Rodney Campbell's Blog

Archive for December, 2015

Grey Coal…

by on Dec.31, 2015, under Life, Photography

Coalcliff is a town on the coast between Sydney and Wollongong. In 1796 William Clark and others trekking north to Port Jackson from the wrecked ship Sydney Cove noticed coal exposed at the cliffs there and made a fire from it, attracting rescuers, giving the area its name.

Illawarra Coke Company’s site at Coalcliff was a working industrial site from the late 1800s when coal mining commenced, until the closure of Coalcliff Cokeworks in mid-2013.

Deb, Gerry and I made a sneaky Sunday trip down to the area for a very grey and wet sunrise shoot.

Deb had recently purchased some Lee filters and was keen to try them out on a sunrise seascape shoot. It was a very early start to get here just after 6AM (with a 90 minute drive from home it was around a 4AM wakeup call :(). We were only five minutes from arriving when Deb remembered that she’d left the tripod at home! A very inauspicious start to her first Lee filtered seascaping session and one she’s not soon to forget…

The conditions were bleak, the cloud cover was near complete and it was raining, tho only lightly. Not really a fabulous morning to be out. We had planned to shoot sunrise here on Coalcliff beach first and then shoot waterfalls at nearby Kelly’s Falls afterwards. At least the conditions were looking very favourable for the later :).

We started the morning around the Coalcliff tidal pool. This little channel in the rocks right next to the pool looked like it had a nice flow and shape but we found it too difficult to get a good composition on this (without being in the path of the waves :)). Second shot of the morning (the first was way underexposed by at least 3 or 4 stops).



NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 21 mm, 185 sec at f/8, ISO 200

Besides the light drizzle and the complete lack of colour the conditions were reasonably pleasant. It’s 6:55AM (about 15 minutes before sunrise) and the colours were soft and smooth under these pre sunrise conditions and this composition allowed me to highlight the layers of colour. Gerry even kindly stood almost still for a couple minutes allowing me to sneak this little capture of him which I’ve done as a vertical pano.

Gerry Don’t Jump

Gerry Don't Jump

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 20 mm, 103 sec at f/11, ISO 100

You may not have realised but it’s now just after sunrise – see that blazing ball of light in the sky… no… I didn’t think so 🙂

Rock Fusion

Rock Fusion

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 47 sec at f/9, ISO 100

7:20AM and I was moving down the rocks towards the beach. At this stage Gerry is down almost at water level in Coalcliff creek taking frames for a vertical panorama (and very nice work too).

Me – I’m being mesmerised by these swirling spirals of water in the rock pool at my feet and around the rocks heading out to sea. I liked how this was working and setup a composition to line everything up and accentuate the swirls. Having the layers of hills in the distance and the hint of colour to the right was just a bonus. Now it was just down to waiting for that right moment when all the water was in the right place with the right movement. Finally it came together…

The Bleak

The Bleak

NIKON D600 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 5.3 sec at f/8, ISO 200

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Joffre Amphitheatre…

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

Surrounding the spectacular curved waterfall of Joffre Falls is a magnificent natural amphitheatre. It’s hard to convey just how beautiful this place is, nor how inconceivably rich the colour is on these magnificent rock walls.

The amphitheatre has this lovely plunge pool at the base of the falls and this crazy mound of gravel in the centre of the area. The area is quite large and open to the sky so looking up past the top of the falls and the rim of the gorge is very very bright. Whilst the walls on the right of the falls are in shadow those on the left are being hit by the low sun which is drifting downwards to the right. This presents a huge contrast and exposure issue when trying to shoot in this wider space.

Joffre Narrows

Joffre Narrows

NIKON D750 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm, 2 sec at f/16, ISO 100 x 14 Frames

My plan was to shoot a tighter panorama using a long focal length so I only included the lower walls which weren’t being directly lit by the sun. I would also of course not include the sky which was many many stops brighter than the scene down below.

So standing near the centre of the mound of gravel in the centre of the natural amphitheatre I setup my tripod and the D750 with the 24-70 at 70mm. Fourteen (14) vertical frames later I have this panorama which takes in the view from slightly to the left of the falls right around to almost behind me on the right.

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.

To give you a feel for the more complete view the following panorama was taken from roughly the same position. This time at a much wider focal length of 24mm. The twelve (12) frames here encompass around a 300˚ field of view with just the narrow entrance to the gorge behind me excluded from the view. I probably should have taken some bracketed frames to try and preserve some of the sky and the almost blown out areas on the upper gorge walls in full sun on the left. Hindsight is a wonderful thing :)…

Joffre Amphitheatre

Joffre Amphitheatre

NIKON D750 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm, 2 sec at f/16, ISO 100 x 12 Frames

My daughter and I had every intention of going for a swim in this very inviting plunge pool. The day was still very hot even down here in the shade at the bottom of the gorge. However the water was… lets just say it was VERY brisk… We waded around for a bit only going as high as our upper thighs. Plus those small sharp rocks which cover the whole area including under the water were a bit too painful underfoot.

Opposing Forces

Opposing Forces

NIKON D750 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm, 4 sec at f/16, ISO 100

This young couple however were brave enough to swim out and across to the base of the waterfall. A idealic location if ever I’d seen one. I took some photos for them using their camera and took some for myself with mine as well.

Braving the Cold

Braving the Cold

NIKON D750 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm, 1/4 sec at f/9, ISO 400

It was getting late (almost 5PM) so it was time to pack up and start making our way out.

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Golden River…

by on Dec.27, 2015, under Life, Photography

The walk into Joffre Gorge is a must if you’re in the area. It’s so close to the Eco Retreat that you can easily walk here in ten to fifteen minutes. In the late afternoon the sun gets low and reflects off the red rock walls and reflects an intensely golden light into the darker interior of the gorge.

On these hot days (even during the winter dry season the temperature during the day is easily 30˚ celcius) it’s much better to be in the gorges at the edges of the day. Early morning or late afternoon is the optimal time as the cooler shaded gorges offer an escape from the heat of the day. During the middle of the day however when the sun is high in the sky the gorges are lit from above and there’s no escape from the merciless sun.

Just before 4PM my daughter and I make it down to the last few ledges before reaching the bottom of the gorge.

Golden Reflections

Golden Reflections

NIKON D750 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 1/1 sec at f/13, ISO 400

As it happens this is also the ideal time for photographers as well. Flat direct light in the middle of the day is not your best friend. When the bottom of the gorges are in shadow but lit by light reflected off the sides of the upper gorge walls is perfect.

Golden Ripples

Golden Ripples

NIKON D750 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 19 mm, 1/2 sec at f/13, ISO 400

At the bottom of the gorge if you turn right there’s just a short walk through this section before it opens up to the main attraction. This spectacular curved waterfall forming a natural amphitheatre. Joffre Falls is the highest waterfall in Karijini National Park and there is a large plunge pool at the base.

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.

River of Gold

River of Gold

NIKON D750 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 21 mm, 1/1 sec at f/13, ISO 200

Above my daughter and I pose for a quick selfie inside this natural amphitheatre, the lower part of Joffre Falls behind us.

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Interstellar Signals…

by on Dec.25, 2015, under Life, Photography

Sometimes things don’t go as planned, and in photography that can happen a lot. Sometimes however things just unexpectedly click and the universe smiles and takes pity on you…

This looks like I perfectly planned it – setup in the exact position along this path at the right height and distance at the exact right time of the year… and I wish I was that good… alas luck played a big part :)…

I’d wanted to do some star trails whilst I was on Kangaroo Island – it was the perfect place – super dark skies, nothing to the south of you except Antarctica and no light pollution. Unfortunately most evenings also brought heavy clouds which made it impossible to shoot the stars.

On the previous night things almost came to fruition however the clouds soon rolled in. Tonight however was my very last on the island and I was hoping luck was on my side.

Interstellar Signals

Interstellar Signals

NIKON D600 + 14.0 mm f/2.8 @ 14 mm, 61 sec at f/2.8, ISO 1250 x 92 Frames

I’d setup in this exact position for a couple of reasons…

– the path essentially pointed southward so I knew the centre of rotation of the stars in the sky would be somewhere in this general direction (checking the star app on my iPhone for Sigma Octanis essentially confirmed this). Whilst the app on the phone gives a rough indication, the direction is not this exact. I’d like to say it was amazing planning which ensured the centre of the swirl would be aligned left right with the lighthouse on purpose but that would just be a lie :).

– I put my tripod up as high as it would go. I was shooting with the incredibly wide Samyang 14mm f/2.8 prime. I was expecting to shoot pointing a little upwards to include as much of the sky as possible, but I also wanted the lighthouse to remain relatively undistorted so as high as I could go would be better – the path sloping down a little towards the lighthouse also helps.

– Finally the distance I setup my tripod from the lighthouse. Again I’d like to say it was perfect planning which placed me in this spot so that the centre of the swirl would also be aligned top to bottom with the light… Alas again that would be untrue – it was a more mundane reason I chose this specific distance from the lighthouse. I needed to be back far enough so the building would remain a good shape but not so far back that the light from the lighthouse would be directly visible to the camera (and blow things out) so I moved back just to the point where the light bulb/source was being clipped by main light room wall itself.

Luck obviously favours the – I was going to save “brave” but I think I’ll just go with “insane” :).

When the interstellar stars align, they really do – and so I ended up being in exactly the perfect spot at exactly the right time of the year for all of these elements to line up and we get the perfect swirl of the stars right behind the light itself. I couldn’t have planned this better myself if I’d actually planned it…

OK – that was the setup…

I then proceeded to take some single shots with some light painting to use as the base foreground image of my final result.

Then I worked out what my star trails exposures would be – in this case with incredibly dark skies I settled on 60 sec at f/2.8 and ISO 1250.

I setup my programmable intervalometer and let it go.

Some minor “disasters” along the way…

1) I’m literally in the middle of freaking nowhere… My family were perhaps the only souls within an hours drive and we’re at what almost amounts to the end of the earth.

What I wasn’t expecting just before midnight was a car driving down the hill lighting the whole place up and messing up some frames… Somebody else had arrived to shoot the lighthouse under the starry skies… Of course they didn’t know 🙂

Anyway we proceeded to do some shots for them with a little light painting of the lighthouse (I was going to have to manually edit a bunch of frames and darken the building and the foreground anyway now).

2) Five minutes to midnight (and only just over an hour and a half into my trails exposures) a massive bank of clouds came in from the south west and covered the skies… looks like the party was over. It intermittently cleared soon after but the ten minute gap would likely be a killer. I let things run a little longer but by a quarter past midnight I packed up and headed off to bed. We were getting up early in the morning for the two hour drive to the airport and a morning flight back to Adelaide and then back to Sydney…

I’ve already mentioned some of the post. I performed a number of global edits across the whole set of frames and some careful specific editing of some. I loaded all the frames (109) and stacked them as layers in Photoshop as I usually do. The end result was pretty decent however this time I decided to also try a software package dedicated to stacking star images (StarStaX) for which there is also a Mac version.

This software can’t use RAW files so I had to export my edited images as 16bit TIFF’s and import into StarStaX. I tried a number of combinations but in the end the best set ended up being the shorter 92 Frames taken before the clouds came. I utilised the softwares Gap Filling mode (which works remarkably well – you can’t see it so much in this smaller view but zoomed in to 100% you definitely notice the gaps otherwise). I also used the Comet mode which I think for this shorter set adds a nice touch and gives a real sense of motion to the stars.

Whilst I would have liked another hour or two of clear skies and more interstellar trails I’m still amazingly pleased with the end result – my very last shot on Kangaroo Island turns out to be one of my favourites from the trip. Patience is apparently it’s own reward…

Merry Christmas Everyone!…

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Joffre Gorge…

by on Dec.23, 2015, under Life, Photography

In Joffre Gorge, one can truly appreciate the power of water shaping the landscape. The gorge hosts impressive waterfalls, cool pools and breath-taking views.

Joffre Gorge is located only 300 metres from the Karijini Eco Retreat reception area, a short 10 minute walk.

This is an eight (8) frame stitched panorama looking over Joffre Gorge from the Karijini Eco Retreat side of the gorge. Theres a very nice lookout on both sides of the gorge (both are on the right side of this panorama).

Joffre Gorge

Joffre Gorge

NIKON D750 + 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 48 mm, 1/160 sec at f/9, ISO 100 x 8 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.

From the lookout on the right you can follow a marked path into the bottom of the gorge and on to the first pool downstream of the waterfall. The path down to the bottom involves working your way down a number of these rock plate ledges till you reach the bottom. It’s quite steep and you do feel a little exposed in areas (falling wouldn’t be a good idea).

Joffre Reflected

Joffre Reflected

NIKON D750 + 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 28 mm, 1/30 sec at f/9, ISO 720

The somewhat confusing view above is actually looking down into the gorge from above (about half way down). Seeing that fantastic reflection off the coloured gorge walls with afternoon light (3PM) being reflected in the waters below. You can see all those ledges of rock you have to work your way down to get to the bottom. My daughter and I made the trip down whilst my parents waited up top.

Once at the bottom I headed left a short distance to shoot downstream (literally at the left bottom corner of the image above). The rocks here are extremely slippery when wet so I had to be extra careful not to slip and tumble down the crevasse into the pool below. Not only would I likely be injured but it would be impossible to get back up.

Joffre Flows

Joffre Flows

NIKON D750 + 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 @ 25 mm, 3 sec at f/16, ISO 100

This was my first real view and first shot of this style of narrow gorge with the water flowing briskly down the chute. This was much more like the images I’d seen online of this fantastic location with the narrow water filled chutes with coloured layered rocks up the sides. I was looking forward to seeing many more instances of this in the coming days – I wouldn’t be disappointed.

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