Reflecting on Reflections

Reflecting on Reflections

Headshot Nikki

by Fairlie Atkinson

As we move into the second month of the year, we start to think about putting those photographic goals we made on January 1st into practice. Lots of people sign up for photo challenges or make a list of weekly or monthly techniques they want to try out, reflections being a good challenge for many.

So, where do you start with reflection photography? First and foremost, when done well, a photograph of a reflection projects the symmetry around us. The easiest place to start to explore this is in nature; puddles, in particular, make a great starting point. A while ago, I discovered a little-known Instagram account called Wellington Puddles

by Frank Hopfler

by Frank Hopfler

While it only has a few posts, the photographer has taken some truly wonderful images of cityscape reflections in puddles. In each image, the photographer changes the perspective by placing themselves at the height of the puddle. By lying down and shooting over the top of the puddle, we can see no difference between the reflection and the view until we see the edges of the water. The real skill here is to capture both the scene and the reflection without blur, ripple, or distraction in the reflection. A single focal point will not achieve this, so ensure your camera is set to multiple focal points, allowing you to automate the focal points or move them manually as needed.

Moving on from puddles, large bodies of water are great, and Bob Zurr has done a fantastic job of capturing reflections in his landscapes.

Read the full article by Fairlie Atkinson in Issue 64 of NZPhotographer magazine.

For access to all articles in our back issues, become a subscriber,
alternatively, you can order a printed copy.

Behind The Shot 64

Behind The Shot

Happy Trails

Conor Macfarlane - Action Pano
Nikon D5, Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0 @ F6.3, 1/1250s, ISO250, 35mm

with Jay French

Jay, tell us about yourself and your journey with photography…

As long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by images, trying to document everything I experience and want to share. Since 2015 I’ve been lucky enough to make my living from this. I’m based in Christchurch and work internationally (when allowed).

I started off in editorial, and came up shooting in the mountain bike world; that’s where I got my start. However, these days I tend to shoot predominantly advertising, focusing on lifestyle, adventure and action. I work with amazing people, being part of some awesome adventures, whether that be for personal projects or campaign work.

Tell us about this action image…

This particular image was shot as a series of pre-opening imagery for a new bike park down in Wanaka that was under construction (now Bike Glendhu). The imagery was planned for the end of Spring when we’d still get the nice light, but the conditions would be more settled. We knew that the best place for the image would be at the highest point, where the views out towards Roys Peak and the lake are the best.

This image is a little special in the way it was created. It’s actually a 5x image panorama. I wanted the stacked/compressed look of shooting at 35mm, which captured the action nicely; however, it didn’t show off the amazing scenery around us. What I did as a workaround was shoot the action and the scenery as a kind of “action panorama”.

I found the frame I wanted to capture the action in, captured the climax of the action as a 3x shot burst without moving the camera at all, then constructed the scene around where the action had happened, a photo up and left, down and left, down and right, and lastly up and right. Without changing any of the settings and making sure each frame overlapped the other by approx 25%. Later I took this into Lightroom, found the key action frame from the burst and the 4x frames that captured the scenery and used the ‘create panorama’ function to create what you see here.

What were you shooting with?

I’ve always shot with Nikon gear. This image specifically was shot with the Nikon D5 and a second-hand 16-35mm f/4.0 lens, strangely enough. At the time, I was running Marumi Lens Protect filters, and a Peak Design strap with Peak Design Anchors and Anchor Links. 

What was happening behind the camera?

The shot was taken at 6:38 am, just as the sun cleared the peaks. It took us the best part of an hour to get up to this point at the time, as we needed some time for the talent to warm up and get a few runs in.

Other than me rushing everyone around to get it done, it was pretty calm behind the camera. With sunrise shoots, the sun isn’t going to wait for you to get prepared and into position, so you need to be on it with your crew and be ready to go when the time arises.

Did you have a fixed idea of what you wanted to achieve ahead of time?

We knew the location, the backdrop and the view. We had a solid idea of the action through our recce and prep in the days prior. The idea to shoot the super wide multi-image panorama only came out of necessity during the shoot.

What planning or preparation did you undertake for this image?

About a month before the shoot, there was a recce day of the area, where I could check out all potential viewpoints and spots to create the image. I wandered around with my PhotoPills sun app and TPE 3D to work out where the sun would be coming up on the day and when. This helped me plan the look of the shot before the day.

The day before the shoot, one of the athletes, Conor Macfarlane and trail builder Tom Hey went up to the spot (where it happened to be snowing, unexpectedly). We built a small kicker to give the riders something to jump and cleared a landing for them, then it was an early night before a very early start.

What does this image mean to you?

This shot has lived in my portfolio for a while. I genuinely enjoy the look achieved by shooting the panorama, giving the more compressed look to a wider frame. I think it would make a nice landscape shot; however, the action helps give it something extra. The action isn’t necessarily the best that the rider Conor and I have ever shot, but given the small feature we were shooting, it’s decent.

What editing did you do?

There’s not as much editing in this one as I thought there would be. I lined up the overlaps well, and everything came together pretty nicely in Lightroom. Then I did my basic adjustments and got the colours to where I liked them. That’s pretty much it; this image never even went to Photoshop.

What would you do differently if taking this shot again?

I’d start with a bigger jump to get the rider a little higher in the frame and allow more time in the air to offer us a bigger variety of tricks. I love the outlook from this angle, so I might look at a different trick that has a more aesthetic side profile. I would probably shoot it even more compressed with something that gave me less distortion, such as a 70-200mm (as I feel the horizon and lake aren’t properly straight in this image, which could probably still be corrected in Photoshop anyway if it meant that much to me).

What tips can you share with readers for achieving a similar action shot?

Practice shooting handheld panoramas by eye, using guidelines in your viewfinder and lining them up with background features. The correct amount of overlap and keeping the camera straight help when you’re assembling the panorama.

Make sure that the focus point doesn’t change at any stage after the key action; otherwise, you can end up with one of the background frames being in focus - meaning you can’t stitch them together (and it would look weird), so you’d need another go. Also, I find that removing as much lens distortion and vignetting as possible before creating the panorama can help your chances of a better outcome.

Obviously, being at a super scenic location where you’ve got permission to shoot, with a jump you’ve built prior, at sunrise on a beautiful day, with a pro rider is helpful as well!

What else should we know about you, this photo, or your photography in general?

This photo still fits my style well, I tend to describe my look as dark, bold and dramatic. I find myself gravitating to silhouettes often. The content of the image is still relevant to what I like to shoot as well. Over the last few years, I’ve created a couple of projects together with the rider pictured here, which you can view at 


Jay is a global photographer who calls New Zealand home, creating campaigns and imagery for a host of prominent brands such as Nikon, Red Bull, Macpac, Montane, Tourism New Zealand, and many more. Jay’s dramatic style has led him to be a Red Bull Illume grand finalist and a NZ Geographic Photographer of the year finalist on multiple occasions, amongst other achievements. He’s a big fan of coffee, dark beer and gets excited by sunsets. When he’s not at work, and sometimes when he is, he can be found in the mountains, running, biking, hiking or travelling with his wife, Nicola.

Making an Impact

Making an Impact

Headshot Nikki

by Richard Young

When creating a photograph, do you ever take a moment to consider its level of impact? Such a concern may not be at the forefront of your mind, but it’s crucial to your workflow, both during capture and post-production.

Defining your image’s intended impact will guide many choices - from composing to knowing when processing is complete. High-impact images can be very powerful: they make a statement, grab our attention, and compel the viewer to engage. Low-impact images may not inspire the same immediate excitement, but their subtlety can be very beautiful, drawing the viewer in for a closer, more extended look. The level of impact you want to build in your work is a personal choice, another means of self-expression.

We can assess and adjust our images both in terms of global impact and local impact.

Global Impact

Global impact refers to how strongly the image impacts viewers as a whole - is it bold or subtle? The overall impact affects how we first connect with the photograph. How quickly does it grab us, and how long does it hold our attention? We can heighten our impact through the use of bold compositions, vivid colours, deep contrast, and extreme tonal ranges to create images that capture attention from a distance and move viewers in a very powerful way.

However, successful photographs do not always need to shout out to the viewer. A subtle, low-impact image might not arrest our gaze, but this can allow a deeper connection to emerge: lower-impact images encourage our eyes to flow more freely within the frame.

The lesson here is that impact, like all other photographic choices, must be applied creatively and in moderation. If your high-impact images grab but fail to hold the viewer’s attention, they will have little lasting effect.

Increasing global impact can get your work noticed, but be careful not to rely too heavily on that first double-take. Likewise, if an image does not deliver enough impact, it may be perceived as bland and dismissed without any engagement at all.

 The level of impact you seek in your images will likely become a cornerstone of your style, guided by the vision you wish to express. Do you want your work to shout or whisper? Does it present like a heavy rock concert or a gentle piano concerto?

Like any other element of style, our use of impact can unite our work; a bold image would likely not sit well with 11 very subtle photographs when viewed together as a collection. The level of impact we seek will also influence many other aspects of our work, from the subjects we shoot to the way we process.

Global impact in the field

While shooting in the field, we can create impact through the use of bold subject matter and dynamic movement. The light we shoot in, both quality of weather and time of day, plays a part in this: a vivid coastal sunset delivers a vastly different impact than the soft, diffused light of a misty forest. Our composition (placement and balance of elements within the frame) also contributes to impact. Have we given heavy visual weight to part of the scene, such as a bold foreground subject?

Have we composed with dramatic angles or gentle transitions? Our intent should be clear before capturing a photograph. The subject, light, and composition of our images do not have to be the product of chance - we can tailor the location, time of day, and many other factors to our intent.

These two photographs were taken at one of my favourite beaches in Abel Tasman National Park, a place I have visited many times, returning with very different images from each trip. The first was captured in 2018 in a rushed manner while focused on helping a client who had been drawn to the bold subject.

I like the image, but something about it never sat quite right with me. It took me some time to realise it was because of the impact: shooting with an ultra-wide angle lens and working very close to the rock had created a high-impact image that didn’t fit my style and vision.

The second image was taken a year later, and it creates a very different feeling - a feeling much more strongly aligned with how I wish to express this landscape. Without the dominant foreground rock, the photograph is not so bold, which frees the eye to move around the image and explore it more deeply.

The lighting in the second photograph is also a little more subtle, and the sky does not hold the same drama as the first. My preference for the second image (as an expression of my style and vision) doesn’t make it “better” than the first; some may prefer the first photograph, but like any other choice in photography, it is a case of what you wish to express.

Read the full article by Richard Young in Issue 63 of NZPhotographer magazine.

For access to all articles in our back issues, become a subscriber,
alternatively, you can order a printed copy.

Behind The Shot 63

Behind The Shot

Happy Trails

Lake Moke
Nikon D850, Nikkor 14-24mm lens
x30 10s exposures for the sky @ F2.8, 10s, ISO6400, 16mm
x1 exposure for landscape @ F2.8, 180s, ISO800, 16mm

with Simon Williams

Simon, what’s your background in photography?

I feel like there has always been a camera somewhere in my life. Gaining my BSc (Hons) in Physics with Astrophysics taught me about the technicalities of cameras, lenses and light. In the mid-’90s, I started making skateboard movies which I digitized and edited electronically, providing the gateway into the quickly emerging digital post-production world.

After finishing my Masters, I worked in the corporate front-end web design space during the dotcom boom, strengthening and extending my knowledge and experience using a variety of Adobe Suite Products. Finally, not so long after arriving in Aotearoa in the mid-2000s, I invested in a DSLR replacing the faithful 3MP point-and-shoot.

That’s when photography became forefront and centre in my life. I used it to assist my work within Education for Sustainability - a mix of commercial, event and portraiture work. Living in Wānaka, I inevitably photographed the landscape and continued my passion for sports photography within the mountain bike community.

Around 8 years ago, I finally pointed my camera toward the night sky, where I feel almost everything I’d achieved up until that point came together in the most beautiful way.

Tell us about this Astro photo…

It was the night of April Fools, 2022. There was a new moon, and there was promising activity on the space weather satellite readings, so I spent the evening exploring spots facing the South not so far from home (I’m a massive fan of making Astro photography as easy as possible!).

I’d worn the right clothes and not forgotten my merino socks on this night, and because I moved between a few different places, I could warm up in the car a few times. I had food and drink with me and made sure I didn't stay anywhere too long to keep my stoke high and to ensure I had feeling in my fingers and toes.

Moke Lake was the last destination and capture of the evening. The spots I’d visited previously that evening had been quieter than I expected; in fact, I hadn’t encountered anyone else all evening, which made me think that perhaps the lake would be nice and quiet too.

There wasn’t much planning for this shot; more a case of turning up and the conditions providing the goods. I had my Nikon D850 with a Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8. mounted onto a fairly hefty Manfrotto tripod with a 3D ball head and a Phottix intervalometer / wireless remote to take the shots allowing my hand to stay in my pockets. The composition almost took care of itself, which put the focus on the technical side of the capture.

I love working with what I’m offered at a particular time and place. Straight away, it was the mist and the strong Auroral glow that captured my attention, both quite subtle to the naked eye and certainly moving more slowly than the stars in the sky.

I’ve been spending more time stacking astro images this season, so I really wanted to capture multiple frames of the sky as well as some long exposures for the landscape, being ever mindful of the light from a solitary camper van left on overnight, illuminating the lake to the left.

The process of shooting at night for me is one of meditation. I take many different exposures of the same scene, collecting light in different ways to give me as many options in post as possible. So behind the camera is very still and focused.

However, there was still a reasonable amount of yawning, wiggling of toes and crossing of fingers that a car didn’t come down the road, that the mist stayed just out of the way, and that my lens didn’t fog up. Other than that, it was a very serene end to a fulfilling evening. I could hear other people in the mist further around the lake having a good old laugh at being engulfed in freezing fog.

What does this image mean to you?

I’ve listened to one of our kaumātua tell kõrero about our place a few times now. He often tells of Hinepūkohurangi (the mist maiden), and on this evening, I felt like I had a ringside seat to the action as she moved down the mountainside and across the lake, engulfing the group of people further along the shore.

It felt mysterious and intriguing at the time, almost unbelievable, and as I’ve sat working this piece together, it keeps on drawing me in and soothing my thoughts.

What post-processing did you do?

A fair bit for this one. I’ve been learning how to use SiriL to stack images to get the best quality for the stars. It’s a slow process, which I’m enjoying, and the results are pleasantly surprising. After a fair amount of tinkering, I exported a TIFF from there into Photoshop.

I used Lightroom to process the longer exposure RAW images of the landscape and sky, which I also exported into Photoshop so I could begin to combine all the elements together with various layers and adjustments.

Once I was happy, I saved it as a PSD and then gave it a final tweak with Lightroom. When it looked good on screen, I soft-proofed it for Ilford Smooth Pearl - my current favourite paper to print Astro images onto, made slight adjustments and then printed it.

If I get the same feeling when it’s in my hand as what I see on my screen, I know the image is finished.

What would you do differently if retaking this shot?

I’d tilt the camera 30 degrees upwards and go through the whole process again so I could extend the field of view to include more of the sky. I would also log what I did during post, especially whilst stacking - this needs to become more scientific within my practice.

Can you share some Astro photography tips with us?

Practice and experiment as much as possible.

At night in low light, you really do need to slow down. It helps me to think of the composition in my head, imagining the field of view of my lens with my mind, and then trust I’ve got it right. Sure, do a couple of quick checks on the screen, but otherwise, spend time getting the exposures right, all the while connecting further to what’s around you.

Ask yourself; Where is the light coming from? How fast is it moving? What exposures do you need to capture what’s around you? Change shutter speeds, ISO and sometimes even aperture if there’s a strong source of light, as well as considering if you can introduce any light yourself to help.

Explore places near where you live, and don’t discount places you see photographs from often, there’s always a different way to view the familiar, and no one place ever looks exactly the same at different times. In my case, I wanted to get my take on the classic Moke Lake Aurora photograph. If you’re visiting new places, try to go during daylight hours to check your compositions. It's always easier when the lights are on, and use tools such as Photopills and Stellarium to see what you’ll see in the night sky when you plan to return.

Don’t forget your merino socks, and if you know or suspect others are out there photographing, be as considerate as you can with the light you emit and the noise you make.


Simon owns and operates AuthenticAs with his partner Emma in Queenstown. AuthenticAs create unique adventures for visitors to Queenstown, day and night. When he’s not out and about with his camera or clients, you’ll find Si at home, often making things for their garden, slowing down, enjoying family time, or out enjoying some of the world-class mountain biking trails on his doorstep.

Turning a Passion for Photography into a Profession that Captures People’s Hearts

Turning a Passion into a Profession
that Captures People’s Hearts

Headshot Nikki

by Parmeet Sahni

“Time flies but memories stay — these are the words I live by” - Parmeet Sahni.


When I migrated to New Zealand from India many years ago, I had to leave behind a large collection of photo albums and compromise on many beautiful memories of my family. This experience single-handedly made me realise the importance of capturing moments in photos and has led me to create my own photographic company specialising in newborn, maternity, and family portrait photography.

While living in New Zealand, I bought my first DSLR camera - a Canon 60D, purely to take photos of my daughters and continue to capture their childhood with the epic Tamron 24-70 lens. After posting some of these online in 2013, I received a request from a friend to do a photoshoot of their children. This is when I realised how much I loved being behind the camera, portrait photography soon became more than just photography; it became my passion.

Nature and landscape photography has never been of interest to me as I loved capturing emotions - raw emotions that are hard to express but easy to capture. A smiling baby, a loving mom, a naughty child or a respectful grandparent, I love to capture the bond and compassion in people. An event with all the festivities, smiling faces, people dancing and having fun, this all makes me happy, and this is what I love to capture - freezing these moments and creating beautiful memories for a lifetime.

At this point in my journey, I was working five days a week and combined with family life, it was challenging to fit a full-time photography course into my schedule, so I did a crash course on flash photography instead. I also knew I wanted to do newborn baby photoshoots so I took a course specifically on that topic. Dressing the baby, placing them on the bed, using props, trying different angles, and adjusting to the baby's mood in order to get that perfect shot were the main areas of focus in the course. Despite my experience as a mother, I wanted to be fully trained before doing any newborn sessions, mainly because it's a huge responsibility to carry out a smooth photoshoot for a fragile little life. And for anyone who wants to pursue newborn photography - Please be fully trained before you take a newborn in your hands for photography.

I kept on learning. The famous saying, “Where there is a will, there is a way,” rang true as it was my willingness and passion which kept me on the roll. I took weekend crash courses every month, watched YouTube videos, kept on practising with my camera, and left no stone unturned to fulfill my dream of becoming a trained photographer.

Once I felt that I was prepared, I started doing complimentary photo shoots for friends and acquaintances after work or on weekends to build my portfolio. I didn’t have a studio space, so I started out as a mobile photographer, either visiting their home or doing outdoor photoshoots at the beach or park. This gave me a boost in confidence, and as word of mouth spread, I started getting queries for more and more photoshoots. Slowly I became increasingly interested in capturing people of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds, and as my work started to gain more traction, I began to invest in better equipment and started creating a collection of props and gowns. My portfolio continued to grow, and so did my sense of accomplishment - I felt like I was finally doing what I was always meant to do… My passion had started slowly turning into a profession.

The Soulful Memories Ltd company was established in 2016 and I left my full time job in 2019. It was a tough decision to make as the risk of losing my income and relying on my passion to sustain us was huge but I felt I had to follow my gut as it was becoming increasingly difficult to balance my professional career, my family, and my photography business. I did think that I might fail, but then I wondered what if I succeded and that led me to go ahead and live my passion. Although I was the face of the company, without my husband’s management of our finances and the immense organisational help from my tech-savvy daughters, none of what I have achieved today would’ve been possible without their help and everlasting support along with the blessings of loving friends and of course, the love and support of my clients.

Read the full article by Parmeet Sahni in Issue 62 of NZPhotographer magazine.

For access to all articles in our back issues, become a subscriber,
alternatively, you can order a printed copy.