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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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ND filter checklist

The following are some of the practical aspects of choosing and using ND filters. This will hopefully be accompanied by a more in depth print article, but for now, here’s a summary!

What are they?

  • Dark glass (or resin) which allow a photographer to lengthen the shutter speed.
  • Screw on (circular) vs Square (slot in) – see below in accessories
  • Light blocking terminology:
Stops blocked 1 stop 2 stop 3 stop 10 stop
Exponential version ND2 ND4 ND8 ND1024
0.3 version ND0.3 ND0.6 ND0.9 ND3.0
Shutter speeds
No filter = 1 sec 2sec 4sec 8sec 1024sec

 

Accessory checklist:

  • Tripod : MUST be firm and steady
  • Cable release : essential to achieve exposures of greater than 30 seconds. Some firmware changes such as ‘magic lantern’ and some camera applications (such as for the sony A7r series) offer an alternative to a cable release but I prefer the former.
  • Filter holder and square filter set up. Allows 2(Lee default) to 3(Nisi default) filters to be stacked in front of the camera. Lee requires an additional slot for a 105mm CPL, Nisi system has a CPL attached to the default sized adaptor ring itself. Insert ND filter on the closest filter slot with padding firm against edges of the holder to prevent light leak.
  • Screw on filters need no filter kit. Minimises light leak but unable to ‘stack’ with other filters. Can be used with CPL but could lead to vignetting.
  • Optical view finder cover (to prevent more light leak). Can be on the camera strap itself (canon) or can be anything invented ! eg. Blue-tac, duct tape.

 Density recommendations (approximate)

  • 2-3 stop : for waterfalls, seascapes in bright light : target shutter 0.5-5 seconds

1 second foreground using a 3 stop ND filter 3 minute sky using a 10 stop ND filter

  • 6 stop : for fast moving clouds, seascapes in low light: target shutter 5-60-seconds

6 stop ND filter for 1 minute exposure at dawn , fast moving cloud

  • 10 stop: for elimination of water textures, slowish clouds: target shutter 1-5 minutes

10 minute exposure using a 15 stop ND filter after dawn with slow moving cloud

  • 15 stop: same target as 10 stop except in brighter conditions: target shutter 1-20 minutes
  • Vari-ND: limited by screw on setup and some brands have bad cross polarisation artefact.

 Camera setup :

  • Turn off long exposure noise reduction. (noise reduce in post processing)
  • Turn off autofocus . Leaving it on may result in the camera hunting in the dark for and lead to an out of focus image
  • Keep iso low. This is within camera limitations. I like to keep iso <400. (if going much higher, could you just achieve the same results with camera settings alone or less dense ND filter?)
  • Activate expanded iso (eg. Iso50 for canon users)
  • Adjust aperture according to given scene. At your lens’s sweet spot at f8, the exposure may not be long enough after minimising iso and placing your densest ND filter.

Shot at F11 with fading light. I worked for a 2 minute exposure after experimenting prior which meant using iso200 with a 3 stop ND filter.

 Composition tips:

  • Usual rules of composition apply
  • ND filters allow simplification of ‘chaotic’ elements eg random water motion, unattractive clouds. Use these to emphasise areas of detail within your image
  • Compose without ND filter on to achieve your desired composition and to find your focal point manually.
  • Don’t let the ND filter dictate the shutter speed. Use ND filters to achieve the shutter speed you desire for the scene.

Short exposure version of a scene (which allows many more options in changing light both with regard to shutter speed and compositions – this is a vertorama)

Biting the bullet and going for a long exposure can be hit and miss. More hits arrive with more practice!

Calculating exposures

  • For every stop of light blocked, exposure duration doubles. (See first table)
  • Use apps if you don’t mind bringing devices into the field
  • Alternatively, use this approach outlined in this link: https://everlookphotography.wordpress.com/2016/05/24/quick-tips-live-view-simulation-and-long-exposures/

This shot at Mannum Falls was taken with 10 stop ND filter – viewing through the viewfinder would be pitch black, hence composition using live view is a good work around.

How long do I want?

  • See the above section in ‘density recommendations’
  • Start with that filter and adjust iso/aperture accordingly to achieve the exact shutter that you need for the scene.
  • During your test exposures without the ND filters, take some dedicated shots with shorter shutter. You  might like them more!
Varying appearances of water and sky according to shutter speed and density of ND filter used.

Varying appearances of water and sky according to shutter speed and density of ND filter used. All images used the same settings in LR.

The 10 stop version was the pick of the bunch for me, but if I change my mind, I could use any of the previous images.

With or without filters?

  • Think about combining filters to achieve a single exposure result
    • Using an additional GND for the sky
    • Avoid stacking ND filters as the filter in the 2nd slot will almost certainly let light leak in
  • Think about taking an image for dark areas of the scene without the ND filter on as the ND filter will require a very long exposure for deeply shadowed areas. Blend them in post processing.

This 10 stop ND filter shot has some elements of shadowed areas blended from a shot with the ND filter. This was done in the field to save the time required to achieve a proper exposure with the 10 stop ND on.

Ultimately, repetition leads to reflexes and if the routine is a reflex, more thought can go into the art of achieving a result instead of the mathematical and technical processes of using filters. Enjoy!

Disclosure:  I am a Nisi brand ambassador who tries to write neutrally and objectively. If you are interested in purchasing filters after reading this article, feel free to email us dm@everlookphotography and I will be able to give  a discount code for Australian customers.

April Fool’s

The month started off with an appropriately foolish status update on facebook. I stated that I was quitting my day job as a doctor and transitioning to the world of instagram fame . Many people reading that thread believed I was stating the truth and were giving me heart warming support! I took it well and truly as a compliment that people felt that Marianne and I could pull it off as full time ‘everlook photography’ but in reality, we both enjoy the stability of our regular jobs.

Green goodness transforming during the month of April . A third visit was too late as most of the leaves had dropped!

I had started this year with an intent to create a few field videos mixed in with a description of the shooting rationale while browsing lightroom and to finish off with an in depth description of post processing steps in photoshop. Four months in to the year and I still have the raw footage left unused due to a lack of motivation and a stronger desire to look after my own needs. At times, a personal need can be to look after the needs of others, but a busy schedule at work meant that I was doing enough of that during the day. After hours, has been left more as ‘me time’ as a result. Hopefully, the creative educational juices will get up and running again some time soon though. Stay tuned, but we may have some discount codes for Nisi filters available to bundle with educational content.

One of the scenes around which I hope to create some online tutorial from field to finish.

Hopefully, we will add to this collection of tutorials !

Shooting opportunities were good at the start of this month. An overnight solo trip to shoot the stars and dawn and Lake Bonney was very fulfilling and this was followed up by a four day family trip to Kangaroo Island where we based ourselves at Vivonne Bay. During this road trip, we managed to shoot some of the local icons ‘properly’ to make up for previous attempts which were not so successful in 2007 and 20012. Hopefully, we will be able to explore more of the island, particularly its east coast and north coast in future trips. These are some of the highlights.

Kingscote’s old pier has some very cool wonky pylons to photograph at dawn

Remarkable Rocks : The rapidly shifting cloud during the day gave great opportunity to keep using Nisi’s ND filters

Little Sahara has been popularised but walk farther and you can still find untouched dunes!

Admiral’s Arch was ablaze at sunset!

Vivonne Bay gave us a nice subtle farewell, accentuated by movement seen through a 10 stop Nisi filter.

On the editorial front, we managed to snag a cover for Australian Photography Magazine’s May cover as well as a full page image in Australian Geographic. Fingers crossed for some articles in Australian Photography later this year!

A modified version of Mount Geryon appeared in Aus Geo magazine for May and June

The rest of the month was spent sorting and editing images from these trips. Lately, with increasing instagram engagement and requests for prints from various sources, I have been much more careful with editing. In the past, my emphasis on editing was to rapidly have images to show on social media to keep ‘momentum’ going (whatever that means in the social media world). This would often mean editing on the fly on laptop screens or perhaps not so careful editing whereby and requests for print would result in a complete redo of the image. These days, I’m preparing every image as though someone will request it for a large print. This takes more time up front but less time trying to recreate an image from scratch should the original file be imperfect.

Long exposure at Lake Bonney – an image I spend a bit more time on up front should someone want it as a print!

By putting images up for viewing on social media, it does expose the images to all sorts of critique and the latest issue I’d like to briefly mention is the idea of ‘kitsch’ art . I’ll admit I had never heard the term kitsch before I saw it appear on one of our images on 500px. I was certain that it had negative connotations and in some definitions, the theme of ‘poor taste’ comes into play. In other definitions, it refers to taking the easy option in terms of depicting popular scenes in a popular style. Regarding the latter, I find it no insult whatsoever to consider our images ‘kitsch’ just as I have no issue with popular music or watching marvel cinematic universe movies. Excluding popular tastes from ones repertoire of enjoyment is an individual decision but I find that making an attempt to enjoy all forms of expression has far more potential for happiness than restricting one’s vision. I find I delete as many songs from a ‘popular’ playlist that I will never seek to listen to again as I do from an ‘indie’ playlist. Seek not to deride but to  accept other’s presentations of joy and your life will be ever more the fuller 🙂

A rehash of an old image turned out to be very popular and was something I had in mind since mid 2015 but never got round to processing this scene! For what its worth , the clarity slider was used very sparingly on this shot (as suggested by a comment that was more ‘attack’ than critique. There really isn’t a place for that kind of response in any forum!

Amidst the landscape shooting, Marianne and I were also involved with her brother’s wedding. It was an opportunity for us to take some family photos of the kids in particular (and to remind us why we gave up doing formal wedding photography!)

Marianne, Jaime and Charlotte at the wedding where she was the flower girl.

Marianne, Jaime and Charlotte at the wedding where she was the flower girl.

Thanks as ever for looking and though May will be quiet in the field, it will be hectic with some writing assignments to finish off and preparing for our first stall appearance at a the Red Umbrella Market on May 29. See you there if you are in Adelaide maybe?