Rodney Campbell's Blog

The Many Faces of Admirals Arch…

by on Apr.29, 2015, under Life, Photography

During our stay at Cape du Couedic in Flinders Chase National Park we visited nearby Admirals Arch a number of times.

A viewing platform and boardwalk around a cliff face leads visitors to this spectacular natural rock arch known as Admirals Arch, sculpted by weathering and erosion from the sea over thousands of years.

Admirals Arch in Blue

Admirals Arch in Blue

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 26 mm, 64 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.

The Arch was an easy five or ten minute walk from where we were staying and one of the reasons we did was to see the colony of New Zealand Fur-seals on the rock platforms around Admirals Arch. These dark brown seals feed at sea but return to land to rest and breed. My girls particularly enjoyed seeing all the baby fur-seal pups playing in the rock pools around the arch.

We mostly visited here in the evenings around sunset (because the view from the boardwalk through and under the arch faces west), unfortunately every time we were there we either had heavy overcast conditions or clear blue skies so we never had the richly coloured cloud filled sunsets I was looking for in a composition here.

The very long exposure blue with extremely overcast skies taken at 8:55PM (25 mins after sunset) up at the top typifies the look.

You don’t have a great deal of compositional or location freedom at Admirals Arch as the entire area from up the top to right down here under the arch is restricted access, you are only allowed on the boardwalks themselves and you aren’t allowed into any of the areas where the seals go.

This is the boardwalk and viewing platform under the arch itself and at sunset you can get quite a crowd of people down here, tourists and photographers. On this evening (our last on Kangaroo Island) I was lucky enough to have the place to myself for a while.

Admirals Boardwalk

Admirals Boardwalk

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 16 mm, 1/2 sec at f/11, ISO 100

Lighting wise this location is a bit of a photographers nightmare. With the light coming through from in front of you the arch itself and this side of the arch from where you shoot is in complete shadow. A normal single exposure of the scene looks like the New Zealand Fur-seals image above with the arch a complete silhouette. If you want to see any detail in the foreground and the roof of the cave/arch you need to bracket your exposures across a very wide range of stops to deal with the massive contrast range.

Even shooting here at sunrise wouldn’t help as behind the viewing platform the rock rises very high and shields most of the arch itself from the sun till it is quite high in the sky.

This is the classic composition and view through the arch towards sunset. The sun has just set on a typically cloudless evening, tho we did have a touch of pastel in the sky. Here you can see another unique thing about Admirals Arch – it has stalactites which dangle from the rocky ceiling of this former cave. This is an HDR merge of 5 frames with exposure times ranging from 1/3 sec through to 30 seconds with the warm golden orange glow of sunset hitting the arch walls on the right.

Admirals Sunset

Admirals Sunset

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 1/3 to 30 sec at f/11, ISO 100

and 30 minutes later we are well into twilight. This image is an HDR merge of 9 manually exposed frames with exposure times ranging from 1.3 seconds through to 136 seconds.

Twilight Arch

Twilight Arch

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 22 mm, 1.3 to 136 sec at f/11, ISO 100

Another interesting issue with this location is the smell – with hundreds, if not thousands of seals all over this area the smell they generate can be somewhat overpowering. Down here under the arch especially in the damp and enclosed area it was rank. All those animals and the other things they bring also meant for a massive breeding ground for mosquitos and after sunset when it got a little dark they really came out in force :(.

Unfortunately I never got the shot I was looking for. With very little compositional choice and devilishly tricky conditions I think you need to be lucky to get the exactly the right weather conditions at sunset at the right time of year when the sun is aligned with the view through the arch.

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