Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cold Foggy Canberra Dawn

A trip to Canberra at the weekend, and a hotel conveniently just 5 minutes from the War Memorial, gave me the opportunity to leave my wife snuggled up warm as toast in bed, while I ventured out into the sub-zero pre-dawn streets to get some sunrise pictures.  First of all, let me admit that having spent 6 years in Australia has made me soft and I'd forgotten what 'cold' is... though I'm sure that there are many other photographers around the world that cope with far colder conditions than the -2C that I did that morning.

I arrived at the War Memorial a little before 7am, and had in mind to get a time-exposure of the building still illuminated by the lights, but with some light in the sky.  I found a good spot and got the camera and tripod setup, but then just as I was ready to go, the lights all went out - so that shot got struck off my list.

Behind me, looking down Anzac Parade, there was a wall of fog across Lake Burley Griffin, hiding Parliament House.  With no cars on the road, it was quite an impressive sight with just the flagstaff visible above the fog, but then the sun rose enough to just catch the flagstaff and give a golden reflection off one side.  Luckily, I had the camera setup in that direction.  This is straight off the camera, with no colour correction applied, so a lot of the foreground is very blue whereas in reality, the fog bank appeared very white - I need to do a bit of PP work on it still.

The next shot I had hoped to get was of the sun rising over the hill behind the War Memorial - the effect I had in mind was a deep blue sky and brilliant burst of golden sunlight coming over the silhouetted hill, and the War Memorial in the foreground.  But I wanted the building illuminated (either artificially or by a time-exposure).  As you can see - it didn't pan out the way I wanted...  I am pleased with the sky, sun, hill, tree exposure, but completely lost the building itself.  I tried another shot exposed for a meter reading off the building frontage, but in that one the sky got completely blown out, and the sunburst was drowned out by reflections/refractions/dust particles.  I took a number of different exposures, at both extremes of the scale, and may try combining them with an HDR type tool (see below), or by just careful erasing of superimposed layers (more late nights with Photoshop obviously required).

I wanted a couple of other shots as well - one (obviously) of the building illuminated at night, and another looking along the Roll of Honour, focused on a foreground poppy with the wall and poppies extending off into the distance and out of focus - I can see it in my mind's eye - just need the correct execution.  However, other priorities (we were there for a family occasion after all) meant that I didn't get to the War Memorial either during opening hours or at night (getting up at 6am for the dawn shoot was bad enough - without another visit at 2am!).  I obviously need to plan another trip... :D

Till next time...  Happy Snapping.

Oops - forgot to explain HDR...
I'm not entirely clear of all the teckie details but as a basic explanation it combines multiple images with varying exposures, and sort of averages them out, taking the best from each - so it replicates better what our eyes see with the benefit of our built in processor units that automatically adjust for shadows and bright areas.  It's not a very good explanation - so I'd suggest looking at this article in wikipedia - the first set of sample shots illustrates the process far more eloquently than I can ;-)


  1. Hi Grumby, I have just had the chance to read your blog from start to finish...actually I read it from you latest entry to your fist entry. You have a wonderful, easy way with words that make your entries fun and easy to understand. It is interesting to read how you sometimes visage a photo to turn out one way but certain elements determine otherwise...I do like the end results though. I also like your sense of humour.

    I have seriously been into photography for a year and learn something new every time I take a photo. In that time I have owned two P&S and 1 DSLR, Nikon d90, which I sold because I found it too heavy to carry after long photo-walks, which I do a lot, also I couldn't get my head around the different after a few months of owning a Panasonic FZ35 P&S I am looking at buying another DSLR (This time a canon) because I miss the quality and greater f/stop range plus sharper images that the DSLRs give you. I have got an enormous amount to learn and unfortunately find it hard to retain information so often forget things I learned. I go out every day and shoot as many photos as I can to try and get some of the information to stay in my head.

    Okay, I am going to sign off now before this becomes longer that your post, lol.


  2. Thanks for your kind words Angela, and I'm pleased you are enjoying my ramblings. Like you, I've really only started getting back into photography for about a year, but I don't get much time to get out and put it into practice. I've seen some of your work on both DPS and Flickr, and you've done some great stuff. I think you have an eye for a good image, and that's a big chunk of what goes into any photo (and in my case, the rest of it is just pure dumb luck). You are already using more of what you learn than you realise - there are decisions that you make now when you take a picture that you do automatically without really even thinking about them - it IS sinking in, I promise you.
    Keep on clicking, and I'll keep on writing, and trying to pass on more helpful hints and explanations along the way.
    Oh, and thanks for commenting and becoming a follower ;)