Sunday, April 27, 2014

Autumn Colours - Part 1

Autumn is one of the most colourful times of the year for photography (apart from spring, with all the traditional blossoms and blooming flowerbeds). It's the only time of the year when trees explode into vibrant displays of reds, oranges, yellows, and greens, all the while maintaining a really delicious plump and fluffy look. For once, the trees take on a life of their own, instead of being mere "dull green foliage", especially when an isolated tree in the middle of nowhere puts on a spectacular display of its own, in brilliant yellow/gold or flaming red.

This year though, it was slim pickings, with foul weather (2 weeks of strong winds, a sudden temperature drop, and daily rain in early March, followed by about 3-4 weeks of similar weather but with much more rain in mid-April) blasting away much of the foliage off the trees. Critically, most of the red leaves were removed, along with half of the orange ones, leaving many trees either anemic-looking or without the rich punchy colours that come with having a mix of different coloured leaves up on the branches. Nevertheless, here are some shots from the first half of autumn that I managed to get.

I particularly love shooting backlit leaves (as many regular readers of this blog will no doubt have noticed), since they take on this extra magical glowing quality, as well as rendering those in the background in gooey bokeh. That kind of blurry/fluffy look for trees is similar to those seen in Geri's Game - perhaps the first short that really brought Pixar to my attention; I remember seeing it being played on all the TV's in the Harvey Norman store and wondering how they managed to achieve that real-looking yet clearly caricatured look (at the time, I thought they might've been using some kind of neat stop-motion techniques or something, since it was clearly not 2D animated, yet the human characters clearly couldn't have been real either).

March - Shopping Centres
The Bunnings/Tower Junction open-air mall is one of our frequent haunts. In particular, these days, mum has taken a liking to Ezybuy (to the point that I've affectionately given it a cute little direct-translation name), where she is now a VIP member and gets a "best customer" discount ;)  Most notable though is that their landscaping features many small trees which put on a very colourful display in autumn. (Incidentally, some of their other landscaping features - namely, the cabbage trees - have shown me that cabbage tree flowers absolutely reek, especially early in the season, as they smell like some nasty concoction of cat poo mixed with dog poo brewed with the leftover sludge from the wastewater treatment plant's oxidation ponds).

The trees surrounding Riccarton Mall are also quite a sight - especially those in the front carpark, which glow reddish-orange (it's a pity though that to date I haven't managed to get a good shot of those).

April - Uni Campus
Before the weather turned and/or my workload plunged into madness, I only managed to get some shots of the trees on campus one afternoon (when I went back to hand back the fully-graded set of assignments I'd been helping to mark - this is worth another story another day, though I probably need to be a bit careful what I write about that publicly, given the slightly sensitive nature of these things sometimes).

 Nevertheless, over the week or so leading up to this excursion, I had been collecting a bunch of different sights that I knew I wanted to capture. The question was whether they would still be there when I got around to photographing them, and also whether I'd be able to get the shot I wanted (since I mostly spied these from the passenger side while in a moving car - in other words, I'd likely need to be standing in the middle of the road at the right time of day to get the shots I'd want... a pretty dangerous proposition, and one that doesn't mesh up when I need to be driving myself around that day for something like this to work). So, it transpired that I ended up trekking right across and back and forth across campus with my camera, visiting each site in turn. Here are the results...

The tree outside our building (Erskine) - All the scaffolding, high containment walls, and traffic barriers are all artifacts of the quake remediation work that's going on on the south side of the building (i.e. where the postgrad labs/offices are usually situated).

Vivid red wall climbers on the wall facing Creyke Road and bordering the engineering part of campus... These are especially red and eye catching.

A nice example of the red-green spectrum that should be able to be seen normally. This is by the glasshouses (specifically, we're looking at some of the Maori cultural stuff leading to the dedicated library that serves that stuff).

Some more pretty red-orange-green trees, looking out towards Clyde Road (and the big student carparking area)

A more vibrant view of the same trees

More red climbers, this time on the wall of the Fine Arts department. These looked even more spectacular in real life, though bad lighting (from trying to shoot these at the wrong time of the day - the sun was just coming in brightly just off the top of the building, casting most of the leaves in shadow, but conspiring to cause your lens to glare-over if you pointed it at the right angle that might just get the light hitting the wall correctly). It's a pity then, since it would've made a great shot to include the building sign included in the shot...

 Backlit golden glory. I really like these two shots, and how the light is nice and glowy here...

Cafe 101 II - This was taken as a bit of a "ninja-quicky", where I basically decided at the last moment to take a shot of this (since it was a bit too good to pass up), so I swing my camera up from its bag, line up, frame, snap, then retract the camera down to waist height again, all without missing a beat and continuing to walk, turning away immediately after taking the shot. The reason? As you can probably make out, there are quite a number of people lounging around outside ;)  I'm quite pleased with how this turned out, especially how the golden foliage "frames" this shot quite nicely (albeit a bit thinly in places), a bit like the Firefox logo.

The scene looking down Clyde Road on the drive home. I'd been driving along, then seeing that conditions were just right, I decided to quickly pull over to take some snaps. It transpired though that I was a parked a bit too far forward, so I needed to back up first. Anyone who saw me that afternoon may have wondered why that car was acting so erratically... ;) (BTW, did anyone notice that guy in the white car seemingly waving at the camera?  Hopefully he wasn't thinking this was some kind of speed camera sting operation -- even though it was still a few weeks till easter, I doubt the police are out in force trying to collect funds for their annual Xmas party quite yet...)

The view across the road. Some more backlit trees here...

March - Out and About
To finish up, here are a few other shots of autumnal foliage around Christchurch. None are quite as spectacular as the other examples though...

South Hagley Park
See - It's not all orange and red out here... Sometimes the trees stay relatively green, though they start to think out, and turn yellow...

Whiteleigh Ave - Sunset
Golden backlit leaves in the setting autumn sun

The daily TransAlpine train service, arriving from Greymouth

Yeah, this isn't quite foliage, but it's a nice sunset shot down the train tracks...

Harper Ave
The character house that used to sit beside this little cottage was badly damaged in the quakes and torn down...

North Hagley Park
One Sunday mid-March, we had a nice relaxing walk through North Hagley Park. After discovering the joys of walking around there on Sunday afternoons a few years back (surprising, since we've lived here for decades) it's something that's always nice to do from time to time to get some fresh air and get a good stretch after a week of sitting around bashing a keyboard like a madman.

Some of the large pines bordering the park. Across the road, some of the trees are starting to change colour
This colourful fruit tree was quite popular with the birds. A pity though, since I didn't manage to catch any feasting on the delights on offer here...

The tree above does come with a slight hazard I guess, since it sits right beside the golf course. While not a "pretty" picture, I just thought this signage was worth pointing out.

Victoria Lake - Nearby, the cargo bikers club seemed to be having a bit of a meetup event

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