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!
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 …..
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 🙂
In 2012, we were informed of the Epson Pano awards just before we were due to fly to New Zealand. I chose some images very hastily and managed to get 1 silver and 3 bronze awards.
In 2013, I utilised a secret weapon to help me choose images : Marianne! I am one of those photographers who finds it difficult to separate the emotion attached to a given scene from the end result. I believe that this results in biased and sometimes ill-advised selections for competition purposes. After browsing the 2012 winners’ galleries, Marianne and I sat down to choose four images. All of those received silver awards. I added another two monochromatic images, one of which scored a bronze, the other a silver. Overall, we were ecstatic with the result of 5 silver awards and 1 bronze award from the 6 images entered into the amateur nature division.
I thought that it might be useful to show the context behind each of these scenes to show why a panorama was taken. I would not consider myself a ‘master’ of panoramas but I do know that I when I choose to do a panorama for the wrong reasons, it more often than not turns out to be a ‘ho-hum’ image. Some of those ‘wrong reasons’ include : “ I just want to fit everything I see into this scene”. In this situation, the panoramas I have taken often do not have a focal point nor do they have a start and end point. Another wrong reason is “single frames aren’t doing it for me here, I’ll just try a pano!“. It’s probably self explanatory why this approach doesn’t usually work! With that in mind, here are the four images which ranked in the top 50 and a brief rationale behind them including the lightroom catalogue screenshot! (images tagged as ‘yellow’ are my code for panoramas in lightroom so you can see which frames were used for the final result)
As you can see from some of the top frames , the mist was the main attraction of this magical, subzero morning at Glenorchy lagoon. There was a thin band of particular interest with the fall colours enveloped in mist and the swans in the water. Below this were a few distracting reeds, above this was plain sky. Hence the use of a long lens to capture that ‘band of interest’. The images in between were those taken by Marianne at another location shouting to me to come over! Charlotte meanwhile was asleep on my back.
#29 The Catlins River Valley
You can see from the top frames taken at Nugget point that it was a rainy, overcast day. When I returned back to our accommodation in the valley, there were beautiful periods of breaking light in between showers which led to the rainbows that you can see in the middle images. Once again, there was a thin band of particular interest with the light falling on the lush green hills and in particular, the sheep. This was also taken with the 70-200 from across the valley.
#9 Motukiekie beach
This image was taken as I was exiting the beach with an advancing tide. I visited this location twice during our trip. On the first occasion, we had spectacular light but unfavourable tidal conditions and the rain had been absent from New Zealand for some months after a prolonged drought. This waterfall was barely flowing. On the second occasion, a low pressure system had brought steady rain for several days preceding. Unfortunately, low tide coincided with 1pm which meant that there was little in the way of dramatic light. By the time I was leaving the beach, there wasn’t a part of me that was remotely dry , not even the lens. You can see that for some of the frames I took a couple of exposures mainly because the moisture made them unusable. In the end, I let the water just film over the lens and this made the overall image softer. The black and white conversion reflected the conditions on the day : dark and dramatic. The idea for composition was to have the water flow from right to left and out to sea. The rest of the day was spent drying up and entertaining Charlotte indoors!
#4 Robe Obelisk
This was just one of those special mornings that etch their way into your long term memory. After settling down to a great predawn at Robe jetty, I noticed that behind me, the clouds were glowing even brighter! I ended up chasing the light and speeding off to the end of Cape Dombey to witness this scene. In my haste, the last frame on the right was slightly blurred hence I only used the first five images. I knew that when you shoot wide angle panoramas of 180 degrees or close to, straight lines in the sky will appear arched as was the case with this band of advancing cloud. The anticrepuscular rays were also astonishing for me as I had never seen them this clearly before. This was my favourite entry and I was very excited to have scored a place in the top 5 🙂
The top 50 in open and amateur sections of all categories in the competition are literally filled with inspiring images. So if you haven’t paid the site a visit, go ahead and spoil yourself over at http://www.thepanoawards.com
The last two nights have been spent at a wonderful location on New Zealand’s west coast ; Punakaiki. It is located 40km north of Greymouth and is a prime location to explore Paparoa National Park. The first impressions we had as we approached were how ‘tropical’ the vegetation looked and how variable the coastline appeared depending on the tide. There are many inland tracks along the rivers but due to the poor weather, we spent much of our time entertaining Charlotte indoors. Here’s a few pointers we can offer from our short stay.
South of Punakaiki, there is still easy access to Motukiekie. Given that we missed our previous opportunities to photograph starfish, I made a solo trip without Charlotte in the heavy rain. In order to photograph the starfish colonies safely, you should wait for a very low tide. For instance, a low tide of ‘1.1m’ was not something I considered safe in retrospect due to the belly high wading through surf at times (and the surf can get big on you).
The major tourist attraction in the area is the ‘Pancake Rocks’ and blowholes. In order to maximise your chance of seeing spouts of water through the blowholes, you should try to time your visits with high tide and a southwesterly swell. Unfortunately the high tides we observed were not associated with large swell hence we didn’t get to see any huge spouts of water, just a few splutters here and there. It is nonetheless a stunning geographic formation that is worth visiting. Most of the accommodation in the area is based in Punakaiki village which is located right on the doorstep of Pancake rocks. There are no grocery stores, no petrol facilities though, so come prepared if you are self catering!
The coastline is dotted with incredible seastacks and rugged rocks. Due to the heavy rain, a waterfall was flowing freely at the end of the Truman walk to the coastline. Like many other locations on the coast, make sure you don’t get caught at high tide or you may be wading up the staircase back to the track. Our shooting was aided by an unexpected and most welcome break in the weather right on sunset.
The inland tracks are plentiful as well and will probably be a reason for future visits. The Fox river caves route seems particularly intriguing! Our next stop is Golden Bay where we will be spending three nights. I hope this helps you plan your quick visit to Punakaiki!