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Water and Rock (Tessellated Pavement).

The Tessellated Pavement, Tasmania

IMG_8241It’s taken me a while but last night the weather was favorable and I managed to finally get a reasonable Aurora over the ‘Pans’ at Eaglehawk neck. As an added bonus I also scored a little airglow as well, seen here as the green glow to the left of the picture 🙂

For these shots I used an ND Grad filter to darken the sky allowing more exposure in the foreground without overexposing the glow of the Aurora.

“The most well known example of a tessellated pavement is the Tessellated Pavement that is found at Lufra, Eaglehawk Neck on the Tasman Peninsula of Tasmania. This tessellated pavement consists of a marine platform on the shore of Pirates Bay, Tasmania. This example consists of two types of formations: a pan formation and a loaf formation.

IMG_8229The pan formation is a series of concave depressions in the rock that typically forms beyond the edge of the seashore. This part of the pavement dries out more at low tide than the portion abutting the seashore, allowing salt crystals to develop further; the surface of the “pans” therefore erodes more quickly than the joints, resulting in increasing concavity.

The loaf formations occur on the parts of the pavement closer to the seashore, which are immersed in water for longer periods of time. These parts of the pavement do not dry out so much, reducing the level of salt crystallization. Water, carrying abrasive sand, is typically channeled through the joints, causing them to erode faster than the rest of the pavement, leaving loaf-like structures protruding.”

-WikiPedia.

Night Photography, Nikon v’s Canon

Fort Direction Sunset

I have been a user of the 5D mark II since the day it was released, well almost. It’s a great work horse, delivering consistent images regardless of the situation. Then along comes the Nikon with the D800, and it’s smaller brother the D600. Are they any good for landscapes compared to the Canon? After some very extensive research on the web (hours of reading articles), I decided to move to Nikon, with the D800 being all the rage. So I borrowed a friends D800, and a D300s to do some basics comparisons and to get used to the Nikon bodies. What I will discuss here is how Nikon compares to Canon for low light landscape photography. The types of light levels I’m discussing are around 30sec / f2.8 / 1600ISO.

The D300s I was considering for a second body, as is of the same era as the 5D mark II. It was useful to confirm the D800’s metering as discussed below.

Live View

Canon has always had a good live view system, particularly with the frames per second delivered to the LCD on the rear of the camera. The first thing I noticed with Nikon was increased noise and significantly reduced frame rate when viewing zoomed in content on the Nikon, particularly in low light. The combination of these two factors made it very difficult to focus the camera, and I stress ‘very’, with the Canon I could focus on a star for example, while with the Nikon the frame rate was so low it was very difficult to focus, not impossible, just frustrating. I did however like the inbuilt level feature. Insuring the horizon is level at low light can be difficult.

Exposure

I’m sorry, but the Nikon is next to useless for getting the exposure anywhere near correct at extremely low light. In very low light conditions the Nikon did not meter anywhere near correct, and was metering at least 3.5 f-stops below the Canon. Having said that the Canon was also metering low as well and I was clearly in the manual settings / try and see space. It could be that Nikon allows significantly more light in through the view finder? It was nice to see that the D800 did have a shutter for the viewfinder, which was a welcome relief from the rubber boot / strap cover. To be fair on the Nikon the conditions were well outside of normal photography, and even the Canon was struggling, but closer to the mark.

Color Balance

The Canon always delivers good color balance, and very rarely do I have to set it to daylight or any other setting, even when shooting at night. The Nikon however was struggling and needed to little more help to get the balance correct, most of the pictures were turning out a very dark blue. Having said that, this is not a major issue as I always shoot RAW, and this can easily be corrected in post. Most likely the slight color balance issues were getting worse at lower light: “The D800 was noticeably sharper, while the Mark III produced more accurate colors, with a superior white balance system.” – http://www.digitalcamerainfo.com/Features/Head-to-Head-Nikon-D800-vs-Canon-5D-Mark-III.htm

Long exposure artifacts

When taking very long photos the D800 was introducing a lot of random white spots into photos, I would not consider them to be “hot” pixels, but they were quite strange. a quick Google search later and I discover it’s a nice feature: http://scottreither.com/blogwp/2012/07/01/nikon-d800-e-long-exposure-issues-problems-2/ & http://www.flickr.com/groups/1567431@N22/discuss/72157632780538698/ are two such examples.

 

Conclusion:

I think this video shows most of the points above: http://vimeo.com/42381520. You can clearly see the under exposure, incorrect color balance, and some noise being introduced, even at 1/50. Extend that to a 5 min exposure and it all goes pear shaped.

There is no doubt that during the day or in moderately low light the D800 will perform as well a a 5DmX, if not better. However at extreme low light I do not believe the D800 is the best choice. It’s clear, at least to me, that this is pushing the camera to it’s limits. So for the time being I will hold onto my 5DmII, and hope that Canon will introduce some of the new options in their next 5D body, along with maybe a few more Mega Pixels.

 

Also, D300s Frames Per Second?

This is completely not related, but a surprise to be sure. We all like to get the best out of our gear, so I always set my camera to 14-bit RAW were possible. With the D300s I noticed something interesting, the factory setting is only 12-bit RAW, thus allowing up to 7.5fps dependent on other settings. However increasing the quality to 14-bit RAW reduced the fps to 2.5 max (ouch). I rarely shoot more than one frame at a time and could not care less. However  I wondered if this was just a marketing “trick” from Nikon’s to make the camera look better than it really is? How fast would a Canon body be at 12-bit RAW?

Lake Waktipu – New Zealand

Queenstown_New_Zealand_Lake_Waktipu
Lake Wakipu - Queenstown, New Zealand.

The weather over the past few days has been wet and cloudy. So rather that go out to shoot I’ve been playing with Lightroom. I’ve spent some time going back over the past few years to find those shots that are not “keepers”, but very close to see if Lightroom can do some magic to get it over the line.

While in New Zealand last year I took some shots of Lake Waktipu ( Queenstown ). The amount of stars visible is amazing, The above shot would have been perfect with less cloud and maybe an ND Grad over the stars with a slightly longer exposure to bring out the lake and mountains. However Lightroom has done a fairly good job to recover some details.

Stars over Sydney Harbour

Sydney Harbour

It’s been a little while since I’ve added a shot to the store, but today I’ll be adding this shot. Pictured is Sydney Harbour, including the city of Sydney, The Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay and The Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The colours in the water and city are not process in any way, they are direct from the camera. The water is calm and smooth due to a long exposure. The stars have been added, allthough there were stars there, the lights of the city made them allmost impossible to see. I have added the stars as they would be seen from another long exposure.

I hope you enjoy this picture.

Mayfield Moonlight

I’m currently in the process of creating a Blurb book, and I’ve decided to use this image as the last one in the book.

This image was taken about 9 months ago at Mayfield Bay Coastal Reserve, just south of Swansea.

It was taken at night with moonlight and campfire glow and it’s a 30 second exposure. It’s quite grainy and I’m not sure how well it will print above 8×10″. If the results are good I guess I’ll add it to the store. Because of the moonlight and campfine glow I think this looks great as a sepia.

Starie Starry Night

I’ve been playing about with long exposures recently, although I haven’t had the time to go out and take some more “formal” shots, I took this one locally recently. It’s a 17 min exposure, f5.6. Unfortunately with the cold weather (winter) the sky was a little hazy, which washed the stars out a little.

As past of my experiments into long exposures it became quite obvious that I needed a few new toys, an external timer and shutter release, which I got cheaply on eBay, and an easy method for calculating the correct exposure length. Solution: I made my own handheld exposure “computer”. Details on this can be found in the Long Exposure Tutorial.