Tag: photography

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.

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Absolutely amazing colours of dawn over Mt Walker south of Ipswich and Rosewood in South East Queensland Australia by Landscape, Weather and Storm photographer Murray Fox

Chasing Earths Shadow – Mt Walker Dawn

Winter is finally here in Queensland and it’s off to a great start. Temperatures around home have plummeted at night, reaching sub zero and everyone is breaking out the blankets and stoking the fires.

It also means that there is a complete lack of cloud, which, for a landscape photographer, can be rather annoying. However, there are always other options. Anyone seeing any of the sunsets lately would have seen the wonderful deep orange glow across the horizon to the west as the sun dips down. If you turn around, you’ll see wonderful pinks and purples of the reverse sunset that gradually fade as the blue lifts up from the east and night approaches.

This I call earths shadow, and the best part is, it happens at sunrise as well! During the 10-15 minutes before sunrise, the sky to the west will have amazing colour. In fact, you’ll have 360 colour with the shades changing depending on which direction you face.

I headed out this morning hoping the temps had gotten low enough to create some frost around, but the humidity was too high and I would have had to travel several hours further to get the good frosts. That humidity however, created some wonderful fog around the low lying areas. Knowing just he spot that might work for both earths shadow, and fog, I made my way towards Mt Walker.

I’ve photographed an astro photo here previously and with everything looking brown and gold (and in much need of rain!) those purples, pinks and blues turned out to be an amazing contrast to the scene. This was taken around 5 minutes before the sun actually rose, looking south west. To the west of me was much more pink and orange and I’ll be heading out again tomorrow to see if I can get those colours with another great scene.

Captured with my Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, the Olympus 12-40mm Pro lens. I zoomed into 40mm (80mm equivalent on a full frame camera) to compress the scene, bringing Mt Walker closer to the water. I then used a Lee 2 stop hard grad filter to control the brightness in the sky and ensure I captured the colour. Finally I added a polarising filter to cut glare and really make those colours pop.

Absolutely amazing colours of dawn over Mt Walker south of Ipswich and Rosewood in South East Queensland Australia by Landscape, Weather and Storm photographer Murray Fox
ISO 200, f/5.6, 0.5 sec, 2 stop ND Grad, Polariser

I’ve added this photograph to my Landscape Gallery, be sure to check out my other images. I hope to have some film developed and scanned in the next week or so, can’t wait to see the results. Visit again to keep up to date with my latest blog posts and can I suggest subscribing to my email list to receive occasional Tips, Ideas, News of Prints and Offers.



 

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An amazing view of the core of the milky way rising over a windmill in the rural countryside near Ipswich Queensland Australia as captured by Award winning Landscape storm and weather photographer Murray Fox

Windmill Core

The moon has gone again this weekend and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky for 300ks. The temperature was forecast to be the lowest so far this year (around 5 degrees C in town, more like 2 degrees in the countryside). It looked like a perfect night for some more astro photography. With a slight breeze, everything stayed perfectly dry, no condensation whatsoever.

I caught up with my friend and after packing a few supplies (Picnic chocolate bars and Ice Coffee…yes Ice lol!) we headed out to a location I knew, but had not visited recently. I had word that a new windmill had been erected here and it looked like it was going to be in good alignment with the rising core of the Milkyway. With Mt Walker to the east of it, I thought I could get a really nice backdrop.

Arriving on sight we spent 10 minutes walking around looking at the angles. We noticed that we had a couple of problems to deal with. The first one as the core was not north enough to really put Mt Walker into the framing I wanted with the angle of lens I was using. The big one was the head of the windmill was facing almost due south, making it extremely hard to get a good view of it, and the core.

You can see from this first photograph the layout of the scene and one of my first attempts at seeing what result I could get. Mt Walker is to the left and there just wasn’t a workable angle.

A great view of Mt Walker at night with the core of the milky way rising over a windmill in this pure Australian Night time landscape photograph captured near Ipswich Queensland Australia by Award winning landscape weather storm photographer Murray Fox
Olympus OMD Em5 Mark II, 12-40mm Pro, F/2.8, 15 seconds, ISO 5000

Never one to give up, and we had a good hour window of shooting before the core was too high in the scene. I kept moving around working angles. Around 80 photos later (and they are all long exposures) I found I really liked this composition. Going vertical to really show the height of the Windmill, the core almost comes blasting out of it. And to top it off there were meteorites regularly dropping across they sky.

The peak of those is next weekend, it was great to see some real fireballs this night. I switched to a 20mm f.17 prime lens for this shot allowing a shorter shutter time (less noise) and a wider aperture (more light). This more zoomed in lens also enlarges the size of the core compared to the foreground, really bringing it into view. This also really captured the colours in the stars. The windmill and ground were illuminated with a torch my friend held to the side of the scene, painting over it with very quick movements. The slight breeze was enough to cause the windmill to turn, and I like the blurring effect during the long exposure, gives a nice sense of movement. The flat top of Mt Walker in the background is just enough in frame here to add some interest and give a sense of location.

An amazing view of the core of the milky way rising over a windmill in the rural countryside near Ipswich Queensland Australia as captured by Award winning Landscape storm and weather photographer Murray Fox
ISO 3200, 8 seconds, 20mm, F/1.7

This photograph has been added to my Astro Nightscapes gallery, really flowing well with my recent captures.

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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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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Lubitel 166 Universal Murray Fox film photography landscape fomapan ektar 200 100 australia queensland

Ramblings – Exploring Film

Over the last year or so I’ve been playing around with film, in black and white which is the cheapest option I’ve found as I can develop at home quite easily.

It’s surprisingly a bit of a learning process. Digital cameras these days make life so much easier. My Olympus has live view in the view finder, will show me under and over exposed areas in real time, with a histogram overlay so getting exposure wrong is pretty much impossible. I’ve shot in RAW format for years which means every photo has to be post processed to bring back the contrast and colour and tweak it to show what I want to represent. I spend more time in front of the computer than behind the camera for sure, and I enjoy that process.

With film I’ve found I have to really slow down. Are my settings correct? Is my exposure right? I’ve had to re-learn measure exposure all over again. Every click of the shutter costs real money so you are double and triple checking every step, and also really considering the photograph, is it worth taking? It’s quite enjoyable and I find the results very rewarding.

I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at photographs I really enjoy, landscapes that inspire me, works that draw me in, and something I’ve discovered is the majority of those photos have been captured on film, and on large film to be precise. My recent trip to visit my family on the Central Coast of NSW saw me drop in to Ken Duncan’s Gallery (again!) and really spend some time viewing and looking at his works. They are printed big, on beautiful hahnemuhle paper, and framed wonderfully. These are the types of photographs I love. And it’s really interesting, you can spot the digital photographs he has taken with his awesome digital medium format cameras a mile away, they are sharp as a tack, amazing detail, but I kept leaning towards the photographs captured on film. They have a bit more glow, are usually a longer exposure, some of the details aren’t quite as sharp, you can see where the exposure had to be nailed to get it right at point of capture. And the colours..film has colours I don’t think digital can reproduce, they are just stunning.

I have two film cameras at the moment. A lovely Olympus Trip 35 point and shoot style 35mm camera that I generally load with black and white and use for street style photography or family snaps. It’s almost set and forget, just pick a focus zone and don’t worry about exposure, it nails it every time, yes, every single time, it’s an amazing piece of kit.

Olympus Trip 35 Film camera Murray Fox Australia Queensland photography
All that stuff around the lens measures the exposure, and powers the camera, no batteries here!

My next camera is a new purchase, a Russian made Lubitel 166 Universal. This is a twin lens reflex (TLR) medium format 120 film camera. It’s extremely simple and extremely manual in use, creates either a 6×6 or 6×4.5cm negative per photo (there is a mask you can change but you are looked into that option for each roll. You look down through the top to work out your composition, and use a little magnifying glass inside to get the focus correct.

 

Lubitel 166 Universal Murray Fox film photography landscape fomapan ektar 200 100 australia queensland
The cheapest medium format camera anywhere in the world, and gives great results when used right!

I’m working my way through a roll of black and white Fomapan 200 creative at the moment with this camera and absolutely loving the process. Working on a tripod (as I always do) getting the composition just right (the view is back to front so it makes you work for it!), measuring the exposure of the scene (I use a simple phone app), putting your settings in, cocking the shutter and then taking the photo. In 2 hours on the weekend I took two shots, total! And I loved it! The whole process of slowing down, really looking at the light of a scene, double checking exposure, framing, settings, and finally committing to the shot is really amazing to me.

My first roll is almost finished and this weekend I’m taking another little step in my film journey and shooting some Ektar 100 colour negative film. This is the modern landscape film of choice. Velvia 50 is what Ken Duncan uses a lot but it’s a lot harder and more expensive to use. The Ektar is very forgiving if you don’t quite get the exposure correctly and gives amazing colour and contrast. I’m really excited to see what results I can get from this film.

Medium format film, scanned in properly, will give a photograph file far larger than anything you can get from any DSLR digital camera, I’m talking hundreds of megapixels of data with a massive range of tones. I can scan a 35mm negative in at around 60mp, I can scan a 6×6 negative in at around 6 times that! The trick I use is I actually use my Olympus OMD Em5 MarkII digital camera, with a macro lens to take a photo of the negative, in hi res mode! Works startling well if you prep everything right.

All of this has me thinking about the next step in my photography. I really want to capture more landscapes with film, and I really want to have the full ability of selective choice in composition. I want big negatives that can give incredibly huge prints, I want the colours and tones that film gives with that beautiful fine grain. And I want bigger than 120 medium format! So now I’m saving, I’m working on getting a 4×5 field View Camera, a modern day version of what Ansel Adams used to use (although he was shooting bigger again with 8×10 I believe). A camera where it’s one shot per film, you need a dark cloth over you and the back of the camera just to compose, but you have the amazing ability to change the lens height, angle, swing for amazing depth of field, or custom focus bands. And a negative that is 4inch x 5inch in size, scanned size? @#%#@ huge!!

So I’m not quitting digital, I love my Olympus and it’ll be with me this weekend. But I’ll have the Lubitel and Olympus Trip with me as well, and they’ll be taking photos in a different way, it will be very interesting to see the results. I think film has a future in my work, some of the results that can be achieved with film are astonishing, and the process of slowing down, the time involved means more investment personally with every photograph taken. I look forward to a hybrid future of digital and analog.

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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.

News – My interview with Ipswich First is now live

Hi everyone, I’ve been away for a week visiting family, it was great to catch up with them. My parents live on the central coast of NSW, a beautiful part of the world. I didn’t do much photography during my visit, the weather really wasn’t playing ball. I did manage one sunset at a spot I’ve wanted to shoot for a while, colours were interesting, I’ll post process that photo on the weekend and share it up here for you all to enjoy. If it comes out well, I think it may end up on the wall at my folks place.

I recently did an interview for Ipswich First, an online website with news and interest articles for the area around where I live. The interview is regarding my storm photography and I share some of my work, some stories behind the photos, and some tips for people interested in capturing storm photographs.

You can read the full interview here : https://www.ipswichfirst.com.au/ipswich-weather-photographer-finds-hidden-gems/

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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 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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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.

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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.

So 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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