The Gentle Grasses of New Zealand

New Textures Tips From Vanelli

Back when I moved my portfolio to Smugmug (See my Smugmug Review), we did a little promotion where a winner got to go on a Vacation with Vanelli. Remember that guy? Well, here comes Vanelli blowing back onto the scene with something new – a video. He has made a cool variation of techniques with my textures, and he wanted to share this “grouping” trick with everyone.

See Vanelli’s New Texture Video there on his site. You will be able to tell very quickly that Vanelli really gets a kick out of all this stuff, and he loves teaching people. You might want to surf around his site a bit more for even more goodies.

New Zealand Images Groweth!

By now, we have posted 17 images of New Zealand! Cool. It’s a beautiful place, and surely you can see why I plan on moving the family (and there. In fact, today I got a little email from Roy Furgeson, New Zealand Ambassador to the US (and former ambassador to North Korea)! I was so excited. In HUGE red letters on it, the email said, “UNCLASSIFIED“, which I suppose means that I can mention it without any untoward Kiwi repercussions.

I went to the official New Zealand website for these sorts of diplomatic matters to see what else has been happening of late. This week, besides the historic occasion of emailing me, the Ambassador has been quite busy.  A Kiwi bird was born, and Mr. Ferguson had the honor of naming it “Hiri”.  Hiri is a Maori word that means, “Kiwi Egg Was Not Eaten By A Dirty Drunken Aussie Possum”.

Daily Photo – The Gentle Grasses of New Zealand

As we moved from the North to the South Island (by grinding our Kea Camper onto a moaning ferry), we expected the terrain to change dramatically. Everyone in the north told us how different things were in the south!

But right after we arrived in Picton and started making our way to Nelson, the terrain still had the soft hills and flowing greens of the north. Not that there is anything wrong with that, mind you. But, for a while (until we made it further south), I thought that the whole North Island was playing a huge practical joke on me, and the South Island was actually a perfect replica of the north. After ravenously consuming the comedy stylings of The Flight of the Conchords, I thought I would be able to scry every type of Kiwi humor.  While driving through this bit, I thought perhaps I had fallen prey to old Country-Wide-Giant-Practical-Joke.


Video – Behind the Scenes in the Shire

Still Migrating Servers

We are still in the midst of a major migration, so stay tuned… more news to come! 🙂

New Video

While I was on the North Island of New Zealand, I was invited by the very kind Ian Brodie (links to his photography website) to visit Hobbiton! He is also an avid HDR Photographer, and extended a wonderful invitation to my family and I to visit The Shire. It’s located on a farm nearby the town of Matamata.

Ian works with Hobbiton Tours, which you should also look up if you want to have a visit yourself!

New Behind-The-Scenes Video and Manhattan Living

Behind-the-Scenes in New Zealand

I recently edited together and posted this scene from the south island of NZ, when I was out in this beautiful meadow at sunset. I was using a 70-200mm lens, so I used this to add to my Nikon 70-200 Review.

If you’d also like to see the resulting photo, check out the Video on the Valley of Abundance page.

Daily Photo – Manhattan Living

When I was in New York City, I had the good fortune to spend time with Steve Simon. We had breakfast at this great little French place and then went around to do a bit of shooting. We stopped at his place and went up to the roof. Peering over the side, I saw this and thought it was kinda nice… so I grabbed a quick one.

Be sure to visit Steve’s site on the link above. He has amazing work and I am sure you will get a kick out of it!

The Spray of the Tasman Sea

Art Show in Austin

I arrived a little late to the show, and the girl that clicked us in said there were over 200 people there! Crazy! But it was really awesome to see this World’s Largest High Resolution Tiled Wall display. I enjoyed meeting a bunch of new people, seeing other artists, and checking out the whole scene.

A gentleman there named David Ingram (Dingatx on Flickr) grabbed this photo below to give you some idea of the scene.

Daily Photo – The Spray of the Tasman Sea

This was an incredibly difficult photo to achieve!

I did this one live, in front of my HDR Workshop in Tokyo. I like to tackle new photos in front of people so they can see how I struggle through the HDR process. It’s never easy… and I like to talk out loud and let people know my thinking process. I think this is a very interesting way to give a live tutorial, rather than go by some automated and predictable script. The way you think about all the unexpected problems, dodge and roll with the issues, and synthesize various tools to accomplish an end goal is an interesting process.

You’ll also see this on the upcoming HDR DVD. One night after an outing, I came back to process some brand new photos, and they all got to see me struggle through a few pieces to come up a satisfying work.

This was shot very recently when I was down on the extremely frigid coast of the Tasman Sea, on the southwest edge of New Zealand. With a wide-angle lens, you need to get in really close to this icy cold spray to get the splashes just right… I was completely soaked after this, and it felt (and smelled!) like I had just finished a multi-week crab hunt in the arctic!

Flashback Photo – I’ve Reached the End of the World

You can see the edge of this one from the giant wall display above… This one was also taken not too far from Antarctica…but on the opposite side of the globe down near the southern tip of Argentina and Chile. The huge display allowed my son and I to walk up very close to it… there is a little iceberg there, and he saw the two rocks. He asked me what they were, and I told him that I threw them out there while waiting around!

From the Forest, Across the Valley

Upcoming Review of Nikon 18-200 Lens

This is probably an unexpected lens for me to buy, but I’m really getting a kick out of it! I’ll be sure to update the Nikon 18-200 Review when it is all done.  I’ve been using it a lot in the last few weeks and I quite like it.  I wasn’t sure for a while…  mostly because it is a DX lens.  But I am using it in a bit of an unconventional way — anyway, a full review will come when I get a bit more time!

I added a few pictures of the new lens on my camera while here in Japan. You can get an idea of the relative size of the thing… it’s certainly a lot smaller than the 24-70mm or the 70-200mm. By the way, this will be the crux of my review… that is more convenient and lighter, and the higher f-stop is not a problem whilst in a tripod.

The 18-200 lens retracted at 18mm on the body of a Nikon D3X

Daily Photo – From the Forest, Across the Valley

I’ve read several interesting anthropological studies of what people like to see in paintings.  I assume the same thing goes for photos.  I don’t hyper-analyze all the constituent parts, but I do notice when they come into play naturally.  There are a number of features that are desirable, most of which track back to a genetic history of the Pleistocene.  One interesting bit is that we like the idea of being near the protection of a forest while looking out across a wide plane that has a sense of scale.

Well there is plenty of that in New Zealand!  This spot was found on the long drive to Milford Sound.  I had so many wonderful distractions along the way…  how can I not stop for something like this?

The Artist’s Palette in Rotorua

The World in HDR, now on the Kindle

I found out that my HDR Book is now on the Kindle. That is kinda cool! Although, frankly, in all honesty, I would recommend you get it on the iPad rather than the Kindle when it is available. It will just look so much better in color. Anyway, I thought you guys would like to know that little update… I have no date yet on the iPad version. I did talk to my editor on the phone, and everything is moving forward!

Daily Photo – The Artist’s Palette in Rotorua

Isn’t this spot awesome? I did not expect all this geothermal activity in New Zealand — it was just as impressive as Yellowstone.

This area of the north island is called Rotorua. This, specifically is the Champagne Pool at the Artist’s Palette at the Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland. The term “Wonderland” always makes me think of a cheap attraction on the side of the road where you can buy rubber snakes after the kids have had a great time and the parents are bored out of their skulls. But this Wonderland really was a Wonderland for all ages! I made a few videos here as well… I need to get around to editing these things together for y’all!

The Valley of Abundance | HDR Camera Recommendations

Updated Camera Recommendations and Equipment List

People commonly ask me how to get an “HDR Camera” (see link for recommendations). Well, I have to tell them that there is no such thing as an “HDR Camera”. But there are certain types of cameras that are better at making HDR photos than others. The secret to HDR is not really in the camera, but in the software and process.  If you are new, I have all that laid out in my HDR Tutorial.

I used to recommend the Nikon D40 as a good entry-level camera, but I just can’t do it any more. Yes, you can make a decent HDR out of a single RAW file, which the D40 can certainly do, but it is not always optimal. I have organized the three categories of camera into “Good”, “Better”, and “Best” to make it simple for people that are just getting into the sport.

I talk to thousands of people that are new to photography (or just about to get more serious about it), and you’d be surprised how many people ask me, “So where do I get an HDR Camera?”  The most important thing is that your camera can do auto-bracketing.  I only know about and recommend Nikon cameras — I am just not all that familiar with Canon.  Although, if you have a Canon DSLR camera, you should be just fine.

New Newsletter Soon – Free How-To Video

If you like the photo below, I have a how-to video that will be included with the newsletter. It’s free, and I promise not to spam you. I send about one per month, and try to fill them up with beautiful things… The newsletter is spreading like wildfire! If you are not yet on it, fill out this simple thing below and get ready…

Daily Photo – The Valley of Abundance

I started the day in Queenstown and decided to cut out early because it was too stormy. That was too bad, because I was really excited about going up the mountain to do the street-luge. I did it near Rotorua on the north island and had a great time.

Anyway, I was disappointed to leave, but I had a good feeling about where I was going to next towards Milford Sound. The feeling paid off, because I found this place as the sun was setting! This valley could have been more perfect, but I just don’t know how! On this one, I used my 70-200mm lens, which is typically not a lens I use a lot for landscapes. I made a little handheld video that I am going to get edited together for the newsletter crowd to see first!

Six Girls in New Zealand Getting Meat

New B+W Shot

Since you guys know I am kind of a color-centric kind of guy, this thing has to be pretty cool in order for me to use it… Actually, I’d like to do a great deal more black & white stuff, but I know most people like the colorful stuff. I’ll continue to sprinkle these in from time to time if that is okay!

Daily Photo – Six Girls in New Zealand Getting Meat

While on a long drive from the Coromandel to Matamata (where The Shire is), we pulled into this pizza place to stock up on some much needed carbs. I saw these six girls lined up so perfectly, I had to grab a quick shot.

Most places in New Zealand outside of the cities seem to shut down about 8 PM. I had to start getting used to planning ahead to get dinner! It’s hard for me because I usually just go go go go until after sunset, taking photos like a madman… and THEN I think about dinner. But that trick doesn’t really work when you’re on the road there…

The Dock to Forever

In Limited Editions of 250…

There is a new print release from Yellowstone: The Atomic Explosion and Mushroom Fallout at Sunset. Getting this shot was quite difficult because earlier in the day I forgot my tripod! I left it at a ranch where I was staying, and then rode a horse for 3 hours… and forgot I left it back at the ranch! That would have meant another 6 hours of horse-related-activity, and I was not up for that!

Luckily, I had gotten to be friends with the head park ranger for Yellowstone, named “Ranger Rick”.  That’s his real name! How cool.  Anyway, I had stopped at his place where I talked with Rick and his wife before he filled me up with all kinds of powerbars, snacks, and other goodies (he is so nice!) — AND he let me borrow his tripod!  So, that was a real life saver.  I spent another few hours out shooting until dark, then stopped back by his place after I took this shot, and left the tripod on his doorstep, not wanting to wake him up.

The Atomic Explosion and Mushroom Fallout at Sunset

Daily Photo – The Dock to Forever

One of the advantages of going down all the side roads is that you get to find cool places! After leaving Nelson on the South Island, we found a little lake on the map that looked about perfect. After a few hours of meandering, we discovered this place was almost completely empty (just like every place else on the South Island!). Even better, there was a perfect little dock jutting out into the lake.

I first took a bunch of shots with my 14-24mm lens… but it was not really getting the dock with the distant valley in the right way. So, I put on my 70-200mm, zoomed in almost all the way, then backed up quite a bit to get the compression effect of the valley. Remind me to post the other version someday so you can see the comparison! I haven’t processed it yet — but it is in my “Pile to Process” — which is now 22,000 strong.

Deep in the South of New Zealand

HDR Spotting Doing Well! was started late last year as a spin-off of this site. We started it because we wanted to drive more traffic to and get more attention to other interesting HDR photographers and artists around the world. I knew that existing engines were not really doing a great job of spreading around and “creating” attention.  So, in essence, we have created what I call an “attention generation engine”.

I knew that my photos were above average — and I had over 20 million views on Flickr. But then I would look at some of by friends’ photos (and even the photos of strangers), and I saw they only had a few hundred or a few thousand — and their photos were just as good if not better! Anyway, I thought it was high time to make a new site, designed to generate more traffic and attention to other photographers out there, and that was the origin of HDR Spotting.

Since then, whenever I have a speaking engagement or photowalk, I always have nice people come up to me and tell me how much more traffic they are getting. Often times, their views have gone from maybe a few dozen into the thousands. That’s great! And I think it will only get better from here.

Note that HDR Spotting is still in beta and is invite only. I do not hand out codes. You’ll have to get a code from an existing member, but I understand they are sometimes handed out in the HDR Group on Flickr or on Facebook. Anyway, this concludes the little HDR Spotting update. Be sure to check out the HDR Spotting Front Page too — new photos roll in there on a constant basis.

Daily Photo – Deep in the South of New Zealand

I drove over 4,200 kilometers while there — it was just a wonderful experience. Towards the end of the journey, we started making deeper and deeper into the southern island, where things seemed to get more wonderful and wild every kilometer.

The weather was crazy the whole time!  It would go from sunny to violent little storms to random winds to perfect calm.  During one of those transition periods, I was halfway to Milford Sound by this beautiful little lake when this rainbow peeked out. I quickly got into position to capture it, but then realized I had on the wrong lens!  The 12-24mm was okay, but this really called for the 24-70.  Despite worries of rain getting into the chamber, I switched out lenses, doing my best to keep all the elements at bay.

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