Sunset over Sydney Harbour…

It was early wednesday evening (around 7PM) when I looked to the skies and noticed a nice array of clouds which could make for some interesting sunset and twilight photos.

As I’d been trying out a number of iPhone applications specifically built for photographers, and more specifically ones which allowed you to research and prepare to photograph a landscape with specific lighting or placement of the sun or moon in the scene I whipped out LightTrac and moved the source location around the north side of Sydney harbour looking for a suitable place relative to the location and path of the setting sun.

Balls Head reserve near Waverton just to the left of the Sydney Harbour bridge and opposite Goat Island looked like an ideal location however there wasn’t really time to both get there and walk to the suitable locations and setup (I’ve been there on a number of occasions before so I knew what the terrain was going to be like).

I opted instead to head to the end of the Longueville peninsula (Aquatic Park – opposite Woolwich) where the sun could set over Woolwich and the bay.

Note: These images (especially the wider shots) look much better when larger – so click any of the images below to see larger versions in an inline overlay gallery viewer.

I arrived pretty much as the sun was setting over and behind the Woolwich peninsula so I didn’t have a moment to spare. I setup my tripod on the cliffs above the water and took a few shots using the 50mm lens I had on the camera as the sun quickly set over the horizon. The following was taken at 7:59PM.

NIKON D90 + 50.0 mm f/1.4 @ 50 mm, 1/125 sec at f / 13, ISO 200

Once the sun had actually moved over the horizon I moved down to the waters edge and setup a number of different shots looking across the bay from a fairly low angle. I switched to my ultra wide angle lens and set to 8mm I moved in close to frame some hopefully interesting shots.

8:05PM and I’ve setup just behind and on a large rock at the waters edge.

NIKON D90 + 8.0-16.0 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 8 mm, 1/10 sec at f / 9, ISO 200

8:26PM and we are nearing the end of twilight but we have some magnificent colour and clouds in the sky and reflected on the water. It’s actually quite dark by now and the rock I’d placed as foreground interest at the waters edge is essentially a silhouette – I figured I’d try my hand lighting it using my Nikon SB-600 flash to see how that would look – I handheld the flash and used the camera in commander mode to trigger the remote flash only in rear curtain sync.

NIKON D90 + 8.0-16.0 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 8 mm, 0.8 sec at f / 13, ISO 200

This last was taken almost at the end of twilight at 8:33PM. It was almost totally dark by now so a long shutter speed was in order, I’d moved back a little from the waters edge and framed in this large green covered boulder and again used the burst of flash to light the foreground.

NIKON D90 + 8.0-16.0 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 8 mm, 5 sec at f / 11, ISO 200

Killer iPhone Apps for Photographers…

Photographers tend to love toys and gadgets and I’m certainly no exception. Owning an iPhone (3GS) I’ve noticed the vast array of photography related applications on the App Store. Whilst most of the apps are centered around taking, manipulating and sharing the photos using the iPhone itself, my focus for this article is around applications which assist you when taking photos with another (D-SLR) camera. Unlike most gadgets for your D-SLR the prices for apps are generally under $10 and so can tend to be a bargain if they can turn your iPhone into a specialist photographic assistant.

I’ve been installing and trying various iPhone applications for photographers for some time and I’ll split this article into covering two specific categories of applications – ones which cover aspects like Exposure, Depth of Field and Hyperfocal Distance and others which assist with things like Sun & Moon Locations.

Exposure, Depth of Field and Hyperfocal Distance

PhotoBuddy (AUD $2.49)

This is the jack of all trades of photographic tools with an array of features including Depth of Field (and hyperfocal distance) calculator, Sunrise/Sunset and the moon phase, Diffraction Limits, Bulb timer, Calculate exposure changes (f-number / shutter / iso) based on the reciprocity law, Flash calculator, Angle of View based on focal length, Bracketing calculator, Colour temperature and more. The app also includes a database of digital SLRs for simple setup so that the results are appropriate for your camera.

Xposure (Free)

Xposure is a free alternative, it doesn’t have anywhere near the features of PhotoBuddy but it does include a Depth of Field (and hyperfocal distance) calculator, Sun & Moon rise and set and an Exposure Guide.

Sun & Moon Location

These applications allow you to research and prepare to photograph a landscape with specific lighting or placement of the sun or moon in the scene and you can generally adjust the output for any future date and time.

Focalware (AUD $5.99)

Focalware calculates the position of the sun and moon from rise to set anywhere in the world, at anytime of the year by utilizing your location and date information. It also includes compass support and an integrated map for custom locations. The application is extremely simple to use and has a beautifully designed interface.

MagicHour (AUD $4.99)

MagicHour (formerly VelaClock) is a world clock that can quickly display the time of sunrise, sunset, three kinds of twilight (civil, nautical, astronomical) for dawn and dusk, moonrise, moonset, duration of daylight, current phase of moon, date and times for the next four moon phases, countdown to the next sunrise or sunset and next moonrise or moonset, and more.

LightTrac (AUD $5.99)

LightTrac calculates the elevation and angle of Sun or Moon for any date & time, for any place on earth and plots it on top of Google maps.

Sun Seeker (AUD $3.99)

Sun Seeker provides sunrise and sunset times, and flat compass view showing the solar path. However, it’s cool feature is an augmented reality 3D view, where it overlays the location of the sun over the video image from the iPhone’s built-in camera.

At the moment my personal pick from the above would be a combination of Focalware (or MagicHour) and LightTrac (ideally someone will one day combine the functions of both).

The Photographer’s Ephemeris (AUD $11.99)

I havn’t actually tried TPE yet (the author also has a free desktop version of The Photographer’s Ephemeris utilising Adobe Air), however the screenshots appear to indicate that it is very similar in functionality to LightTrac.

Merry Christmas…

From the Campbell family a very merry Christmas and our best wishes for the new year…

The lighting for this shot turned out pretty well – I had my Nikon SB-600 flash behind a shoot through umbrella on a light stand being wirelessly triggered to camera right to balance with the morning sunlight coming through the french doors behind the children.

NIKON D90 + 50.0 mm f/1.4 @ 50 mm, 1/60 sec at f / 4, ISO 200

The following was shot very late in the day (the setting sun behind the girls provides a beautiful golden glow) when all the girls took their scooters to the school for a ride. I shot the following in manual mode (letting Auto ISO do it’s thing) so I could get a fast enough shutter speed to attempt to freeze my daughter riding her scooter towards me whilst I had the lens racked out to almost maximum focal length.

NIKON D90 + 70.0-300.0 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 280 mm, 1/320 sec at f / 5.6, ISO 1800

Pre Christmas Macro Flowers and Bees…

My eldest daughter and I went for a bit of a walk to photograph some flowers in the streets in our suburb that we’d spied when driving past – we took the camera with the Tamron 90mm 1:1 macro plus the tripod and my larger 5 in 1 reflector.

As it turns out the flowers I’d planned to photograph didn’t turn out so well but we did manage to capture these nearby…

NIKON D90 + 90.0 mm f/2.8 @ 90 mm, 1/320 sec at f / 8, ISO 200

NIKON D90 + 90.0 mm f/2.8 @ 90 mm, 1/160 sec at f / 9, ISO 200

In the following I’ve traded off depth of field (a wider aperture) for a faster shutter speed in an attempt to freeze the bee.

NIKON D90 + 90.0 mm f/2.8 @ 90 mm, 1/400 sec at f / 6.3, ISO 200

A Walk to Sydney Harbour…

Earlier in the week my wife had planned to go out for some drinks and food with some colleagues after work and wondered if I’d join them later for a little food and we’d go home together. As this meant I’d have a couple hours free after work and before meeting them I figured I’d take my camera into work and then go for a short photo walk down to the harbour (Mrs Macquarie’s Chair) and take some photos along the way.

Note: These images (especially the wider shots) look much better when larger – so click any of the images below to see larger versions in an inline overlay gallery viewer.

The following was taken whilst walking down the point itself. There are these very textured and interesting old Moreton Bay fig trees and this one I could frame with this nice old building and the modern city skyscrapers in the background. This was taken shooting essentially towards the late afternoon sun so I’ve done this as a handheld HDR (three exposures bracketed at 0, -2 and +2EV).

NIKON D90 + 70.0-300.0 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 82 mm, 1/160 sec at f / 4.5, ISO 200

I really would have liked to have been taking sunset and twilight shots on the harbour, pointing towards the setting and then set sun. However as it’s summer that doesn’t happen till around 8 to 9PM! and as it’s only 6PM my options were more limited. The following was taken with my ultra wide angle lens at 8mm basically pointed directly towards the late afternoon sun and with a -3EV exposure compensation I was able to essentially silhouette the Harbour bridge, Opera house and city skyline.

NIKON D90 + 8.0-16.0 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 8 mm, 1/4000 sec at f / 11, ISO 200

Later I was walking back along the waters edge through the Sydney Royal Botanical Gardens towards the harbour end of the CBD and this view is across Farm Cove towards the Opera house with North Sydney in the background.

NIKON D90 + 70.0-300.0 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 70 mm, 1/320 sec at f / 9, ISO 200