Off The Beaten Track in Aotearoa

In which I realise driving and photography have a lot in common

It took me a while to get my driver’s licence. Years. I had the help of several teachers. They needed plenty of patience and I needed practice – lots of it.

Along the way there were graunched gear changes, burnt out clutches, and bunny hops – on one notorious occasion, right through an intersection. My sister, who was my teacher at the time, thought she was about to die. We both did. We coped with it admirably. I managed to bring the car to a halt, narrowly avoiding a ditch. Then we collapsed into hysterical laughter – the sort that has its origins in blind panic and narrow escapes.

Eventually I learned the road rules, how to apply them, and how to make the car go. I didn’t need to understand the principle of the combustion engine or what it is that’s happening  when you engage the clutch and change gear – although my Dad did try to explain these things.  I simply had to get the feel of it.

And now, when it comes to figuring out my camera and how to get a photo I have a number of teachers. (My kids, friends, fellow bloggers, and WordPress, especially the WordPress Photography 101 course.)

There have been a few bunny hops. Like the times (yes, more than one) I’ve turned the camera on, found the perfect position for the perfect shot of the perfect but fast changing scene, and discovered the view finder is black. Turns out removing the lens cap enhances the shot.

The vast majority of my photos have gone in the trash bin – better forgotten – like the day of the bunny-hop.

There’ve been photos that are blurred beyond recognition, photos of my feet, the tarseal, and grass, photos spoiled by sunstrike (eventually I’ll remember that aiming directly at the sun is probably not the best option), and photos where I’ve tried too hard – you know – gone for the arty angle and ended up crashing into the ditch of absurdity.

This week one of the Photography 101 Assignments was on  Nature. It said, “Capture a moment, big or small, and pay attention to the lines and curves produced by nature”.   I knew immediately what I’d try.

You see, I walk past this kaka beak on my way to work. They are endangered in the wild. It blooms each spring and it’s coming to the end of this year’s flowering. As I zoomed in I thought about the rule of thirds, depressed the shutter, and paused as the image came into focus. And that’s when it happened; that sweet, sweet moment when everything comes together; when camera, subject, and photographer work together to produce something half-pie decent. Like the first time I managed to release the clutch pedal, move the gear stick, and depress the accelerator in the exactly the right order and the engine hummed and my sister sighed with relief.

The Natural World

The Natural World

Although I like this particular photo, when it comes to photography, I’m no rally driver. What are your handy tips for novices like me? How can this photo be improved?

For more on my photography check out: Photography – from iPhone to SLR and photo101

I’ve sharpened the focus within iPhoto. What do you think? Is this second version an improvement?

Kaka beak

Kaka beak

42 replies »

      • yes indeed = and one of my favorite pictures is when my husband was holding this really bright beach bag at a picnic we went to that was on the lake. My mom left the bag at our house – it was for her grandkids up north because they are always on lake erie – and it was in the garage to give back to her – and I grabbed it to use real quick because I had 5 minutes to prep for this picnic – and somehow my husband was holding it for me for a while and a lot of folks were saying things “I like your bag” – or “nice pink….”
        anyhow, that bag was so ugly that I did not want to even carry it – lol –


  1. Lovely photo Jill of an iconic Kiwi plant. You’ve done very well especially if the wind was blowing. Have you noticed that as soon as you approach a flower to get that perfect close up the wind comes chuckling full force around the corner…
    BTW photography is as addictive as blogging…


    • Ha,ha I haven’t done that yet. But yesterday I did have another moment … A dark shadow appeared in the top right of my view finder. I thought, oh no, I’ve wrecked the camera, got sand in the lens, or water. And then my husband pointed out the lens guard had come loose! Ithink the secret is to panic slowly.


  2. I love this comparison. In many ways, my struggle to learn photography (to the degree I can say I’ve learned it) was similar to learning to drive a car with a manual transmission. Great photo!


  3. It’s a lovely photo. Beautifully sharp and delightfully blurry in all the right places. Depending on how much stem and leaf are above it and to the left, I might have tried getting all of that in, but I think it’s pretty perfect as is.


  4. I like it! I have never seen a kaka beak before, but it is eye catching with its exotic shape and a seductive colour. It depends on what you want to achieve with your photo – how much of the subject you want to have in focus, what parts do you want blurred. Close-up/macro shots are about depth of field – the wider the aperture – the lesser the dept of field. I hope this helps?


  5. You reminded me of my struggle to get my driving license here in Finland. The test included driving on an ice field and learn how to react in case an elk jumps in front of the car. There were moments I wished I had taken the test while still living in Greece. There you could always bribe the instructor. 😉
    Love the photo. And what a beautiful flower it is.


    • Hahahahaha … clearly I’ll never be able to drive in Finland – ice fields and elk – they make tight corners and hilly roads seem like nothing, nothing at all! As for bribery …. I didn’t think of that!! Probably because I was a very poor student at the time and given the obvious risks involved in licensing me I wouldn’t have had nearly enough cash … and umm … the other thing is here trying it on would probably have landed me in prison.


  6. Very nice photo!
    I myself am all thumbs where taking pics are concerned. Before Photography 101, I was unable to even select an image to go by my posts.
    But I am getting there. Yesterday i took a pic after climbing a chair to get the perfect shot. My husband thought I would topple over into the valley below.


  7. I’m very impressed – beautiful photo and such a beautiful flower too! I’m afraid I’m not nearly so technical just keep snapping away on my trusted little digital camera so I’m not one to be able to offer you tips 🙂


  8. Congrats for your full driving licence 🙂 There was a time in Ireland… ages ago… When application for a licence was just half a page and only basic driving skills were required 🙂 Cheers


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