Tuki Tuki Spotlight: Story behind the photo

"Tuki Tuki Spotlight" D800, ISO100, 1/60sec, 50mm, f8

"Tuki Tuki Spotlight"

D800, ISO100, 1/60sec, 50mm, f8

This image which I call "Tuki Tuki Spotlight" is one of my most popular images; it has sold the most copies of any of my images, and regularly gets picked by people as their favourite from my portfolio. 

So I thought I would tell the story behind the photo.

I took this photo on 14 June 2014, and the week leading up to this day (which was a Sunday) had been pretty wet, with no chance to get out and shoot.  So when the forecast said that it was going to clear that morning I thought I would make the 1/2 hour drive from Napier to the top of Te Mata Peak to see what I could get.

When I arrived (at about 7am) the sky was clearing, but there was still a lot of cloud in the direction that the sun was rising, so I wasn't confident that I would see the sun at all before about 10am, by which time the nice soft light of the morning would be gone.

So I walked around the peak and took a few shots of the sheep hanging around the Anzac Memorial Tree with the lights of Hastings in the background, and some looking down the Te Mata Peak road which had a bit of a shine on it with all the recent rain.

Sheep admiring the big city lights

Sheep admiring the big city lights

Looking down the road towards the north

Looking down the road towards the north

After about an hour of hanging around waiting to see if the sun would make an appearance (off to the right of the shot above), and talking to the runners / walkers / cyclists who were taking a much more strenuous route up the 400m peak than I did in my car, I shot the image below.  When I looked at this shot on the back of my camera I got very excited and (almost) ran from where I was to the gap in the hill line that you can see in the centre of frame.

What's that glow?

What's that glow?

What caught my attention in the shot above was the strong glow that was shining onto the cliffs that form the back of Te Mata Peak (dead centre of frame), and I knew that would mean that there was light shining into the Tuki Tuki Valley below.  And because I could see that the glow was not on the Heretaunga Plains to the left of the frame, then I knew that the cloud was partially obscuring the sun, which can often lead to interesting light conditions.

When I scrambled my way along the bank to a spot where I could shoot the valley this is what I captured.

And I knew that this shot had potential to make a cool image.  Bear in mind that the image above is what the camera produced, and in no way represents the full amount of light / dark information captured in the photo.  I like to think of these "straight out of camera" shots as the initial draft or sketch of the final image. 

The "before and after" below shows the processing work that I did to the image to bring out the full range of tones captured, and I will emphasize that nothing was added to the photo that wasn't captured in the camera at the time. But I may have deleted a few stray items (blades of grass, bits of dust etc) that were distracting to the image, but I cannot even see them in the comparison below so they must have been small.

I like the way this shot turned out; it has a lot of Te Mata magic about it!

A few minutes later I took the shot shown below as the sunlight started to spill onto the Heretaunga Plains out towards Napier in the distance (I shot it in colour and converted it to black and white later), and this has also been a popular image, with a large copy of it hanging on a friends wall.

"Spilt Milk"

"Spilt Milk"