Subscribe
RSS
Archive
January (2) February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December

Welcome to Random Lights Photography's humble blog!

This is the place where I try to share some insights and behind the scenes material to my shoots. If you have any questions please feel free to shoot me an email or leave a comment below! 

Cheers,
Hannes

Margaret River - Land Of Light -A time lapse video of southwest Western Australia

January 23, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Situated in between the crystal clear waters of world-class surf beaches, awe-inspiring native forests and countless top-notch wineries lies the town of Margaret River in southwest Western Australia. Famed for it's pristine nature, high-quality local products and plenty of outdoor-activities, Margaret River draws-in tens of thousands of visitors each year, who are looking for that special "get-away from it all".

In this (my first ever!) short time-lapse video of Margaret River and it's surroundings, I showcase some - but by far not all - of the attractions and beautiful places this area has to offer. You are taken into mysterious Boranup forest, renowned for it's unique display of the endemic Karri trees a true landmark sight! You get to see Hamelin Bay, a favorite with locals and tourists alike. This scenic swimming beach has picture-book blue water, resident eagle rays and the remains of an old timber jetty, that is a reminder of the once-booming timber trade of the region. We visit world-famous "Surfers Point" and the mouth of the Margaret river and witness stunning "only-in-WA" sunrises and sunsets.

Discover many more 'hidden spots' of the region that are just waiting to be explored!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This is my first ever attempt at making a time-lapse and also my first ever full-length video, so please excuse any small hiccups.

All clips were shot and processed over 7 weeks. I have captured a total of 13500 frames and combined these into 62 short clips, some of which didn't make the final cut, though.

On average, each of these clips required one hour for shooting(incl planning, set-up, etc) and one hour for processing.

In the process of creating this video I learned a lot about shooting and processing time-lapse videos and general video processing and am contemplating making a sequel, so please let me know in a comment below if that would something you're interested in!

All footage was shot on my trusty Canon EOS 6D and a Canon EF16-35mm /f4L IS USM or a Tamron SP 70-200 mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens. The motion was controlled with a Syrp Genie motion control device and I stabilized the whole set-up on my Induro CT313 carbon fibre tripods.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or contact me through my website. You can also find me on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/randomlightsphotography.

You can find the full 4K version of the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldSke9bSbWk

Enjoy :)
Margaret River - Land Of LightPlease watch in HD!





Situated in between the crystal clear waters of world-class surf beaches, awe-inspiring native forests and countless top-notch wineries lies the town of Margaret River in southwest Western Australia.

Famed for it's pristine nature, high-quality local products and plenty of outdoor-activities, Margaret River draws-in tens of thousands of visitors each year, who are looking for that special "get-away from it all".



In this (my first ever!) short time-lapse video of Margaret River and it's surroundings, I showcase some - but by far not all - of the attractions and beautiful places this area has to offer.



You are taken into mysterious Boranup forest, renowned for it's unique display of the endemic Karri trees a true landmark sight! You get to see Hamelin Bay, a favorite with locals and tourists alike. This scenic swimming beach has picture-book blue water, resident eagle rays and the remains of an old timber jetty, that is a reminder of the once-booming timber trade of the region.

We visit world-famous "Surfers Point" and the mouth of the Margaret river and witness stunning "only-in-WA" sunrises and sunsets.



Discover many more 'hidden spots' of the region that are just waiting to be explored!







This is my first ever attempt at making a time-lapse and also my first ever full-length video, so please excuse any small hiccups.



All clips were shot and processed over 7 weeks. I have captured a total of 13500 frames and combined these into 62 short clips, some of which didn't make the final cut, though.

On average, each of these clips required one hour for shooting(incl planning, set-up, etc) and one hour for processing.



In the process of creating this video I learned a lot about shooting and processing time-lapse videos and general video processing and am contemplating making a sequel, so please let me know in a comment below if that would something you're interested in!



All footage was shot on my trusty Canon EOS 6D and a Canon EF16-35mm /f4L IS USM or a Tamron SP 70-200 mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens. The motion was controlled with a Syrp Genie motion control device and I stabilized the whole set-up on my Induro CT313 carbon fibre tripods.



If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or contact me through my website. You can also find me on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/randomlightsphotography.


Sunset At Ellensbrook Beach

January 09, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

My summer holiday is rapidly approaching it's end and I wanted to use every chance I get to go out and take some photos of the area.

 

One place I don't visit all too often is Ellensbrook beach, just west of Cowaramup and south of Gracetown. There's no partiular reason as to why I don't hit his spot up any more often, but I felt like giving it another go tonight. And surely enough, I wasn't disappointed with the weather conditions!


While looking for a nice composition I quite literally stumbled upon this little fella. At first he jumped away and hid in a crack in the rock but shortly after, probably realizing that I wasn't interested in eating him, he came out again and patiently stood model for me for about 5 minutes. I came within about 15-20 cm of him but he was calm as ice-cream and didn't seem to mind me at all. For this shot I combined 3 exposures, one for the bearded dragon and two for the sky.


I didn't quite get the nice colors in the clouds that I was initially hoping for but I was still quite pleased with the sunset and was able to stick around for a bit to capture some longer exposures.

Two shots went into the making of my final capture. One at ISO 160, f/7.1 & 90 sec for the foreground and one at ISO 160, f/9 & 90sec for the sky.

By the time I was shooting this I was already being eaten alive by about 50 mozzies and decided to call it a day.


Icefields Parkway Pt 1

October 07, 2015  •  Leave a Comment
 

Icefields Parkway Part One
 
Herbert Lake

After we left Canmore to travel to Jasper we stopped at various locations. Since this was a photographic trip we got up bright and early (well, early? yes! bright? not so much...!) and our first stop was Herbert Lake, the first lake on the left when entering Icefields Parkway in the Banff National Park.

We were still surrounded by grey and wet weather and we decided to return another day to try and shoot this lake in better conditions.

One of the many things a traveler in the Banff National Park will notice are the stunning road-vistas along the way to Jasper! We just couldn't help ourselves but to stop and do the classic road shots! :)
 The worst thing in these situations is that every other car that sees you parked on the side of the road, camera in hand, assumes that you've spotted a bear or a moose or some other frigging wildlife and within seconds you got 20 other cars parked everywhere, when in fact all you wanted to shoot is that beautiful empty road you just saw a minute ago...
Will capturing a classic modern day Rocky Mountain scene
 
 

With all the traffic passing through we had to watch each other's backs and make sure no one gets run over by an RV
Bow Lake
 

Next on our list was Bow Lake.
It's another beautiful, glacier-fed mountain lake where you just can't help but wonder how on earth such beauty came to be!
 
 
While everyone was busy taking shots of the magnificent landscape, I stayed back a little and captured some candid moments of the crew.
 
 
 
 
 
 
My last image of Bow Lake, shot with Sarah Hatton's Lee filter system, a big stopper and a 6-stop grad ND filter - ISO 50, f/14, 26mm, 60s
 
Peyto Lake
 
This is a 7-image panoramic, taken at ISO 50, f/14, 1/50s, 35mm - no filters
 
Peyto Lake in Icefields Parkway, Alberta, Canada
 
This is one of those locations where - while being mindful and careful not to disrupt nature - it pays to meander off the beaten track and search for a unique perspective, as most tourist will see this spot from the two viewing platforms and the view is somewhat restricted.
 
We dodged the crowds and walked 10 mins off the main path onto smaller paths and were rewarded with a very intimate and secluded little spot that left us looking over the whole lake and into the valleys beyond.
 
 

#CandidTripodShots ;)
 
 
 
 
 
That's all for today, folks! Stay tuned for more images and don't forget to subscribe on the left with your e-mail address to get the latest updates from RLP!

Cheers, Hannes

All things Athabasca - and some roadside shots of BC

October 04, 2015  •  Leave a Comment
 
Hey guys, it's time for some more images from Canada! There are still so many more images to be edited and now that I am in Germany it is even harder because I'm still out shooting and have new images coming in all the time. We also just visited the cities of Antwerp and Ghent in Belgium and there are loads more photos to be edited from there...

 
 
But today we cover some more of Canada and in particular the Athabasca Falls, the Athabasca River and the Athabasca Glacier along with some random road-side shots of the area.

Athabasca Glacier
unfortunately we only just passed this place so I only managed to get a few shots of this giant (well, today not so much anymore) glacier in the highlands of the Rockies. Note, the tiny little black dots on the glacier are tour buses that bring tourists out on the ice.
  Nigel Creek
ISO 50, 16mm, f/11, blended two exposures of 13s (for the sky) & 30s (for the foreground), shot with B+W 10-stop ND filter
 
Nigel creek was a lucky coincident. We were literally between stops when we noticed this beaut on the side of the road, down a steep gravel slope. So we swiftly jumped out of our cars and started descending this steep hill past chipmunks and small trees and onto the edge of this waterfall where the cliff to the right dropped 3-4 meters into the gushing waters.
 
ISO 50, 16mm, f/14, blended two exposures of 30s (for the sky) & 120s (for the foreground), shot with B+W 10-stop ND filter, blended in Photoshop using luminosity masks, then edited in Lightroom and NIK Color Efex
 
The whole crew was piling onto the narrow edges of the river banks to capture this little waterfall...
 
 Athabasca Falls
They call this One Of A Kind EXTREME Photography Adventures for a reason...! :)
 
 
Athabasca Falls weren't the most impressive falls that we saw but they were still nice. The hardest thing about these falls was finding an angle that worked and that didn't include any tourists.
 
The view down the back of Athabasca Falls... the most stunning thing was probably the color of the water ;)
 
The "Zombie Oubreak Response Team" - makes me feel really safe now :)
 
 Athabasca River near Jasper
 
  
The OOAK Crew taking in the scenery and taking a few shots
 
Athabasca River
OOAK Shenanigans
 
 
 
Will a.k.a. "Rflector"
 
Athabasca River - view toward Jasper - yet another grey and rainy day but we kept our spirits up
 Driving to Valemount, BC
"Indian Summer" slowly started as we visited the Rockies. With every day the vegetation slowly changed it's color and provided beautiful contrasts of colors.
 
 
 

Vermillion Lakes

September 25, 2015  •  Leave a Comment
 
Hey guys, I finally had some time to process the thousands of images from my recent One Of A Kind(OOAK) trip into the Canadian Rockies. Although I didn't process all of them, I now have enough write a few blog posts which I will publish over the coming days and weeks. 
 
Over the two weeks in Canada I have captured over 2500 images. A lot of them are rubbish, blurry or over-/underexposed and a mere 1000 images survived after the first round of culling.
One reason for this high amount of images is the fact that this trip was co-sponsored by Novoflex from Germany who generously provided us each with one of their latest Slim-line pano heads and most of my images were shot as part of single ad multi-row panoramas - but quite often simply single row panos with multiple exposures for foreground and sky.
 
 
I am now in Germany and took the past 4 days to just relax, go for walks, catch up with my family, enjoy German food (and beer!!) and process A LOT of images from this recent trip. Originally I had an exhibition planned in my hometown of Rossdorf but due to alack of time and several issues we had organizing the event I had to cancel it unfortunately... But nonetheless, in the words of the Terminator: "I'll be back!" and next time with more, and better quality images :)
 
 
 
 
The images you see here are all taken at the beautiful Vermillion Lakes, just outside Banff. We visited this place several times for both sunrise and sunset and it never seizes to amaze me how much the same landscape can change, depending on the time of day and the weather...
 
 
 
The image above was a 30s long exposure of Mt Rundle, shot on the Canon EOS M, with the EOS-EF adapter and my Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. I used my 10-stop B+W ND filter to darken the scene and record the movement of the clouds as they pushed their way over the mountain.
 
 
This image is a 6-image panoramic shot at 25s, ISO 100, f/18 and 70mm on my EOS M.
3-image, long exposure selfie panorama :)
 
We had a lot of fun and tried different approaches to photography. For the above images I set up my tripod on the floating boardwalk and took one frame at 2 minutes. While the camera was recording, me and my mate Shaun rocked the boardwalk left and right to create a nice amount of motion blur in the background. We then took another frame with me standing still on a non-moving boardwalk and I blended the two frames together to create this final image. :)
 
 
Beautiful and tranquil Vermillion lakes on the base of Mt Rundle and the Sundance range.
 
That's it for today, folks. I will be working on more images and articles about the Rocky Mountains... stay tuned for the Aurora, Wildlife, heaps of stunning scenery and more!
 
Until then I say "Prost!" :)
Hannes

Canada - Vermillion Lake, Mount Norquay, Mt Rundle, Two Jack Lake and Johnston Canyon

September 05, 2015  •  Leave a Comment
 
 
 
Hey guys, here are the latest images from yesterday and today. This turned out to be a killer trip (no surprise really!) and everybody is absolutely pumped about what we are doing here.
 
I don't have much time to write a massive text today but please enjoy the following images:
 
Calgary to Canmore
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
An elk hiding in the trees!
 
 
 
 
Mt Rundle, Mt Norquay and Vermillion Lakes
 
  
 
 
 
 
   
Two Jack Lake and Mt Rundle
 
   
 
Johnston Canyon
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Oh Canada!!

September 03, 2015  •  Leave a Comment
ready for take-off at Sydney Airport

 
Hi guys, I have been so slack in the past couple of weeks and haven't posted anything here, so I am going to change that now!





For those of you who follow me on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/randomlightsphotography), you will probably already know that I have left Western Australia on Tuesday to fly half way across the globe and attend a "One Of A Kind" photography workshop in Banff, Canada!
Yes that's right, I am already in Calgary and for the next few weeks I won't be posting my typical southwest WA seascapes.

Los Angeles
 
But first things first, this photographic work shop is organized and guided by no one else but Timothy Poulton, Sarah Hatton and Chris Collacot of One Of A Kind Extreme Photography Adventures and for the next two weeks will takes us through the most stunning locations around Banff National Park and Icefields Parkway in the Canadian Rockies! We're talking glaciers, mountains, waterfalls, alpine lakes, creeks and hopefully one or the other wildlife encounters!

Tired as hell but still 5 more hours to go - at LA airport
We're going to spend the nights mostly in Hotels but there are quite a few nights in which we will be camping, among them a couple of nights at the amazing Mt Assiniboine on the border of Alberta and British Colombia.
Prepping for the camping mission

I have just arrived here in Calgary two days ago after a 48+ hour ordeal that took me from Perth to Sydney to LA and finally to Calgary and I don't think I spent more then 2 hours sleeping as I hate flying for the lack of comfort on planes (my knackered lower back doesn't seem to help... :/ ).

 
 
Why did they ever change the look of fuel pumps? I love the old ones!
 
 
 
Anyhow, as it turned out, I had an old friend from Germany who now lives in Calgary and she invited me to stay with her and her family in the states capital. Happy days! After meeting her family and getting acquainted with some local customs (no, I'm not just talking about local beers ;) ) with a day to spare before the start of the tour, we decided to visit Heritage Park to get a glimpse of what life once used to be here in Canada. Besides, I love old cars and machines and this place has them all!
 
For rev-heads like me, the Heritage Park automobile museum offers a great range of perfectly preserved old-timers to drool over :)
 
 
 
 
 
I was very positively impressed with how well they had put this park together. Almost every building has one or two people in them, all dressed up in vintage attire and they all explain quite detailed what each building was used for and some stories of  the people who lived there. All in all quite well worth the visit if you got half or even a full day to spare. The ticket includes a ride on the steam boat and the steam train and grants admission to all the buildings.
 
 
Complimentary stream boat rides in Heritage Park
 
 
 
Heritage Park as seen from the steam boat 
 
 
 
 

Some places offer workshops like butter making or live exhibits like this black smith or the olde bakery. 
 
 
 
Live exhibits such as this blacksmith keep not only the kiddies entertained.
 
 
 
Mud houses used to be the only kind of accommodation for early settlers as they didn't have any trees in the prairie.
 

Thanks for taking your time to read this, everyone! I will try to keep you updated as I go along, but I will probably be out of range for a few weeks and might not get a lot of time to process the coming images.

So please feel free to enter your email on the left side of this blog in the "Follow by email" tab to receive the latest updates and/or follow me on facebook at (https://www.facebook.com/randomlightsphotography)

Thanks again and enjoy your weekend!

Hannes
 

Cape to Cape Track - Part 2: Moses Rock To North Point, Gracetown

July 21, 2015  •  Leave a Comment
 

The past weekend we set out, once again, to tackle another stage of the Cape-to-Cape track that runs from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin or vice versa. It's an amazing walk with so many cool things to see that some have dubbed it the Great Ocean Road of Western Australia. 

 
 
 
In January we completed the first major stage of the track and walked from Cape Naturaliste in the north to Injidup beach. According to Google maps, this was a 26,5 km walk with a lot of parts along beaches and through sand which made for a nice little torture. The last 3 kilometers were so rough - especially as the last leg of the stage lead along Injidup beach for a guestimated 100 kilometers - that my knees started swelling and nearly gave way under me. But we had to soldier on and in the end spent around 12 hours walking that stage. This painful ending was the reason why we haven't found the motivation to carry on to the next stage in the past 6 months haha.
 
 
So the weekend before last we finally set out again and walked from Injidup to Moses Rock Beach which was quite a pleasant ~10km (and 4 hour) stroll along bushland, beaches, cliffs and dunes and we thoroughly enjoyed it. :) So we decided to walk the next stage - Moses Rock Beach to Gracetown this past weekend. 
 
Unfortunately I didn't take any photos at all during the Injidup-Moses Rock stage - you just have to take my word for it. :D
 
 
This time it was supposed to be 12 kilometers but it felt like much more. Although the walk itself was much more demanding than the previous one, it was by far the most scenic stage. We walked past the stunning Wilyabrup cliffs, crossed wilyabrup brook, saw countless beautiful rock-formations sticking out of the ocean, climbed sand dunes, and had amazing views of the coast and the ocean.
 
Oh, and did I mention the pod of approx 30 dolphins that accompanied us all the way from Moses Rock to Gracetown? These little fellas had a seemingly good time feeding and playing along the coast and it's always a great sight to see wildlife like this, so close to the shore :)
 
 
Leo on top of the Wilyabrup Cliffs
 
 
As mentioned before, this stage felt much longer than anticipated but it is one of the prettier stretches of the coast and there's just so much to see.

This coming weekend we'll be headed to Balingup, but hopefully we can continue our Cape-to-Cape journey the following weekend, so stay tuned !!

Hannes

Blue Hour At The Corner Bar

July 18, 2015  •  Leave a Comment
Approximately once every 5 years, I do manage to get up early enough to shoot a sunrise... ;) the reason for my struggle is pretty obvious for most people :)




Since I live on the west coast, sunsets are much more tempting and there is an abundance of objects to be photographed along the coast with the sun conveniently setting in the background so why bother getting up hours before the break of dawn? Don't get me wrong - I have witnessed dozens of truly breathtaking sunrises in Western Australia and there's hardly a better way to start the day then to see and experience the whole landscape around you coming to life - the sounds of the bird, the wind picking-up, the first faint glow of light on the horizon slowly turning orange, then almost blood-red and literally turning the whole sky into a blanket of brightly glowing amber. It's a truly amazing experience.

But of all the places I traveled to, the sunsets in WA are among the best I have ever come to see and the spectacle is fairly frequent and sometimes last 10-15 minutes - plenty of time to capture the scene.

So, there are not many reasons for any photographer living on the west coast to get up early. But there's one thing you can not get very often at sunset that is guaranteed for sunrise shots - a lack of people.

For us landscape photographers, we want to display a scene in the tranquility and beauty that is only possible if people are absent. While I agree that images with people in them, make a photograph more relateable to the viewer, the presence of too many people in a landscape image often adds a certain element of distraction and tension and takes away from the shot.

Anyway, yesterday it was time to get up at 5:30am and I was hoping to capture some of the blue hour and sunrise in town.



I had a few locations in mind but settled for the old Margaret River Hotel. I hadn't photographed this place before but to many people it holds countless memories and is an important part of the town.

The sun was supposed to rise at 7:24am so I had around two hours to find a composition and get set-up. The composition didn't take very long so I had about 1,5 hours to play around with different settings and capture the light-trails of passing cars.

At approx. 7am the blue hour was in full swing and I captured a sequence of light trails in front of the MR Hotel. I was hoping to capture some stunning sunrise color in the clouds above the Hotel but at 7:24am the weather gods weren't on my side today and there was little to no color in the clouds even up until 8am when I finally decided to pack-up and head home.

This is why I don't usually get up before sunrise haha. :) There's just no way of telling whether the show is going to be spectacular or not.





How to use the "black-card technique" to improve your long exposure landscape images

June 23, 2015  •  Leave a Comment


Hi guys, I had a lot of people asking me about the black-card technique recently, so I decided to make a short how-to video about it using the amazing Wyadup beach as a backdrop.
It's my first ever video so please excuse the crappy sound quality :)



What is the black card technique?

Allegedly invented in Taiwan, the black card technique somewhat stems from the film days where the developer would "burn" parts of the scene in the lab to make them look darker. With the black card technique, we're actually doing this in-camera and on-location! This method only works when shooting long exposures, ideally when using a solid ND filter. It s meant to work as an alternative to the gradual ND filter.

The idea is that you hold a black piece of card in front of your lens over the brightest part of the scene (usually the sky) only removing it for a few seconds in order to expose the sky properly. Since most landscape scenes have a broad dynamic range, the sky only takes a couple of seconds to expose, whereas the foreground usually takes 3x or longer to expose properly.

What you need:

-Camera (duh!)
-Tripod
-ND filter
-Matte black card(big enough to fully cover the front element of your lens

How does it work?

Let's say you have a 10-stop ND filter attached to your lens and your foreground needs 60 seconds to expose, but the sky only 10 seconds. You now take the black card and gently shake it over the sky-part of the image for 50 seconds, being careful not to cover too much of the foreground, otherwise the foreground will end up underexposed. After these 50 seconds you take the black card away and expose let the sky expose for the remaining 10 seconds, thus resulting in an even exposure across the entire scene with no under-exposed foreground or over-exposed sky.

Keep in mind that you need to shake the card gently during exposure as to avoid a harsh line in the final image. This will take some practicing but it's worth getting right.

 
Watch the video:
 

This technique works best on flat, straight horizons, but with a bit of practice can also be applied on curved horizons

How do I know how long to use the black card?

The easiest way to determine proper exposure times for the fore- and background is to set your camera to Aperture priority mode, turn on live-view, turn on auto-focus and move your focus point onto the brightest part of the image (the sky). Now press the shutter button half-way down and take a reading. your camera will tell you how long it needs to correctly expose for the sky. Now repeat the same process on the darkest part of the image (the foreground or POI in the foreground) to know how long the foreground needs to be exposed properly. The difference in time is how long you need to cover the sky with the back card for an even exposure.



 

I have been using this technique for a couple of years now and it's a great way to easily correct for a broad dynamic range so you don't have to blend images in PS.

Below you find a few more sample images where I used this technique:












If you liked this article, please feel free to share it with your friends and/or leave a comment below.
 
And as always - find and follow me on facebook @ www.facebook.com/randomlightsphotography

Cheers :)

Quindalup 13-06-2015

June 13, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Forest tales - Old Karridale

May 26, 2015  •  Leave a Comment
 
Hey everyone, I know it's been a while and I'm sorry for the long break. After I shot "echoes" I got bloody sick and then there were always other things which kept me from going out and shooting. 
 


This weekend though, I finally found some time to head out for a while and, while just simply cruising around the south, we came across this little spot just south of the Boranup forest. 
 

Old Karridale - You can see this sign from Caves Rd - park your car there and go for a little stroll. It's just beautiful!
 
 Everyone loves the forests down here - embrace it!
 
That's a 5-image pano. The Ivy has taken over this part of the forest - it looks really mystic and amazing, like some fairy tale. Shot with a circular polarizer.
 
11-image pano - initially I planned to make it a 360-degree pano, but in the end I liked this version better. Shot with a circular polarizer.
 
Thanks to the setting sun and my polarizing filter I was able to capture the light trails of passing cars.
10sec, f/20, ISO 50, 35mm
 
 4 sec, ISO 50, f/9, 35mm + circular polarizer to enhance colors and reduce reflections on the leaves
 
7-image HDR, blended with LR/Enfuse and processed in Lightroom and Nik Color Efex .
-
ISO 50, f/11, 16mm + circular polarizer to enhance colors and reduce reflections on the leaves
 
The Maurice Coleman Davies Memorial where the old Karridale sawmill once used to be.
7-image HDR, blended with LR/Enfuse and processed in Lightroom and Nik Color Efex 
-
ISO 50, f/11, 16mm + circular polarizer to enhance colors
 

"Echoes" - Star Trails at Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse Tutorial

April 26, 2015  •  Leave a Comment
 
The Universe - Endless Space...
 
 
Hi everybody and welcome to a new blog post from Random Lights! Today I will share with you a few insights about a star trail photo that I took over the past weekend, including some tips on planning, shooting/gear and post processing.
 
We'll start off with the planning for such a shot.

 
For this particular shot, several factors needed to be considered for it to be successful: Light pollution, weather, direction of the subject and length of shot/trails.
 
 
I went out on Saturday night to get the shot, but my planning began already on Wednesday. I have been keeping a close watch on the weather forecast since then, as you want crisp and cloud-free skies to shoot astro. In fact, the winter months are better suited for astro photography then the summer months as the cold temperatures bind the moisture in the air and thus create clearer skies. I usually use the Weatherzone App(http://apps.weatherzone.com.au/) to check the forecast as it gives me quite reliable results.
 
The location was already decided upon. It was the Leeuwin Lighthouse near Augusta in Western Australia. The reason why I choose this Lighthouse? A: It is in a remote location which means very little light pollution (apart from the light of the lighthouse itself). B: it's accessible from the North which means I would be able to align the top of the lighthouse with the south pole(earth's southern axis of rotation) in order for the stars to "rotate around the lighthouse" in the final image. C: it's not a popular photography spot for astro so I was relatively sure that nobody would be "destroying" my star trails with their torches.
 
Another factor that needs to be considered when shooting astro is the moon cycle. Ideal shooting conditions for astro shots are when New Moon is happening. But really, any time at night when the moon is not visible it is a good time for astro. I use two more mobile Apps to help me scout locations and sun/moon cycles: The first one is SkyView Free (http://www.terminaleleven.com/skyview/iphone/) which gives me a rough idea of where the milky way is going to be at a certain time. It also shows the orbit of the stars which helps when lining up your subject. The other App, and I absolutely love this one, is Photopills (http://www.photopills.com/). This App is not free but for a few bucks you get a very comprehensive photography App which covers nearly everything from location planning, sun/moon set/rise times, exposure- depth of field and field of view calculators, augmented reality for day and night shots, time lapse calculators and much much more. It's the best App I have found for photography and is well worth the little price. I am actually using Photopills more often than SkyView simply because it is more comprehensive.
I also use The Photographers Ephemeris [TPE] (http://app.photoephemeris.com/) to double check locations and sun/moon rise and set times. It's browser-based desktop version is free to use and very accurate.

 
 
This may be a good time to state that I am not getting paid to share or recommend any of these Apps or products in this article. I use and recommend them because they work for me and give me the results that I want.
 
So with the location decided upon, the weather forecast looking sha-weet and the moon setting at 11;35pm it was time to prepare the gear. 
 
120 year old Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse near Augusta, Western Australia under the Milky Way
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
 
 
Things you will need for a star trail/astro time lapse shoot: 

 
- A sturdy tripod( I can't stress this enough!) and weight-bag
- Camera (duh!)
- Wide angle lens
- Intervalometer(or Magic Lantern if you shoot Canon)
- Warm Clothes
- Head light(comes in extremely handy!)
- A good book, music or something to keep you entertained while your camera does it's magic
- Food and warm drinks
 
For the tripod, I use an Induro carbon fibre tripod with an Induro ball head. It is a beast. Relatively large when folded-up, it extends to over 2 meters height which is great if you need that extra reach(or if you're a tall fella with back problems like me). The other advantage is that, because of this kinda height, the legs are nice and thick which makes the tripod more stable and less flimsy. It may not be the ideal travel tripod but it is built to last and will not disappoint(unless you're travelling of course). 
 
My Camera is the Canon 6D, which is an entry level full frame DSLR camera. This is a great camera for astro photography because of it's splendid low light performance. For star trail shots, though, you can use pretty much any camera that has manual controls and the ability to connect an Intervalometer. I have loaded Magic Lantern (http://www.magiclantern.fm/) onto my camera because it adds a few features I wish Canon had implemented straight from the factory. These features are mainly the possibility of setting shutter speeds of more than 30 seconds without the use of a remote shutter release cable, the option to turn off the GPS when the camera gets turned off (this preserves the battery life of your camera, why didn't Canon add this feature??!!) and the inbuilt Intervalometer - an essential tool for star trails and time lapses.

My go-to lens for pretty much everything is the Canon 16-35mm f/4. This is an exceptional lens with superb sharpness and very little to no coma. It's built in image stabilization works like a charm and allows me to take crisp images at shutter speeds that normally require the use of a tripod(to a certain degree, of course).
As a general rule of thumb you want to use a very fast wide angle lens for astro/nightscape shots. You are going to shoot wide open, which means you want a lens with a maximum aperture of at least f/4, ideally though f/2.8 or f/1.4. The faster your lens(means:the bigger the maximum aperture of your lens) the more light you can capture, the lower the ISO needs to be, which in turn means less noise. Since my budget is limited and I wanted an all-rounder-lens that I can use for landscapes, astro and even some portraiture/lifestyle photography, the Canon 16-35mm f/4 is ideal. This lens is on my camera 90% of the time and I really, really love it!

As mentioned above, I don't use a shutter remote/physical Intervalometer since installing Magic Lantern on my camera. Again, this is only an option for Canon shooters so if you shoot with any other brand, you may have to invest in a remote shutter cable with built in Intervalometer. These can be found cheap on ebay for around $10-15. If you do shoot Canon, I suggest you give magic lantern a go. It's free to download although it needs to be said that it is not endorsed by Canon and Magic Lantern does not take responsibility if your camera get's bricked, though chances are very slim. I used it on 3 different cameras and never had any issues.
 
Warm clothes are essential as you're going to be spending several hours out in the elements in the middle of the night. For this session, for example, I was wearing two pairs of thick bamboo socks, 3 pairs of pants, 2 T-Shirts, 2 long sleeve shirts and 3 jumpers, fingerless gloves, 2 beanies and a scarf. None of these things were specifically designed for cold and windy temperatures(i.e. technical outdoor gear) so I had to layer myself like an onion and still felt pretty cold. This, though, may have been due to the fact that I contracted a cold earlier in the day and as a result of spending some 6 hours out there with an already weakened immune system, I am now sick like a dog. So please, learn from my mistakes and wear warm clothes ha!

I recently bought a Black Diamond Revolt headlight, after doing several nightscape sessions and not being happy wit my torch as it meant only having one hand left to use and operate your gear while the other hand holds the torch. This headlight is rechargeable by USB, has a spotlight that shines 70 meters, a broad light function that is brilliant for reading or when you're searching for something in your car or backpack, and it sports 2 red LEDs which preserve your night vision but still gives off enough light to see the buttons of your camera so you can change settings without being temporarily blinded by your own light. It's my first ever head lamp so I can't compare it to other brands/models, but it works like a charm and I am very happy with it as it frees up my hands and I can concentrate on the task at hand.

When you're out there for a prolonged amount of time it can get extremely boring. So bring a good book, your pad/laptop and/or some music. I usually bring my ipod and a little speaker and do a little shimmy(I go bonkers sometimes and doa one-man-moshpit, after all you're most likely all alone out there lol). A pleasant side-effect of having a little dance is that it warms up your body and causes your blood to flow into your limbs so don't feel embarrassed  :)

I don't need to mention that food and water/warm drinks are as essential as warm clothing. I always bring a 1,5L thermos and some snacks and make sure I have something to eat before leaving home. You may be driving several hours to get to your location and then spend another several hours shooting, so be prepared and bring plenty of food and drinks.
 
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Taking the Shot
 
As I mentioned earlier, according to the Photopills app and TPE the moon was due to set at 11:35pm. I had some dinner, got dressed and left home around 10pm as I had a 45 minute drive ahead of me. When I arrived at the lighthouse the setting moon was blood red and I watched it disappear behind the horizon.
I walked up to the Lighthouse and used Photopills and SkyView to determine the location of the south pole, in regard to the lighthouse. This was a bit tricky. First of all, I had no idea how accurate this process is and I was afraid that in the end the centre of the south pole would be slightly off-centre from the lighthouse. Unfortunately there is no way of telling until the files are processed at home on the computer.
The other challenge was being close enough to the lighthouse so that the light beam of the lighthouse would go over the top of the camera and not shine directly onto the lens and cause lens flare, all the while being far enough from the lighthouse so as to get enough of the scene into the frame and at the same time being able to align the south pole with the top of the lighthouse. Luckily I managed to do all these things by carefully placing the camera/tripod just inside the lighthouses shadow and then aligned the south pole accordingly. I brought along a cotton shopping bag that I filled with rocks and suspended it from the tripod to stabilize it. Then I fired off a few test shots. 
 
My base settings were pretty clear to me:
 
- Camera in MANUAL mode
- Shooting in RAW
- White Balance at 3100 Kelvin(close enough for this scene but can be corrected in post processing)
- Exposure time 30 seconds
- Image Stabilization OFF
- Focus Mode MANUAL (switch to live view first, zoom in on a bright star, then let the camera focus on it. Once the camera has focused, switch focus mode to Manual)
- Shooting Mode CONTINUOUS 
- Display brightness on low(not only does this preserve your battery life but also your night vision
- GPS and WIFI disabled, to reduce battery usage
 
 
As the exposure time and aperture were set in stone, the brightness of the image would be determined by the ISO value. I tried several settings at ISO 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 and 6400 and finally settled for ISO 1600. This gave me enough illumination on the actual lighthouse but didn't overexpose the stars(thus retained the color in the stars) and also didn't introduce too much digital noise. 
 
I programmed Magic Lantern's Intervalometer so that it would fire off 330 shots at 30 seconds each with a gap of 2 seconds between shots. These 2 seconds give the camera a chance to stop vibrating from when the shutter opens and closes before the next shot is fired, thus reducing camera shake.
 
Once I was happy to go ahead, I turned off the screen completely, covered the view finder with gaffers tape to avoid accidental light leakage from my head light and started the Intervalometer. I then walked back another 20 or so meters, set up my "camp" and waited. I brought a book that my sister gave to me a few years ago about photography(fully immersed!), a camping chair and some hot tea and began my 3hr marathon. In these three hours I couldn't take shelter from the winds and had to keep warm so eventually I cranked up my ipod and just jumped around(mind you, far enough from my tripod so that I wouldn't shake the camera or even knock it over).

I also had ample time to just lie on the ground and gaze at the stars and the milky way. This is a very humbling experience and I never grow tired of it. Seeing shooting stars in all directions and imagining how smallwe are in comparison to this galaxy is simply amazing. It connects you somewhat a little bit more to this planet.

Once the sequence was shot I recorded another 10 dark frames. These are simply shots with the same settings but with the lens cap on the lens so that the sensor only records the hot pixels. This helps in post processing to remove the noise from the final image.

Since I didn't really feel like going home just yet, I stayed for another 2 hours and just shot away, trying out various different compositions. At 5am then, it was finally time to head home and take a warm shower and get some sleep.

 

A short time lapse video from Leeuwin Ligthouse created with Startrails.exe
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 
Post Processing
 
The next morning I loaded all the images into Lightroom and waited for the previews to be built (this usually takes some time with 400+shots, so go get yourself a coffee and keep occupied until the import process is finished). I then stacked all the shots that were to become the final star trail image, and the dark frames into a separate stack. I selected all images and, with Auto-Sync ON, I base edited the images. Once I was happy with the edit, I exported them as tiffs into a folder on my desktop(you can probably export them as jpegs as well to save time and memory on your hard drive). 
 
I had done some research before and found two free softwares for star trails. One is called Star Stax (http://www.markus-enzweiler.de/StarStaX/StarStaX.html) and the other is Startrails (www.startrails.de). I downloaded both and put them through their paces. In the end I slightly preferred Star Stax as it gave me a visually better/more pleasing result, but Startrails has the benefit of being able to create a time lapse video of your shots which I always love. And why not, since you have the shots anyway!?!

Once the star trail image was created, I re-loaded it into Lightroom and gave it the final touches. 
 
What do you think?
 
330 images combined into this one star trail of Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Duration of the Star Trail
 
As you can imagine, the amount of pictures you take determine the length of the Star Trails. To give you a visual idea, I have prepared the following images as a rough guide. Please note that for the final image I have opted for the "comet" effect in Star Stax, this makes the trails appear to fade away. For the examples below I did NOT use the effect.

Single Exposure at 30 seconds. 
 
30 images at 30 seconds, approx 16 minutes shooting time
 
60 images at 30 seconds, approx 32 minutes shooting time
 
120 images at 30 seconds, approx 1hr 4minutes shooting time
 
200 images at 30 seconds, approx 1hr 45 minutes shooting time
 
 300 images at 30 seconds, approx 3hrs shooting time 
 
Note that the top right corner sees a denser cluster of stars/trails. this stems from the MilkyWay which was situated just to the top right of the Lighthouse as you can see in the time lapse video above.
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
If you found this tutorial helpful, please feel free to subscribe, share the article or leave a comment below. Also if you have anything to add or think I have missed something, please comment and share your tips with us.

All the best and happy shooting to you all!
Hannes

Hamelin Bay under the Milky Way

April 22, 2015  •  Leave a Comment
 
 
- Hamelin Bay under the Milky Way -
 
Hey folks, as mentioned a few days ago I was out shooting on Saturday and covered a whole range of subjects...
I started off by shooting the world surf comp in Gracetown, then came across a snake(which had to be shot with my Canon!), went on further south to shoot the sunset at Cape Freycinet(well, that was the plan anyway), visited Boranup forest to capture some light trails, drove up to Boranup lookout to have a look at the stars(and to see if any interesting compositions were possible from up there) and because I was already in the area, I decided to head on even further south to Hamelin Bay. Initially I was only wanting to shoot the old Jetty under the stars but spontaneously decided to visit the limestone cliffs on the other side of the cape and try my luck with a milky way pano... 
 
Here's what I came home with... A 33-image pano shot in a place where you shouldn't be. But you know we all go to great lengths just to get "the shot".
 
It took several attempts to stitch this pano together. Photoshop, Autopano Giga and PTgui all buckled and said "no!"... in the end I downloaded the trial version of LR 6 and put it through it's paces and it worked like a charm, as long as all images were in the same orientation... That sold LR6 for me already and the best thing is it outputs your pano as a DNG file! Sweeeet! What more do you want?!
 
Let me know what you all think in a comment below and feel free to share this image :)
 
Cheers

Margaret River Drug Aware Pro Surf Comp 2015

April 19, 2015  •  Leave a Comment
Okay okay, I'm not gonna lie about it... I'm no professional sports photographer! Those of you who have been following my work will know that people, and sports for that matter, are rarely the main subjects of my photography... Nonetheless, when there's a world championship in your town, you as a photographer go out and shoot it! Period. :)


 
 We've been hearing a lot of people talk about this unreal surf that's happening right down the road and it was supposed to be much bigger and better than the previous years... and that means a lot, if you live in a town that's a Mecca for surfers worldwide.

So, intrigued by all the reports and with a little time to spare between work and sunset, we headed up the coast to nearby Gracetown and had a look at what all the fuzz was about.
 
I've been shooting North Point about one and a half weeks ago and back then there were only a few local fisherman present and the surf wasn't worth mentioning... I didn't mind - I was there to take long exposures of the rocky coast.
This time, however(last Thursday that is), North Point was packed! Not only was the lookout overflowing with spectators, parked cars were lining the access road on both sides and the whole place was chockas.
 
 
Even in the water, there were about 50-odd surfers all trying their luck on 4-5 meter high waves. 
We arrived just before sunset, which made for nice and soft light and, as a nice side effect, backlit all the waves ad brought out the color nicely.
 
 
Gracetown during sunset
 
 
 
The above was the last shot for the day. You can see that I'm not a sports-'tog... I keep going back to landscapes and silhouettes... :) 
 
Anyway, on Saturday I went back to Gracetown as the forecast looked very promising. I spent a few hours shooting away and caught a few good shots, which you can see below.
Don't ask if there are any famous surfers in the pics... your guess is as good as mine, and did I mention that I'm not a professional sports photographer? No? well, I'm not haha.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I'm gonna finish of this post with a photo of Superman. After Gracetown I headed up the coast to Injidup in hopes of some more good shots but it wasn't as impressive as Gracetown so I didn't even take my camera out. With time to spare and nowhere to be I continued further south and visited Cape Freycinet, the Boranup Forest, Boranup Lookout and Hamelin Bay, but this is all material for another post :)

I hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to leave a comment below or share this post.