Peter Eastway writes an almost weekly newsletter from his Better Photography website (www.betterphotography.com). These are some of the more recent posts.
Pittwater Backwater, down the bottom of the hill.
Phase One XT 150MP, 32mm Rodenstock, f5.6 @ 1/125 second, ISO 50
We have an international readership, so not everyone will know that as a Sydneysider, I am in lock down with 5 million other lucky souls who live in the Greater Sydney Area! On the other hand, Australian readers will be well aware of the COVID restrictions and I have been receiving some condolences notes from Victorians who know what it's like. Thank you!
Tony Hewitt and I were supposed to be in Middlehurst, New Zealand today. We've postponed the 'experiences' until later in August and October, fingers crossed. In the meantime, Gladys (our premier) has finally introduced a sensible restriction, asking Sydneysiders not to travel more than 10 kilometres from their home when they are doing essential shopping and daily exercises. So the question is, what can you find within 10 kilometres to photograph?
Now, I know I'm not supposed to leave home to take photos, but I can't see any damage leaving home for an hour walk and taking a camera with me. You never know what you might find. Case in point is this scene not far from home. My wife and daughter 'discovered' it and suggested we get up early one morning and perhaps catch some mist. Although we arrived shortly after sunrise, the mist was already rising and not a lot left for my camera.
The photo is hand held and the scene quite remarkable when you realise how close it is to a major city. In fact, there are lots of locations like this around the Pittwater backwaters and maybe this will be the first of a series.
In terms of processing, this remains a work in progress. I'm struggling a little to get the balance between the sky and foreground just right, and I also want to experiment with the colour grading a little more. But in the meantime, for someone in lock down, it suits me just fine!
Enjoy your freedom if you have it!
Pulpit Rock, Blue Mountains, pre-Lockdown
Phase One A-Series 150MP, 180mm Rodenstock, f11 @ 1/60 second, ISO 50
The workshop I ran with Ignacio Palacios up the Blue Mountains last weekend was on, then off, then on again, then curtailed by the Sunday restrictions. However, we managed to get through the program and enjoy some of the Blue Mountains' wonderful scenery as well.
This photo is taken from Govetts Leap where we congregated before dawn. I wish I were better at getting out of bed because when I do, I really enjoy it. However, I seem to take more of my landscape photography at sunset, rather than sunrise!
I had more or less put my cameras away when the sun started to creep around the edge of the bluff opposite, to which is attached a formation called Pulpit Rock. It's a slight telephoto lens, there's a touch of lens flare in the top left and bottom right, and the light is delightful. And the lens flare reminded me of how fashions change. It took me more than a little while to accept brides really did want lens flare in their wedding photos! And here I am, happily using some controlled flare to add to the quickly evaporating morning haze.
We discussed many subjects during the workshop, including the square format. When Ignacio gave a presentation on composition, he was asked why so many of his examples were square. I also confess to being partial to the square format - it seems to be less 'factual'. A horizontal makes me think of a landscape, a vertical is a portrait, but a square is anything you want it to be and sometimes cropping images to square seems to work better for me.
But it's a personal choice, of course!
Bruny Island Lighthouse, Tasmania
Phase One XF 150MP, 55mm Schneider lens, f2.8 @ 1/2000 second, ISO 320
I'm not sure if friendship extends to a full bottle of Talisker, but as I saw the level in our bottle quickly diminish on the first night of four, I decided it had to!
While photography can be a lonely, individual pursuit, there are times when photographers come together. The AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photography) is one organisation that facilitates interaction, APS is another - and your local camera clubs as well. It's great to spend time with other photographers and over the years, I've developed strong friendships with many. I consider myself very fortunate to be involved with a number of informal groups, one of which congregated on Bruny Island a week or so ago.
Richard Bennett and better half Susie, who live on Bruny Island, sent out the invitations. Richard is a past president of the AIPP, as is his daughter Alice who paid us a visit. Other invitees were David Oliver (hence the Talisker), Phil Kuruvita (I think he drank most of the Talisker, followed closely by Richard - Phil is also a past president of the AIPP), Nuran Zorlu, Bruce Pottinger (who sold us most of our cameras) and Kevin Cooper (who represented Fujifilm for the past decade or more and is a keen photographer and balloonist). Ian van der Wolde was invited (also a past AIPP president), but sadly his Victorian premier wouldn't permit him to travel.
So, among such illustrious company, one wonders how I was invited!
In addition to much socialising, David suggested we do a print swap and this turned into a highlight of the weekend. While we have seen each other's work in the awards, books and advertising, there was so much more about us all as photographers we didn't know and we each gave a little talk about our prints. It was a wonderful afternoon and I have also added to my collection!
The reason for mentioning this is that many of us have informal friendships in photography. Assuming we're not in lock down, it's not too hard to organise three, four or a few more people to spend a weekend together - and talk about photography. If nothing else, it can be very inspiring.
And the photo? We did a little helicopter time around the very south of Bruny Island. I had visited this area many times, but never really understood how magical it was until I took to the air. Unfortunately, being a national park, you might not get permission to fly a drone there, although interestingly the Tasmanian government had lots of drone footage in an informational piece playing on a big screen at Hobart's airport!
This photo is no longer possible for most of us. I’m sure National Parks would allow a National Geographic film crew in, but the average photographer will struggle to get this close to the eroding rock formations at Mungo, let alone stay there after sunset to photograph them with a backdrop of stars.
In fact, the average visitor will be kept well away from the rock formations. Access is with a guided tour only and I understand why. With so many visitors to Australia’s national parks, crowd control is needed if we’re not going to love them to death. Uluru has done it successfully, although some of its photography rules continue to perplex me. But I get it.
To take this photo, post-production was required. The rock formation was photographed on a stormy afternoon with dramatic clouds all around. We had a short burst of sunlight right on sunset – perfect timing or just plain lucky!
The Milky Way was photographed later that night from Mungo Lodge and while its angle to the rock formation may not be completely accurate, the resulting image has plenty of impact. The sky is a four minute exposure at ISO 800 using a Fornax star tracker, with advice and assistance from Glenn Martin. No matter how many YouTube movies I watched, there’s nothing like having someone who knows what he’s doing to help you out!
However, while the afternoon storms cleared at night for the stars, the following morning the rain set in and we were told to evacuate Mungo Lodge. This wasn’t great news on several fronts. First it was disappointing to be leaving so soon, and second, Ignacio Palacios’ car was an AWD, not a 4WD and we struggled to get out as the dusty road instantly turned into a muddy bog. However, I’m grateful to say Ignacio kept the wheels moving and I didn’t have to get out and push!
And just to let you know, the Better Photography Magazine Photo of the Year award will be open for entries on 10 June, with $5000 in cash prizes up for grabs and a judge comment for every entry. Click through to the competition website for details at www.betterphotographyphotocomp.com.
And there’s a capture to print workshop with Ignacio and me up the Blue Mountains at the end of this month – check out the website for details at www.betterphotography.com.
Posted from Silverton and Broken Hill in New South Wales on a photo workshop with Mr Palacios!
Date and time: Tue., 8 June 2021 6:30 pm – 10:00 pm AEST
Location: Dee Why RSL, 932 Pittwater Road, Dee Why, NSW 2099
AIPP Grand Master of Photography Peter Eastway will deliver an enjoyable presentation on capture and processing techniques required for high resolution photography, whether you're using a small mirrorless camera or a medium format back.
Peter will discuss choosing your lens's sharpest aperture, understanding the limitations of depth-of-field, the need to keep your camera stable and firing the shutter properly, plus focus trimming your lenses if required. He'll also discuss software approaches for making the most out of your images with a view to producing beautiful, high resolution prints.
Plus there will be a series of audio visuals, some entertaining travel stories and a Q&A session!
So why not come along for a light hearted evening of fun, sponsored by Phase One (you don't need to be a Phase One photographer to attend or enjoy this session).
Crocodile Showdown in Kakadu - Photo 1 of 3
Fujifilm X-T4 with 200mm f2.0 lens and 1.4x converter, f4 @ 1/1600 second, ISO 800
How do you define flying? If flying is being projected and moving above the water or land, then we saw a crocodile flying in Kakadu last week - and thank heavens it wasn't heading towards our boat!
For those in southern Australia, you probably don't want to know how warm it was in the Northern Territory last week. It's a wonderful time of year for the Top End and many of the locals say they wouldn't be anywhere else for winter. I'm not quite so sure as it was still pretty hot, but then again, as I write this on a cool, shivery evening in Sydney, perhaps I am!
Sharon Jones from the AIPP's Northern Territory chapter organised a series of lectures, workshops and a photo tour last week which gave me the opportunity to meet some wonderful people and do what I love most, take photographs! And with so little travel in recent times, it was great to sit on a plane again, even if my face was covered with a mask and my ears sore from tight elastic!
So, what about these three photos - and the croc when it flies?
The first image is a bit of a tease. I'm pretending it's the dominant croc moving towards another croc that has invaded his territory. The second photo shows the actual stand-off position and the third is when the croc launches himself and flies! It was a very special encounter and well documented by our group in the early morning at Yellow Water.
For action shots like these, I use continuous autofocus, image stabilisation and auto ISO. I set my shutter speed at 1/2000 second on shutter priority exposure mode and let the camera work out the aperture and ISO. And I set my camera to a high frame rate so I'm capturing as many shots per second as I can. And while I wasn't using a zoom lens, if I had, I would have zoomed further out to make it easier to capture and contain the action - my prime telephoto lens was a little long for this situation.
And in a perfect world? I would have been on the other side of the action with the croc coming towards me - and hoping like hell he didn't fly too far!
Mullimburra Point, NSW (Preliminary edit)
Phase One XT 150MP, 28mm Rodenstock, f11 @ 30 seconds (frame averaging), ISO 100
There are two schools of thought when it comes to travel and photography. One school says let's go somewhere new, somewhere different, somewhere exciting. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it's a flop, but the experience of travelling into the unknown can be addictive.
The second school says that travelling photographers can't understand a location and experience it properly with a single, short trip. Especially if we're trophy photographers, it's unreasonable of us to expect the amazing light and climactic conditions we've seen in the hero photos of a location. Sure, we can be lucky from time to time, but statistics indicate that to get great light and conditions we need to allocate more time. Time improves our chances and that's why I'm a boomerang photographer. I'm always happy to return to a location that I like and see what's there.
Mullimburra Point is north of Narooma which is a popular base for seascape photographers. While I have surfed up and down the NSW coast, my first trip to this area as a photographer was with the Focus Photographers (www.focusphotographers.org). And every time I visit, I find something new. My most recent trip was with a mate and our primary focus was surfing, but there was so little surf, I convinced him to let me take some photos. I even flew my drone a few times (no crashes so far).
In terms of post-production, I was a little late to capture the sun on the rock, so in post-production I have used an adapted luminosity mask to select the rock and lighten it up, and I've also warmed up the colours so they contrast with the cooler, blue background. And the image is stitched as well - two frames with the XT being shifted left to right to get a wider angle-of-view of what is in reality a very small beach.
Is it better than my other shots of the same location? Hmmm, does it have to be better? Today I think it's better, but tomorrow I might not. Perhaps more important is the fact I enjoyed taking and processing the photo - and that's enough.
A small reminder that my updated How To Win Photo Competitions program is now available with a $50 discount (and yes, the coupon code is now working) - use COMPETITOR to purchase for $79 (full price $129).
Sue and her employees, Middlehurst, NZ
Fujifilm X-T3, 200mm lens, f2.5 @ 1/2400 second, ISO 400
This is Sue. Sue and Willy own Middlehurst in New Zealand where Tony Hewitt and I run our annual art photography experience. And I did take 343 frames to get this one, but I probably have 150 frames that are also pretty good.
Sue was out rustling sheep. Okay, so that's the wrong term, but it makes a better blog post! Each year at Middlehurst, Sue, Willy and their employees (dogs and horses) encourage a flock of sheep to run over some beautiful countryside towards our cameras. One of the shots you may be familiar with - the black and white blur of sheep as the dogs round them up. And every year there is something different: the weather, the clothing, where Sue or Willy stand or ride. It's never about just photographing the sheep. Yes, we're there to shoot the sheep, but as photographers it's also important to keep our eyes open for other opportunities.
Here I'm using the shallow depth-of-field of a 200mm lens (equivalent to a 300mm lens on a full-frame sensor) to throw the background out of focus. While blurred, there's enough information to tell you what it is like, but it's sufficiently muted to ensure the subject of the photo - Sue and her employees - stand out. The wider the aperture, the shallower the depth-of-field, but even at f8 or f11, the background would still be pretty blurred with this focal length. Depth-of-field reduces not only with longer focal lengths, but also the closer your focused subject is.
And note how the snow-covered hill in the background surrounds Sue and her horse. By being aware of the background at the time of capture, you can move yourself or your subject into position. Many of the other 343 frames don't have as successful a background - and that's why I was happy to shoot LOTS of frames, allowing me to choose the best one later.
We have now confirmed the second program at Middlehurst this July and have two places left for the 12-18 July week if you're interested, or possibly one in the 19-26 week. It doesn't look like Australians and New Zealanders will be travelling too far afield this year - and with a location like Middlehurst so accessible, it doesn't really matter! You can read all about the Middlehurst experience here. Or visit www.betterphotography.com, of course!
Pages from the Looking Down Notebook, a personal project of aerial photos.
Printed on Eggshell paper and spiral bound by Momento Pro.
I love the printed photograph. Originally, it was something printed in a darkroom or using an offset press. Today it is using an inkjet printer or an on-demand press. And if I'm honest, the quality I'm getting today is so much better than anything I produced in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Next week, I'm travelling. Just a small step from NSW to the Northern Territory where I'm running a number of workshops and photo tours with the AIPP. On the itinerary is an aerial workshop for an afternoon a little north of Darwin. When it comes to aerials, I have a preference for the 'squarial', the almost abstract pattern shots that are created by looking directly down from the aircraft and excluding the horizon.
To give the presentation, I thought it would be nice to share some of my work in the printed format, so I put together around 90 images and sent them off to Momento Pro for printing on their Indigo press. I'll also take a few prints made on my Epson SC-906, printed on Canson Rag Photographique. Are there differences? Of course! When you read your paper edition of Better Photography, as good as the reproduction is (also printed by Momento on an Indigo press), a four or six colour device can't match the 10 inks in an Epson printer. And Momento itself offers a premium printing service where it also uses exactly the same types of Epson printers photographers do to print the pages.
What I love about the printed image is being able to linger on the image, to see the detail just by moving my eyes, rather than enlarging and scrolling around. If you don't have your own printer, there's nothing stopping you from having some of your best images printed by someone like Created for Life or Brilliant Prints. Send them a digital file and they'll send back a physical print.
Ignacio Palacios and I are doing a short photo and printing workshop at Sydney's Blue Mountains at the end of June if you're interested in knowing more (here's the link), and while the Darwin workshops are all sold out, there's an evening talk on Tuesday 18 which has seats available (see https://aipp.com.au/events/ for details).
Below are a few more spreads from my Looking Down Notebook. And I hope I've encouraged you to make a few prints!
Snow Hill, Weddell Sea, Antarctica
Phase One XF 150MP, 55mm Schneider lens, f10 @ 1/125 second, ISO 100, tripod mounted.
It may seem a little unusual to read 'tripod mounted' on a voyage to Antarctica, but there are many occasions we get to land. Last year on my first voyage, being late in the season, we were able to enter the Weddell Sea and travel south to the remote Snow Hill. I remember listening to the exhibition crew as we slipped through mirror-smooth waters, dodging icebergs and straining to see through low cloud on the horizon. They all had their fingers crossed that we would reach Snow Hill because there's usually too much ice, remembering that this is the general area in which Shackleton and his men were icebound on the Endurance, until it was eventually crushed and they footed it out, dragging their life boats behind them. It was not something we wanted to happen to us, naturally!
However, the weather gods smiled and we reached our destination. I think we were all a little surprised at how brown and ice-free the location was. Even though it was late in the season (March) and you'd expect the snows to have melted, the shadow of global warming had us thinking.
Towards the end of our short time ashore, I came across this wonderful line of ice on the shore. I guess you'd call them 'growlers', being the term for small 'icebergs', but really they are just shards of broken ice washed up on the beach by the tides and the winds. However, as a photographer, what I loved most was the shape of the ice as it receded into the distance. The classic 'ess' composition. The light was very flat, so a little remedial work was required in Capture One to resurrect the file.
I'm using this file to demonstrate Capture One and its 'adjustment layers' for an online event this Friday and Saturday, hosted by the AIPP. Called AIPP TV Level Up, there is a huge line up of great presenters - you can find details about the event at: https://aipp.com.au/event/aipp-tv-level-up-post-production/ - it is open to both members and non-members.