Rodney Campbell's Blog

Archive for October, 2014

Moonlit Landscapes…

by on Oct.18, 2014, under Life, Photography

I’ve not shot moonlit landscapes at night very often and truth be told I wasn’t actually intending to this night anyway…

We were all away up on the mid north coast of New South wales near Coffs Harbour for a family get together on my wifes side. Before heading up there I did a little checking on Google Maps around the area to see if there was any interesting looking coastline to shoot whilst I was there (assuming I got the approval from SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) :). Actually my wife was VERY accommodating – allowing two rece’s two sunrises and one night shoot during our trip away.

I liked the look of some potential rocky candidates I found on maps and it must have been fate because when I asked my wife where we were staying it turned out to be the closest place to this location – Bonus!!

In fact it ended up being very close walking distance from our accommodation to here – literally a few hundred metres from our door.

So soon after arriving there I went for a bit of a walk during the day to check the place out and the rock formations were excellent as were the really interesting wind swept rock plates next to the sea. In fact this place must get lots of sandy winds because of the way the rocks were worn.

That night after dinner I headed out with the intention of shooting star trails. I don’t get into dark skies areas very often so I wanted to capitalise on my opportunities. The skies had been looking good all afternoon (no clouds) so I was hopeful.

Unfortunately what I hadn’t counted on was the moon was about half full and high in the sky by the time I got here and the clouds were rolling in… Stars were off the menu…

Still I was here and never one to waste an opportunity for a shoot I switched to shooting some moonlit landscapes (with a little light painting thrown in)…

A five (5) minute exposure at ISO 400 and f/5.6 turns the scene from night to day with the interesting shapes of Wellington Rock set sharply against the night sky. I light painted the two rocks with a high powered zoomable torch during the long exposure.

Seeking Day or Night

Seeking Day or Night

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 16 mm, 308 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400

Moving closer to the rocks and getting much closer to one of the inlets of water I spied some fantastic green moss covered rocks just below getting washed by the waves rolling back and forth in front of me.

Moonlit Greens

Moonlit Greens

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 16 mm, 367 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400

In a fit of madness perhaps I decided to climb up on top of the landside rock and shoot southward towards the seaward rock. It’s probably lucky it was dark so I couldn’t see how precarious this might have been 🙂

Notice that swirl of star movement in this six (6) minute exposure – this gave me all sorts of ideas…

Steadfast Swirl

Steadfast Swirl

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 17 mm, 367 sec at f/5, ISO 250

Lastly – it’s 10PM and I’m figuring I’d pack up soon, time for a selfie before I go… There was this fantastic looking arrow cloud just pointing down into the gap between the two rocks thrusting up out of the rock plate so I setup a shot to line things up with this sweet little rock pool at the bottom of frame. I stood as still as I could for the 30 second exposure with my headlamp shooting up into the sky and wirelessly triggered the shot from where I’m standing (thank god for great technology!). I also did a second exposure where I light painted the little pool at the bottom which thankfully had these nice green weeds in there. Blending the two in post and voila…



NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 16 mm, 31 sec at f/4, ISO 1600

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Streaky Malabar…

by on Oct.15, 2014, under Life, Photography

A streaky star trails session at Malabar. We’d been to these bunkers once before and figured they would provide a nice foreground interest to the streaky stars. Plus they were right on the cliff edge at the coast so might hopefully have reduced light pollution from the city.

Malabar is in Sydney’s eastern suburbs (just south of Maroubra beach). So I met Gerry around 8PM one evening for the walk out to the bunker. We didn’t remember it being this far, plus the sand on the beach is killer, and the wind!… my god it was blowing a gale (which isn’t so great when you’re trying to shoot something for hours and want a stable platform). Frankly we were expecting a bunch of zig zaggy wavy lines…

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.

Freakin’ Out

Freakin' Out

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 20 mm, 61 sec at f/4, ISO 640 x 117 Frames

The upside…

– it was dark
– there was no moon out
– there weren’t any clouds

We checked out the area for some likely spots to setup – we were hoping for somewhere somewhat protected by the wind – but alas no suitable compos with that.

Facing southwards would give us a nice centre of rotation above the bunker and we’d get a nice aspect on the bunker and rocks as well.

So we setup with the tripods down very low for maximum stability and started with some light painting and steel wool experiments. After three goes with the steel wool Gerry was sick of being singed 🙂 so we started our streaky star trails frames. Intervalometers set – 60 seconds @ f/4 and ISO 640.

Started the sequence at 9:20PM and we figured 2 hours should just about do it (moonrise to the east was due just after 11PM). We headed around to the other side of the bunker to wait… and we waited… and waited… and waited… sigh…

The downside…

– it was a fairly long walk to the location
– it was sooo windy – we were expecting lots and lots of blurry photos 🙁
– it was a sandstorm – my hair, clothes, gear bags and places you don’t want to know were soo full of sand when I got home
– there was no pizza 🙁
– even though we were fifty metres up on the cliff above the ocean we were still getting some salty sea spray whipped up here by the ferocious wind so add our gear getting salty wet!
– it was cold and windy and wet – we couldn’t just sit and wait in a nearby warm car and eat pizza
– we must remember next time NOT to face the cameras towards where the airport is before the curfew – I had to manually clone plane light trails out of about 50% of the frames!!

So Gerry – criteria for next time:

1) close to car
2) close to pizza
3) no planes
4) east or south facing to dark skies
5) no clouds
6) no moon
7) no wind
8) no sand
9) no sea spray

11:20PM couldn’t come quickly enough and when it did we were out of there…

Back in Lightroom it was some global adjustments to all the frames – sync the white balance, a little contrast, clarity and vibrance and then off to photoshop to stack.

The result posted here is the stacked streaky trails blended with the EL wire light painting of the foreground plus green light inside the bunker plus a touch of the red coloured torch from another frame.

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A Sydney Day…

by on Oct.13, 2014, under Life, Photography

We had some relatives arrive from overseas (Japan), and my two youngest daughters along with my sister played tour guide hosts in Sydney for a day.

Our Japanese visitors wanted to see the usual tourist locations so we visited the always popular Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House and the Botanic Gardens.

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 weather forecast predicted rain for much of the day but thankfully it held off for most of the day and we were blessed with slightly overcast conditions till the afternoon when very foreboding clouds rolled in and a massive thunderstorm hit the city.

We started the morning by climbing to the lookout in the southern pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge for some spectacular 360˚ views.

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm, 1/500 sec at f/4, ISO 100

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm, 1/1000 sec at f/2.8, ISO 100

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm, 1/320 sec at f/5.6, ISO 100

Harking back to Olden Times

Harking back to Olden Times

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm, 1/250 sec at f/6.3, ISO 100

We then walked around Circular Quay to the Sydney Opera House

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 36 mm, 1/500 sec at f/5.6, ISO 100

and then onwards into the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens (they were keen to see some flowers)

I hadn’t actually brought a macro lens with me this day – I packed light just bringing the camera with the versatile 24-70/2.8 lens. It’s not a macro lens by any means but you make do with what you have in these situations and I was happy with the falloff and background blur I could getting about as close as I could with the close focus distance of this lens along with a wide aperture

Sun Cluster

Sun Cluster

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm, 1/1600 sec at f/2.8, ISO 100

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm, 1/800 sec at f/2.8, ISO 100



NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm, 1/160 sec at f/4, ISO 100

Then we could see some epic dark clouds and rain rolling in from the south west and it was time to make a dash for the city and cover

Echoes of Egypt

Echoes of Egypt

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm, 1/80 sec at f/5.6, ISO 140

Storms Above

Storms Above

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm, 1/80 sec at f/5.6, ISO 125

After lunch we drove around to some good viewing and photographing locations around the northern side of the harbour (Bradfield Park/Kirribilli, Blues Point and Balls Head Reserve)

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm, 1/500 sec at f/4, ISO 100

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Startrails over Bondi…

by on Oct.11, 2014, under Life, Photography

Having shot some test star trails shots at North Head the previous weekend looking westwards out to sea, Gerry and I figured that shooting decent startrails in Sydney itself (probably the most light polluted city on the continent) was probably going to be viable.

Normally startrails requires dark skies to be successful and shooting the typical southward facing shot towards the centre of the galactic rotation is indeed an extremely difficult thing in Sydney with light polluted skies everywhere until you are far west of Sydney itself.

Shooting eastwards from the coast however gives us the opportunity to shoot out over the ocean where the skies are much darker and we figured might produce usable results.

So it was we headed to Bondi (Bondi Golf Course in fact) to this location where Gerry had spied this large ventilation tower (Ben Buckler Stack) right on the cliff edge at the coast (you really don’t want to know what it’s for :)). We were hoping for clear cloudless skies this evening and we weren’t disappointed.

Galactic Stack

Galactic Stack

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 16 mm, 61 sec at f/4, ISO 640 x 154 Frames

So after sunset we setup right next to this path leading towards the stack and prepared. The ventilation stack is actually very tall (rising more than 100 feet above the ground).

We tested various exposures for the trails and even some attempts at some single frame starfield shots (which didn’t work – no milky way goodness here) and settled on 60 seconds at f/4 and ISO 640

Before starting the intervalometer to capture the huge number of startrails source images we shot some foreground shots to blend in with the stacked trails later. We shot these at ISO 100 and more stopped down (f/8 to f/7.1 for me). I tried a number with my orb making tool (Gerry isn’t a fan :)). We did some coloured light painting of the path (red worked best) and even tried lighting the stack itself with coloured light (this didn’t work – we couldn’t compete with the ambient light from all the nearby street lights).

We then changed back to the startrails settings and set the programmable intervalometer on it’s way. Almost two and a half hours and 155 frames later we stopped (actually Gerry’s camera ran out of juice).

In the interim we decided to get some dinner – for some strange reason the Pizza place doesn’t deliver to some dark location on the cliff edge in the middle of the Golf Course – go figure!!… So Gerry went for a drive and did pickup 🙂

The image above is the result of blending three final images:

– the stacking of the 155 source startrail frames (with some healing brush work to get rid of planes and other lit objects moving through some of the frames (we had some people walk through at one stage)). I left in the shooting star 🙂
– one of the frames with the orb in it (for the orb and the tower and most of the ground)
– one of the frames with the nice red path courtesy of Gerry

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The Lone Tree…

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

Having shot sunrise at Coogee beach earlier this day, we were actually planning a night time star trails session at this location at Bondi Golf Course. During the pre-planning for the shoot (checking out Google Maps and street view on our phones) we spied this nice looking windswept lone tree on the grassy fairways and figured we could kill two birds with one stone.

We were already hoping for completely cloudless skies for the star trails so if everything fell into place I figured we’d likely get a nice pastel coloured sunset (looking away from the sun) which would be ideal for shooting this tree.

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.

I arrived early and did a little rece of the area before Gerry arrived and once he was there we started our session with the tree.

I took a number of bracketed panorama source frames – looking to create a sweeping panorama with the lone tree in a sea of negative space. I shot them with the 24-70 close to the 70mm end and I’ve yet to process those images, however in Lightroom I particularly liked the feeling of this wider single frame – it’s a single exposure cropped to pano format

The Lone Tree

The Lone Tree

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm, 5 sec at f/11, ISO 100

Here is another panormama – this time a stitched version from six (6) frames taken at 35mm – which shows a wider perspective on the location. It covers almost 180˚ with the sun having set on the far right and the ventilation stack we’d be using as our midground interest for our star trails later towards the left.

It’s around 6:15PM and about 20 minutes after sunset

Stacking the Pastels

Stacking the Pastels

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 35 mm, 6 sec at f/8, ISO 200

The following was taken from the clifftop looking down to the rocks and ocean below pretty much directly behind the vent stack. It’s 6:40PM and 45 minutes after sunset and we’re pretty much at the end of twilight. I had to open the aperture to f/8 and bump the ISO to 800 for this natural (except for the 0.9 grad over the sky) extreme long exposure (262 seconds – almost four and a half minutes – and it was still way underexposed). Gerry kindly provided some selective light painting of the rocks and white water wash below with his uber torch

Bondi Dilema

Bondi Dilema

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 17 mm, 262 sec at f/8, ISO 800

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