Rodney Campbell's Blog

The Cave and the Stars

by on Dec.20, 2018, under Life, Photography

I’d previously shot from within this cave almost five (5) years ago. However it was the one and only time I’d shot here at Cathedral Rocks near Kiama

There are two main draw cards at this location. Firstly the rocks spires out in the ocean just off the coast. Secondly this fabulous little cave with a water channel snaking it’s way into the cave

I have a long exposure photo looking out from within the cave shot before sunrise hanging up in my hallway at home. My daughter having seen this often was very keen to shoot at this location. As we were doing night/star trails shoots I thought this would be a distinctly unusual take on the location. Looking out from the cave with star trails in the sky

However the tide and swell conditions are definitely something to consider when shooting at Cathedral Rocks. Access to some of the best spots like the cave and in between the two main rock stacks, is really only possible at low tide. Unless you are willing to get very wet or risk drowning inside the cave 🙁

Checking out the tide times we found that there was a high mid tide at around 9:30PM which was about an hour and a half after sunset. We figured we’d take a punt and arrive approximately on sunset. If the water inside the cave wasn’t too high around that time it should hopefully not rise too much more. Plus after it got dark enough to start the trails (around the peak of the mid tide) it would only drop after that

Seeking the Stars

Seeking the Stars

NIKON D750 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm, 64 sec at f/2.8, ISO 800

Note: These photographs (especially the wider shots) look much better when larger. To see larger versions in an inline overlay slideshow gallery viewer click any of the images.

Once onsite we appeared to be in luck – the water was definitely inside the mouth of the cave but the higher area at the back of the cave was dry

We spent the next hour and a bit doing some preparatory shots. Refining our compositions and taking some test shots. Then doing some light painting exposures. Finally some shots with ourselves shining our headlamps into the sky for scale. All of which we could later blend with our star trails

Besides lighting the inside of the cave and the rock channel with warm white and various coloured light. We also did an EL wire shot (unfortunately I stepped into a deep water hole in the rocks in the dark) so one was definitely enough 🙂

One thing you may note here is that instead of using my typical 12mm or 14mm for shooting the stars I’ve chosen instead to use a longer 24mm focal length. The main purpose of which was to keep the rock pillar and people in the frame relatively larger

The Beacon

The Beacon

NIKON D750 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm, 51 sec at f/2.8, ISO 800 x 123 Frames

At 9:30PM it was dark enough to start the trails exposures. Most importantly it was high mid tide so hopefully we were seeing the peak of the waves. However every now and then an unusually high rogue wave would surge in and come partway up the tripod legs 🙂

We then waited inside the back of the cave for our shots to run. Normally I’d aim to shoot for about two hours worth of rotation. Unfortunately just before 11:15PM another photographer who’d been shooting further around was coming back and into the cave. A bright headlight shining into our camera’s and that was that – end of the evening. Thankfully we were only about 15 minutes short of the two hours so no big deal

NIKON D750 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm, 51.00 sec at f/2.8, ISO 800

Stacking the 123 x 51 second frames and then blended with a few our of preliminary light painting and setup shots we have our final result


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