Category Archives: Photography

From Plan A to Z in Tasmania – according to my phone

From January 26th to February 2nd, I traveled around Tasmania and visited as many areas as I could that were safe from the raging fires all around the state. I tried to take as many pictures as I could with my phone in between the times that I would take out my DSLR to take dedicated landscape images. Most of the trip was spent hiking with a backpack for camping gear and a frontpack containing my camera. These are some of the images that I took along the way along with thoughts that I scribbled down on an old fashioned pen and paper diary.

January 26: While on the plane:

The plans for this trip have had to be altered time and time again due to raging fires that were worse than our 2016 trip. Our original plan to hike the Eastern Arthurs was abandoned several months ago as Tim, Francois and eventually Luke, had other pressing life issues to attend to.  My leave was already set in stone and since we would be moving out of home shortly after this trip, I figured I would persist with the trip.  Lately I feel that I’ve been struck by some sort of travel curse. First , there was the snow incident in Canada where I managed to dent a rental with my bare hands while trying to push it out of snow. Then, there was the alleged accident that I caused in 2017 while driving to Nelson Lakes (which I still feel I wasn’t responsible for!). This was topped by being septic with appendicitis in March last year needing emergency surgery while in Tauranga.  Thankfully, a couple of family trips to Fiji and Canada since have proven uneventful. However, the travel curse came back to haunt me as three weeks ago, I inexplicably came off my bike resulting in a fractured 9th rib. It was still sore though not so much when walking. I hope that carrying a heavy pack doesn’t aggravate the injury too much or limit my walking!

January 26 : Adelaide to Cape Raoul

I’m writing this section of the diary from the amazing Lake Tahune hut which I will describe later. I should note that I’m writing this while sitting on a bench under a thermostat regulated heater while my phone charges on a USB hub. Looks like I made the right decision to push on through to here for 2 nights ! Anyway, back to the trip.

Adelaide airport 1 hour before departure!

 

When I arrived, the rental car queue was already growing and it was just pure bad luck that a first time renter was immediately in front of me in the queue. He spent 20 minutes asking all sorts of insurance questions which I’m sure I caused me great angst once upon a time. My pickup was once again, very routine and by 1pm , I was driving to meet Luke (http://luketscharke.com/) at Sorrell Woolworths after picking up some jetboil fuel from Anaconda. The poor air quality that I could see from the plane was evident right throughout this first day. In fact, from the plane, the fires over the Great Lakes area could easily be seen.

My shopping list from Woolies : 10L of water for dry hikes, a pack of hot cross buns, muesli bars and skittles for munchies. I had packed everything else from Adelaide. We had a fast food lunch at MacDonalds while discussing the potential candidate hikes for the rest of my trip. Mount Rufus, Frenchmans Cap, Freycinet circuit were all mentioned and at this stage I was favouring the North East given that no fires were present in that part of the state. We only set off from lunch at 2:30pm an drove through constant smoke haze behind many Australia day holiday goers who magically thinned out once we were past Port Arthur. Cape Raoul’s car park at Stormlea lay off a dirt road and was reasonably large, possibly in anticipation of integrating this with the already established Three Capes  walk.

During our 7km hike, we talked mainly about photographic issues and the trail really only opened up once at a lookout 30 minutes into the walk , and then 1km from the end of the trail. Thanks to some directions from Nick Monk (http://nickmonkphotography.com/) about camping sites, we were able to find some locations protected in the scrub but in the end, we opted for the bushes lining dried out pond right near the end of the Cape.  From here we explored a few vantage points as the sun set below thick smoke haze leading to a disappointing lack of light during ‘golden hour’. At the tip of Cape proper, it took me some time to acclimatize to standing 200m above the sea with steep dropoffs either side. As we returned to camp and chowed down dinner (Rice and Bovril for me), I found that my MSR tent and new fly stood up to some brief downpours of rain and moderate gusts of wind overnight.

First lookout 30 minutes in

Luke near the tip of Cape Raoul

January 27: Cape Raoul to Cape Pillar

This dawn would be one of a few bushfire ‘hazed’ dawns for the trip. The sun itself shone red through the smoke haze which prevented colour  from permeating through the horizon and the rest of the sky. Luke did his best to tempt fate at the edge of a particularly sketchy cliff face while I played it just a little safer! While Luke kept shooting well after dawn, I took the opportunity to have my prepacked breakfast of powdered milk and muesli and had a brief snooze.

Pre dawn camped at a watercourse that is usually a bit wet

Tip of Cape Raoul

During the 7km walk out, Luke and I discussed many things including some common ground about how we felt about the Australian Geographic NPOTY results from 2018. Overall, we were concerned that the direction seemed to be toward ‘pure art’ rather than the depiction of natural world and representation of real scenes, real light and real conditions. Discussions like this with like minded photographers only serve to consolidate my desire to continue shooting the wilderness primarily (though I will shoot anything!). After goodbyes at the car park where Luke lent me his personal locator beacon, I wolfed down a chicken pie and coke before heading to the Cape Pillar trail-head at Fortescue Bay campground. The campground was completely full and I nearly couldn’t find a park to begin the walk!

By the time I sorted out my bags , it was just after 12pm and I had given myself 4 hours to get to the tip of Cape Pillar. The first section through the ‘old Cape Pillar’ track was stifling due to the heat and complete lack of breeze. The more attractive forest scenes started to appear only after the track joined the new Cape Pillar track heading to Munro hut and beyond.

Views from Munro Hut

Munro Hut – very clean!

During this section of the walk, the boardwalk was certainly a nice feature to walk on. Indeed, there were cries of it being a ‘superhighway’ but personally, I felt this to be a bit of an over-call. I do feel it’s a touch excessive but I’m sure not unappreciated by the likes of people like me and many others. Munro Hut looked amazing and for the price of the paid walk, it had better be!. I noticed lots of clean boots outside immaculate dorms and many clean walkers thanks to the presence of a shower! My 5 minute water break there was a relief. The last 6km to the Cape were quite painful on the shoulders, feet and spirits though the walk itself wasn’t at all tough. Even my eyes were smarting from the smoke and sunscreen laden sweat.

Hand sanitiser on the feet works wonders!

A lotta steps (for me!)

Shortly before 4pm, after a marathon boardwalk section leading to the spectacular sea cliff section of the walk, I found a camping site very close to the turn off for the ‘blade’. Given how established these spots seemed, I’m guessing they were used by the workers constructing the trail. After 23km of walking for the day, I had a bit of a granny snooze with the tent set up without the fly. I made a few trips of the short climb to the blade and again acclimatized myself to standing at the edge of a precipitous drop overlooking Tasman Island to the south. Fortunately , despite the westerly gusts, the top of the blade offers sheltered sections to retreat to if you lose your nerve temporarily! That evening, I felt that I got some reasonable images and headed down well before sunset thanks to the predictable smoke induced ‘unset’ that obliterated any light 20 minutes before actual sunset.  Bovril rice and jerky for dinner again and I was not yet sick of it!

Sunset diffuse lighting

January 28: Cape Pillar to Lufra Hotel

With the camp to myself and less violent conditions than the previous night, I actually got a few hours of much needed sleep that night. When I got up, I thought I’d check out Tasman Island for potential star trails but sadly, smoke haze was heavy due south so my only night shots were of the magellanic clouds with the cruise ship ‘Celebrity Solstice’ inbound for Hobart sneaking across my frames. The capes were also lit up by massive floodlights which I presume was for the benefit of the cruise passengers? Dawn itself heralded another ‘unrise’ thanks to smoke blowing in from the west, but there was some interesting lighting on Tasman Island nonetheless. Just after 8am, I had packed up and broken camp, a routine I’ve rapidly accustomed to on this trip.

Sunrise lighting!

My castle for a night

When I started walking, I was initially worried about some hamstring tightness and my sore feet but thankfully both settled in as the joints warmed up. The return leg seemed a little easier with my stops planned out in advance. Along the way, many walkers were doing a day trip from the Munro Hut and a few appeared to be heading out for a very long in and out from the carpark. When I arrived back at the carpark , 3hours 15 minutes had elapsed and my first priority was to get clean and have a snooze in a bed before planning what I would do for the rest of the trip. Lufra hotel was conveniently situated at the Tessellated Pavement and after a hasty check-in and shower, a beef burger was downed in record time. After laundry was done, I napped for an hour before taking a random drive in search of an easy sunset location.

I found the thirty degree heat to be quite stifling so I didn’t really achieve anything other than using up fuel. A new fire had unfortunately developed on Waterfall Bay road but thankfully, aerial bombing was successful and it was extinguished by that evening. It did however leave the area smoked out for the rest of the evening. Luke had given me a tip that the Dunalley bakery was a pretty good failsafe but unfortunately, this was the dedicated Australia day holiday and as such nothing was open. Dinner by the ‘Doo-lishus’ fish and chips stall was , as its namesake, delicious! I had plenty of time on my hands , so I headed to Norfolk Bay where I witnessed colours gradually obscured by the haze of the day’s fire. Despite having a comfortable bed to spread out on, I really didn’t sleep much – perhaps a touch of worry about the unknowns that a trek to Frenchmans Cap might bring? Big shout out to Nick Monk for giving me assistance with planning a possible night up at Barron Pass at some stage during the walk.

2 choppers put out this fire thankfully

Dinner at Doo-town’s Doo-lishus van

Sunset at Norfolk Bay – one wonders if the smoke wasn’t there!

January 29 : Tessellated Pavement to Barron Pass

An early start thanks to an absolutely blazing dawn. Unfortunately the patterns I may have shot at the pavement were mostly not possible due to a high tide. Another note to self: No barefoot shooting there! I was eaten alive by mozzies the moment I took off my boots so that I could keep my feet dry for the upcoming hike.

Blazing dawn at the Tessellated Pavement!

At 6:45 after shooting a timelapse and many single frames, I checked out of Lufra and set off for the trailhead. I briefly stopped at Sorrell for supplies – including some dental floss of all things. I called home to let Marianne know I was headed to Frenchmans Cap and had a chance to talk briefly to the girls before their first day of school for the year.

Hitting the road, I entrusted google maps to get me there using the quickest route, however I ended up on dirt road for a good 45 minutes at one stage. By the time I was approaching Tarralea, I was flagging so I stopped for a quick bite to eat and stocked up on 2 sausage rolls for the hike in. It was a strange town set up around the hydro operations there – almost seemed like a fake town??

45 minutes down the road at 10:45 I arrived at the trailhead and instantly noticed the fly infestation in the area. These flies were serious – so big that I thought for a second that a swarm of bees had descended on me! As I finished preparations for the backpack and checked the logbook, I noticed many had started the trail in the previous 3 days but only 1 other party on the same day as me. My memory of the track was that it was in awesome condition! There had been no recent rains, but even so, the irrigation systems and boardwalks looked like they had been doing their job in recent times thanks to Parks Tasmania and Dick Smith’s valuable contributions.

Crossing the Franklin River 10 minutes into the walk

Frenchmans Cap imposingly far away from Mount Mullens

The Loddon River marks the 1/3 mark of the walk

Rough timelines for future trips in include : 75 minutes from the carpark to the Loddon River ; the highlight was seeing Frenchmans cap for the first time at the top Mount Mullens. Another 75 minutes of gradual ascent around from the previously known (but now diverted) sodden Loddon plains led to another steep climb and descent to the plains where Lake Vera lies. I stopped for a drink and snack break before pushing on toward Barron Pass. The section along the north shore of Lake Vera was beautiful with rather inventive track cutting .

Inventive track cutting

A small waterfall on the way up to Barron Pass

After filling up my drink bottles at Vera Creek, it was a tough 80 minute slog up to Barron Pass. I was really feeling the previous two days walking coming up this section of track – beautiful and lush as it was. At the top of the path, the scenery really opened up giving grandstand views of Nicole’s Needle and White’s Needle , the valley beyond and Frenchmans Cap in the distance. I pitched tent in a small pad just off the path to White’s Needle and rapidly rehydrated and rested. I didn’t have the energy to search for the aspect of Nicole’s Needle that Luke had shown me courtesy of a Dombrovskis image.  Sunset was clear but brilliant as rays shone down into the valley and on to the face of White’s Needle. As the sun sank below the ridgeline, I managed to check a forecast on my phone which suggested cloud cover incoming overnight. With that in mind, I opted for an early night.

Camping on Barron Pass

Sunset from Barron Pass

January 30: Barron Pass to Frenchmans Cap

This is finally ‘today’ as I am writing this rather in retrospect. The sleep in my awkwardly pitched tent was reasonably good despite the uneven ground and roots. I rose at 3:30am and saw a sliver moon with stars despite the forecast for 100% cloud cover! I put on some gear in a hurry and about 20 minutes later, found myself among pandani along a boulder scree slope overlooking Nicole’s Needle. Having only been introduced to the Dombrovskis shot 2 days earlier,it was hard to tell if I shot the same one? There were so many appealing compositions to choose from.

The walk back in dawn light was when I could really appreciate the path that I took. I broke camp fr the last time this trip and again by 8’ish, I was on my way out without having been in any kind of rush. From Barron Pass to Lake Tahune only took 1.5 hours of leisurely walking without getting clammy. It’s probably the best stretch of the walk in terms of feeling you are among the mountains. Along the way, I met some younger hikers on their way out from what I would later hear, was a packed Lake Tahune hut.

White’s Needle

After another steep descent past ‘Artichoke Valley’ the magical electrical self sustaining Lake Tahune hut appeared and I’ve had a warm comfy base to return to ever since! I met a few more outgoing hikers while 3 others were staying a second night keeping me company. They had all done much more walking in Tasmania than I had as we shared stories over the usual hut activities.

View from Artichoke Valley

Frenchmans cap rising vertically 400m from Lake Tahune

After they had all departed on day trips, I slept for an hour or so to recover from the previous nights average sleep. I then set off on a recon walk with no gear and somehow ended up on Frenchmans Cap summit as I kept going up and up and up. Being completely honest, despite the expansive views from the summit, everything felt so distant that I felt that it wasn’t a great spot for photography. (That and lugging up camera gear up some dodgy sections). In the afternoon, the cloud settled in thickly so it was a night in for the first sunset that I didn’t shoot during the trip. Throughout the course of the day, I met three people staying the night with me. An elderly spritely man (Roger) and his son (Rohan) from Hobart and a well walked traveller from Canberra . We had easy conversations about various hikes before we all hit the sack pretty early. The weather forecast mentioned a possible break in the weather in the morning but sadly it would not hold true.

Hikers coming up the final stretch of the ascent to Frenchmans Cap

January 31st: Lake Tahune Cabin Fever

1200pm Weather has been terrible today and I don’t’ have much hope for any clearing this afternoon or even for dawn tomorrow. Fingers crossed the trip can finish on a high and I’ll be able to get some half decent shots to finish off!

230pm and it’s still misty as. Not actually looking like clearing. I’ve also just realised that Dan Broun was in the party I’m sharing the hut with!

Panadani family that I’m sure Nick Monk shot before me!

930pm: I’ve just returned from a walk to the Lion’s Head and the walk started on a high note with rainbows , storms and the most defined clouds I’ve seen. After that it was a cat and mouse game with both the path and light. I ended up going too far along the path to Irenabyss and had to backtrack to climb up Lion’s head. Then, the light gods really let loose with light beaming all over historic Macquarie Harbour and the dense forest and scrub that lay before it. As soon as the light was done, so was I as I headed back down where two late stragglers arrived at 930pm. I’m debating a sleep in tomorrow morning since I doubt I’ll top the light from tonight’s efforts! Over and out, waterfall shooting tomorrow!

Distant rainbows

Light breaks loose over Lake Gwendolene

 

February 1st: Lake Tahune to North Hobart.

The last hut sleep was typically restless made worse by the fact that as  was nodding off, someone’s alarm went off before 5am and we had to hunt for the appropriate phone to turn it off. The skies were covered but I still dragged myself out of bed and started the day witnessing some Tassie glory with the sun rising over Lake Tahune in glorious fashion. By the time I came down, everyone was busy getting ready to leave. Dan and three others were staying to hike while two of his party were heading out.

Final dawn in the area

Looking back at Lion’s head where I stood the previous evening

With a slightly lighter pack and 2 days relative rest, the morning felt really good. I didn’t need to have any stops en route to Barron Pass and paused only to take some phone shots to document the walk. On the way down to Lake Vera, I stopped to photograph 2 of the particularly pretty cascades while noting how tired I must have been on the ascent as it seemed nowhere near as long or challenging on the return leg. At least 7 walkers were heading up to a crowded Lake Tahune hut.

The view of Barron Pass walking back from Lake Tahune

Mists in distant valleys

Love heart lake for a Valentine’s Day ?

The same waterfall as on the way up, with more water!

Cascades along Vera Creek

I stopped briefly for lunch at Lake Vera at 11am, 3 hours after leaving Tahune. There, I had a chat with two middle aged women from Brisbane who were just doing an out and back to Lake Vera. I guess they were in it for the walking experience as I felt the real value of the walk to be everything past Lake Vera! There on end it was a 3.5 hour slog to the carpark over 15km of undulating but mostly downhill terrain. I passed the father and son pair on the way and hope I get to see them again on the trail in the future.

I grew more weary as the hike went on , particularly as the head and sun grew more prominent , and the final 300m ascent up Mount Mullens nailed me! At least I could say a goodbye to Frenchmans Cap on a blue sky day. By the time I reached the car park, cleaned my feet, stowed the camping gear for good and drove to Derwent Bridge, it was an unexpectedly early 3pm.

A sausage roll and coke at the Hungry Wombat went down in record time after the day’s 22km March. Luke wasn’t due back in Hobart until after 9pm so I booked myself into Tower Motel in North Hobart. Surprisingly, with Lewis and Veronica chatting away on Triple J , I had no moments of sleepiness on the 2 hour return drive to Hobart.

On arrival, I found that the motel was one of the spots for Chinese group tours! No matter, it was clean, efficient and I managed to destink in an importantly high pressure shower! I then found a 4.7 star Malaysian café 1km down the road which would have been easy to miss since the storefront had no sign. $23 Char Kway Teow is a tad exorbitant but hey, hunger makes everything taste perfect! (ps. Apparently the name of the place is Myu Easy Bites.

Not much of a storefront for Myu Easy Bites!

Luke eventually replied to a text about shooting Boomer Bay the following morning. I was tempted to bail in order to get more sleep, but pfft, sleep can wait! I was up after 5 hours of sleep at 3am anyway so it made no difference. He arrived at the hotel at 4am and we were off to Boomer Bay for the end of the night.

February 2nd: Hobart to Home!

It was almost a relief when Luke agreed to call off shooting before actual dawn as the sky was clear and 20 boats were due in for a fishing competition at Boomer Bay. We headed to Salamanca for breakfast where several things happened in a hurry.

  • I learned of the term ‘Dark Green’ used in a political sense
  • Luke mentioned that he had been in contact with Climate Council regarding aerial documentation of the fires. Before we knew it, a few twitter messages later, 11am was the departure time on a chartered flight. We had to bail on Nick Monk who deserved to be on that flight much more than me as his investment in the Tasmanian wilderness is exponentially deeper than mine. He unfortunately could not risk missing the start of his performance in Les Miserables which I had planned to attend but had no time for!

The flight with Par Avion (https://www.facebook.com/paraviontas/) was again amazing, scary, educational and potentially even emotional. Coming along for the flight was landscape legend Rob Blakers whose Tassie images had always inspired me. Grant Dixon was also due but could not make it on short notice. I took a maxolon tablet 30 minutes pre-departure and it did wonders considering that I didn’t once feel like vomiting during the 2.5 hour flight (albeit the previous flight over the Arthurs in 2016 was far more turbulent).

Our path took us over the massive Gell River fire scar that encroached upon Lake Rhona and the Denison Range. We then swung around Lake Gordon and the southwest fires near Mount Anne before flying past some backburning operations near the Riveaux Road fire.

After the flight, we all paused for a debrief before Luke and I headed for lunch at the ‘Room for a Pony’; a well recommended place and overwhelmingly sized Nachos! After we said farewells, I stayed around for another hour finding some gifts for Marianne and the girls before heading to the airport. I found some coral earrings which in my mind matched some of the tops Marianne was wearing in recent times. The quality wasn’t particularly high but I hope a minimum gesture to show my gratitude was in order since her looking after the kids has allowed me to have probably the most productive week of photography in recent memory.

The car rental return , check in , flight, disembarking (after the smoothest landing I’ve experience in a while) , pick up, welcome hugs and then sleep in my own bed back in Adelaide went as well as I could possibly hope for.

End…. Oh and a sneak peek of 1 edited shot from each area I visited 🙂

Cape Pillar from the Blade. 6 stop ND filter used at sunset.

Lake Tahune on the climb up to Frenchmans Cap

Devastation caused by the Gell River fire around Lake Rhona

 

 

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2018 : A year of living and photographing

It’s that time of year again! This year I thought I’d stray a little into a discussion about what I’ve learned in life and perhaps that may give context to my approach to photography this year. The major life event this year was being septic with appendicitis after trying to ‘tough it out’ for far too long. That resulted in a more complicated operation, a longer recovery and a second admission to hospital for another complication. It gave me a focus on considering what the most important aspects of life to me are. Photography is up there for sure, but health and family underpin all of it. Hence , photography this year has revolved around family needs more so than ever. Despite this, the photography year has still been very good to me and it’s given me more fuel to add to my constantly burning feeling of ‘impostor syndrome’.  Rather than presenting 2018 as a timeline, I thought I’d change tact and discuss several themes instead.

Extended family holidays:

Our first trip this year was with extended family to Yorke Peninsula in February. For those reading from South Australia, James Well is an amazing place to stay during the local crabbing season and we certainly took full toll of our weekend there with plenty of seafood to celebrate Chinese New Year. I love summer holidays away as most of the time, I can photography dawns and be back in time for the family breakfasts. If I’m lucky, I may even sneak in a sunset shoot or two during the trips. On this trip, I managed to photography a couple of places I had never been to before and ones which I had not seen many images of.

Wool Bay Jetty had lots of possibilities with a cliff overlooking from behind this position

 

Edithburgh Tidal pool on a blazing sunrise , one of few tidal pools I know if in South Australia?

Competitions:

In the past , I’ve been guilty of overthinking competitions. Competitions aren’t the reason I take photographs, instead, they’re a nice source of external validation if I happen to do well. Sometimes, I even used to enter competitions with a mindset of only entering images that I felt that they were within my invented moral framework of photography. If it went well, I wanted to say a big ‘screw you’ to those images which did not fall within this framework. Guess what – it never worked ! When you’re attempting to break into the top end of any field whether it be sport, academic pursuit or photographic competition, ‘one percenters’ to push limits count. The entrants who respect the rules to the limits with their amazing images will do well. And so, I only chose two competitions to enter this year: the Australian Geographic nature photographer of the year and the Epson Panorama Awards. The former because of the inbuilt ‘RAW check’ that is required for every shortlisted finalist image. The latter because the images seem more true to landscapes than many other ‘landscape’ competitions which seem based more on the ability to use nature as mere guideline for subsequent art. In the panorama awards, I’ve got over my angst-filled deliberations about whether to enter cropped images since most winners in recent times have been cropped images rather than stitched panoramas. I also threw away my ‘pro’ vs ‘amateur’ principle for the sake of the competition as I wanted to see how I fared with all comers in ‘open’ competition. I still consider myself an amateur at heart with far more limited opportunities than ‘professional’ photographers who do it for a living. I’ve had this mindset for a few years now , and it’s only been this year that I’ve had some breakthrough results. So I don’t feel that this change of attitude has been the reason for my successes in 2018, but rather, it simply means that I’m not disappointed if the images don’t perform as well as I had hoped. Meanwhile, several organisations have benefited financially from my chase of external validation!

6th place in Open Nature category , Epson Panorama Award, 91/100

 

7th place, Open Nature category in the Epson Panorama awards : 91/100

 

Finalist, Australian Geograhic NPOTY

Physical health and rehabilitation:

People sometimes ask me why I do the amount of exercise that I do. The easiest answer is that I like it! There’s no way anyone would just run 40-50km a week just for the sake of it. The benefit of keeping fit is to be able to go that bit further, have that much more clarity of mind without having to worry about fatigue after long walks. It helps significantly on the backpacking trips (which requires a different kind of fitness) but even more so during the family holidays when I’m rushing to get to locations before dawn and the rushing back to get back to join the family for the rest of the day. I had grand plans scouted out in advance before the New Zealand trip, but had to adapt to roadside shooting due to the unexpected bout of appendicitis. Over and above this, while attempting to regain fitness in May, I had quite a nasty bike accident coming down from the hills on my bike which set me back further. For several months I just didn’t have the full confidence in my body but thanks to my greyhound Flynn, our morning jogs helped to get me on the rehab track. We’ve got into such a pattern that later in the year, I even managed to run a personal record time for the City to Bay an completely unexpectedly snagged first place for my age! I didn’t do a lot of hiking in Canada or Washington but hopefully next January I’ll be able to test out the benefits of this years rehabbing during a one week solo trip to Tasmania.

Rehabbing slowly with Flynn , our latest addition to the family 😉

Sponsorship and photographic income:

Our relationship with NiSi and Pikitia continue to be our main sources of trickle income. On the side, there seems to be an interest in prints and tutorials every so often, particularly after favourable competition results! Overall, this means that photography is a self sustaining hobby. Throughout the year, I managed to edit a few scripts for NiSi and tested out their Titanium circular polariser. It turns out that its more of a warming cooling filter but still does its intended job well. I hope that with any partnership that I undertake, I can continue to give honest opinions rather than feel forced into praising the hand that feeds me. I feel that as someone who doesn’t depend on photographic income to survive, it leaves me in the best position to keep acting in this manner. Marianne has also branched out in to tripadvisor. We were part of a beta that recently launched in November and have a steady build up of followers.

Test scenario for NiSi’s Titanium CPL

Local shooting:

This year I’ve ventured locally far less than I used to. To a degree, there’s photographic fatigue with visiting the same locations over and over ; even if I haven’t achieved the shot I’ve always had in my mind for certain locations. The main limiting factor is that the kids are growing up and I’ve chosen to stay home on weekends – particularly now that we seem to have established a Sunday pancake routine! I do look forward to the summer months though. From November to February, I can comfortably head out on a local shoot and wrap up after dawn before coming home to take part in the morning activities, be it sport or breakfast related.

Brown Hill has been a new spot to visit thanks to its proximity to home

 

Mannum Falls after moderate rain never disappoints

 

Only one visit to Port Willunga , an old friend

 

New year started off at Petrel Cove – I might be heading down there again!

Our ‘regular’ holidays:

Last but not least, we did go on several trips this year. The March trip to North Island was intertwined with a conference at Tauranga which I needed to attend as a physician trainee supervisor. This was the appendicitis interrupted trip. Since Marianne was pretty stressed out from that trip and fatigued, we decided to try out a resort holiday in Fiji during shoulder season in May. Finally, another perioperative conference was being held in Seattle in October which made it perfect timing for visiting the Northern hemisphere in fall.  All of these trips were planned with dawn photographic opportunities in mind. For the most part, we stayed at self catering homes and based ourselves for three nights at any one location. These are some of my favourite shots from each ‘stop’ that we stayed at.

Tauranga  was the first stop at North Island. I really only went on one shoot in the midst of my delirium and vaguely remember pain in my right groin each step of the way down!

Mount Manganui pre and post dawn

Hawke’s Bay was the next stop where I had planned to do some long hikes to Cape Kidnappers. Instead, I settled for 50m outside our accommodation at Napier.

Dreaming of walking, restricted to hobbling

I was hoping to shoot from the top of Castle Rock at Castlepoint but it looks like many others have now beat me to it! Oh well, another visit will have to do!

The topdown view from Castle Rock will have to wait!

Around Taupo, I ventured out to the desert road to shoot Ngauruhoe. We were staying very close to this lone tree along the shores of Lake Taupo as well.

The ‘Taupo’ tree

 

Mount Doom at dawn

The Waitomo area was famous for its glow worms but I don’t feel I did it justice. Instead, I took a mud bath at Marokopa Falls…

Mighty muddy Marokopa Falls

 

My glow worm attempt!

Our final stop was at Urenui near New Plymouth. I had hoped to visit Taranaki again but due to health, I restricted myself to the coastline.

Goblin Forests around Taranaki with the kids

 

Three sisters at Tongaporutu

 

Whitecliff waterfall barely flowing

 

Our final morning , 5 minutes walk from our accommodation

Fiji was a great place to unwind however, for 2 of our 5 days , we had wild weather! This gave nice photographic opportunities at various locations though.

Tidal waves at the Warwick Resort!

 

Rainbow at Maui Bay after heavy rains

 

Biasevu waterfall was flowing very nicely

 

I visited Sigatoka sand dunes courtesy of a back route more known to locals

By the time we arrived in Seattle in late September, life had more or less returned to normal. Everyone’s health had miraculously stayed in tact (last trip we all suffered from Influenza A!). The kids adjusted well to long haul flights and time zone changes. I could not have imagined a more smooth process getting from home to each of our locations. In fact, other than the kids being loud in a Seattle townhouse causing mild friction with neighbours, all of our accommodation choices were great! There was a bit of a downer toward the end of the trip when we were rained in for consecutive days but the weather did clear and we finished off the trip with a quick visit to Disneyland on the way home.

Crazy fall colours at Mount Seymour

 

Cliff Falls at Kanaka Creek

After a few days in metro Vancouver to get over jetlag, we headed over to Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island . I felt that this was the best location of the trip accompanied by great weather after a washed out start.

Harris Cove in the grey

 

Harris Cove ablaze! A few days later

 

Sombrio Beach hidden waterfall

 

Sandcut Falls at dawn

 

Parkinson Creek on the way to Payzant Creek (which we didn’t make it to)

 

The beautiful lone tree in Fairy Lake

After battling an epic day of traffic to get back to the Mount Rainier area, the weather settled in meaning we lost sight of mountains for good!

Our last view of Mount Rainier for the trip! What fall colours!

 

Fall colours in the rain at Skate Creek

 

Black bear at Paradise

 

Marmot at Paradise!

 

Upper section of Christine Falls

We left Mount Rainier to first snows! Thereafter, it cleared up during our drive, only for the weather to settle in again as we arrived at Forks, our base for exploring the Olympic Peninsula. Rain meant that the focus was largely on waterfalls, though the weather cleared up on the very last morning.

Rialto Beach with dying light

 

Sol Duc Falls in the rain

 

Second Beach in beautiful sunshine as we were leaving!

 

Bunch Creek Falls on the way back to urbanisation

The rest of the trip was based in Seattle for my conference followed by a quick visit to Disneyland !

Seattle at sunset – minus Mount Rainier

Hurrah to the finale of our trip! So glad the girls got to see Disneyland at night!

Final words:

I feel refreshed and healthy at the end of 2018. Next year, we’re taking on home renovations which could see us a bit quieter on the photographic front. We have two trips to Tassie planned so far – one solo, one with extended family. Hopefully we’ll be able to sneak in a couple more trips locally and hopefully the girls continue to develop their hiking legs and appreciation of nature. My most important lesson learned this year was to have a stark reminder of the priorities in life. Good health and family should never be underestimated. See you in 2019 from all of us!

 

 

 

 

 

NiSi Titanium CPL Filter Review

This is a review of NiSi’s new Titanium CPL. NiSi were kind enough to send me an 82mm thread screw on CPL which fits onto my Canon 24-70mm F2.8II lens. For information about the benefits and limitations of using a CPL, see my previous article here: https://everlookphotography.wordpress.com/2017/09/19/tips-for-using-a-cpl-effectively/

There is a sad story of my first attempt to review this filter. I had started taking shots on a recent trip to Vancouver when unfortunately during transit, the camera fell lens first onto hard ground. As you can see from the picture below, the glass shattered so I had to dispose of the filter, but you might also make out that the Titanium frame is actually in-tact. Previously when this situation has occurred (I try not to make a habit of dropping my camera gear lens first!) , I’ve had great difficulty removing the filter but in this case, perhaps the strength of the Titanium filter maintained its integrity allowing an easy removal despite a hard impact. There was absolutely no science behind those assumptions but it does explain why I don’t have any ‘before and after’ forest images to show you.

Foliage glare is greatly reduced by using a CPL in forest and waterfall scenes. The smashed filter below was used to create this image before its untimely death.

You can see the blueish appearance of the filter along with its in-tact frame! RIP Ti CPL

This actual review is based on a shoot from Port Noarlunga. I intentionally chose this location as my preferred composition was close to perpendicular to the sunrise. Maximal polarisation tends to occur 90 degrees to a light source so these compositions allow a good test of how the filter might affect the sky in the image. As I was overlooking water from a cliff, it also allowed me to test the ability of the filter to allow ‘see through’ to the river floor. It is important to point out that this filter is a screw on filter that is independent of NiSi’s filter holder systems . This is another reason why I chose not to shoot directly into light else under normal circumstances, I would be using NiSi’s V5 filter holder setup and inbuilt CPL so that I can use other GND filters.

Planning the shoot : Aiming the shot perpendicular to sunrise.

I will make no comment on the packaging and presentation of the filter itself other than to say that it is as professional as other NiSi products and as a photographer who rips of the wrapping to get into the gear ASAP, it won’t bear any influence on your results. I liked it.

The appearance of the filter looks as though it might cool the image due to a blueish tint. I was also intrigued by doing a ‘screen test’. You can do this at home by holding up a CPL in front of a computer monitor and rotating it 90 degrees. Previous versions of CPLs have blacked out the screen at specific orientations whereas this filter gave a warming/cooling effect depending on its orientation. It’s solidly built and as mentioned before, the frame withstood a belting during an accident! It rotates seamlessly and smoothly.

During my field testing , I came to the following conclusions which you can view from the images below:

  • The see through effect is well achieved in the water and the polarisation effect is visible in the sky. Interestingly in the position I was shooting, the polarisation of the sky was most defined in the image with water unpolarised. Similarly, you can see that the image with ‘see through’ water has a more homogenous sky appearance with less definition.
  • The images confirm the warming/cooling effect of this filter. Both images below have been adjusted to have exactly the same white balance and tint (7200k , tint 11) . You can definitely see that the image on the right with ‘see through’ effect has the warmer appearance. (All other minor slider adjustments in lightroom were identical between both images which were also taken with a 3 stop soft edged GND handheld to best demonstrate the sky effect of the polariser).
  • This filter blocks approximately 1.66 to 2 stops of light. This needs to be taken into consideration when adjusting shutter speed for an appropriate exposure. This degree of light blocking is similar to NiSi’s filter holder system CPLs.

Demonstration of polarising and warming/cooling effects.

Another demonstration of the sky polarisation and how many stops of light the Titanium CPL blocks.

My conclusion is that this an excellent filter that will give you all of the desirable properties of a CPL. Because it is a screw on filter, it is more suited to walk-around handheld shooting. This is not the filter you are after if you are predominantly shooting with a tripod and wish to use other GNDs and ND filters to prolong exposure.  After testing this filter, I would be asking myself questions in two different scenarios (with proposed answers):

  • If I don’t have a CPL , should I buy this filter? My answer is yes. It is my opinion that a CPL is an invaluable piece of equipment for the landscape photographer and unfortunately, it’s just not practical to walk around with any filter holder kit setup all the time. A tougher question is whether you should buy this filter over another CPL and without having used other brands in a while, I can’t confidently answer this question for you other than to vouch for the quality of this filter in isolation.
  • If I already have a CPL, what does this filter add? To me, its advantages are in its build quality (no science to back this up!), and its warming/cooling effect. I guess much of this also depends on how much you aim to get images looking as you want ‘in camera’. This filter definitely allows you to achieve varying ‘in camera’ results. Otherwise, I personally would find it hard to justify buying this filter over and above the already excellent HUC series of screw on filters that NiSi offer (or other brand equivalents).

I hope this provides you some useful information about the filter and if you have any questions, ask away in the comments below! Here are some edited images taken with the Titanium CPL.

Steelhead Falls, Maple Ridge, BC

The ‘cool’ version of Onkaparinga River mouth.

The ‘warm’ version of the Onkaparinga River mouth