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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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!
We’ve released a new video tutorial!
We are often asked how we go about creating the characteristic appearance of our images. To answer that question, we’ve released ‘the’ action which we apply and modify to all of our images to achieve that look. This is your chance to use the action and to view the accompanying video which details how to create the action and modify it to suit your needs. For the month of August, use the discount code STYLE20 for a 20% discount on this particular tutorial. Click on the link below for a detailed description of what you will get.
The following video is a brief preview of the ‘simple’ part of the video which tells you how to install and use the action itself.
For users of earlier photoshop versions (eg photoshop 2015) , the action itself will not work as it utilises smart object functionality that will only work in photoshop CC. If you follow the second part of the video , there is only one step that you will need to change. When creating the ‘orton’ layer, do not make this layer a smart object but instead , use the following steps:
- Use Gaussian blur on a duplicate layer of the background image with the degree of blur matching the megapixel count of the camera
- Open a levels adjustment layer and leave it untouched for now
- Group the above two layers and change the opacity to 20%
- Now click on the levels adjustment layer inside the group and shift the right hand marker down to somewhere around ‘200’ and shift middle marker to the right until you have the right amount of ‘glow’
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|
|No filter = 1 sec||2sec||4sec||8sec||1024sec|
- 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
- 6 stop : for fast moving clouds, seascapes in low light: target shutter 5-60-seconds
- 10 stop: for elimination of water textures, slowish clouds: target shutter 1-5 minutes
- 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.
- 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.
- 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/
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!
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.
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.