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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 ūüė¶ . 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)

June Jaunting

June has been and gone with a trip to the gold coast to show for it. It was our first visit and we were lucky to be visiting during the off season which meant that accommodation was cheaper and we did not have to battle crowds (in most places). During this trip, I tried to film some ‘field’ explanations of what I was setting out to achieve from a given scene and hoped that this translated into final results! I have processed some of the images with many more to come. This was a brief travel diary of our trip .

Tuesday 14th June:

  • 5am wake up call, last minute packing and preparations. 6am kid rousing attempts. 715am departure for airport.
  • 11am : Arrival to rain and grey skies at Gold Coast airport. General loafing and shopping for groceries until 3pm check in to our house at Surfers Paradise.
  • 5pm: First sunset shoot from Evandale Park. The sky was nice but not spectacular facing west. I experimented with short exposures all the way to using 6, 10 and 15 stop filters to prolong the exposure by which time I ran out of light to play with! Plans to photograph twilight images were spoiled by a dump of rain and haziness. In the rush to pack up, my S3 fell into the Nerang river never to be revived! That kind of sucked since I had already downloaded my ‘viewranger’ (GPS app) ¬†maps and routes for Lamington National Park. The following image was taken with a 10 stop filter. (All ND filter shots on this trip were taken with Nisi filters)

Golden Skyline taken at dusk with Nisi 10 stop filter

Wednesday 15th June:

  • 5am: Departure for Fingal head to arrive¬†well before dawn. No star shots were possible due to rain , heavy rain and more rain. I spent most of the pre dawn time huddling under the vegetation there (with the fisherman you see in the image below) . Then just at dawn, it started to clear. No light at first, but I was happy to scout the location for future visits. And then, just as I thought the morning was done, the light finally did break through ! After a series of short exposures and attempted panoramas, this image was taken with a 6 stop ND filter for a 1 minute exposure (with rapidly moving cloud). The misty appearance of the water might give you an indication of the churn that was going on down there.

1 minute exposure after dawn , taken with Nisi 6 stop ND filter and 3 stop hard edged GND

  • 9am : We headed out to Dreamworld in not so good weather. En route, picked up a new phone from JB Hifi which Marianne set up during the drive. The rest of the day was spent visiting the theme park until the kids were getting tired and just generally ratty. By 3pm, they were asleep in the car on the way home. The following is a trip video from which much of the kids footage was taken from the Dreamworld visit.
  • 5pm: we hit the seaside market at Cavell street. More fun with the kids and a dinner out and about. After dinner, the main task was prepping the phone for route finding purposes at Lamington National Park.

Thursday 16th June:

  • 430am : Departure for Lamington National Park hoping to arrive there in time for a dawn shoot at Moran’s Falls. After the very winding (but epic) drive in the dark , I missed the trailhead for Moran’s Falls and had to guess from viewranger ¬†as to where it was. It turns out I missed the car park in the dark! It was too late for the ‘ole lantern illuminated selfie but the falls were beautiful from above. Walking in the cool water helped refresh my sweaty feet after a half jog to the top of the falls. The following image was blended from 18 shots (6 frames of 3 exposures).

Moran’s Falls panorama

Breakfast back at the trailhead at 730am and it was time to hit the Toolona creek trail! My turn back point was Chalahn Falls in order to allow me enough time to photograph some of the waterfalls and head back by afternoon to family activities. It took a TON of willpower to press on directly to Chalahn Falls instead of stopping at every turn to photograph the amazing scenery. Thanks to the GPS giving me some sense of destination, I arrived at Chalahn Falls to some beautiful muted light at 9am and spent the next hour photographing these iconic falls. I brought my waders to use at each of the waterfalls and did not regret it. The neoprene boots gave far more traction than boots or bare feet so I felt secure the whole time. Though 5 minutes getting in and out of hiking clothes and the waders for each falls was a bit of hassle! This is one of many frames I took of Chalahn Falls.

Reflections of Chalahn Falls

On the way back , I wanted to make a decent fist of Elabana and Box Log Falls knowing that it would be pushing midday ! Indeed, due to stops at Gwongurai Falls and Triplet Falls, I arrived at Elabana Falls in bright sunshine!

Gwongurai Falls ( I think!)

Pushing on to Box Log Falls, a mist rainbow greeted me around the corner. Rainbows are so fleeting that by the time I set up to take some shots and put my waders on, my initial shots were all that captured the rainbow while patchy light made shooting quite difficult here.

Fleeting rainbow at Box Log Falls

Elabana Falls was partially in shade by the time I returned from Box Log Falls and I spent a good hour wandering around various viewpoints there. My turnaround time of 1pm was already upon me and it was time to leave with a sad heart. I would have loved to take the Canungra creek route for more waterfalls but that’s for another day (full day). By the time I had half jogged back to O’reilly’s rainforest retreat, I had eaten my 4 trail bars and a coke and giant sausage roll disappeared in the depths of my growling stomach literally within 1 minute.

  • 5pm: After arriving back to the kids having woken from their afternoon rest (already), we headed to skypoint observation deck for some evening cityscape shooting. Marianne’s self invented lens skirt worked wonders for cutting our reflections as I took several long exposures to achieve trailing clouds and car trails at twilight and blended them using photoshop’s lighten mode . Thereafter, we ate dinner out at one of many asian restaurants there accompanied by pre meal grouchy 2 year old tantrums.

Exposure blend of 2 images taken from Q1 observation deck. Video explanation below

Friday 17th June:

A morning in for us all with a good sleep in to be had by all. Despite the grey morning there was still a little light breaking through. The plan for the day was to visit Springbrook national park to see how much we could cover with the kids in tow. We had a dinner date to be back for that evening with some friends from Adelaide who were coincidentally holidaying in the Gold Coast!

  • 1030am: The walk to Natural bridge was a short one and well managed by Charlotte while Jaime was ferried down in our child carrier. There was initial excitement for the kids, followed by restlessness and a growing dislike for¬†the loudness of the waterfall within the glow worm cave. I had one shot at taking a panorama of this beautiful location before heading back up. Along the way, Charlotte spotted some interesting fungi to photograph too.

Panorama of 30 shots put together : explanation in the video below

  • 12pm: Lunch at the Springbrook road side of the national park was again accompanied by pre meal toddler grouchiness. By this time, the weather started to look quite threatening as we viewed the canyon below and took a walk to the top of Twin Falls. Some day I would like to do the Warrie waterfall circuit below as well, but not accompanied by children (until they are significantly older). While driving back, everyone else had a snooze in the car as we had made plans for a catch up with friends that evening.

  • 5pm: The ‘asian’ in us wanted to maximise the use of our three day pass to Dreamworld and Skypoint , so we headed up again to kill time before dinner. The plan was to shoot south with a similar approach to the previous evening. It was at that stage that two things happened. Firstly, I tripped and managed to fall on my 15 stop ND filter – gone, busted. Secondly I noticed that my filter holder was missing…..knowing that the Natural Bridge was the only location I had used it, I wondered if by some miracle it would still be there . Marianne gave it a 5% chance. After the disappointment, dinner at Sizzler (which is no longer in Adelaide) did pick things up somewhat for the relived novelty value.

This shot of Surfers Paradise looking south toward Broadbeach was taken with a sad face

  • 9pm: Kids were asleep and I drove out to Natural Bridge. 5% became 100% as by some miracle, no one had picked it up from the exact spot I was photographing the panorama above! I noticed that there were already busloads of tourists were already gathering to visit the glow worm caves. Mindful of fatigue and the fact that there were flashlights going off everywhere, I gave myself one hour to photograph some long exposures but would like to return without interference some day. It seems that a visit coinciding with clear skies and a full moon is a great time for viewing the cave as the waterfall is eerily lit while the glow worms glitter away. 12am and sleep came quite easy.

An attempt at photographing glow worms (focus stacked) with the waterfall beautifully lit by the moon above.

Saturday 18th June

530am : A brief sleep and a quick trip out to Currumbin. The rock formations there were amazing and I managed to get some shots of the rock, some water motion and the distant skyscrapers of Surfers Paradise in the background. It seemed a popular spot for a surf ! It was a good shoot to finish off the trip photographically.

Currumbin Rock(s) dominate the scenery

Waiting for the right wave at Currumbin (shot from on top of the smaller rock)

The rest of the day was spent taking the kids swimming followed by my return favour to look after the kids while Marianne took care of some retail therapy solo. I wonder if Marianne’s little trip to Harbour Town was more productive than my photographic two days prior! It was a quiet dinner in to finish our leftovers as the forecast for rain in the next 24 hours predicted up to 100mm of rain. ¬†That night, I spent my time backing up all the images and keywording them in preparation for transfer back on to my working PC at home.

Sunday 19th June:

Transit to home and back to reality.

Brief notes on gear: 

  • Nisi filters were used for practically every one of these shots except for the rainbow shot. 9 months into the first set of filters and they are all going strong with little sign of wear and certainly nothing that would make me consider taking them off for fear of image degradation. To date, I have not had any issues with the filter holder falling off (which was an initial concern).
  • The Kaiser Baas x150 action cam was a quick replacement for our old gopro hero 3 since it had started to malfunction. At half the price of the hero 4, it seemed an attractive option. Unfortunately, the video quality and dynamic range is far less impressive than the go pro. You can see evidence of this in the children’s video above. It tends to randomly change white balance during video clips at times too. The positives are the price, its design which does not make it prone to turning itself on or off (or the wifi being accidentally activated), and its casing means that even in windy scenes or scenes with rushing water, I can still hear myself talking which is important for recording field videos.
  • Sony A7r2 : This camera is growing on me. The metabones jiggling is still annoying but not insurmountable. The processing of day time images is fantastic but I still have issues with the way the RAW files handle crimsons and magentas.
  • Caddis waders worked a real treat. This was the first trip that I really put them to the test and they passed with flying colours. Comfy, waterproof and the neoprene boot design has two advantages. Firstly, the kit weighs less than 2kg. Secondly, the boots themselves have better natural grip to wet rock than bare feet or hard soled footwear.