Rodney Campbell's Blog

WWII Bunkers – North Head Lightpainting…

by on Sep.25, 2014, under Life, Photography

Gerry joined me for a light painting session with the WWII Bunkers on North Head.

These WWII bunkers are located on the easternmost point of Sydney’s North Head at the entrance of Sydney Harbour near Blue Fish Point – the area is close to the North Head Water Pollution Control Plant, the Former North Head Army Barracks and Manly Hospital.

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.

The bunkers were part of a set of coastal batteries and other fixed defences protecting Sydney Harbour from the early 19th century until the 1960s. These defences were constructed to protect Sydney from attack by enemy warships and submarines.

All Fired Up

All Fired Up

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 16 mm, 65 sec at f/8, ISO 100

I’d originally intended this to be a session primarily to shoot the stars (either the milky way or star trails) with the bunkers as foreground interest. The conditions were looking promising – we were near the new moon and the moon was setting early and during the late afternoon the sky was completely clear and even sunset was particularly forgettable with no clouds in the sky.

We met at the car park as close to the area as we could get and walked over to the coast. Unfortunately soon after we’d arrived the clouds which were no-where to be seen during the day started to roll in. We’d only just taken a few test shots to adjust our compositions with the stars and to ensure we could see the stars given Sydney’s light pollution, then the clouds came in force ending our hopes of trails. Before that it was actually looking quite promising with nice long trails when shooting eastward too.

Fortunately we’d come with a backup plan – we’d brought some light painting kit – EL wire, coloured and plain torches along with steel wool…

Plan B – light this sucker up

The image at the top is a merge of three separate exposures:
– one for the WWII Bunker itself and the sky, stars and clouds. This base shot was actually the last of my test shots for star trails – an 82 second exposure at f/4 (wide open for this lens) and ISO 1250. This provided the overall ambient exposure – with the building lit nicely during the long exposure at high ISO (light pollution bouncing back down from the clouds). See the base shot (Bunkered Under the Stars) below
– one for the steel wool spin inside the building and shooting out of the two windows on the left and right (f/8 at ISO 100)
– another for the steel wool spin up on the roof of the building courtesy of Gerry (also f/8 at ISO 100)

To do this I opened all three as layers in Photoshop with my base shot as the top layer and the two steel wool spins below it. I applied a Screen layer blend mode between the two steel wool shots to “blend” the two and then applied a Linear Dodge (Add) layer blend mode to my top base layer to create the blend of all three. A couple Curves and an Exposure adjustment layer later and we have the final result.

Bunkered Under the Stars

Bunkered Under the Stars

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 16 mm, 82 sec at f/4, ISO 1250

Then it was time to get all spooky with some EL wire

Ghost Bunkers

Ghost Bunkers

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 16 mm, 478 sec at f/8, ISO 100

again this is a merge of three separate exposures:
– one very ling exposure for the EL wire work around the WWI bunker along with the ambient sky and clouds. Gerry on the EL wire on the right of building and me on the left plus flowing towards the camera at the front and up on the roof. This base shot (487 seconds at f/8) I let run well past us finishing the EL wire work to let the ambient burn in a little more. Even with an 8+ minute exposure it was still very under exposed so I had to rescue it in post. In hindsight ISO 200 at f/5.6 would have been more sensible but we only did one take because we couldn’t be stuffed with another ten minute redo 🙂
– one where Gerry lit just the building and the shrubs to the far left and right using some extreme side lighting (also f/8 at ISO 100)
– and finally one for Gerry’s steel wool spin inside the building and shooting out of the two windows on the left and right (f/8 at ISO 100)

Similar to above I’ve opened the three images as separate layers in Photoshop with the EL wire as the top layer, the lighting of the building as the middle layer and the steel wool on the bottom. In addition to Screening the bottom two layers and Linear Dodge on the top layer I’ve used some layer masks to selectively paint out bits of the layers below I didn’t want.

…and again here is the base shot with just the EL work on the WWII Bunker.

Ghost Ship

Ghost Ship

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 16 mm, 478 sec at f/8, ISO 100

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