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Favourite Photographic moments of 2017

It’s that time of the year again!

2017 has been a year where I feel that I’ve shot less than in previous years but there have been some very special moments in the field for me. With Marianne switching to other artistic media full time, there have been less images to post but I hope you’ve still managed to enjoy at least some of them! This year, I’ve gone with the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid). I’ve shot when I’ve felt like it, in a manner that brings me joy and presented the images that reflect a sense of happiness and wonder. In previous years, I feel that I’ve been overly concerned with other photographers’ perception of my motivation to shoot and the way images were processed. As a result, I started trying to shoot like other people, present images with a look similar to others. In hindsight, this was beneficial for my development as tried to teach myself to see things differently but in the end, I always come back to what I love : the grand, sweeping landscape bathed in vibrant light. I feel this is largely reflected in my favourites as even the longer focal length images attempt to convey the grand scene. If you have the time, see if you can pick the two images shot with the 70-200 and the two images shot at 24-70 focal length.

As the children grow up, they play more of a role in each shoot whether it’s part of the behind the scenes stories or whether the shoot is part of a grand plan for a whole day. With that in mind, here’s a countdown of my 12 most valuable experiences for the year.

12. Starting off with my favourite backpacking trip of all time! In January, I joined Luke Tscharke, Francois Fourie and Tim Wrate on a 5 day trek along the Western Arthurs to Lake Oberon. This image was taken after the first night of hiking . We had woken up to misty whiteout conditions which quickly cleared to a glorious morning. There are naturally a few more scenes from this trip in my countdown!

Strata: Scott’s Peak from the Arthurs

11. Noosa Heads National Park. In June of this year, we visited the Sunshine Coast as part of a family holiday. We had all walked out to enjoy the evening on this stretch of coast when sudden showers had everyone scampering for cover. I stayed out in the rain with Brisbane photographer Steven Waller and witnessed some amazing light on sunset. This was a poignant moment for immediately after the joy of witnessing this, I slipped and in fell the A7r2 into the water …..

Noosa Heads National Park

10. Lake Bonney has always been a great go-to location for me. Because it’s a fair distance from Adelaide, I tend to go when the girls have a sleepover at the grandparents! So it was that on this morning, I was testing the Laowa 12mm F2.8 lens and was greeted with fantastic astro conditions after midnight followed by an amazing dawn! As with many of the shots this year, the photographs were taken in the context of mixing photography and family commitments. I drove straight from Lake Bonney to Port Gawler where we had a very successful crabbing session to fill our bellies for the next couple of evenings!

Colour Bomb at Lake Bonney : Taken with Laowa’s 12mm zero-D F2.8 lens

9. The Wanaka Tree: I must admit, I just don’t get the hate for this location. I shot here twice during the last trip to New Zealand. Once at sunset while waiting for takeout and the other at dawn on our last morning. On both occasions, I wasn’t really pushing myself to be overly creative but was blessed with great conditions. On both occasions , I managed to have some great conversations with people who were shooting there. I don’t make enough face to face contact with photographers and feel that perhaps I can be a bit elusive in the field ! These moments are valuable for me to shoot with others in mind and trying to come away with something different to the 20 other photographers there.

The Wanaka Tree on a glorious golden dawn!

8. Motukiekie beach has to be one of the most dramatic seascape locations in the world.  The addition of starfish colonies in the area perhaps put it even above many of the others! I was lucky enough to visit this location during a very low tide which allowed the whole family to experience the grandeur of this location. We stayed nearby and managed a few trips to this spot punctuated by one particularly awesome evening.

Blazing light after sunset shared with the wildlife and the family made this evening extra special

7. My only astro shot in this compilation was this memorable morning above Lake Oberon . At the time of this shot  (with moonrise and milkyway rise occurring simultaneously), I had been explosively ill with some dodgy freeze dried Kung Pao chicken from this previous evening. Blowing wind and rain did not help the cause one bit! Thankfully around this time, the weather started to settle along with the bowels and I was able to take this image!

Genesis : Moonrise, Milkyway rise and sunrise all interplay over a magnificent outlook of the Western Arthurs

6. Rocky Creek Canyon. In November, Marianne and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary and decided to venture somewhere without the kids. Our last trip without Charlotte and Jaime was to Karijini so it would seem that we have a love of canyons! We are forever grateful to Jake Anderson and Blue Mountains Adventure Company who made this visit possible for first time visitors with a very limited time window. Normally, we wouldn’t be jumping into the water with the air temperature at 11 degrees but with the appropriate gear and guidance, it was a ton of fun! This was the last shot I took before heading out.

The entrance to Rocky Creek Canyon is a visual maze of curves and lines.

5. Nelson Lakes National Park has so much more to offer than just the jetty that is often shot. As pretty as that scene is, I feel it’s only a prelude to the wilderness beyond and hope to revisit the area in the future. This second trip up to Lake Angelus hut was special in that I had never really visited locations in full winter conditions. The Lake itself was completely frozen as was the water supply. Having to chip wood to start a fire, boil ice for water and help frostbitten late comers into the hut made this an amazing experience over and above the photography.

Golden light shines through passing cloud in a frozen wonderland around Lake Angelus

4. Back to the Tasmanian wilderness! After an evening and day of being battered by 100km gusts while being holed up in our tents, the following evening appeared to clear somewhat. I made a quick decision to hike up to the ridge above Lake Oberon and was greeted by an amazing light show.  Golden rays were shining through rapidly moving cloud at eye level which made me feel as though I was standing in the midst of a timelapse.

Square Lake and Procyon peak illuminated following storms

3. Hooker Lake is one of my favourite in and out walks while visiting Aoraki National Park. One day, I’m hoping to get some colour and cloud over this spot but on this year’s trip, the clear skies worked its magic . The night temperatures were subzero which led to the shores of the Lake starting to freeze over. The patterns of ice were fascinating and I chose to use the 12mm lens to accentuate their depth. While this scene didn’t give the sense of awe that other scenes did, I really liked this image the moment I shot the 3 frames needed for it. Marianne commented instantly ‘that’s the shot of the trip’ when she saw my LCD even though we were only 8 days into a 3 week trip!

Ice Glyphs around the edge of Hooker Lake

2. There are some mornings where the light bathes you in crimsons and reds. I was lucky enough to experience one such morning while watching the icebergs slowly move on a still Tasman Lake. This was our last morning in the Mount Cook area and what a send off it was! I to get to this scene and almost ran out of petrol for the return trip back to the south end of Lake Pukaki where we were staying.

A breathtaking dawn at Tasman Lake

Number One! It should come as no surprise that my favourite image from the year and favourite morning of shooting for the year came from the Western Arthurs hike. This particular morning also started off grey but with swirling clouds above, there were moments of brilliant passing light that was simply magical. We lingered until the last possible moment of light and packed up headed back for Lake Cygnus. For the remaining 2 days on the track we would be engulfed in swirling, wet,greyness as though mother nature had declared that this scene was our gift for the trek. It’s likely that this will be my favourite image of all time for quite a while.

Oberon Glory : A sight that will be forever burned into my memory

If you follow our work, how did that list pan out for you? Were there any other images that you remember giving you a stronger impression than the ones I’ve posted? If so, it’s always good to know so leave your thoughts in the comments below! Wishing everyone a fantastic photographic 2018 🙂

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Kalamina Calm and Lightroom HDR

Kalamina Gorge is probably the least spectacular of the gorges in Karijini but it is still well worth a visit. It is located 15 minutes drive east of the Eco Retreat along some well maintained dirt road. The best time to visit seems to be in the early hours of the morning. If you arrive before dawn, there are some opportunities to shoot the gorge from above with dawn light however we ventured into the gorge as the day was looking crystal clear. Since most shooting is done by early morning , you can very likely make it back to the eco retreat for breakfast rather than bring it along with you!

As you make the short descent into this shallow gorge, a right turn will take you to Kalamina Waterfall. As this location looked very secluded, we ended up photographing this later in the morning once the light was reflecting from above.

Kalamina Waterfall with reflections of sky, foiliage and cliff

The gorge descends gently to the left of the entry point and takes you past some quite densely foliage lined areas which we struggled to find compositions for. Thereafter , there are some flat areas of shallow water which are good to photograph once the light is starting to hit the tops of the gorges.

Reflections in shallow water

The gorge takes a natural right turn which leads to a series of small cascades that are interesting to photograph with a more abstract composition in mind. After this section of cascades, the waterway opens into a flatter area of still water with fallen rocks. We didn’t photograph this section as we were busy finding compositions of gorge detail. Beyond this section is a natural arch on the right of the canyon which could potentially be photographed with dawn but once again on our one visit we did not attempt to shoot this.

One of many small cascades

On a clear day, we found that the best way to utilise the light was to find bends where the light would be filtering in sideways after dawn. Alternatively, even once the sun is quite high (but not to the base of the gorge) , there are many opportunities to shoot reflections in the shallow waters.

Light around bends of the gorge

Light later in the morning

To finish off with I thought I would share a few experiences I have had with regard to lightroom’s new HDR tool. With the latest update to lightroom CC, multiple RAW images can be combined within the lightroom interface to create an HDR RAW equivalent. This file can be pushed to +/- 10EV as compared to +/- 5EV on normal RAW files. During the HDR process one can choose an autotone option (lightroom does the exposure thinking for you) and various degrees of deghosting. Here’s what I’ve found :

  • The deghosting has worked for me quite well in terms of moving clouds though not so well on moving water. I have yet to attempt this on a file with subjects such as moving people or wildlife.
  • The autotone tends to push the HDR file to near +100 shadows and -100 highlights while keeping the exposure close to 0EV.
  • Even if you have clean files exposed for shadows, I have found that on many attempts, pushing the shadows inexplicably seems to use the file information from an underexposed RAW? I am not sure why this is the case but no matter pushing exposure to +3 and above or pushing shadows close +100 , I am still seeing severe noise in shadow areas which are absent in the over-exposed individual RAWs. Strangely this does not always occur and I wonder what the reason for the inconsistency is?

Overall, it has been a little hit and miss but since you can continue to do other tasks in lightroom while compiling the HDR image, I usually give it a go to see the result is satisfactory. On most of occasions though, I have reverted to doing the manual blend with full control in photoshop. Since its deghosting works reasonably well , I have occasionally used the HDR RAW file to blend double or triple processed images from that same file. This makes the blend easier since you no longer have to contend with moving objects in the blending process.

Manual blend of five exposures

Lightroom's automated HDR using 'autotone'settings

Lightroom’s automated HDR using ‘autotone’settings

That was our brief morning in Kalamina before an extended morning break , nap, and then more gorges in the afternoon. Stay tuned for the next section!

Hancock Gorge : A visual guide

Our visit in Karijini in April this year gave us 5 days to explore the gorges in the area. If you are keen to revisit locations , then this is a good period of time to spend exploring. If you are the type to visit the gorges sequentially for the experience alone, then you’d probably only need 3 days to visit the main gorges. We hope to write these guides to assist you with where you might want to place the emphasis on each particular gorge and how feasible it is for you depending on your activity level. We based our visits from the Eco retreat which is adjacent to Joffre Gorge.

Hancock Gorge is a short 10 minute drive away from the retreat. A visit to Hancock gorge is best done in the early morning such that the highlights of the gorge (Kermit’s pool and the chute) can be photographed in golden light but before the sun starts to infiltrate the gorge directly. A good way to start the day is to photograph dawn at Oxers lookout before heading into the gorge.

Red Gorge from Oxer Lookout

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