Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Great Ocean Rd, Another Ramble

Day One - Tuesday

Once again I'm on what is known locally as the GOR, the Great Ocean Road which stretches (arguably) from Torquay through to Point Nelson in the states west. Officially it's shorter than that but in reality it keeps going into South Australia for ages.

My goal this trip is to get shots of Wreck Beach that I'm happy with, I've never come away with shots that make me properly pleased with the results.

On Friday morning I'll be on the beach before dawn... but in the mean time I'm camped out at my usual base and trundling around exploring and shooting.

The setting sun highlights the amazing harsh coast line where the Southern Ocean slowly makes Australia smaller. Many ships were wrecked along this forbidding line of tall cliffs. This is shot from the end of one of the many dirt tracks that take the intrepid away from the bus loads of tourists and the city drivers who can't stand the idea of a dirt track. This view shows Lochard Gorge and the 12 Apostles (well about 8.5 of them) in the distance. f/16 1/13th of a second ISO 50 on a 50mm prime.

This is the same location as the previous shot but somewhat later after the sun had gone and with slightly different framing but the same 50mm lens f/16 30 seconds ISO 50. For best results keep your ISO low and expose for the surroundings. This long exposure really captures the might of the ocean as it slowly beats Australia into submission. Even sitting here in my van typing this blog I can hear the waves crashing on the beach over 1km away from me. The Southern Ocean is not to be trifled with. Even in calm weather like today these waves broke half way up the cliff.

Even after dark there are still shots to be had. This is a crop at 1:1 of a very small area of the image showing the sea mists back lit by the sky still slightly glowing from the setting sun. As +Lady Fran W put it this is like a pirate movie. I can see her point, you can almost expect the fulsom figure of the carved wooden maiden adorning the bow sprit of a tall ship to come into view as she rounds the rocks heading in for a secret rendezvous for the purposes of smuggling. 85mm f/16 13 seconds at ISO 125.

On reviewing my shots today I could see the results of coming here so many times. I shot only a few and of those I'm happy with all of them. I'm coming to know this area well and know what I want before I shoot and I've learned over many trips how to get the outcome I'm looking for. On this trip apart from Wreck Beach on Friday morning where sunrise, weather and tides all come together at the right moment I have no plans and will take each day as it comes.

Finishing up these images and this blog entry while I wait for my back up to finish I listen to the rain falling on the roof of my van and think of the other Melbourne photographers camped nearby in their tents. Keep warm folks. It's an early start on Gibsons Steps tomorrow to capture the early morning light on the nearby Apostle and hopefully catching up with a local.

Day Two - Exploring

Naturally visiting the 12 Apostles has to be done sooner or later when visiting the #gor - best seen in the early or late afternoon for the best light minimising the contrast between sky water and rock to allow normal exposures.

12mm fish, 1/160th f/11 ISO 100

The little things matter. While climbing back up Gibson's Steps I noticed this little bush growing on the rocks backlit by the sun. A heavy sea mist in the air made for some nice flaring.

1/600th f/4 85mm ISO 400

While exploring around the timber railway trestle bridge (now rail trail) near Timboon I found this small waterfall on a creek that runs parallel to the former railway. Worth getting the feet a bit wet for this scene.

12mm fish f/11 0.5s ISO 50

Still standing after some TLC from Puffing Billy Railway the railway trestle at Timboon stands proud supporting the rail trail.

12mm fish, 1/30th, f/11 ISO 50

The serenity of the Australian rural scene is often amazing and breathtaking. It's worth pulling over from time to time when you spot something. Everyone fanned out looking for their shot. This one is mine.

12mm fish, 1/125th, f/11 ISO 100

After enjoying a lunch with friends at Timboon we parted company with Kathryn and headed back to our camping at Princetown. It was great to meet another g+ person +Kathryn van Nieuwkerk . In this image are back row - +Paul Pavlinovich +Trace McLean Stef +Peter Sherriff +Kathryn van Nieuwkerk and +Shari Mattox

We had lunch at the distillery and I can't say I recommend it. The service was good. The food was ok but the prices were high for what was essentially pub food. They may aspire to higher foodie paradise but they don't quite make it. Oh and their whiskey? I'll stick with my usual I think. Very expensive ($125 for 500ml) and nothing to write home about.

On the way back the evening light became interesting and we paused several times on our journey to explore and photograph our surroundings. This grass seed silhouette intrigued me. I played around with the landscape in this area but was not happy with the shots. They don't feel quite right. I'll come back to them later.

85mm 1/640th f/11 ISO 100

We headed along part of the Old Ocean Road in Princetown along the Gellibrand River. We found this amazing white bird. I had to push up the ISO to capture his flight in the fading gentle evening light. It's always worth getting off the tourist drag of the main road. There is MUCH more to be seen in this area by simply hitting the dirt.

85mm 1/400th f/5.6 ISO 800

Finally at the end of the day, the sky put on a magnificent show over the flood plains and wetlands alongside the Old Ocean Road in Princetown.

I've seen this area well and truly inundated - the camp ground is on this plain but it's elevated slightly so it's unusual for it to flood but I've seen the road in and much of the grounds wet and sloshy in the past. This usually only happens if the mouth of the Gellibrand gets closed off by a storm.

12mm fish 1/4s f/11 ISO 50

What will tomorrow bring? Well you know that as much as I do. No plans, I'll just jump in the car and go someplace. Something will jump out and magic will happen.

I might explore a bit more around Timboon and the Otway National Park.

Day Three - A few waterfalls and a smashed fishie

Today started like any of my photography trips, up early hunting for images. I found these kangaroos on the hop right outside of the door to where I'm camping.

On the hop in the early morning light in the paddock adjacent the camp ground. There were hundreds of them today. 

400mm 1/250 f/9 iso 2500

In search of mossy rocks and falling water I trekked down to the Elliot River where it runs into the Southern Ocean. Up stream from the mouth reached by good old fashioned bush bashing was a small but magic waterfall. I had to wade through the river to get close enough for the final images of the falls.

12mm fishie 0.5 seconds f/16 iso 50

Onwards and upwards to Mariner Falls. These falls are currently "closed" but the sign said public "should" keep out. Well, that's not a no in my book. That leaves the decision to me and I decided to go. Very well worth the trek and apart from needing to cross the river by wading from time to time an easy walk. The falls are in a natural amphitheatre bowl.

12mm fishie 1 second f/16 iso 50

Near Mariner Falls I waded into the river on a few occasions to capture mossy rocks. I like mossy green rocks in nice natural light. No idea why, I just do.

12mm fishie 1.3 seconds f/16 iso 50

On the road from Apollo Bay to Beech Forest is a California Redwood Sequoia grove. They were planted in the 1930's as an experiment and they are truly magnificent today. Even though these are giants they are but babies compared to some I saw in their natural home. There is no sound at all in the forest. It's simply silent.

12mm fishie 15 seconds f/22 iso 50

The final stop for the day and the last shot that this fishie will ever take before it is repaired. This is Hopetoun Falls. I had hoped to get here last trip but the storm tore up the joint and there were police keeping people away at the road entrance. This time round I make the climb down the stairs and made it all the way to the falls. While out there I slipped and fell. The camera and the fishie hit a rock. The camera survived with nothing more than a new battle scar but the fishie, well it kind of exploded. I've managed to put it back together for tomorrow with glue and tape. It's now jammed about f/11 or so until I can get it properly repaired.

12mm fishie 1.6 seconds f/16 iso 50

Tomorrow Wreck Beach and who knows what else. The last full day of the trip.

Day Four - Getting Wrecked

I met up again with +Trace McLean and Stef early this morning on Moonlight Head to make our way down to Wreck Beach. Well, actually they got there an hour early and went without me... We met on the beach and did a mad dash in and out of the waves to capture the anchors and surrounding rock formations. 

In the early light I did some long exposures to capture the anchors appearing out of the spooky "mist" .
24-105 @ 105mm f/22 with black glass 30 seconds ISO 50

The anchors are welded into the rock by the force of the many storms, the first of which jammed them in there. They both sit within circular holes. A line of holes lead to the most prominent anchor. These circular holes are always the ones that are most noticeable in Wreck Beach photographs. They used to have a brilliant verdant green moss growing on them but it wasn't there this time. The rocks seem to have been scrubbed clean.

50mm 1/250th f/11 iso 50

I diced with the Southern Ocean many times before just giving up and letting it soak me while continuing to photograph. This made it much easier and more productive and I need new boots anyway since these ones had started to fall apart. They'd done a lot of km and will do some more yet but this will be one of the final nails in their coffin. One day I'll just go there in shorts and crocks. Wet up my balls in the sea on a photo expedition... what a surprise.

50mm 1/80th f/10 iso 400

Once the sun comes up properly and highlights the anchors they're much less creepy but no less poignant as they symbolise the loss of life on what is known locally as The Shipwreck Coast. Many vessels were smashed to pieces along this coast. Generally when this happened all souls were lost except in a few very lucky cases.

50mm 1/6th f/22 iso 50

Once the sun came up Wreck Beach got less interesting not to mention the tide was on the way in and I was wet enough. Off back to camp ground via the Old Ocean Road. I'm sure I've mentioned when on the GOR that you should take every opportunity to get off it to escape the tourists. They drive really slowly and really badly. Following the Old Ocean Road isn't quicker but it's soothing and much nicer to look at.

12mm fishie (repaired, sort of) 1/100th f/11 (I think) iso 50

While off the road you'll see many coastal rural scenes including the ubiquitous windmills. These beasts creak and strain as they spin in the breeze to pump up water from the wells or in this case the nearby creek. In this area there were major local makers in Warrnambool and Colac both very nearby so it's unusual to find not one but many Queensland made Southern Cross mills in abundance. The local dealer must have made great deals with the farmers to get so many of them out there despite the local competition.

12mm fishie 1/80th f/11 iso 100

This has to be the creepiest road of all time with those trees bending over to try and get you. I could only imagine what it would be like in the early dawn light especially if there was a light mist at ground level. Spooky. 

12mm fishie 1/160th f/11 iso 640

After lunch I went for a cruise to Ayre River (or is it Aire River?) anyway... I didn't have any plans as I'd hit my target sites for this week, not to mention my boots were still soaked so I needed places I could go in Ug Boots without getting laughed at. Turns out that's about everywhere around here. Down by the two camp grounds that are separated by a bridge and personality (bogans with massive fires, guns, music and loads of booze on one side and the families and quieter back packers on the other side) I found a couple of girls going out for a paddle. Well they would but they were simply going around and around in circles while their dad yelled "encouragement" to them from the bridge.

400mm (200 + 2X extender) 1/400th f/16 iso 1000

On the way back up the hill I stopped to chat up this beautiful bird who was showing off by the side of the road. I was pretty lucky to get this shot hand held resting on the door sill.

400mm 1/80th f/16 iso 1000

Even hideous English Bracken (why did those dick heads bring so much stuff that has invaded and destroyed so much of this land?)  looks good back lit with a ray of sunlight shafting down through the overhead canopy.

330mm 1/500th f/5.6 iso 2500

Leaving the river I decided to shoot some bull with a local man who was working in his field. The diversity of the farming around here is phenomenal they have both kinds. Cows and sheep.

400mm 1/500th f/9 iso 400

After a while I thought I'd take in a lawn bowls match being played by giants on the green of the pitch alongside the river along The Old Ocean Rd near Princetown.

400mm 1/160th f/9 iso 400

This image reminded me of this morning trying to stop my berries from getting wet. Such simple subject becomes quite magic with a limited depth of field and shot up close with a telephoto lens. As I type this entry I can't help but hear the conversation between the two girls in the bongo van camped next to me. One of them is crying and the other is continuing to explain that she doesn't feel "that way" towards her at all and is sorry she ever came along on the trip. I'm tipping an early end or a very awkward few days along the coast for these two.

400mm 1/60th f/5.6 iso 400

As the last of the light started to die in the thick clouds (no nice sunset tonight) I came across this group of swans floating around on the swamp. This same swamp produces the massive mozzies that frequent the rich persons camp ground above where I stay and attack +Peter Sherriff .

400mm 1/640th f/7.1 iso 2500 balanced on a fence post

Every day should end with a little weed. This grass/reed seed was  highlighted from behind with the last of the receding light before the world went grey and I gave up and came back to the van to watch a movie.

400mm 1/500th f/7.1 iso 2500

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Don't kill people, it's not nice

I just read a social media post that really annoyed me. I'm not going to share it or link it because of just be giving it more air. The author needs less air. It was written by a fairly well known Melbourne self proclaimed professional photographer.
His premise was that someone can go out and buy a DSLR take some photos of flowers and cats and call themselves a photographer. He was actually offended that people who do this think they're a photographer.
I take umbrage to that idea. Totally. The images shared absolutely mean they are a photographer. Maybe they're at the beginning of their journey or maybe they just like flowers and cats. You can't make that assumption.
I don't care what someone's subject is. The moment they pick up an image making device and start thinking about making an image then discover enough joy for themselves in that image it means they are a photographer. In time they find enough joy that they share. It's all about the joy. The experience. Even love of the process. Sharing is a grand part of the learning experience. Sharing doesn't mean look how good I am - it means I enjoyed making this image, I enjoy the result and I hope you enjoy it too.
Denigrating someone because they're photographing cats and flowers is complete bullshit. It's the same process, the same game of light, the same wonderful learning experience we go through with every image regardless of subject.
Maybe the individual who felt this way should think about where his joy of image making has gone before poking at others who may be at the tender beginnings of their journey when they're very unsure of their results and themselves. At this time they're possibly reaching out for support and encouragement to continue their journey. Slapping someone down for posting an image of their cat may end that person's journey. They may never share again.
Instead of crushing their spirit why not reach out to them. Learn about what they're trying to do. Mentor them. Grow their spirit.
I might also note that I've seen the person in question post images of cats and flowers too. About a year ago. I remember mentoring them and helping them on a photowalk. I didn't realise that I was unleashing a monster. It won't stop me with the next person who asks because everyone gets that chance.
Oh and here is a picture of a flower and a cat :)

Monday, 7 April 2014

Trying a new idea - sealing the optical chamber on the DSLR

Every now and then a product comes along that looks genuinely interesting. One such is the Dust-Shield from Dust-Aid. This interesting product is remarkably like the protective sheet you use on your phone screen.

This is the Dust-Shield within its protective packaging. The round clear bit in the middle is the protective shield. It's shaped to fit my 5D/II without interfering with the lens or its electrical connections. I suspect that it might be a little challenged with APS-C lenses because they protrude further into the body.

Before fitting the camera, and even though my sensor was fairly clean I decided to go the whole hog and clean the body outside and in.

First up I used a cheap micro fibre cloth from the hardware store to dry wipe the entire body getting into as many nooks and crannies as I could.

These cloths are great, they pick up loads of dirt and don't drop much lint.

You can even wash them. You can tell when they're dirty because they stop grabbing you.

There are always one or two of these in my camera bag.

Next up I cleaned the eye piece with a swab with a couple of drops of sensor cleaner on it.

This removed the last few months of dirt.

One of the down sides of using the Black Rapid strap instead of a traditional strap is that the back of the camera is exposed more to grub.

It does have an up side though, since the camera is suspended upside down the upper controls stay fairly clean.

After working on the important bit I used the same swab to get into all the grubby beats around the outside of the body.

Now onto the optical chamber.

Firstly I found and carefully picked out a hair that's been giving me the shits for a while out of the mirror assembly.

Most of the time it was only visible while sighting but every now and then it found its way onto the sensor and into images.

This image shows the optical chamber with the mirror in its normal position reflecting light up through the prism into the eyepiece.

The mirror directs light to your eye while sighting then flips up and out of the way when you shoot an image.

The reasons the mirror can shake the camera is all that moving mass.

To access the rest of the chamber and the sensor itself, well ok, the glass filter over the top of the sensor place the camera into sensor cleaning mode which will flip the mirror up and keep it there until you turn off the camera.

Don't leave it like this too long as you risk burning out the solenoid that holds the mirror up. Minutes at a time won't hurt anyone but don't forget it and leave it like this.

Besides the longer its like this the more dust will settle on the sensor.

Before hitting the sensor with a wet clean I had another quick go with the silicone based Dust-Wand. This uses the principal of the silicone block being "sticky" to dust without actually being sticky.

Before you use it, you clean it on one the plastic strips that come for the purpose. It's very important to not touch the silicone or the cleaning strip as you'll end up with oil on your sensor.

The wand is pretty simple you press it down gently but firmly onto the sensor at 90 degrees (want straight up) and it picks up the loose dust.

Its a good idea to do this (or at least blow) before a wet clean to get off anything loose that might scratch your sensor.

Of course keeping the chamber open while I took these images meant I was dropping in more dust than I was taking out.

There is a staggering amount of dust in the air, even if the room is clean there is still loads of it.

In preparing for the wet clean I wrapped the wand (not the same one as the dry!!) in the supplied cloth and wet it with the sensor cleaning solution.

I found that I needed to use a little more than the five drops recommend because this stuff evaporates really quickly.

Swiping in one direction using the wet swab. This is as always a bit of a painful process but after a few repeats changing sides and cloths with new fluid you do get there.

This fluid from Dust-Aid was much better than the fluid I used last time as it didn't leave any streaks.

I'm quite pleased with the result. I've still got one spot but even I'm not that fussy or crazy enough for another go.

After checking (remember to clean the back of your lens before you put it on) it was time to move onto the protective sheet where this whole journey began.

This instructions made no sense to me at all, so I just did it :).

You start by removing the protective backing sheet using the plastic tabs to hold onto the shield without leaving finger marks on it.

Once the backing sheet is off, the shield is positioned in the chamber using the alignment marks and tabs.

There is adhesive that helps the sheet adhere to the camera body.

Take care in positioning the shield that you don't prevent the lens electrical connections from working and don't interfere with the flange that locks the lens in place.

Once the shield is in place it just about disappears. It will be very interesting as I experiment over the coming days in different lighting conditions and lenses to see if the shield alters the image in a way that can be perceived. I know my machine pretty well and will be able to determine reasonably objectively  by comparing similar images from the same lens from my catalogue over recent times. I did get one spot of dust on the back that I didn't notice before it was in. Oh well... The good news is when dust settles on the outside you just blow it off with a rocket blower. If this thing works I'll be bloody impressed. 

Update - The device has been in for a week.

Well it's time to do the first update to this post. We've had a shocking week weather wise and I've been unable to test for sun flaring or other impacts. However, I have learned that at ISO 2000 that my machine would normally handle in its stride in low light with a pin sharp lens the device seems to introduce an effect remarkably like film grain.

You can see the effect I'm discussing in this image. Especially in the girls faces. In the full size image you can't see it, but zoomed in as I am here with a crop of around 1/8th of the sensor area it certainly becomes apparent. Update: I tried this scenario again with two 5d bodies, one with and one without dust-shield with the same lens and the problem is the 5d not dust-shield.

I'm very pleased to report that in good light there are no issues with the images shot through the device.

This image is the same crop from the sensor area as the girls in the rain image. This is shot at f/5.6 at ISO 500 with flash for illumination using the 100mm prime macro lens. It has the sharpness and image attributes I'm used to from this lens

This image is an extreme example at 1:1 pixel for pixel from an image taken using the same settings and lens as the cat face above. This image also demonstrates the sharpness I'm used to and there is no apparent change from the Dust-Shield.


I've been using the Dust Shield for a month and a half now including my full gamut of image taking places, lights and styles. Including my last Great Ocean Road image gathering road trip. It does not seem to make any difference to image quality except there is some additional subtle flaring when taking images into the sun, personally I like the flaring so this doesn't worry me at all. For some example images read on to my Great Ocean Road blog post. All of the images in that post were taken through the Dust Shield. 

Better yet the dust that gathers on the outside of the Dust Shield just get blown off with the blower. I've had no dust on the sensor at all. It's just so much better not having to remove dust spots from my images. The only downside and it's minor is that the material is soft and will scratch over time but is easy to replace and is affordable. There just don't seem to be any real negatives to using this product and I certainly won't be removing it from the camera until it's time to replace it.