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Archive for April, 2015

Vivonne Bay & Kelly Hill Caves…

by on Apr.20, 2015, under Life, Photography

Today we were heading back along the southern cost of Kangaroo Island to Vivonne Bay and the nearby Kelly Hill Caves and Conservation Park.

One of the reasons to head down this was was to check out what was the closest grocery store to where we were staying – Vivonne Bay General Store. It was also one of the closest places to get some fuel for the car.

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.

To be honest the range of groceries is very limited and lunch options here are also similarly limited. We opted instead to check out the Andermel Marron Cafe at the Two Wheeler Creek Winery. To be honest it’s a very rough drive on a pretty terrible dirt road – about 15km’s from the Vivonne Bay turnoff. Once there however the cafe was large and airconditioned and the food was suitably tasty (to match the price :)). It was however great to have a good meal.

Then it was back to Vivonne Bay proper – just a short drive past the General Store. Vivonne Bay is characterised by its long, sandy beach and the jetty which is used by cray fishermen for off-loading their catch. A group was offloading their gear just as we arrived – using that trolley on the rails to move back and forth.

After they were done my girls all ventured onto the jetty to take a look at the lovely bay with the spectacular green waters.

Vivonne Bay

Vivonne Bay

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 66 mm, 1/100 sec at f/8, ISO 100



NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm, 1/320 sec at f/4, ISO 100

and this is what the jetty looks like looking back from the point.

Vivonne Bay Jetty

Vivonne Bay Jetty

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 60 mm, 1/125 sec at f/8, ISO 100

Then it was off to Kelly Hill Caves.

The name of Kelly Hill Caves is a result of the story, how it was discovered. In 1880 a local stockman called Kelsy, riding on his horse Kelly, was chasing sheep that had strayed from his property. Unfortunately both of them fell into one of the big sink holes in the area. Kelsy managed to climb out, but he had to leave Kelly at the bottom of the sink hole. He returned soon with help to rescue the horse, but it was gone.



NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 48 mm, 1/50 sec at f/2.8, ISO 1600

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 35 mm, 1/60 sec at f/4, ISO 3600

As one of my daughters is now doing ballet this particular cave formation rang a bell 🙂

The Ballerina

The Ballerina

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm, 1/80 sec at f/4, ISO 6400

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Kelly’s Falls…

by on Apr.18, 2015, under Life, Photography

After our wet sunrise session at Coalcliff we headed towards the Seacliff bridge for a quick recce for a potential future shoot and then went in search for breakfast. It was Easter Friday so, well, not a lot was open (in fact nothing in this area).

So since the conditions were still very overcast we decided to head to nearby Kelly’s Falls at Stanwell Tops first and we’d do breakfast/brunch afterwards. The conditions were ideal for shooting waterfalls – pretty much 100% cloud cover giving a soft diffuse light everywhere and it had been raining heavily overnight (and it was still drizzling a little) so there was enough water about and all the rocks were nice and wet.

Lower Kelly’s Falls

Lower Kelly's Falls

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 18 mm, 2.5 sec at f/11, ISO 100

It’s a very short little drive off the main road to the car park at the top of the falls.

There are in fact two large sets of falls here and for each there’s also a small set of upper falls with the main falls cascading over the high cliffs down into the gorge below.

We’d arrived around 9:00AM and after checking out some of the vantage points from up top we looked for the way down to the bottom of the gorge.

Some vague instructions online indicated looking for a large stone chair and for the “track” opposite it going down the cliff to the gorge below.

The track down was fine until we get to the part where it dropped over a small cliff a couple of metres high. There was a couple pieces of rope tied to various things on the rock face including the main one to a very small springy sapling with a trunk much thinner than my wrist.

Unfortunately Deb didn’t think she’d be able to make it down (or back up) so she left us and headed back to the upper falls whilst Gerry and I scrambled ever downwards.

Soon we were down at the bottom and we made our way to the base of the main lower Kelly’s Falls.

In the shot at the top it’s 9:40AM and I’ve setup just below the lip of the large pool at the bottom of the falls. You can see that the water drops down the main cliff in the background into a large pool at the bottom (I’d say it was a good ten metres or more across) and then on this side of the pool there’s a rock edge and the water cascades down again and over the rocks into the gully behind me.

I’ve actually got the tripod perched precariously spread across two very large pointy boulders which are insanely slippery. It was all I could do to stop myself and my gear from sliding everywhere and breaking everything – gear and body parts…

I actually wanted to be slightly higher for this shot but just couldn’t safely get there.

Gerry is behind and below me down the gorge taking this shot here at the same time.

Like Gerry I took some bracketed frames for this image however in the end the awesome dynamic range of these recent set of Nikon full frame cameras saved the day. The normal exposure RAW had all the shadow and highlight detail preserved so I just processed the single frame (maybe ‘cause I’m just lazy :)). Plus I liked the natural vignette the shadowing trees already gave the scene.

There were two massive head trees in the gully behind me (one is in Gerry’s shot). I liked the look of the other with all it’s twisty gnarled branches but where it was positioned it didn’t look like it was ideal for any sort of clean shot. Still I decide to head around and down to where Gerry was to check it out.

Second Kelly’s Falls

Second Kelly's Falls

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 8 sec at f/16, ISO 100

The wet ground and rocks here made for an extremely slippery experience. You really have to be sure footed and careful lest you slip and break some bones on the sharp edged rocks or worse fall down a large drop.

I decided to go around instead of straight down and on the way I could see some other falls in the distance over to the right. I decided instead to detour over there and when I got closer I could see these falls were (in my mind at least) even nicer than the main falls. I shouted over to Gerry to indicate they were good and he indicated he’d be over in a while 🙂

I liked these falls better for a number of reasons, the pool at the bottom was much smaller and the shape of the falls at the bottom was in my opinion much nicer. Lastly you could actually get closer to the falls to shoot (even right up to the falls as evidenced in this Waterfall Selfie of Gerry’s.

The shot above is a manual layer blend from three separate exposures. The bulk of the image comes from a 0EV exposure for the scene. I’ve blended a little of the foreground in and some of the upper falls where it got quite bright from the -1EV shot and a little of the darker areas in the greens and crevices on the cliff face are brought out using the +1EV frame.

Inspired by Gerry’s antics – watching a gangly tall man slide crab like slowly across the very slippery cliff face to get in position for a selfie I figured (after taking some shots of Gerry taking his shots :)) I’d do a somewhat less precarious selfie of my own…

Admiring the Fall

Admiring the Fall

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 24 mm, 1/2 sec at f/9, ISO 200

We’d been down here for nearly an hour and a half now so we figured it was time to head back up to see if Deb was still alive :)…

but not before one last shot at the base of Lower Kelly’s Falls. This is that large pool I spoke of earlier and the small slippery stone walkway which crosses the gully at the end of the pool before is cascades down further into the gully to the right.

Kelly’s Falls Pool

Kelly's Falls Pool

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 2.5 sec at f/16, ISO 200

Back up the top we met Deb who suggested we go take a look at the bottom of the upper falls, so…

Upper Kelly’s Falls

Upper Kelly's Falls

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 5 sec at f/16, ISO 50

Collecting some nice coloured leaves to place in a not so natural looking “random” pattern :(. So I admit that we did arrange these leaves, looking for something in the foreground than just the flow of water. Heading into Autumn there were plenty of nicely coloured leaves just ready to be abused like this :). Sigh nature just does a better job of this…

Leaf Action

Leaf Action

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 5 sec at f/16, ISO 50

Pro Tip:If you are coming to shoot at a place like this – waterfalls, wet rocks, wet leaves – a circular polariser is a MUST. If you don’t want all your rocks and leaves to be bright, hazy washed out patches and you want the smooth flowing water to stand out white against a deep rich background you need to be using a polariser – period :).

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Weirs Cove Hike…

by on Apr.16, 2015, under Life, Photography

The Cape du Couedic Lighthouse was constructed between 1906-1909. The tower itself was built from 2,000 pieces of local stone. Three four roomed cottages were also built of local stone with slate roofs for the headkeeper and two assistants.

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 woke early – I hadn’t intended to but it was just on sunrise to I headed out the back door with my gear to the nearby lighthouse to see what sunrise brought. Very little colour but throwing on the Lee BigStopper blue’d things up nicely 🙂

Blue du Couedic

Blue du Couedic

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 29 mm, 155 sec at f/11, ISO 100

At the time of construction the site was inaccessible by land so Weirs Cove, one and a half kilometers north of the lighthouse site, was selected for landing. A jetty built first had to be constructed so stores and building materials could be landed. At first these stores, materials and equipment were carried up a zig zag path hewn into the face of the 100 meter cliff which continued until a flying fox was operative.

After breakfast the whole family headed out on the 3km (1hr) return trip hike to Weirs Cove.

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 62 mm, 1/200 sec at f/8, ISO 100

Imagine spending three months or more waiting for fresh supplies. That was the extreme hardship for the lightkeepers, in getting the shopping home.

Weirs Cove

Weirs Cove

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm, 1/125 sec at f/8, ISO 100

On the hike back to the lighthouse we can see our keepers cottages, the lighthouse and down to Admirals Arch at the point on the left.

Cape du Couedic

Cape du Couedic

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 28 mm, 1/250 sec at f/8, ISO 100

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Bilgola Colour…

by on Apr.14, 2015, under Life, Photography

Sneaky Sunday time again… After a somewhat hastily arranged plan with Gerry the night before we decided to head to the northern beaches and specifically Bilgola Beach for sunrise.

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 conditions were looking promising – sunrise was scheduled for 6:15AM and low tide would be at 8:20AM (so the tide would be lowish and falling whilst we were there). It was also looking like we’d have a bit of cloud around and with a lowish tide the rocks would be exposed.

Venting Steam

Venting Steam

NIKON D750 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 20 mm, 110 sec at f/11, ISO 100

I’d invited Deb to join us again and the three of us arrived at Bilgola at around 5:15AM. It was a location none of us had shot at before which is always good – it’s nice to try something new.

For me it was also an opportunity to break in a new camera body. I’d recently purchased the Nikon D750 so I’d have a backup camera body when I went away on a long trip to remote parts of Australia in the middle of this year. The camera had literally just arrived so I hadn’t even taken one single frame before the first shot on location this morning.

After a bit of a survey of the location Gerry headed off down the coast a little to try his luck out on the rock shelf whilst Deb and I setup one the small cliff above the Bilgola Tidal Pool. The clouds were looking good and the pre dawn colour was already starting to form.

The shot above was taken 30 minutes before sunrise with the Heliopan CPL and a Lee 0.9 grad ND for a natural early twilight long exposure.

I’d taken two vertical compositions before this which I quite liked the framing of but on closer inspection the focus was out and the images soft. I’ll blame it on being a new camera body and getting used to it :).

After adjusting my focus properly I took the shot above… For this frame I was looking to setup the pool edges as leading lines from the corners coming into the centre of the frame where the action was and then down that sweet long exposure water channel out towards the bright part of the sky where the sun would rise in half an hour. The balance wasn’t quite there but the morning was looking promising.

It was time to move down towards the rocks and close to the action (I do love my foreground interest… and vertical framing). This one a quick take on the way down towards the waters edge.

Bilgola on the Edge

Bilgola on the Edge

NIKON D750 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 20 mm, 46 sec at f/11, ISO 100

Then it was onwards to where you can get your feet (and if you’re not careful – everything else :() wet. This large channel of water right next to the Bilgola tidal pool was ideal for some surging and shifting water which would work well during a long (but not too long) exposure with some nice static foreground elements (the rocks).

The colour on the horizon was really starting to intensify. Still with the CPL and 3 stop grad I took four frames of this composition slowly shortening the exposure time between frames (42, 30, 21 & 13 seconds). NB: I’m shooting in full manual mode with the ISO locked at 100 and my focus and aperture set (f/11) so I’m just using the remote trigger to simply start and stop frames manually looking at the timer counter on the remote.

I took three of these four frames into photoshop and manually blended portions of each of the three images on layers to create the final result. Since I was already in Photoshop this one has also had a little Google Nik Software love (Color Efex Pro) just to add some light Tonal Contrast and Detail Extraction for pop.



NIKON D750 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 20 mm, 13 sec at f/11, ISO 100

Then ten minutes before sunrise the reverse god rays started beaming up into the clouds and the sky went awesome :). I’d already moved to another location and was setting up a new composition to isolate these rocks in the relatively still water. Adjusting the angles so the real and implied diagonal lines took presence in the frame.



NIKON D750 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 20 mm, 6 sec at f/11, ISO 100

Shooting in spots like this you need to be quite careful how you adjust your polariser (if you’re using one). Rotating the polariser to adjust the level of polarisation across the frame can make significant differences to the shot. In these shots I was making changes for different shots to adjust the level of reflection off the surface of the water and if and where I’d be able to see through the water surface to what lies below. You don’t get absolute control over exactly where this might occur (e.g. see through at this spot and be reflective elsewhere) but you do get some broad control.

The sky was changing rapidly. It was only a few minutes later and the god rays had vanished quickly.

I’d moved to a new spot and rotated my positioning so the sun would be further to the left of frame. Mimicking the diagonal structure of the clouds in the sky I’ve setup some foreground and midground elements to leave me with a diagonal composition from the bottom right up and back across the frame.

It was hard to find something suitable to put in the bottom right of my frame. I usually like something a bit bolder to include right up front but the colour was shifting rapidly and I didn’t have time. The best I had was this little clump of sea plant. It was getting submerged by each wave so I had to time a shot to coincide with when the water was receding and the plant was exposed above water.

Burning Ripples

Burning Ripples

NIKON D750 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 20 mm, 2.5 sec at f/13, ISO 100

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Doing Time at Long Bay…

by on Apr.12, 2015, under Life, Photography

Back to the eastern suburbs of Sydney earlier this year for another Sneaky Sunday with Gerry. This time just behind the Long Bay Correctional Facility (yes prisoners doing time in high security) and right next to the Randwick Golf Course we find Long Bay.

We met in the carpark over an hour before sunrise as we usually try to do before a sunrise shoot. By the time we’d recce’d all of the coastline along the golf course on the southern arm of long bay we finally came back to this spot on the rocks to try our luck. By this time it was now just 20 minutes till sunrise.

Misty Ruffles

Misty Ruffles

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm, 41 sec at f/11, ISO 100

The cloud cover was very heavy this morning but the clouds had this nice rippled texture which we were hoping much light up a little at some stage during the morning.

Whilst there was no epic sunrise or epic colour this morning it was actually a lovely morning to be out, the conditions were well suited to some moody compositions and I was pretty pleased with just about every frame I’d shot this morning – pretty much the entire shoot needed very little done in post and they almost all looked good straight out of camera.

One of the things I’d planned to do this morning were some example images to explain a topic to my Arcanum mastery cohort. I’d intended to do a session on the practical use of polarisers in landscape (or in this case seascape) photography. So whilst I was out there I shot some test frames to highlight in my discussions. I’ll save these frames for now and do a follow up tutorial post on the topic.

Just before 6AM the image above is the second frame of the morning, the first shot was basically the same it’s just that I like the water motion in this one a little better.

Technically this shot below is 15 minutes after sunrise but heavy cloud has all but obscured it’s effects. I’ve found some nice potholes in the rocks and some reflective pools of water. This final image is a manual layer blend of two frames – one shot for the main scene and another overexposed by about a stop just so I could get a little more detail inside those potholes in the rock. I’m pretty sure I could have easily extracted that detail out of the original raw file of the first shot but as I had both available to me and I’ve been practicing a little with using photoshop and masking lately, I figured I’d give it a quick go.

In the Hole

In the Hole

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 10 sec at f/16, ISO 100

The wind worn rocks here are very nice – with the amazing curved lines everywhere and different coloured sandstone intermixed across the surface. A wonderland of lines and texture and a little colour. The following two shots are two nearby compositions where I’ve spent time framing my shots to make best use of the pieces available to me.

Wave Motion

Wave Motion

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 2.5 sec at f/13, ISO 100



NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 2 sec at f/13, ISO 100

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