Tag Archives: NSW

How Large is the Moon in a Photograph?

During the early morning of Saturday, 28 July, 2018, a special celestial event was to occur: a total lunar eclipse, resulting in a red moon — one like this:

Red Moon

Red Moon

I captured this particular red moon on 28 August, 2007.  Incidentally, it was the first and last red moon I captured!

For the most recent total lunar eclipse, I planned to rise early and capture the moon.

Unfortunately, due to cloud, I barely caught a glimpse of it, so no images were forthcoming.

The night before, however, I captured some images of the rising full moon in the early evening.

Now, there are different ways of photographing the moon.

Some people like to place the moon in the context of a broader scene, depicting trees, city architecture, animals or people.

Other people like to capture the moon in and of itself, with a view to depicting as much detail as possible.

I have historically fitted into the latter category, and I have photographed the moon numerous times with it being the only subject.

Naturally, when using only DSLR equipment and no telescopes or other space observation equipment, I like to use the longest focal length possible so that the moon in all its glory is more prominent, and therefore larger in dimension.

The maximum focal length I can achieve is 1,120mm by attaching both a 2x tele-converter and a 1.4x tele-converter to my 400mm lens.

People often wonder which focal lengths to use for capturing the moon.

Which focal length to use depends on the kind of image desired.  In my case, I want as long a focal length as possible.

Once a focal length has been decided, the next question is as follows:

How large will the moon appear in my image?

The answer is that it depends on several factors; namely:

  1. the focal length;
  2. whether the camera is a full-frame, APS-C or APS-H model (the latter two of which crop the view a full-frame lens natively provides on a full-frame camera); and
  3. the distance between the moon and the earth.

The short answer is that the moon is not very large relative to the frame.

If an APS-C camera is used, there is a distinct advantage, as the moon will appear larger relative to the frame than it would when captured with a full-frame camera.

In my case, I have only full-frame DSLR cameras.

Today I decided to explore and compare the size of the moon relative to my camera’s frame size, when shot at different focal lengths.

The night before the total lunar eclipse, I went outside to capture some test images.  I happened to capture images at both 1,120mm and 800mm.

Both focal lengths are considered extreme super-telephoto focal lengths in the DSLR world, but there is a surprising difference between them.

In both cases, the moon is not very large, relative to the frame.

I use a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, which produces a native image size of 6,720 x 4,480px (30,105,600px).

Let us take a look at how many times the moon can fit into that frame size when captured at the two focal lengths I used.

This is an image measuring 6,720 x 4,480px (the exact image dimensions a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV produces), depicting the size of a full moon relative to the size of the frame.

Moon Captured with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV at 1,120mm

Moon Captured with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV at 1,120mm

The full moon was captured in Sydney on 27/07/2018 at 17:50:13, using a focal length of 1,120mm.

The moon, when captured at 1,120mm at this particular time, measures approximately 1,751 x 1,741px (3,048,491px).

With a frame size of 6,720 x 4,480px (30,105,600px), this means that the moon occupies approximately 10.1% of the frame.

Equipment used:

This is an image measuring 6,720 x 4,480px (the exact image dimensions a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV produces), depicting the size of a full moon relative to the size of the frame.

Moon Captured with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV at 800mm

Moon Captured with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV at 800mm

The full moon was captured in Sydney on 27/07/2018 at 17:54:19, using a focal length of 800mm.

The moon, when captured at 800mm at this particular time, measures approximately 1,267 x 1,258px (1,593,886px).

With a frame size of 6,720 x 4,480px (30,105,600px), this means that the moon occupies approximately 5.3% of the frame.

Equipment used:

As can be seen, despite using long focal lengths on a full-frame DSLR, the moon is still relatively small within the frame.

Here are those key figures again:

  • 1,120mm: 10.1% frame coverage
  • 800mm: 5.3% frame coverage

In this case, the size of the moon nearly doubled with the use of a longer focal length, despite that focal length not being twice the size of the shiorter focal length.

It is not quite an exact science, particularly when considering that the image shot with the 800mm focal length was captured just over four minutes later, by which time the moon had risen marginally higher; but it is a substantial difference.

In both cases, while the moon does not dominate the frame, it is certainly large enough to show very pleasing details.

Photographers desiring even more prominence and detail would be likely to attach the camera to a telescope, but if, like myself, a photographer does not have a telescope, but does have long focal lengths, a very pleasing result is certainly possible.

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Autumn Adventures in Mount Wilson

Mount Wilson, in the Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney, is a wonderful location for landscape photography.  Its specific appeal is the rich colours of the leaves during autumn, and many photographers venture to Mount Wilson to capture these colours.

The quiet little mountain township had been on my never-ending list of photography locations/subjects, and it was a place which required autumn weather for the kind of images I wanted to capture.

I missed the opportunity in 2017, so I was determined not to miss the opportunity in 2018.

I had been following and participating in an online discussion about locations in Sydney at which to photograph the autumn colours, and naturally locations such as Mount Wilson and other parts of the Blue Mountains entered the discussion.

There was a specific image I wanted to create.  A few years ago on Instagram, I had seen a fantastic image of a stone staircase in Breenhold Gardens, captured by landscape photographer Kalan Robb, whom I follow on various sites.  The image was rich with colour and atmosphere, and I wanted to create that kind of image.

Through following the online discussion, in which a few people who lived in the mountains (or had visited) reported on conditions, I had a good idea about when would be a good time to visit.

In the autumn of 2018, the cool change came quite late, as there had been unusually warm temperatures.  Usually mid-to-late April is a good time to capture the autumn colours, but the temperatures did not drop until early-to-mid May, resulting in late development of the colour of the leaves.

We happened to be going away to the Blue Mountains on the weekend of 12-13 May, 2018, and as the time for photographing Mount Wilson‘s autumn colours is very limited, a visit to this location was a must.

We departed early in the morning to get to Mount Wilson for two reasons: to capture the location in good light; and to avoid the crowds of day-trippers who would descend upon the area as the morning wore on.

We entered Breenhold Gardens, and wandered around.  I photographed a few locations, with one of my earlier images capturing Socrates Garden.

Socrates Garden

Socrates Garden

Socrates Garden is a tranquil enclosure within Breenhold Gardens.

High on my agenda was a visit to Laburnum Steps, which was the feature I specifically wanted to photograph.  We procured a map and made our way to the steps.

Armed with my tripod, camera and 14mm lens, I went about my particular routine of setting up my gear and composition.

Here is one of the images I captured:

Laburnum Steps

Laburnum Steps

I was fortunate to see some stunning autumnal colours, but based on other images I have seen, it did not look like it had reached the intensity exhibited during colder years.

The rich red colour of the Japanese maples was present, and there were leaves scattered around on the steps and the dirt path perpendicular to the steps.

In the distance was a mix of greens, oranges and yellows, so it was a smörgåsbord of colour.

I was quite happy with this image, but I felt that I had not captured this location at its best.

In an earlier shot, I moved closer to the steps and shot an image in portrait orientation.  Here is the result:

Mount Wilson in Autumn

Mount Wilson in Autumn

Here, the orange ands red colours of the fallen Japanese maple leaves can be seen more prominently, and the viewer’s eye is led up the winding staircase into the distance.

Incidentally, I have never actually climbed that staircase, or even set foot on it!

From that brief visit, I came away with at least two pleasing images, plus a number of other images I captured at different locations within Breenhold Gardens.  I should re-visit those images and see if there is something worth publishing.

However, my work was not complete.  I did not feel that the autumnal weather conditions had peaked, and with Kalan’s image in my mind, I knew I had to return.

On our way out of Breenhold Gardens, we met one of the managers of the gardens, who lives on site, and often stands at the entrance, meeting and greeting visitors.

I spoke with her for a few minutes, telling her of my interest in the colours, and of being there early in the morning.  She said that she could allow me earlier access.  Normally the opening time is 10am, which is too late for moody photography, and too late if peace and quiet is what one seeks.

She told me that the following weekend would be the best time to visit, as the conditions would very soon deteriorate.  Heeding her advice, I contacted her later that weekend and made arrangements to gain access at dawn.

So, on the following weekend, we headed back to Breenhold Gardens, even earlier, arriving just before dawn.  I wanted to be ready to capture Laburnum Steps in great conditions.

Through the darkness, we took the short walk to the steps, where I again went through my fussy ritual of setting up my composition and waiting for the right light.

This time, I opted to shoot with my 24mm lens.  I felt that 14mm was too wide to feature the steps prominently enough, and I wanted a different image of the same subject.

On this morning, I found that the light was flatter and more subdued.  We were there earlier, and due to the mountainous location, the warm morning light falls upon the scene much later, by which time it is too late for serious photography, as all of the day-trippers have crowded the scene.

We were there for the better part of an hour, waiting for the light to change.  I realised that the sun would not hit the steps and foliage until much later, and continued shooting.

Here is one of the earlier images I captured during that morning:

Laburnum Steps Revisited

Laburnum Steps Revisited

The flatter nature of the light can be seen in this image.  This image was captured at 6:47am, whereas my image from the previous weekend had been captured at 9:37am — nearly three hours later.

What was also noticeable is that the colour had not dramatically intensified, and the number of leaves on the steps and surrounding areas had not really increased.

I was somewhat disappointed that the conditions had not improved much within a week.

As was the case during the previous visit, I also shot a vertical composition.

Enchanting

Enchanting

I shot a few more compositions of Laburnum Steps before I decided to wrap up and head off to find some other locations in Mount Wilson.

Only a few metres away from Laburnum Steps is another set of steps called Acer Steps.  In fact, descending this staircase is one of three ways of accessing Laburnum Steps, and it was the route we took on both visits.

Heading back up Acer Steps, I noticed that the backlighting of the scene worked very well with the Japanese maple whose canopy shelters the steps.  The light and the intense colour instantly attracted me, so I scrambled to set up for another shot.

I struggled to compose (which is not a problem I usually have), and moved the tripod a matter of inches here and there (and sometimes even greater distances) to try and get the best composition from a tricky scene.  I was trying to avoid some distracting elements being positioned too close to the edges, while also prominently featuring the backlit red leaves, and avoiding any direct light from the still-rising sun.

After much fussing around and making of micro-adjustments, here is the image I eventually captured:

Acer Steps

Acer Steps

After this shot, we headed to Church Lane, where I found this charming entrance to a property containing the Koonawarra guest house, located in Dennarque Estate.

Entrance to Dennarque Estate

Entrance to Dennarque Estate

The rich reds and oranges in the distant trees looked radiant in the warmth of the morning light.

Church Lane itself can look fantastic in autumn, but it needs the right conditions, and there is the problem of power poles, power lines and parked cars polluting an otherwise quaint scene.

After shooting this image, we went looking for the chestnut picking farms, for which we had seen signs the week before.  Unfortunately there was no sign of any chestnut picking opportunities in the area, so I found one more spot to photograph before we headed home.

Along Waterfall Road, there are some picnic tables, and I focused my lens on one of them while a group of tourists/photographers engaged in some frivolity and portraiture not far from where I was shooting.

Breakfast Stop

Breakfast Stop

This spot would make a great location for breakfast in the crisp, autumn air.

Having captured what I decided was my final image for this visit and for this year, we headed back home.

It was an interesting couple of visits to Mount Wilson.  There is a lot to photograph, and I came away with some key learnings.

Firstly, it really is a location best photographed in autumn.  The conditions can make or break an image.  While I had some nice conditions, there was still something lacking.

Mount Wilson contains many locations to photograph, but some can be deceptive in photographic appearance.  For example, the quaint Church Lane actually contains ugly power poles along it, which detracts from the look and feel of the street.

Some locations simply look better when viewed with one’s own eyes, and producing a pleasing image which captures the essence of the place is not a simple matter of plonking down a tripod and pointing the camera at what looks good without a camera.

A location such as Mount Wilson really warrants planning, in terms of the specific location, time of day, and weather.  Of course, not everything is necessarily controllable.  Sometimes it is a matter of luck, particularly when coming from a place where the weather can be quite different.

Mount Wilson is a location which needs more than one visit (or even two visits) to do it justice.  I am sure I will head back there again next autumn, but unless the conditions I seek all align serendipitously, I do not think I can achieve a better image of Laburnum Steps.  What I captured  is as good as I can get unless a specific set of conditions exists.

On that note, Kalan Robb happened to be a member of the site on which the online discussion about autumn photography was taking place, and joined in the discussion.  I suspect it came to his attention because I had mentioned him there and provided a link to his excellent article on photography in Mount Wilson.

About his image of Laburnum Steps — the image which was my source of inspiration — he provided some insight into it.

Firstly, he does process his images quite differently to the way I process mine, which I suspected, and which he confirmed.  His processing is more intense, but effective.

What was more important was the conditions, which he said made up for 70% of the result.

He shot his images in 2015, during whose autumn it got colder much faster than what I had experienced.  Crucially, it was wet at the time.  On that morning, he explained, it had been raining steadily, which produced the misty glow.

What my images lacked was wetness and mist.  It simply had not rained and was not cold enough to produce those highly atmospheric conditions I wanted.

Kalan explained that the abundance of leaves on the ground was due to heavy rain and wind the day before.  My deduction is that while many of the leaves had fallen from the trees, they had not been blown away; and that the rain-soaked ground may have played a significant part in keeping them in place.

So, there is some insight into the conditions.  These conditions would have been perfect for my desires, but on both visits, it was not to be.  It could take me years to encounter conditions like that, and it may simply never happen.

What I do have is a chance, so I will return next autumn and see what I encounter.  There is more work to be done at Mount Wilson.

Precarious Position: First Seascape of 2018

This image of Turimetta Beach was captured during my first seascape session in nearly a year, and this was the first time I have returned to Turimetta since 2012.

Precarious Position

Precarious Position

The conditions were a lot more dangerous than this image would suggest, with a strong south-easterly wind, medium-to-large swell and an incoming tide.

Large waves were crashing near this small part of exposed rock shelf and causing splashes and surges which made standing here dangerous.  I had to be quick about composing and capturing images in between sets of larger waves.

It was good to be near the ocean again, but having been out of the seascaping scene for quite some time, this morning’s shoot had its challenges.

My New Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM: Ideal for Cityscapes

Last week, I decided to buy a Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM lens.

It was a lens I had entertained — but not seriously — adding to my rig.

Until the addition of this lens, my two wide lenses consisted of my Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM  and Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM.

While I love a wide vista, sometimes 14mm is just too wide.  I never thought I would say so, but alas, it is true.

On the other hand, 35mm can sometimes be too long.

Twice in the past 12 months I have needed a focal length in between 14mm and 35mm, but did not have a lens of that focal length.

I have barely owned my Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM for a week, and I have used it on two separate twilight cityscape shoots.

So far, the 24mm focal length is proving to be very useful for cityscapes — particularly when shooting skylines across the water from a distance.  With a wider lens, the skyline can shrink into a vast expanse of sky and water; and with a longer lens, the framing can be just a bit too tight, whereby there is not quite enough sky.

My first shoot, on the same day I bought the lens, resulted in the following image:

Lavender Bay on a Summer Night

Lavender Bay on a Summer Night

This particular location does not seem to be hugely popular for cityscapes, but it was something different, and the 24mm focal length was absolutely perfect for this composition.

My second shoot with the new lens was last night.

After a few lazy days at home, I felt the need to get out for a photoshoot.

I decided to re-visit Mrs Macquarie’s Point.  The last time I photographed Sydney from this location was just over eight years ago.

Mrs Macquarie's View

Mrs Macquarie’s View

From this view, the skyline has not changed a great deal, but there are some buildings which did not exist in my previous image.

For this image, I opted for a wider focal length, and waited for the rich blue light of twilight to emerge after sunset.

I am enjoying the field of view this new lens provides.  Not having used the  24mm focal length for quite a while, it made for a nice change, and has been quite suitable so far for the images I have captured with it.

I am hoping to use it more next week, but I really need to invest in the NiSi filter holder which will fit this lens, as I need to be able to use my grads and ND filters with it.

Trip to Taronga Western Plains Zoo

In late October, we headed away with some good friends of ours for a three-day trip to Mudgee and Dubbo.

Our plan, apart from sampling and buying some fantastic wine in Mudgee, was to stay at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, in its exclusive Zoofari lodge, at which ten luxurious tents, complete with mod-cons, overlook the savannah, where African, Asian and even Australiananimals roam.

You know you know you are in Australia when an eland — a large Africanantelope — chases kangaroos away!

On day one, we headed to Mudgee, where we stopped at my favourite winery and stocked up on premium shiraz.  A nice dinner in town, followed by an overnight stay nearby, concluded the day.

On the following morning we headed up to Dubbo and went straight to the zoo.  Our official check-in was at 2pm, but we had time to roam the zoo via our inclusive two-day zoo pass.

Having been to Africa twice and spent time with truly wild animals in their natural habitat, a zoo can never quite come close; but Zoofari is an experience designed to emulate, as closely as possible, the safari experience.

Upon arriving at the zoo, our first stop was naturally the lion enclosure.  Unfortunately the lions were not terribly active or welcoming, so photography was not a terribly successful pursuit.  Incidentally and somewhat ironically, it is easier to photograph lions in the wild than in captivity.

One pleasing image I did capture at the lion enclosure was not an image of a lion, but an Australian pied cormorant, which was perched on a log over the lion enclosure’s moat in the morning sun.

Australian Pied Cormorant

Australian Pied Cormorant

Being a fan of big cats, naturally, we needed to visit the cheetahs.  We fortunately timed our arrival to see the keepers feed the cheetahs, which consisted of a king cheetah mother and several sub-adult cubs.

Contrary to popular belief, the king cheetah is not a separate species of cheetah, but rather, is a cheetah which has a rare fur pattern mutation as a result of a recessive gene.

The light was quite harsh, and the cheetah were very active — particularly as food was being provided — so photography was quite challenging, but I did land this pleasing image of the king cheetah.

King Cheetah

King Cheetah

The king cheetah is quite rare, so it was a pleasure to see one, and capture pleasing images of her.

Following the big cats theme, high on the agenda was a visit to the Sumatran tiger.

Now, I do not have many images of tigers, so I was keen to capture some pleasing tiger portraits despite the difficulty of broad daylight.

Again, we timed our visit to co-incide with the keeper’s talk and a feeding session, so this Sumatran beauty was very alert and more often than not, looked in our general direction, which is always what a wildlife photographer wants.

Striped Beauty

Striped Beauty

As the biggest of the big cats, the tiger is a very impressive big cat.

After lunch, we roamed the zoo and found our way to the siamangs.  I had never seen one before, so we spent a bit of time watching them play, and I snapped away, trying to land a pleasing image of one of them.

Siamang Stare

Siamang Stare

Not long afterwards, we headed to Zoofari lodge and checked in.

With adjacent tents, we soon joined at our tent for some afternoon lounging.  It was a taxing experience to sit on the back deck, overlooking the savannah, whilst consuming premium shiraz and munching on potato chips.  It is a tough life, but someone has to do it.

These were the appalling, slum-like conditions we had to endure during our overnight stay:

Animal View Lodge

Animal View Lodge

It was tolerable.

What cannot be seen in this image is the open door overlooking the savannah.  We decided to keep the doors and windows open so that we could hear the incredible sounds of wildlife at night, just as we experienced in South Africa and Kenya.

In the late afternoon light, we had the pleasure of watcing the giraffes grazing on the savannah, while these two particular giraffes (of the four inhabiting the reserve) shared a sticky snack.

Sharing a Sticky Snack

Sharing a Sticky Snack

During our lazy afternoon on the deck, we were visited by a peacock, which was only too happy to munch on our snacks, and sit very close with us on the deck overlooking the savannah.

In the early evening we headed to the communal dining room, where some wine tasting, and later, dinner, were served.

After dinner, we got to experience a night tour of the zoo, whereby 4WD vehicles drove us around the zoo in complete darkness.  We visited the lions, hippos and rhinos in their night enclosures, which are not accessible to the general public.

As can be imagined, photography was just not going to happen, as it was pitch-black; but it was great to be close to these animals in the darkness.

After a good night‘s sleep, the following morning saw another early start, with a pre-breakfast tour of the zoo — again, behind the scenes — during which we got to visit the cheetahs and see them from a different location; feed a giraffe; spend some time with the meerkats; and partake in an exclusive visit to the elephant ‘maintenance’ shed, in which the keepers bathed and fed the elephants in preparation for their entrance into their exhibition enclosures for the day.

Here is an image of one of the meerkats on sentry duty.

Wide-Eyed Meerkat

Wide-Eyed Meerkat

After the tour, we returned for a communal breakfast, before making our way back to the lodge to pack and check out.

On our arrival at the zoo the previous day, we had booked ourselves onto a rhino encounter.  Once the tour guide arrived, we found out that we were the only people booked on the tour, so we got an even more exclusive tour of the rhinos and spent a great morning learning about the zoo and how it operates — a much more personal tour than would have been otherwise possible.

After the conclusion of our Zoofari experience, we made another round of the zoo, before embarking on the long trip home.

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend, and I did manage to land some pleasing images of the  wildlife which inhabits Taronga Western Plains Zoo.

Portrait Session with Anabelle

It has been a few years since I shot any portraits, and in recent months, the desire to shoot some more portraiture came back to me.

A friend of mine has a very photogenic daughter, Anabelle, who I thought would make a great subject.

In terms of location and conditions, I want to photograph her in natural surroundings during the warmth of the late afternoon light.

I also wanted to use my new lens for the shoot, plus my staple portraiture lens.

We headed over to Rouse Hill Regional Park, where, after some earlier recce, I had located a nice lake with trees and grasses surrounding it.

Here are some of the images I captured:

Beaming

Beaming

In this image, I captured this distant shot of Anabelle beaming as the sun shone upon her.

Anabelle in the Park

Anabelle in the Park

For this image, I specifically wanted rim lighting on Anabelle‘s hair, so I had her facing away from the sun, and I used a reflector to bounce the wam, late afternoon light back onto her.

When photographing human subjects during golden hour, the challenge is that even though the sun is low in the sky, if a human subject looks into the sun, the eyes will be largely hidden due to squinting.

That never looks good in images, so the work-around is to have the subject facing either 90 degrees or 180 degrees away from the sun, and use a reflector to bounce the light back.

Lastly, a black and white image:

Portrait of Anabelle

Portrait of Anabelle

This is a close-up portrait of Anabelle as she sat in the park during the final moments before sunset.

While this image was originally shot in colour, I also wanted a striking black and white version.

All in all, it was a fun and productive session.

It was Anabelle‘s first time modelling, and she did well.  I landed some pleasing images in the conditions I had pictured in my mind, which is always satisfying.

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.