Rodney Campbell's Blog

Rising in Melbourne…

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

Our third day (second morning) in Melbourne and I decided to look for a rising sun. I’d woken early (too early as it turns out) and figured I’d try shooting sunrise from our balcony. My first shots were at just after 6:20AM which was still over 70 minutes before sunrise and the night sky was way too dark :). It wasn’t really till just before 7AM that we were starting to get some decent colour in the sky from the slowly rising sun.

Dark Rising

Dark Rising

NIKON D750 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 16 mm, 20 sec at f/9, ISO 100 x 5 Frames

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 weather during our stay was actually pretty good. It wasn’t great for landscape photography – no epic colour or skies. The conditions however were good for a family holiday with either clear blue skies or nearly 100% overcast skies and not much between. Whilst it was very cold (as expected in Melbourne during winter) it was generally not too bitterly cold nor windy or rainy (except for some of the last two days).

The first above panorama was taken at 7:10AM (25 minutes before sunrise) and is the result of stitching five (5) vertical frames.

This is also one of the first times I’ve used my Kood 3 stop (0.9) Soft Graduated Neutral Density filter. I don’t normally use Soft grads. I prefer the quicker transition of the Hard grads for most of my landscape work. It suits the typical seascape scene where you have a solid flat unbroken horizon line. Here however I’ve got a cityscape scene with tall skyscrapers sticking up into the sky so a soft grad seemed appropriate.

I’d actually purchased this Kood branded soft grad some time ago – it was very cheap and I just wanted to try it out. Like Lee and Format-Hitech it’s a UK filter manufacturer but it’s definitely not in the same price league as Lee or even Format-Hitech. Where-as the Lee filters might cost $100-150 each and the Format-Hitech a little less the Kood filter was around $40. Still the reviews seemed positive enough and whilst it didn’t have anywhere near the same quality level as the Lee filters it appeared to be relatively good – better than Cokin but cheaper.

Timing when to shoot cities during twilight is one of the primary tricks to master. The shot above allows you to still see all the bright coloured lights in the buildings and in the streets whilst also balancing nicely with the colour and brightness of the sky. Shoot this scene earlier (15-20 minutes) and the sky and unlit parts of the ground would be black.

In the shot below (20 minutes later) the ambient light levels are now so high it doesn’t allow the lights in the buildings or streets to show through much at all.

Lavender Wash

Lavender Wash

NIKON D750 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 16 mm, 25 sec at f/11, ISO 100 x 5 Frames

One downside with the Kood filter is that it is a 100x125mm filter (all my Lee and my two Format-Hitech grads are all 100x150mm). This really doesn’t matter when I’m using the filter as a grad but doesn’t allow me to use it as a straight ND filter (but pulling the filter all the way down). This wouldn’t have been possible with a soft grad anyway since the transition band is so wide. With the hard grads however I can easily use the 100x150mm grads as a solid ND because the transition band is so narrow. It’s almost like a 100x75mm ND filter which is plenty to cover the imaging area.

Another downside is that the filter is relatively neutral when used on it’s own but like my two Format-Hitech filters it tends to colour shift and introduce a noticeable magenta colour cast when stacked with other filters. I don’t get this when I stack multiple Lee filters (excepting of course the Lee BigStopper which introduces a blue cast). Lee however specifically don’t claim that the BigStopper is an ND (“Neutral” Density).

You can see in the stitched panorama above that we have a definite lavender/magenta cast when I’ve stacked the Kood 3 stop (0.9) soft grad with a Format-Hitech 4 stop (1.2) ND.

My daughter likes it this way and I’m partial to the lavenders myself so I’ve left it in :).

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