Peter Eastway writes an almost weekly newsletter from his Better Photography website (www.betterphotography.com). These are some of the more recent posts.

Photography and Friendship At Bruny Island

June 20, 2021

Bruny Island Lighthouse, TasmaniaBruny Island Lighthouse, Tasmania

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!

 


Can You Shoot Mungo Under Starlight?

June 07, 2021

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.

 


High Resolution Workshp

June 01, 2021

Silverton and Broken Hill in New South WalesSilverton and Broken Hill in New South Wales

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

Price: $20

Here is the link: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/high-resolution-photography-with-peter-eastway-brought-to-you-by-phase-one-tickets-156998188809

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).

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Can Crocodiles Really Fly In Kakadu?

May 25, 2021

Crocodile, Yellow Water, KakaduCrocodile, Yellow Water, Kakadu

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!

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Why I'm a Boomerang Photographer

May 18, 2021

Mullimburra Point, NSWMullimburra Point, NSW

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).

 


I Shot 343 Frames to Get This One

May 18, 2021

Sue and her employees, Middlehurst, NZSue and her employees, Middlehurst, NZ

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!

 


True Confessions of Someone About To Travel

May 09, 2021

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!

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The Ess Curve In Composition

May 02, 2021

Snow Hill Landscape 01Snow Hill Landscape 01Late Season, Antarctica 2020

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.

 


What Does B&W Do?

April 08, 2021

Monk, Mongar Dzong, East Bhutan
Phase One XF IQ4 150MP, 110mm Schneider, f2.8 @ 1/125 second, ISO 1600
 

Black and white strips out reality. It's a bold statement perhaps, given the history of photography itself begins with monochrome (and the photo above isn't strictly speaking black and white, rather a sepia tone). However, most of us see in full colour and so when we look at colour photographs, there's an element of expectation involved.

In the photograph above, colour would completely change the myth and mystery surrounding the portrait. The bright, gaudy yellow tent we are in is throwing sunshine colours all around, the monks are dressed in brilliant crimson, the ornamentation in the ceiling has every colour of the rainbow. The scene is festive, exciting and alive, yet amongst it all, the monk is poised pensively, quietly looking past the photographer (me) at something behind. Some of the other monks are looking too.

To concentrate on the monk and his expression, I felt that I needed to remove the colour. I wanted to reduce the image to just the key points, but without removing the context. Black and white does a lot of this. Darkening the surrounding figures and blurring them slightly helps as well, but it is the monochromatic rendition that does most of the work.

Fingers crossed we can get our tour to Bhutan happening next year - it's a wonderful place to visit.

 


A Slightly Wider View

March 14, 2021

Glasshouse Rocks, NaroomaGlasshouse Rocks, Narooma

Glasshouse Rocks, Narooma
Phase One XT 150MP with 32mm Rodenstock lens, f8 @ 1/30 second, ISO 50, frame averaging for 30 second, two-frame stitch.

Reading the technical details up above, I can imagine a few readers scratching their heads and wondering what I put in my coffee this morning! Let me explain!

The Phase One XT is a wonderful camera, but requires completely manual focus and manual exposure control. There are no creature comforts, but for photographers who have been around for a while (such as myself), there's a certain enjoyment to be found in doing things slowly and methodically, a little like we used to use 'view cameras' in the days of film. It's not a camera for all occasions, but the image quality is beautiful.

There were two features I used to capture this image. The first was frame averaging, which is like using a neutral density filter. Frame averaging continuously takes the same exposure over and over again, for as long as you desire. I used a shutter speed of 1/30 second continuously over a period of 30 seconds, because this was enough to blur the water and produce some slight movement in the clouds. I could have used a neutral density filter to achieve the same effect - so frame averaging is a time saver in that I don't have to worry about putting my filters on. 

However, frame averaging at shutter speeds (times) shorter than around 1/3 second can produce 'steps' in the exposure. This is because with short shutter speeds, there is an interval between exposures during which nothing is recorded. If you do frame averaging for four seconds at 1/30 second, you might take 12 shots and if you look carefully at the file, you will see 12 outlines of a breaking wave as it moves across the frame. Cloud movement is harder to see because it's movement is so slow. Compare this with a 30 second period where there are hundreds of exposures at 1/30 second and the wave and water movement gets so jumbled up, it produces a soft blur, just like an ND filter. So, for long exposure of 15 seconds or longer, frame averaging is perfect, but for exposures of 1/8 to 15 seconds, I think neutral density filters still have their place for the XT system.

The second feature I used is the back shift. The XT provides vertical and horizontal shift, so I can correct converging verticals (e.g. for architecture) or stitch two images together to create a panorama - and a wider angle-of-view. To fit the two Glasshouse rocks into the frame with my 32mm lens, horizontal stitching was required to provide a little breathing space around the outside of the composition.

And yes, this is taken on the same morning as a photo posted a couple of weeks ago. Still working my way through a productive morning!