So, I finally managed to take some time out and made the journey to the South Island, just me and the camera. Not only was this something I'd been hoping to do for some time but in light of my intentions for next year it was also a dummy run of sorts.
There were certainly facets of both my character and this country that came to light on this journey and whilst I don't regard it as being hugely successful in a photographic sense it has hopefully enlightened me enough to be able to make better use of my time on any future adventures.
I've shared some of my favourite digital images from the trip below, in the next post I'll share my film images.
The Remarkables - Leica M Monochrom, 90mm Summicron f/2 - LFI Master Shot
Zone focusing with the 90mm Summicron f/2 still requires a degree of patience, especially when waiting for seagulls to align themselves in to a formation of your liking!! This was taken en-route to Glenorchy which by the way is a picturesque run, despite the fact that it's one of those settlements with only road in and out. Scenery wasn't the only reason I was on this road, it's also the home of a NZ landscape painter by the name ofJohn Crump, I'd admired his landscapes online and figured it would be great to see them up close and maybe tap him up for some local knowledge at the same time. Alas, on reaching John's gallery I was greeted by a polite notice that read - If you find the gallery closed, I've gone out to paint. or words to that effect. That's fair enough I thought, it just wasn't meant to be, or was it........I'll finish this later in the post.
Arthurs Pass - Leica M9, 90mm Summicron f/2
This is a well photographed spot on the South Island tourist trail. I spent ten minutes looking at angles etc and pretty much wherever I went this guy positioned himself in front of me, in the end I decided I'd move on so grabbed a shot with him in the frame, there's something about it I like but I can't put my finger on it. I tried several processing options and couldn't find anything that worked for the shot, in the end I settled on thisVSCO FILM preset for FUJI 160C.
Full Steam Ahead - Leica M Monochrom, 90mm Summicron f/2
Disclaimer.....Please don't lay on railway lines in diminishing light or at any other time for that matter!! This is a scenic railway used in the tourist season and therefor out of commission at the time I took this. To give the appearance of steam rising from an approaching train I utilised a distant cloud of dust generated by agricultural machinery, it was successful to a point.
Cockpit - Leica M9, 90mm Summicron f/2
I've chalked up a few shots that I like with the 90mm Summicron f/2, it's great having it in my bag and it really gives you some useful options, it's just a shame it's pretty heavy......
Silence of the Lambs - Leica M Monochrom, 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph - LFI Master Shot
Apologies if you're in any way offended by the dead lamb's.......truth be known this is probably my favourite shot of 2013!!
Stairway to Heaven - Leica M9, 90mm Summicron f/2
More from the 90mm Summicron f/2, I really gave it some serious camera time on this trip, I'd love to see the 90 APO at close quarters.......
Catenary Ripples - Leica M Monochrom, 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar f/4.5 - LFI Master Shot
In many ways this is the perfect kind of shot for the fantastic little 15/4.5 from Voigtlander. I only used it a couple of times on the trip, but it's aways worth taking. Whenever I get the chance I recommend this lens, sharp, small, light and no distortion. My user report and instructions on dealing with Cornerfix are HERE.
The Forsaken - Leica M9, 50mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph
I was drawn to the colours and tones of these wonderful old vehicles, it seems like every other rural property has a yard full of old vehicles.
The Gathering Storm - Leica M Monochrom, 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph, B+W Red 091 8x Filter
All too often, the weather was not my friend......I have used my digital M's in drizzle before but some of the worst storms in living memory were to occur on this trip. When I did see the sun, it was harsh, the kind of light that washes away all detail. A couple of times I did find myself in the right place at the right time but all too often the light wouldn't oblige. I really can't stress the importance of good light, it can make the ordinary, extraordinary, thinking back to the last year when I was last in the South Island, spending just an hour in Wanaka I managed to get some of my favourite images because the light was so special. See those - (HERE)
Strangers in a Strange Land - Leica M9, 90mm Summicron f/2
"Strangers in a Strange Land"......more like that's a strange title for this image!! I don't title all images and a title definitely can't improve an image, it can certainly impart additional meaning and context though. Some images are more about evoking a personal memory or association than they are about the content, at least I think.
Having arrived in Franz Joseph late in the evening I made a decision to wake early and walk up to the terminal face of the glacier. After a good nights rest I was on my way, pausing only to read the safety warnings and to acknowledge the alarming rate the glacier is retreating based on photographs from 2009...scary!! It's a eire walk through the valley, beautiful, although not photographically so on the morning in question.
Approaching my destination, I'd already decided to go beyond the safety barriers and get as close to the glacier as I could, on reaching the barrier and reading the articles posted there about numerous unfortunate tourists crushed by falling ice I decided it wasn't worth it.....risk and reward, lot's of risk, not much reward!!
Turning to begin the journey back I noticed a lone figure on the horizon, headed in my direction. As we drew closer I was able to distinguish the uniform of a DOC warden, clearly this guy was doing his morning rounds and inspecting the glacier and route to it. "Morning" I said as we crossed paths, "morning" came the reply in an accent I immediately recognised having been around it most of my life. "Blimey, are you from Sheffield?" I asked, "Sure am, Hunters Bar to be precise....." came the reply.
Incredibly, two strangers meet in the middle of nowhere and on the opposite side of the world, not only are they from the same UK city, but they were born in the same district. New Zealand has a habit of doing this and at times it can feel like nothing more than a large village!! and there it was, we walked and talked, about where we were from and our lives in New Zealand until we finally bid each other farewell on returning to our vehicles. It really was one of those enjoyable moments that invariably come with travel.
Abandoned - Leica M Monochrom, 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph
Another gloomy shot, derelict properties aren't uncommon in the south, however, unlike the East Cape(HERE) they tend to be uninhabited......
The Artist - Leica M9, 35mm Summicron f/2 (Pre Asph) v.1
I snapped this just outside Kiakora, what a lovely place to work, it almost has a fairytale feel to it, not to mention the Pacific Ocean right behind it!
Now, speaking of artist's, before crossing country to Kiakora I'd made my way up the west coast, through Hokitia and Greymouth, headed towards Westport I noticed several easels at the roadside and group of gentlemen having a cup of tea and a bite to eat. Intrigued, I pulled up and walked over to say hello and take a closer look at the seascapes they were painting. An elderly gentleman who modestly described himself as a "Sunday painter" introduced the others, one of which happened to be John Crump!!! "I was at your house six days ago!!" I proclaimed, "You weren't in....." I joked. "Well I'm here now" came the reply and we shared a laugh. I had eventually caught up with him, 650km's from his home and gallery and quite by accident, small world.
Southern Exposure - Leica M Monochrom, 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph, ND 1.8 Filter
Definitely not the kind of image I had in mind when I moved away from DSLR's but there wasn't a lot else happening at the time, 1 Sec f/16
Being away from family is more difficult than I thought, that said, no pain, no gain.
I tried to do too much, by that I mean I visited too many places and drove way too many km's.
Naively, when thinking of New Zealand and in particular the South Island one immediately thinks of vast open spaces, the thing is those open spaces are largely in private ownership. All too often I'd see a potential image and find a fence between myself and said image. I'd love to see something like the UK's"Right to Roam"in New Zealand, or better still Sweden's ‘Allemansrätt’ I won't hold my breath though.
What the point above highlighted to me is this - A) I had no desire to trespass and B) I had little inclination to seek out the owners permission. This in turn lead me to question my commitment, that being said if I'd seen something really special I may have trespassed or made the extra effort.
I don't like the idea of planning too far ahead when I'm out with camera, its fun to just see what happens. Whilst thats fine, I have realised the importance of having a plan A and B up your sleeve, just in case.
I'm still carrying too much gear, Leica Monochrom because I prefer the B&W's from it, the Leica M9 because there are occasions when I want colour and Leica M6 because shooting film gives you something extra special, decisions, decisions......
I've known the importance of having long term photographic projects for a considerable time, I think this trip really allowed me the time to reflect on that, I have a couple of ideas in mind and I need to action them.
Small trips in relatively familiar and comfortable surroundings aren't lighting my fire, I feel like I'm repeating myself in my imagery and stalling in terms of progress. I want to be out of my comfort zone and if I'm going to continue I will have to seek out more ways of doing that.
It's not all about the photographs, you must savour the journey, one of my fondest memories from the trip was eating fresh Crayfish by the roadside whilst watching hundreds of seal pups playing in the ocean.
Processing in LR4 and Silver Efex Pro 2
I've also started to use VSCO FILM 01 preset system for LR4, it's early days for me but looking around the internet at some of the images people are producing the effects are quite something. Also, the preset system in LR4 makes it all pretty handy.
Remember the film images are up next, already scanned and ready to go!!