Living in New Zealand

I can’t even believe I am writing about my 6-months experience living in New Zealand. While I was finishing my degree in Nursing back in the Philippines, I have always pictured myself doing continuing courses in Australia or the United Kingdom; my friends and I have planned for that for a long time. And then as unpredictable as things can be, I was taken to another country by my destiny – yes, New Zealand.

I have learned so many things in a short period of time I have lived there and here are 4 of the most unforgettable and unexpected lessons I got from that trip:

1. What KIWI actually means!

This is ridiculous, as my friends would often tell me. I need to convince them by taking a photo of real kiwi; a flightless bird in New Zealand. We all thought they were fruits back in the Philippines. I see those on the grocery fruit section and they are rather expensive fruits not until I learned they are actually birds in New Zealand and also, how the people from New Zealand are called.

2. I’ve always believed that my country the Philippines have the friendliest people in the world until I came to New Zealand.

The Kiwis are the friendliest people in the world! While I was doing my research about New Zealand and its people, I have already come across blogs and articles warning me about the Kiwis’ friendliness; that part I didn’t take seriously. Until I got there and my, true enough, EVERYBODY was friendly in New Zealand. The supermarket attendants, the baristas or even common passers by were all friendly. You better bring a whole lot of smiles courteous greetings if you’re planning on going there, you’ll need them more.

3. People’s population is lesser than the sheep’s – True rumor.

You may have heard this joke about New Zealand a couple of times, but you’ll realize that it’s true once you get there. The vast land of greens and fields and you can just count the number of people you see. When I arrived at Auckland, I didn’t actually believe the rumor as it appeared to be just like an ordinary urban place with people doing about their businesses. The moment my foster parents drove through Wellington, I barely saw other cars around, even at the gas stations; that’s when I realized the rumor was indeed true.

4. The internet in New Zealand – what Internet are you talking about?

Netflix New Zealand

So this is the not so nice part of my experience in New Zealand: the Internet connection. Of all the countries I’ve been to, this by far has been the worst. I found communicating with my relatives back home really difficult because of the intermittent connection they have and I couldn’t even load Netflix, which was basically my pastime there. Is it because Netflix New Zealand is literally far from other highly industrialized countries? Or was Wellington too far from the main city? I’ve got no clue! All I know is my experience with the Internet connectivity was something I can never forget.

A brief guide to lighting

The most important single piece of advice I can give you is about the lighting. You must make sure that the light condition is ideal before you can even think of taking a snap. Without proper lighting conditions, you photos will look a lot different from the way you saw and envisioned it. At best it would lack a touch of life and look dull. At worst, your photos would shadowed and dark or over exposed and bleached white.

Child with camera

Of course you can take a picture with a flash, even in total darkness and there are many award winning photographs taken on the spur of moment. But that’s not technique, that’s luck and being at the right place at the right time. I believe if the light is good, then if you take a number of snaps, at least one is going to be good. But light is the first thing you need to take care of.

You don’t need a light meter, or a light technician to assist you. For natural condition the first rule is to keep your light source (in most case the sun) behind you and in front of the subject. For indoor condition, the same light source rule is applicable. If you need a flash to lighten it up, don’t worry, an automated flash is good enough for beginners and you can always follow the manual that came with the flash equipment. For advanced work, I am sure you will learn along the way and that’s when it counts.

Here are a few basic tips that I am sure will help some of you:

  • Start with the basics: You don’t need an expensive camera to take good photos, at least when you are starting. Start with something you can easily afford and let your experience guide you to what you want.
  • You camera is your friend: If you are seriously into it, you need to act like it. Keep your camera with you wherever you go and don’t feel shy or intimidated about your camera or photography. When you have something that’s worth taking a photo, bring out your camera and get to work.
  • Make a plan: Always keep your camera with you for the inspiration to hit you. But don’t be all passive. You need to make a list of subjects and settings that interest you and try to take the best possible snap for each of them.
  • Keep an open mind: A rare and beautiful sight might be hiding in plain sight. You don’t need the velvety grasslands of New Zealand or the picturesque villages of Greece to take the perfect shot. Even in your own living room there might be a story of light and shadow waiting to be told through your photograph. See through a fresh pair of eyes, the eyes of a photographer.

Black and White photos for your special day

This is where I specialize and enjoy myself the most. I feel like an integral part on the memories of the newlywed couple as I capture their memories for them. Maybe they also make me remember my own wedding.

There is a lot of pressure and expectation, and the most important thing is you don’t have enough time for a re-shoot, you don’t have time for a decent setting in most case. Therefore, you need to find the moments instead of waiting for them to happen, or for them to come to you.

Wedding day party

I prefer doing a few B&W or black and white snaps in the middle of the other shots. And I usually take those in a close up, focused way. Color photos are great, but they take in too much of the environment and everything else. But a B&W gives you the sense of time and intimacy the special moments need. It’s like since there is no color for your eyes to focus on, you see only the emotion, the joy and anticipation of the moment.

But there are a few trendy shots I am doing experiments with currently:

  • Overhead Shots – This is a total perspective and takes the photo out of the mundane. You can take this from a balcony or the windows or even stairwells. The goal is to create the perspective of an observer who was there and experiencing it from above.
  • Day-After Shoots – One of my favorite techniques is ask the couple for a session after the wedding where I can work with them exclusively, rather than sharing them with the whole crowd. It is far more relaxed. You can take your time and the couple can share their romantic moments, be themselves and enjoy the shoot.
  • Backlit Photos – These are perfect romantic photos taken usually at dawn or dusk with soft, natural light. The most romantic lighting possible for the occasion. This, I prefer, is more suitable for the bride as they make any women look like an angel and that’s something perfect for a bride.
  • Shooting the Proposal – Acting out that ‘one’ moment and capturing it on film is very popular. Most of the time I don’t get to be there at the first time, the real time (unless the groom makes an elaborate plan). So we go to the spot and try to re-create the moment that started it all.
  • Bridal Portraits – Taking a full portrait of the bride in her full magnificence is a must for any album. These are perfect cover photos, centerpiece and of course the ones you want to put in a photo frame.

The different types of photography available

An amateur photographer has an excellent opportunity. They can see the world and share their moments with the world. There is no restriction on what stories can sustain their dreams. But to become a professional photographer, one of the first things you need to understand is, this is not only for your seeing. Your snaps are for the whole world to see through your eyes.

So the world of professional photography requires a structure and categories that we can follow and our admirers don’t get lost in the vista. The four main genre of I work on are:

  • Child Photography
  • Food Photography
  • Corporate photography and
  • Wedding Photography

I know this is sounding more like a work than a hobby now. And that’s true for photographers. Our hobby is our work. Let’s get into the details of what I do.

Child in playing in fieldChild Photography – Also known as baby photography, is all about babies. You must have seen tons of baby pics on Facebook, twitter, instagram or pinterest and they all look so adorable. That’s exactly what I do. It’s for the parents, for the advertising industry and for anyone who wants a little angel to brighten up their day. This line of work is full of surprises, unscheduled events and delays (as you can understand due to my ‘models’!) but these are undoubtedly the most satisfying assignments that I do. What is more adorable than a little bundle of joy making funny faces! The hard part is to getting them into position though.

Pa CakeFood Photography – You see the delicious looking ice-cream on an ad, or the rich, savory steak on the restaurant’s menu? Someone had to take a snap of that food right? It sounds funny and oddly easy. But let me assure you, it’s not. You need to set up the perfect background that compliments the color, texture and sometimes the taste of the food. And the client doesn’t always know what is going to look delicious on their shiny packaging. I need to guide the clients in many cases on a better color composition and placement for the food to appeal to the customers. And it’s not always what it seems, for example you saw the stack of pancakes with syrup on them plenty of times. But they are actually sprayed with a water resistant chemical before pouring on the syrup, otherwise the puffed up shape of the pancakes won’t last an entire photo-shoot.

Corporate groupCorporate photography – To tell the truth, these assignments are boring. Wall the PR material, office posters, flyers and magazines need these photographs. But they are methodical with well-defined requirements and invariably does not require any personal involvement. But the best thing is since the subjects are more eager to get it done than you are (or are inanimate objects) you can get the shoot wrapped up pretty quickly if you know what you are doing.

Bride and groomWedding Photography – This is what I love most. It takes a lot of time to cover a wedding and you need to get involved in the bustle of the crowd. But see a couple uniting for life and making their memories of the day makes me feel really happy and satisfied. I do a short couple photo session, intimate family gatherings or the whole function from the church to the final dance, basically anything my clients require.