Tag Archives: Sydney Harbour Bridge

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.

Milson’s Point View

A view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from Milson’s Point at twilight.

Milson's Point View

Milson’s Point View

This year I have decided to make more of an effort to get out and shoot regularly.

For this most recent weeknight shoot (my third of 2017), I decided to re-visit the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which I rarely photograph any more.

The last time I captured a serious image here was in 2005!

So, here it is: the iconic bridge for which Sydney is famous.

Pleasant Dawn on Sydney Harbour

Since my return to seascaping last week, I have been keen to head back out at dawn to shoot more seascapes.

On the one hand, I failed; but on the other hand, I succeeded — at capturing a different kind of image at dawn.

Having checked the weather and cloud situation the night before, I knew the sky would be largely plain, which is terrible for seascapes, but great for twilight cityscapes.

So, in the pre-dawn darkness, I headed to the city and ventured further away from Circular Quay, where I had been the previous day, and where, I decided, I would be keen to capture a cityscape, depicting both the older and newer buildings of Sydney at dawn.

Here is one of the earlier images I captured:

Before Sydney Awakens

Before Sydney Awakens

It was great to be at Dawes Point on the harbour early in the morning before anyone else was out and about.

At the time, the sun had not risen, but there was a pink and orange glow in the eastern sky, which was due to rise 35 minutes later.

I also turned the camera around and pointed to the west, where the sky was darker, but where the increasing warmth and softness of the early morning light cast a pleasing glow on the wooden walkway and buildings along Campbell’s Cove.

Along the Walkway

Along the Walkway

This is a view along the walkway at the northern end of Campbell’s Cove.

On the left is Campbell’s Cove and the old woolsheds in Sydney‘s historic The Rocks, which these days contain restaurants.

In the distance is the southern end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

On the right and in the distance central to the frame is the expensive and very nicely positioned Park Hyatt hotel.

One of the challenges presented when photographing a city like Sydney is to capture a less common view.  It is all too easy to shoot the ‘postcard material’, but the city’s famous landmarks have been captured many times, and it is difficult to depict a different or more interesting view of these, or of the city in general.

There are different views of the Sydney skyline, and this particular spot in Campbell’s Cove offers a view of the old and the new, and makes a change from the regular views we often see.

Later in the morning, I was treated to an unexpected and serendipitous sight of two large cruise ships making their way through the harbour.  The leading ship, Diamond Princess, docked at the Overseas Passenger Terminal depicted in my earlier image; while the second ship — a P&O oceanliner — sailed under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and docked at White Bay.

All in all, it was a nice, productive morning.

An Unusual Greeting

This morning, I found myself immersed in a bizarre combination of three unusual circumstances:

  1. I went out for a dawn shoot.
  2. I wanted a plain sky.
  3. I photographed the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Here is the image I shot:

Greetings from Sydney

Greetings from Sydney

These days, each of these factors on its own is quite rare.

Firstly, I seldom get time or motivation to head out at dawn.  With more or less three jobs, when I get time on the weekend, I look forward to not having to be anywhere, and rising at 3am and travelling somewhere for a dawn shoot is usually far from my mind.

Secondly, I cannot stand plain skies, and generally do not even shoot if there is not good cloud cover.  I keep an eye on weather and sky condition forecasts so I know whether or not it is worth heading out.  Apart from plain skies being very boring, the light is harsh and difficult to shoot, particularly when facing east.

Thirdly, I rarely shoot the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  It is a subject that has been shot to death by seemingly just about every photographer who lives in Sydney, or who has visited Sydney.  It generally bores me in the photographic sense, and apart from one aerial flight during which I captured it from the sky, this is the first time I have photographed the bridge in a good five years.

Because I have not been out for shoots much lately, and with my recent holiday period starting, I felt the itch, and wanted to take advantage of some free time before heading to London late this week.

My original plan was to head out on Monday night and shoot a twilight cityscape, but the weather forecast was for cloud and possible rain, and sure enough, the cloud rolled in and would have ironically spoiled the image I had in mind.

So, I decided to head out for a shoot on the following morning.

Inspired by an image captured by a contact of mine, I headed to Kirribilli, on the north shore of Sydney Harbour.

I had never visited this location, let alone shot from it.

I arrived nice and early, and captured a few images from my location during the morning blue hour before the light became dull and harsh.  Unusually for my morning shoots, I was facing south-south-west rather than eastward.

While this image is what I would call a postcard shot (hence the title Greetings from Sydney) and terribly cliché, I felt the unusual desire to produce such an image, and I am happy with the result.

High Above Sydney

This evening I had the opportunity to shoot images of Sydney at sunset and twilight from Centrepoint Tower — using my tripod.

As I understand it, tripods are not normally permitted, but one of the guys from the Flickr group FOCUS, of which I am a part, made arrangements so that 20 of us could take our tripods into the tower’s observation deck for proper photography.

I shot a small number of compositions, but this was the stand-out image from the session:

High Above Sydney

High Above Sydney

The shoot was somewhat challenging, both in terms of internal reflections off the glass, and throngs of tourists, but despite those challenges, I was able to land a fairly pleasing image.

It was great to get out with the FOCUS crew again and capture an image which normally would not have been possible.

Sydney Harbour from Above

This morning Xenedette and I took a very enjoyable seaplane flight over Sydney‘s northern beaches (as well as Sydney Harbour) with Sydney Seaplanes, departing in a De Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver Mk 1 (VH-AQU) from Rose Bay in Sydney‘s eastern suburbs.

Our flight path took us in a northerly direction along the northern beaches.  We banked sharply right around Barrenjoey Head and headed back south, banking right towards Sydney Harbour, where we banked left over the Sydney Harbour Bridge before heading back to Rose Bay.

The weather forecast for this weekend indicated dangerous swells along the coast.  Looking down over Turimetta and Canyon X (Warriewood) from an altitude of 1,600ft or so, it was clear that the coastline was copping a pounding and would have been dangerous territory for seascape photography.

Naturally I shot quite a few images and high-definition videos from the aircraft.

I have long since lost interest in shooting the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House, but here is a somewhat cliché shot of both icons from an altitude of 1,000ft or thereabouts, looking south-west over the city (I was in the co-pilot’s seat).  An aerial view of Sydney Harbour is too good to miss, even if its two main attractions have been shot to death.

Sydney Harbour from Above

Sydney Harbour from Above