Rodney Campbell's Blog

High Above Sydney Harbour…

by on Jul.09, 2014, under Life, Photography

This session high above Sydney Harbour was a long long time in the making…

There’s a fantastic public lookout on the top of one of the four Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylons

Access is via the pedestrian pathway on the Eastern side of the Bridge – from there you enter the South East Pylon and can make the climb to the top (entry currently is $13)

The great thing about this lookout is that you get a fantastic view of the city and Sydney harbour from high above and I’d wanted to shoot sunset from here for some time

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

Stitched from eight (8) frames taken handheld at 16mm with a Hitech 0.9 Reverse GND

Pastel Harbour

Pastel Harbour

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 16 mm, 1/30 sec at f/5.6, ISO 800

© Rodney Campbell

There is however one very big downside to this location – for the whole year it closes at 5PM sharp every day, which means for the vast majority of the year it closes well before sunset. In fact there’s only a small window of opportunity during the year where sunset occurs before 5PM with enough time to shoot sunset before you’re asked to leave 🙂

So it was almost a year ago that the plans were in motion to come back during the dead of winter when the days were short and the lack of daylight savings meant sunset would occur a mere few minutes before 5PM – that time is now…

I was meeting friends for an evening photowalk on the northern side of the harbour near Luna Park at 6:30PM anyway, so I left work a little early and drove down to The Rocks and parked near the city side end of the pedestrian walkway and made my way onto the bridge and up to the lookout at the top

Whilst driving here I could see there were almost no clouds in the sky except for a small amount on the horizon and probably heaviest out towards the west, so I wasn’t expecting a brilliant sky but I was somewhat hopeful for a show of pastel tones around sunset

I was most interested in taking some stitched panoramas of Sydney Harbour from up there and I was originally intending doing this on my tripod as I usually do. However a number of things made this impossible:
– the lookout area is very large – a rectangular walkway around the top of the pylon which is at least 5 metres wide by perhaps 10 metres long
– the outer wall of the lookout area is quite tall – well above tripod height and above the wall is a foot of clear glass
– just inside the outer wall is a sort of steel bench which goes most of the way around – great to stand on to see over the glass but not wide enough for a tripod

I needed to shoot pretty quickly anyway since I’d only get a few minutes around sunset so I decided to simply walk around the top area to take the overlapping frames and shoot them handheld (and parallax be damned :))

My first pano attempt – 4:40PM and it’s 16 minutes to sunset – I actually took enough frames for a full 360º pano but decided to only stitch this portion of the view (plus the parallax errors introduced by the closer portions of the bridge and the pylon to the west of us caused lots of issues). This view looks north over the Harbour Bridge on the left through Sydney Harbour out to sea and then across the Sydney city and around to the setting sun just behind the other southern pylon to the west on the right

Stitched from nine (9) frames taken handheld at 16mm with a Lee 0.9 GND

Harbour Sets

Harbour Sets

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 16 mm, 1/60 sec at f/6.3, ISO 320

By the time the sun was setting it was getting pretty dark so I had to push the ISO since I was shooting the frames handheld – using the stabilised Nikon 16-35/4 helps but I wanted to ensure I was shooting at least 1/30th of a second to get reasonably sharp frames

Right on cue just before sunset the sky to the east (and eventually to the north and south as well) started showing me the sweet pastel tones I was hoping for so it was time to take a few sequences of pano frames as the light dipped

Starting the set a few minutes before sunset and finishing right on sunset

Stitched from eight (8) frames taken handheld at 16mm with a Hitech 0.9 Reverse GND

Sydney on High

Sydney on High

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 16 mm, 1/30 sec at f/5.6, ISO 640

The panorama at the top of the post started just moments after sunset and finished at 4:59 is my favourite – not just for the colour but also the placement of the various ships in the harbour and their water trails for the faster moving motor boats

and of course then the sky started getting really interesting when 5PM hit and I was asked to leave. I could easily have spent another 30 minutes there shooting twilight with the city lights on, the car trails from all the vehicles crossing the bridge and the sky lit for twilight above… Unfortunately unless someone knows someone who can arrange it this isn’t going to happen on any day of the year – even the best day the sun sets a mere 7 minutes before 5PM

Comments are closed.

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!

Copyright © 2015 Rodney Campbell

Images contained on this web site may not be used or reproduced in any way without prior permission.