Practical tips for photography at Hamilton’s Gap (and some photos)

In August 2011 I went to Hamilton’s Gap with friends from the Manukau Photographic Society. It’s a particularly rugged and wild west coast beach that brought to mind the phrase “magnificent desolation”. I couldn’t find any useful information before I went so here’s a few tips for you:

  • Take absolutely everything you need: the only facilities are toilets. Taking a torch is a good idea.
  • Be prepared to wade an ankle-deep stream: gumboots are very practical.
  • There is 4WD access to the beach.
  • The area that gives access to the beach changes over time so be prepared for surprises.
  • If you have a self contained campervan there is parking with sea views.
  • There are no lifeguards so swimming is suicidal. People have drowned at west coast beaches because they stood at the edge of the water and were taken out by a large wave.
  • The beach is completely covered by the incoming tide so if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time you’ll be faced with climbing very steep, very crumbly hills. It’s probably more accurate to describe these hills as cliffs so getting trapped is a bad idea.
  • By about 2.5 hours after low tide the beach was inaccessible and we were shooting from an area of raised rocks adjacent to the car park: the marker on the map shows the exact spot. As the tide rises higher the path between these rocks and the car park will be covered in water.
  • On the day I went sunset was three hours after low tide and this worked very well because the water came up the foot of the rocks we were shooting from (see photo below).
  • As always, the best light is found an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset. You can also find good light before sunrise and and after sunset. The west coast is great for photographers who don’t like early mornings :-).
  • If you like street photography you will probably find few people to photograph at Hamilton’s Gap. However, it’s good to try something different from time to time and thus avoid a creative rut.
  • The prevailing wind blows from the sea to the beach so there is a lot of fine, salty spray. This isn’t good for cameras, especially when changing lenses.
  • It’s a probably a spectacular location during westerly storms, as well as a potentially dangerous one.

If you like beaches that have a wild edge and few people then Hamilton’s Gap is well worth a visit.

Click on the photo below to see more shots from Hamilton’s Gap

Click to see more photos from Hamilton's Gap


Photo trip: Raglan 5-12-10

The Waikato Photographic Society (WPS) arranged a trip to Raglan and kindly invited the Manukau Photographic Society (MPS) to join them. I’d never been to Raglan before so I had no preconceptions: this was a good thing, because preconceptions tend to stifle creativity and make it harder to see photographic opportunities. When we’ve seen a place often we’re less likely to notice what is around us.

Practical tips: The photos are displayed here so in a small size so I can merge them with a story: click on any photo to enlarge it and you’ll get a nicer display of all the photos (once you’re there click on any photo to enlarge it further). Photo titles are in bold italics and appear above the relevant photo.

En route to Raglan a few of us stopped off at the St Albans church in Waingaro…

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Wind, sea, rain, camera

Click on the map markers for more info

On the 20th of September 2010 the winds on Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour were blowing at around 40 knots (74kph, 46mph), so I went out on the ferry Osprey in the hope of getting some good shots. When passing through the ferry terminal I found some pigeons that had apparently decided to stay indoors because they feared getting blown off the runway…

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The skipper of the Osprey took an unusual course, heading east alongside the container wharf…

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That’s the bulb on the bow of a cargo ship. After a few minutes we turned so that our bow was into the wind and made a straight course for Bayswater. Having the bow into the wind reduced the boat’s roll, but the boat still had an interesting motion and there was no shortage of fresh air on the foredeck…

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As you can see, the trip was a flop in terms of photographing the wind’s effects (obviously you can’t photograph the wind, only its effects). The skipper kindly invited me onto the bridge for the next trip across the harbour, but the light was flat and dull…

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That’s Stanley Point in the background. In Bayswater the graphic nature of a fire boat caught my eye…

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Once the light got low the photographic opportunities increased…

John Brady on Osprey 20Sep2010--075 by MandenoMomentsDotCom.

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That’s John, the skipper. And here he is again…

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By this stage I was using a tiny tripod that you can carry on a belt and the shutter was open for half a second every time – on a moving boat – so I’m amazed that I got any decent shots. Finally, here’s an impressionist view of downtown Auckland, taken through a bridge window:

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Photo trip: Piha 28-3-10

I went to Piha (map) on a fine Sunday afternoon with a group from Manuaku Photographic Society. It’s a well known surf beach and the photo on the right gives you an overview: Lion Rock is to the right of the boy, South Piha is on the near side of the rock, and – wait for it – North Piha is on the far side of the rock. All the on-beach photos that you’ll see here were taken in an area that is slightly north of Lion Rock.

Please note that all the photos can be enlarged: just click on a photo, then click again.

Piha is a very dangerous beach for swimmers and just before we arrived a boy went missing: we saw helicopters, a small plane, a jet ski, and surf lifesavers searching for him. The next five photos show scenes from that search, including lifeguards in red and yellow uniforms:

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Photo trip: Narrow Neck 15-1-10

In my ongoing search for photos I headed to Narrow Neck, which is a safe swimming beach in Devonport on Auckland’s North Shore (map). As I write I realise that I should have taken an overall photo of the beach for you, and I’ll endeavour to remember to do this next time.

One of the interesting things about Narrow Neck is that you can see the ships coming down the channel as they prepare to enter the Port of Auckland. They’re about 2.5km/1.6mi offshore, and in the photo below the ship looks a lot closer than it really is because I used a powerful zoom lens (650mm):

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Ships are well and good, but I went to photograph that peculiar species called Homo Sapiens. These two larrikins asked me to take their photo…

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