We have come a long way since 2008 in terms of cameras and what they can do. But there is often a forgotten part of the photography Eco-system. We talk about cameras and lenses but we forget the very important part of the overall picture.
Four Key Areas
There are four aspects that have a huge impact on your photography and each of these four components make up and contribute towards the results. Consider all four when you are thinking about improving photography. Number one is the skill level that you possess as a photographer. Number two is the camera that you use. Number three are the lenses that you invest in which should be optically bright and cover ranges that are appropriate to your style of photography. However number four, and one that really needs to be thought about carefully, is the imaging software that you use for either raw conversion or enhancement.
Lets Compare 2008 – 2019
Take a look at the following photo. It was taken in October 2008.
Lets take a closer look into the image and see what is in there. Canon 24-105mm F4 lens.
Lets take another look but this time lets take the same image and process it using modern software. That’s right – the fourth and vital part of photography.
Photography results are dependent on the photographers skill and his tools. The four tools he has are his skill, cameras, lenses and his software.
When you compare the photograph above with the photograph below it is obvious that there is significantly more detail and a lot more shadow information that has been recovered with today’s software.
In the photograph above, Adobe software has been used to develop the raw image. Over the years a significant number of developments and a significant number of releases have provided us with much better tools to extract the information locked into those raw files. In the image below we suddenly see foliage as well as the details in the rock. It was a very windy and windswept day and now the detail within the waves and on the sand comes into focus. The two figures in the photograph are very tiny but they have a much more real feel when we develop them with today’s software. There is a warning sign in the rocks and whereas it almost blends into the background in the first photograph you can see it’s clear yellow colour and shape much more forcibly in the second development below.
Software, back in 2008 was certainly able to extract shadow detail however, in the process it often revealed noise that tended to slightly pixelate the image and detract from the overall look of the finished photograph. The scene itself is a remarkable rock coastline and having the two figures walking towards the sea in the bottom of the photograph made it pretty much a no-brainier when it came to use in tourism photography. For that reason, despite the absence of too much detail, the photograph was well received and well used.
Investing In Software Is Well Worth The Exercise
An experience that some photographers have commented on has been purchasing a more up-to-date camera, something that all photographers are very likely to do in any case, and then discovering that the work that they are producing is pretty much on a par with what they were producing with an older camera and then discovering, as a result of investing in raw conversion software, that both cameras had similar latitudes in terms of what could be extracted from the images.
The Canon camera that was used to take these photographs produced excellent images up to ISO 400. Personally today I would never be satisfied with the camera that didn’t work well virtually noise free up to around ISO 1600. So I am not advocating that people don’t update their cameras. Instead, the point we are making in this particular article is that it is important to remember that essentially there are four sides to the picture in terms of what you can get out of your images. Number one is the skill level that you possess as a photographer. Number two is the camera that you use. Number three are the lenses that you invest in which should be optically bright and cover ranges that are appropriate to your style of photography. However number four, and one that really needs to be thought about carefully, is the imaging software that you use for either raw conversion or enhancement.
There is a Substantial Difference In Results Obtainable From The Same Raw Files
There is a substantial difference in the performance of the various raw converters. Personally I have available to me at any time five different raw converters. That is a significant investment but I have discovered that some raw converters are more effective than others with various files. There is an argument that you can get there with just about any raw converter to which I would reply that some of them make it incredibly tough to get to the end result if they are not tuned to suit your camera and style. It’s also worth noting that some imaging software really doesn’t extract anything like the level of detail that is available and also some imaging software seems to get lost when it comes to dealing with noise. With noise you don’t want the noise reduction to make areas of the photograph look messy or blurred or muddy, you want to retain detail. Not all imaging software can handle this issue well.
What is the moral of this little experiment? Before you consider upgrading your camera or lenses, consider your software and your skill level. It could be that poor camera technique is resulting in poor quality images or else it could be that your raw converter is simply not able to extract the detail and style that you are aiming at. It takes time to really get to know a camera well so moving onto a new camera too soon can be quite a wasteful exercise. Worth thinking about.
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]
Don’t ever pass up an opportunity to see whales at play.. And always pack a camera…
There are some magical things to do in Western Australia. Whale watching is an experience that will just blow you away.
There are many places around Western Australia where you can go to do whale watching. Whales migrate up the coast from the Antarctic waters and then return down the coast. There are long seasons when it is easy to book a trip.
At one time, whaling was a huge industry in Australia as you will see if you visit Albany on the south coast. Now whales are welcomed and the people that go out in boats, go not to slaughter the mammals but to photograph them. And each year it is getting better and better. It’s an experience that we try to enjoy every year.
In recent times we’ve gone from seeing just one or two whales to seeing pods of whales all around us in every direction. On some occasions we’ve had over 20 whales at different points of the compass. This is an amazing result of the care that has been taken on this subject.
At one time there was just a small boat that headed out from Albany and you heard about it from the tourist bureau or word of mouth. We heard via word of mouth and went out the first time on a very small craft. It was also the start of an addiction to viewing the whales. Today you often see larger boats and you even get morning or afternoon tea served for you.
You can snap the whale tail going under on most trips.
The elusive photograph of course is to try to get the picture of a whale breaching and you have to go out quite often if you want to capture these photographs. Mostly whales like to swim through the water and blow. If you go on a whale watching tour you’re pretty much guaranteed to get an iconic tail shot. You do need to give your gear some thought.
You need a zoom lens
But what to use and what to take with you? It’s an important question. Some people go with 50 mm or 35mm lenses on their cameras and when they come back the whale occupies a little bit half of a smidge in the photograph. While mobile phones are good for photographing people the action shot in the ocean is usually the preserve of something bigger. Having said that whales do come quite close to the boats these days and it is possible to get some very interesting shots using a mobile but it definitely is at the bottom of the list as far as getting real whale images is concerned. This is a zoom lens territory 101. That is if you want something to show for the trip.
We’ve tried a few lens options
Over the years we’ve tried a few different approaches. I’ve been whale watching with the Canon 24 to 105 mm lens but it wouldn’t be my recommendation. The 28 to 300 mm and the 100 to 400 mm lenses are much more viable. Probably my all-time favorite lens for shooting whales is the Olympus 40 to 150 mm pro series lens. But you get the picture. You want something long that you can adjust very quickly and you want a camera that locks the focus quickly. On the recent trip we took the Nikon 28 to 300 and it was well worth using because the Nikon focus is so good. As I minimum I suggest a zoom that reaches 2-300mm.
Focus can be a problem in glare conditions and when the colour of the whale can look similar to the ocean. The difficulty of glare on the water can confuse the focus of cameras so setting the shutter and autofocus to continuous is essential. This poses a difficulty with high megapixel cameras as the buffer fills earlier and you can miss the major shot while your buffer is clearing. I suggest buffer depth above 30 for whale shooting.
The Whales come close
Another surprise when taking photos of whales is that they do come very close. They sense that its safe to swim up to, around and under the boats that you are in. So having a fixed telephoto isn’t ideal. You will find yourself adjusting your zoom quite a lot.
Humpback Whales and Southern Right Whales are an amazing sight.
Humpback Whales and Southern right whales are common around Australia. They swim up the coast both on the east and west. Southern Right Whales are a beautiful creature and are as curious about us as we are about them.
Sometimes the whales are on a definite trip and just swim past. But they are often playful and well worth the trip out. Don’t be surprised if you are affected by coming close to such amazing creatures. Some are overcome at the experience.
We recommend seeing the whales from Augusta & Albany. You can also go and see whales from Perth locations such as catching a boat from Hillaries Marina in Perth. We have found that smaller craft are often a better choice which is why we book from places like Augusta and Dunsborough/Busselton etc.
With Auto focus I find that most cameras struggle with reflections. This is common with all brands. I have found that Canon, Nikon & Olympus have performed well for me with misses well down. The Sony cameras that I have used with the exception of the A99 and A9 gave more misses in focus with glare.
What is a humpback whale?The humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) is the fifth largest of the great whales. Its scientific name comes from the Greek wordmegameaning ‘great’ andpteronmeaning ‘a wing’, because their large front flippers can reach a length of five metres, about one-third of their entire body length!
Why called Humpback?
They are named humpbacks because of the distinct ‘hump’ that shows as the whale arches its back when it dives.
What do they look like?Humpbacks are ‘rorquals’, whales which have distinctive throat grooves. They also have knobs on their heads known as ‘tubercles’, each of which has a long coarse hair growing from its centre which is believed to act as a sensor. They have very long flippers (more correctly known as ‘pectoral fins’) with knobs on the front edge, and a humped dorsal fin. They are blackish, with white undersides and sides. The underside of the tail fluke is usually white with black patterning, which is unique to each humpback, like a fingerprint, so can be used to identify individual whales!
Males average 14.6 metres and females 15.2 metres long. The maximum length is 18 metres and a mature adult may weigh up to 45 tonnes. Humpback whales have a life expectancy of 45 to 50 years.
The Southern Right Whale
What is a southern right whale?Southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) are about the size of a bus. These marine mammals each weigh up to 80 tonnes and may reach 18 metres long. The first time we went out to see the whales we were shocked at their size. Although southern right whales are huge, bulky creatures, they are also agile and active animals, and their acrobatic antics can keep whale watchers amazed and entranced for hours. However, their commonest behaviour is lying around like logs at the surface.
What do they look like?Southern right whales have horny growths called callosities on top of the head. Southern right whales harbour large quantities of parasites (small crustaceans known as whale lice), and it is possible that the callosities may serve to reduce the area of the body in which parasites can inhabit. The patterns formed by the callosities are different for each individual, which is useful for researchers collecting information on patterns of movement and behaviour, as they can easily tell which whale is which. The head of a southern right whale is large — up to a quarter of the total length of the body — and the lower jawline is distinctively bowed.
No Fin on the back.
There is no fin on the back. The flippers are broad, triangular and flat and the body colour ranges from blue-black to light brown. There are often white markings, usually on the belly. The twin blowholes produce a high, V-shaped blow.
Where do they live?Southern right whales live in the cooler latitudes of the southern hemisphere, where they were once abundant. Whale watching tours that encounter southern right whales operate from Albany and Esperance in winter. They can also be seen from the shore in places such as Ngari Capes Marine Park (between Busselton and Augusta) and Point Ann east of Bremer Bay in Fitzgerald River National Park. Sometimes during the winter months, people living in the Perth metropolitan area can view them from shore, especially in Marmion Marine Park.
What a marvellous experience and an opportunity not to be missed.
Glare from the ocean intensifies light and sunscreen is a definite must. The cold wind can give you a chill. I use finger-less gloves and a beanie when I go shooting. Its good to get into position quickly and find a spot where you can wedge yourself in and hold on tight. The boats do move in the swell a lot as to find the whales the boat may head out further than you expect. Not always as the whales can come in close. However I have seen plenty of sick people looking green. Just a thought.