Moreton Island in a new light. Take photographs like a pro with these few tips.
This trip to Moreton was different. I didn’t bring my 4WD yet I was going to travel all over the island. I didn’t bring a tent but I was staying three nights. What was I thinking? I stayed at the Tangalooma Resort and travelled around in 4WD buses. Sacrilege… you are probably thinking right now!
Before you stop reading and move to the next real 4WDing story, give me a chance. As 4WDers, we find ourselves in really amazing places a lot of the time and would like to share them with the rest of the family. Great photos are a great way to share where you have been, but you don’t want to bore people with dull images – they’ll never ask about your trip again.
As a photographer, there is always something to learn. This was my opportunity to let someone else take care of logistics and focus (pun intended) on photographing Moreton Island. At the same time, I was able to learn from some real masters (Sean Scott and Darren Jew).
We’ve all seen waterfall images where the water is a blur while everything else looks sharp. How do they do that? It can be fairly easy to achieve if you have some equipment, access to a computer or even an app on your phone. I was using to a Neutral Density (ND) filter to reduce the amount of light coming into the camera, which then required a longer shutter speed to allow enough light in to achieve a good photo.
As long as the camera is still while it takes the image, you will blur anything that is moving in front of the camera while everything not moving looks sharp. Use a tripod or something solid to sit the camera on, and perhaps put the self-timer on when you press the shutter button.
An ND filter is one way of achieving this look. Another way of doing this can be by taking about 20 images continuously over around 10 seconds; then using a computer to stack them, average them and give you a result similar to using the ND filter. I prefer using the ND filter as I get an immediate result in the camera rather than having to process it in the computer. An even easier way is to use an app on your iPhone called Slow Shutter Cam which will achieve a similar result. A Digital SLR (DSLR) will give you the best quality for prints.
A broader view
Often the views that we arrive at on our off-roading trips are spectacular in real life… but that isn’t always conveyed in a photo. Even a wide-angle lens can reduce a mountain to a turkey’s nest. The best way to capture the emotion of a wide vista is to take a panorama. If you are using a DSLR, mount your camera vertically on a tripod taking an image every 10 degrees as you turn the tripod head. You will have to wait until you can stitch these separate images together using photography software on your computer.
Some cameras will stitch the images in-camera so you can see the result immediately. Most smartphones will do a very good job of this by choosing the Panorama option. I have a 1.4m wide panoramic canvas print on my wall that I took with my iPhone as it was all I had with me at the time. Panoramas will work really well vertically as well. If you find yourself at the bottom of a tall waterfall, try a vertical panorama. I think you’ll be happily surprised by the result.
Dawn… don’t yawn
Most people are awake to enjoy a good sunset but very few will be up for dawn. Sunrises can be as good as sunsets. They can even be better if you are near water as there is normally less wind at sunrise. This means you may be able to get beautiful reflections and may even score some mist which can add to an image.
The problem with sunrise is that it is normally pretty early in the morning… funny that (doh). If you plan to get up before dawn for a photo, check the weather the night before as not every sunrise is worth getting up for. At Moreton, we got up at 3.00am before driving an hour to Cape Moreton only to find a completely grey sky and no discernable sunrise. I was pretty happy though, with some of the images I took, as I was able to use the cloudy sky to my advantage.
Play before you go
Have you ever bought a camera just before a trip and then realised you weren’t quite sure how to use it the first time you got it out? With instant feedback from digital cameras, this isn’t the problem it used to be with film cameras. Even so, it is worthwhile using your camera before you go on that once-in-a-lifetime trip just so you get it right when you want to.
If your trip is into the desert, take your camera to a similar environment such as sand dunes at the beach. This can mean that you will get better images when it really counts. Learn how to use Shutter Priority if you are planning action shots of water crossings or birds in flight.
ISO, shutter speed and aperture are not dirty words; but to get the best out of your photography, knowing what they mean will help. Using your camera on ‘manual’ will allow you to start taking more creative images which is loads of fun and really satisfying, but can be frustrating at times. There is always something new to learn.
Want to go next time?
I saw an email come across my desk as I was wishing I was somewhere else. It was an email from the Canon Collective advertising its next event on Moreton Island. I live in Brisbane, so for me it was easy. Others came from Sydney and Melbourne to attend. It was a great break away from my desk. I learnt a lot about photography, I only paid for accommodation as everyone else did, while Canon and Tangalooma Resort organised the different workshops and 4WD logistics. Would I go again? You bet!
The best camera…
… is the camera that you have with you. In many cases this will be your phone but to really expand your creativity, you will need a camera that doesn’t have a phone in it. Have fun. And print some of those images you take to put on the wall.
Canon Collective – https://www.canon.com.au/collective
Darren Jew – https://darrenjew.com/
Sean Scott – https://seanscottphotography.com.au