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Autumn in Tasmania : trip notes as they occurred!

April 20:

It was a little unusual for us to be departing for a destination at the end of the day. Somehow in the past, it has always worked out that we’ve been on morning flights so the girls have had something to look forward to on waking up instead of the anticipation building throughout the day. We managed to get a few things packed during the morning as well as drop off aging Giz (our Jack Russell) to my parents place. After a quick lunch, we introduced Charlotte to her first superhero movie Wonder Woman . From a 7 year old’s perspective, she was just interested in the fighting and glory scenes rather than any character building or plot advancement moments!

We took our first ever UberXL ride to the airport which I have to say, worked out at least as well as any cab we’ve taken. Then the girls went through their usual airport routine of checking in while stopping off for a play at the playground before boarding the plane. Everything went smoothly. Oh except for the swearing bogans behind us …..clearly situational awareness and foul language around children are aspects that some don’t care about?

The flight itself went very well and our landing , baggage collection and car pickup all went seamlessly. By the time we landed, it was well after 7pm so we opted to go for the quick MacDonalds option for dinner before meeting up with Marianne’s parents, Pat & Quyen at the supermarket since things had gone so well.

Arrival at Hobart Airport

The accommodation was in the suburb of Dynnyrne. It was a beautiful and massive home which was really meant to be two separate 2 bathroom apartments which we had hired out for the whole family. It was one of the best places we had stayed in save for the rather tricky parking. There were two parks nearby and Mount Wellington was basically straight up a road two blocks away from us. South Wellington was the plan for the following morning.

April 21:

This was one of many early dawn walks for the trip. Pat and Quyen decided to come along for the hike to South Wellington. We left at 5am and arrived on the mountain a bit more than an hour before dawn. The colours had already started to shine and unfortunately I took a wrong turn down the zig zag path which chewed up 5 minutes of valuable time. Having never been to the area, I decided to explore off track before the Rocking Horse and photographed some of the leaning dolerite columns before attempting some commercial shots for icebreaker. The wind up there was pretty intense and it was good to have shot on the leeward side of the mountain.

South Wellington Dawn

When we returned home, everyone was up and about ready for a day’s activities. We decided to visit Mount field National Park, which on an Easter Sunday  , we anticipated would be very busy. Along the way, the fall colours of Westerway and New Norflolk were particularly striking , especially the poplars lining Tyndall Park. By the time we arrived, it was late morning and we spent a good 90 minutes exploring Russell and Horseshoe Falls. The kids enjoyed a ‘secret’ path to the 2nd tier of Russell Falls. Unfortunately at Horseshoe Falls ,  I slid and dented the V6 ring- it was able to be undone and a testament to its strength!

Second tier of Russell Falls
Horseshoe Falls at low flow

On the way back, we dropped by the Possum Shed for a yummy BLT lunch, stopped by the raspberry farm before heading back to our apartments for some rest. I thought about going out to Mortimer bay for sunset but decided against it based on the cloud; rookie mistake photographically but it turned out great nonetheless because we had a great time with everyone at a local park (Parliament street park) with its massive blue slippery dip. Dinner was a struggle to organise on Easter Sunday, but we finally ordered some OK pizza anywhere we could find! Cargo pizzeria was the only one open on the public holiday and was kind of acceptable for hungry people!

Autumn colours at Westerway

April 22

I arranged to meet Luke at Fossil Bay for dawn while Pat and Quyen decided to sleep in after considering coming out earlier. I forgot to bring my 12mm and regretted it! The 16mm really had limitations down there and ever since, I’ve made sure the 12mm and the filter kit was with me. So far , on all of the shoots save for the waterfalls, there hadn’t been anyone else photographing.

Fossil Bay at dawn

After a very efficient clean up and goodbye to an awesome rental, we were on our way to Freycinet in great weather. Our first stop was more grocery shopping before stopping by at Richmond for an un-anctipated long stop on account of its charm. On Easter Sunday, the place was buzzing with tourists. After stopping by the sweet shop and hanging around the historic bridge, we headed to Swansea for lunch , one of several bakery lunches for the trip at the Bark Mill Tavern and Bakery. As a side note, bakery lunches while on the road were something we sorely missed while we were travelling in North America – it’s not everyday that I feel like having a full cooked lunch!

Richmond bridge (Marianne’s phone pano)

Our second rental at Coles Bay was situated off the main road toward the national park and had amazing grandstand views of the Hazards from the upstairs deck. The living area upstairs was very well setup however, compared to the previous 2 nights in Hobart, the place was not as well set up for 2 families. Downstairs was crammed with 3 bedrooms and a tiny bathroom and the bifolds on our bedroom just didn’t close! Nonetheless, I’m not one to complain about such things given the amazing setting.

That afternoon , in dry weather, we set out for Mount Amos and arrived after 1 hour of sweaty climbing on the granite rock faces. Marianne was able to get out for the first time in ages since her parents looked after the kids and kindly looked after food preparation for the evening. At the top, we were alone for the evening as everyone else was headed down. Overall , the walk was not as long or as difficult as I remembered from 2008 given I was in a big rush on that occasion.

Halfway up!
Sunset Panorama
Post sunset hues over Wineglass Bay

April 23

The morning looked slightly cloudy and  I was keen to get some colour and clouds in images of Mount Amos so I set off in very calm initial conditions . Inexplicably, after 1.5km of the 2.2km, it started raining! Rain on that side of the mountain was basically an extreme hazard , so I donned my emergency spikes and carefully made my way down the mountain without incident save for one short slide which was almost unavoidable due to the lack of footholds. I still managed to get to Sleepy Bay in time, however, dawn cleared completely and I later found out that the Hazards looked great from the Coles Bay side of town.

Sleepy Bay at dawn

After returning, we made plans to go to Friendly Beaches and Bicheno for lunch. Friendly beaches were pure pristine white with blue waters and comfortable temperatures. With holidays in full swing, there were quite a few people around. We ended up spending much longer at the beach than anticipated as the girsl made a beach nest and castle. During that time, I think we managed to get a couple more shots for Icebreaker.

Friendly Beaches

We moved on to Bicheno where we spent much more time looking for critters rather than the blowhole itself . After another bakery lunch, we scoffed some icecream courtesy of the local IGA before heading back to relax at the rental. Marianne’s parents went to buy some Oysters and Mussels from Coles Bay.

By mid afternoon, we were again ready for an outing. This time, the whole family went to the Wineglass bay lookout which was extremely crowded. Charlotte showed her very good fitness by following Quyen up and down for parts of the way while not even working up a sweat . As nice as the views are, once you’ve been up to Mount Amos, the lookout here is almost no comparison. Our evening was spent at the esplanade photographing a beautiful sunset. This was literally the only occasion from the whole trip where we met other photographers – on this occasion Serena Ho and Kaspars Dzenis who were on honeymoon appreciating the warm weather after settling down in Iceland.

Wineglass Bay lookout
The Hazards from Coles Bay Esplanade

Dinner was a feast of pasta and seafood purchased earlier in the day.

April 24:

My morning shoot was not an ambitious one. I went to Sleepy Bay having scouted out positions to shoot from previous day’s mistakes. The shoot and light itself went very well but i became convinced that I had lost my gopro there when in fact I had let it slip out in the boot of the car.

Sleepy Bay with pink!

After we had speedily packed up and readied ourselves for a long drive, the whole family went to Sleepy Bay to help with the search for the gopro. It was only as we were leaving that i found it stray in the boot ….. egg on face for wasting everyone’s time!

First stop afterward (after gas) was Campbelltown for a pee break, then onward to Liffey Falls. Our timing was a bit off because google maps directions took us to the campground and not the upper carpark! We arrived there just before normal lunch time and by the time we had finished up shooting (Charlotte again showing her hiking strengths) , it was after 1pm.

Liffey Falls
The spout at Liffey Falls

Lunch at Deloraine was at 2pm at the Amble Inn . It was a pretty hearty lunch since most of the family decided that enough bakery food had been consumed (I could have kept going!). We then stocked up for our anticipated bad weather run at Cradle Mountain before finally setting off for Highlander cottages at 330pm. Fortunately, the drive there was pretty uneventful and we arrived at 5pm to a no frills checkin . We were staying in Pandani cabin , the smaller of the two with two levels. One queen and 4 bunks in a separate room upstairs. The others had the bigger Stringybark cottage which had one queen and a queen and bunks in the other room. It was definitely the more spacious of the two and had a genuine log fire.

Dinner on the first night was a home favourite of salmon and couscous (replaced by risoni) with quinoa. The weather started to set in that night and that made Pat and Quyen decide against a Cradle summit attempt – a wise decision that I was trying to push them toward gently since they didn’t have full on wet weather gear.

April 25

I woke to showers , wind and no visibility. Nonetheless, I decided to take the gear up pfaast Marion’s lookout and to Plateau creek overlooking Dove Lake as that was really the only direct sunrise facing option. On a morning like that, that was the best and possibly only chance of getting any light. After a cold slosh along plateau creek battling the cold and mists pouring over into Dove Lake, I managed to catch the 1 minute of glorious light before it all faded away.

Plateau Creek, Cradle Mountain

When I returned, the latest time of any trip this holiday so far, everyone was ready for an outing so off we went to Dove Lake along the shuttle bus system. While Pat and Quyen went up to Marions’ lookout (which was misted out), Charlotte and I hiked to the Wombat pool while the others turned back at Lake Lila. Jaime needs to build endurance and patience in the wild to be more like her big sister!

Dove Lake Boatshed
Wombat pool
Fagus in variable bloom

The weather became wilder that afternoon, but after a crowded lunch back at the visitor centre, we went wombat hunting at Waldheim. This area has never disappointed and true enough, we encountered a total of 13 wombats that afternoon. By the time we headed back at 330pm, the day had been a great one and the girls rested up with some screen time before we popped over to the other Cabin for another home made dinner.

Near Waldheim , crazy weather!
Wombats everywhere!
Weindforfer forest walk

April 26

Snow set in overnight! Unfortunately it wasn’t a pleasant kind of snow fall but a wild and temperamental mix of rain, snow, hale and other precipitation through the day. The girls were great sports in the morning , enduring the wild conditions through short hikes based at the Ranger Station before we returned for a warm up and lunch at the bigger cabin. Afterward, with the snow build up, we managed to have a brief snowball fight and snowman creation session before the afternoon was yet again indoors. I had  a brief outing to Upper Quaille falls which was every bit as pretty as I had seen.

Snowing at Pandani cottage
Upper Quaille Falls

The last dinner with a happy crew was at the Cradle Tavern – great food, great atmosphere and here we are packing up about to drive back to the airport and back to Adelaide where its 20 degrees warmer than the 0 degrees here today!

Avengers Endgame on Sunday to round off a great week!

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“North Island 2018: A journey through dreams and delirium”

 

Before embarking on a family and photographic holiday, I tend to dream big. I dream of all the locations we could visit both as a family and individually at the ends of the day to capture the rugged landscapes with favourable light. I had done my usual route planning through a mixture of using google maps, image searches and asking locals as to what was possible in the area. I had high hopes of shooting scenes that were perhaps slightly out of the box from what was normally shot in the general areas we were staying. Perhaps next trip, I’ll lower those expectations somewhat as several health-related issues threw huge spanners into the machinations of our plans A-Y. Plan Z needed to suffice.

Original plans in red. Adjusted plans in blue.

I won’t go into the details of the health issues except to say that the most minor of the issues was that my rear tooth crown fell off on the first night at dinner. The major issue was that I was suffering from bacteraemia (bacteria growing in the bloodstream) for the first 3 days of the trip due to a worsening case of appendicitis that ended in a small self-contained rupture of that pesky, unnecessary organ. Three days into the trip, I found myself undergoing emergency surgery and thereafter needing some strong pain medication and a prolonged course of antibiotics. In effect, the first 10 days of the trip felt like I was floating painfully through a delirium caused initially by sepsis, then drugs. Marianne had to literally do everything including child minding 24/7, all the lifting of luggage and all of the driving that I would normally do on our trips. It’s amazing that she stayed as sane as she did!

My health issues put into context the types of images I would return with. Instead of long hikes to grand vistas of wilderness, there were short 5 minute walks to roadside locations. Instead of scampering around to find multiple compositions from a scene, I could only stick with one. Instead of carrying a variety of lenses and two cameras to allow simultaneous time-lapse and stills shooting at various focal lengths, I could only carry one body and one extra lens as I was not allowed heavy lifting in the recovery period. Astro photography was the one genre that needed to be wiped out entirely as I needed all the rest I could get. Overall, it was such a disappointment to have to deal with these limitations, but it did make me focus on maximising what I could make of any given scene which was a positive.

Tauranga

Mount Manganui is an easily accessed mountain that juts above the landscape north west of Tauranga. After a 20 -30 minute walk , a precarious view point allows great images of the rising sun over the township of Mount Manganui and Tauranga beyond. I intended to take images of night followed by twilight to blend in the city lights, but the changing light and subsequent white balance made this somewhat tricky. In retrospect, I wondered why I was shivering up on the summit while every one else was in shorts. On the way down, right sided abdominal pain with each step was a sure sign  that something was going wrong in the belly! No further images were possible from the area which was a shame as we really wanted to visit the Rotorua Redwoods at night as a family.

Mount Manganui as a ‘time stacked’ image. Lights from before dawn and lights in the sky from after dawn

Hawke’s Bay

I had so many plans for this area including a walk beyond Cape Kidnappers and visiting a few of the local waterfalls. Because I was stuck in Tauranga hospital, we had to forfeit one night’s stay here which meant our trip here was just an overnighter en-route to Castlepoint. By this stage, I could walk one pace at a time while dopey on tramadol and I could not wear by usual filter pouch on my waist. As such, those long walks transformed into a 100m morning stroll to the beach where I shot some images with intentional camera motion to represent my delirium.

It was a real struggle to walk the 50m out to the shore from our apartment but I just wanted some fresh air!

Castlepoint:

Things were starting to improve by this point in the trip. I was able to walk short distances, but I was now troubled with antibiotic side effects! I had planned to walk up Castle Rock for a different vantage point of the coast and I had planned to walk beneath the lighthouse at low tide. Both options were simply not possible, so I carried as light a pack as possible to photograph the lighthouse. On our last morning, I even felt game enough to use a ladder to get to a different vantage point.

It took all my energy to get here while my original plan was to climb the hill in the background!

Turangi:

Our three nights here was the turning point in the trip. I was nearly a week post op now which meant that I could drive! I had also changed my own antibiotic dosing to cover the infection and to minimise my side effects. Narcotic analgaesia also went out the window here thankfully! As such I was able to find a few compositions here which I think are relatively unique including various images of the ‘Taupo Tree’, somewhat of a poor cousin to her famous Wanaka counterpart. During our drive from Castlepoint to Turangi I had noted some remarkable roadside spots along the desert road which I returned to at dawn. We were blessed with some great light displays during our time here and my mind wonders as to what I would have seen from the summits of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing given the amazing roadside light that I experienced.

This image of Ngauruhoe was remarkable only a short distance from the highway!

The ‘Taupo’ tree was an easy option as I could drive the 5 minutes there while not on strong painkillers. As it turns out,it was a pretty cool location!

Waitomo:

Our main objective here was to give the kids a great experience staying on a farm-based BNB where they could interact with the animals. We also wanted them to experience the glow worms where now at least Charlotte will be able to remember the experience more clearly. Along the way, there were some great streams and waterfalls to shoot in the area including the mighty Marokopa falls and the beautiful natural arches and tunnels. I would say that I did not have to modify my original plans much in this area at all. The biggest challenge was the muddy descent to the base of Marokopa Falls which was as slippery and mucky as I remembered from our 2014 trip. My ulterior motive here was to try for a requested postcard shot of Marokopa falls. It was also serendipitous that our evening glow worm tour had no other occupants and that our host Kyle was very interested in photography. As such, I was given the time to attempt some glow worm photography with moderate exposures. To do a proper job, I would need a private tour to allow 30minutes to an hour for a single composition instead of the 5 minutes that I had given the kids were with us as well.

The amazing glow worm staircase of Footwhistle’s cave.

Marokopa Falls was roaring but the trip down to the base was very messy ! Be warned!

Urenui:

Our final landscape location was the idyllic seaside holiday spot of Urenui, 30km north of New Plymouth. Due to my improving health, I again did not feel that my shooting was hampered other than not being able to carry enough gear for simultaneous time-lapse shooting with a second body.  The conditions here were very good though by playing it safe with the tides, the opportunities for very dynamic (and potentially risky) shots were taken away. The coast here can be very wild, but our experience was that of placid seas and comfortable kid friendly environments. I would want to challenge myself at a later date to visit with a higher tide at some stage in the future. The three sisters (now two due to erosion the of the third sister) were the main feature along the south side of the Tongaporutu river. Despite how amazing the North Side appears, I found it extremely difficult to find engaging compositions here. I have a short video of access to the North side for those interested in exploration. The seascape opportunities around Urenui itself were also good! At the western end of the beach, there are a series of arches that can be accessed at low tide but unfortunately, the largest collapsed recently resulting in an isolated seastack and surrounding debris. Our final dawn here was the onset of wilder weather to come for our departure which included a farewell gift of a rainbow.

Post sunset hues of the remaining two sisters (of three) with Taranaki blazing red in the distance on the horizon

Our last morning of shooting was punctuated by a rainbow – a sign of hope for the future!!!

In summary, the last 7-8 days of our trip felt like it was approximating our usual travelling style. By the time we returned to Auckland, we were all in the mood to do ‘homely’ weekend things including normal shopping and eating asian food (of which Auckland has plenty of choices , including probably the best Roti Canai I have had in memory at a food court in Manukau). Unfortunately, the toll of the first 10 days of my illness and the subsequent stresses placed on Marianne and the kids meant that things never really felt the same afterward. By the end of the trip I was able to give Marianne much more ‘me’ time by taking the kids off her hands, something which I would be doing throughout the trip. I was so sad to hear Charlotte say (with a smile though) that she would like the first 10 days of our trip back because I wasn’t there ☹ I don’t know  how many of you have experienced bad luck like this on your holidays but as a cliché to conclude upon : finding ways to view the experience in a positive light and finding ways to stick together go a long way toward normalising such a traumatic and disruptive event. Photographically, the key for me was to not focus on ‘what could have been’ but how I could best adapt to my changing health status.

Walking back from the three sisters after a great sunset shoot and nature play for the girls. Things were approaching normality finally by this stage.

Tips for using a CPL effectively

Some of you who follow our work would know that a circular polariser (CPL) lives on the front of our lenses. Recently, we’ve made a change to using Nisi filters which means that for the most part, we use the kit CPL included with their variety of holders. As with many phases of development in photography, using a CPL is one of those subjects where once you discover it, there’s an initial trend to blindly use it no matter the situation! (Didn’t we all go through that to some degree with ‘HDR’ ??) With time and experience though, one becomes a little more judicious and refined with its use. I would say that a CPL is used for the majority of our images and I thought I’d share some do’s and don’ts about their use.

What does a CPL do?

  • Cuts out reflections : particularly useful for forest scenes.
  • Deepens natural colours : useful for most scenes.
  • Acts as a very light ND filter (1-1.5 stops): useful for seascapes in bright light.
  • They are potential rainbow killers! Be wary of having a CPL on with wide angled lenses if you think a rainbow is even a possibility.
  • It’s also another piece of glass that could interfere with image quality , particularly in moist situations and prolonged shooting. If I had to choose between polarisation for colours and a clean image, I would choose a clean image and remove the CPL.

Predawn light: A situation where I would be trying to avoid using a CPL since it acts as a light ND filter. For this scene, I was at iso 800 and did not want a shutter speed longer than 5-10 seconds or all texture would be lost. Hence I removed the CPL.

 

It’s generally a good idea to remove all filters (CPL included) when shooting for a sunstar.

 

Mornings with rain and breaking light lead me to prepare for a quick CPL removal ! If positioned incorrectly, a CPL may well polarise out the rainbow entirely or at least in part.

What do you do with the dial?

  • Its maximal effect is perpendicular to light source. If you point your index finger to the light source and poke your thumb out perpendicularly, the maximal polarisation occurs in the plane as you rotate your hand around.
  • If  your CPL has a dot on it, point that to the light source for maximal effect but use judgement depending on the presence of plain skies in particular.
  • Don’t forget to turn the CPL if you happen to change from landscape to portrait orientation (or vice versa) otherwise one of your images will have no polarisation effects!

In a forest situation, the light source is generally from up above. A useful starting point to achieve maximum polarisation is to have the ‘dot’ of your CPL pointing straight up in whatever orientation you are shooting. If your CPL does not have a ‘dot’ to indicate maximum polarisation direction, you may need to experiment for the best result.

Forest/waterfall scenes:

  • Use it to deepen the greens and allow a ‘see through’ effect to river beds.
  • Point the ‘dot’ on the CPL up to the sky.
  • Remove it if needing to keep foliage still with faster shutter, or alternatively, take separate frames with the CPL on at higher iso /larger aperture to allow adequate exposure at the desired shutter speed.
  • And remember (again), turn that CPL if you change orientation!

A forest scene with the CPL positioned to have minimal polarisation (dot sideways). Note the glare of the foliage and the presence of a waterfall reflection. The greens are also less vibrant.

The same scene with the CPL ‘dot’ turned upward. Note the vibrance of the greens and the removal of the waterfall reflection and see through effect to the creek bed.

Sometimes, to get the best of both worlds , polarised and unpolarised images can be blended such as in this example where the reflection is maintained along with the vibrant greens.

A perfect scenario for a CPL is a cloudy day with alpine streams of various natural hues. The CPL can really enhance the hues of the water while having no banding in plain skies to worry about!

Open skies:

  • Very good with long focal lengths to isolate your subject with blue skies.
  • Avoid using with wide angled images especially when perpendicular to light source (or expect to have to correct in post process) .
  • Use it to enhance detail in clouds : be wary of patches of open sky in the clouds themselves.
  • When in doubt with open skies, take the CPL off. It can be quite tricky to blend images with polarised and unpolarised images.

Enhanced clouds but note the darkened band in the blue sky perpendicular to the light source to the right of the image.

The sky is unpolarised in this version of the same scene but note that the reflections from the water have been removed by polarisation in a different plane.

RAW file of a wide angled image demonstrating the problematic band that a CPL can cause when shooting perpendicular to the light source.

The same scene as above but shot at a longer focal length. If your subject is perpendicular to a light source, shooting at longer focal length with the CPL turned to the light really can enhance the subject greatly without the same problematic banding that is seen with shorter focal lengths.

Not that this sky needed it, but the CPL certainly helps bring out textures in clouds.

Seascapes:

  • Can enhance natural colours and reduce glare off rocks.
  • Sometimes the glare or reflection shooting into sun is required/desired therefore you may not want to use the CPL.
  • Sometimes in bright light, you may be using the CPL purely as a light ND filter in order to achieve 0.3-0.5 second exposures in bright light.

Generally speaking, polarisation isn’t necessary when shooting seascapes directly into a light source, especially when shooting for sunstars.

 

A CPL in this situation may slightly enhance general colours but may also reduce colourful reflections. In any given situation, it may help you achieve a slightly lower shutter speed rather than stopping down to small apertures such as F22.

Conclusions:

  • I consider a CPL a very important part of a landscape photographer’s kit.
  • If your CPL does not have a ‘dot’ I would experiment and perhaps even mark out where the ‘dot’ for maximum polarisation should be as a time saver.
  • Forest scenes are where they truly allow colours to sing .
  • Beware situations where you would rather not use one : plain skies, sunstars, rainbow opportunities and shutter dependent low light scenes
  • Most importantly, you need to decide according to your shooting style and preferred subjects whether you invest in one. Lastly, if you do invest in one, consider using screw-on filters for shooting handheld. For tripod situations using a filter holder, I would recommend using the NiSi filter holder system which has the CPL as part of the holder itself (take this with a grain of salt as I am an Australian Nisi ambassador !)

Happy shooting all and I hope there was at least one bit of information there that was useful! We’re off the New Zealand 🙂