Rodney Campbell's Blog

Autumn Colour at Mt Wilson…

by on Apr.22, 2015, under Life, Photography

Headed out for another Sneaky Sunday with Gerry and Deb to Mount Wilson in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. It was the right time of the year again for Autumn Colour (or Fall Color for our North American friends).

I’d been here to shoot Autumn Colour once before four years ago and the colour was nicer and more consistent then from memory.

The weather forecast looked reasonably enticing – potential fog, clouds and increasing rain. We’d planned to shoot Autumn colour at Mt Wilson first up, then maybe some waterfalls and then more Autumn colour at nearby Mt Irvine.

The Avenue in Fall

The Avenue in Fall

NIKON D750 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm, 3 sec at f/11, ISO 100

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.

It was a very early start this morning – we’d planned to meetup at Mt Wilson just after sunrise (6:20AM) and it was a two (2) hour drive from home. I left my place around 4:20AM and picked Deb up at 4:30AM. Gerry had arrived just before us when we arrived in the main st (aptly named The Avenue”) of Mt Wilson. We moved our cars off into one of the side streets so the street would be clear and set to look for some shots.

At 6:30AM I started with a sequence of shots for a stitched panorama standing in the middle of the main street. It’s one of those things you can do when you’re here early enough… Stand in the middle of the road taking numerous shots without being run down :). Something we used to our advantage for the next hour or so.

To be honest we were expecting things to be better, the promised clouds (and fog) were nowhere to be found and the tree’s on one side of the road were essentially already bare (likely rain had smashed the leaves off) and on the other side of the road the colour in the leaves hadn’t fully developed yet. Not just here on this main street part of The Avenue but also on the roads coming into town.

Still it was a pretty enough scene, and one not normally seen here in Australia so it was ready for all the cliche shots of The Avenue in Fall.

This is the stitched pano I took when I first arrived. Eleven (11) vertical frames taken with the 24-70 at 24mm. I didn’t bother bracketing these shots basically because I didn’t think much of the composition or the conditions. Still it stitched fine and it does give you a good view of what the main street of Mt Wilson looks like. You can see here what I meant by the bare trees on one side – right here in front of me in the middle of the frame. You can however see a few very nice looking and very red trees in peoples gardens along the street.

Mt Wilson in Autumn

Mt Wilson in Autumn

NIKON D750 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm, 5.00 sec at f/11, ISO 100

I decided to leave Gerry in the shot (he’s just on the right side of the road heading off to the left) instead of cloning him out…

I think the first image up top is probably the best of the shots from this early part – taken at 6:50AM and using a longer focal length (70mm) to look down The Avenue from the end of the street. At this time the cars havn’t destroyed all the leaves on the road and there’s no vehicles in the street plus the sun has just risen behind me on my right so it’s early golden rays were just streaming across the landscape.

I’ve got to admit upfront that I’ve had to “help” this shot in post…

I took a bracketed set of frames – 5 shots at 1EV intervals (-4, -3, -2, -1 and 0EV) and merged them in post.

I’ve then adjusted the result using Adobe Camera Raw (the same processing engine as used in the Develop Module in Lightroom). In ACR I’ve done a few things like adding some Contrast, Clarity, Vibrance and Saturation and then in the HSL section I’ve adjusted the balance of the Reds, Oranges and Yellows to bring them out a little more.

I’ve then duplicated the layer and then used a little trick I’d previously seen online to boost the feeling of Fall Colour. First convert the image to LAB colour and then use Apply Image and in the dialog box choose “b” from “Channel” and for “Blending” choose “Soft Light” or in my case for a more dramatic look “Overlay”, and adjust the Opacity to taste (I used 40% for my image). After clicking OK I then converted back to RGB colour space and then adjusted the Opacity of this layer and the original underlying layer to taste. Also with a layer mask over the Autumn Colour enhanced layer I was able to paint back in parts of the original version where things had gone too wild for me.

Back in Lightroom I gave it my usual finishing touches and voila here we have The Avenue in Fall (not quite as it appeared on the day but perhaps a little more how we wished it would have been)…

By now other photographers had arrived for their chance at Autumn Colour glory so we headed out of town a little to try our luck on some of the roads leading into town.

This is still on The Avenue outside of and looking back towards town. I loved the play of low sunlight coming through the trees and being early still (twenty past seven and just an hour after sunrise) the roads were still pretty quiet so I could get down low on the road and play with a few compositions. As is the case with many of my shots I end up liking the very first composition best in the end… so I didn’t need to have leant over and put my hand right into a stinging nettle (sort of like poison ivy for our North American friends) on the side of the road :(.

This image is a merge (manually blended using layers in photoshop) of three exposures (-3EV, -2EV and -1EV). I reckon I could easily have processed the single -1EV frame to end up with this result but again I was experimenting with processing technique and in this case the use of luminosity masked layer blending.

I actually originally tried a 32bit HDR blend of all five frames (-4, -3, -2, -1 and 0EV) but the end result was meh, perhaps even bleh…

Sweep of Autumn

Sweep of Autumn

NIKON D750 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 28 mm, 1 sec at f/11, ISO 100

Some of the best colour about wasn’t along the main streets but rather in the gardens of the people living in Mt Wilson. For example this little pathway into a property off the main street…

The Red Gate

The Red Gate

NIKON D750 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 58 mm, 6 sec at f/11, ISO 100

and amazing red Japanese maples like this…

Flashes of Red

Flashes of Red

NIKON D750 + 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, 1/320 sec at f/5.6, ISO 560

The shot above was also an opportunity for me to try my first shots with a new lens I’d just acquired for my trip away in the middle of the year. I needed a lens which had a reasonable focal length that I could use as a walk around lens for weeks but which could also replace the use of my 70-300mm lens for a travelling long lens. It would also needed to be used with filters on landscapes if needed (and if I was to somehow damage or loose my primary landscaping lenses – the 16-35/4 and 24-70/2.8 – it would be my backup).

This one was pretty much as is straight out of camera so I’m pretty happy with the rendition from the lens (at it’s maximum 300mm focal length no less) so far.

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