March madness

Adelaide goes crazy in March. Adelaide is a sunset city.   Its coast faces west and experiences some amazing conditions , particularly when the weather turns stiflingly warm and muggy. This happened for an extended period at the start of March madness this year and rather than being dbreezied* at home, I headed out a couple of times make use of the ongoing late sunsets offered by a prolonged daylight saving period.

Montage of selected dbreezied moments from March

Montage of selected dbreezied moments from March

 

*dbreezied : a term invented by USA photographer David Thompson : adj. The feeling of having the wind taken out of your sails when amazing light occurs and you, as a photographer, are nowhere near a landscape shooting possibility. Possible uses : “OMG did you see that nuclear sunset, here is a #dbreezied shot taken from my backyard”

Since returning from my last trip to Tasmania, I had been waiting for my metabones to return from BH. I might add that the returns process to BH was 100% painless and administration free. During this period, I had not been doing any shooting but the beckoning light lured me back toward the perfectly functional 6D sitting in a drawer waiting for use. Those who follow us may have realised that I have been doing a lot of complaining about the sony A7r2 in the field and loving it in the post process portion of image creation. The chance to go ‘back’ to a canon body was a real acid test in terms of whether it would feel like ‘going home’ or whether in actual fact, the sony did have its good points. I have mixed feelings.

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Wild weather at Port Noarlunga. Image taken with 6D and Nisi 3 stop hard edged GND

In the field, the reliability of not having to play around with the metabones was a definite bonus. I did however notice a few things I preferred about the sony in the field. First was the ability to change iso directly through a dial (one button less than the default canon settings). Second , was the ability to have easy access to timed bracketed shooting. I know I could probably do this with the canon with some setting up but it’s nice that sony included that option in their default shooting modes. Lastly, I definitely prefer the Hejnar L bracket set up which places the camera and lens in a similar position that a lens collar and footing would. This is particularly relevant for me since I shoot with a remote which can get in the way when setting up an L plate attached to the camera body for vertical images. In reality, shooting with sony in the field wasn’t as bad as I had made it out to be , particularly since I now have an almost 100% foolproof ‘fix it’ routine for metabones errors. My main anxiety in the Tasmania trip was that I would have no backup should the sony fail in the wilderness.

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I tend to manually bracket images with the canon while using the default sony timed bracketing option on the A7r2. Image taken with 6D at Port Willunga.

Strangely enough, going back to canon raised another issue with post processing images. Sure the sony has the clear edge on resolution and dynamic range over my 6D but colour optimisation is not its strong point (particularly in the red spectrum). I’m not 100% sure why, but they seem much easier to ‘extract’ from canon RAW files than playing around with white balance and tints on the sony files. It just seems that much harder (albeit definitely possible) to portray a real golden colour or intense reds working with the sony files.

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Intense reds on the A7r2 seem a little harder to extract than on equivalent canon RAW files. Image taken with sony A7r2 and Nisi 6 stop ND filter at Myponga Beach.

On the filter front, I’ve now acquired a Nisi 15 stop filter to experiment with. So far the conditions have been unkindly grey since I received this dark and cool piece of glass so I’ll probably have to wait until an upcoming weekend away to Kangaroo Island before I can reliably report back on its utility. As ever, watch this space!

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20 minute exposure with a  Nisi 15 stopper

In other random thoughts , I’ve been wondering why landscape photographers seem to act in a self destructive manner? I can’t imagine anything good coming of the quarrels that exist (mainly to do with post processing but some even to do with ‘turf wars’.) It’s OK for people to have different opinions. It’s OK for people to debate. It’s not OK to assume that your opinion is somehow more valid than the next person’s even if that opinion is the oft quoted ‘do what you like’ stance. Like it or not, whatever we as individuals do has an impact on the collective group , be it a tiny ripple or a tidal wave. Food for thought:)

Next update after a 4 day quickie to Kangaroo Island, then it’s time to hunt for some autumn colours locally!

Waiting for autumn colours. I  have my eye on a certain tree in the Adelaide Hills!

Waiting for autumn colours. I have my eye on a certain tree in the Adelaide Hills!

Tasmania Adventure part 2 : On a whim

Continuing on from our departure from the Labyrinth, we once again had a tired discussion about what to do for the following three days. As commercialized as it is, I wouldn’t have minded embarking on the three capes walk but that would have meant removing the option to fly at the end of the trip if we wanted to keep things cost neutral.  As it turned out, the weather was pretty dicey for the rest of the trip anyway!

Wednesday evening was a quiet one spent getting clean and not even attempting any shooting. Somehow time skipped past and an intended early night turned out to be reasonably late. It was one of those sleeps where not two seconds after falling asleep, you’re being awoken by an alarm, in this case, an ever enthusiastic Francois inviting us to get up! The skies did not look promising with heavy bands of showers passing over the entire state (though unfortunately not necessarily where the fires were located). Nonetheless we headed out to the Tasman Peninsula well before dawn and Francois took us to check out a cool spot at Fossil Bay where the opportunity to photograph giant waves with golden morning light could have occurred had the light been conducive. Instead, we opted to wait it out at the Tessellated Pavement as the rain swept past. While the guys slept in the car without optimism, I went down to the beach anyway , not expecting any light but more just to get out there and give some spite to Norman.

Initial greyness at the Tessellated Pavement

While I was setting up , light actually began to build as the rain and clouds cleared directly out to the east while behind us the gloom persisted. I had taken a series of shots and decided to try out the 16-35mm F4’s image stabilisation capabilities. I tried going to as low as 1/3 second at 16mm but not a single shot turned out tack sharp. They were probably OK for some social media web presentation.

Light on the pavement!

Francois photographing the waves while I was testing IS on the 16-35mm F4

Francois photographing the waves while I was testing IS on the 16-35mm F4

As we left the pavement and headed toward Fossil Bay again, I thought I had misplaced my filter pouch! In a moment of panic, I drove back to the pavement while the others stayed to photograph crashing waves. After revisiting the beach and cursing the dark side of human nature upon the THIEF who stole my pouch, I wandered back up to the car and had less of a panicked boy’s look. And there it was sitting in a gap between seats with the imaginary face of Norman full of cheerful spite. By the time I returned to Fossil Bay, I wasn’t expecting to stay long as the guys had been photographing for a good half an hour by this stage. However, the hypnotic pull of large waves and backlit green seas meant that we all stayed shooting that little bit longer while our stomachs grumbled. The nisi filter holder system here was quite advantageous as I was experimenting with polarisation and different densities of ND filtration to achieve crisp waves or direct splash action.

Longer exposure with Nisi filter setup

Shorter exposure with polariser alone

After a hearty breakfast, we embarked on what was meant to be a short walk to Crescent Bay in full sun. From here, Francois had been eyeing direct long lens shots of Tasman Island from the beach. We soon found that the most direct path to the beach traversed private property and so, do-gooders as we were, we decided to walk around the property. This very quickly degenerated into a disoriented bash through scrub following indistinct wombat pads through the bush. Finally, after uncountable switchbacks and reaching walls of scrub, Luke’s phone saved the day. We had reception and a version of pdf maps application found us a way back to the original path which was really only 50m from where we were! By the time we reached the beach, it was a good hour after we had planned but the sun was beating down and beckoning a dip. And so we were headed until we climbed the last dune before the Bay and were mesmerised by the green/blue waters below. Only Francois and I headed down to the actual beach as we spent more time shooting from above. I’ve definitely bookmarked this spot for future family summer visits! We even tried our had at boarding down the dunes on a left over real estate sign and sheet of perspex . I had visions of ‘Rey’ from Star Wars on a salvaging mission returning home with a triumphant slide down the dune which ended up in a frustrated bum shuffle that went nowhere …..I believe one of the guys may have that accompanying video .

Francois wandering down to Crescent Bay

Light over Tasman Island from Crescent Bay sand dunes

A late lunch was gobbled down at Port Arthur Lavenda while I hunted for some gifts for Marianne. It was then , that the weather started to turn sour as the rain which had been dodging the area finally settled in. Dramatic clouds flew in as we debated whether or not the sunset was going to survive. While this was happening, I hoped to add to Francois’s backyard panorama collection by taking one of my own! I no longer have the motivation to take #dbreezied shots from my backyard given the setting of his. After many thoughts to and fro-ing, we decided to head to the Mortimer Bay fence. To cut a long story short, we got wet, I got to test my makeshift garbage bag raincover (which worked) , Francois did an ‘instaceleb’ routine for us, and Norman again, smiled sardonically at us.

Poking fun @instaceleb shots

With the weather that was around, we decided the best option was to photograph waterfalls the following day. The following day once again arrived after seemingly another 2 minutes of sleep which was actually a few hours. Francois and I decided to chance it heading up to Mount Wellington in the hopes that the clouds would clear. They didn’t , and we ended up sleeping in the car until after dawn. As we were driving back down, it appeared that the forecast for rain was true and all that was on show was grey cloud. After picking up Tim and Luke, we then headed to Secret Falls in heavy rain. As we approached, it was apparent that all four of us would not be able to photograph each of the waterfalls so we split up into pairs with one of us holding an umbrella for the other while we took our images. Luke and Tim apparently acted as good bait for leeches as Francois and I were not troubled by them! Both falls steadily grew in flow during the time we were there and though I struggled to find anything original to photograph from that location, it was still great to see this beautiful spot which lures photographers like flies to a popular flower.

Luke and Tim teaming up at Secret Falls , while leeches rained down upon them !

Secret Falls

Myrtle Gully Falls

As we were heading out, thunder and lightning were roaring all around us as we made a quick trip to Strickland Falls as Francois had a family deadline to meet. On the way, we noticed mammatus clouds , mmmmm, mmmmammmatus. Strickland Falls is in a bit of a mess with recent fallen debris from upstream so if I were to give one a miss on a future trip, this might be it!

Strickland Falls

Can you say mmmmmammmmatus?

As we drove home for a relaxing afternoon, the last of the leeches finally fell off in Francois kitchen…. Francois surprised the three of us with fresh pairs of dry, non-stinky socks which was HUGELY appreciated. From the week of dampness, I still ended up with a case of athelete’s foot on my return home but no doubt this kind gestures at least stave it off for a little while!

Thunder and rain roared overhead as we headed back out to Mount Field National Park. We were hoping that the dryness we had encountered during our initial walk around Lake Dobson would be remedied by the constant rain. Indeed when we arrived, water was flowing briskly and the forest was looking at its moist, green best. The only competition we would have for compositions were a trio of Irish (who we somehow became convinced were having a threesome party at the back of their motorhome???) who seemed to be either on a funded marketing campaign, or were just very happy to strip down while being filmed by a rig of four simultaneous gopros .

Russell Falls and Horseshoe Falls are among the most photographed falls in Tasmania and it’s probably quite difficult to capture anything resembling a unique angle. Nonetheless, I went for it and placed emphasis on exploration rather than photographing what I know could be effective. Besides, I had always wanted to find my way up to the second tier of the falls and it was surprisingly easy to follow a pad in that direction. Rain and spray made it difficult to take an effective image but I have ideas to return here with direct sun and hopefully some mist in the future (not asking too much of mother nature of course!).

Second tier of Russell Falls

Russell Falls from above

By the time I had reached Horseshoe Falls, it was already nearing on 8pm and light was fading. It looked like our plans to walk to Lady Baron Falls would not come to effect as is often the case when you get lost in trying to create works of art ! My 16-35mm had already been dampened with a screw on CPL and the Nisi CPL wet beyond its ability to take clean images. As a result , I had to think differently to take images of Horseshoe Falls with the 24-70mm and ended up opting for a few sets of panoramas. Surprisingly, despite a barefoot dip in the water, no leeches for me! By the time we had finished photographing, it was well after sunset and nearly dark. A dinner worthy of Argentinian timing (after 930pm) was yet again gobbled down before we yet again ended up sleeping later than intended.

Horseshoe Falls : Panoramic view with the 24-70

 

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, that night’s sleep also literally felt like 2 minutes worth! Somehow Francois manages to have that ‘I’ve slept 8hours look’ about him at 4am in the morning but I’m pretty sure the rest of us look like its 7th consecutive day with sleep shortage! Charged with some milo (since I bucked the trend of caffeine and alcohol on this trip) and sugar, I offered to drive initially to Boomer Bay where we had scouted out a boatshed with a remarkable resemblance to the Crawley boat shed in Perth. As we arrived though, there was a boat right in front of the shed, and the conditions seemed better out North toward Marion Bay. Zooming along so as not to miss light, I missed the fact that there was a huge depression in the dirt road as Francois’ Subaru Liberty went airborne before landing with not so much as a skid. Believing that we had escaped damage, we set off from the car park as fast as we could as the light was peaking while we were parking! The beach itself is a drainage point for a tanin filled stream which , after the rains, was gushing out into the sea. It was a case of shoot now or miss the light!

Marion Bay as light was peaking

Thereafter, things calmed down as the light faded to a small region on the horizon. I wandered over to where Luke was shooting and started shooting a stray piece of driftwood which we all ended up congregating around. I’m sure this sort of thing happens frequently on photography workshops, but having never been on one, it was a novelty for sure!

A popular piece of driftwood for the morning!

As luck would have it, the light really broke through the cloud spectacularly as we were walking back. I don’t think I have any awesome shots from this location but I wonder if Luke does!

Luke and some late light!

 

We were on a bit of a high following the good light we experienced, one of very few moments during our trip. This bubble was quickly burst when we noticed a flat back left tire, undoubtedly from our little airborne experience an hour ago. Fortunately some holidayers at the car park were able to loan us a pump to reinflate the tire temporarily as we drove slowly back to paved road. The air pressure seemed to be holding as we headed toward Sorell to reassess its progress. We were met with a ‘she’ll be roight’ from the tire guy as the pressure did indeed seem to hold though we would find out after the trip that it was indeed a slow leak. The rest of the morning was spent working out the logistics of our flight including how we might make ourselves some lens hoods to stop reflections from the plane windows. After several suggestions of black cardboard all the way to a black flower pot, we somehow arrived at the allegedly genius solution of using a felt top hat from the dollar shop with a hole cut at the top.

Having never done any aerial photography (apart from a joyride over the Barrier Reef on our honeymoon), I was basically setting the bar low for any images I would personally get so I was happy to sit wherever people didn’t want to. Luke seemed particularly pumped about the flight and was probably feeling more pressure than the rest of us to produce some good images given that he was the one who negotiated our flight through Tourism Tasmania and Par Avon Wilderness Flights.(http://paravion.com.au/flights/south-west-tasmania/a-day-in-the-wilderness-tour/)

Our flight was slightly delayed as we settled into our crammed seats with Luke aside our pilot , Tim and Francois in the second row, and 60kg lightweight me in the back. The first challenge was encountered very early  : the top hat setup was too large for me use as a lens hood so I ended up not using it at all. This was compounded by the fact that there was significant turbulence flying close to the mountains . To combat this I would anchor the lens onto the window using my left hand flush on the window ; again precluding the top hat use! The next limitation was that there were only moments of brightness so I decided to take off all of the polarisers from my lenses once the bright sun disappeared behind cloud after the first half an hour of the flight. Shooting through glass was also a challenge due to the reflections in the windows from either stray light or my supporting hand. The major limitation of the flight for me struck about 1 hour into the flight just as we were entering the mountains as the constant live-viewing and turbulence conspired to bring on air sickness. As a result, for large portions of the flight, regardless of light or scenery, I had to sit looking at the horizon while waiting for blasts of cool air whenever Luke opened his window for some top down shots. These short bursts of cool air seemed to temporarily relieve the nausea. The following images are part of a series of 800 odd images I took during the flight , some of which were spray and pray series during severe  turbulence over the Arthurs. My go to settings were iso400-800, F4-5.6, shutter of at least 1/1000.

Lion Rock on the south coast. One of the last shots I was able to take with a CPL due to available light falling off.

Federation Peak and the Eastern Arthurs. This looks like a great one to do from the East though I’m dubious about actually summitting Fed peak.

Lake Oberon and the Western Arthurs with Mount Sirius in the foreground.

Patches of light from above. Mount Anne was covered in mist so we flew straight on to Lake Gordon.

Dead trees in Lake Gordon

Damage from the Strathgordon fire. It was no wonder the access roads to the Arthurs were closed off.

Wearing my ‘top hat’ and the Cessna we flew in

By the time we landed, it was just about sunset and despite the light that was developing, we didn’t really have the energy to take images overlooking the Tasman bridge. Instead, we headed back to Salamanca to meet Nick Monk (http://nickmonkphotography.com/) for a quick drink. Naturally, we were #dbreezied.

#dbreezied, Salamanca style!

Salamanca was full of the kind of crowd who at our age , made us think that we were too old to be there. Indeed on several occasions a few of us were randomly denied entry on account of our attire. Perhaps my top hat would have sealed the deal? We discussed all sorts of things related to photography with the highlight being Nick’s @instaceleb hand drawn series of images . We introduced Nick to the concept of ‘nutscapes’ and challenged him to combine multiple aspects of instagram fame into a single glorious satirical piece.  Perhaps the head of a canoe pointing into mountains with an overblown sky and two hairy , out of focus balls hanging from the top with a caption listing a random brand name and sponsor? On our way out we encountered an American tourist after the ‘real beer’ and none of this ‘craft beer’ he was experiencing in Salamanca. Fortunately we had Nick to point him in the right direction.

The next morning, we hoped that we might catch Norman unawares and experience a golden dawn from atop Mount Wellington. Unfortunately Norman was well and truly aware of our plans and gleefully greyed out the summit until just the very minute we descended from the mountain. Eager to capture some light, we did eventually end up at Signal Station overlooking the east side of the bay. I think we were relatively spent by this stage and only took a handful of images before settling for a fast food breakfast. Thereafter, it was a repack into lighter bags than when we started and we parted ways after a week of constant decision making we never thought we’d had to do.

Signal Station , and signing off from Tasmania for this year!

Despite the challenges, I thoroughly enjoyed myself on this week away with the guys . We were all very grateful to Francois and Erin who put us up and fed us from time to time and I’m very grateful to Luke for having brought his metabones else I would have literally done no shooting during the trip! I like lists, so here’s a random lists of things I learned from this trip to sum things up.

  • I learned that I could travel with other people without going crazy, though travelling with other photographers made me want to take images that they weren’t . This meant that we wouldn’t all end up with the same images. I think this mindset made me think laterally more than I otherwise would have
  • I learned that the Tasmanian landscape photographic community as a whole, are very passionate about preserving the unique landscape and this passion rubs off on you just by being in their presence.
  • I learned that with a positive frame of mind, Tasmania has plan B all the way to Z so it doesn’t matter if plan A has been ‘Normanised’. If you have your own inner Normans to deal with, just laugh at him and pretend he wasn’t there to begin with and any plan will then be a good one.
  • I learned a lot about how different people work a scene whether it be how to proficiently take panoramas (Tim) , how to consider timelapses (Franocois) and the benefits of infra red photography (Luke).
  • I learned that not matter how much easier life seems without the kids and Marianne, I was very eager for to see them on my return. And it seems, they were too😉

Next up, the trip video! (and planning our next little getaway to Kangaroo Island for 5 days)

The Western Arthurs from above and path we hope to walk with our own boots one day!

 

Tasmania Adventure part 1: Labyrinth

The start of this blog post is a thanks to people who made this possible.

First and foremost, Marianne for looking after the kids at home for the 10 days I was away.

Next, the photographers with whom I shared this week in alphabetical order:

I’d like to thank Francois in particular who put us up in his home for much longer than expected given our initial plans were foiled. Thanks also to Erin who literally put up with a whole bunch of stinky, sweaty, sodden blokes downstairs and gave us a good feed much more befitting than the ferals we began to resemble as the week progressed!

The initial plan : A 7 day 6 night walk through the Western Arthurs to set ourselves up at Lake Oberon . Some of us had needed to acquire some new gear for long overnight trips including myself (see previous post). We had been closely monitoring the bushfire situation in Tasmania in the week leading up to our arrival and were nervously awaiting the outcome of one particular fire in the Strathgordon area. In the days before our scheduled start to the walk, the access road to the trailhead was closed off for safety reasons. This had us discussing whether we should bale out of the trip or continue anyway with an alternative itinerary.  Our imaginary team mascot ‘Norman’ the optimism gnome , persuaded us that all would be turn out just fine and we proceeded with our flights as planned.

Friday evening : Hobart airport. Sudokus, musing, more Sudokus from a fellow traveler’s paper and then quiet. It’s a neat little place for quiet meditation ! I had arrived three hours ahead of Luke and Tim and was quite relieved to meet Francois as he arrived to pick us up from the airport.

Hobart airport : not a soul in sight!

On a balmy summer evening, we headed to Francois’s place which beautifully overlooks Hobart and Mount Wellington across the bay to the west. That evening, we decided to attend a community meeting at the town of Maydena, the last stop before road blockages to our planned destination. That way we would know for sure if we would have to simply delay our walk, or find alternate plans entirely.

Saturday morning: Instead of being fully packed and rearing to embark on our hike (including the 800m up Moiraine A) , we spent that dawn shooting the coastline literally just out from Francois’s backyard. What a backyard it is too! The conditions were nice and it was as if ‘Norman’ were telling us that something good would come from this trip. Ahh, good ‘ole Norman, so full of optimism:)

Hobart and Mount Wellington from just outside Francois’s backyard.

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