Category: Sunrise

Stunning sunrise from Govenors Chair Lookout at Spicers Gap overlooking the Fassifern Valley in the Scenic Rim of Queensland Australia by Award Winning Australian Landscape Photography Murray Fox

Govenors Chair Sunrise

This morning was a sunrise meet up for the Scenic Rim Photo Walks group and the plan was to shoot sunrise from a fantastic location. Govenors Chair lookout has a stunning view over Mt Greville and the Fassifern valley. The plan was to arrive around an hour before sunrise which was just after 6am. Being around an hours drive from home, my tired brain set my alarm for 4:40am…uh oh. A quick race out and thankfully no traffic, I was just in time for sunrise. The early colour lit the clouds nicely but I was looking for the light after the sun rose.

Fog was nestled in locations throughout the valley, and there was a lovely haze in the air that just lit up with the morning glow of the sun when it broke through the clouds. This first photograph was looking south east, encompasing a wider view and showing the magnificent gradations of light and colour on the landscape, I absolutely love light like this and this photo shows why. Mind the step tho, that is a straight drop off at the end of the rock! You must practice extreme care photographing here.

Stunning sunrise from Govenors Chair Lookout at Spicers Gap overlooking the Fassifern Valley in the Scenic Rim of Queensland Australia by Award Winning Australian Landscape Photography Murray Fox
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, 12-40mm, ISO 100, F/10, 1/500 Sec, 2 Stop Grad ND Filter

I also had my Lubitel medium format film camera with me. My first go at shooting colour film, I spent a lot of time metering and taking shots of various compositions as the light changed. I’ll have that roll back in a week or so, very excited to see what results I got, hopefully the exposure is okay because the colour should be amazing.

In between taking film shots, I took a more intimate photograph of Mt Greville. This is a beautiful peak from any direction and lies at the southern end of Lake Moogerah. The way the haze was lighting up the mountain, and the layers of the hills below me created beautiful steps of light that lead into the photograph. I composed this in portrait orientation to get as much of the hills below me in the shot while zoomed in a bit to really capture the size of Mt Greville. Let me know in the comments what you think of this photograph.

Mt Greville in the Scenic Rim of South East Queensland Australia at sunrise, viewed from Govenors Chair Lookout at Spicers Gap with stunning orange colours and light streaming through the landscape by Award Winning Australian Landscape Photography Murray Fox
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, ISO 100, F/10, 1/800 sec

It was a great morning, lovely to catch up with everyone on the photo walk. They are held monthly, I suggest checking the site out and coming along to a walk if you are in the area, it’s a great way to explore and see things you don’t normally see.

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A beautiful dawn sky lights up the landscape over this old farmhouse in South East Queensland Australia

Beautiful Farmhouse Sunrise

I honestly think Queensland has the best old farmhouses in Australia. These beautiful old buildings dot the landscape, usually tucked away in little corners, some more known that others. I discovered this one a few years ago and finally thought conditions would be right to try and photograph it.

It’s a good drive from home, so another early start was required to get to my spot an hour before sunrise. I often find the best colour of sunrise to be before the sun gets up, the deep saturated colours look amazing and to capture them, you need to be on site well before time, setup, framed, and ready to shoot.

Battling my way through neck high grasses I got to my vantage point on the fenceline (thankfully a bit clearer) and set up shop. My aim this morning was to capture two, maybe three photographs of the same scene, each in their own different way.

The first photograph I captured was during the peak colour of dawn. The colour penetrates far into the sky, illuminating several layers of clouds which is always great as it puts colour everywhere. There was a little bit of a breeze, adding  to softness in the grass in the foreground due to movement over a long exposure. I framed everything quite centrally as I find it gives a lovely feeling of calm, just the thing for a scene like this. I used a 3 stop graduated filter to control the brightness in the sky.

A beautiful dawn sky lights up the landscape over this old farmhouse in South East Queensland Australia
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark 2, 12-40mm Pro @ 30mm, ISO 200, F/5.6, 50 second exposure

Next I decided to extend the exposure time even long and added a 6 stop filter. The clouds weren’t moving as fast as I hoped, but I waited for the light to be bright enough to give me around a 3-4 minute exposure, set my camera to live time and let it rip. Live time allows you to see regular updates of your exposure to ensure you get it perfect everytime. I had updates at every 30 seconds for this shot.

I do like this effect, the clouds soften right up and the foreground became even softer giving an almost dream like effect.

A stunning long exposure of a farmhouse with an amazing colourful dawn sky in South East Queensland Australia
ISO 200, 4 minutes, F/5.6

The final photograph I wanted to capture didn’t happen. The sun was to rise above the farmhouse right next to the mountain in the background. Unfortunately the clouds closed in and kept that light from happening. Welcome to landscape photography and I wasn’t upset in the least and very happy with the two photographs I got. I think it’s important to take the time and stay in your location for as long as possible to cover all the variations in light that may happen.

Thank you for reading this post. I would love to hear your opinions on this post or even just when is your favourite time of day in the comments below.

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Amazing colour in the sky during this long exposure at sunrise over the Brisbane River near Ipswich Queensland Australia

Brisbane River Long Exposure

My plan this morning was to head to a new spot for me on the Brisbane river, not far from Ipswich. The clouds early were moving quite fast but the wind at ground level was almost non-existant. I started thinking a long exposure might be something to try.

Arriving at the parking location I began the walk down to the river. The first part of the track was pretty easy, patches of gravel and not too steep. That soon changed when I was confronted with waist high grass before the river. Plowing on (literally) I finally arrived at my location 10 minutes later, drenched from waist to toe, ahh the joys of landscape photography.

There was some colour starting to appear in the sky so I had to make some decisions quickly. The texture of the clouds was messy, so I decided, super long exposure to make things super silky. I would use a polarising filter to remove some of the glare from the water (this also has the effect of adding around 1.5 stops of exposure time. Next I would add a 10 stop neutral density filter to give me some very long exposure times.

With the filters off the camera I set the camera in to manual mode, set my focus where I wanted it, I put the aperture at F8 which ensured me everything would be in focus and give me an extra long exposure time. ISO kept at base 200 for best quality.

Now it was time for another trick built into my Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II camera. This feature is called “Live Time”. You press the shutter once to start the exposure, and at regular intervals (I had it set for every 30 seconds) the rear screen updates with a photo of the exposure at that time, and updates the histogram. It’s as simple as letting  this run for as long as you want and stopping it before it starts to over expose. I always have long exposure noise reduction enabled, the time it takes you extra in the field (essentially doubles your exposure time) you save so much more in post processing trying to fix the noise.

This photo ended up taking 8 minutes of exposure time and 8 minutes of noise reduction time. So it was a one shot while the colour lasted in the sky.

Amazing colour in the sky during this long exposure at sunrise over the Brisbane River near Ipswich Queensland Australia
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, Olympus 12-40mm Pro, F/8, 8 minutes, ISO 200

There has been very minimal post processing done to this photograph. A little bit of contrast added and some colour pop was all that was needed.

I took a few more shots as the light got brighter. I was really hoping the sun would break through and throw some direct light on the trees on the far bank but it was not to be this morning. I did like the smooth results I was getting however, and found the tree trunks were contrasting very nicely against the green vegetation. I ended up converting this photo to a very simple black and white.

A lovely black and white long exposure photograph of the Brisbane River near Ipswich Queensland Australai.
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, 12-40mm Pro, F/8, ISO 200, 4 minutes

With the bouts of wet weather and cloudy conditions we are having here at the moment, I will be exploring long exposures a little more often I think, the results are quite lovely.

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A beautiful misty and foggy country landscape captured near Boonah in the Scenic Rim of Queensland Australia

When nothing goes to plan, Improvise!

Well sometimes the best laid plans go completely array. When it comes to landscape photography this can happen more often than not, that’s the way of mother nature. There is a very photogenic mountain peak south of where I live. I had worked out a location I wanted to shoot from, and I was going to experiment using a long lens (in the realms of 140-200mm) to see what compositions I could get.

To get there an hour before sunrise I had to leave home at 3am for the 1.5 hour drive south. As soon as I left home I knew something wasn’t right. It has been raining, and I couldn’t see clouds or stars. A low cloud layer was blanketing the area. Never one to give up, I kept going, and started driving through intermittent rain and fog. I finally arrived at my location to be greeted with a wall of white.

Well this wasn’t what I was after. I waited over an hour and a half until after sunrise, with the faint hope some sun might break through, or the peak would at least become partially visible. This photo shows the result however, the peak was still buried in the fog. I used a long lens to compress the fence line and bring everything closer.

A fence line stretches across the paddock and into the fog and mist near Boonah Queenland Australia in the Scenic Rim.
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, Adapted Canon FD 70-210mm Lens, F/8, 1/100 sec, ISO 2000 handheld

I finally gave up on this location and decided to improvise. I began looking for scenes that caught my eye, ideally with a leading valley through the scene and a main subject to frame. This next photograph is the first one I came across. Again use the adapted long lens I was able to compress the scene, isolating the trees from the rest of the scene. Long lenses are great for when you don’t have an immediate foreground. You can still get a great result and composition, it does take some practice however to find a scene that works. Its an area I’m still learning and will be exploring more for sure.

I focused only on the trees so the background went a little soft as well. I think this one came out quite nicely and just a touch more sun was finally getting through to add some contrast to the ground.

A small Stand of trees stands out against the landscape near Boonah in the Scenic Rim of Queensland Australia.
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, Adapted Canon FD 70-210mm F/8, ISO 200, 1/4 sec

The final scene I found called for a lens change, I had a foreground interest nice and close, so I switched to my Olympus 12-40mm pro lens and spent some time framing up a composition. Again the portrait orientation worked, eliminating some clutter from the sides and bringing focus to the dead wood and then the main tree in the photograph. You can see by this time a lot of the fog had cleared, but the low cloud was still incredibly thick. I never did see the mountain on this morning. A return trip is definitely on order as I think it will be an amazing photograph in the right weather and light.

A beautiful misty and foggy country landscape captured near Boonah in the Scenic Rim of Queensland Australia
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, Olympus 12-40mm, ISO 200, 1/50 sec, F/8

I’m still deciding whether the second or third image is my favourite from this day, comment below and let me know which one is yours.

Landscape photography can be very frustrating at times. All the best laid plans, all the pre-visualisation and effort you put into capturing a photograph can come to naught in a very short space of time. It pays to at least be somewhat prepared to seek alternatives if things don’t work out. It could be making sure you carry a few different lenses, having the tripod in the car if you are planning to shoot handheld, or even waiting a few hours to see if anything changes or improves (pro tip, have some food and drink with you always!). This day did not go the way I planned, yet I’m very happy with at least two of the photographs I managed to capture, and now I’ve done a practice run to the location, I know it will be perfect when the light and weather are right. I might not get it next time, but I will get it. Persistence pays.

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A golden sunrise landscape photograph art at Tallegalla near Ipswich Queensland Australia as golden light lights up the trees down through the valley over looking the distant hills.

Golden Tallegalla – The importance of projects

Every now and then I think we all get into a bit of a rut, or hit a point where we are struggling to find something to shoot. With storm season this year being extremely quite, I turned my attention back to landscape photography and almost instantly found it really hard to find something new to photograph.

It’s taken me a few weeks but I’ve finally come up with a plan for the rest of the year, giving myself 3 projects on top of my ongoing storm photography. These projects will help me to focus on exactly what I am going to photograph, to develop a theme around the project, and make it easier to find locations. Giving yourself a project helps in many ways. It gives you motivation, it enables you to focus your skills and knowledge in the right areas, in pursuit of a goal. It gives you a goal to achieve, and each new photograph for the project is a massive boost to self confidence in your own work, and drives you to capture the next photograph. The failures also help. You soon learn why it didn’t work for you, maybe it needs to be in different light, better light, low light, nighttime? Regardless of the problem, you can only learn and grow by trying and either failing or succeeding.

The first of these projects is unseen landscapes. That’s not to say no-one has ever seen them, people will drive past them everyday, but no-one is out there photographing them. I’m looking for those little hidden nooks only locals know, the backroads, the dirt roads traffic never seems to go down. I’ve even made it more specific and want to shoot the majority in sunrise sidelight. Sunrise just works for me keeping a good photography/life balance. It’s also the time of day when there is rarely any wind, and it’s just perfect for landscapes. The trick here in South East Queensland Australia is that beautiful orange first direct light of golden hour, lasts a total of 3 minutes, I counted!

You have to be extremely well prepared. You need to know your location, know your subject, know the direction of the sun, have your camera setup, all your settings correct, composition framed and sorted, tripod locked down, and then watch that light like a hawk! As a rule I like to get to locations around an hour before actual sunrise, this gives me some time to get everything sorted, do a bit of testing. Then it’s usually a matter of lots of waiting, and 3 minutes of adrenaline heart pumping photography, checking histograms, bracketing if required, checking focus, double checking focus, focus stacking if needed….and it’s all over.

To kick off this project, I went to a location I came across last year but never got around to photographing. I had a very clear pre-visualisation in my head of what I wanted to capture. It would be that first golden light, coming across the tops of the trees. Anything else in the scene was going to be a bonus, including the sky. I was making this about the landscape and the rest be dammed.

We’ll, that golden light turned up right on queue, and it hit the foreground as well, and the sky while having no clouds, had amazing colour right across the spectrum. And the trees lit up with golden light, I achieved exactly what I set out to do. I have the first photo of this project in the bag. I have a Google Earth map chock with other locations to visit, right across the year. I’m looking forward to exploring the local landscapes, keeping to my simple project rules and putting together a great collection of photographs.

Here is Golden Tallegalla. I’ve added this to my landscape portfolio which will slowly be updated to photos from this project.

A golden sunrise landscape photograph art at Tallegalla near Ipswich Queensland Australia as golden light lights up the trees down through the valley over looking the distant hills.
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, 12-40mm Pro Lens, F/8, ISO 200, 1/20 sec. Polariser

Finally, I mentioned 3 projects. Well one of them is to work on an astro photography series, more oriented at this winter. The other I’m keeping to myself. I have a few images already in the bag, but I want to get together a collection of 10-20 photographs before I release those as a series.

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Mt Moon in the Scenic Rim south of Boonah in Queensland Australia. Beautiful Dawn light as sunrise approaches, amazing purples and blues in the sky, cloud across the peak and mist laying low on the ground. Australia Day 2018 landscape photography

Australia Day Sunrise 2018 – Just amazing!

I’m always on the lookout for new locations to photograph. Finding those locations and then getting access to them can be tricky here in South East Queensland. We have a lot of rural areas, farms, parks etc that limit just how close you can get to the view you want.

Lately I’ve been interested in shooting more panoramas, last week I caught a great sunset over Lake Moogerah, this week I wanted more of a mountain shot. Scouting around I found a great peak south of Boonah called Mt Moon. it’s slightly off the main road so I’d never really paid attention to it. Google maps showed it could work very well for a panorama, with a couple of challenges to overcome.

First, you couldn’t get that close, I’d have to shoot from the edge of the road around 2-3ks distant. So I figured I’d have to zoom in and decided I’d use the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 prime lens in portrait mode. This lens is fantastically sharp, and stopped down a bit it would easily get all the scene I required in focus as the subject was a good distance away. I also figured I would shoot in the hi-resolution mode of my Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II to give me massive files with a huge amount of detail, and little to no noise. I would need approx 6 vertical shots across the scene to capture the width needed to get a final 3:1 panorama. I would be shooting with the sun (sunrise directly behind me) so it would be a fairly low contrast photograph which would suit the mood I was thinking of.

Arriving on location I picked the spot which would give me the panorama of Mt Moon that I wanted, however I was very soon distracted by the amazing light and colour coming up from behind me as sunrise approached. I simply couldn’t resist capturing a photograph of it and as you’ll see in the video, that colour just kept coming and coming.

Amazing colour in the sky as sunrise approaches the scenic rim near Mt Moon south of Boonah, Queensland, Australia
CLICK TO VIEW LARGE 13sec, f/5.0, ISO 200, Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, Olympus 12-40mm Pro @ 22mm

I was hoping that I could get colour in the sky above the peak, and that first direct orange glow of light hitting the peak itself. As usual nature decides to do it differently and when there was colour in the sky, the light was okay on the peak, lower clouds blocked the direct golden light I was planning on. However, the pre dawn colours turned out to be amazing, throwing up 360 degrees of amazing skies.

There was fog low to the ground in front of Mt Moon that kept coming and going, and some wonderful cloud around the peak. I took many series of shots, trying to time it so that I had both where they looked good. Finally, the reverse sunrise sky turned an amazing shade of purple with wisps of pinks through it. Here is the final photograph, Mt Moon Panorama :

Mt Moon in the Scenic Rim south of Boonah in Queensland Australia. Beautiful Dawn light as sunrise approaches, amazing purples and blues in the sky, cloud across the peak and mist laying low on the ground. Australia Day 2018 landscape photography
CLICK TO VIEW LARGE 1/8sec, f/5.0, ISO 200, Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, Olympus 45mm f/1.8 Lens, Six Shot Panoroama hires mode.

I’m very happy with the final result. The golden hour colour didn’t happen until much later after sunrise, and by that time the colour had all gone from the sky. In the future I may have to work on a bit of a time blend to see if I can put together best best of both parts of sunrise. I did head up the road a little way to a wonderful old abandoned farmhouse and captured the golden hour light shining through. The square crop worked very well for this and this is a perfect photo for my Instagram account.

An abandoned farm house is bathed in golden hour light as the sun breaks through the trees at sunrise, near Mt Moon, south of Boonah in the Scenic Rim Queensland Australia
CLICK TO VIEW LARGE 1/200sec, f/8.0, ISO 200, Olympus Omd Em5 Mark ii, Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lens

Finally, I’ve created a behind the scenes video of this morning, going into some of my setup in more detail, and just displaying some of the amazing light that happened on this wonderful Australia Day 2018.

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A beautiful sunrise at Redbank near Ipswich, Queensland, Australia. The sun is just peaking through the trees, illuminating the grass on the rolling hills and lighting up the clouds and sky with amazing colour.

Redbank Sunrise – Importance of practice

With the weather calming down from the recent spate of storms, its time to get back into shooting some landscape photography. I’ve been reading up on a few techniques including focus stacking and exposure blending, so this morning, armed with a brain full of ideas and a nice local location, I set off to see if I could put those techniques into use.

The visualised photo in my head I wanted to shoot, was direct into the sun, have the light directly onto elements of the landscape, be pinpoint sharp from front to back, front elements extremely close to camera (around 20cm) and have detail in shadows and the majority of the highlights. I wanted colour where the sun is, but not necessarily detail, a nice glow would be perfect. Finally, I was going to shoot in portrait orientation as this allows me to really put the foreground very close to the lens and still show the sky, trickier in landscape orientation without an ultra wide lens.

I used my Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II camera, the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 pro lens, I had a manfrotto circular polarising filter on, not to bring out colours (impossible when facing towards the sun), but to help knock a little reflection off the greenery, and finally a 3 stop soft graduated filter, just to help keep the sky/highlights under control.

I arrived about 30 minutes before sunrise, this spot is very close to home and I as I was wanting the sun up in the sky there was no real point getting there earlier, even tho the early pre dawn sky colour can be the best, that wasn’t the goal here. I found a nice composition, where the hills act as layers going into the scene, and I had the tops of some nice grasses as my foreground.

For my first tests, I put the camera in aperture priority mode, ISO 200 (base ISO), f5.6 (sharpest point of lens), and camera decides the shutter speed. As I’m on a tripod I wasn’t worried about shutter speed at all. I then enabled the in camera focus bracketing. All I had to do was pick a focus point closest to the bottom of screen, then the camera would take a series of photos, shifting focus until it figured it had everything. At these settings it was taking around 17 photographs. Now storage is easy but that seemed like too many photographs for me, and a review on the back of camera showed a lot of the final ones had been taken well past infinity and were blurry again.

So I decided on a different route, and this turned out to work extremely well and easy. I set the shutter activation in the camera to 2 second delay, and turned on the select and shoot function of the rear LCD screen. I also stopped down the lens to f7.6 so each photo had a little more in focus. Then it was simply a matter of touching the bottom of the screen, waiting 2 seconds, camera took a shot, then touching a little above that, repeat. All in all I could take photos from front of scene to back in 5 shots, then for the final photo I stopped right down to f22 (aiming for sunstars), dropped the exposure by 2 stops and took a final shot clicking on the horizon to capture detail in the brightest parts of the photograph.

Here is the series of photos I ended up with, the first photo is the completed image. Then there are 5 photos used for focus stacking, and the final f22 exposure that was used to bring some sky detail back (the exposure is adjusted here, it was captured 2 stops darker)  :

Display of the selection of photographs used for focus stacking with my olympus omd em5 mark ii as well as for exposure blending.

To post process all of this I started in Adobe Camera Raw. Working on the first image of the focus stack, I made my initial adjustments and then synchronised those settings to the other 4 in the focus stack. For the photo where I was only going to use the sky, I made some specific adjustments relating to that, as well as adjusting the overall exposure so it was very close to the other photographs, I find this helps with blending.

Next I brought everything into Photoshop. I put all the images for stacking into layers of one photograph, auto align, then auto blend > stacking. This gave me a base photo with everything tack sharp front to back, first success!. I then created some bright luminosity masks, selected one that would allow me to merge in the highlights with detail from the f22 photo, and did the blending. I now had a perfect starting photograph, all of my testing this morning had given me the results I wanted to achieve.

From there I went through my normal post processing, which is to use some curves for local contrast adjustments, then take the image into Nik Filters for some final polishing.

Here is the final photograph in detail, I think you’ll agree the results are great, the realism is still there, I’ve been able to get everything tack sharp which is always a challenge, and I have detail in both shadows and highlights where I want them, a success for me!

A beautiful sunrise at Redbank near Ipswich, Queensland, Australia. The sun is just peaking through the trees, illuminating the grass on the rolling hills and lighting up the clouds and sky with amazing colour.

Now it’s possible to get this all in one photograph, and in fact I did. But I’ve found the highlights aren’t quite as detailed, the over all image required a lot more sharpening and noise reduction, hurting the details somewhat. However, I like to enter photographic competitions, and a lot of them don’t allow the techniques used here, so I always endeavour to capture a single image photo as well and keep that just for those times where I wish to use it in a competition. This one, using stacking and blending, is perfect for printing, in fact I’ll be doing that today and adding this to my personal photo wall.

I’m now confident that next landscape photo I take, I can replicate the process with ease and get the results I want. It pays to practice!

I hope this post has given you some ideas, it’s important to experiment, have those practice sessions where there is no pressure, see what works, see what doesn’t (I won’t bother with f22 next time, the nice stars that were over the ground lost so much detail from diffraction I couldn’t use it).

If you want to learn more regarding exposure blending, I highly recommend watching Jimmy McIntyre’s free videos over at http://www.shutterevolve.com/ and if you use Olympus, your manual has very good information on focus bracketing and the Em1 series can focus stack in camera (I do prefer to do it after the fact in Photoshop, more control). Feel free to ask any questions you have and I’ll endeavour to see how I can help.

Be sure to visit regularly, follow me on Facebook or Twitter where I’ll post links to each new blog post as it happens, also follow me on Instagram where I post up my photographs, and My Story will have lots of behind the scenes photos and videos.



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