AustralianLight - Landscape Photography AustralianLight - Landscape Photography

AustralianLight - Landscape Photography is my new site with my good mate Bernie. If you have found my blog posts useful over the years, then how about giving us a hand to promote AustralianLight.

We are doing everything we can to get our australian landscape photography out there and guess what..... it's bloody hard work!! So please visit the gallery and if you like what see, share it with your friends.

Thanks, we really do appreciate your help. - Russell

Saturday, 8 October 2011

AustralianLight - Landscape Photography

Finally we doing something about selling our images!

Landscape Photographer Extraordinair Bernie Zajac and myself, have joined forces to create.... ♪ ♫ Bup de de bup bup da dah!!!! ♪ ♫ (that was the sound of trumpets) AustralianLight - Landscape Photography (and the crowd goes wild... yay!)

Our online gallery is undergoing final development and we hope to go public with the site soon. Until then, we have created a Facebook Page with some image previews for you to go "Ooooh Ahhh!" at or go "Man these guys are CRAP!"

Ok, so I don't really expect Oooohs and Ahhhs! ....I am actually just hoping that you don't think we're crap!

So please drop by our Facebook Page at and check us out. It would be superdooper cool if you would Like our page and help us spread the word.

Shares on our preview image posts would be great too, as shares are the VERY best way to get us out there.... and let's face it, if we don't get known we won't sell squat! :(

You can also join our mailing list at so you are the VERY FIRST to know when our gallery goes live and when we have new image releases.

UPDATE: We are now on Google+ too... Same deal on Google+ thanks, Shares are the go. ;)


Russell Stewart
Landscape Photographer (<< hehe, I think I like that)

SuperDooper Update!!! Our AustralianLight - Landscape Photography Gallery is now live!!

Monday, 26 September 2011

What is going on with Photo Competition results?

Recently I have entered a few online photo competitions, only to be shocked by some of the results.

Poorly constructed, technically woeful images making the finals and often even winning the competitions overall!

As a photo competition judge myself, this has really bugged me. I spend hours viewing images and take all of their expects into consideration.... from artistic nuances to technical titbits.

Yet, here are images that would not even get a second look from me, winning competitions and collecting some pretty major prizes.

What the heck is going on with photography these days?

Now many of these comps are decided by the votes of Facebook friends.... so there is problem number one. An image need not be a good image to win, the photographer simply needs to have heaps of Facebook friends and be willing to prostitute themselves to them for votes.

The danger of deciding photography comps this way, is that it lowers the standard of winning images, while at the same time, promotes them as "good photography" to the general public. Sadly, this blurs the lines with regard to what makes a good photograph.

What if the competition is judged by a professional?

Great idea... this should solve the problem.

Rarely does it do this unfortunately, as the overall standard of the "professional photographer" has been bastardised in recent years. Thanks to digital, every man and his dog are calling themselves "professional" and these "professionals" generally have no formal training, no formal study and started by taking a couple of happy snaps at a friend's wedding. This leads to other "low budget" wedding gigs and on it goes.

Now give one of these guys a competition to judge and we are in a position where the finer aspects of what makes for "good photography" are simply overlooked, in favour of .... well who knows what... "puppies are cute" or whatever.

What if a true "professional" is the judge?

You would have to think that this IS the answer, but again, WTF is going on with these pro's? Some of the results are simply unbelievable.

Are they trying to be controversial? Are they trying to be "arty-farty"? Why do they set a brief and then pick images that don't even follow their own brief?

I have no idea sadly. All I know is that it makes me feel ill, as this has to be playing a part in undermining the public's perception of what makes good photography and in turn, undermining the industry as a whole.

After all, who is going to pay extra money for a good photographer, when they can get things done by a so called "Award Winning" photographer at less than 1/2 the price.

Excuse my language, but "Shit is very different to clay" and at the moment this difference is getting blurred in the eyes of the general public and many of these so called "photography competitions" are to blame, just as much as the rise of digital and the "professional amateur" is. :(

Sunday, 22 May 2011

The Autumn Colour Photography Road Trip

Well a few weeks have gone by since our Autumn Colour Road Trip and it's only now that I am finding some time to catch up with the blog.

The roadie was a quite a whirlwind tour of the greater New England area of NSW and involved about 1350klms of driving in 3 days. Now to an Australian or an American that's no big deal…. quite a relaxing drive really, but to my English friends that is a major effort and would require heaps of planning, motels, cut lunches, thermos flasks, car services and all sorts of preparation. Whereas we simply chucked our camera gear and a bit of camping gear in the back of the 4x4 and took off.

We had a rough idea of where we were headed, but how to get there was open to suggestion and true to our usual form, we decided on a "back road detour" within minutes of leaving home. This detour allowed us to totally bypass a number of major roads and freeways and put us on small winding country roads, that ultimately resulted in the use of a steep, single lane road to climb the range towards Warwick.

This was a beautiful section of road and countryside, that I am sure would have offered many, many photographic opportunities….. if only it were not sitting inside a thick cloud of fog & mist. We stopped several times for images, but the pea soup fog made for little detail… even in objects that were just 10m away. Not to worry but, we simply shot some phone pix for GPS tagging and these will allow us to return to these exact locations at a later date.

At the top of the range, not far from the township of Killarney, there is Carr's Lookout. Here the fog lifted a little for us and it exposed a farm's cattle yard and crush…. determined to take an image of something on the detour, out came the cameras.

Now I have no idea what Carr's Lookout 'looks out' to, as the fog did not clear enough to see, but the name suggests that something must be there, so it will be a stop on a future trip.

Continuing across the range & heading to towards Killarney, the road follows a scenic valley and small creek. Plenty of photo opportunity here, but once again the fog is too thick for us to play…. plus the best vantage points seem to be on private property and permission to enter would be required. ….Yes I know that many people would simply "hop the fence", but we plan to use the images that we capture for commercial gain and therefor require a release to shoot on private property.

Pretty soon the undulating valley and creek starts to disappear and we head into a more wooded environment. It is at this point that we start heading down the range a touch and we come across a turn-off for Dagg's Falls. "Hmm? Do we take the time or don't we?" We did agree at the start of the roadie, that our mission was Autumn colour and that we wouldn't waste time on locations that could be shot anytime…. but a quick vote and it was "what the heck".

No sooner had I swung the wheel it was on the brakes! The turnoff was actually an entrance to the carpark and the falls resided just meters away…. in fact, I could park the car at the end of the lookout and be shooting within 10 easy steps! This has to be the easiest location ever and well worth the 1ml of fuel that we used to get there. ;)

Image Courtesy of Bernie Zajac

Back in the car and soon it's breakie time in Killarney just a few k's down the road (after passing & NOT shooting Brown's Falls, as I have been there before and it's not worth the walk IMO). We feel as if we have already done a day's work and a cup of coffee goes down well. We decide to make another quick detour to a sunflower field that I know is located nearby, in the hope of grabbing some images. Unfortunately the flowers had passed their use by date and were now hanging their balding heads and awaiting harvest. Needless to say that no images were shot, but the location is noted for a return next year.

From Killarney we head to Warwick, then on to Stanthorpe. Having shot nothing since Dagg's Fall's we feel that Stanthorpe requires a closer look and we exit the bypass to go though the middle of town. This is where we see the very first of our Autumn colours and the excitement twitches in our shutter fingers. This excitement is short-lived however, as we soon realise that the "middle of town" location of these autumn trees, leaves very little to artistic composition. :( Will this be our problem for the whole trip? After all, these trees are not native and simply don't exist outside of towns…… now we are worried. :(

Once we leave Stanthorpe we are quickly over the border and in NSW…. next stop Tenterfield.

Approaching Tenterfield more disappointment awaits us, as we see that the standing Poplars that are so common roadside in the New England area, have already fully lost their leaves. This can only mean that an early frost has been experienced and this could well effect our entire trip. But we are just hours in and nobody is calling anything off just yet, so we push on and are soon greeted by the wonderful old growth roadside trees on the northern edge of town. I have driven this section of road many times and know that there is an image to be found in these trees, but I have never been fortunate enough to time it just right. This time was no different, as these trees were yet to present their autumn colour.

Once in town we see a park full of autumn colour and decide that it is here where we will have our "driver reviver"…. naturally the cameras come out, as this is our first taste of the autumn colour that we have been seeking.

As beautiful as this location is, we are once again challenged by the "middle of town" location and find it difficult to keep the background clean of unwanted objects. Bernie and myself head to a very similar position, but I leave it to Bernie and move to a position where the trees work to hide buildings in the background. I felt my new position doesn't work that well for composition, but there is no point in shooting the same images as Bernie…. mixing things up will increase our effectiveness in each location and as a team we stand a better chance of coming up with the goods.

We depart Tenterfield and are soon greeted by many more Poplars that have already lost their leaves. This is a real shame, as the popular Poplars populating the roadside are favourites with the photographers that travel in the New England area. (…sorry I had to do that. Try saying it three times fast. lol)

Our next stop is Glen Innes. I have stopped and stayed at Glen Innes a number of times, as one of my best mates was the owner of the motor inn there….. oddly though, I had never ventured any further west from the highway than the bottle of port at the back of his bar. To my surprise, Glen Innes has a wonderful park running down the middle of the town beside their creek (drain). It is full of Autumn trees and has wonderful colour, but once again we had to battle with the "middle of town" issue and could not come up with images without disturbing background objects being seen.

We shot a couple of images and decided that we should move on…. there must be a better location that would provide us with a true "landscape" image of autumn colour. Our next stop would be Armidale (after seeing nothing at Ben Lomond) and this is as far south as we had intended to go. Once again we had no luck with images on the way, as the Poplars here had also been decimated by the early frost and subsequent strong winds…. and still there were no other colourful trees. :( It seems that these things really do exist only in the towns, but I guess that stands to reason, being non-native and all. :(

We arrive at Armidale late afternoon and have enough time to scout around looking for a sunset location, or at least that's what we thought. Once again the "middle of town" demons have reared their ugly head and we find it impossible to find a scenic location for an Autumn colour shot. It really shouldn't be this hard, but sadly unwanted "street views" seem to be the only thing available to us.

I would have thought that local councils would create magnificent autumn gardens in areas like this. The trees obviously thrive and people obviously like them, as they adorn yards and footpaths everywhere, but nobody has put the effort into creating what could and most certainly would be, a fantastic tourist attracting centrepiece for the area. Bright in Victoria has done just that, not a park, but the entire town and each year their Autumn Festival attracts thousands!!! It must do wonders for the local economy, so come on New England get with the program!

Now with very limited time we head out of town, at least hoping for a regular landscape for sunset…… NOTHING!! Disappointment reigns supreme in the car and we decide to go make camp. I did however catch a glimpse of a tree lined driveway earlier, so on the way back we pulled over to take a closer look. It was "sorta ok" and since it was a "this or nothing moment" the cameras came out.

"Enchanted" (Photoshop effects for a total departure from reality)

It was now time to make camp and we checked-in to the local van park. Being rather cold at this time of year, we had the pick of the spots and setup camp beside their little lake. What a GREAT camp ground it was!!!! Any camp ground where I can put my pegs in without belting the crap out of them and bending them, is a GREAT camp ground in my book!

Over dinner and a warming drink, we start discussing where we should shoot in the morning. Not having found anything local, we turned to Flickr as our guide and stumbled across images of the Gostwyck Church, just a 20 minute drive south. Impressed by the images we decide that is where we will head.

But it wasn't time to turn in just yet, as Tim wanted to do some star trails. So back into the car and bush we go… no clear direction, we just drove around looking for some foreground interest. Which was pretty darn hard I might add, out in the middle of nowhere, no lights, no moon, just blackness. Somehow though we stumbled upon a National Park and waterfall. The falls sounded close, but Bernie just days out of knee surgery, couldn't manage a long walk, so I went ahead to the lookout to see what I could see.

NOTHING!! It was like looking up a cows bum! it was that dark. The lookout was positioned just meters above the top of the falls and the cascading water leading to the drop would have made a lovely photo in the day, but at night it was impossible to see. Plus the view was in the wrong direction to include the stars and celestial south anyway… so we returned to the carpark were a couple of images were made using the trees as foreground. After that, it was back to camp, another "warming drink" and then bed.

Being the first to rise (I am ALWAYS the first to rise and then have to belt the crap out of the other's tents to get them up), I was greeted by darkness and a pea soup fog. "Oooooh! Fog!" This could be perfect for the Gostwyck location I thought, as churches and fog always work well together, provided that the soupiness would thin and some detail could be rendered. So hurriedly the others awake and we set off in the fog.

On route we enjoy patches of clear and varying degrees of pea soupiness and we joke about how funny it would be if we see Garry at the church. OK Let me explain who Garry is… Garry is another photographer from Brisbane that we always seem to bump into whenever we are out shooting. So we joked about being 650klms from home, in the middle of nowhere, in the fog, in the early morn and running into Garry. "What are the chances?" we laughed as we continued to drive.

Pretty soon, the open country road that we were on presented us with old growth Autumn trees lining both sides of the road. Awesome! At last we had found a true "Landscape" location for our images. The leaves had not fully turned, but had yellowed….. and given our hunger for a location we were not too concerned. The road made a lovely sweep between the trees and as we rounded the corner Gostwyck Church, covered in lovely red vine, was positioned beautifully within a triangle of road and trees.

It was at this point that Bernie noticed another photographer had beaten us to the location…. "It's Garry!" we all joked and laughed once again. We parked the car near the other photographer's (to ensure that we did not interfere with the shots being taken… it is always good to be considerate) and Tim notices that the photographer's car is Magna, just like Garry drives… once again laughter follows.

Out comes the camera gear and we start setting up. A friendly g'day and nod is made towards the other photographer through the fog and we start to shoot. "Hang on…. that does look like Garry" I say to myself. "Excuse me mate, is your name Garry?" I ask. "Yes, how did you know? comes the reply.

Walking closer to see better through the fog, all faces now carried the same look of disbelief as we recognised each other. It was one of those "Bull S***!" moments and I am pretty sure that "Bull S***! was the greeting used by all as we shook hands. ;) ….so, just what ARE the chances?

The location was brilliant! It offered postcard views of trees and church, a classic country road and even a wooden bridge. It was not without it's challenges however. The light was constantly on the rise, plus the fog was constantly on the move. What was clear and detailed one minute, was foggy and milky soft the next. These are challenging enough conditions when shooting single frames, but when shooting multiple frames for panoramic stitching these conditions could be a nightmare.

Thankfully we managed some images with some variety in our views. Bernie even had the Fuji GX617 going for some old school film stuff…. we are eagerly awaiting their return from being scanned.

At last we felt happy that we had some images to show for 650k's, so we could now relax with some breakfast, a hot cup of coffee and a chat with Garry….. GARRY!!!

After breakfast we returned to break camp and hit the road again. We decided to have one last look around town before hitting "Waterfall Way" to Dorrigo and hopefully some more Autumn colour. After taking several wrong turns we stumble across a school or college with a magnificent ground full of colour. Not the "landscape" images that we were looking for, but this much beautiful colour could not be ignored…

It was now time to hit the highway….

The country soon changed heading east from Armidale and we were travelling through light undulating hills and views for miles. "This can't be the right way" we discussed, as there were nothing large enough for decent waterfalls, but no sooner than that and we saw a turnoff for the first of the waterfalls. OK so we must be going the right way….. "But the waterfalls must be small then" we agreed.

Then this appears right beside the car…..

It's just a view shot, but we wanted a record of this gorge as it really did take us by surprise.

Back to travelling east and we had pretty well given up on the Autumn colour thing, as there was simply none…. the odd tree here and there in private yards but that was it. So we figured we may as well check out another waterfall. The township of Ebor was not far away and a road sign told us of Ebor Falls. Entering Ebor there was a lovely clear creek that was gently flowing, the kind of creek that as a kid you would float down in your home made raft or one of your Dad's old inner tubes. We take the turn off for the falls and the carpark is only 100m off the road, followed by a 20m walk across a park to the viewing platform and it is here that I rethink the "inner tube" idea…..

…and just in case I survived the double drop over Upper Ebor Falls, the extra large drop over Lower Ebor Falls should take care of me well and good….

The day is now passing and it's time to get to Dorrigo and hopefully some more Autumn colour, so it's back on the road again and we drive through some of the prettiest undulating, green hills that we have ever seen. With each corner we capture yet another image in our minds… but autumn colour is our task and we keep on track for Dorrigo.

Arriving at Dorrigo we are disappointed but, as the vast majority of Dorrigos trees are yet to change colour… BUGGA! There are a few in town, but already sick of battling the "middle of town" syndrome we head off to check a local waterfall. It turns out to be quite spectacular, but with only one vantage point and a hundred tourists. We convinced ourselves that "the light was all wrong anyway" and we hightailed it back to the hills for sunset. Once again running out of time, we stopped at a lookout and grabbed some rather uninspiring images. :(

Fed up with our lack of success for the day, we decided to find camp. This time though, I was not interested in a town van park, as I had heard of a camp ground called "Platypus Flats" nearby on the Nymboida River. Wilderness camping… YEAH!!!!

About an hour later, in total darkness… I mean "can't see your hand in front of your face darkness" we arrive at Platypus Flats, in the middle of a gorge, in the middle of a national park, in the middle of nowhere! We have the camp ground to ourselves and we make camp under the car's lights. The campground seems excellent, with soft "easy to push your tent pegs in" ground, basic facilities including fire pits and much to our pleasure…. pre-cut firewood. Woohoo!

I am not sure that I would be comfortable camping at Platypus Flats in rainy season however, as I think the river being confined the way it is, could rise fast… but the sky was clear and the stars bright, so all was good.

After dinner Bernie and Tim get the cameras out for star trails. I was low on battery so did not play, but I settled for a quick star shot with the happy snappa….

In the morning first light revealed just how fantastic the camp ground was. It is definitely a place that I will camp again. Bernie and I set off to photograph along the river bank, but this was not easy. No clear views and huge light imbalance between the river water and the tree covered banks from where we were shooting. Still I managed a couple of keepers….

and a happysnap of the campground if you are interested in going…

After breakfast it was time to head for home. We had no idea if we would find anything along the way, but we needed to make it home by nightfall so pretty much just made a b-line. We had lunch in a little town and found an old rail station, but that was it for the day.

In the end we covered about 1350klms in 3 days and managed a few images, but I have to say that I am disappointed with what presented to us for the most part. Perhaps a couple of weeks earlier and we would have had open landscape with Poplars available to us. Perhaps a couple of weeks later more Autumn colour would have presented?

Either way, this was the weekend that was available to us and regardless of the images made or not made, we had a bloody lot of fun anyway! ...after all... Who doesn't like a ROADIE!!! :-)

Oh! ...and let's not forget that we got to catch up with Garry.... GARRY!!! What are the chances? lol



Tags: landscape photography panoramas panoramic

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Facebook and Twitter Updates

Do you want an easy way to keep up to date with this blog?

....then 'Like' us on Facebook or 'Follow' us on Twitter.

Twitter: Search "PixelPixBlog" and then Follow.

Facebook: and then Like.

Of course you can still subscribe via Email, but that is soooooo "old school" and probably not the way that all the cool kids are doing it. ;)



Monday, 25 April 2011

Focus Stacking - When too much DOF is never enough.

NOTE: I am in the process of moving this blog to our new web site. Because this blog will be removed in the near future, please share or link to the new location. Thanks


Sometimes it can be difficult to create the Depth Of Field (DOF) that is required to complete our image.

This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as….

* A long focal length (FL) is required to achieve the desired composition.
* A macro lens is being used for a tiny subject.
* A low light situation dictates that a wider, open aperture be used to achieve correct exposure.

Thankfully there is a way that we can have limitless DOF when required... a technique known as "Focus Stacking".

Focus Stacking allows the photographer to take multiple images, each with their own unique focus point or distance and seamlessly blend them into one "fully focused" or "near fully focused" image as required.

Naturally this technique is limited to static subjects, as large amounts of movement will not blend across multiple frames, but thankfully our subjects are quite often static and this allows the use of this rather cool technique.

To give an example…

Recently I was out in the sunflower fields near Killarney in Queensland. Sunflower fields can be quite difficult to photograph at times, as good vantage points from public access areas are elusive.

Shooting wide angles will quite often bring in unwanted foreground objects, while shooting long lenses will limit the DOF.

Gaining permission to enter the fields is an option, but sunflowers grow to around 1.8m tall and this makes getting a view difficult without ladders or a naturally elevated terrain.

After much zooming around the countryside looking for a decent vantage point, I came across an area where I could just sneak a look over the field from public ground. This view still required that I reverse my Landcruiser onto a dirt mound and that I shoot from a standing position on the rear tail gate.

Unfortunately the wide view was not acceptable, as I could not get my vehicle close enough to allow the flowers to fill the foreground area of my frame, so shooting a longer lens and focal length was my only option. This longer focal length meant that my DOF was now limited and to maximise it by using a very small aperture could introduce unwanted softness due to diffraction.

Wanting to avoid this diffraction and maintain maximum image quality by shooting at my lens' sweet spot of f11, led me to shoot multiple focus distances and then stack.

The following two image crops display the limited DOF and how neither pulled enough of the image into sharpness for it to be acceptable…..

I understand that some may like the limited DOF, but I was after a lot more than displayed in these.

In the end I shot a total of six images, each at their own unique focus distance. While doing this, I was extremely careful to maintain a consistent view by using a tripod and standing very still on the vehicle tailgate.

These six images where then stacked and blended within a focus stacking program, to produce one combined image with greater DOF….

This is a crop from the above image that clearly displays the increased DOF….

Focus stacking of simple subjects can be conducted manually in image editing programs such as Photoshop, but this image was far to complex with all those flowers, so the dedicated stacking program "Helicon Focus" was used.

I am quite sure that there are other focus stacking applications available, so I will leave you to Google for one that is right for you.

Like it has done for me, I hope that focus stacking will open a whole new world of images for some readers. Focus stacking can make it incredibly easy to produce images that would simply not be possible with traditional methods of DOF control.

In my opinion, focus stacking is another must have technique for the photographer's toolbox.


AustralianLight - Landscape Photography

Tags: helicon focus stacking dof depth of field aperture

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Focal Length and Perspective Myth

NOTE: I am in the process of moving this blog to our new web site. Because this blog will be removed in the near future, please share or link to the new location. Thanks


It's a common myth that changing the camera lens focal length, changes the perspective within an image. This is indeed a myth, as true perspective results from viewer's location and nothing else.

The location of the viewer dictates the spatial relationship between the viewer and their surrounding objects. This location also dictates the spatial relationship between those surrounding objects themselves "as viewed from the viewer's location". It is the combination of these spatial relationships that creates what we perceive as perspective.

This may sound a little confusing, so lets look at this diagram…

In this diagram, the camera ( A ) is focused on a single person ( B ), while a group of people ( C ) are in the background. The red lines indicate the Field Of View (FoV) of a wide angle lens, while the green lines indicate the FoV of a longer telephoto lens.

Accepting the principle that 'un-interfered with' light travels in straight lines, we can see that 'spatially' nothing has changed between the two lens focal lengths. The long lens with it's narrower FoV, simply sees a smaller section of the scene…. Person B is still the same distance from the camera, as are persons C. Plus, regardless of focal length used, the camera still sees the same relationship between person B and the partially covered person in C (as represented by the grey & magenta areas).

So there has been no "compression" of the image with the longer lens as often claimed. We are simply looking at a smaller section of the very same scene.

To demonstrate this, lets look at the following images that were taken from the same location, using different focal lengths.

Wide Angle Lens:

Telephoto Lens:

Now many people will claim that the wide angle image above demonstrates a different and much stronger perspective. However this is not the case as perspective in both images is identical.

In the following image, I have overlaid the telephoto view (lightened section) over the wide angle view and you can see that the images match perfectly.

To help see how well the images match, this is the very same image enlarged and cropped:

It must be noted that Depth Of Field (DOF) varies between the two images, but DOF is not what is in question here.

To truly change perspective and therefore the spatial relationship between ourselves and the objects around us, we must change our position. In this diagram the camera ( A ) has been moved closer to the single subject ( B).

Here you can see that the FoV for each focal length has not changed, but the viewer's relationship between ( B ) and ( C ) has changed (as represented by the grey & magenta areas) when compared to the original graphic. So by changing position, we have changed the spatial relationship or "perspective".

OK, so if the perspective did not change in the above images, why do I still think that the wide angle view shows more perspective?

Well we must remember that perspective is an illusion. It is created by the "seemingly" diminishing size of objects as they get further away and our brain interprets this diminishing size as distance and depth.

So by seeing more of a scene, we are therefore seeing more of the diminishing size relationships between the objects within that scene. This increases our spatial awareness and creates a much stronger "feeling" of perspective.

Conversely, by narrowing our FoV with a telephoto lens and seeing less of a scene, we reduce the amount of diminishing size relationships and thereby reduce our spatial awareness and our "feeling" of perspective.



Tags: perspective focal length diminishing size spatial awareness

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The Wheat Bag Tripod - Stable Camera Support

NOTE: I am in the process of moving this blog to our new web site. Because this blog will be removed in the near future, please share or link to the new location. Thanks


I was wandering around the city with a compact camera and no tripod, when I came across the old Regent Theatre and it's magnificently decorated interior walls and ceiling.

The theatre is dimly lit and flash is out of the question, so a long shutter speed was the only answer, but as I mentioned above, I had no tripod. (not that the management would have allowed me to use one anyway)

So I dropped into a number of chemist stores looking for a hot/cold pack that is normally used for treating injuries. At my 5th chemist I found just the one... "The Wheat Bag" at 180mm x 190mm.

This bag allows for easy and stable positioning of smaller cameras in either horizontal or vertical orientation on just about any surface. I have tested it with my compact cameras on coffee cups, chair arms, fence posts, car roof, coke cans etc., but to my surprise I have found that it easily supports a small DSLR also!

There is also a longer Wheat Bag available at 180mm x 380mm and I have used it to support my 1Ds2 (that's a big DSLR) with my 70-200/2.8 telephoto attached. The beauty of the longer Wheat Bag, is that it can be folded to provide different levels to support both camera body and lens.

Another great thing about bags like this, is that they get your camera closer to the ground than any other method and this can provide some interesting and unique viewpoints, that would otherwise be "overlooked". ;) ...pun intended.

Similar products have been around for cameras for quite some time, but when the word "photography" is attached, something strange happens to the pricing structure and we end up paying around $60 or more, while the Chemist purchased Wheat Bag comes in at a mere $15.95..... plus you can always use it as a heat/cold pack after a hard day of lugging the camera gear around.

If you are handy on the sewing machine, these would be pretty easy to make using a couple of handfuls of bean bag balls.... this would make for a lighter option also.



Tags: tripod tripods camera support platform

Friday, 1 April 2011

What camera should I buy?

NOTE: I am in the process of moving this blog to our new web site. Because this blog will be removed in the near future, please share or link to the new location. Thanks


Free Shipping on ALL Products

It's the eternal newbie question and rightly so I would think.

Buying a new digital camera can be a very daunting thing, especially for the newcomers to photography who are still grappling with terms like 'megapixels', 'f-stop' and 'focal length'. These newbies are lucky enough to be starting out in what can be a wonderful, fulfilling and rewarding art and buying your first camera, is as exciting as buying your very first car.

Sadly though, it's like a minefield out there. The dream camera can be seen on the horizon, but to get there you need to avoid the hundreds of 'wrong camera' mines.... perhaps you may even need to cop a few long the way?

What camera should I buy? ...It's a question to which I will never give a defined answer. In fact, just like "Does my bum look big in this?", it's a question where there simply is no right answer.

Photography is a subjective art, right from the moment that you pick up a camera, until the viewer is looking at your image. What appeals to one, may not appeal to another. So here is how I don't answer the question....

What is the intended use? ...There is no need to go buy the latest and greatest 20+ megapixel DSLR, if you only intend to take happy snaps and print them at 6x4 or just keep them on the computer. Also, it would be crazy to buy that megapixel monster if your intention is to carry it in your pocket, because with a DSLR that is not going to happen!

So think about your needs and how you intend to use the camera. This should lead you towards buying a compact, a mid-sized camera or that megapixel monster.

How many megapixels? ...Again "intended use". Small prints or computer viewing of images do not need heaps of megapixels. Most cameras have reasonable resolution these days, so an 8-12 megapixel camera is readily available in compacts, mids and DSLRs. These will be more than enough to make A3 prints with good clarity.

Yes you can get higher megapixel counts, but ask yourself "Do I really need them?" In a nutshell "if you intend to print big, go big" is a good rule of thumb.

What camera is the easiest to use? ...There would be very few cameras that don't have a "full auto" mode that allows the photographer to simply point and shoot. But ease of use extends far beyond that. Think about the ergonomics (how the camera fits your hands), the use of the menu and how it is structured. Can you change quickly and easily from one shooting style to another? ...that kind of thing.

These will be quite personal and opinions will vary greatly from person to person. So "hands on" is the only way. Go to your local camera store and pick one up, shoot a few shots, delve into the menu operations and get a good feel for how the camera operates.

Which has the best image quality? ...This will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, from camera to camera. So find your need first, then seek out image samples from cameras that meet your criteria. Online review sites such as DPReview are a great resource for images and these can be used to compare. Delve deep into the "full size" images at 100% viewing size and find what appeals to "you".

As a landscape photographer, I like lots of detail and neutral colour, but a wedding/portrait photographer may rather a little less micro-detail and a slighter warmer base tone to images. Cameras are tools and when you are driving a nail, you need a hammer. It's all about the right tool for the job.

"What lens do I need?" ...Very good question! There is no point buying a camera body, if the lens you want or need is not available for it. So now you need to think about the "system". Try to look forward, what will I need down the track, will the x,y or z manufacturer be able to meet my need? Thinking about the system and what additional equipment you need now and into the future, may well turn your head in another direction.

As a starter however, a zoom lens that offers both wide angle and moderate zoom is a great place to start. Try and avoid the massive zoom ranges, as these generally make compromises in order to achieve the extended range and these can often lead to a little less image quality. They are very convenient however, so if you are willing to trade a bit of image quality for single lens convenience, then that is your call.

My budget is only $XXXX ...Budget is the biggest killjoy. I doesn't matter if we are buying a house, a car or a camera, that darn "budget" just keeps raising its ugly head. :(

Obviously budget will be the ultimate deciding factor for many and my advice is to not overextend... on anything! Car, house, camera... whatever! If you can't afford it, then don't buy it! Buy something that is within your means, as the stress and ultimate heartache of losing it in the end should not be endured.

When thinking about your budget, think about this... "Camera bodies come and go, but good glass can last a lifetime". So if you have the extra coin, invest in the better glass, perhaps even drop down one body model to allow for that glass, as you can always update the body later.

Cameras are getting cheaper all the time and if you are a newbie, perhaps you could learn the ropes on a much smaller camera to begin with. This would also allow you time to find out more about your own needs and likes with regard to your new art.

So there is my NON-answer. Just a whole bunch of things to think about when making your decision. I may not have given you the answer you wanted hear. I may not have made your decision any easier, but I am sure that when it is made you will feel a lot more comfortable about it.



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Tags: what camera purchase buying photographic equipment photography cameras lenses lens flash

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Canon 16-35 f2.8L II vs 17-40 f4L vs Olympus OM Zuiko 24.

A little while back I borrowed a 16-35 f2.8L v2 from Canon Professional Services, so that I could make a direct comparison against my own 17-40 F4L.

At the time I was looking for the Holy Grail of wide angles for my landscape work, even though my 17-40 was doing OK. The 16-35 was a new model so thought it was worth checking out. Here is what I found……

Part 1: Lens Flare Comparison

Both lenses produced flare in extreme circumstances, but as you can see from the following images, it was the 17-40 that controlled flare the best.

Flare aside, it should be noted that the 16-35's circular iris produces a great star effect around the sun. The 17-40 is no slouch in the area and is often praised for it's great looking specular highlights, but 16-35 trumps it here!

Canon 16-35 @ 16mm f16:

Canon 17-40 @ 17mm f16:

As much as I love the sun's star effect (pun intended) in the 16-35's image, the 17-40's sun is perfectly acceptable (and not really on test here), so when considering 'flare only' I gotta give the thumbs up to the 17-40.

Part 2: Focal Length 24mm

"Why test at 24mm?" I hear you say. This is so I can make a direct comparison with my Olympus OM Zuiko 24mm 2.8 that I use for a few of my landscapes. I have long held this lens up as a stand out resolver, so if this new lens can out-resolve the Oly I will be in heaven!

Detail Crops: These are small sections from the full image (seen below in the distortion test) at 100% native size.....

Canon 16-35:

Canon 17-40:

Olympus OM Zuiko 24/2.8:

From these crops it is neck and neck between the 16-35 and 17-40, with the edge just going to the Oly. The difference between these is minimal and could easily be levelled out by using a little USM.

Corner Crops:

Canon 16-35:

Canon 17-40:

Olympus OM Zuiko 24/2.8:

In the corners it's a different matter, with the Oly being King, while the 17-40 is a way behind in second and the 16-35 behind that. (This result was the same for all four corners)


Well this is where I expect the Oly 24mm to lead.....

Canon 16-35:

Canon 17-40:

Olympus OM Zuiko 24/2.8:

Well a bit of a surprise with this one..... the 16-35 shows pincushion distortion, while both the 17-40 and Oly 24 show barrel distortion. While none of them are "bad" in my opinion (remember this is 24mm), I would have to give the gong (just) to the 17-40 over the Oly 24 in this case.

Well that's 24mm and I think that the tiny Olympus 24mm wins overall here. The other lenses put up a good fight in detail and distortion, but the Oly trumps them with it's outstanding corner performance and that is the main area in which I am seeking improvement.

So it looks like the Oly stays in my kit for a little while longer..... but how will the Canon lenses stack up at the super wide angles of 16 & 17mm? Will they come into their own and give me the corner performance of the Oly, or do I need to start rethinking my compositions and shoot at 24mm for all of my landscapes?

Part 3: Wide Angle

Let's see how the 16-35 and 17-40 compare at their widest angles.

First up the overall images and distortion.

Canon 16-35 @ 16mm f16:

Canon 17-40 @ 17mm f16:

Barrel distortion is present in both lenses at these wide FOVs (no surprise there), with the 17-40 displaying slightly less. I guess this is to be expected with the 1mm wider FOV of the 16-35, so for distortion I would be happy go with no clear winner.

Corner Crops:

Canon 16-35 @ 16mm f16

Canon 17 - 40 @ 17mm f16

Both lenses display a little red fringing in the contrast area where shadow meets sun, but it is the 17-40 that has the edge in sharpness here.

Canon 16-35 @ 16mm f16

Canon 17 - 40 @ 17mm f16

In the bottom corners the tables have been turned however, with the 16-35 now having the edge in sharpness.

So once again I believe that there is no real winner here and the turn about in form from top to bottom corners, is most likely be due to a slight variation in focus distance.

Middle Crops:

Canon 16-35 @ 16mm f16

Canon 17 - 40 @ 17mm f16

Well you could throw a blanket over these they are so close..... no clear winner... again!

Part 4: The Long End

Until now I have been dealing with the wide FOVs of these lenses, this is primarily because it's where I am seeking improvement in my current lens line-up.

The wide images displayed have been focused using hyperfocal methods, so as to maximise the DOF from as close to the camera as possible and out to infinity. Again this is because it's the area in which I am seeking improvement (...I like to shoot wide angle landscapes if you haven't noticed )

Once we hit the long end of these lenses however, we cannot expect to achieve the huge DOF that the wider angles offer. So in the following images I have focused on the building and will display corner crops from the building only and not from the foreground grass. This will effectively display the lenses "flat field" performance in the corners, as all the area of the building should remain within the plain of focus.

First the full images displaying the difference in FOV between 35 and 40mm.....

Canon 16-35 @ 35mm f16:

Canon 17-40 @ 40mm f16:

As you can see, 5mm makes a considerable difference in FOV. Both lenses display only slight curvilinear distorion.

Middle Crops:

Canon 16-35 @ 35mm f16:

Canon 17-40 @ 40mm f16:

Not much in this, but I gotta give sharpness and detail to the 17-40. This may be due to a slight difference in focus distance, or perhaps the fact that the longer focal length is taking us just a tad closer and this is allowing more pixels to render the fine detail.

So I guess the 5mm difference in focal length does make for a bit of an unfair comparison, but I am still glad that I own the 17-40.

Corner Crops:

Canon 16-35 @ 35mm f16:

Canon 17-40 @ 40mm f16:

Again, there is very little in this. I think the fine detail of the brick is rendered better in the 17-40 image, but once again the 5mm advantage must be considered here.

Please note that the left corner images display the same results, so I won't waste bandwidth and display them here.

Part 5: Wider Apertures & Longer Focal Lengths

So how do these lenses go at the wider apertures? These first images display the light fall-off experienced at wide open apertures.

Canon 16-35 @ 35mm f2.8

Canon 16-35 @ 35mm f4

Canon 17-40 @ 40mm f4

Both lenses display light falloff when wide open, but here you can see that the 16-35 at f4 is already minimising the falloff and is way better than the 17-40. In fact, the 17-40 does not get as good as this until it reaches f8.


Canon 16-35 @ 35mm f2.8

Canon 16-35 @ 35mm f4

Canon 17-40 @ 40mm f4

Both lenses are stellar performers in the middle when wide open..... no clear winner here.

Corner Crops:

Canon 16-35 @ 35mm f2.8

Canon 16-35 @ 35mm f4

Canon 17-40 @ 40mm f4

No contest !! The 16-35 beats the 17-40 in the corners when wide open without question. The 16-35 provided much better results than the 17-40 at the sides when wide open also. The 17-40 is quite soft, while the 16-35's edge performance is only marginally less than the middle.

Up until now things have been going pretty well all the 17-40's way, but now that we are looking at the wide apertures it's a different story.

The Low Down

If you are trying to make up your mind between the two lenses, I guess you should ask yourself what you intend to use it for. If you are a landscaper like me and never venture toward the wider apertures, then the 17-40 would be just fine.

But if you are a wedding/portrait person, who regularly shoots at wider apertures in dark locations (churches etc) then perhaps the 16-35 is the way to go.

Another thing to consider that is not shown in these tests, is AF speed and accuracy. Being a 2.8 lens the 16-35 will allow the camera's cross type AF sensors to be use to their full potential (ie sensitive to both horizontal and vertical areas of contrast), while the 17-40 f4 will limit these to horizontal sensitivity only.

This is no biggee to a landscaper, but I think a sports shooter would want to go the 2.8 for sure. As would the low light photographer, as true cross type sensors would aid low light focusing greatly.


AustralianLight - Landscape Photography

UPDATE: Since making this comparison I have been using a Canon 24mm TS-E Tilt/Shift lens. While I have no direct image/crop comparisons to post here, I have to say that it makes these 3 lenses look like toys.

I have not used the 17mm TS-E myself, but from all reports it too is amazing lens and on par with the 24 TS-E. So if you are like me and ultimate image quality is more important than zoom, then the TS-E lenses should be considered also.

Check out these lenses at the following providers:
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 L USM

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens

Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L Lens II

Tags: canon 17-40 f4 l canon 16-35 f2.8 l II olympus om zuiko 24mm 2.8 lens test review comparison image samples