Capture by A photoblog

17

From Deco to Eco

by Jackson Perry

Kahurangi - The coolest house on the street.


When I noticed one of my favourite houses in Auckland was up for sale, I posted it on Twitter to the @MadPropsNZ account, and it created quite a stir amongst the PAS crew. We thought we might have a whip round and buy it as a Club House. You're all up for that, eh? We should only need a million, or so. Maybe mil' and a half. This is Auckland.

This is more than just any old dreamy Art Deco house though. Niel and Jette de Jong of Heritage Design Group, and Ebode Housing, who bought the house in 1991, have not only expanded the floor plan dramatically - including building a basement self-contained unit, a 20 seat cinema, and three car garaging - in 2006 they retro-fitted the latest sustainable technology to the house.

This includes 10,000 litre rain water retention tanks, that incorporate a first flush system, twin filtration and a black light steriliser before it reaches the taps. The hot water is provided by a roof-top solar heating system, and there is a grid connected 1.3KW photovoltaic solar power system. This is with Meridian, who give credit for the power generated, which dramatically reduces the power bill each month.

There's a lot of detail in all these features, and for anyone genuinely interested you could contact the estate agent, and they'll send you a full run down of all the features.

The true story of the house though is the way in which Niel and Jette, with their young family, put their personal touch on it. This was really a labour of love, down to the wonderful carved wall of the bathroom (shown above), which was a special gift from Niel to Jette, and the hand selected lighting throughout the house.

Niel, Jette and the family actually moved to the country a year or so ago, and I must admit visiting the house again this week you could really sense their absence. I'm a firm believer in the concept of a house not being made of only bricks and mortar, but with the heart and soul of its inhabitants. This is a house screaming for someone to bring back the sound of children tap dancing on the theatre stage.

Is that you?

For more on the house view the Trade Me Listing.

20

The Dark Arts

by Jackson Perry, Jonathan Ganley & Nora Leggs

They came, they saw, they captured. Tens of thousands of people were thronging through Western Park in Ponsonby last Friday and Saturday night (Thursday was cancelled due to the weather) for the annual Art In The Dark festival. Almost everyone had their phones and cameras out to try and grab something of this fantastic spectacle ... including us.

The comments are open to add your own images and stories of art in the dark.

416

Two Tone

by Jackson Perry, Jonathan Ganley & Nora Leggs

The Monochrome Set

"Black and white are the colors of photography. To me they symbolize the alternatives of hope and despair to which mankind is forever subjected." —Robert Frank


My first roll of 35mm film was black and white, on a borrowed Canonette camera. I took moody photos of the water at the bottom of a waterfall, and gothic portraits in front of an open grave. You can probably blame Morrissey for that one.

My love of black and white photography has never really resulted in mastering it as an art form though. I've certainly done a lot of it over the years, and learnt to develop and print in the University of Auckland darkroom, many moons ago. But when I got into colour photography around 1989, it became one of those things you did when you remembered the b & w film hiding in the back of the fridge.

Now with digital cameras, including the ubiquitous phone camera, having either software or apps that can switch your rather flat looking colour photo to contrasty, brooding black and white, there's really no excuse not to give it a go.

But what makes a good black and white photograph?

I'll let Jonathan answer that.

JP.

Like Jackson, I have shot a lot of black and white film, sometimes getting a pleasing result, but never felt like I was anywhere close to mastering the medium. There's so many variables - the light, the film, the development. But now that we're in the dying days of film (apparently) I still want to shoot a roll of film, develop and scan it carefully in the hope that I'll hit that magic combination of composition and lighting, with the subtle shifts of tone, contrast and balance that make a pleasing black and white image.

But what makes a good black and white photograph?

You know it when you see it.

JG.

Oh, Monochrome. Shimmering, subtle, silvery.  40's movie stars, lit for beauty and drama.  Landscapes transformed into breathtaking magical images.  Hard lines emphasised, shadow plunging into midnight darkness, highlights glowing moon-like. Over many years I've tried to catch even a little of this potential in black and white film, using roughshod methods and a whole lot of enthusiasm.  Labouring in smelly makeshift 'darkrooms', getting results ranging from complete failure through to 'that'll do!'

Enter the digital camera.  I'm an instant convert.  I can see pretty much what I'm getting and can try again if need be.  I'm so technically lazy I can't be bothered tweaking pictures in photoshop, yet I don't like the flat toned range of greys of the default monochrome setting on my camera.  Thank goodness the camera provides a 'soot & chalk' setting. I'm away, happy-snapping a stream of black and whites.

NL.

We'd love to see your shades of grey, so Capture away.

710

Spring Breaks

by Jackson Perry

By popular demand, and apparently a little late, except also early... whatever, our annual spring thread is here!

I've had a funny old winter, and for the most part will be glad to see the back of it. We might even toast its end in the comfort of our garden city over the weekend.

We look forward to you all filling your boots with photos of springy things, and on a typical spring day in Auckland, I suggest you don't leave them out in the rain.

Capture away.

7

'Antarctica - A Year On Ice' - a conversation with film maker Anthony Powell

by Jonathan Ganley

The thoughtful and softly spoken Anthony Powell has spent a large part of his working life in Antarctica, both as a telecommunications engineer and more recently as a film-maker. His feature length documentary ‘Antarctica – A Year On Ice’ is about to make its debut at the New Zealand International Film Festival. Powell is one of those admirable low-key New Zealanders who can turn their hand to practical solutions when presented with a challenge. Captivated by the idea of photographing with time-lapse to catch the shifting moods of Antarctica, Powell built his own camera controlling equipment in the best traditions of no. 8 wire ingenuity. The results on screen, of time condensed from days into seconds, accompanied by subtle movement, are breathtakingly beautiful.

I asked Anthony if he was a photographer before he first went to Antarctica in the late 1998. “No. I’d always been interested in cameras and photography but I didn’t buy my first SLR camera until about two years before I went to the ice. The first two years (in Antarctica) I was shooting slide film, and there’s nowhere to develop the film, so you spend the whole year shooting stuff, with no idea if you’re doing it right or not. You have all the films developed when you get off the ice, discover all the mistakes you make, and go back and do it again. But by the third time I went, the digital technology had reached a point where a digital still photo would hold up on a movie screen, so at that point the learning stage accelerated rapidly.”

I remarked to Anthony that this was not a movie that could have been shot on film, unless it was made by someone with a Hollywood budget. “Oh yes, it would be ridiculously expensive for anyone to do it on film. Plus there are technical limitations with film down there. In the summertime you can get away with it but in winter, in the more extreme cold, I was running into problems. The film would freeze in the camera, become brittle, and snap. And as you wind the film in the zero humidity you get electrical discharges in the camera, that appear like lightning bolts in the image.”

Did your earlier digital images match up with the later images, when the evolution of camera technology has been so rapid? “Yes, the earliest time lapse in the movie is from 2004 and you really can’t tell the difference. But the biggest technological improvement in the last few years has been in the night shots. With earlier cameras the noise level at night was pretty horrible but after 2005 the DSLRs started to get better than film for the night shots.”

The night shots are one highpoint of the movie, especially the myriad of constellations wheeling above the satellite domes of the telecommunications base on Black Island. It seems there was no enhancement of these shots, or of the luminosity of the Aurora Australis. "No, when we worked on the colour grading (film post-production) at Park Rd, I tried to get it as close in the film to what I was seeing with the naked eye at the time."

You built your own equipment to carry out this project. Was that a matter of necessity or budget? “It was out of necessity. When I first started shooting the time lapse there was no commercially available camera controller at all. I created the parts out of spare electronics myself to control the camera shutter, built up a few little circuits. When it came to motion control, when I started to get more practiced at what I was doing, the cheapest unit was up around $10000. But those are useless in the winter down there, because anything with a rubber drive, the rubber goes solid, or snaps. I resort to the simplest technology possible – directly driven wheels, a pulley, or a string around a pulley to pull the camera along. Basically, the simplest works best."

"In that environment, the main thing is to have a good reliable power supply - a lot of batteries stop working once you get down to about 40 below but lead acid batteries are pretty reliable down to minus 60 or 70 as long as they don't crack open from the cold. You get down to about minus 20 and you can hear the camera shutter start to strain a little bit, but you can still get way with a photo every few seconds right down to minus 40”

How long was a typical time lapse shot? “It varies. Shots with people or equipment don’t run much longer than twenty minutes, but there’s others over twenty four hours as the sun goes around. The longest is the pressure ridges in the ice in front of Scott Base, which is only nine seconds in the film but it took five months to film."

Apart from the technical wizardry that has brought such images to the screen, the other aspect of the movie that impresses is the portrayal of the people who live and work at the United States facility McMurdo station, and the New Zealanders over the hill at Scott Base. At McMurdo we hear from people with ordinary jobs such as Dave the fireman, Genevieve the fire crew dispatcher, and Christine the financial controller (who is now married to Anthony). The crew who winter over are particularly reflective on how the months of isolation and total darkness affect them, while joking about any signs of 'T3 syndrome' such as mood changes and forgetfulness.

I asked whether there was any psychological screening of the people who winter over at the bases. "Not so much at Scott Base, but it's covered in the job interview. For McMurdo, you have to sit down with the shrink, and the 'psych eval' sheet, and they work out if you're going to fit in or not. There have been troubles with people in the past. They look out for that as much as possible."

I was impressed to see that all the waste from McMurdo is packed up and shipped out at the end of the summer. Is it environmentally pristine down there? "Yes, and it wasn't always that way. In the 1950s and 60s they used to dump the waste in the sea, and have big bonfires and burn the trash. These days, the degree of protection is very high - when you're out in the field you have to use a pee bottle for example."

The end of winter on the ice is signalled by the arrival of a fresh crew of new (and tanned) faces. The crew who have wintered over get their first taste of fresh fruit in months, and there is some discussion of what they will all seek out when they arrive back in Christchurch. There is a longing for smells and tastes - the smell of soil, of flowers, the taste of avocadoes and blue cheese. I asked Anthony what he missed most and looked for on his return. "I don't miss much - fresh fruit and veges, the ability to sleep in and not worry about anything. I miss my family and friends. But as Andrew says, (Andrew is the comms technician at Scott Base, and one of the people interviewed in the film) 'I will have a decent sleep for a few days.' When you're at Scott Base it's a little bit like being the engineer on a ship. You're constantly aware and attuned to the building, and the things going on. If you hear a slight change in the pitch of the generators, you might think 'uh-oh' ... you're never quite one hundred percent relaxed."

Anthony Powell's 'Antarctica - A Year On Ice' has it's World Premiere at the Civic in Auckland, next Sunday July 21 at 11:00am, as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival. There is a further Auckland screening at the Civic on Tuesday July 23 at 6.15pm.

Further screenings take place as the Festival makes it's way around New Zealand between July and November. See the NZIFF website for details.

Anthony Powell's websites, with many images, films and background stories, can be found at antarcticimages.com and  frozensouth.com