Rodney Campbell's Blog

Cape Willoughby Sunrise…

by on Mar.09, 2015, under Life, Photography

We begin a very fruitful photographic day back at Cape Willoughby. Lots of amazing photographic opportunities present themselves this day and it all begins with a very early morning drive on the rough dirt road out to Cape Willoughby Lighthouse (well not quite – we turn off just a hundred metres or so before the lighthouse itself).

Amazingly my two eldest daughters had decided to join me for this sunrise session – which was a very welcome surprise – and a great opportunity to show them the glorious feeling of being out in the wilds of nature at the very best time of day.

Cape Willoughby Lunar

Cape Willoughby Lunar

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 157 sec at f/8, ISO 200

We had about a 35km drive (26km of it on dirt roads) from where we were staying – and it was hours before sunrise so we had to drive carefully so we didn’t end up causing havoc to both ourselves and the abundant wildlife out on the island.

We arrived around 5:15AM and made our way out to the headland we’d visited the previous day. It was cold and very windy so my girls sheltered out of the wind in amongst the large rocks whilst I set to work nearby in the darkness.

Sunrise was scheduled for around 6:20AM so there was plenty of pre dawn long exposure goodness to play with – and some light painting with the powerful zoom torch was the order of the first fifteen minutes or so. In the image above I’ve setup with just enough frame to catch the rising moon before it moves too high plus some light painting of the rocks during the almost three minute exposure with just the polariser and a light grad filter for company.

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 slideshow gallery viewer.

Next I moved down onto the rocks and the little fingers of rock reaching out towards the sea much closer to the water. They have these spindly dead bushes with silvery white bristly branches all around the place here just lying in amongst the rocks. I found myself a nice specimen and dragged it around with me to use as foreground interest in my compositions with the rocks, water and sky.

There’s one composition that had possibilities but because of the complex nature of the rocks and cliff rising above the horizon I couldn’t use any graduated filters to hold down the exposure of the sky and more evenly balance my shots in camera like I usually try to do. So I had to bracket some frames to get me the exposure coverage I wanted. This is a manual layer blend of five exposures in photoshop though the majority of the image comes from a single exposure and most of the rest came from another. The final three (overexposed frames) were just used very selectively for a few little areas. In the end I decided I didn’t want to over brighten those rocks in the cliff face (even though they are as bright as day in the most exposed base frames).

Spindly Forms

Spindly Forms

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 10 sec at f/11, ISO 100

About ten minutes before sunrise I suggested to my girls that we try making our way up onto the top of the cliff to our left (we hadn’t gone up there yesterday). Basically we’d be walking around and up onto that point right in the middle of the image above. We could see what the view was like from up high and watch the sunrise out to sea.

The clouds out towards the east over the sea where the sun would rise were pretty thin and ordinary so I wasn’t expecting anything interesting sunrise colour wise.

Up top it was still very windy. Whilst my girls took some pre sunrise and right on sunrise selfies to post online 🙂 I setup for a 360˚ stitched panorama from the highest point I could find. We could see Cape Willoughby off to our left and the sun about to peek over the horizon straight out to sea.

Here is where my first failure for the day occurred. I took almost two complete rotations worth of 50% overlapping shots. One set with my standing next to the rising sun in the relevant frames and then my daughters on the next pass by. I was rushing because the sun was rising fast and what I didn’t account for was some camera movement – probably the gusting wind (we were at the highest most exposed point after all). I should have more closely checked the sharpness of the frames (but I’d taken around 25 overlapping frames). Unfortunately about half a dozen or more frames were unusably blurry. The remainder were pin sharp but removing all the blurry ones left lots of gaps in my ability to stitch any decent number of the frames and a full 360 was completely out :(.

Given that the sun rose so fast I probably wouldn’t have been able to reshoot anyway even if I’d noticed my error at the time… I’ll keep telling myself that… 🙂

This was the best I could do with the remaining frames – it took a bit of work but turned out surprisingly well in the end.

Cape Willoughby Surprise

Cape Willoughby Surprise

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 1/2 sec at f/11, ISO 100 x 8 Frames

Thus is the life of a landscape photographer – the one that got away…

Now that the sun was up it was pushing beautiful soft light across the land – time for some shots down the coast – looking back down to where we’d explored yesterday and shot pre dawn this morning.

The rugged coastline here at Cape Willoughby was spectacular and all the colours richly saturated by the soft morning light was eye popping.

I setup on the southern end of the cliff as close to the edge as I dared and framed some compositions of that awesome coastline below, the amazing greeny blue water and these fantastic orange lichen covered rocks underfoot.

That finger of land down below on the left is where we’d explored yesterday and where I’d taken a few handheld panoramas with my girls. That reddy orange section right in the middle was where I’d shot earlier in the morning.

The Orange Abyss

The Orange Abyss

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 1 sec at f/11, ISO 100

Adding the Lee LittleStopper (six stop ND filter) for a little long exposure treatment.

Sliding over the Abyss

Sliding over the Abyss

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 72 sec at f/10, ISO 100

Then it was time to go grab my girls and bring them over here to appreciate the view and get some selfies :)…

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