Pasquella di Natale – An Ancient Tradition from Montecarotto, Italy

While in Italy during January 2014 I followed and recorded the folk music tradition  ‘Pasquella di Natale’, held every year in a small village in the Marche region called Montecarotto. Here is the end result. It was a lot of fun following the musicians around and interviewing Carlo and Anna Carotti for some history of the event. It was also good practice juggling video, sound and stills and trying to keep one step ahead of the action.

The festival starts in the morning around 8.30 am as musicians and groups gather in the central piazza. Old friends are re-aquainted and band members gradually form their groups. From here they disperse to all corners of the village and start heading up back up to the central piazza, stopping to sing outside houses as they go and collecting offerings. By early afternoon they have all returned to the piazza and often a big jam session gets underway. The last event of the day is a concert in the beautifully restored theatre, which is also in the central piazza.

Below is a gallery of images gleaned from a few years of observing the festival.

Trip to Lake Greaney, Westland, New Zealand

During August I was lucky enough to visit Lake Greaney for a second time. The first time was in 2011 and I took only stills. How times have changed. This time I recorded stills, 360 degree panoramas, time-lapse photography and even a little video and sound. Of course the downside of this is trying to carry 30+ kg up the aptly named Thirsty Ridge for four and a half hours. Thanks to friend Tim Mundy who came to the rescue and carried the heavy pack for the last hour. Thanks Tim! I owe you a canvas print. Tim was up there to hunt the tops and managed to get a chamois and have a good look around.

Timelapse setup with Syrp Genie above Lake Greaney

Timelapse setup with Syrp Genie and Revolve rails at Lake Greaney hut

On our last night there, I noticed some colouring in the sky to the south on the back of the camera, and realised there was an aurora event on. Unfortunately I was almost out of battery power and didn’t run the camera for the whole night. Live and learn. In hindsight I could have juggled half-charged batteries for a while. You can see the aurora in the last frames of the video above.

The area we were in, the northern tip of the Haast Range, is a kiwi sanctuary. The Haast Tokoeka Sanctuary covers at least 85% of the area where Haast tokoeka (kiwi) are known to live. There is extensive trapping in the area and it seems to be working. Although we didn’t see any kiwi, possibly wintering in the bush below, we did see rock wren, falcon, kaka, tui and pipit.

Timelapse setup above Lake Greaney with Syrp Genie

Timelapse setup above Lake Greaney with Syrp Genie

Many thanks to DOC for the use of their shelters. It would have been pretty chilly without them!

The Virtual Tour below may be a little squished – make sure you click the full screen button at the bottom.

Westland Milk Darfield photo shoot

A couple of weeks back I accompanied the guys from M3 Creative on a one day video shoot for Westand Milk Products. My job was to set up and gather portrait stills. Organization and art direction were provided by the very capable team from Q Brand Agency.

The main two challenges were the time of year and working around the video crew so as not to hinder what they needed to accomplish. Winter weather not only gives fewer daylight hours but can throw a few curve balls. Our particular curve ball on the day was a heavy frost which covered the normally lush green pastures in a layer of white. Fortunately the sun stayed out and we could start the portraits in earnest by 10 am. By then I had scouted the locations and lined up the most suitable areas. The video crew of Craig Forster & Mark Marchand were great to work with and it was not difficult to work around them to get what I needed.

Thanks to Robert Jamieson from Q Brand Agency for excellent art direction as usual, and to my wife Jacqui for being the charming assistant on the day.

Aoraki Mount Cook Timelapse

Last December I spent a few days around Mount Cook collecting stock photography and experimenting with time-lapse photography. It certainly helped that I knew the locations and the area well, because carrying two cameras and tripods slowed me down a bit. Finding time to sleep was also challenging. When the weather is obliging, time-lapse photography is effective any time of the night or day, and sleep doesn’t seem so important when the weather is putting on a great show.

Processing done in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, Timelapse video processed in LRTimelapse and Premiere Pro.

I’ve recently purchased a slider (dolly) which will add interesting camera movements – and weight to carry unfortunately.


Christchurch Airport Airbridges Virtual Reality Tour

I’ve just completed a virtual tour of the Christchurch Airport airbridge murals I have photographed over the last few years. Make sure you try the full screen option on the tour above!

Virtual tours are a great use of photography and something I plan to do a lot more of over the next year. I have been putting together 360 degree panoramas for years so it makes sense to add the virtual tours as a service. The ability to incorporate video, stills, sounds and interactive elements in a virtual tour is exciting.

I have put a considerable amount of time into researching the best software solutions for producing these tours and ensuring they are user friendly and play on nearly all devices.

I am currently working on a separate portfolio website to market the virtual tours, along with some virtual tours of the new artworks around Christchurch.

Northland in a Campervan

Jacqui and I rented a campervan recently for a short tour around Northland. As a photography vehicle, I’ve always been a bit wary of campervans, thinking it would be a bit tricky getting down some of the gravel roads I like to explore. As it turned out, it was great for this trip. Fully catered evening and morning photo shoots, plenty of room for gear. There is a lot to like. I wanted to get up on that high roof but the $7500 insurance excess put me off that. There weren’t any gravel roads that needed driving down and I backpacked along a few trails and up a few hills. It was a really relaxing way to have a holiday/photo trip.

We had seven nights and decided to spend a minumum of 2 nights at each stop, so we’d have time to revisit locations in different light. On the advice of some Auckland friends we chose Mangawhai Heads, Tutukaka, and the Karikari Peninsula.  A small part of Northland I know, but better to see a small area well than tick off destinations. We chose to stay in commercial campgrounds rather than freedom camp, not for ethical reasons but because it was easier and campgrounds were quiet at this time of year.

I took more gear with me than I used, mainly because I’m experimenting with time-lapse and video. I found that it was tricky to do both time-lapse/video AND stills well, so after the first afternoon at Duder Regional Park in Auckland I just concentrated on stills.

I did manage to get this little time-lapse experiment in though…

Trimble Navigation Building

Last month I completed photography of the new Trimble New Zealand building. It is an impressive structure and many of its design features are clearly born of the recent earthquakes. Incorporated into the  design are three damage-avoidance technologies, developed jointly by the University of Canterbury and the Structural Timber Innovation Company.

  • post-tensioned rocking Laminated Veneer Lumber frames (LVL)
  • post-tensioned LVL rocking shear walls
  • timber-concrete composite floors

What I found interesting was the artful way these technologies are incorporated into the visual design of the interior. Little glass windows give views of large steel bolts. Large laminated timber walls and supports are visible throughout the building.

Creative Spaces, who were responsible for the interior design, did a great job of blending in navigation features (Trimble is predominantly a navigation technology company), and local geography. Scattered throughout the interior are large GPS location numbers running from floor to ceiling on walls and timber support beams. The lined carpet design is a reference to navigation and it also features occasional squares and triangles. Various meeting rooms are named after local landmarks and feature window graphics of native flora and fauna, braided rivers and mountains.

The building was built by City Care Construction and designed by Opus.

Portraits of Earthquake Players

Here is a series of portraits of players in the Christchurch earthquake recovery scene. They were taken on assignment for The Australian Newspaper weekend magazine and completed in time for the 3 year anniversary of the February 22 earthquake. I believe the paper have used an image of Ann Brower as the feature image. Hers is a great story of recovery and hope after being pulled from the wreckage of a bus that was crushed by the rubble from an unreinforced brick building.

The photos were all taken with prime lenses and mostly in existing light. A small LED panel light was used in a couple of the interiors to highlight the faces.

It was a pleasure to work with reporter Brendan Nicholson from The Australian who will have done a great job of finding the story I’m sure.

Hongi Mural at Christchurch Airport



There is a new welcome mural at the international arrival area of Christchurch International Airport. I was fortunate to do the portrait and the background photography, as well as the post-production to put it together. At 2.8 metres high by 17 metres long it’s pretty big and the images look really good at this large size.

Thanks to Hamish Southcott from Fountaine Design for the excellent concept; Steve from DT Signs for the superb printing; and the adventurous marketing team at Christchurch Airport. Also thanks to the very obliging models, and the helpful staff at Ko Tane Maori Cultural Experience, Willowbank.


Christchurch Airport Mackenzie Country Night Sky Airbridge


Christchurch airport airbridge 19 - entranceway

Christchurch Airport airbridge 19 – entrance

The latest airbridge completed for Christchurch Airport is the Mackenzie night sky. This was one of the most challenging airbridge installations to date. Night sky photography pushes the capabilities of cameras and lenses to their limits. The images also needed to be good enough to be printed to 2.8 metres high. I enlisted the help of Fraser Gunn, a specialist astrophotographer from Tekapo, who supplied lens heaters (to keep dew from forming on lenses), telescopes and tracking mechanisms. Fraser was very generous with his time and expertise. If you happen to be travelling through Tekapo, I thoroughly recommend booking one of Fraser’s small group night sky photography tours:

Fraser Gunn and John Doogan near Lake Alexandrina

Fraser Gunn and John Doogan near Lake Alexandrina

The photography was shot over two trips totalling around 11 nights. The phase of the moon, clear skies, and windless nights, were just some of the aspects that needed to line up to make the photography successful. Some things were hard to plan for – like the army sending up flares from behind Lake Alexandrina on one particularly clear night. No point in complaining about that one. One night we had a reasonable fall of snow, which meant the foreground was much clearer in the photographs for a few nights afterwards. I also hauled some gear up to Mueller Hut above Mount Cook Village for one night’s shoot.

Christchurch airport airbridge 19 - aircraft end

Christchurch Airport airbridge 19 – aircraft end

The installation is over 30 metres long and includes many tiny lights in the ceiling to give the feel of a night sky. Jean Michel Jarre’s Oxygene Part 4 is the soundtrack that plays as you walk down the airbridge. I think I had that album back in the day (the 70s).

Thanks to Fraser Gunn Astrophotographer, Earth and Sky and Canterbury University Physics and Astronomy

airbridge 19 - left hand side

airbridge 19 – left hand side


airbridge 19 - right hand side

airbridge 19 – right hand side