Tag: hills

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 beautiful big tree bathed in soft light at Flinders Plum near Ipswich Queensland Australia

Peaks and Creeks – Flinders Plum

Grey skies, drizzling rain, flat light, seemed like the perfect time to go for a hike at Flinders Plum up Sandy Creek. I’d been here once before on a workshop with the brilliant Nature photographer James Doyle. That was a great morning seeking out birds and other wildlife, however my plan this morning was to look for more landscape oriented photographs.

The drive in to this spot is almost an adventure in itself, a wonderful road that is dirt for the last section, winds its way alongside the creek, crossing it several times. I arrived at the end carpark around 6am, the sun was up but with so much cloud it didn’t matter, a slight drizzle of rain had set in, a light rain jacket took care of that and my Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, and 12-40mm pro lens are weather sealed so no issues there either.

Flinders Plum, as the carpark area is called, is the launching point for several walks in the area, the longest and most extreme being the walk to the summit of Flinders Peak. Today I was going to follow the track up Sandy Creek and see what I could find.

Before heading off, I just had to take a portrait of this tree right next to the carpark, it’s a beautiful big tree and the early soft light made it just look wonderful.

A beautiful big tree bathed in soft light at Flinders Plum near Ipswich Queensland Australia
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, Olympus 12-40mm Pro lens. ISO 200, f/8, 1/13 sec.

Next I headed off up the track that crosses Sandy Creek a few times along the way. I was definitely the first person through this way this morning judging by the amount of spider webs I kept walking into. Pro Tip, hold out your tripod in front of you when the path narrows! There was plenty of wildlife around with Roos and Wallabys hopping off into the bush as I approached and the calls of various birds echoing through the air.

Walking along the Sandy Creek track at Flinders Plum near Ipswich Queensland Australia in the Goolman Range
ISO 200, f/8, 1/30 sec

The first creek crossing I came too looked promising for a photograph, I scouted around a bit and carefully picked my way through the rocks to find this composition. I really liked how the trees were closing in over the creek. Running water would have been awesome but I think the area needs a lot more rain before that happens, something to keep in mind for the future however. I must note, the use of a polarising filter was critical on this day for remove reflections on the rocks, and leaves from that huge bright white light in the sky. It really brought out the colours and cut the glare.

A beautiful view up Sandy Creek at Flinders Plum in the Goolman Range near Ipswich Queensland Australia landscape photograph
ISO 200, f/8, 2.5 sec

Futher up the track I came across the old cattle yards. I looked around this area quite a while for a composition but due to a large amount of overgrowth I just wasn’t having luck this day. I decided to move on and around 10 minutes later I took a small detour off the main track to come across this lovely view south of the mighty Flinders Peak, the highest peak in the Teviot range.

A view through the trees of Flinders Peak in the Goolman range south of Ipswich Queensland Australia, landscape photography
ISO 200, f/8, 1/30 sec

Heading back to the main track I saw this wonderful view of Mt Goolman, shaped like a pyramid looming through the trees. This area is dotted with Bunya Pines which contrast against the typical aussie bush landscapes.

Mt Goolman through the trees in the Teviot range along Sandy Creek from Flinders Plum south of Ipswich Queensland Australia
ISO 200, f/8, 1/25 sec

By this time the rain was starting to pick up just a little and the wind had started to blow a bit stronger. I made my way back along the track to the carpark. I took one final detour down to the creek again at the start of the Mount Blaine track, looking downstream to another great creek scene with trees leaning in over the wonderful rock strewn bed.

The rocky creek bed of Sandy Creek at Flinders Plum in the Teviot range south of Ipswich Queensland Australia, intimate landscape photography
ISO 200, f/8, 1/2 sec

Finally it was time to sit down and relax and have a well deserved coffee. The picnic area here has all the facilities you could ever need including bbq’s and toilets, and great covered tables. All up my wandering took me 3 hours, it was a great start to the day and I’ll certainly be back to explore more. If you are ever in the area, I highly suggest making a trip out here, don’t forget your camera!

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Finding shelter against the impending storm, these cows may be in for a rough time. South East Queensland Australia is well known for it's storm season each summer, this system caused widespread flooding and hail damage.

I came 11th in the 2017 Australian Photographer of the Year – Landscape category

Well the results are out and I came 11th in the Landscape category in the 2017 Australian Photographer of the Year competition. Thats a huge result for my first attempt at this major competition run by Australian Photographic Magazine.

The winning entries are just amazing, and coming 11th in such prestigious company is fantastic motivation to keep pushing and improving my photography. 2018 is off to a great start and I look forward to sharing many more photographs with you.

I’d like to give a shout out to Olympus, all the photos were captured with my Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II camera and the amazing Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 pro lens. So small, portable, weather proof and the quality is brilliant. Thank you!

Here are the 4 Storm photos I submitted from my current portfolio, click on a photo to see it in full.

An amazing storm with stacked layers in the clouds looms over a barn illuminated by light with flinders peak mountain in the background. Captured Christmas day 2017 at Peaks Crossing between Ipswich and Boonah in South East Queenland Australia.

This photograph shows a storm cell hail core as it passes over the landscape of Ipswich Queensland Australia. This area is well known for amazing weather, storms and views.

As the wall of this storm rolls across the landscape, a solitary tree that has seen this all before, stands against the impending weather.

Finding shelter against the impending storm, these cows may be in for a rough time. South East Queensland Australia is well known for it's storm season each summer, this system caused widespread flooding and hail damage.

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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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