List of 16 simple photographic tips

List of 16 tips for great holiday pictures

Do you, like me, hate that F word? Photographers use it such a lot! All I ever wanted was to record my trip. All I wanted was to have my memories enhanced by colourful images – a visual diary. But they keep using the ‘f’ word.

Call me an innocent it you like, but I don’t even know what that “f” word means! Books that use that word are too confusing for me. I needed clear, simple instructions – not words like apertures, shutter speeds, filter or f-stops.

All I want is to produce snapshots that produce envious sounds from friends and family: this happens as long as I obey the lessons I’ve learnt during my travels: usually discovered by wasting money developing photos of headless friends, my fingers, and distant, anonymous scenery … and a digital camera is great to get rid of the F-word and those boo-boos with the little press of the delete key.

So, how can you create those green-with-envy “wish I was there” comments from friends and family; how can you bring great photos home from your holiday.

First the basics: if you are still on film – load it correctly, and for everyone, keep your fingers off the lens AND take the lens cover off – then:

  1. Keep your camera handy is vital as some of my best shots I missed!
  2. Filling the frame with the subject adds impact and close-ups are great.

    fill the frame
  3. Eliminate the unessential, cut out the clutter, and don’t try to grab it all. Concentrate on one small area and not the whole image your eye can see.
  4. Balance the camera on a fence, table, or other solid object if you are unsteady. Leaning against a post helps reduce camera shake.
  5. Early morning and late afternoon has the most favourable light, avoid midday if you can.
  6. Simple blocks of bright colour can make bold, interesting statements.
  7. Contrasting or complimentary colours always look great.
  8. Look at other peoples photos, (in magazines, exhibitions, etc) see what works, what catches your eye
  9. Vertical shots are great for height and portraits
  10. Horizontal ones are good for getting some background
  11. Hold camera at an angle for fun shots
  12. Have the subject lean on something, or have their weight on one leg for a natural pose
  13. Use a background that enhances the subject – no branches out of ears or steeples from tops of heads
  14. Balance the picture; rarely have the subject in the centre
  15. from a 'doors' series Christchurch NZ

    15.Take a series of photos; funny signs, a water theme, doors, faces, women working

  16. Use something to frame the subject, a tree trunk and branch, a door, a windowweb aoraki

Finally, travel always sharpens awareness of my surroundings; the different, the unusual and it is these things, the view of a new eye that makes great photos, so take many photos during your first few days in another city, country, or culture. We adapt quickly to differences, and then our photos revert to being a mere record of our travels. ©Heather Hapeta 2009

Southern Alps of New Zealand – Arthur’s Pass

braided riverSouthern Alps Magical National Park.

It takes me less than three hours to travel from plains to mountains; sea to snow-fed rivers; city to village; from current time to the ancient forests of Gondwanaland. (The Jurassic period super-continent from which New Zealand separated some 85 million years ago.)

Unlike the pre-European Maori who walked or early settlers in Cobb and Co. coaches, I travelled by the TranzAlpine train to Arthur’s Pass -the train that leaves Christchurch daily for the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

Sharing the carriage were tourists from many parts of the world. Some were ready to test their stamina and muscles in the Arthur’s Pass National Park, while a family group were day-tripping, with five hours to explore the village, and me, looking for some rest and recreation.

Two popular walks near the village are The Devil’s Punchbowl and the Bridal Veil Falls.

The Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall with its impressive 131-metre drop is an easy one-hour return journey through stands of majestic white-limbed mountain beech trees. As you approach the waterfall, clouds of spray rise like mist, just as one might imagine the devil’s steaming cauldron does.

The other easy, yet even more beautiful walk, takes you to the Bridal Veil Falls. Although the falls are viewed from a distance, the walk itself is wonderful. Colours abound; crisp greys to soft emerald, or lime greens nestle alongside bright reds and orange. Numerous native ferns, lichens, trees, and shrubs seem to invite one to stop, admire, and record their beauty, while the piwakawaka (fantail) that accompany you are an absolute joy.

All through the village, population 55, and surrounding areas, are the sounds of birds. Bellbirds with their dulcet tones are so different to the kea with its loud calls as it glides loftily above all, displaying its orange under-wing plumage to us. The occasional gull calls from overhead too, reminding me what a narrow land New Zealand is.

Walking beside beech trees it is easy to believe that the forests of Gondwanaland looked just like these South Island beech forests. Fossils of beech found in Antarctica and descendants that survive in Chile, Australia and Papua New Guinea support this theory.

Brothers Arthur and Edward Dobson rediscovered the pass in 1864. Maori had used it as an east-west route to collect or trade Pounamu, the greenstone from which the south island is named, Te Wai Pounamu. The brothers named it Bealey Flat and finding the route made it easier to travel from coast to coast.

Some sixty years later travel became even easier with the railway and Otira tunnel, signalling the end of the coach era. Tunnellers huts, from early 1900’s, remain in the village linking past to the present. Originally unlined, austere dwellings, they were sold on the tunnel’s completion in 1923.

Some of the pioneering characters of Arthur’s Pass who bought these cottages includes the family of Guy and Grace Butler. One of New Zealands’ foremost landscape artists, Grace has works hanging in many places including the Robert McDougall Art Gallery in Christchurch. Along with Guy who, according to his granddaughter Jennifer Barrer “gave up his legal practice to carry his wife’s easel,” Grace ran what was the first hostel in the village. Now called the Outdoor Education Centre, its front lawn was the site of the first skiing in the area!

I was fortunate to meet Jennifer who showed me through her ex-tunnellers holiday home that still has many pieces of the original furniture. Jennifer, an author, including a book about her grandmother, told me of her early days in Arthur’s Pass. They used to travel from Christchurch in a Ford V8 to restore the cottage her parents had bought; she treasured her times there. Jennifer loves alpine plants and had a magnificent flowering clump of the wonderful alpine daisy on display.

Arthur’s Pass National Park, created 1901, has 114,357 hectares within its boundaries and both tourists and locals appreciate its variety of tramps and some 28 public huts. If you plan to stay in some of the remote huts, tickets, or an annual hut pass, must be purchased from the Department of Conservation before your trip.

When on any walk in New Zealand mountains, remember to fill in an Intentions Card and leave it at the local DOC office, don’t travel alone, take extra food as well as everything you need to ensure your safety.

Other activities in Arthur’s Pass include skiing at Temple Basin, while the village itself is a good base for exploring Cave Stream Scenic Reserve with its 362-metre cave and interesting limestone outcrops.

Accommodation ranges from the YHA, backpacker hostels to motels, holiday homes, or bed and breakfast. Food covers the same budget to moderate price range. (See your local visitors’ information centre for details)

So whether it’s the proximity to ski-fields and terrific tramps, (the kiwi word for hiking!) or just a place to chill out with your holiday reading, Arthur’s Pass must be added to your holiday destination list!

family fun in Christchurch

Family fun: Christchurch is great for both the visitor and local alike. Why? Because Christchurch caters for children with fabulous kids-fest events in the school holidays and has heaps of activities for them during the rest of the year too: many of them free, or for a donation, and I’m lucky enough to have a grandson that I can do these things with.

Museums and art galleries are great but need to be done on small doses with young ones: perhaps concentrate on one specialist area with each visit. The fabulous Christchurch Art Gallery always has special events during the school holidays – as does the long established museum.

Right beside the museum and Arts Centre are the Botanic Gardens, which has lots of space for running, picnic spots and of course a kid’s playground with a paddling pool. Still on the water theme is the Avon River and its iconic boatsheds – a trip to Christchurch without boating on the Avon seems unthinkable and its been a tradition for many families over generations to learn to row boats and paddle canoes on this stretch of river.

Remember to bring extra clothing when indulging in water sports – last time we went on the river we regretted not having dry clothes.

The Antarctic Centre is another must on this list of kid’s fun things. Twice voted New Zealand’s best attraction it’s appropriate it’s in Christchurch, long the jumping off place for Antarctic exploration and adventures.P4180002

P4180012 Young ones, and sometimes us not-so-young-ones, are often greeted with a hug from a large penguin. When exploring the frozen spaces in the building you will be supplied with the thick warm coats and boots for all the family and they are certainly needed – especially if you brave the blast of cold air that lets you experience the frozen continents wind-chill factor. Children, adults, and spectators alike love the ice slide so give it a go.

After exploring the centre, it’s almost compulsory to finish off with a ride on the Hagglund. For fifteen mins you will enjoy, or scream, as you race around in doughnut style, swimming through water, over a crevasse, and up and down hills – just as vehicles like this do daily in the Antarctic.

Unless you have a fear of heights, another place on your list should be the Gondola. It will take to the top of the Port Hills – near the bridle path that many of our ancestors walked over in the 1800s.

Once at the top, after admiring the views all the way up I walk with my grandson through the time tunnel and see how the twin volcanoes shaped this area.

Another place that I believe visitors and locals alike need to visit is Willowbank Wildlife Reserve: the only place in New Zealand that you will see live kiwi – of the flightless bird variety – not behind glass. It’s also the place to experience KoTane, the fabulous Maori show that both informs and entertains people from all over the world as well as locals.

What else can you do in Christchurch? Ride the tram ( save by getting a combined ticket for it and the Gondola) ; visit Orana Park, the Air force museum; go ice-skating or roller-blading; see how quick you are at Laser Strike; and have fun as well as learning at Science Alive.

NOTE This is a reprint of an article in the Christchurch Citizen newspaper and still valid! ( )