarkables”!

HDR Photo

Sheep on the way to Paradise

Two to the Third

Sometimes, when I am out with people, talking about shooting landscapes, I talk about the light possibilities on partly-cloudy days. In today’s photo, you can see it is a partly cloudy day, which means the light changes every 5-10 minutes or so. Usually, it is so gradual, that it is hard to tell.

I find that most of my landscapes have three distinct areas. The foreground, the middle ground, and the background. If you think about it, each of these 3 places can have 2 lighting conditions: sun or shadow. So, you may have the middle in sun with the fore and back in shadow, or all three in shadow, or… you get the point. There are eight possibilities (two cubed). So, I run through in my head WHICH of those eight combinations I want. In this case, I wanted the combination where the foreground and the middle ground are well lit while the background was in shadow. So I had to wait about 15 minutes or so for this combination… [EDIT - thanks to commenters who corrected my math from three squared!]

Daily Photo – Sheep on the way to Paradise

This title makes it sounds a bit like they are about to be slaughtered… or maybe they are suicide-sheep, about to meet some sweet sweet virgin sheep in paradise. But no, this is not what I mean. There is a little town past Glenorchy, New Zealand called “Paradise”. I passed these sheep while on the way there.

I never made it to Paradise, truthfully. I turned around. It felt like such a long way to get here, and I had to turn around to get back to Queenstown before it got too late.

I took this photo with my new Nikon 28-300 lens. I love it so far! This one was shot at f/5.6, 70mm, and ISO 100.

Nikon 28-300 Review

The Most Beautiful Road in the World

Visit Gordon at Camera Labs!

Among other very nice local people I have met here in the Queenstown area is Gordon Liang from Camera Labs. Be sure to pop over to his site to check out some of his reviews. He’s a very nice guy and our families had breakfast together here… after talking about all his testing, he gave me some serious camera-envy!

Daily Photo – The Most Beautiful Road in the World

I found it!

I’ve looked at travel guides and driven on a ton of beautiful, scenic roads all over the world, but I think this road to Queenstown (on the way to/from Glenorchy) is the most beautiful in the world. The road winds down one side of a perfect, fjord-like lake, and every few kilometers, the mountain views change dramatically. Depending upon the time of day you travel it, the entire landscape transforms before your eyes.

Wonder what it looks like on the other side of the lake? You won’t believe that it is in the same place! See this photo called “Mountainstorm” that I took on a previous trip to this location. It was shot later in the evening, so I wasn’t able to properly capture the road that time.

What’s the prettiest road you have ever found? I’ve seen conflicting guides of the most beautiful roads in the US… I’m sure everyone has their opinion… I’d love to know what you think!

HDR Photo

The Most Beautiful Road in the World

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/5.6
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length44mm (44mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

The Green Pool of New Zealand

New Video!

When I took this photo, I also made another little behind-the-scenes video. Here it is below!

Daily Photo – The Green Pool

The northern island of New Zealand has a geothermal area in Rotorua called Wai-o-tapu that is filled with these strange places. One of the best things about these are the names… Various mysterious pits have names like the Devil’s Throat, Hell’s Gate, and Devil’s Cauldron. You don’t want to drop your cell phone in any of these.

HDR Photo

Auckland Harbor

In New Zealand!

After a crazy time in China, I am now in New Zealand for about a month.  This has been a truly adventurous trip, and it is exactly the kind of treasure I seek.  There is a part of me that always feels serene and harmonious when adventuring into the unknown.

We are looking for a new place to live, so we will be wandering around the South Island to look for some place cool. I’ll have more on an “official move” soon. People ask me all the time why I would move from USA to NZ, and I have a whole list!

And thank you for all the suggestions on where to stay in the South Island.  It’s a great list and we are still working through it! :)

Daily Photo – Auckland Harbor

When we were in Auckland last time, we had an amazing photowalk. There were so many people! A lot of us had our tripods as we moved around the city streets creating quite a spectacle. Afterward, we went to a nice little venue and I gave a talk on photography that I hope did not bore people!

During the walk, we stopped along the harbor in a few spots. There was a rotating metallic sculpture that grabbed everyone’s eye, so we popped over for a quick shot.

HDR Photo

The Yellow-Eyed Penguin

Straight Outta Lightroom

I’ve use Lightroom all the time. It’s great. This shot below came straight out of Lightroom with no Photoshop adjustments at all. Lightroom is extremely powerful, and I know lots of people that use it exclusively. I do use it all the time, although mostly just to organize my photos — not edit them.

Daily Photo – The Yellow-Eyed Penguin

These are the rare yellow-eyed penguins of New Zealand.  I think they are rare.  I don’t know.  It seems like all animals are rare or endangered, so those words kind of lose their punch after a while, don’t they?  I mean, if most everything is rare, then it becomes quite common, linguistically speaking.  Anyway, they said it was rare, so there you go.

And I know why they are rare!  They just stand there.  It’s no wonder humans had a field-day on New Zealand.  These giant, meaty, tasty birds just stand around.  They are like Cheesecake Factories that are open all night and always free.  I’m sure they are pretty hard to resist when you are hungry.  Mmmm… Penguin-Flavored-Cheesecake.

HDR Photo

The Abandoned Farmhouse

The Genuine Fractals Review

Here is a review that I haven’t mentioned in a while. It’s a handy piece of software for cleverly making photos bigger without losing resolution. See more in the Genuine Fractals Review.

Daily Photo – The Abandoned Farmhouse

This place was another one of those New Zealand fence-hoppers.

I’m never 100% sure that jumping over fences is a great move. But if the place looks abandoned, I just go for it. I don’t mean any harm…. I’m just going to take photos. So far, this has never caused me an issue (except for when I forget to check to see if the fence is electrified).

I don’t do a lot of these urbex shots, but I certainly do enjoy them. Did you know there are several forums out there that have listings of abandoned buildings around the world? They list out old abandoned hospitals, theme parks, hotels, and more creepy places like you see in zombie movies. It’s all great for photography, of course, and I think a few of my London contacts may be hooking me up with some abandoned spots around their neck of the woods.

HDR Photo

Photography podcast in the future? And… The Giant Sun Sinks into the Tasman Sea

Video from The Tech Guy

We have some fun video from the appearance on Leo Laporte‘s The Tech Guy yesterday. When I was out at Leo’s cottage a few weeks ago, he brought up the idea of doing a photography podcast on his network. I gave him the thumbs up and said I thought it sounded like a good idea! He said he wanted to put it together with me, Lisa Bettany, and Ray Maxwell. If you want to hear the latest in those discussions, fast-forward to the 12:30 mark.

Otherwise, we talk about HDR, the DVD, we critique on of his HDR shots, and this sort of thing. As far as links we mentioned, you can go to the HDR Camera Recommendations and the free HDR Tutorial.

And, after the interview, I forgot I was still on Skype!  So, he caught me carrying my computer back to the office… but I did capture some more behind-the-scenes stuff that you may enjoy…hehe.  You may enjoy seeing what happens during the commercial breaks of these shows… !

If you want to subscribe to more of Leo’s podcasts, just visit his main TWIT site. He has everything from the hit weekly show This Week in Tech that has John Dvorak as a regular to my fellow Austinite Brian Brushwood on NSFW. They have it all there!

Daily Photo – The Giant Sun Sinks into the Tasman Sea

Despite what I said in the podcast, sometimes you do want to go beyond +2 to -2 !  I can’t go through every caveat in those short soundbytes… but this exemplifies such a case.  In this photo of the sunset over the Tasman Sea, off the coast of New Zealand, I did take 7 exposures form +3 to -3.  Whenever you aim the camera right into the sun, you need to expose even more range than normal.

I am going back to New Zealand for about a month in October. It will be a blast! This time, I’ll be spending most of my time on the South Island, exploring around… I hope to bring back more wonderful finds from the wild for you!

HDR Photo

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