Tag: grass

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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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 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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