Almost Weekly Photo

Cave window, Mount Borradaile, West Arnhemland.
Phase One A-Series 100MP, 23mm Alpagon lens, 1/10 second@ f16, ISO 100, stitched.

 

I'm not completely happy with this image as presented, but it has been sitting on my hard drive for too long and I feel I need to move on. I'm sure many readers have the same challenges with photos they like, but just can't quite crack!

 

It all started with an innocent walk up towards a lookout where we'd been the day before on my recent photo tour to Arnhemland. Stuart wanted to return to shoot some unfinished business, but when we arrived, the sun was still a bit too high. Our guide said, no matter, let's check out the cave system nearby. 

 

I looked around us. We were on top of a relatively flat hill, with large areas of bare stone and a few low shrubs. I couldn't quite comprehend where we were going to find a cave system, especially since we'd walk all over this area the day before and I had noticed nothing. However, I am obviously unobservant and a cave system there was!

 

And it was huge. And big enough to walk around. And there was amazing rock art on the walls and the ceilings. And there were skulls and bones - but we were asked not to photograph them. It wasn't for spiritual reasons, rather many years ago, the station received a visit from the police because someone in a Melbourne minilab had seen a tourist's photo of human bones and reported it! The fact the bones were hundreds of years old seemed to appease the police, but to save on administration and paperwork in the future, we were asked not to photograph them. So we didn't!

 

In any event, I had this shot in mind. Now, I'd like a more perfectly shaped tree, but the location was great if only I could fit it all in. I couldn't, so I turned the wide-angle horizontally and did a vertical stitch.

 

Back on my Wacom MobileStudio Pro, PTGui struggled to join the 8 images together, until I eliminated three of them and a five image stitch worked perfectly. But then I struggled a bit more, getting the feeling I experienced into the image. Back at the studio in front of the Eizo, I'm still not quite there, but there are so many other photos from Arnhemland I need to process!

 

Feel free to check out the starting point on my website...

 

 

Near Paradise Bay, Antarctica.
55mm lens, Phase One XF 100MP, 1/1250 second @ f8, ISO 100

 

Naturally when I packed up my four prints for APPA this year (the AIPP's Australian Professional Photography Awards) I was hoping for four Golds. I didn't send Silvers down in my case, that's for sure, but that's how they came back - four Silvers With Distinction (which means 85 or higher). Now, some readers will be tuning out, thinking Eastway is a loser with only four Silvers. Others will think he's boasting and a bit of a w*&^er since that means all four images were in the top 20% - but does all this matter?

 

No!

 

Entering competitions is about pushing yourself and learning. The benefits are already made by the time you send your entries off because of what you have learned in the process - and you're always learning and re-learning.

In this case, it was all about the use of clarity and contrast.

 

The image above has next to no clarity. It is intentionally high key, trying to emphasise the 'whiteness' of the southern continent. One of my earlier edits (which you can see below on the website), has a bucket-load of clarity. It looks quite 'interesting' at a small size, but I can assure you that when it was printed out, it looked horrible! 

With a bit of luck, I'll get another crack at this location in December 2018 (Aurora Expeditions has extended its 15% discount offer until the end of December 2017 - see the links on this page), and I'll know what to do! However, check out the other version here.... 

 

Arnhemland Aerial, inland from Aralaij Beach.
Phase One XF 100MP, 80mm Schneider lens, 1/4000 second @ f2.8, ISO 200

 

How do you set the white balance in a photo like this? It's hard to believe that earlier this month I was complaining about the hot afternoon sun, now that I am freezing cold down in Sydney! I visited Awunbarna for the second time with a photography workshop, this time accompanied by Kath, Martin, Stephen and Stuart. Based on their facial expressions as we shot unique landscapes from the helicopter, floated by open mouthed crocodiles and wandered through ancient cave systems covered in rock art, I think it was a success. Also called Mount Borradaile and Davidson's Camp, it's a very special place on Earth with only 1400 visitors a year and 700 square kilometres to play in! (If you're interested in a workshop in July next year, please send me an expression of interest - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

 

Yet in the landscape, setting the correct white balance can be challenging. Think of what it's like when you're shooting in a rainforest with all those greens - it's hard to get rid of a green colour cast, especially since it is really there. Yet our minds reject too much green, searching for a point of equalibrium. And it's the same with aerials. Last month in New Zealand and now in Arnhemland, getting the colour balance exactly right can sometimes be challenging.

 

So, what's my approach? I have many and they all depend on the result I see on my Eizo monitor back at the studio, or my Wacom MobileStudio Pro when out on location. The importance of a high quality monitor when it comes to assessing colour balance cannot be over-emphasised.

 

Working in Capture One, Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw, the white balance settings are much the same mechanically, although the results can be quite different. So for me, step one is to use Capture One because I prefer its 'definition' of colour.

 

Step 2 is to use one of the presets, usually As Shot, Auto or Daylight. More often than not, one of these works.

 

If not, Step 3 is to use the white balance selector tool and click on various areas within the image. Where I click, the software will neutralise those pixels to a neutral grey, and all the other colours will adjust accordingly. I find this works very well on subjects such as the tidal flats in the photo above. The sand is actually a yellow brown colour, but I have turned it grey by using the white balance selector tool. The white balance doesn't have to be accurate, it just has to look good.

 

The fourth approach is to use the Kelvin and Tint sliders, but I confess, this is a last resort as I really struggle to know if I have gone far enough, or too far. If in doubt, I do the best I can and put the photo away for a few hours or a day, prepared to reassess  another time!

  

The white balance in Antarctica isn't too difficult... And funny I should mention that because I have a photo tour going to Antarctica in December 2018 (back for Christmas) with Aurora Expeditions. And there's a 15% discount offer on some berths if you book before 31 August this year, so if this is sounding like you, visit the website and have a look here.

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