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Sunshine in winter

For the last two years now, we’ve headed up to Queensland to escape the Adelaide winter (not that it’s that severe). Each time, we’ve been blessed with variable conditions. This year’s trip was an extended family trip to the Sunshine Coast where we were based in Tewantin. This made it a great base to explore Noosa Heads National Park in particular. I’ll explain the rationale behind some of the images from each location.

Day 1: Morning at Dolphin Rock.

The reason I wanted to visit this location was due to its influence on my early photographic ‘career’. I had seen numerous images of this rock at Point Cartwright by flickr contacts and wanted to see it for myself. Given how short our trip was, I had no option to plan appropriate tides so I really had to deal with what I was given. Thanks to rough directions from Brisbane photographer Martin Canning, I was able to find the rock very quickly after parking the car at the nearby lighthouse car park. The timelapse below shows an advancing tide with the evolution of light. My aim was to capture dynamic motion flowing over the rocks and eventually, to capture a sunstar image based on the ‘tip’ of the dolphin’s nose. I managed to catch up with long time flickr friend Adam Randell here as well.

Sunstar over Dolphin Rock at Point Cartwright

Day 1: Raining light at Noosa heads

On our first evening, we walked to the first cove along the coastal trail at Noosa Heads national park. While we were exploring the area looking for crabs and other wildlife with the kids, I spotted a group of rocks which I thought might light up well at sunset. As a downpour occurred which sent the rest of the family running for cover, the area was lit in a haze of orange and gold which I tried to capture with my hastily scouted foreground elements.  Due to the rain, I shot most of these images without filters and gave the kim wipes a great workout to keep the shots clean! Unfortunately, this was the last shoot with my Sony A7r2 as I fell in the water with it 😦 . I met Stephen Waller by chance here as well .

Light breaking through rain and clouds

The last series of shots before camera death!

Day 2: Smooth Granite

On the following morning, I was on a bit of a downer as the camera had not managed to revive itself overnight. Nonetheless, I did bring two bodies on this trip (1 for timelapses). My goal for this particular morning was to scout the coastline along the northern shores of the national park. The tide was high which restricted many opportunities but I settled for photographing the smooth granite boulders at the appropriately named Granite Bay. There wasn’t much light on offer due to thick bank of cloud on the horizon but an after dawn, the sun finally made its appearance. I wanted to capture a long exposure with accentuation of the foreground rock patterns leading toward the tall granite boulder. This was best achieved as wide as possible using the Laowa 12mm lens. I also wanted to capture golden light falling upon the rocks but during a long exposure, I would have been very limited by the huge dynamic range involved with attempting this as a single capture. I therefore blended the long exposure shot with a few shorter exposures for the light on the rocks taken without any filters on.

After I had finished shooting at Granite Bay, I did some scouting for potential evening shoot locations. I decided to take some travel oriented shots of the many surfers at Tea Tree Bay enjoying the beautiful winter sunshine.

A blend of several long and short exposures to accentuate the smooth textures and light. Long exposure taken with 10 stop ND filter.

Image with ND filter on the left for smooth skies and water. Image without filters on the right for the light on the rocks

Tea Tree Bay in the early morning

Day 2: Suburban Forests at Buderim

During the day, we took the kids for an easy rainforest walk to the base of the waterfalls at Buderim . We found it remarkable that such lush scenery could be in very close proximity to surburbia. There had not been much rain in the preceding week, hence the waterfall was barely flowing. I noticed light falling upon a fern in front of the waterfall and set out to photograph the scene with the fern framing the waterfall. It was quite difficult to obtain this perspective and I ended up having to take my ballhead off the tripod and wedge it on to a rock to keep it steady while taking these 0.3 to 0.5 second exposures. The morning made for a great family outing with relatively easy access. Thereafter, the kids had fun at the Ginger factory before we returned home for Jaime’s (our 3 year old) nap.

Serenity Falls at Buderim Forest.

A video of the girls fun activities in Noosa.

Day 2: Reflections from Tea Tree Bay

This set of rock pools caught my eye as I was walking back from the morning shoot, so I had an easy destination to head toward in the evening. It was fortunate that I had scouted the position earlier in the day as I nearly missed sunset due to the parking madness at the National Park on a Sunday evening. Fortunately , after stalking some departing surfers, I was able to find a park and dash off to Tea Tree Bay. For the earlier image (middle) I had set up to photograph a focus stack with foreground rock and sky frames. While waiting for the light to evolve however, I found more appealing shapes in the same area and photographed those instead. Unfortunately, in the rush of moving around, I did not focus stack so there are some soft elements to the very immediate foreground.

Portraits of the light at Tea Tree Bay

Day 3: Paradise undiscovered

This was to be my last morning of shooting on the trip. I had read about some caves along the Eastern Beaches but knew it might be a little dicey to reach them since I had not scouted the area and would be approaching in the dark. After a couple of false trails leading to cliff faces, I found my way down to the shoreline north of Alexandra Beach and looked around in the dark for the caves. It turns out that one of my false trails in the dark was actually the right trail ! Next time i’ll know where to go to get into the caves proper but for this particular morning, I kept the shoot relatively dry and watched as a grey dawn turn gold yet again once the sun peeked through. All in all, it was a great short break which I found very refreshing since Noosa is a much more relaxed part of the world than the Gold Coast. In between family outings, most of the coastal locations were relatively to access with lots of different possibilities at dawn and dusk. Hopefully , we will return in the future!

The waves can really crash hard at this location – I chose to play it safe having already lost one body for the trip.

Long exposure panorama of the churning coastline at Paradise Caves (to the left of frame)

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How to deflate a ‘hippo’ in 5 easy steps!

Recently, I was served up a plate of irony-flavoured humble pie which had me looking quite the hypocrite. These are the five steps which occurred which you may take note of in order to avoid the same situation.

Step 1: Make a frivolous post on facebook about how you think someone else may have directly copied your composition in an image. Poke plenty of fun at the vanishingly small possibility that the so called copycat may have done it purely by chance.

(See facebook status update from September 28)

Step 2: Post an image with a story indicating just how awesomely innovative and original you were in achieving ‘your’ shot from a commonly shot location. The description as follows :

“This is the classic view of Mount Cook from Peter’s Lookout about 30km from the national park. On this morning, I was hoping to capture some car trails in one composition but there were no cars driving by at this hour! I had taken my desired composition from the centre of the road but knew that it would be too dangerous to be taking light trail images from that position. I moved everything to a traffic island in the slip lane and set the camera up for 1 minute exposure time lapse sequences. Then, it was a question of synching with my watch so that I could drive by at the right speed (which ended up being 60km/h) to maximise my lights in the frame but end up just out frame at either end. In the end, I was lucky to get this on the first go and took many more frames with changing light as the clear dawn approached. I hope you like this result which is a blend of three images (one without the cars, one with the car approaching , one with the car departing)”

Winding to Aoraki

2b :Post the image on multiple social media platforms with the same caption too.

Step 3: Have it pointed out that someone else has potentially shot the same scene in the same way! Even the title of the image is almost the same! Even the description of how it was shot was almost the same!!! Start feeling like a hippo.

Road to Mt Cook

Step 4: Look at the image in question and realise that a) it looks like you’ve pretty much ripped off the concept and execution from that person b) at some stage you’ve even liked and faved the image on 500px so you must have seen it before or done it during a button clicking frenzy ….c) realise that the image in question is from a high profile shooter , none other than Elia Locardi! d) you are now possibly the biggest, fattest hippo that might be found in the southern hemisphere.

Elia’s link to capture and processing

Step 5: Contact Elia in embarrassment but fortunately, Elia is a complete and utter champion about the whole incident and it’s all water under the bridge. Big fat hippo deflated, phew!

So here’s my take on the theme of ‘comp stomping’. With the number of images online being displayed these days, photographers with a high profile can almost expect that some of their photographs containing unique compositions and locations will be attempted by others. While in many cases, the act is a direct attempt to copy, in many instances stars will simply align and two (or more ) photographers may well spot the same composition from a same scene and record the scene in a similar fashion. In this instance, it was pretty much a freak occurrence since I had only arrived at this spot after a preferred location failed. I started shooting here without any preconceived ideas but when shooting the scene as a light trail scene entered the equation, I subsequently noted almost the same obstacles as Elia which needed to be overcome in the same manner! So if you ever suspect a comp-stomp moment, perhaps take the chance to reflect upon whether it may be by chance and what it would gain to ‘call out’ the alleged copycat even if you think it was an attempt to recreate ‘your’ photograph. Remember, there is no copyright on composition and you should probably have enough faith in your ability that the scene was impactful enough for people to even attempt a repeat.  If you’re on the other side, perhaps a little credit to the photographer with the original idea might not hurt . Big thanks to Elia for being such a pro about this and to the person who pointed out Elia’s shot who would probably rather remain anonymous in this context! I am now back to being skinny 60kg me rather than a two tonne hypocrite.

-D

Another image from that morning : (which by the way , was inspired by an old Kah Kit Yoong shot!)

Shot from the middle of the road

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!