Steampunk HQ, Oamaru, NZ

I really love art galleries, but people who take junk and turn it into a story steps it up for me. Add in Victorian-era machinery – steam trains, copper pipes, goggles and the clothing of the era combined with science fiction and you get Steampunk.

Oamaru, a coastal town south of Christchurch, is home to Steampunk HQ. The old waterworks has been transformed, with a Zeppelin above the gate, a steam train ready to launch into the sky out from and the inside crowded with robots, creatures from outer space, mishmash technology, surprising lights and sounds.

The backyard has all sorts of Steampunk machinery – bikes, trains, cranes and lots more.

It’s an amazing place to photograph, with high ISO and odd lighting inside, extreme contrast from dark subjects and a while building outside and some cramped spaces to make life difficult, but you’re almost guaranteed to get some memorable images.


Oamau pier & Penguins

We rented a flat via Air B&B for our one night in Oamaru, a pretty town on the NZ East Coast which happens to be the presumably self-proclaimed ‘Steampunk Capital of the World’.

I love Steampunk, the delightful mixture of Victorian technology with sci-fi, creating ray guns covered in brass tubes, astronauts wearing flying googles and steam trains powered by gas cylinders.

But that’s tomorrow, we arrived after Steampunk HQ was closed, so we ended up enjoying a very long twilight on the old industrial pier, waiting for the Blue Penguins to emerge from the ocean to climb into their little houses built be the locals.

They showed up after dark, which was a challenge to shoot…

Christchurch’s renewal

After the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 – the latter being the big one – Christchurch’s residents started the big clean up, but they left some interesting remnants of the disaster.

Their inventiveness came to the fore too, when many merchants and food sellers needed a place to trade in the devastated city, and the Re:Start project was created, a temporary shopping centre built from shipping containers.

Street art, blue skies and sculpture made for an interesting day being a travelling photographer.

Christchurch Sunset

The rain was coming down before dusk, the boring grey skies of the afternoon loading upon us as so often is the case in the Land of the Long White cloud.

But the rainfall broke up the clouds in time for a spectacular sunset, which i’ve captured here with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 mark II and the 7-14, 12-40 and 40-15mm f/2.8 PRO lenses.

The last two frames are crops from long exposures made after sunset.If you’d like more details on how I captured these images, leave a comment below.

Christchurch – Holiday

Christchurch, the lovely city on the coast of New Zealand’s South Island, was devastated by an earthquake in 2011 and much of the CBD still lies in ruins.

While I was aware of the loss of life, extensive and major damage to the city when it happened, until I got here and saw the extent of the repairs, hastily-propped up buildings and damaged structures being demolished over 5 years after the event… really, I admit I had no concept of what it must have really been like here during the quake and in its aftermath.

All of the shots of the CBD here were shot on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 mark II with the 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens.


A Christchurch tram – similar in style to San Francisco’s, but they aren’t cablecars – taking tourists on a tour of the city and the destruction.


Around the other side of the block construction is moving forward as Christchurch is being rebuilt. Despite shooting this at 1/400th of a second it’s still not needle sharp, which is disappointing. But it’s pretty close.


This building survived the quake and I was attracted to the old car out the front. It had to be shot in monochrome and the lines at the top really draw the eye in. Shot in mono on in camera and tweaked in Lightroom.


Locals playing chess in the town square. By swivelling the screen on the E-M5II I could get an overhead shot.


The camera almost at ground level, focussed on the foreground chess piece.

New Zealand holiday 2017

OK, the plan is to shoot, write and post from the holiday. 

We’re reliving our past taking the kids with us to retrace our honeymoon in New Zealand, where we were 20 years ago. 

That first trip was on a motorcycle, this will be in hire cars, the first one I shot with a Bronica, this time it’s m4/3 and drone. All stills last time, lots of video this time. 

Here’s a scan of one of those giant transperencies from the first trip. 

Why Vincent Laforet is wrong

I just read Vincent Laforet’s post that cameras will only be for professionals, soon.
That everyone else will shoot with mobile phone, because the mini computer in your pocket has the tools to capture, tweak and share quickly and easily, which is what the masses want to do.

I think he underestimates amateurs with passion.

There are no shortage of people who don’t/can’t make a living from photography but want shallow depth of field. Others who understand great sports shots are usually made at over 300mm, or under 24 – so they buy the lenses required.
Indeed, better cameras in mobile phones, while they have killed the cheap compact, have inspired thousands to lift their photography game and shoot with system cameras.
Yes, the camera manufacturers have been slow to respond, haven’t built the app ecosystems for phones and should have better integration with mobile phones by now.
I still can’t simply have images automagically appear in my photos app on my phone, but that’s coming.
No, no camera manufacturer has produced a camera which accepts the iPhone to be slid in at the back to becoming the viewfinder and interface.
But I do have camera which can send the images to my phone pretty quickly, something I hadn’t experienced until recently without using a WiFi enabled SD card. It’s technology which will get better.
I also haven’t used a mobile phone with a decent built in optical zoom, or an EVF, or an off-camera flash, or a bounce flash…
I make part of my income from the photographs I shoot. But I buy way more gear than I need for work, and some of that comes down the passion, for the gear and the images they help to create.
My most recent stills camera purchase was the Leica D-Lux (typ 109). It’s a beautiful camera, one which invariably has a polarizing filter on the front, something difficult to achieve with an iPhone.
I also use it for 4K video.
Phones will never replace a ‘real’ camera for photographers. For most people aren’t photographers, they are just everyday people who take pictures. Photographers, amateur and professional, make images – from highly constructed scenes to controlled slices of the action, those with the passion to produce beautiful images which stand out from the dross which only means anything to the immediate friends and family of the shooter.
In the same way I can cook a great meal but I’m not a chef, most people these days can take a nice picture, but they are not photographers. For that, you need the passion, the eye, the skills – and most of the time, a device called a camera.