I recently set myself a challenge to capture my local area with one camera, one prime lens and in two months of Sundays.
My kit included:
- Olympus OMD E-M5;
- Olympus 17mm 1.8 lens (34mm equivalent) – yes, just one lens;
- Lightcraft variable ND filter;
- Pixel Tw-282 wireless remote control; and
- Aluminium Inca tripod that I picked up from the markets for under $5.
I don’t normally photograph landscapes so a google search of “Best locations for landscape photography in Newcastle NSW” led me to a few Flickr discussions that gave me the following list:
- Newcastle Baths.
- Catherine Hill Bay.
- Marks Point.
- Nobbys Beach and Lighthouse.
- Norah Head along Soldiers Point Road.
So over two months, every Sunday I packed up my gear and went to the locations. The images and a little of each place is provided below.
Catherine Hill Bay is the oldest existing town in the City of Lake Macquarie. It is known mostly for the famous jetty that was constructed for the shipment of coal in the early 1870’s with the first shipment commencing on 17th December 1873. It is one of the last remaining ocean jetties on Australia’s East Coast and recently survived a huge bush fire at the end of 2013 and now fighting its existence as funding to maintain this piece of history is becoming scarce. Luckily councils and business’ support the piece of history that must remain.
Ensure you take a wide angle lens as the jetty is so long. In fact I stitched 4 photos together to capture the size of the jetty. I need to go back to this location as the beach and headland is so beautiful it is a photographer’s paradise and on the two occasions visited I had extreme. First was full rain and the second nothing but the beautiful blue sky.
Newcastle Ocean Baths opened in 1922 and has a long history as a popular swimming spots. I found that it is also the most popular place for photographers. Even on a stormy rainy day I had to share my space.
However, the Newcastle Ocean Baths offers so many great photographic opportunities whether that be within the pool or looking North towards Nobbys or South to Newcastle Beach. You could go there every day for a month and find something new of interest.
Marks Point. Hmmm not sure what to say. I went, I saw and I could not find anything of interest or maybe I just went on a day with no inspiration in mind. Anyways, I drove to the park that overlooked the lake and there were only trees with glimpses of water. I strolled down to the lakes edge and waited to capture the star behind the mountain. Maybe I just did not go to the right place.
Nobbys light first ignited in 1857- 58 and has been an international icon for Newcastle ever since. On One side the entrance to the working harbour where you will see and hear ships transporting coal night and day. On the other side, the beautiful Nobbys Beach that is alive all year round.
I had never been Norah Head but I have heard a trip to Norah Head Lighthouse is a must for all visitors to the area offering spectacular views and great imagery. So off I set one morning to capture the sunrise with the light house of the main subject. However, I had no idea where I was going and it was dark so I drove to the end of road to a car park and strolled down to the beach. Looked South, looked north and no light house. I had gone too far South and the sun was just appearing on the horizon so I had no time to pack up and find it. So we will have to make another trip as now I settled for the rocks to the South of the light house.
The Camera Settings.
For all my shooting I tend to experiment but I do favour Aperture priority unless shooting moving objects. With that said my most used settings in this assignment are as followed:
Exposure mode: Aperture Priority. Mostly I underexpose and keep the highlight detail in the sky. In post processing I can easily regain the under exposed areas. However, this is where a gradual filter such as the Lee filters would be of value.
Shutter speed: Automatically set in Aperture Priority. However, I do like to keep the shutter very slow to capture moving water. This can be anywhere from 1/15sec to 15 sec. This is where the ND filter comes into play as it darkens the light by up to 10 stops.
Aperture: To keep everything sharp in landscape I am happy with anything above F8. In fact F8 – F11 are my go to numbers for sharpness. I up it to F20-22 to capture any sun stars that may be present.
ISO: The lowest possible which 100 on the OMD (this is only new to the E-M5 with the latest firmware update. Previously the lowest ISO was 200 which I still utilise).
Focal Length: No other option in this assignment other than the 17mm (34mm equivalent).
- Always on a tripod for longer exposures greater than 1/30sec;
- Set the camera with the remote control to keep sharpness and have no shutter shake;
- Ensure the Image Stabilisation System is off (OMD users take note).
- To capture movement of water I attach an ND filter that will restrict light and allow a longer shutter speed. It is worth noting that variable ND filters are known for the loss of sharpness and I find the light craft filter is no exception to this. There are better filters on the market but be prepared to pay for them. SLR Lounge provides more details as they did a recent review of Variable ND filters.
After capturing all these images I read a great post by Matt Kloskowski giving his insights of shooting moving water. His tip takes the luck out of capturing the right pattern of moving water by creating multiple images with varied shutter speeds. This is done by:
- Setting camera the burst shooting mode and capture multiple images (5 frames); and
- Set the camera to exposure bracketing mode (5 frames @ 1 EV stop per frame). When in aperture priority mode the camera will then vary the shutter speed to get the varied exposures.
Now you will have 5 images with unique water patterns, captured at different moments with varied shutter speeds. Some images will be under or over exposed but this is easily corrected in post processing without too much loss of sharpness. Thanks Matt.
If there is one thing I can advise from this challenge. It is to get yourself a sturdy tripod that can be weighted down as I struggled to keep the camera still on long exposures. These shots were captured in the middle of the Australian winter so wind was a big factor. I found myself having to stand in front of the incoming wind to protect the setup. This is just one failed shot of the Ocean baths in full wind. Ouch.
To my surprise, I shared these images on social media, ipernity and flickr and I had many personal requests. So as I write this several of the image now align walls of friends, business’s and soon my own office.
If you live in Newcastle be sure to get out and enjoy it and if you don’t you better make it your next trip as this place is a hidden and under rated treasure with beauty everywhere.