If you are traveling with just one camera and one lens, what would you use? There are so many different choices. Some people prefer the 50 mm or 35mm prime. On this particular trip we were visiting the Pinnacles National Park or desert area which is 200 km north-west of Perth. You can now get there along the Indian Ocean Drive which is a relatively recent link and makes it a pretty straightforward trip to get to Cervantes.
To the desert
If you type in the word pinnacles Western Australia into a browser you’ll come up with a description of a desert area with thousands of limestone formations which stick up out of the sand. There are literally thousands of these limestone formations but nothing really prepares you for what you will see. And it’s good if your vehicle is reasonably rugged as some of the terrain that leads to the actual national park itself can be just a little bit taxing. I had to do some repairs prior to driving back to Perth and the garage owner wasn’t at all surprised when I called in to borrow some tools. He greeted me with a wry grin.
The garage does a decent trade in dents and repairs….😁😁 It keeps on improving as the tourism network works out that this is an attraction people want to see.
Roads are long and deserted for much of the journey and the bush is literally low bush. But at sometimes it is green and there are flowers as well to brighten the drive.
Its a rugged location even if its a tourist spot.
Knowing that I would want to be travelling light and that it would be blazingly hot in the desert I decided to use one of the Canon fullframe DSLR’s and I fitted the 24 to 105 mm F4 L-series lens which is one of theworkhorses of the Canon L series lenses. It’s never let me down and it didn’t on this trip. Working in very bright light with two distinctive colours beingthe colour of the desert and the blue sky overhead. Yellow and blue and blazingheat and flies. What could be better?
When you get to the park you basically drive around on a clearly marked exterior road but you can pull off and you can wander through what you can see. My recommendation is to have plenty of water on board. When travelling in Western Australia on very hot days, and especially if you come from Europe, nothing can prepare you for the oven like conditions that you can find yourself in. It really is oppressive and can sometimes be accompanied by high humidity. And as I’ve mentioned already the flies can be a problem. You don’t really want to be changing your lens when you are surrounded by sand and flying creatures.
Flies and Sand. Not the best place to be changing lenses.
In those sort of conditions I generally preselect the equipment that I’m going to use. These are the sort of rugged conditions that call for one of the Canon 1D series of virtually indestructible beasts. For this particular shoot I was using a Canon 1DX and it performed faultlessly. Overall I think we got a reasonably good collection. I especially like the way that you can capture a view of the various pinnacles against the blue sky and then in some instances you can even capture the view where the Indian Ocean in the background. Some people have said that it is a bit like looking at the landscape of the moon and you certainly get the idea of some of the science fiction sets that have featured in some post apocalyptic scenes. It’s not really hospitable. It does in fact get tens of thousands of visitors each year and you wouldn’t be surprised to find several other cars doing the circuit. However such is the vastness of the distance that often you feel as if you are on your own. You don’t necessarily need something as indestructible as the Canon 1D series and I’ve known people wander around with a mobile phone or any one of the small cameras that you find around. But I’d definitely recommend something that can meter in the glare as the reflections are strong against surfaces polished by sand and wind.
Sand, flies, dust and heat. Ideal for photography….
Why the Canon L series 24 to 105 mm lens? There’s a couple of things that really work amazingly well with this lens. Obviously you can take for granted the rocksolid performance as far as focus is concerned. It’s F4 as well which means that you going to get a really good sharpness in the image that you get. But the thing that really works with this particular lens is that it has an excellent way of capturing contrast. If there is contrast in the scene you can capture it. Contrast sometimes helps you to see more clearly the sharpness and vivid detail that you find in an image. The 24 to 105 mm lens L-series F4 has much better contrast than the 24 to 70 mm lenses but at the same time it doesn’t have the overall sharpness for the same degree of range. It’s still one of my go to lenses if I’m working with Canon and I want to use the zoom. [In fact we used it in Sydney on the harbor and took a lot of images that have been seen around the world.]
If you visit the pinnacles to take photographs like this one of the things you want to have his sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen and a long sleeve shirt. The incredibly high ultraviolet light in this part of the world is one of the distinctive features of the light reflects off objects when you’re shooting outside and it can quickly burn you. You get a very distinctive look which is harsher than you get in other parts of Australia. You can virtually pick an image taken in Western Australia in the sort of conditions even if it isn’t something as distinctive as the pinnacles. It’s a harsh light. And these are harsh conditions. So definitely wear sunscreen and always use the highest degree of protection that you can. Most people tend to disregard the idea of a long sleeve shirt but given the number of horror stories that you hear about skin cancer i’m committed to lightweight long sleeve shirts for protection.
Some of the views around the pinnacles that I’ve shown here show virtual pathways or gateways. One of these we’ve dubbed the gate of death as if you go through a portal and along the way towards your doom. I think it provides quite a dramatic scene in the setting against that backdrop and of course none of these pinnacles were placed here by anything other than the effect of sand and wind. I provided a bit of a description below about the desert itself which should provide you with a bit of extra information that you might find useful if you are thinking of traveling to this area.
One of the things you may notice is there’s quite a lot of detail in these limestone pillars. Some of them look almost as if there is a detail within as if there something hiding within to find. There isn’t but it just has that look.
We spent about an hour traveling around the pinnacles Desert to establish this particular set of images. I’ve included 30 and a few pictures of the gear that we used on this particular shoot. Those of you that are familiar with the sort of work that I like to do will probably wonder at me not using either a Nikon or a Sony or an Olympus camera on this particular shoot given that I am a fan in more recent times of these ranges. To be honest most of my work these days comes as a result of working with an electronic viewfinder.
However the viewfinders in the Canon 1D series are very bright and clear and therefore I do not feel disadvantaged. However if you gave me a choice between a camera with a standard viewfinder without a really good image or view and I had the option of working with the camera with electronic viewfinder instead then I would probably go for the EVF for the simple reason that they just give you much greater control over what you are doing. The Canon 1D series are weather sealed and the Canon 24 to 105 mm L-series lens is also a rugged lens and for me it was a no-brainer. I got the choice right.
Nambung National Park is a national park in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia, 200 km northwest of Perth, Australia and 17 km south of the small coastal town of Cervantes. The park contains the Pinnacles Desert which is an area with thousands of limestone formations called pinnacles.
The park derives its name from an indigenous Australian word possibly meaning crooked or winding. The word was first used in 1938 when naming the Nambung River which flows into the park and disappears into a cave system within the limestone. The Yued people are the acknowledged traditional custodians of the land since before the arrival of Europeans.
Thousands of huge limestone pillars rise from a starklandscape of yellow sand to form one of Australia’s most intriguing landscapes.
Parking bays are provided at various points along a one-waydrive for those wishing to stop and explore the fascinating Pinnacles Desert onfoot.
In places, the pinnacles reach up to 3.5m tall. Some are jagged, sharp-edged columns, rising to a point, while others resemble tombstones.
Features that provide clues to the origin of the Pinnaclescan be seen by the astute observer. For example, many pinnacles displaycross-bedding structures, where the angle of deposition of the sand changesvery abruptly. This indicates that the dunes from which the limestone bed wasformed was originally laid down by the wind.
Some pinnacles have a mushroom-like shape, due to remnantsof a calcrete capping. The mushroom shape has formed because the capping isharder than the limestone below it and therefore weathers at a slower rate.
The Canon 24 to 105 mm lens performed flawlessly. It’s a sort of situation where you do want to have some wide-angle shots and also the ability to zoom in and get in quite close. As you can see there is quite a lot of detailing some of these photographs and the rocks to reveal quite a lot. There was a fair amount of wind and sand blowing around which just confirmed the idea of not changing lens on site. I don’t know about you but going back to your car to change lenses all the time when you’re on a shoot isn’t appealing to me. This particular lens offers that little bit extra range than the 24 to 70 mm and I found it very useful. I’m planning to go back and do a shoot using either the Z7 or possibly the new Olympus which we hear is going to be released in 2019 with some pretty spectacular lenses. If that happens I will provide a post. Having said that the existing Olympus OM1 is the sort of tool that I would enjoy taking some shots with in the near future at the pinnacles.
If you check online you’ll find some photographers who have posted shots here taken at sunset with spectacular sunsets. [There are some obvious fakes if you look closely.] I’ve never tried a sunset but its on my list. I’ll let everyone know when I tick it off.
A few comments re Lenscraft Photography. When we comment on equipment in these pages the comments are based on use in the field. They are never based on a single use or just a couple of days using the equipment. We try the equipment with at least two disciplines in photography and determine how it performs from there. Lenscraft Photography is a website devoted to photography and sharing experiences with equipment. We are not affiliated with any manufacturer. We have used equipment professionally from Canon, Nikon, Ricoh, Minolta, Sony, Leica, Olympus, Hasselblad, Zeiss, Sigma, Pentax, Zenit, Bronica, Rollei & Kodak.
Some of these companies have been absorbed into others. Currently we regularly use equipment from Olympus, Nikon, Sony, & Hasselblad. [Plus lenses from Zeiss and Sigma]