Down South Western Australia – Esperance

Belonging to a family of more than one hobbyist photographer, it was only so long before a trip was planned that would be “photography only”. Cait [check out her blog here]and I packed our tents and our camera gear and headed down south. Not a lens was spared this trip = everything was packed into the lowepro backpack and contained a good 10kg worth of equipment. Not to mention my beasty tripod which would have to be around 50kg just on its own…that’s how it feels anyway..(you’re worth it, tripod!).

Guys. Esperance is as good as they say. Having not been there before, I did the usual google images search but I always wonder, “Am I only seeing Esperance at its best?” The answer is no.

Lucky Bay

Had a couple of photographic issues here….the water is stunning, but the bay itself is very flat and difficult to get an elevated view to show that amazing water…photos were 60% sky, 2% water and 38% sand. Uh, not good.

Sunrise:

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Esperance is definitely at its best when the sun is high and the water is lit up from above. Midday was a great time for photos – I know, we were weirded out too.

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The highest view of Lucky Bay was a stop off on the road down to the car park where the blue vista was most visible:

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We did meet the infamous “Lucky Bay resident Kangaroo” – and her two kids! Cuteness overload.

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The bays in Esperance are just amazing…tiny and pristine.

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We only stayed in Esperance 2 nights (after an uncomfortably frigid night at Lucky Bay we headed into town and stayed at a caravan park to escape the frigid wind and left for Denmark the following morning.

We couldn’t help but stop past Twilight Beach again on the way out though ;)

Photographing Snakes on a white background

Personally I prefer photos of snakes on natural backgrounds but in suburbia, that can often be difficult. Especially when the snakes start putting on some size.

When natural backdrops aren’t available, I put them on a white background – it’s useful for comparing colours later on when they’re closer to adulthood and comparing snake with snake.

I use wrapping paper. Cheap, easy and lots of it. I buy rolls and then use the underside of them by weighting them down on my kitchen bench (it has the best light usually) opposite the kitchen window. I unroll the paper and then place the entire roll on top of a large box and weigh it down. (Please ignore the mess of my kitchen)

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There is no sun coming through the window, just light- therefore the kitchen bench is usually cold. I use a container filled with hot water and sit it on the bench for a few minutes to heat up the benchtop because grabbing a snake from a warm hide and expecting it to sit still on cold paper is just asking too much. Hot water bottle or one of those heat packs would work well. It just needs to be not cold.

Obviously these photos would be much better with a second light source (a flash mounted on camera or a light off camera right) to remove the shadows on the paper. This method however, is practically free and most people will have the means to do it.

I use the hide from the snake’s enclosure and then feed the snake back into it.

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Ignore the screwdriver.. it was the closest thing on the bench to use as a weight.

I let them settle for a couple of minutes and then i remove the hide. Providing their hide box and letting them settle usually makes for a calm, relatively still snake:

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But dependent on the individual, sometimes not:

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Remove the hide and hope for the best. This was a successful snake:

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This was not:

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However being wriggly doesn’t always mean a failed effort. You can snap closeups instead:

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Keep in mind that not everyone is going to be willing to participate. It’s up to you to assess the mood of your snake and listen when they aren’t in a co-operative mood and photograph them another day. Obviously photographing hungry or sloughing snakes is a no-no. If you have a particularly ‘wriggly’ individual – feeding them a small prey item and attempting the photo straight afterward can work or if you would prefer not to move the snake around too much then a day or two after their normal meal. I never keep a snake on the paper for longer than a few minutes; it’s a quick snap and then back home they go. If they are wriggly or un-co-operative they get put back.

Patience is key. When you take the hide off, they’re not always in the position you’d like them to be (tip: using a round container always works better to get the snake to coil correctly, obviously)..

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…but if you wait for them (granted they aren’t desperately trying to escape), they sometimes put themselves into very photogenic positions:

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Others that have worked well:

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In a bright room using natural light settings on my camera were:

Canon 6D paired with a Canon 50mm f/1.4
Manual mode
ISO 800
f/stop range between 2.8 – 5.6
Shutter 125
I play with my white balance settings to get the most out of the white paper (so it actually looks white) – but if you’re using plenty of natural light, you should be ok on Auto.

I like to have the shutter above 100 to capture any movement but generally if the snake is comfortable, it is still. If you want to capture tongue movement, it will need to be higher. My camera manages well on high ISO without being grainy but if yours doesn’t, put the ISO down to 500 (if available) and shoot at 2.8 and 100 shutter speed. Shooting in aperture priority mode is useful – f/3.5 would be a good start… the smaller the number the shorter depth of field and the less of the snake that will be focused – but it lets more light in. If you’re working in really bright light or you’re using two light sources, f/9 will have everything in focus.

Things you learn about dating a Landscape Photographer

1. Holidays are planned with ulterior motives… around possible photographic locations and beautiful scenery. If it’s not an especially picturesque place, expect it to be met with limited enthusiasm.

2. Your days start early. You’ve been woken up by an alarm in the still dark hours of the morning more times than you’d care to count.

3. Don’t even think about planning a romantic dinner or in fact any activity if it coincides with sunset. Or the hour before sunset….or the hour after it. Just don’t plan things in the late afternoon/early evening OK?

4. Exploring a new area together could find you suddenly alone as you realise your partner has stopped somewhere without telling you. Not just stopped, either… possibly turned down another path and pursued a completely different direction altogether.

5. Just by being in a relationship with this person, if you are around while the camera is in use, you become a photographer’s assistant (by proxy). You’ll also BE in a lot of photos. Get used to it.

6. Your loved one will probably express their love by saying things like, “You’re blocking the light…” and “Honey, you’re still in the shot… nope, still in it.”

7. If you insist on tagging along, expect to see the same places again and again… landscapes change and every day is different.

8. “Watching a movie together” may consist of you watching the movie while they edit photos on their laptop beside you. Quality time!

9. Most photographers hate their own photos. Don’t get frustrated when you think the finished product is good and they don’t. Just let it happen. Let them hate their own work…it can only make them better!

10. Big stoppers are not your friend. When this bad boy comes out, it’s time to settle in and get comfortable. You’re not going anywhere. If you ask how much longer they’ll be and they say “Just one more shot…” this usually means 4 photos of bracketed exposure spanning about 12 minutes (they plan to blend it into one shot, later!).

ha, ha!

Colour Casts – the digital age

After recently purchasing an old film camera I can seriously appreciate the ease of digital photography. Being able to ‘fix’ errors in photoshop later and adjust colours and exposure encourages a whole new approach to how you take photos. I have found over the years as my photoshop skills and exposure increases I will compose my photos and adjust settings with the photoshop actions in my mind – i.e. I will assess a scene and think “Yes, this isn’t going to look so great on the camera, but with some contrast and saturation and a couple of dodge/burn layers this could be great” and it’s this that I’m talking about.

The other great thing about photoshop is knowing that you can alter a picture so that it looked exactly as you saw it yourself with the naked eye. Photographs (in my mind) should be natural and a reminder of what you saw when you were in that spot – I don’t like over saturating and “creating” new skies and all of that just to make a pretty picture.

The below photos are shots taken at Trigg Beach in Perth and were taking using a Lee Big Stopper Filter to reduce the light and allow a soft water/cloud movement. The negative effect of this filter is that it adds a colour cast to the shot – you can see by comparing the photos that the overall effect is rather green, especially noticeable on the otherwise cream sand and limestone rocks. It detracts from the colour of the sky and is unnatural to what a human eye would have picked up at the scene.

Enter Photoshop.

I used Image>edit>match colour>neutralise mask to change the tones in this image (cs5) and then played with the exposures in certain sections of the rockwork and the sky. The second image shows more natural colour and is truer to how the ocean and sky looked that day.

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Exmouth & Karijini National Park

Over Easter, we took an extended break to dip our souls into the red dust of the north west of Western Australia. We drove from Perth to Exmouth in a day and left at the exciting hour of 2am to reach Exmouth early so we weren’t driving Suicide Drive at dusk. What’s “Suicide Drive” you ask? It is the treacherous stretch of road that goes into Exmouth and during the last few hours of light is inhabited by all manner of suicidal animals including and not limited to: goats, sheep, cows, kangaroos, emus, goannas, snakes, birds, rabbits and foxes. It is a dangerous stretch of road and I’ve heard it is difficult not to hit something on the way in during an afternoon. Luckily we got through with no worries and got to Exmouth at about 3pm.

A cracker sunrise put good light (haha) on the trip:

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On the way through to Exmouth we stopped to re-fuel and get some lunch at the Overlander Roadhouse. We parked down the back under the shade provided by two big trees that were completely covered in Butterflies.

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I had a checklist of “things to see in Exmouth” and one of my top priorities was a Perentie. This giant goanna is the largest native to Australia and the fourth largest in the world making it a pretty impressive creature. They are referred to as the “Lizard King”, are an apex predator and therefore afraid of practically nothing. This makes them fairly approachable for photos as long as you don’t get too close (Perentie toe nails would be a nail technician’s nightmare). We were lucky enough to catch one crossing the road; it was young and very clean, showing off its great markings and trademark white throat. It tolerated us for a few minutes before shifting into 4WD mode and running into the bush.

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The fishing was not so great in Exmouth unfortunately; limited to the land we threw hard bodied lures, soft plastics and stick baits around with very little luck. But what a paradise! The water there was crystal clear and a beautiful aqua blue. We didn’t make it to Turquoise Bay (got to leave something for next time!) but I found Sandy Bay pretty impressive:

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As a photographer and not having much experience in this part of the country I was especially excited to watch the sun rise out of the water. In Perth it rises over the hills and sets in the water but I have never seen a sun rise from the ocean. It didn’t hurt that the sunrises in Exmouth were beautiful either.

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And then it was time for the trip to Karijini. I have been wanting to get to Karijini for years, even before photography became a focus for me. What a place! We timed our trip to Karijini a little earlier than the prescribed “on” season in the hopes that going close to the end of the wet season would mean plenty of reptiles and lots of great clouds. Being there only a few days meant we didn’t get to experience much change in the weather and the first few days were cloudless and an easy 32 degrees during the day and 16 at night. On the last day the clouds were fantastic and we heard that they were expecting heavy rain to arrive soon.

Arriving on Easter Monday it seemed a lot of campers had left by that stage and each day more people filtered out and no one new seemed to arrive. There were a few big groups of European touritsts but the most likely visitors were young couples and young families. We camped in the eco retreat in Grevillea Loop, site 95- a great spot as we were completely secluded from other people and right at the front of the loop- closest to the showers and the BBQ block.

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We had 3 full days inside the park but the last day was taken up with West Oz Active’s “Red Gorge Tour” so we tried to make the most of what we could see and do in 2 days.

First stop was Hamersley Gorge. About an hour’s drive out of the park and well worth the visit! I think it was the most beautiful gorge with its purple hews and beautiful green water.

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Then we used the afternoon to visit Hancock Gorge – the gorge I fell in love with when looking at other people’s photos. I couldn’t wait to get through it and it didn’t disappoint!

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We got up for a sunrise at Joffrey falls but the light didn’t come across and stayed a very muted colour unfortunately:

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So we popped around to Kalamina Gorge which whilst simple, was still very pretty. I think I liked the view of the water from up top the best:

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And to finish the day off we stayed and watched the sunset at Oxer’s Lookout.

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Day 2 had us down to Fortescue Falls, Fern Pool and then we circled back across Fortescue and into Dales Gorge then continued on to Circular Pool. Unfortunately we didn’t get to Fortescue Falls or Fern Pool early enough and half of each waterfall was cast in deep shadow making it impossible for good photos. When I go back to Karijini, I will ensure I am there at sunrise for well exposed photos.

Took an above view of the falls on our way back to the carpark at around 2pm.

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Circular Pool:

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And a last sunset at Knox Gorge. This was a better choice than Oxer’s only because we had it to ourselves and Oxers had been full of people and it was difficult to take long exposures on the platform.

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Do you self-sabotage?

Hi, my name is Imogen and I am a self-sabotaging photographer.

Signs you are a self-sabotaging photographer:

-         Over planning destinations to photograph

-         Saving images from google and award winning landscape photographer’s websites and basing your trips around these stunning locations regardless of impracticality

Effects of self-sabotage:

-         Being angry when conditions are not the same when you arrive as said award winning landscape photographer’s photos

-         Leaving a place feeling deflated and disappointed you didn’t get the shots you wanted

-         Perhaps shedding a tear when the extended hours of sunrise photography have worn you out and you STILL haven’t seen colour in the sky and probably never will

-         Frustration explaining to non-photographers why your trip was ruined

This is me.

I have done this possibly for every trip I have been on since 2010 when I joined forces with my Canon DSLR. It is disgraceful…completely unreasonable and absolutely impossible NOT TO DO. I simply must do it.

My main fear is that I have not researched the best positions for sunrise and sunset photography and therefore will be unprepared on arrival at an unfamiliar destination but I take it too far. TOO FAR. I delight in self-sabotage and the need to stunt my creativity in finding unique vantage points and compositions and it is truly disgusting that I continue to do this to myself.

My main reason for this post is that I am planning a photographic journey through Western Australia’s Karijini National Park and this park is so huge with 7 wonderful gorges to explore that I simply HAD to know which ones were best due to time constraints on the visit. This, you think, is a good idea – I should know where to visit first and where the best sunset vantage points are and good sunrise locations and, and, and…. And should I? Or…..should I leave it up to chance, be a true explorer and just follow the light? I believe this is called “winging it” and is a term I have always been 100% uncomfortable with when applied to photography. But I think it’s time I stepped outside my comfort zone and left my OCD fears behind me. Karijini will supply the goods I’m sure of it.

Posts of Karijini to follow upon my return. 

..Wow that was a really long boring post for people who are not me to read. I can only assume that you stopped after the first sentence and deleted your subscription. To those of you who read the whole thing… you deserve medals. 

Trigg Beach

Another stop past Trigg Beach on saturday night (8th March). Arrived just on sunset and was flustered due to the sheer amount of other photographers there! It was one of those rushed evenings where you just have to pick a spot and hunker down rather than having the freedom to change your position and point of view. I was a bit sneaky and got in right behind someone to take a few quick ones, but I gave up and decided to shoot abstract instead. This is my second time shooting with the Lee Big Stopper 10-stop filter and I love,love, loooooooooove it! Also didn’t have time to calculate my exposure so did it in my head and hoped for the best- came out a little underexposed and needing fixing in photoshop.

I love this place!

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