Category Archives: Travel
2012 Road-trip up the NSW coast
Day 5 of 6
This journal entry highlights ‘Day 5 of 6’ of my road-trip with my good friend up the east coast of NSW back in 2012. We never been to Port Macquarie so it was a great opportunity to enjoy the sights. We stayed at T’s Tennis Resorts which was a big motel with great sporting facilities and known for their tennis courts, where many local tournaments are held. But they also have swimming pools, a spa and newly installed putt-putt /miniature golf circuit. Overall, it was a very comfortable place to stay over the duration of 2 days. We cooked on the barbeque and prepared our own meals to save money and eat better.
First Light at Town Beach
We didn’t get much sleep that night we were both very dazed when we woke up at 4AM to drive to Town Beach, Tim had even less sleep, apparently I was snoring and sleep-talking all night! –sorry mate!
The night sky was a dark blue shade that faded into a light blue horizon, with the colourful wispy clouds ablaze with yellow and orange were it catches the first light of the sun, then fading off to a pink and purple. The beach was also reflecting these beautiful colours along the shore and in the sand.
Standing there in awe of such a sight, I couldn’t wait to scout the beach for angles, this happened to be my 3rd photo of the morning when we were walking along the beach to a section with giant rock platforms. It was already my favourite image for the day.
We got to the rock platforms and the sun was shining through the gaps of the heavy clouds above the horizon creating an orange and golden sky. The waves there were turbulent and smashing up againt thes rocks. You can see the rocks being formed by the water over millions of years.
Shortly after we packed and went back to the resort to upload and review the images and eat a nice warm breaky. A late morning snooze was needed after that morning session so we could continue shooting latet and shoot the sunset at another location in Port Macquarie.
We arrived at a different location moments before sunset, only to find that it was a disappointing view, so then we were frantically chasing the sun, driving west, in-land from the east coast of Port Macquarie, past the town, and into the flat farmland where we could pull over on the side of the road to capture this beautiful Australian sunset. As you can see, by the time we found an ideal location, the sun had set behind some mountains off to the distance, but this had cast a huge shadow in the sky. The spectrum of colours in the sky and the brooding cloud formation made an interesting kind of sunset photo to share.
Where is Port Macquarie?
Leica Australia gave me the the opportunity to test-drive and review the Leica T (TYP 701) and a couple T-lenses over a period of 2 months, it was my first proper experience with a Leica camera, and having read about played with these prestigious cameras on display in my local camera shop, I was excited to finally see how this luxury boutique camera fares against my much cheaper DSLR canon gear.
2012 Road-trip up the NSW coastline with my buddy Timothy Yip
Day 1 of 6
Earlier on in the day we had left Sydney to drive up north to visit the sights at Terrigal, which is in the Central Coast region. The weather was fantastic with blue skies and little cloud cover. I will post the Terrigal collection in another post.
Here are 2 highlights taken from our 2nd destination, Norah Head Lighthouse, around 3PM in the afternoon. Pictured in the first image is of course Norah Head Lighthouse, and in the second, is a small (but colourful) part of the massive rock platform on which the lighthouse is perched atop of (you can see on the Google Maps image below). Storm clouds were brewing off the coast and we started to feel a light sprinkle of rain, so we packed up our gear and walked back to the car park to seek refuge in a motel so we could recharge for the night.
Where is Norah Head Lighthouse?
Note: the beautiful aqua and blue colours emanating from the massive rock through the water.
Gear for the shoot
- Canon 50D
- Tokina 11-16mm F2.8
- Benro carbon-fiber tripod
- Aputure remote shutter trigger
Today in Sydney the weather is absolutely dreadful, I had some time off from work, and was inspired to finish editing these pics I took over a year ago in Newcastle during a landscape photography road-trip half way up the east coast of Australia with my friend and fellow photographer Timothy Yip.
2012 Road-trip up the NSW coastline
Day 3 of 6
This was one the most challenging environments I’ve shot in, and it was a choice we made to endure these conditions and see how much we (and our cameras) could physically take. Plus we didn’t really have a choice since we were only there for a couple days and had to make to the most of this trip! 🙂
So it was Boxing Day, 26th of December, 2012, 4:30 AM (2nd day of our NSW east-coast road trip), cold, dark, very windy with some light rain when we got to Newcastle Ocean Baths (right on the beach). There was zero chance of a majestic sunrise happening, and the conditions weren’t ideal for us or the cameras. Strong winds blew seawater and rain onto the lens and into the buttons of the cameras so we were frequently wiping the lenses dry only for it to get a few more drops the instant you take a shot. This limited our compositions too, we weren’t able to get out to the rocks facing the ocean because the waves were crashing violently and spraying up too much sea water which meant we couldn’t get down low to the water with the cameras and tripods for those awesome low wide-angle shots. So with our large hot cups of McDonald’s coffee and cameras in our hands, we braved the weather and began scouting the area to find some other interesting scenes to shoot.
We felt like we were National Geographic photographers risking our lives for awesome photos. The morning was long, we walked (marched) in the rain for hours, but towards the end of our journey, we ended up getting soaked by a few massive waves hitting a break-wall and then we had to call an end to it. We were freezing cold by this point, and had a long walk back to the car…
So far, my favourite two shots for the day (and the ones I’ll publish for printing or licensing) are taken at Flat Rock beach, Newcastle (shown below). This location is popular for surfing and there are annual tournaments held here. Newcastle in general has a huge surfing culture and waves are good year-round.
I liked the movement in the water and the clouds, even though the exposures where only for 5 seconds, you can see quite a bit of cloud movement, an indication of just how windy it was that day. I decided black and white also for these photos because they looked more dramatic and have this fine art quality about them.
Empress Falls, Blue Mountains
This stream runs from the spill off of the Valley of Waters Creek. Taking millions of years to cut a narrow canyon (now known as Empress Canyon, it is now popular for abseiling) through the upper layers of the Blue Mountains Sandstone to end up here at Empress Falls where the water spills 30 meters from the gorge and into a deep pool, surrounded by fern-filled ledges.
Empress Falls was the 2nd waterfall along the 9km Wentworth Falls circuit. It was a tough downhill trail with an even tougher uphill stair climb that reaches inclines of up to 60degress. Your legs will be burning with lactic acid as you climb up the steep stairs up the side of a waterfall, but with every step you take you remind yourself to hold on to the rail or you could fall backwards very easily down 70m to your death.
While taking this shot, a well-built shirtless man in shorts and sneakers was jogging past, as I waited for him to clear the scene, I realised that he could be running around the same trail that my friend and I were hiking which I thought was pretty impressive! And this inspired me to run this trail one day. I think it would be awesome to run through these wonderful scenes and breath in the forest air while getting a punishing workout!
Behind the image
This is actually 3 horizontal images stitched together to make 1 image. This was due to the fact that I broke my wide angle lens on another expedition, and had to rely on my Sigma 30mm during this trip to the Blue Mountains. Fitted onto my Canon 50D, I had to take a lot of multiple shots to fit in these epic waterfalls and landscapes. Not only does this take up more room on the memory card, but I would later have to stitch up these images which was a long process. But frankly, I enjoy the whole process of seeing it come together. And it ends up making my images a higher resolution (more megapixels), with more detail due to the multiple shots.
After stitching this image up, I played with the perspective of the image to get more depth and visual aesthetic.
Then converted it into black and white in Photoshop, while paying attention to the tones, I burned (darkened) some of the shadows to highlight and focus the eye on the waterfall.
Life in the fast lane
This image conveys the rapid urban development, emerging middle-class (with more income and prosperity), and the Americanization of the Chinese culture.
This particular street, named Wangfujing, meaning “Prince’s Mansion well” (after a sweet tasting water well was unearthed during the construction of ten aristocratic estates and a prince’s residence in the Qing Dynsasty- 1644 to 1912), is Beijing’s most famous shopping street that is located in a downtown district of Dongchen, dating back to the mid-Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) the markets, commerce and other consumer activities have been conducted in this area for centuries. It is only about one block long but consists of many large and small stores, consisting of Beijing’s most prominent brands (around 280) and many international brands.
There is also a section that is dedicated to food and snacks, with many street stalls and restaurants crammed together serving common and exotic street food such as fried scorpion, meat kebabs, desserts and candied fruits on a stick.
In the past this street was known to English-speaking foreigners as Morrison Street (named after the Australian journalist George Ernest Morrison – another interesting story).
It used to be a street for vehicles to travel through, but since 1999, much of it has been pedestrianized. The hustle and bustle never seems to stop here, open and busy during the day but much more alive during the night with the bright lights and more locals and tourists out to eat and shop.
Creating this Panoramic Photo
Captured using the Canon 50D with a Sigma 30mm F1.4 lens, mounted on a Benro carbon-fiber tripod and remotely triggered to capture four separate long exposures to create one seamless photo using Photoshop. Not much post-editing was required, as I like the way my Canon camera renders colorful night scenes, so I just boosted the sharpness and contrast a little.
Would have been easier to do this with a landscape lens but my Tokina 11-16mm broke before my trip to Asia and was under repair. So for all the landscape shots requiring a wider perspective, I had to make-do with the Sigma 30mm (which has a 50mm perspective) during 90% of my Asia trip, shooting multiple images to stitch up later on the computer. A very time-consuming task!
I’m glad that my images turned out OK, considering the difficulties. I certainly learned a lot about composition with a prime 50mm lens and also improved my understanding of making panoramic images.
Temple of Heaven
Built in Beijing in the 1420’s during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) for the emperors of both Ming and Qing (1644 – 1911) Dynasties to hold Heaven worship ceremonies.
Only recently in 1988 did the government authorities open it up to the public to revel the ancient philosophy, history and religion of this old civilisation.
The complex is 2.7 million square meters, bigger than the 740,000 square meter Forbidden City (where the Emperors resided) because the Emperors were seen as the “Sons of Heaven” therefore they were prevented from building any dwelling for themselves that was bigger than the Temple of Heaven Complex.
This main temple, is surrounded by other fantastic monuments such as the Circular Mound Altar, the Imperial Vault of Heaven and the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest.
The design is semi-circular in the north and square in the south, this symbolizes Heaven as a circle and Earth as a square, and the former is always elevated higher than the latter. Which reminds me of the Hermetic maxim of “As above, so below”.
Creating this Pano
This image is made up of 7 hand-held vertical images taken on my Canon 50D with a super-sharp Sigma 30mm F1.4 prime lens. Originally I had used ‘bracketing’ mode to shoot 3 exposures per shot but I just stitched together the normally exposed shots in Photoshop CS6 to create this image. After some fiddling, I did experiment with making the HDR version, but it didn’t look as good or realistic, with a lot of ‘ghosting’ where the people were moving in the shot. It would have taken too much time in post-processing so I abandoned it to work on this pano. It wasn’t a very contrasty day requiring high dynamic range so the normal exposures were fine, I did however have to brighten the shadows on the temple to bring out the details while sharpening and tone-mapping the overall image.
There was one major optical obstacle to overcome such as a guard rail in the foreground that I wanted to remove because it posed as a distraction, this tested my healing brush and clone-stamp technique in Photoshop.
Purchase your own copy of this panoramic image and many others at my Stock image page.
Blue Haze at Blue Hour
It’s twilight (aka blue hour) and as the sun sets off to one side of the horizon, darkness begins to takeover, and a blue mist lingering over the valley becomes more visible.
This phenomenon is where the Blue Mountains receives it’s name, and is caused by the oil bearing eucalyptus trees releasing fine droplets of eucalyptus oil mixed with dust particles and water vapour.
Standing at a lookout in Wentworth Falls, off to the distance we can see Mount Solitary. It is surrounded by Jamison Valley to the left and Narrow Neck Plateau to the right.
The southern side of Hong Kong, just one half of the alluring “Pearl of the Orient”, a British/Chinese mega-metropolis that covers a very little portion of China’s vast landmass. It is one of the world’s leading international financial centers, this business district, where the international exchange of currency is the main contributor to its economy along with its reception of foreign direct investment.
Check out this beautiful side of Hong Kong, a modern jewel (click image below to enlarge). Captured on an almost clear summer night, walking along the famous ‘Avenue of the Stars’ in Kowloon. It is a panoramic image composed of 10 30 second landscape (horizontally orientated) images stitched together and edited in Photoshop and Lightroom with my signature style. The equipment used was my newly purchased Canon 16-35mm F2.8L mounted on my Canon 50D with a corded remote shutter trigger, with the whole kit mounted on a tripod of course!
Buy your copy of this Hong Kong panoramic today in 12×36 inch for AUD$150, and get free matte and framing. Offer last until 28th of February.
For more information of Central district in Hong Kong see Wikipedia’s page (Don’t forget to donate to Wikipedia to keep this great resource going).
This just in! 2 of my 6 entries into The 2013 International Loupe Awards, Amateur Competition in the Landscape Category received Bronze Awards! 3 of my other pictures were within 4 points (out of 100) from receiving Bronze medals from the judges too!
The merit awards are given to images that are “recognized by the judges as high quality images and worthy of recognition in the competition”. “Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze merit awards will be awarded based on the averaged 5 voting scores” (The 2013 International Loupe Awards, 2013).
It’s a pity the judges didn’t get to see the original large pictures, all they got were medium 2400 pixel resolution images. The good news is that you can own one of these images on print, enjoyable in many sizes from 6×4 inch to poster size or on canvas :).