Articles, Tips and Tutorials about Landscape Photography
Michael Breitung is a freelance landscape photographer from Germany and he lives near Nürnberg in the northern part of Bavaria. He started with photography in 2008. Blog posts contain articles about Landscape Photography and digital post processing and also tutorials by him.
I just returned from two weeks of travelling. After six years I went to the beautiful Seychelles again. While exploring new places is one of my farorite things to do during my travels, from time to time it’s great to return to a place I know.
The last time we visited this little paradise in the Indian Ocean, we spent 10 days on La Digue and four on Praslin. I had such great memories of our time on La Digue that I had planned to return for some time already. And this winter was perfect. Just as it got really cold here in Germany, we packed our bags and went back to the tropics.
Again we went to La Digue first, where we spent eight days before heading over to Mahe, the main island of the Seychelles. During the two weeks I recorded several behind the scenes videos, which I now want to share with you in the next few weeks.
In the first video I explore the northern tip of La Digue. There I photograph one of the characteristic granite rocks that make the coast of La Digue so unique. In the video you will learn my approach to photographing seascapes during blue hour and how to make the most out of less than ideal weather conditions.
Photographing the Seychelles - Blue Hour on La Digue - YouTube
If you enjoyed this video and want to give it a like, you can head over to my Youtube Channel and leave a thumbs up. If you have questions or suggestions for upcoming vlogs, you can also leave a comment there.
Today’s article is special. Unlike most of my articles it’s not about travelling, post-processing or some new photo gear. Today I want to talk about productivity and creativity, and how I balance my little photography business with my main job.
Because landscape photography is not my main profession. I started with it nine years ago as a hobby, which over time developed into an additional source of income. So since the last six years I’m persuing photography as a freelancer next to my main job.
Lets first go back a few years and see how I tried to manage creative endeavors like editing photos, writing articles for magazines and my blog and how I tried to stay productive when I just had a few hours in the evening and some time at the weekends. Because I think this is a common struggle for people having a side job.
As a software developer I already sit in front of the PC for more than eight hours at work. So when I came home I usually added a few more hours to this. But quite often I didn’t get much done and I didn’t feel very creative. Also my girlfriend was usually not very happy, if I’d just vanish into my office after returning from work.
So while photography should provide a balance to my main job, it often just created more work and the need to balance even more things.
The Miracle Morning
Two years ago I came accross a book called The Miracle Morning*. From the cover it reads: What if you could miraculously wake up tomorrow and any – or literally every area of your life was transformed? The author of the book claims to know the secret.
The claim might be a little bit too bold. But I can attest that I took many positive impulses from the book and was able to improve several areas of my life.
Before the miracle morning I was a master of hitting the snooze button. Then, when I finally got up, it took me roughly 15 minutes until I sat in my car and was on my way to work. But starting the day like that wasn’t very appealing. Getting up for work didn’t get me excited.
On the other hand, when I’m on a photo trip it’s usually no problem for me to get up hours before sunrise. I’m already looking forward to this when I go to bed in the evening and often I wake up even before the alarm clock.
So how can I get a similar excitement every day? And how can getting up early help with creativity and productivity? The book provided the right impulses and the necessary information to get started. Suddenly all seemed so obvious.
The biggest take-away for me was to fill each morning with activities I like to do. Things I will already be looking forward the evening before when I go to bed. And finding those activities was easy. All the creative endeavors, which I often didn’t find the time for in the evening, I started doing in the morning before going to work.
Now you might say that this would simply mean I get home later in the evening and might not have won much time. But the interesting thing was, by creating my miracle morning it was suddenly easy to get up 90 minutes earlier. It just meant to reduce the ammount of sleep – or rather the time spent lying in bed – to what I really need, which for me is somewhere between seven and eight hours.
So I set up a routine to which I adhere every morning. The book gave some inspiration but I ended up building my own morning ritual, which involves meditation, some exercise, reading (e.g. The daily Stoic*), a good beakfast and writing articles like this here or working on a photo.
The most important thing is not too rush. It’s possible to have a 5 minute miracle morning. But for me it’s essential to have time. If you start the day with stress, the pace is set and it’s much harder to calm down throughout the day. Having a relaxed start on the other hand removes a lot of restlesness.
More creativity and productivity
The morning hours are the most creative and productive hours of the day for me now. Especially after some morning excercise it’s easy to write or put the finishing touches on a photo. I also don’t get stuck very often, because I usually just spent 30 – 40 minutes on creative work in the morning and during the day I can gather ideas. Executing on those in the morning then is very fluid.
And my main job also benefits from it. I already go to work with a feeling of achievement and I then get much less distracted by thoughts about things I want or have to do in the evening. Let’s take the morning excercise for example. If for some reason I don’t find time to do sports in the evening I don’t have to feel remorse about it, because I already excercised in the morning.
Same with reading. In the evening it can be tiring to read, the eyes are already weary from the day. But I have already reserved 15 minutes each morning and this usually gets me through one or two books each month.
From a productivity standpoint I get more done in my 90 minute miracle morning than I was doing in the same ammount of time in the evening. And all this by maintaining a very relaxed pace.
Giving it a try
At the beginning I was sceptical as to if it would actually work. But it didn’t take long to become a habit, and that’s the key. If you stick to it one week it already becomes easier, after two to three weeks it will already feel a bit strange not to do it and after one month it’s routine.
As with so many things, you just have to be committed and get started. When I look at my blog here, my youtube channel, my Steemit blog and the ammount of edited photos, I clearly see the increase in the creative work I’m producing. And much of it is done in the morning.
This doesn’t mean that I no longer work in the evening or on weekends at all. I just don’t feel like I have to, because the foundation is already laid in the morning. And sometimes I’ll just leave it at that.
So I hope this was interesting for you, although it wasn’t the usual content. But I just had to share it, because it’s just great, if you no longer feel like you have to get up and instead feel excited to do so.
* These are a Amazon Affiliate Links. If you use them to buy something, I’ll get a little commission from Amazon
New Zealand is a dream for travellers and landscape photographers. A little over a year ago I had the pleasure to visit this wonderful country for the second time already. During our travels around the world it was our next stop after leaving Australia.
The last time we had been to New Zealand, we had explored both the North and the South Island, with our focus mainly on the latter. We had been travelling during November and the weather was very unpredictable with lots of wind and rain.
Especially while we were travelling through the North Island it was bad. When visiting Tongariro, for example, it was impossible to do the Crossing due to heavy winds and we moved on without taking any photo of the volcanos. So I still had a score to settle.
But first we went north to explore the beautiful coasts of Northland.
Since we arrived quite late in Auckland and didn’t want a too long drive, we decided to head west first. The coast west of Auckland is quite rough with lots of cliffs and sea stacks. It’s the perfect place to capture dramatic seascape photos.
Of the many places that we could have visited we selected Piha. With a huge sea stack dividing the mile long beach and a nice caravan park just 300 meters from the coast, it was the perfect place to start our travels through New Zealand.
After the last days in Australia I was quite spoiled with spectacular light and I was hoping for my streak of luck to continue. But first it started to rain. I used the time to explore the beach in all directions and found some nice rocks during low tide. As usual I had checked the tide forecast beforehand and knew that low tide would coincide with sunset the following day.
But as I went to the beach it was still raining. Hope grew as I saw a band of light at the horizon. The clouds appeard to disperse a bit and just as the sun dropped beneath the horizon they broke and the sky glowed in beautiful reds and magentas once more. I couldn’t have hoped for a better start for our New Zealand adventure.
Piha Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS | Lee 0.6 Hard GND + Lee 0.6 soft GND Exif: f/11 | 16mm | ISO 100 | 6s – 30s multiple exposures for focus stacking and exposure blending
Bay of Islands to Whangarei
Our next stop was the Bay of Islands. From Piha we drove straight up to Russell, where we stayed at Orongo Bay Holiday Park. The camping area was great with lots of space and some nice bush walks starting right at the park. Supposedly you can spot Kiwis there from time to time in the evening. But we weren’t that lucky and only saw some Wekas.
The next day we explored the Bay of Islands. I found it hard to photograph without getting on a boat or a small plane for a scenic flight. The coast of the mainland didn’t provide many photo opportunities. But I had already suspected this and looked a little farther east during my research. Half an hour’s drive from Orongo Bay we found the beautiful Elliot Bay.
With sea stacks, rocks and tidal pools this beach had all the subjects I needed for a spectacular photo. It also wasn’t too hard to find a composition to combine all those ingredients. The only thing I was missing on the first evening was the right light.
But we weren’t in a rush and decided to return again the next evening. The ability to return to a place during travelling multiple times is very important in my opinion. On the first visit I normally don’t know an area well, even if I have spent hours researching it. And I don’t know how the light changes the look of the land.
So instead of swithing locations each day I normally try to plan at least two days at a location. This way I might visit and photograph less places. But by slowing down I get to know those places much better and I’m usually much more able to take photos, which capture what they are about.
Elliot Bay : Prints Available Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS | Lee 0.6 Hard GND + Lee 0.6 soft GND Exif: f/11 | 24mm | ISO 100 | 1/30s multiple exposures for focus stacking
At Sandy Bay we made our next stop and found one of the best campsites of the whole trip. It was a free campsite, which we were allowed to use because we had a self-contained Jucy Condo. Right at the beach, beneath a huge Pohutukawa tree we set up camp.
To find such campsites, I used the invaluable Rankers app. With this app I got informations about holiday parks as well as free campsites and also about the conditions for camping at those.
Just a short walk from Sandy Bay lay the little Daisy Bay. Down there I went exploring again, searching along the coast for interesting rock formations and tidal pools. Although it’s more of a sunrise location, it also worked during sunset. There was no direct light hitting the slopes around the bay, but with the low tide I was able to find an interesting foreground, which was submerged when I returned the next morning.
Tidal Gems Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS | Hoya HD Polarizer + Lee 0.6 Hard GND + Lee 0.6 soft GND Exif: f/11 | 16mm | ISO 100 | 1/8s multiple exposures for focus stacking
Whangarei was the next stop on our tour through Northland. It’s a small mountainous pensinsula with several beautiful beaches. But before visiting those we went to Whangarei falls.
I didn’t expect much as I pulled over at the huge parking lot. It was right next to the road, so why not give it a chance. From the viewig platform at the top of the falls I could already see the place from where I wanted to take my photo. I hadn’t done any research of the area but I could already previsualize the photo I wanted to take.
After a quick stroll down to the river I quickly found a composition, which hid the stream of visiters in front of the falls. And except for the viewing platform at the top left of the waterfall, this photo could easily have been taken in midst of a jungle.
Whangarei Falls Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS | Hoya HD Polarizer + Lee 0.9 ND Exif: f/11 | 21mm | ISO 100 | 1s – 4s multiple exposures for focus stacking and exposure blending
One hour later we finally arrived at our stay for the next three days. Since it was Christmas time we had decided to rent a Bach and spent a more relaxed time during the holidays.
With the Kiwibach at McKenzie Bay we found the perfect holiday home. After so many weeks in the campervan it was great to finally have a real roof above our heads again.
The following days I hiked up onto the various little mountains in the area and we also explored many of the white sand beaches that Whangarei has to offer. It was great to spent Christmas Eve in shorts at one of those – something I could get used to.
Ocean Beach Overlook Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS | Lee 0.6 hard GND Exif: f/13 | 23mm | ISO 200 | 1/30s multiple exposures for focus stacking and exposure blending
The first week in New Zealand was great. It was summer, which is the most crowded time to visit New Zealand. But in the north we didn’t encounter that many tourists. Many of the beaches we visited we had nearly for ourselves. It was a huge contrast to Coromandel, which we would visit two weeks later.
In times of Instagram it seems that as a traveller you have to visit all those places that are trending on that platform. If no influencer has been there yet, it can’t be that interesting, right? It couldn’t be farther from the truth and I often try to avoid places, which are too trendy on Instagram. But it gets harder and harder to do so.
As I final word: I’m always quite open with the locations I visit. I want to inspire people to travel, to explore and to experience other countries. But I also know that many areas around the world suffer from their sudden popularity. I just hope that my photos, by showing the beauty of those places, also remind you to look after them.
I don’t take panorama photos very often. But when I do so I want to make sure that I get a high quality result and that during post processing I have full control over the stitching and blending of the photos.
During my travels around the world I visited Phillip Island in the south-east of Australia one evening. I wanted to photograph the Pinnacles at Cape Woolamai for sunset. At first it didn’t look very promising with grey clouds obscuring the sky. But just before sunset the sun finally broke through and bathed the scene in wonderful golden light.
Since my wide angle lens wasn’t enough to take in the whole view I quickly leveled my tripod and took a panorama instead, panning the camera six times between the photos. This eventually gave me enough field of view to have both the Pinnacles to one side of the frame and another prominent sea stack on the other side. With the sun nearly in the middle I had to deal with a huge dynamic range, so I had bracketing active all the time.
I now had this photo sitting on my hard-drive for nearly one year. Stitching and blending panoramas can be a real pain. In Lightroom you can do automatic HDR blending and then stitch the panorama. But with such a photo where you have moving water and the sun directly in the frame, the results are often lacking.
Also, using Lightroom wouldn’t allow me to export separate panoramas for the different exposures for later blending in Photoshop, which is my preferred tool for exposure blending.
So instead of Lightroom I opted for Hugin, a free panorama stitching tool, which was written around the Panotools library. There are several GUIs out there, which use this library. My choice fell to Hugin because it’s a free tool and although it has some shortcomings, over the years I have found solutions for them.
My new Start2Finish Tutorial - Cape Woolamai Panorama Workflow - YouTube
In my newest Start2Finish Tutorial I share those solutions and tricks with you. As I explain in the video above I show you my complete workflow for the panorama photo of Cape Woolamai. I talk about my in the field process and about raw-processing. The panorama stitching in Hugin is then a major part of the tutorial as well as the exposure blending in Photoshop.
I also go through all the creative adjustments I made to the photo after the blending. I show you my sharpening workflow and how I finally prepare the photo for print.
If you have questions about the tutorial, feel free to contact me. Also note that for the first 30 people purchasing the tutorial, I have a discount of 5$ active – the code is “Early”.
Another year has passed and I’m looking back at many new places I have visited and photographed, lots of new articles added to this blog, a revived Youtube channel, several magazine publications and online features.
In January and February I was still travelling the world. I spent my last days in New Zealand before flying to Hong Kong. Then I travelled from Vietnam through Laos to Cambodia before I returned from 6 months of travelling with more than 10000 photos to sort through. Those will eventually equate to around 200 portfolio photos, of which I have only managed to process 60 till now.
In May I held my yearly waterfall workshop in the German Black Forest. I always enjoy sharing my passion for landscape photography with other people, so next year this workshop will take place again. If you want to join me for a day at one of my favorite places in the Black Forest, you have to hurry – only two spots remain.
Then I travelled to northern Spain for one week. I had always wanted to visit the Costa Quebrada, which for me is one of the most spectacular coastlines in Europe. And finally I was able to photograph the various sea stacks myself.
Hiking and Landscape Photography in the Alps - YouTube
In July I filmed my first photography Vlog. And since then I posted nearly one video per week on my Youtube channel. I also finally figured out what equipment to use for vlogging, so in the future you will see much more vlogs from me, also from my travels.
Another highlight was my trip to Rome. Four days were much too short to explore all of this beautiful city. Behind every corner I seemed to find another subject too photograph. This time though I focused on the more popular spots as you can see in the following video.
Photographing Rome - YouTube
After my visit to Rome I continued to write some articles and recorded several more Youtube videos. And I eventually hit the 5000 subscribers on my Youtube channel. Considering that in the first 6 years I made it to 2000 and now in four months I gained another 3000 that’s a great achievement for me.
In October I did a short trip to Saxony Switzerland, but besides that the dull weather here in Germany didn’t allow for much photography. I still managed to explore some local forests, which are always a great subject, especially on gloomy days. And I was also the first guest in Nicolas Alexander Otto’s Landschaftsfotografie Podcast.
Top 10 Photos
Normally this is the place where I show you my top 10 photos of the year. But since I skipped this part last year because I was travelling the world, I will now show you my favorite 10 photos of the last two years. So I had to be a bit more selective. But I didn’t want to exclude the photos from my travels to South America, Australia and New Zealand, where I created some of my all-time favorite photos.
I took this photo during my waterfall workshop back in May 2016. I usually don’t take photos myself when leading a workshop, but sometimes it helps to show my workflow in the water to the participants. On this day it was pouring, which added a lot to the atmosphere.
German Rainforest : Prints Available Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS | Hoya HD Polarizer Exif: f/9,5 | 23mm | ISO 100 | 4s and multiple exposures for focus stacking
Ever since I had visited the Drachensee a year earlier and couldn’t take a photo because the area was covered in low hanging clouds, I wanted to return to get this photo. On my second attempt the weather was much more favorable and I could experience this paradise in beautiful light.
Alpine Paradise : Prints Available Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS | Lee 0.6 soft GND Exif: f/9,5 | 16mm | ISO 100 | 1/20s – 1/6s multiple exposures for blending and focus stacking
I always wanted to photograph dunes. Honestly I didn’t expect that I’d do so in South America when we planned our journey around the world. But during my research I came across the desert oasis of Huacachina. It was something special to photograph those mountains of sand at dawn.
Oasis : Prints Available Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS | Lee 0.6 Hard GND Exif: f/11 | 24mm | ISO 100 | 1/30s multiple exposures for focus stacking
Dark Side of the Moon
One of my highlights was the visit to the Atacama Desert. There’s really not much there, just lots and lots of rocks and sand. But the landscape looks so unique. During my explorations around San Pedro de Atacama it sometimes felt as if I was on another planet.
Dark Side of the Moon Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS | Hoya HD Polarizer Exif: f/11 | 150mm | ISO 100 | 1/8s
It was the most epic sunset I had seen in five years and at such a beautiful location. This evening at the Gibson Steps I was in photographer’s heaven.
Gibson Steps Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS | Lee 0.6 hard GND + Lee 0.6 soft GND Exif: f/9,5 | 16mm | ISO 100 + ISO 400 | 6s + 30s
After this epic sunset at the Gibson Steps I thought it would take me a long time to witness such light again. But only a few days later when we visited Wilsons Promontory Park I was again standing beneath a glowing sky and it was at one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Whisky Bay.
Inferno : Prints Available Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS | Lee 0.6 hard GND + Lee 0.6 soft GND Exif: f/9,5 | 17mm | ISO 100 | 1/6s – 3s multiple exposures for focus stacking and DRI
My absolute highlight were the days we spent in Tongariro National Park, not only for the last two years but for my complete time as a landscape photographer. In three days I hiked around 70km around the park and encountered some beautiful light. The evening at the Tama Lakes was my favorite photoshoot during my entire travels around the world.
Revelation : Prints Available Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS | Lee 0.6 hard GND + Lee 0.6 soft GND Exif: f/9,5 | 16mm | ISO 100 | 1/60s multiple exposures for focus stacking
Temples and monks are a characteristic feature of Luang Prabang in Laos. While visiting I didn’t do much landscape photography. Instead I explored the temples and streets hoping to capture some unique street photos. On one day I was sitting in front of a temple waiting for my girlfriend, when suddenly there was a lot of noise in the temple. I quickly grabbed my camera and was able to take this photo. It might not be technically perfect, but it’s still one of my favorite photos of the year.
Luang Prabang Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS Exif: f/4 | 169mm | ISO 1600 | 1/1000s
Last autumn I visited Saxony Switzerland once more. I come there nearly every year, but seldom do I get good light. This year was an exception though. When photographing from the little Winterberg this wonderful scene presented itself to me.
Fantasia : Prints Available Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS | Lee 0.6 hard GND Exif: f/11 | 78mm | ISO 100 | 1/45s
In autumn I also found this special place. It’s a forest I was driving by many times in the past years, but I never stopped. On this day though there suddenly was this dense fog and I just had to stop and see, if I could find something to photograph. This was a very good decision as you can also see in the Vlog I filmed.
Mystic Forest : Prints Available Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS | Hoya HD Polarizer Exif: f/9,5 | 16mm | ISO 100 | 0.7s multiple exposures for focus stacking
So that’s it. My photographic review for the past two years. A last thing I want to mention: If you want to support my blog and my youtube channel, you can head to my info page where you’ll find some Amazon links. If you use those when purchasing something, I’ll get a little commission. You’ll also find such affiliate links in my articles from time to time.
Now I wish you a good start into the New Year. Have a good one!
I have already talked about scouting in my first article about seascape photography last year. Amongst the different parts that happen before a photo shoot, scouting is the most important for me.
And there are different reasons for it, about which I talk in the video below. But I don’t only talk, I also show you a few examples where scouting was essential to come away with a good photo.
And not only does it help to get a good photo, to know a location and find compositions before a photo shoot. It is also important for safety reasons, especially if you are out in the mountains. So please enjoy the following video.
The Importance of Scouting in Landscape Photography - YouTube
And lest I forget: I now also have an account on Steemit where I write an article from time to time. So, if my articles here are not enough, you might want to follow me over there too and earn a few crypto coins along the way.
This year I finally started to vlog besides my photography. I’ve always wanted to show some behind the scenes footage for my photos, kind of taking you along on my photo shoots. But somehow filming always felt too distracting for me. After all when I’m out chasing the light I want to focus on my photography and don’t want to have filming interfere with it.
So what has changed this year? Well, I finally took the time to find a filming setup that would allow me to vlog while operating my main camera and taking photos. There were a few key elements to figure out.
First I wanted my setup to be as minimalistic as possible while still providing smooth footage. I didn’t need to zoom and get lots of different angles in my video. For a start I just wanted to record myself and my surroundings in reasonable quality.
What was more important than the video for me was the audio and how to record it while not having to think about where the microphone is. Once this was sorted I realized that there’s really not much to it and after some practice, Vlogging while taking photos has become enough of a routine that it doesn’t make me miss a photo.
Since I record Audio and Video separately I have to synchronize both in post. I use Premiere Elements* for the editing, but you can use any software, which supports multiple tracks and to display the audio levels for each track. In this video I show you how I get Audio and Video into sync for my vlogs.
Synchronizing separately recorded Audio and Video - YouTube
I hope you found those videos useful and maybe inspiring enough to also start with some Vlogging. I myself always like to watch behind the scenes videos of other photographers. There’s often something to learn.
Most of the landscape and cityscape photos I take are photographed with a wide angle lens. And, if you ask other landscape photographers about their most used lens, I guess you’ll get a similar answer. But while the photos you can take with such a lens often look spectacular and dynamic, having a portfolio full of them can become boring for the viewer.
In my opinion it’s important to create some diversity, not only through the subjects and light you photograph, but also by using specialized equipment. In this article I show you how to do so using a telephoto lens.
More than one year ago, as I was planning my travels around the world, I realized that I could no longer take three lenses onto my travels. By that time I still owned a Canon 16-35 f/4 IS (buy on Amazon), a Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 (buy on Amazon) and a Canon 70-200 f/4 IS (buy on Amazon). All three together weighed nearly 3kg, which was too much for the jorney I had planned.
A decision had to be made. Since both the wide angle lens and the tele lens allow me to take photos out of the ordinary, photos that look different to how we see the world with our bare eyes, the decision fell to the Tamron lens. It’s also a great lens, but I figured that it would be the focal range I would miss the least. And, if need be, I would be able to crop in a bit from a photo taken with my wide angle lens.
In the video below I show you some situations where a telephoto lens is very useful and I also share some tips about how to use it to create photos, which can hold the viewers attention.
Importance of a Telephoto Lens for Landscape and Cityscape Photography - YouTube
I hope you found this video useful. If you have questions or if you want to share what you think about telephoto lenses and their use, feel free to head over to my youtube channel and leave a comment beneath the video there.
* Above I use Amazon Affiliate Links. If you use them to buy something, I’ll get a little commission from Amazon
As I’m writing this it’s been nearly a year since we’ve been to Australia. A year since we drove from the Blue Mountains down to Mount Buffalo National Park.
Mount Buffalo National Park
It was the longest drive yet, more than 9 hours with our campervan. And when we arrived down in the south it was noticeably colder and the evening felt nearly a bit frosty in t-shirt and shorts. Since I knew that after the long drive I wouldn’t have time to scout and photograph anything, I had planned two nights at one of the local caravan parks. There were a few parks in the area, so it was no problem to find a nice spot to stay.
The next morning we first went to Lady’s Bath waterfall. It’s a very popular place for swimming. Unfortunately the falls didn’t have much water, so they weren’t interesting in terms of photography. But it was still a nice hike along the little creek.
Later in the evening we dove up the long, winding road to the Hump trailhead. The so called Cathedral, which you can see from the Hump, was the real reason why I wanted to visit this park. Ever since I had seen a photo of that area by Dylan Toh, I wanted to photograph this view myself. Unfortunately, like so often during our travels around the world, there was no cloud in the sky for sunset. But still, what a wonderful vista.
The Cathedral Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS | Lee 0.6 hard GND + Lee 0.6 soft GND Exif: f/9,5 | 29mm | ISO 100 | 1,5s
The Great Ocean Road
The next day we drove on to Ballarat where we visited Patrick the Wombat and his friends. It was the first time we saw wombats since in Australia. And they really are some of the cutest animals we had ever seen. In the park it was even possible to cuddle one of the wombats and get a photo.
My girlfriend with Patrick Junior
After this short stop we continued our tour to one of the highlights of our trip through Australia, the Great Ocean Road. At least I had thought it would be a highlight. But despite the spectacular coastline I just didn’t get a real connection to this place. It was insanely touristic. After spending most of the time in Australia in relative solitude when out photographing, it was at the Twelve Apostels lookout where, for the first time, I had to kind of negotiate my tripod position with the masses of people.
We had planned two days in the area and we visited every viewpoint. The problem with viewpoints: they don’t allow for much originality in landscape photos. And the areas between the viewpoints were often closed for tourists as indicated by fences and signs.
I have to admit from time to time I’m guilty of ignoring such signs, especially, if they feel completely random and out of place. But I try to do so less and less. We always have to be aware that photos taken behind such fences and sings will motivate others to ignore them too. And while we might try to leave as few footprints as possible in those areas, it will sum up over time. Especially in times of Instagram this becomes more and more of a problem.
A bit frustrated by the fences and the weather, which also wasn’t ideal on the first evening, I gave the Apostels another try for sunrise. And again, despite much less people, I just didn’t feel overly inspired up at the viewpoint.
Hopetoun : Prints Available Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS | Hoya HD Polarizer Exif: f/11 | 20mm | ISO 100 + ISO 800 | 1/10s – 0,5s multiple exposures to freeze motion and for focus stacking
So to get out of the rut we left the coast for a few hours and went to explore the Otways. At Hopetoun falls we again found some solitude and I spent a nice two hours in the river searching for different angles to photograph the cascade. The photo above ironically was taken right from the viewpoint.
After having some great lunch at Yatzies Pancakes in Lavers Hill we went back to the coast. The sky was still grey and it didn’t look like there would be any change for sunset. The whole situation reminded me of our visit to the Antrim coast a few years ago, where we also weren’t lucky with the weather and, to make the most of it, went exploring some waterfalls during the day. Back then when we returned to the coast on our last evening just for sunset a gap appeared at the horizon beneath the grey clouds and the sky exploded in intense oranges, reds and magentas.
That evening at the Giants Causeway has been a source of motivation and inspiration for me ever since. It had me heading out again and again over the last years, hoping to someday witness such a spectacle again.
At the Gibson Steps, more than four years later, my persistence was finally rewarded. It started exactly as in Antrim, with a bit of rain. But as I scouted the beach for compositions I could already see a slim, bright line at the horizon, just behind the Gibsons.
My excitement nearly made me forget to find a composition so as the sky began to glow I went racing along the beach, desperately searching for some foreground interest. Luckily the rising tide had just reached a beautifully shaped rock close to the cliff. I couldn’t have hoped for more, all the elements were there and I just had to position my camera, wait for a wave to rush up the shore and press the shutter.
Gibson Steps Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS | Lee 0.6 hard GND + Lee 0.6 soft GND Exif: f/9,5 | 16mm | ISO 100 + ISO 400 | 6s + 30s
The photo of the Gibson Steps instantly made me forget all the days I had been out during the last months of travelling without taking a great photo. All my endeavors were finally rewarded. So when we left the Great Ocean Road the next day I was very content. I didn’t even get up for sunrise.
Our next stop then was Phillip Island south east of Melbourne. The inspiration to visit this place again came from another photographer, whom I’ve been following for many years now. A few weeks before we flew to Australia Kah Kit Yoong posted a spectacular photograph of the so called Pinnacles rock formation at Cape Woolamai. Since we would drive past this area on our way to Wilsons Promontory Park anyway, I convinced my girlfriend to include it in our itinerary.
Although I had read different reports when I had researched this place, it was quite easy to get down to the shore. The track is steep and a bit slippery but with the right footwear no problem. Down at the shore I was a bit overwhelmed. There were rocks everywhere, steep rock formations to either side of the cove and then there would have been even more photo options behind those.
But I focussed my full attention that evening on the Pinnacles. It’s not so important for me to come away with many different photos from such a place. I just need one photo that stands out. And this evening it wasn’t very hard to get it.
The light from the Gibson Steps had been following me. Or had I been following the light? I don’t know. Once more the sky exploded in intense colors and I couldn’t believe how lucky I was. To get such light two days in a row is not very likely.
The Pinnacles : Prints Available Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS | Lee 0.6 soft GND + Lee 0.6 hard GND Exif: f/11 | 16mm | ISO 100 | 8s
The last stop on our tour through eastern Australia was Wilsons Promontory national park and it was undoubtedly one of the highlights. We had reserved a campsite at Tidal River Camping and it was one of the coolest campsites we had in Australia. Surely it was quite crowded, since the park is close to Melbourne. But the area is so huge that it didn’t feel like that.
In close proximity to the caravan park are four spectacular beaches: Squeaky Beach, Picnic Bay, Whisky Bay and not to forget Tidal River Beach itself. I knew that two days wouldn’t be enough to photograph them all. After scouting I decided to photograph Tidal River beach for sunrise since it was right in front of the campground and it would have been stupid to skip this opportunity. And for the two sunsets we had I wanted to try and get a unique photo of Whisky Bay.
Sunrise the first morning didn’t bring spectacular colors in the sky, but with a long exposure I was still able to create a photo I like. The morning felt very calm, I had the one mile long beach for myself and the blue hour provided just the right color palette to capture this mood.
Tidal River Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS | Lee 0.6 hard GND + Lee Big Stopper Exif: f/11 | 17mm | ISO 100 | 200s
And then there was the last evening at Whisky Bay. It’s hard to describe how intense the light that evening was. While the first evening had been cloudless and I had mainly used it to find the perfect vantage point and composition, this evening now was a repetition of the sunsets at Gibson Steps and Cape Woolamai in its grandeur.
My girlfriend and I were the only people around for the show. So often during our travels through Australia we were alone at a viewpoint or at a beach for sunrise or sunset.
In a time where places like Iceland, Patagonia or the Lofoten Islands seem to be overrun by photographers and Instagramers it’s great that there still seem to be some places where one can enjoy nature’s beauty in privacy. I don’t mind meeting up with other photographers from time to time, but when I see photos of lines and lines of tripods at a beach, I’m glad that we were able to successfully avoid this madness during our travels.
Inferno : Prints Available Equipment: Canon EOS 5DSR | Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS | Lee 0.6 hard GND + Lee 0.6 soft GND Exif: f/9,5 | 17mm | ISO 100 | 1/6s – 3s multiple exposures for focus stacking and DRI
Although Australia was putting on quite a show during the last days of our visit and obviously didn’t want us to leave, after a layover in Melbourne we had to say Goodbye to this wonderful country. With New Zealand being our next stop it was a bit easier, but we were still sad to leave. We will certainly be back in a few years.
Recently I was out for sunrise at a very nice location in the German Rhön. I had a beautiful, gnarly tree as my main subject and I had a spectacular sky above it.
So what could go wrong. It should have been easy to come up with a great photo, right? But there was one ingredient missing. As I explain in the video below, what I didn’t find that morning was a composition that put both elements, the subject and the sky, in harmony. I wasn’t able to tie the elements together in an intriguing way.
The result is still nice to look at, especially because of the colors. But I also don’t get as excited when looking at it, as with some of my other photos where I managed to come up with a more dynamic composition. Where I was able to balance sky and foreground and have both drawing the viewer into the scene.
I think this photo is a good example, where all three ingredients play together to create a very dynamic scene resulting in a photo that might intrigue the viewer. It’s one of my favorite photos. See how the lines created by the moving water in the foreground do the same as the moving clouds in the sky: pointing towards the setting sun right between my main subjects, the black rocks that are so characteristic for Praia da Adraga.
But back to that morning in the German Rhön. Here’s the little Vlog I recorded and in which I explain a bit more.
3 Ingredients for great Landscape Photos - YouTube
So you see, it’s not always about that colorful sky. You should never forget that in the end the arrangement of the elements in your photo, the decisions you make to include or exclude certain elements, the viewpoint and composition you select are what really make a photo your own and what allow you to create landscape photos that stand out. Because with patience, everyone will eventually have a great sky in front of the lens, but not all know how to use it.
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