Tag: valley

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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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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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 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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