Tag: color

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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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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An amazing landscape panorama photograph of the hut in Glen Rock state forrest, east Haldon, Lockyear Valley, Queensland, Australia as the sunsets, painting orange colour and light across the peak.

Went Exploring, found Gold!

This would have to be one of the best afternoons I’ve had in photography for quite a while. I didn’t really have any fixed plan. I knew of a spot with a cool looking hut that I thought might be okay, if the weather played ball. Unfortunately it looked like there was going to be lots of cloud towards the horizon at sunset, so I wasn’t feeling hopeful and notched this down to just an exploration day.

There are a few lines of mountains that run north/south as you approach the Great Dividing Range. Some of these have valleys between them with access. It was one such valley I headed for. On the way in, the peaks started appearing. This one caught my eye so I quickly pulled a u-turn and captured this shot. It’s nothing amazing, but the diffused light on the hill was really illuminating the brighter parts, contrasting against the darker sky.

A peak rises next to East Haldon valley, south of Gatton in the Lockyear Valley of Queensland Australia as the light plays across the face in the beautiful landscape photograph.
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, Panasonic 20mm @ f/5.6, ISO 200, 1/640 sec

Heading right up the the end of the Valley I found the hut I was looking for. It’s actually an information centre for the area (not manned) and there is a nice campground across the way, I definitely will be back here in winter astro season, the landscapes around here are fantastic. For this next photograph I thought I’d try a fun technique. I don’t have what is called an Ultra wide angle lens. The widest mine go is 12mm on Micro Four Thirds which is equivalent to 24mm on a full frame camera. Pretty wide, but it’s certainly not ultra wide. Ultra wide lenses make objects very close to them appear very big, and objects further away very small. This is used to great effect by a lot of landscape photographers. To achieve a similar effect, I used a Panasonic 20mm prime lens (equivalent to 40mm) and took a 3×3 grid of photographs starting point almost straight down to well up into the sky, with good overlap side to side and up and down. Make sure you have your camera in full manual exposure mode so nothing changes. I set the exposure with the camera aimed at the brightest part of the scene, and leave it fixed there.

Focusing is also important with this technique. I was very close to the front fence, and that peak is off in the distance. I also was using a very normal lens. It’s physically impossible to get everything sharp in one shot for the framing I had. So I simply used autofocus, set the focus point to centre, stopped down a bit. Each shot focused at the prime position and not only does stitching the photos together create one big, ultra wide angle looking photograph, it also has the effect of focus stacking the images as well for front to back sharpness.

Now, yes, this is a lot of work you may say, and what if something moves, then it won’t work. It took all of 30 seconds to capture the images, and it took 5 minutes in Photoshop to join them. The wind was blowing quite strongly and I can’t see any stitching errors. I also ended up with the equivalent of a 60+mp photograph which is awesome 🙂 I think I’ll be using this technique a lot more often until I can get my hands on an UWA lens.

The information centre hut at east haldon in the glen rock state forrest. Awesome hut with the mountain peak behind in this beautiful landscape photograph
9 photographs in a 3×3 grid stitched. ISO 200, f/8.0, 1/100 sec

Next was time to wait a bit. I was here to try and capture this hut at sunset with the peak behind. Unfortunately the trees were not letting me get the angle I was initially thinking of. I spent a good 40 minutes walking around with my phone, taking shots from various locations and I kept coming back to a wider view of the shack and the peak. So I settled on trying to create a 3:1 panorama photo. This will need around 6 shots with the camera in vertical position. I kept the Panasonic 20mm lens on, it has almost no distortion, and is so sharp. This lens is just awesome for panoramas on my Olympus, just keep an eye out for chromatic aberration in really high contrast areas.

So I setup the tripod, made sure it was 100% level, took a few test runs and then just waited…and waited…and waited….I was beginning to worry nothing really would happen. The sun had already gone behind the mountains behind me, clouds were streaming across, and the wind was picking up again. Right through golden hour I got nothing, the light was just flat. And then literally the moment of sunset, something west of me must have cleared and this amazing light hit the peak behind the shack, also bouncing off the clouds and lighting up the whole scene. I captured my 6 shots as quickly as I could while making sure everything was in sharp focus (let your tripod settle a few seconds after each camera movement). I got two runs at it and then incredibly the light was gone! I worked out looking at my photos it lasted a total of 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Wow…it really proved to me preparation is king.

An amazing landscape panorama photograph of the hut in Glen Rock state forrest, east Haldon, Lockyear Valley, Queensland, Australia as the sunsets, painting orange colour and light across the peak.
6 Vertical Photo Panorama, ISO 200, f/8.0, 1/30 sec

I hung around for another 10 or so minutes but it was becoming obvious that there wouldn’t be a second run of light. I packed up my gear and started to make the couple of hour drive back home. As I went past a local pecan farm, I spotted a water tower in amongst the tall trees. It was getting very dark, but I make it a habit, if something catches my eye, go back and look and take a photo, whether you like it or not. I changed to my Olympus 12-40mm pro lens, quickly setup the tripod and went for the vertical composition. I really just liked the height of everything and the contrast of the water tank to the pecan trees. A bit of fun in editing with the colours and this has to be one of my most favourite Instagram type of photographs I’ve captured. This will be going up on my photo wall for sure.

A great looking raised water tower stands between the rows of Pecan Trees near Gatton in the Lockyear valley, Queensland, Australia, Landscape Photography
ISO 200, f/8.0, 6 seconds

After capturing this photograph, I remembered a collection of structures further up the road I had passed on the way in. I was thinking if there was still enough light I might be able to capture an interesting photograph with them. Coming to the location I had to shoot fast, and work out a composition. This is what I finally settled upon after trying wider and closer. I like the balance between the 3 structures, the low low light gave a bit of an ethereal feeling to the scene, and the clouds still moving quite fast overhead blurred out quite nicely.

One thing I simply love about mirrorless cameras is having an EVF viewfinder. I managed to focus on the middle barn, in near darkness (exposures were out to 30 seconds) manually and could see 100% I had the focus nailed. The live view couldn’t even keep up, but boy, does that EVF with it’s auto gain and focus peaking really make it so easy in low light, absolutely love it. I cropped this to a 2:1 ratio to give a nice balance to the scene.

3 structures in the twilight at Haldon south of Gatton in the Lockyear Vally, Queensland, Australia making for a wonderfully peaceful landscape photograph.
ISO 200, f/9.0, 30 seconds

It pays to get out and visit new areas. It also doesn’t hurt when mother nature decides to play ball and throw some great light around. I’m going to be exploring more of the back valleys and roads, to find more of those little gem locations that mostly only locals know about.

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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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Beautiful star trail over Lake Moogerah in the Scenic Rim of Queensland Australia with great colour from the last of sunset and blue hour over the mountains.

Early evening star trails over Lake Moogerah

At a recent meet up with the great folks from Scenic Rim Photo Walks I hung around after sunset to capture this great photograph.

Beautiful star trail over Lake Moogerah in the Scenic Rim of Queensland Australia with great colour from the last of sunset and blue hour over the mountains.

To capture this photograph was actually quite simple thanks to the great technology in my Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II camera. I framed up the photograph in portrait orientation. I set the aperture to f/5.6 for good depth of field, and set the ISO at 400. I’ve found this to be the perfect ISO for my camera at night time where I want to keep detail/colour in the stars during trails.

Next I enabled the Live Composite function of my camera. This awesome feature will capture a photograph at your set exposure, and then update that exposure with only new light every time the shutter speed is reached. So for this one I set the shutter at 10 seconds. So every 10 seconds the camera updated the photo with only new light (in this case the stars), while keeping the rest of the exposure perfect. I ran this for 30 minutes and loved the final result.

Starting the composite when I did while there was still a touch of colour in the sky worked out great, it’s the first time I’ve tried that. The stars also retained some great colour as they trailed, and I even managed to capture a couple of meteorites as seen on this zoomed in view.


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A stunning sunset over Lake Moogerah in the Scenic Rim of Queensland Australia. This panorama shows the beautiful wide view of the dead trees in the water, with Mt Greville looming in the background. The sky is full of colour and the ripples of the water reflects this wonderfully.

Lake Moogerah Sunset Panorama

G’Day everyone. With the family all off to see Mamma Mia the musical, I ended up with a free afternoon. There was a meetup for the Scenic Rim Photo Walks group at Lake Moogerah, so all the gear was packed and off I set for the hours drive south to the dam.

It was a very hot and warm day, many people were taking advantage of the lake with jet skiers and water skiers zipping around. The clouds was starting to look very good as sunset approach, but the wind in the main part of the lake was still very strong, it didn’t look like I was going to get one of those perfect reflections.



I decided to head around to the southern part of the lake as it appeared the wind was a little less strong there. Driving down to the waters edge it looked like I was right, it wasn’t a mirror finish, but the ripples were nice and I figured that if there was colour for sunset, this could work.

I walked the shoreline trying to visualise for a panorama, not something I do often so its a little hard to get your head around. I ended up using my phone to take photos, and then crop them in phone to a rough 3:1 aspect ratio to help work out my composition. There were two stumps close to shore, I liked those and wanted them as my foreground interest. Two sets of taller trees on each side of the mountain could work as a nice framing element. After about 20 minutes of moving around I settled on my spot.

I had my tripod as low as it could go, I also had the camera mounted on a nodal point setup in portrait orientation. This basically allows the camera to rotate around the best part of the lens, so when you get back to stitching together the shots, you have very minimal loss of pixels, worked out great. The hardest part is to make sure your tripod is dead level.

I zoomed in to 34mm on my Olympus 12-40mm pro (equivalent to 68mm on a full frame camera). I wanted to bring all the elements of the scene closer to each other. When you are standing there, that mountain really looms over you and with a wide angle, that feeling would have been lost. I put the camera in full manual mode, ISO at my lowest which is 200, Aperture at F9 which gave me just enough depth of field being zoomed in (take a few test shots and check the sharpness on the back of the camera to get this right). I was also going to bracket my exposures as with such a high peak, using a filter would have darkened it down too much for my liking. My camera is the Olympus OMD, Em5 Mark II.

Now it was just a matter of sitting back and waiting. Sunset here in South East Queensland Australia can be a very funny thing, you will get waves of colours and just when you think it’s all over, another blast comes through. After witnessing at least 2 bursts of colour that didn’t light up the scene well, I thought this may end up a dud sunset, but I knew I something could happen so I just waited.

Suddenly the cloud to the right started getting a hint of red, and within 30 seconds it was glowing. I took my shots from right to left (starting where best colour was). 6 vertical shots overall to capture the width of the scene I wanted, 3 exposures for each shot at metered exposure, 2 stops under and 2 stops over. I ditched the underexposed photos as my metered captured the sky perfectly. Here are the final 12 exposures I would work with.

These are the initial exposures I will use to blend, stitch and then post process to create my Moogerah Sunset Panorama.

The colour finally finished so I made my way back to the day use area to meet back up with the group. I captured a great star trail shot which I’ll share up next week with the details on that one.

Post processing this image was going to be a lot of work and I actually had several goes at it. I finally decided to exposure blend the metered photo and the 2 stop over exposed photo from each shot, to bring back some of the detail in the darker parts of the middle ground. This involved taking both photos into Photoshop and using luminosity masks to blend. I finally ended up with these 6 photos ready for stitching to a panorama and then post processing.

These are the photos I will stitch together and then post process to create my Moogerah Sunset Panorama

Now the post processing begins. I created the panorama in Photoshop and then began my adjustments. I did some colour correction to get the colours to where I remembered them. I then used Nik filters to boost the contrast and colours. A final round of sharpening and I was very happy with the result. The final image ended up at 40inches wide at 300dpi, I’ll certainly be able to print this very big.

A stunning sunset over Lake Moogerah in the Scenic Rim of Queensland Australia. This panorama shows the beautiful wide view of the dead trees in the water, with Mt Greville looming in the background. The sky is full of colour and the ripples of the water reflects this wonderfully.

I really enjoyed the process of capturing this panorama, and I’m starting to learn how to visualise the shot. I’m looking forward to repeating this process more this year, keep an eye out!

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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.

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