Tag: amazing

The stunning core of the milky way rises over this magnificent old steam train near Rosewood not far from Ipswich, Queensland, Australia by Landscape, Weather and Storm photographer Murray Fox

Train Core

With another winters blast coming through in the last few days, moon set around sunset, and no light from the moon regardless, right now is the absolutely perfect time for astro photography this week.

As mentioned in my earlier blog post, I wanted to head back to the steam trains and see if I could capture a photograph with the core of the Milky Way over them. This turned out the be much more of a challenge than I first envisaged.

To start with, it’s actually a bit late in the season to shoot the core facing east now (which is the direction I have to face for this photo). As soon as dark night starts at around 6:30pm, the core is almost 60degrees up, very high and not as vertical as I was hoping. The next big problem, literally, is the size of these engines. Even with my widest angle lens I could not get even half of a train in vertical format, what to do what to do. I could try a panorama, but I was light painting the train, it would be very hard to get the same light between shots.

So I decided I’ll have to do some magic back on the computer to really bring it all together. What I ended up capturing was a vertorama, or vertical panorama. With the camera in horizontal orientation, I took a photo of the train, light painting it. I then took another photo with the camera in the same position for the stars behind. I then tilted the camera up, took another star shot and did this 2 more times. So I ended up with 5 photographs. It’s always a bit nerve racking to capture photos this way as you can’t see the end result. I knew I had a good shot of the train. I knew I had a good shot of the core, but would it all blend and stitch together, only time on the PC would tell.

Back on the computer it was time to get to work. I edited the light painted train photo first, getting it how I wanted. I then edited the photo of the core to get that right, and synced it’s settings to the other star photographs. I then took the light painted photo, and the corresponding star photo into Photoshop and using masks, merged the two together. This is basically putting one photo on top of the other, and then painting in around the train to reveal the light paining. I really like this process, it’s almost like I’m an artist working with a brush. Finally this photo was saved down and then all the photos stitched together into a panorama. The stitching worked perfectly, those trees left and right were a god send helping the software work out where each image started.

From there its my usual polish and creativity with contrast and colour to get this end result :

The stunning core of the milky way rises over this magnificent old steam train near Rosewood not far from Ipswich, Queensland, Australia by Landscape, Weather and Storm photographer Murray Fox
Olympus OMD Em5.2, 12-40mm Pro, 5 images stitched and stacked.

I’ve added this photograph to my Nightscape Gallery.

For camera settings, for the light painting photo, ISO 400, F2.8, shutter locked open for around 2 minutes as I painted the train with my torch. For the star photos, ISO 2000 (I’m facing Ipswich in this direction so couldn’t get higher), F2.8, 15 seconds per photograph.

Thank you for reading. I’ll be out and about a fair few nights this coming week getting more astro photos, I can’t wait to share them with you. I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments by posting below.

Here is a list of the gear I use. These are affiliate links, by following them and making a purchase you help support my photography at no extra cost to yourself.

* Camera : Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk II Body Only – Silver
* Canon FD to M43rd Adapter : K&F Concept Lens Mount Adapter for Canon FD Lens to Micro 4/3 Cameras
* My Goto Landscape Lens : Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 12-40mm f2.8 PRO Black Len
* My Favourite Tripod : ZOMEi Z818C Carbon Fiber Camera Tripod With Quick Release Plate and Ball Head (Blue)
* Best Budget Filters Ever : Zomei 10 in 1 Square Z-PRO Series Filter Kit
* Best Budget Portrait Lens Made! : Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 45mm F1.8 (Black) Lens
* The Perfect Walkaround Lens : Panasonic 20mm F/1.7 Pancake Lens
* A great CPL for your 12-40mm : Manfrotto MFESSCPL-62 62 mm Essential Circular Polarizer Filter
* The Best Aftermarket Battery Kit : DSTE 2X BLN-1 Battery + DC133 Travel and Car Charger Adapter

All of my photographs are available for purchase as Fine Art Prints in A2 and A3 size, as well as ready to hang Canvas Prints. Just contact me for pricing.

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An absolutely stunning photograph of the rolling hills of Marburg surrounded by fog and amazing sunlight beaming through as views from upon high near Ipswich Queensland Australia by Award Winning Australian Landscape and Weather Storm Photographer Murray Fox

Fun in the Fog

Its been quite a while since I’ve had a real run and gun photography morning.

My inital plan went completely out the window when I woke up at 4:30am and realised two things. First was the radar was showing lots of cloud off the coast that would block any early light from the sunrise and second, I couldn’t see across the road because of the fog that had developed through the night! Rain the day before and a perfect temperature night mean that huge areas were covered in low lying fog.

I had to formulate a new plan. I now wasn’t worried about getting to a location an hour before sunrise. I was worried the sun would have to get too far into the sky to make it over the clouds at sea before the fog started to lift. My photo from my last blog post had me inspired to try an new perspective on the landscape, from a high vantage point, and I knew just the location. My only concern  was, I’d never been there before! It was near a couple of other spots I did know about so I figured if plan A failed, I had alternatives.

A 30 minute run from home found me making my way along the most incredible ridge line. There is enough room for maybe a house each side of the dirt road, before the land falls away completely down to the valley floor below. What an amazing spot and I’m kicking myself for never being here before. The fog was pooling between the hills in the valleys, absolutely perfectly what I wanted. I tried a few different shots before the sun came up, I really liked this one for the crepuscular rays that were beaming over those annoying high clouds at the coast. Not sure what had gone on with the grass here, kinda wondering if some cows might have been taken by aliens given the “crop circle” in front of me.

Beautiful Crepuscular Rays over the rolling hills of Marburg in Ipswich Queensland as the fog nestles in the valleys, viewed from an amazing height in Queensland Australia by Award Winning Australian Landscape Photographer Murray Fox
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, 12-40mm, 1/320 Sec, F/7.1, ISO 200, 2 Stop ND Grad Filter

Want I really wanted however was that sun to break through the clouds and throw some light on the landscape below. I figured if I could keep the sun just out side of the frame I could get a nice angled back lit situation with amazing contrast. Well I didn’t have to wait too long before the sun did finally break through. The unfortunate part was that the beautiful colour wasn’t showing up the way I wanted. So hatching a plan, I decided to really zoom in on the landscape below, isolating the hills and the fog, almost removing the sky, and putting my camera into black and white mode, I can also add a tint. I tried a red/orange tint for warm light but it just didn’t work, going the other way I went with a cool tone (touch of blue) and really liked the results. These settings make no difference to the final photograph as I shoot in Raw and can develop the photograph any way I like. However it really does help you visualise in the field in that moment, what you are shooting for and lets you get your settings just right. This photo took all of 2 minutes to edit, really just convert to black and white, adjust the highlights and shadows to where I wanted them, and then add just a small amount of blue to the shadows in split toning. Done, and this is now one of my most favourite fog photographs ever! Running a print of this today and it’s going straight on the wall. Let me know in the comments below what you think.

An absolutely stunning photograph of the rolling hills of Marburg surrounded by fog and amazing sunlight beaming through as views from upon high near Ipswich Queensland Australia by Award Winning Australian Landscape and Weather Storm Photographer Murray Fox
1/400 sec, ISO 200, F/8 @ 40mm

Finally finishing up on the ridge line, I knew my morning wasn’t quite over yet. It was time to run and gun. This is really simple. Drive around in amazing light and fog conditions until something grabs your eye, and STOP! If something gets your attention, no matter how small, how trivial, my rule is I have to get out and take a photograph. Well, in the next 40 minutes I stopped 8 times, and got 2 photographs I really liked. That is pure bonus for me as I knew I already had shots in the bag from the morning.

The first one I really liked has a detail that is really hard to see see unless you see the photograph up large, and I like that. It means only a few people will ever see that in person, those that see a print of mine, or who purchase a print. It’s not a dramatic photograph, it’s very simplistic. A tree, in a field, with the sun glowing through the fog behind. The detail I love, all that grass in front, is absolutely littered with circular shaped spider webs glistening with dew! I don’t know what type of spider, I’ll have to look into it because I’ve seen this a few times, but it looks amazing when you realise what it is.

A lone tree sits surrounded by glowing orange sunlight in the early morning fog at Marburg Ipswich Queensland Australia as the foreground is littered with dozens of spider webs glistening with dew by Award winning Australian landscape and weather storm photographer Murray Fox
1/2500 sec, ISO 200, F/8

This next photograph shows why I have that rule of you absolutely positively must stop and take a photograph. I only caught the very briefest of glimpses of this scene as I drove past. In fact I’d driven past it twice already that morning and not noticed it because it was set back quite a distance from the road. Jumping out of the car and grabbing my camera I knew I would need to zoom right in as far as I could for this one, as there didn’t appear to be any way to get closer (tip: I leave my camera mounted to my tripod on the back seat, I don’t have any concerns of it falling off as Olympus gear is just so light, this means I can be out and shooting in 5 seconds, also very handy when chasing storms). The benefit of this zooming in is all the elements of the scene get compressed together. The trees in front get closer to the Tower (as I’m calling it) and the hills behind get closer as well. I think this gives a nice intimate layering for this photograph. The sun was behind me and the colour, light and fog were just amazing.

Stunning beautiful early morning light bathes this rural barn and tower near Marburg Ipswich Queensland Australia as fog surrounds the scene. Captured by award winning Australian Landscape and Weather Storm photographer Murray Fox
1/200 sec, ISO 200, F/8.0

Finally it was time to pack up, what an amazing morning. Autumn is my favourite time of year for photography as there is just so much going on, from late season weather, to fog, to crystal clear nights for Astro, I suggest you get out now and get out often.

I really hope you enjoyed this weeks blog post as much as I enjoyed writing it for you. Can I suggest subscribing to my email list to receive occasional Tips, Ideas, News of Prints and Offers.



 

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A beautiful old tractor sits in the paddock as the core of the milky way lights up the sky above it near Kalbar and Boonah in the Scenic Rim of Queensland Australia south of Ipswich.

Kicking off Milkyway Season with a Bang!

With clear skies at night, not too cold and not too warm, conditions were absolutely perfect to chase some Milky Way photographs. It would mean a couple of late nights as the core only started to rise around 11pm, with peak time 1-2am however it certainly was worth it.

During the off season I’ve been watching a lot of videos and reading up on various techniques used by the best of the best when it comes to night time and astro photography. I had a head full of new ideas, which included changes to how I worked in the field capturing the images, as well as how I post processed the photos back on the computer.

Now I’ll be very up front about this, none of these photographs are a single image. It’s possible to do, however I don’t believe you can get the quality of file, increase of detail and control of noise in a single image, that you can get with multiple exposures. Some people get their knickers in a knot if it isn’t a single photograph, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. My simple goal was to create an image of the vision in my head, using any tools and methods I could.

I met up with a very good friend and we decided to head south of Ipswich towards the rural farming areas. I knew of a couple of barns and other items that could make for a very interesting foreground, and hopefully would line up with the Milky Way behind them. I simply cannot pick which photograph is my favourite.

First stop was a barn and god was with us as it was full to the brim of bales. The sky here is so dark you can easily see the Milky Way with your eyes and that makes framing a since. I setup my gear, firmly locked down my tripod and focused on the stars (Olympus is amazing in that you can use focus peaking on the stars, just pick a bright one and it’s done). I proceeded to capture 8 photographs at ISO 5000, F/2.8, 15 seconds per exposure, at 12mm (equivalent to 24mm on a full frame camera. The 15 seconds ensures no star movement for pinpoint lights. I really racked up the ISO as I knew I would be stacking in and that will significantly reduce noise.

Once the sky shots were done, the fun began. I switched my camera to Live Composite mode, dropped the ISO to 400 for a lot cleaner file, and let it start. I used a torch to light paint the barn, first from the left side until the exposure was where I wanted it, then added a little fill from the right to soften the shadows.

All of this was stacked, blended, merged etc in Photoshop, there are some great videos on youtube about how to do this. And here is the final result!

An amazing night time photograph of a barn full of hay bales, beautiful illuminated with the core of the milky way rising behind it near Kalbar and Boonah in the Scenic Rim of Queensland Australia south of Ipswich.
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, 12-40mm Pro, Multiple Exposures

Next we moved on down the road to where I had previously seen a tractor. Not knowing it was still there, I was very thankful I had spotlights on my 4wd to help light up the sides of the road, otherwise I may have missed it.

For this photograph the techniques used on the barn would be the same. This time I had to set the camera lower and closer, trying to fill the frame with as much of the tractor as possible, but still allowing room for the Milky Way around it. We could hear a pump running out in the field and before long, the Farmer who owns this land was out on his bike in the dark (stuffed if I know how he didn’t hit something!) checking his sprayers. He dropped over to say G’day (and check what we were doing). He was off to bed for a few hours nap before getting up to check the sprayers again. Life can be gruelling for a farmer, they all have my utmost respect.

Again, I captured 8 images for the sky and one light painted one for the tractor and ground. I always recommend painting from both sides to even out the light a little.

A beautiful old tractor sits in the paddock as the core of the milky way lights up the sky above it near Kalbar and Boonah in the Scenic Rim of Queensland Australia south of Ipswich.
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, 12-40mm Pro, Multiple Exposures

There was one more photograph I had envisaged to capture before heading out this night, and that was of some beautiful crop lights with the Milky Way over them. Unfortunately it looks like I missed out by one day as all the fields had been just harvested. I’ll just have to wait until later in the season to get that photograph. So instead we took a drive back into Peaks Crossing where you have a clear view of Flinders Peak to the east. By this time (2am) the core was at a nice height in the sky. Again I captured 8 images to stack for the sky, and used my torch to paint in the foreground. On a clear night light this, if you are staying in an area with pretty much the same light pollution levels, you rarely need to change your settings, allowing you to spend much more time on the important things like composition and spooking yourself in the dark.

A stunning view of the core of the milky way as it rises over Flinders Peak near Peak Crossing in the Scenic Rim south of Ipswich, Queensland, Australia
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, 12-40mm Pro, Multiple Exposures

Finally as a bonus, I had headed out the night before this to South Ripley to do a test run of my settings, post techniques etc. I captured this photograph. I think it’s came out a bit dark, ISO used for the sky was 3200, which is why I upped to 5000 for the next night. Practice pays.

A beautiful clear night at South Ripley, near Ipswich Queensland Australia as the core of the milky way rises over the farmland.
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark 2, 12-40mm Pro, Multiple Exposures

As the season progresses, I’ll be doing a lot more astro photography. Thank you for reading.

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An amazing lighting bolt strikes the ground on the leading edge of a huge storm system at Redbank Plains near Ipswich Queensland Australia before it moved on to Brisbane causing widespread damage and blackouts.

Massive storm Redbank Plains to Brisbane 11/02/18

All I can say is wow! I’d been watching the forecasts and predictions all week, Sunday was looking promising for some late afternoon storm action. The day was very hot but also had very low humidity, none of the usual forecast websites were warning anything tho so I wasn’t getting my hopes up.

Come the afternoon, bits and pieces of weather were coming down off the range to the south west, with most of the action over the border ranges in NSW. I still wasn’t expecting anything. By around 5pm things looked to be getting a little more organised so I headed to a local spot and met up with Bobby from Mr S Photography (search for him on facebook, great photographer). It was right about this time the storm very suddenly gained structure, and made what appeared to be a right turn and came directly at us.

The sun was setting to the west, throwing some amazing light across the landscape. The wall front was so big, I had to use 7 photos at 12mm (equivalent to 24mm on a full frame camera) just to capture the entire front. Settings on manual, ISO 100, F11 to help get a longer shutter speed and shutter at 1/2 a second. I fired off my shots and stitching the photos together on the computer came up with this amazing panorama.

An amazing panorama of a huge storm wall cloud approaching Redbank Plains near Ipswich Queensland Australia on the 11th of February 2018 11/02/18 before it moved on to Brisbane.
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, Olympus 12-40mm pro lens. 7 vertical shots stitched

The storm at this point picked up some quite fast rotation and really started moving. It was no longer possible to capture the entire front so instead I focused on the leading edge to the east as that had the best structure. This time I turned on the live composite function in my Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II. This great piece of technology allows the camera to take a normal exposure at my settings, but it then keeps the shutter open and only adds new light to the base exposure. By running this in 10-20 second bursts, I could keep detail in the moving cloud, but easily capture this huge lightning bolt as it struck the ground.

One of my best storm photographs to date, this ended up on several media websites as well as making page 5 of the Courier Mail.

An amazing lighting bolt strikes the ground on the leading edge of a huge storm system at Redbank Plains near Ipswich Queensland Australia before it moved on to Brisbane causing widespread damage and blackouts.
OMD Em5 Mark II, ISO 100, F8, 1/2 sec, Live Composite, run time 8 seconds.

Very quickly after this we had no choice but to leave. We tried to get a head of it by heading towards the river, however even travelling at 100kph on the highway, this storm now outpaced us and it was a quick wet drive back home, and sit and wait for over an hour for the system to pass.

Make sure you subscribe to receive occasional Tips, Ideas, News of Prints and Offers, and find out when my next photo in a project is released!



 

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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