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  • Salt flats and mud

    Have just been out on a fascinating landscape-photo mission south of Horsham exploring some lakes with amazing dead trees... The clouds started out all wispy cirrus, so I was mainly shooting B&W on my IR modified 60d to bring out the clouds, with a 10 stop ND filter to blur the lake water.

    After a while the clouds burned off and left a bare blue sky and 30 degree heat, so i started heading back to town via back roads... Enroute a spotted this white patch on the distance and took a bunch of rough dirt roads to go investigate... After much bush-bashing (the whole time thinking, "watch for snakes, watch for snakes") I came out of the scrub into this huge salt pan lake with bright red water and these amazing dead trees dotting the water! Completely surreal!  

    I carefully walked out across the thin salt crust - which got pretty spongey in places - shooting colour with my 5d2 and EF 16-35f4 IS. In the heat and intense sunlight I really struggled to find nice compositions, which wasent helped by the fact that every time you stopped to compose you started sinking into the muck!  Just after I shot the main photo the salt crust completely gave way, and i found myself knee deep in the foulest smelling gunk ive ever known! Still, a pretty good mish!

  • Have spent the last few days working on Lazy Monelli V10 at the Main Grampians area, and exploring the bouldering around Buandik, an area being developed an hour south. So many amazing looking lines on orange sandstone among eucalyptus forest. Have 2 more climbing days to send two V9 projects there... wishing for cool temps and good recovery from todays rest!

  • Grampians Climbing

    Its been way too long since the last entry here... but now im out among the boulders again, spending my days climbing and taking photos! I climbed with a bunch of Melbourne guys yesterday and got this shot of Matt McNair on a problem called the Caves Club (V10). Getting the gear out and enjoying taking photos again motivated me to think about updating this site and starting to do some blog posts. In the meantime heres a quote about climbing I liked:

    "There is no possible reason for climbing except for climbing itself: It is a self-communication"

    From the book 'Flow: The Pyschology of optimal experience' - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

  • Golden Bay Trip

    I just got back from another weekend trip away - to the West Coast at the top of the South Island this time. Ive spent more than a few nights 'sleeping' in tiny cars, but last nights attempt takes the cake for the most miserable! For a start the seats of the car would not fold flat - instead they kind of bridged up in the middle meaning you could only lie on your front and spoon the bulge.. which would have been managable if it wasent for the heat! I fixed this with an open window, which promptly let in a horde of mosquitos so numerous they would have kept me awake all night with their incessant humming... only they also took to searching out every patch of bare skin to feed on! 

    Needless to say, when my 5am alarm went off I was more than ready to get up and start the hike out to the location!

    Anyway, the sunrise was average (I think it looks better here than in reality... or maybe i was just hoping for a 1 in 1000 event to make up for the nights suffering), but definately encouraging for a first trip... expect to see more shots from here in the future! ...only next time i'll be taking a mosquito proof tent!

  • Colour IR

    The clouds were pretty awesome yesterday so we did a impromptu mission over to Pallaiser point, exploring several areas en-route. I caught a glance of this scene while driving and the potential image just blossomed in my mind over the following minutes - to the point that I just had to turn around and go back...

    This image was shot with an Infrared converted Canon 60D and EF 17-40 f4L lens and channel mixed in photoshop to acheive the blue colour.

    I have to give some credit for this image to a flickr user whose IR work really inspired me: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/coulombic/2662101760/">www.flickr.com/photos/coulombic/2662101760/</a>

  • IR converted 60D!

    My converted 60D just arrived back from Lifepixel in the US who replaced the IR blocking filter on the CMOS with an IR passing filter - the result is a handholdable dslr that shoots Infrared (including IR video)!

    My motivation for doing this was B&W landscape photography - landscapes reflect IR light in a very different manner to visible light, darkening skies and water, while lightening foliage and clouds... This effect is used to great effect by a number of renowned film photographers including Helmut Hirler http://www.helmut-hirler.de/ and the Wildlife master Nick Brandt http://www.nickbrandt.com/Text_page.cfm?pID=2704

    The shot above demonstrates this effect on some nice cirrus that drifted ove during the weekend... Unfortunately by the time I got out to a spot where I want nice cirrus it had clouded over...

    Having a converted camera (as opposed to a screw on IR filter) has a number of benefits:

    Exposures are short

    With the IR blocking filter removed, exposures are comparable to shooting visible light with a non-converted camera. This means you can shoot fast moving objects which would be completely blurred away when using a filter + non-converted camera.

    Image Quality

    The image quality is as good or better than shooting conventionally. In my experience, even expensive filters seem to greatly degrade the IQ (I have a German Heliopan and its IQ is comparable to the ebay special no-name one i got for 1/5 the price). In contrast the converted camera has had its antialiasing (AA) filter removed, meaning resulting images are as sharp as the lens youre using, and theoretically sharper than the standard camera... On virtually all digital cameras, the AA filter blurs the image slightly to prevent moire on subjects with repeating textures like fabrics - but this is not as issue for landscapes.

    Liveview previews

    When using a filter you are forced to frame up and focus(by guestimation) the shot before putting on the filter.. after which you cant see anything through the viewfinder or live view... however a converted camera retains both the visible viewfinder, AND allows liveview to enable accurate focus - Might sound minor but its a real PITA in reality.

    There are a number of other benifits to a converted camera, like being able to use small apertures to get a huge DOF, and screw on filters such as ND's for long exposures or polarisers (not actually sure what that does yet..)..


    The major downside is that you now have a camera which can only shoot IR... im sure there are other downsides which ill discover over future trips, but for now thats the only one that comes to mind!


  • Dithering

    Sometimes it feels like the key to solving a problem is just in knowing the right search term... in this case, my problem turned out to be dithering...

    A few days ago I had some colour proofs done for a 690 x 1500mm print im about to do for a comissioned print. To my dismay, the smooth sky gradient was heavily stepped and came across almost striped under bright light!

    At this time I didnt know the name for this problem - it was just a nasty effect id occasionally seen in smooth gradients when id overbaked jpeg images.. but this image had minimal adjustment layers and Id been sure to use uncompressed Tiff files to ensure compression was not an issue...

    So, I began my search for the cause.. and stumbled upon this whole new area of knowledge i had been virtually oblivious to!

    This was a really useful explanation of the problem from a guy called Clyde Beamer who I assume works in the film industry... "The banding is caused when the change in value between on line and the next is smaller than one "bit". What the software does is to round off the value so that you get repeated values and then all at once the value jumps to the next higher available value in your color/bit depth."

    According to Clyde, the solution to this issue is apparently to process problematic files in 16 bit rather than the default 8 bit. This increases the number of potential 'steps' in each colour channel from 256 to 65,536!

    Ok, so i tried re-exporting 16 bit tiffs from Adobe Raw and stitching these in Photoshop CS5.

    Still there. damn... Not as bad.. but still noticable...

    So after further reading i found several suggestions that noise reduction could be the cause of the issue - this made sense as reducing noise effectively smooth out areas of colour, which could cause stepping... So, I do another re-export and merge with no NR on (by this stage im pretty appreciative of the 12 core/24Gb RAM workstations we have at work!)... and the bands are still there!!

    Gah, fustration!

    Evidentally the gradient in this image is pretty challenging for Photoshop, so i started looking at methods of concealing the steps... One site suggested overlaying a layer of filmgrain over the image at 50% opacity to add some noise back into the gradient.. and amazingly, this seems to have worked! Perhaps the 5d2 images are smoother and too clean for photoshop to comprehend?!?

    Having done all that im now awaiting the new colour proofs from Imagelab to see if its really worked... because looking at the banding in the supposidly 'fixed' image above, id say my adventures into the fun world of dither are only just beginning! 

  • Mt Aspiring Trip

    The first shot ive processed from a recent trip down to Mt Aspiring 3027m. We had pretty bad weather for our summit attempt, with gale force winds, rain and white-out... but the weather did result in some amazing cloudscapes that begged to be shot in B&W!

    Ive started using Photoshop 'channel mixer' adjustment layers for B&W conversion and its a bit of a revelation! The results are almost IR like, with dark skies and beautiful cloud treatment. Sure you'll be seeing more like this in the days to come!

  • Wellington Sunset

    Had a pretty good trip out to Moa point near the airport the other night... great to find some decent spots close to home! Think im going to head back there to shoot some long exposure B&W's next time the tides right and theres some decent clouds... with a bit more wave action i think this rock formation would be far more defined and the distractions out at sea will be obscured...

  • Frames all finished and ready for Exhibition!

    Have just got 4 of my custom-made frames all finished and ready for exhibition in the nexw year!

    After several prototypes I settled on this design, which presents the aluminium-composite-material mounted print floating within the case. The frame is glazed with museum acrylic, which is lighter and less fragile than glass, and UV blocking to minimise print fading.

    If you're in Napier, you can view them at the photographers gallery: http://www.pghb.co.nz/

  • Cape Kidnappers with the Sigma 12-300 f2.8

    Last weekend we went up to the Gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers near Napier, apparently one of two mainland colonies in the world. It was my first trip to any kind of bird colony and I didnt really know what to expect - perhaps a few hundred birds in some nests on some rocks that you would need binoculars to see... the reality blew me away! The colony is in a field for a start, and you can walk to within two meters of the nests without the birds so much as giving you a second look. Id bought along a 1.4x extender expecting to be miles back, and there I was sitting at the MFD of the tele from these huge birds! 

    As other birds began returning from sea in the late afternoon I started trying to capture their impressive landings which ranged from elegant maneuvers to crash landings. Tracking the fast moving targets at 300mm and capturing them right before they diseappeard down into the mass proved a real challenge with the SIgma. The time between a bird going from normal flight to hover mode to ground must have been a matter of seconds and the focus lag ment I kept getting the shot too late! It took about 20 minutes tracking every bird to fly past to get a passable shot...

    1/4000s @ f4.0

     So, the Sigma's focus isnt the greatest for action shots, but hey, it was a lot of fun all the same!

  • Climbing Photography with a Sigma 120-300 f2.8

    With the intention of doing some climbing photography during a climbing trip to Thailand (and the desire to own a huge-ass lens) I recently picked up a Sigma 120-300 f2.8 telephoto. Part of the attraction over the amazing Ef 70-200 f4 I currently use for landscapes was its ability to blur backgrounds, isolating the climber on the wall... at least this was my perception at the time. A 50mm f1.4 is great for this at close range, but i wanted to acheive this from 20-30m away!

    So, I got a great price on the second-hand Siggy, and a new backpack to lug the 2.8kg beast around (a Kata.. more on that another day!)

    My first impression of the lens was one of awe... while the focal length overlaps with my 70-200, its a completely different lens. Im used to stopping down to acheive edge to edge sharpness for landscapes - with this its almost the opposite! Ive found myself shooting at 2.8 almost exclusively, trying to blur everything but the crisp plane of focus enveloping my subject...

    Samson on Lion King 6c+ @ 'Dums Kitchen', Tonsai

    I found the lighting one of the greatest challenges with shooting climbers - In Thailand its far too hot to climb in full sun, so most of the activity happens in shady areas with flat lighting. While this is something I intend to address with remote flashes in future, on this trip it made me even more reliant on the shallow DOF of the fast tele to bring interest to the shot.

    Fabian on Lion King 6c+

    While the lens is heavy, I found it managable to hand-hold for all the shots taken here (there must come a point where a lens is virtually stabilised by the inetria of its own mass!?). I definately recommend a good backpack if you plan on walking any distance with this lens.. but even then, it took some commitment to shoulder it for day-trips out climbing!

    Optically the lens is amazing - at 300mm @ f2.8 pixel contrast between light and dark edges is incredible... Its as sharp as all the rave reviews suggest... the crop below shows the gear in the first shot.

    The one weakness ive found is flare. Im not a fan of lens hoods - or rephrased, ive never HAD to be a fan of lens hoods (with canon L lenses), but with this thing its not really optional. If the sun is shining on the front element, you get a big white ghost, and you can forget shooting with the sun in-frame! Thankfully, the  Sigma metal hood generally fixes this issue, and lives happily reversed over the lens. 

    Ok, well thats enough about the lens... heres another shot...

    Mick on an 8a+ route on the beach wall ive forgotten the name of...

  • Thailand trip!

    Just arrived in Bankok and were waiting for a connecting flight down to Krabi... My girlfriend, Shjaan and I have 3 weeks of climbing, photography and diving ahead of us! Its early in the season here, so will likely rain half the time... but that just means more time to read (have Galen Rowell's 'Inner game of Outdoor Photography' - a collection of essays on landscape photography by one of the masters) eat, develop shots and maybe spend some more time on the site...  

    Anyway, heres a cliche journey shot featuring a nice plane wing to kick this thing off...

  • Site up and running!

    Motivated by the opening of my first exhibition, Ive setup this site to document my explorations into photography. Putting together a consistent series of images for the show helped me identify and define my unique photographic 'style', and Its my hope that publishing collections here will do the same...

    Hope you enjoyed looking over my images!