Tag Archives: Darling Harbour

Twilight Delight

The view of Sydney‘s skyline from the western side of Darling Harbour is always a beautiful spectacle as the evening twilight descends.

I have photographed it before, and I will photograph it again.

This time, I captured a view of that same skyline from the south-western corner of Cockle Bay, right outside the new International Convention Centre.

Twilight Delight

Twilight Delight

The angle is different to what I have captured before, and now depicts the completed skyscrapers at Barangaroo to the far left of the frame.

This place is always a pleasure to visit and photograph.

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Re-Visiting a Scene Six Years Later

During the week, I had the unusual opportunity to shoot a twilight cityscape.

It is not something I tend to do very often, but circumstance created the opportunity, which I seized, including a visit to a few of the big city camera stores.

I figured we would afterwards head over to Darling Harbour for some dinner, followed by a twilight cityscape in the area.

The image I had in mind was one I had shot before, but I did not mind re-visiting it, particularly with my new Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM lens, which I was itching to use again after the previous week’s photoshoot in the city.

Here is the image I captured on this most recent outing:

Summer Night in the City

Summer Night in the City

Whilst having dinner very close to this scene earlier in the night, I recalled shooting a summer twilight in the same area some years ago. As it turned out, it was on the exact day (the 19th of January) in 2011 on which I shot a similar image.

This was the image I captured six years earlier:

 

City Lights and City Nights

City Lights and City Nights

It was not my intention to shoot the same scene (the composition, angle and position are somewhat different), and nor did I realise at first that the date was the same date I last shot this scene.

Sometimes strange co-incidences happen, and this was one of them.

Otherwise, it was nice to be out shooting again, particularly as I can go for months without picking up a camera.  Having a new lens certainly acts as a motivator, and I will endeavour this year to get out and about far more than I have done over the past several years.

2015 Retrospective: Intense and Focused

Now that we are well into the year 2016, it is time for a retrospective look at my photographic journey in 2015.

The year can be summarised as intense and focused, as the majority of images I captured during 2015 were in the Mara North Conservancy and Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, where we embarked upon an incredible seven-day safari with our friend and safari leader Mario Moreno.

Looking at my statistics, I shot more images in 2015 than I did in the years 2013 and 2014 combined.

Had the Kenya trip not happened, I suspect I would not have shot much.

Photographically, my year started quite late — near the end of April — with a macro/still life image of a new watch I had been given:

Certina 1888

Certina 1888

We had some family in town from overseas, so I took the opportunity to shoot some cityscape images from a location at which I had not shot before.

One afternoon we headed to the Glebe apartment and I waited for the right light to capture some views of the beautiful city skyline.

This was the result:

Dusk Descendence

Dusk Descendence

And a little later, during blue hour:

The View Sucks

The View Sucks

I also took the opportunity to capture this tight view of the Anzac Bridge as twilight fell:

Anzac Bridge

Anzac Bridge

In May, we all had an outing at the Wild Life Sydney Zoo in Darling Harbour.  I took a camera and a couple of lenses, but I did not shoot a great deal of images.

This image of a kangaroo was one of the more pleasing images I captured on the day:

One of Skippy's Mates

One of Skippy’s Mates

Later in the month, I felt compelled to head out and shoot another cityscape.

In the mid-to-late afternoon, I scouted for some vantage points along the western side of Circular Quay, and finally settled on the observation deck of the International Passenger Terminal, which affords a higher view, and additionally was empty and free from passers by.

I waited for the blue hour, and captured this view of Sydney which I have not seen (or photographed) before.

Circular Quay West

Circular Quay West

It had been a slow, but pleasing enough start to the year.

In June, the photography I had been eagerly anticipating since we booked the trip the previous year, would finally happen.

We headed to Kenya to spend seven days in the Mara North Conservancy and Maasai Mara National Reserve, where we would re-ignite our passion for wildlife and landscape photography.

So far I have published over 100 images from that trip, so I will not publish a great deal of those images in this article; but as the trip brought us a lot of first-time encounters, I will instead present some selected highlights from the trip.

We were based in the luxurious eco-lodge Elephant Pepper Camp, which afforded us total isolation and positioning right in the middle of where the action was.

This is a view of one of Elephant Pepper Camp‘s honeymoon/family tents:

Elephant Pepper Camp's Honeymoon Tent

Elephant Pepper Camp’s Honeymoon Tent

And this is a view of the camp at twilight, depicting the dining tent, lounge and camp fire:

Around the Camp Fire

Around the Camp Fire

Highlights of the trip included one of my finest bird images, which was my first frame of only two I snapped while this pied kingfisher was bobbing up and down in flight:

Suspended

Suspended

Just about every day, we were treated to lions — most prominently, the Cheli Pride.  One of the fantastic things about the Cheli Pride was its abundance of cubs, and on this trip, it was our first time seeing wild cubs, such as this cute little lion:

Lion Cub of the Cheli Pride

Lion Cub of the Cheli Pride

On one afternoon, we were fortunate enough to spend some time, in pleasing, afternoon light, in very close proximity to a lilac-breasted roller, where I captured this and a number of other images of the national bird of South Africa:

Plumage

Plumage

Naturally, a safari in Africa encompasses more than just wildlife — there are amazing opportunities for stunning, iconic landscape shots, and we certainly took advantage of that, rolling out into the plains in the pre-dawn darkness before other safari-goers were even awake.

This was one of my earlier landscape shots, captured during a moody morning:

The Moody Mara Plains

The Moody Mara Plains

On another morning, we captured the ‘postcard shot’ of a rising sun behind a lone acacia tree:

Sunrise on the Mara

Sunrise on the Mara

This particular tree is known as Mario‘s Tree, as Mario often photographs it.  We certainly did — several times — including one particular morning which greeted us with a colourful sky:

Lone Acacia

Lone Acacia

On only our second day on this trip, we were treated to a number of first-time encounters.  In the morning, we encountered our first Mara leopard, who was also also the first leopard we had seen in a tree; and in the evening we found our first male lion of the trip, again a member of the resident Cheli Pride.

We had gone back to Leopard Gorge to look for the young male cat, when we found a large, dominant male lion in the area instead.  If the leopard was around, he was hiding and would not be seen.

Here is the beautiful young male leopard perched high in an elephant pepper tree:

Leopard of the Day

Leopard of the Day

We not only encountered one male lion, but two!  His brother also emerged from the distance and joined him for some bonding and lazing before the night‘s hunting commenced.

Here is one of the stunning Cheli Pride males we encountered:

Surveying

Surveying

The day after we met the dominant males, we encountered numerous members of the pride, minus the males, feasting on a zebra kill the next afternoon.  This was another ‘first’ for us, as we had hitherto never seen lions feasting on a kill.  It was quite a sight, as this wider image shows:

Feast

Feast

The next day, we spent a dramatic afternoon with the Cheli Pride again, firstly as we encountered one of the mothers on her own, out in the open, calling for the pride.

Here is an image I captured of the lioness in the warm afternoon light:

Cheli Mother

Cheli Mother

Before long, a mighty rainstorm descended upon us, which made the big cat uncomfortable, as well as presenting challenges for us.  As the rain began to subside, camera shutters sounded like rapid gunfire as we captured action shots of the lioness shaking the water from her head.

Shake It Off

Shake It Off

Towards the end of the trip, we spent one day further south in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, where we experienced yet another first.

So far, the one species of African big cat we had never seen in the wild was the cheetah.  On that trip, we finally encountered wild cheetahs.  It was an exciting experience to firstly see them from a distance, and then drive to position ourselves optimally to be ahead of where they were headed.  It became more exciting as the cheetahs got closer, and I had a few opportunities to photograph the family, which consisted of a mother and four sub-adults.

Here is one of the nicer images I captured of these amazing big cats:

Portrait of a Young Cheetah

Portrait of a Young Cheetah

It had been a long wait, but finally we spent some time with wild cheetahs.

Our next morning in the Mara consisted of a portrait shoot with Maasai tribesman called Baba, with whom we travelled to Mario‘s Tree, where we shot some dramatic silhouette portraits of him as the sun rose on one of our final days in the Mara.

Here is one of the more striking images I captured during the session:

Baba the Maasai

Baba the Maasai

Our final evening in the Mara brought something we could have never predicted, and something which is quite rare to see: mating leopards!

At first, we spotted a young female leopard high in a tree during the warm afternoon light, but within a short time, a large, amourous male emerged from the thicket, and the two leopards began (or continued with) their ritual of rapid, exposive mating sessions, which can last for days.

We spent the rest of the drive witnessing this amazing sight, and the following image captures an intense moment as the female expresses her displeasure at the male’s advances:

Growl of the Leopardess

Growl of the Leopardess

The next morning was our final, somewhat subdued game drive in the Mara before we would fly back to Nairobi for a night and another day before departing Kenya.  We were fortunate to encounter a small pod of hippos in a watering hole, where I had the opportunity to capture some relatively close-proximity images, such as this large hippo on the bank, less than 30 metres away:

Hippo on the Bank

Hippo on the Bank

Before too long, this amazging photographic journey came to its conclusion.

After the intensity of our Mara trip, and my generally low photographic output before the trip, it was not surprising that I did not shoot much afterwards.  In fact, I shot only one more image for the remaining six months of the year!

The one image I did capture was a macro image of some red and orange roses to commemmorate our anniversary.

Fifth

Fifth

And so concludes my photographic journey for 2015.  It indeed was an intense and focused year, with Kenya dominating my photographic output, but with a few other images here and there.

PMA Australia, 2011

As many photographers are aware, this weekend, PMA Australia is being held at the Exhibition Centre in Darling Harbour, Sydney.

We went yesterday.  I hadn’t visited PMA since the Brisbane show in 2008, and before that the 2006 show in Sydney, which was then called Photo Imaging World.

There was a lot happening at the show.  As well as all the usual product and service displays, there were talks, numerous photographic exhibitions, and the judging of the APPAs (Australian Professional Photography Awards).

We arrived a little after 10am, when the show opened.

On the gear front, I didn’t look at much, as I am not in the market for anything.  However, I did look at a few Canon L-series lenses.

I took the opportunity to look at the Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM, which was about one of the only super-teles I had not seen or used.

Afterwards I had a play with the Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L.  A friend of mine owns this lens, and I had used it once, but we were chasing light and I didn’t have much time to play with the lens, as I was more interested in getting the shot.  It’s a lens I would find useful for my interior and exterior photography, but it’s definitely in the ‘want’ category rather than the ‘need’ category.

I also took the opportunity to look again at the Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM, which I first inspected at PMA 2008 in Brisbane.  It’s a superb lens, but again, not a need, and at $6K or so, it’s good to not need it.

Lastly, I looked at the new, and not-yet-available Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM.  While its predecessor is unquestionably a stunning lens, on par with its 300mm cousin, what floored me the most was the weight — or the lack thereof.

The original 400/2.8L IS weighs 5,370g, which is too much for hand-holdability.  The mark II weighs an incredible 3,850g, which is a significant reduction in weight and for me, makes it quite hand-holdable.  It’s similar to the 500/4 in weight, but the objective element is closer to the camera, so the rig is not as noticeably front-heavy.

One thing I did buy on the day was a Think Tank Hydrophobia 70-200 Rain Cover.  We happened across the L&P stand and when I saw this, I seized it.  For a long time I have been needing a splash guard for my seascape photography.  I have taken a few hits from big splashes and waves in my time, and have even lost a camera to the power of the ocean.  Thus, I needed adequate protection for my gear.  The rain cover is an excellent unit, and will accommodate a 70-200mm lens.  While I don’t use mine for seascaping, it’s good to have the capability.

One of the events we wanted to attend was the judging of the APPAs.  During an Easter weekend in the Hunter Valley this year, we met Canberra-based landscape photographer Chris Morrison and his wife, and had planned to meet up with them at PMA.  Chris had several images in the APPAs, and to his and our delight, one of his images won a gold award.  There was a lot of judging taking place, and some very good images on display.  Unfortunately with three judging booths and a rapid pace, there is too much happening to absorb in a single session.

Throughout the day, I met up with a few people I know, and ran into a few other familiar faces  I also took the opportunity to meet William Long, who is an active campaigner for photographic freedom and photographers’ rights.

At 2pm we attended a talk by Darran Leal on travel photography.  Darran runs a company specialising in photographic tours, and the company is the only licensed travel agency in Australia which designs and operates photographic tours.  We’re considering taking one of his tours, as he travels to destinations most people would never see, let alone photograph, and the tours are designed with photography in mind rather than tourism.

Later in the day I also took the opportunity to chat to Ken Duncan and see how things are going with his rally against the bureaucratic rules and laws eroding people’s rights to photograph in iconic Australian locations such as Uluru, Sydney Harbour and Bondi Beach.  Last August, Ken held a public rally in Campbell’s Cove to raise awareness of the issue.  Ken told me that there has been some traction, and that positive legislative changes are close at hand.  After speaking with Ken, we headed to the Arts Freedom Australia stand and picked up a couple of “I’m a photographer, not a criminal” tee-shirts.  We spent a while chatting to one of the AFA reps about issues and experiences.

All in all, it was a full day with lots happening.  While I looked at a few items I’m not planning to purchase (and as an aside, it’s a very good position in which to be, when gear is not the limiting factor in one’s photography), there was more value to be found in talks, exhibitions, the judging of the APPAs and meeting and greeting.  I did come home with a much-needed item that had been on my list for a while, as well as making a contribution to an organisation whose aim is to protect my photographic freedoms.

Darling Harbour by Twilight

Last night I had plans for some twilight photography.

This is one of the images I shot:

Darling Harbour by Twilight

Darling Harbour by Twilight

This image has been given HDR treatment with Photomatix Pro, with four exposures used to composite the HDR image.  Post-processing included:

  1. increasing overall exposure;
  2. manually blending parts of the lightest exposure into certain parts of the scene;
  3. increasing the blacks and mid-tones marginally;
  4. selective darkening of the sky;
  5. increasing the contrast in the sky;
  6. increasing the blue in most of the scene;
  7. cloning out of a few sensor dust bunnies in the sky;
  8. cloning out of some rubbish some cretin had left on the deck;
  9. increasing overall contrast; and
  10. sharpening.

I also had two ND8 filters and a GND8 filter attached, as I wanted long exposures to blur the clouds and ‘silkify’ the water.

Note that this is my first outdoor HDR image.