Rodney Campbell's Blog

Sand in the Lens…

by on Jul.20, 2014, under Life, Photography

Sand and camera equipment generally don’t mix well…

Having just spent the afternoon and early evening on the Stockton Sand Dunes we headed to Nelson Bay to warm up and grab some well earned dinner. Whilst at the table we also started thinking about the following mornings activities – we wanted to get up early for sunrise and shoot somewhere on the coast nearby

We also checked out where we were staying for the night on Google Maps and noticed it was really really close to the beach at Anna Bay – maybe, just maybe we could do some star trails before turning in…

Galactic Chimney

Galactic Chimney

NIKON D600 + 15.0 mm f/2.8 @ 15 mm, 25 sec at f/2.8, ISO 5000

So after checking into our cabin we drove to the Anna Bay carpark and parked close to the beach. It was immediately obvious we wouldn’t be able to shoot directly out on the beach from the carpark because there were very bright lights shining over the carpark, the buildings and out onto the beach. A bit of a rece along the beach a little to the left (east) and we found a nicer sheltered spot which was somewhat out of the wind (it was blowing a bit of a gale and the sand was terrible). Our preferred location in a bit of a gully between two rocky walls looking pretty much southwards out to sea was out because it was channeling the wind and sand like you wouldn’t believe

It was nearing midnight and we knew we’d have to wait up for the hour or so of shots to finish (we had no illusions of completing a 2, 3 or more hour trails set) so we setup quickly and took our base light painted foreground image (that we’d need to blend with the star trails in the sky later). To be frank we did a pretty poor job on the one light painted foreground take we made – how to count the ways – we overlit it and we lit directly into the face of the rock for starters

I was using the Sigma 15mm fisheye on the D600 again for this. Whilst setting up I also fired off some higher ISO single frame starfield images to capture the milky way in a single shot. I blended the sky and stars with the light painted foreground. Here I’d lined things up so that it looked like the milky way was like a smoke cloud emanating from this point on the rock

Then we setup the intervalometer to take our trails source images – I setup mine to take 40 second frames at f/2.8 and ISO 1250 with 0.3 second gaps between frames – we kicked them off at exactly midnight (coincidence)

Pro Tip: One definite advantage of the Phottix Aion Wireless Timer and Shutter Release I was using was that it supports sub second (0.1 second) increments for the delay, shutter lengths and intervals – most timers only support whole second increments. You want to use shorter delays between shots so that you have smaller gaps between the trails images once they are stacked (zoomed at 100% you can see the gaps when 1 second intervals are used)

Horrible sand was already accumulating on our cameras and in the lens hoods of our lenses 🙁 so I got out the Rocket Blower and blew away what I could

We then left the cameras to do their thing and we headed back to the car to wait (and plan for tomorrows sunrise shoot – which was getting closer and closer (we’d need to get up at 5AM!! and we hadn’t gone to bed yet and it wasn’t going to happen for a while – sigh…)

I went back and checked the cameras after about half an hour and blew off the sand again with the rocket blower in the dark (so I couldn’t actually see whether there was any or if I was effective :))

Just before 1:30AM we figured enough was enough waiting so we returned and retrieved the cameras – they’d shot for 85 minutes (and I had 127 frames to use)

This time we could turn on the lights and see what havoc the wind and sand had caused – not good to say the least

Looks like Gerry’s Tokina UWA (11-16) is less than happy and it’s likely only a matter of time before the grinding caused by the sand grains in the zoom and focus mechanisms results in catastrophic failure. Suren’s Canon 10-22 is also unhappy – auto focus is optional it seems 🙁 My Sigma 15mm fish seems to have fared quite well (probably because it’s not a zoom and it’s a tiny lens in comparison) – time will tell…

So the final stacked star trail image better have been worth it…

We headed back to the accommodation – grabbed some quick showers and hit the beds around 2AM – moments later (or so it felt :)) the alarms were going and we’re up for the sunrise shoot. Clouds were almost non existent and the morning colour was less than spectacular – Gerry reckons we should have stayed in bed 🙂

Galactic Whirlpool

Galactic Whirlpool

NIKON D600 + 15.0 mm f/2.8 @ 15 mm, 41 sec at f/2.8, ISO 1250 x 127 Frames


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