Rodney Campbell's Blog

Middle Head Madness…

by on May.11, 2015, under Life, Photography

With torrential rain for what seemed like weeks here in Sydney we finally received some clear weather. However with the weather as fickle as it can be we go from one extreme to the other. Days and days of 100% overcast skies and rain like we’re planning to use Noahs Ark and then just like that it’s cloudless clear skies.

The cloudless skies aren’t so fantastic for sunrise or sunset photography either. However clear skies are good for some star trail action…

So with a couple days of crystal clear skies I figured it was time to get out and do some shooting. It was late notice but on Saturday I invited a couple of friends to join me for a Star Trails and Lightpainting session at Middle Head Fort that night.

White Lighters

White Lighters

NIKON D750 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 22 mm, 162 sec at f/5.6, 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.

Built in response to a feared French invasion. The battery on Middle Head was built in 1871 and the fort was built on a strategic location and received many additions until 1911. It formed part of a network of ‘outer harbour’ defences. They were designed to fire at enemy ships as they attempted entry through the Sydney Heads.

One of the main problems when shooting star trails is what to do whilst you are waiting the many hours for all those shots to complete. Using a programmed intervalometer – once you start there’s nothing more for you to do till you stop.

Besides providing a somewhat decent foreground for my star trails, the large area of old historic fortifications is also a very popular location for light painting. So I figured if we each brought two sets of gear (cameras, lenses, tripods, remote triggers) we could use one set of gear for the stars and whilst they did their thing we could use the other for some light painting to while away the time.

So it was an intrepid bunch met at Middle Head Fort around 5PM one Saturday evening. We stuffed around for an hour or so working out where we’d like to shoot the stars, looking for a decent composition whilst also allowing us some freedom to lightpaint somewhere else in the interim. Once setup another half an hour doing some test shots and foreground shots. Finally just before 7PM I set my intervalometer in motion to capture the exposures for the trails.

Time for some light painting…

Up top is the result of Jason Baker experimenting with his hoop light painting tool. Here he and I are playing light painting coits :). The end result we all thought was quite interesting – organic and bizarre.

Below was actually our first experiment – Jason Ruth with a steel wool spin inside the tunnel on the left and I’m doing some blue torch on all the walls followed by some green in the circle of the gun placement in the middle. I was surprised how well the green luminescent pool worked.

The Grinding Pool

The Grinding Pool

NIKON D750 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 22 mm, 299 sec at f/5.6, ISO 100

Then it was time for Jason to get into full flight – twin steel wool spins going mad in the pit below.

One Two Fight!

One Two Fight!

NIKON D750 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 35 mm, 162 sec at f/8, ISO 100

Time for an obligatory run with my orb making tool. The lights in my orb tool unfortunately run very bright so we had to stop down to f/8 to keep it in check. This did however mean we had to burn in the EL wire a lot more to compensate for the stop of light loss. Jason Baker and I went nuts with this – both doing EL runs across the whole of the pit below. Jason Ruth meanwhile was creating what I called the duck throwing up on itself up on the right – perhaps I’ll just call it an exploding orb gone mad 🙂

Either way it got rid of another ten minutes waiting time 🙂



NIKON D750 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 22 mm, 594 sec at f/8, ISO 100

This started off with a simple steel wool spin – reversing away from the cameras and along this corridor and around and into the tunnel on the far left. What started as a simple thing evolved into this convoluted conglomeration. I wanted Jason Ruth to start much closer for this one – underneath the gantry above so we’d get and almost full rectangle of sparks flying before backing away with the spin. Along with the steel wool we have green torch on the right, blue on the left and combination red/blue EL wire on the floor.

Sliding Doors

Sliding Doors

NIKON D750 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 16 mm, 556 sec at f/8, ISO 100

and straight our of a mental asylum comes this little number to finish of the evening – we were definitely done…

Middle Head Madness

Middle Head Madness

NIKON D750 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 16 mm, 256 sec at f/8, ISO 100

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