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Before and After – Secret Falls, Tasmania

Secret Falls, Tasmania
Secret Falls, Tasmania
Secret Falls, Tasmania

Secret Falls has been on my to photo list for some time after visiting it a few years ago with a friend when bushwalking through the area sans camera. It’s a beautiful little waterfall that does live up to its name even if the location isn’t really quite a secret if the amount of people photographing it is anything to go by…

The location of Secret Falls is a ‘secret’ and probably best not published here but I’m happy to disclose if you drop me an email.

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Taking the photograph

Based on the popularity and small size of the waterfall it made things especially difficult to get a unique take on the waterfall. Something as photographers, we are forever striving for, to get our own unique capture of a scene. With this in mind, I decided to get a bit wet and assemble some rocks in the middle of the foreground with the intention of capturing a long exposure that would blur the water as it passed the rocks. Are moving rocks around in a scene to create a composition cheating and take away the authenticity of a scene? I’d argue no but would be interested to hear if others feel otherwise.

With the scene setup, I set up my gear (Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 24-70, Hoya circular polariser and manfrotto tripod) and began taking some test shots of the scene. It’s interesting, a friend and I were having a discussion recently about focus stacking and the notion of using multiple photographs at varying focus levels to maximize the sharpness of an image. I laughed it off and said it would be rare for me to ever need to do this but what do you know, a week later, I was putting the theory into practice swallowing my naysaying words and using the technique for this shot. The reason I opted to focus stack this image was the difficulty in having both the foreground and background rocks sharp. Generally, shooting wide with an ultra wide angle lens and high depth of field (f/11 onwards) it’s rare to run into this issue but by using the 24-70 which isn’t quite as wide my normal go to lens, the Canon 17-40, it was difficult to get the whole scene in focus.

Focus Stacking

Focus stacking works under the same principal as exposure blending in which your camera is set up on a tripod and you take various exposures or in this case, different focus levels which is then selectively combined into the final image. For this image of Secret Falls, I took a reading in aperture priority mode and got a reading at f/13. This gave me an exposure time of 25 seconds. I changed the camera to manual mode and dialed in f/13 and 25 seconds. The reason for changing to manual mode is to avoid any variation in exposure that aperture priority may have introduced. With the camera set in manual mode, I focused the image on the foreground rocks and then took another image with the focus selected on the background. This left me with two images that I would then need to blend in Photoshop.

Processing the Images

Getting the photo as right as much as you can when taking the photo makes post processing the image far more easier. By using a circular polariser when capturing the photos, this increased the saturation slightly, reduced glare on the water and allowed me to get a longer exposure time. With the two images captured loaded in Photoshop (one with the background in focus and another of the rock in focus) I loaded both images into Photoshop and made the following changes.

  • Focus stacking – As mentioned above, two images were taken for the purpose of focus stacking, one for the rock in the foreground and another for the foliage in the background. Using layer blending, I used the background (foliage focus) image as my primary image and then introduced the second frame (focus of the rock) into the shot through layer masks
  • Curves layers – Using a combination of curves and layer masks has become my go to for selective colour grading and brightness/contrast changes to an image. As an example from this image, I selected the green channel and bumped the shadows of the image to really bring out the green around the waterfall. This introduced a strong green colour cast to the whole image, which was mitigated through using layer masks and isolating the strong green to only being present in the foliage area around the waterfall. Similar changes to the image were made to the blue channel to bring out the blues of the waterfall and also to make selective dynamic range increases to the image
  • Saturation and hue – When making changes to saturation, I rarely make changes to the saturation as a whole and prefer to make changes to individual colours for greater control over the image. For this image, I was particularly keen to play with the greens and reds saturation and hues until I got the desired effect I was after. The idea was to give the water a warmer feel around the rocks and give the greens a stronger hue
  • Spot removal – Don’t laugh or cringe but I’ve become a sucker for the content aware tool that was introduced a few revisions ago in Photoshop. Selecting the area where a spot had got on my lens from the rain, I filled the area with the content aware tool and it worked a treat
  • Resize and sharpen for web – Finally I resized the image to 900px/72 dpi at the longest edge and used the unsharpen mask (USM) tool to sharpen the image. Once again, I like to use layer masks when sharpening an image as it allows me to be selective in my sharpness adjustments to a scene. With some minor sharpness adjustments through layer masks the image was complete

Processing this image was fun. It’s always nice to put a new technique like focus stacking into play to see how it works and can benefit an image.

Where is Secret Falls?

Update – I’ve decided to add this section after receiving regular emails asking for the location of Secret Falls. When originally writing this article I was questioning whether to include the location of Secret Falls or not. For me, not disclosing the location had nothing to do with keeping the whereabouts of this small waterfall an enigma but more to do with the environmental impact which disclosing may create.  For this reason, when accessing Secret Falls be mindful of the impact you have and follow an existing path rather than creating a new. Potentially this will ruffle feathers with some but this location has been known for years and should be shared for others to enjoy.

Google Maps screenshot of the route to Secret Falls
Google Maps screenshot of the route to Secret Falls. Click for larger.

The location of Secret Falls is conveniently located near the CBD of Hobart just up from the Cascade Brewery. The location of Secret Falls is at the end of Old Farm Road which you enter via Cascade Road.  The drive from Cascade Road to the end of Old Farm Road takes roughly 5 minutes and will eventually lead you to a carpark which I believe for memory is the Old Farm Fire Junction. Walk towards the Junction and you will have 3-4 bushwalks going in varying directions. When I first visited Secret Falls with a friend, we had no idea which path to take and walked most of them in the search of Secret Falls. It was quite tragic but was a nice afternoon out. So to avoid our mistakes, avoid taking the far left or far right tracks. These will not take you to Secret Falls.

The location of Secret Falls is along the Myrtle Gully Falls track and roughly 100m from the Myrtle Gully waterfall itself.  Unfortunately it’s difficult to be specific on the exact location of Secret Falls as it is well hidden by undergrowth and deep gully however the best indication is to keep an eye out for a track that goes down the embankment created by bushwalkers/photographers when accessing the waterfall.  If you’ve made it to Myrtle Gully Falls, you have gone too far and need to retrace your steps back a little. As said earlier in the post, please be respectful of the environment as you are making your way to the waterfall and follow the path that others have created rather than creating your own.

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions feel free to drop a comment or email as I’d be happy to help further.

– Alex

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A Quick Weekend in Tasmania

Admiring the lights at Dark Mofo 2014

IMG_3877As you’ve probably come to notice through reading past posts on my blog, I shoot a lot with Jon Sander, mostly because he brings refreshments and carries my gear whenever we go take photos. Haha I kid. He’s a good guy that lives close to me so when we’re both feeling spontaneous and in the mood to take photos it works well and we’re able to organise something very last minute. He’s been nagging me for a while now to go to New Zealand with him for a week. Instead I proposed that we still go overseas but to my home state, Tasmania. Originally the idea of the trip was to walk into Reynold’s Falls which is situated not far from Cradle Mountain. I’ve been wanting to walk it for probably 5 years now but have never got around to it. We decided to book flights in Feb to do the walk around June. It was a great idea at the time until we started doing some research and received some very valuable information from Casey Smith and Laurie Davison (thanks to both for the information provided, extremely grateful and will definitely come in handy when we do eventually walk it in summer). It was later when we sat down and started to really plan the walk that it occurred to us, we were aiming to walk 7-8 hours into the waterfall around the shortest day of the year. Factoring in a 3~ hour drive to the start of the walk, it was going to be a long day without much time for photos and that’s not even taking into account what the weather would potentially be doing. In the end we decided due to the shortage of light around that time of the year and the potential that the waterfalls could be flooded we decided to can the trip and arrange a last minute trip that would be focused on a quick trip around parts of Tasmania.

Dark Mofo 2014

Admiring the lights at Dark Mofo 2014
Admiring the lights at Dark Mofo 2014
Close up of one of the many Dark Mofo 2014 light installations
Close up of one of the many Dark Mofo 2014 light installations

Last year I was disappointed to of missed Dark Mofo’s first light show installation.  This photo by Gavin Wakerall displays last year’s installation in its stunning form. There were so many amazing photos taken of the installation and I was kicking myself for not making a last minute trip home. When I heard that Dark Mofo had a new light installation planned for this year where instead of a fixed light installation, the lights would be spaced around Hobart and operated by the general public, our cancelled Reynold’s Falls trip wasn’t turning out to be as bad as we originally thought.

Coming from Hobart airport and not quite sure how bright the lights would be, we visited Bellerive a favourite location of mine and a great spot for a direct view of the city. Fortunately for us the lights were well and truly visible from the Hobart eastern shore and we killed an hour or so taking some photos before making a quick trip into the city for a closer look. I actually found it incredibly difficult to photograph. Imagine school kids wired on sugar operating the lights, fluctuating around the sky randomly and quickly. In the end I opted to stand on the jetty and take a self portrait admiring the lights as they did their thing. All in all, it was a nice way to kick start the weekend and get things going.

[box size=”large” style=”rounded”]Curious how the photograph was captured and post processed? Don’t miss the Dark Mofo 2014 Before and After post[/box]

Clifton Beach

Not keen to waste any time we decided to take the chance and get up early for a sunrise shoot at Clifton Beach. It’s a favourite spot of mine as it’s reasonably close to Hobart (35~ mins drive) and has plenty of opportunities for photos. Unfortunately for us though, the sunrise was clouded over and we didn’t see any light or colour but nevertheless, we pulled out our camera’s and had a bit of fun.  Admittedly it was pretty awful shooting conditions but nice to break things up before heading towards the mountains later in the day.

An overcast sunrise at Clifton Beach
An overcast sunrise at Clifton Beach
Jon shooting the best sunrise of his life...
Jon shooting the best sunrise of his life…

Although for a moment there, the dull (read – terrible) sunrise almost ruined the trip all together with the first shot splashing all over my camera. Freaking out I quickly smothered my camera with my jumper, turned it off and put it aside until we got home. Having photographed Clifton many a times, it was nice just to potter around the rocks and explore for possible future compositions when the tides and swell are different. After a slightly nerve wracking trip home, worried about my camera, we got home and I eventually turned it on to find that it was working fine. Phew. Thanking the camera gods for that. I haven’t had the best luck over the years and managed to drown my previous 5D Mark II at Turpin Falls a couple of years ago. More about that day and tips on what to do if your camera does go for a swim or gets a few splashes can be read in that article. Although a rumoured Canon 5D Mark 4 or experimenting with a new Sony mirrorless like Ricardo De Cunha has recently done would have been slightly tempting if it was to have died 😉 With the worry of a dead camera resolved, we were all ready to go for a colder trip to the Hartz Mountains National Park in the hunt for cold foggy Mountains.

Waves rolling through Clifton Beach
Waves rolling through Clifton Beach

Hartz Mountains National Park

Selfies - I've got them down pat
Selfies – I’ve got them down pat

After finishing up at Clifton Beach and driving home in the rain, we weren’t feeling overly confident about our next trip off to the Hartz Mountains National Park so slightly took our time as we ate breakfast pondering the rest of the day. Tasmania being Tasmania where the weather is all over the show, the weather slightly cleared and we decided to take a chance and continue with our trip with a quick stop at Huonville for a bite to eat. I’d been wanting to walk into the Hartz Mountains National Park for a while now as each time I’d walk in with friends it had been shrouded in a sea of fog so we hoped this time it may be slightly clear allowing us to get some photos of the Hartz Mountains.

Road side reflections near Huonville with the Fujifilm X100
Road side reflections near Huonville with the Fujifilm X100

Once we arrived at the Hartz Mountains National Park the fog was quickly rolling through the area.  Wanting to get a photo of the Hartz Mountains not completely shrouded in fog, we got a wriggle on and quickly powered our way to the Ladies Tarn, the first of the tarn’s along this beautiful day walk.

Hartz Mountains National Park - A great day walk
Hartz Mountains National Park – A great day walk
Jon at Ladies Tarn, Hartz Mountains National Park
Jon at Ladies Tarn, Hartz Mountains National Park

We arrived at Ladies Tarn in perfect timing with the fog just sitting about right and the water not ripply. It wasn’t long and the breeze had picked up bringing in plenty of more fog and the water quite ripply. It was nice spending half an hour here just pottering around taking snaps in the  such a quiet and beautiful place (admittedly that does sound corny but it was beautiful up there). The images below are both captured with my Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 17-40 and B+W 110 10 stop neural density filter. With the fog and breeze starting to pick up we decided to keep walking in the hope it would pass and we could make it to the top of the Hartz Mountains and get a view beneath the cloud/fog.

Ladies Tarn, Hartz National Park
Ladies Tarn, Hartz National Park
Playing around with minimalist long exposures at the Hartz Mountains National Park
Playing around with minimalist long exposures at the Hartz Mountains National Park

After spending some time at the Ladies Tarn we decided to walk a bit further in the hope of getting a nice view from the top of the Hartz Mountains but unfortunately the weather had other ideas and the fog was very much setting in for the rest of the day so we set off home.

Arve Falls

As we were leaving, we were around 45 minutes away from sunset and quite close to a waterfall we spotted signposted as we drove into the national park.  Rather than drive and hope to find a good location in time for the sunset, we decided to take a quick walk in to Arve Falls for some photos as the sun slowly went down. It was a nice way to spend the day, starting by taking photos in the dark as the sun rose and taking photos in light as the sun went down and it became dark. Here are some of my favourites from Arve Falls.

Arve Waterfall
Arve Waterfall
Arve Falls
Arve Falls
Standing on top of Arve Falls looking down the huge drop
Standing on top of Arve Falls looking down the huge drop
Arve Falls, Hartz Mountains National Park
Arve Falls, Hartz Mountains National Park

Bicheno

After checking the forecast and it expected to be patchy rain for the following morning, we decided to give the sunrise a miss and slowly make our way up the Tasmanian east coast to Bicheno. After making many a trips to St Helen’s to explore the Bay of Fires I’ve never really stopped and properly spent some time in Bicheno other than to enjoy a quick chicken and camembert pie (amazing I might add).

En-route to Bicheno with a quick stop at one of my favourite parts of the drive
En-route to Bicheno with a quick stop at one of my favourite parts of the drive

I’d been meaning to spend some time in Bicheno for a while so we decided to call it home for a night with the intention of taking photos along Harvey Farm Road and Redbill Beach with the hope of getting a clear sky to capture the milky way. Unfortunately for us, the plan for milky way photos wasn’t meant to be with the sky clouding over and then later dispersing to bring out the full moon. But we made the most of it and had some fun shooting until late into the early morning and then getting up early to shoot the sunrise.

Sunset and a full moon

Waves crashing on sunset at Bicheno, Tasmania
Waves crashing on sunset at Bicheno, Tasmania
Jon taking a photo as the light quickly disappeared. May have resulted in very wet feet after this photo...
Jon taking a photo as the light quickly disappeared. May have resulted in very wet feet after this photo…
Sunset at Harvey Farm Road, Bicheno
Sunset at Harvey Farm Road, Bicheno
My dream house - Such a beautiful location.
My dream house – Such a beautiful location.
Staring at the sky wondering where my milky way is?
Staring at the sky wondering where my milky way is?

Amazing the difference a few hours can make. We decided to head back to our accomodation and watch the World Cup for a couple of hours. Having pretty much resigned ourselves that the cloud had set in for the night, I stuck my head out the door and joked to Jon would we go out if the cloud magically disappeared? What do you know? They disappeared so we put on our wet shoes and went for another stroll down the beach, shooting photos until around 3am or so and then getting back up a few hours later for sunrise. Good times.

The cloud quickly dispersed so we couldn't resist a team moon lit photo
The cloud quickly dispersed so we couldn’t resist a team moon lit photo

Up early for the sunrise at Redbill Beach, Bicheno

Up and early for sunrise at Redbill Beach, Bicheno
Up and early for sunrise at Redbill Beach, Bicheno
Light hitting the dunes at Red Bill Beach, Bicheno
Light hitting the dunes at Red Bill Beach, Bicheno
Getting my feet wet. I'm not sure if my shoes remained dry all trip...
Getting my feet wet. I’m not sure if my shoes remained dry all trip…

Thanks

We had a great time and I’d highly recommend a trip to Tassie that gives you a bit of everything. It was nice to be enjoying a hike through beautiful foggy landscape one day and then be knee deep in water the next. I’m also excited to announce that Jon has finally launched a website/portfolio under the name of Drift and Wander. Check it out. He will be using it to release photo series from Patagonia adventures and upcoming trips. Drift and Wander Just in case you’re curious – Definitely going to give Reynold’s Falls a go in summer when there’s more light. Can’t wait. Thanks for reading! – Alex PS – If you enjoyed this post and want to receive an email of future posts, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter or jump on an follow me on Facebook.

 Related Articles

  • Guide to daytime long exposures – A guide i put together a while now that looks together at what equipment you will need for capturing long exposures during the day like I have in this post.
  • After a fun weekend project? Use welding glass as a neutral density filter –  Not ready to drop $100+ on a 10 stop neutral density filter? Use a piece of welding glass to imitate the effect. I show you how I’ve used welding glass in the past and walk you through how to remove the colour cast that the glass creates.
  • Little stuck on idea’s for your long exposures? A while ago I did a brain dump on all things long exposures with some of my favourite concepts for long exposure photographs. The possibilities with long exposures are endless and plenty of fun.
  • With winter not too far away, why not get out and photograph some waterfalls. This guide on how to photograph waterfalls will get you started.
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Park Beach – Seascape Long Exposure (Includes Before/After)

Park Beach, Tasmania

A photograph from my recent trip home to Tasmania for Christmas. This long exposure photograph was captured at Park Beach, Tasmania just after sunset. This is one of my favourite coastlines to photograph in the Hobart area even if it is quite limited on sunset. Unfortunately you’re limited to shooting in this direction if you wish to capture any colour in the sky, ignoring all the interesting rock formation that faces the opposite direction.

This is a 10 minute long exposure that was captured with a Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 17-40, B+W 110 and tripod.

Before and After

And for something different, this is the before and after images from Lightroom. The image is around a stop over exposed which was both good and bad. The reason for it being good is that it brought out a lot of detail in the dark area of the rocks which can easily be lost in a regular exposure due to the area having strong shadows. But on the other hand, I also lost a lot of sky straight out of camera. Fortunately the Canon 5D Mark II retains a lot of detail and I was able to save the sky.

The edit was actually quick and probably only took around 2 minutes. In Lightroom I dropped the exposure considerably which brought back the sky but darkened the rocks. Rather than keep the rocks under exposed, I used the adjustment brush with a +1.00 exposure to bring the rocks back out.  After that I adjusted the temperature of the image (cooling it) and selectively adjusting the saturation points of parts of the image until happy. Finally sharpening the image in Photoshop with the unsharpen mask.

Update 10/06/2012 – I’ve since created a tutorial video on how I went about editing this photograph. Granted the final image doesn’t come out exactly the same as the image used in this post but it should give you a good idea of how the I went from the before shot above to the final image. The key things to note is the graduated filter and adjustment brush make all the difference and allow you to make the majority of your edits without needing to open up Photoshop. Be careful though. It’s easy to over do the editing when using these tools and I think the final image is starting to reach that.

Direct link to this Adobe Lightroom Tutorial Clip

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Park Beach – Sunset Long Exposure

One from earlier this evening at Park Beach Tasmania on sunset.

Fingers crossed the colours are okay with this. I’m in Hobart for a few weeks and only have a laptop to edit on. How I miss my 27″ screen right now… Editing in Photoshop on a 13″ is interesting 😉

This is a 10 minute long exposure captured with a Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 17-40 and B+W 110. Rather than use graduated neutral density filters I opted to use the ‘magic cloth technique’. I keep meaning to make a post on this soon but it’s a neat little technique that is cost effective and useful when you wish to only limit the exposure of part of the image for a small period (rather than the whole 10 minute long exposure like with actual graduated filters).  More on this soon though 🙂

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2011 Retrospective

I can’t believe the year is almost over. It has been a busy but fun year.  Here are a collection of photographs I’ve taken over the year. Hope you enjoy.

Hobart

Earlier in the year (note – 3am on New Years Day) I thought it would be a great idea to apply for a job in Melbourne and move away from Hobart for a bit. I applied for a job later that day without actually thinking I’d get an interview but soon found out they wanted to hire me and I had 10 days to move over.  Find somewhere to live, move all my belongings over, no biggy? It was a rush and a mad fortnight of trying to spend time with everyone before I went. These images are all captured during this time.

Star trails – New years day

It was the first time I’d been to Mona Foma since it started a few years ago. Friends and I made an effort to get along to as much as possible which was a blast. I’m disappointed I’ll be missing it next year especially with word Girl Talk is playing.


All man on my pink chair…

I started a little project called The Travelling Camera. I’ve been lazy with it this year but it’s a project where an Olympus OM-2n film camera sent with a list of things to photograph to friends. So far three people have done the project and just waiting on a fourth. If you’re interested in participating in it next year, be sure to contact me.

Before I left I was rather keen to tag along on a trip up to the Great Lakes with Sam Shelley. It’s an amazing place and somewhere I hope to explore more when I one day move back to Tasmania.

During the 10 days, I had to quickly find somewhere to live in Melbourne. I flew over to Melbourne for the day to look at four places, all of which offering me leases. It worked out well and I was able to pick the unit I wanted most.

But it was soon time to pack up and move away.

Leaving Devonport on the Spirit of Tasmania

Melbourne

Arriving into Melbourne at 6am and being greeted by 30 degree heat.

The first few months of moving over I was rather lazy and went into tourist mode.

AFL – Watching Carlton draw against Essendon. I ended up going to 7 games throughout the year which is odd as I don’t actually have a team.

Albert Park – Where I sometimes like to go running.

Drinking possibly a little too much coffees.

Discovering a new found love in ph?.


Working those star jumps…


Long exposure of traffic entering Exhibition Street (near work).

Throughout the year I had a play with some timelapse. I’m lazy and never got around to finishing the clip but here is a selection of clips captured throughout the Melbourne CBD.

Oh… And of course a yoyo clip (much to the amusement of the guys I work with who randomly came across my Youtube channel).

Shrine of Remembrance

Living reasonably close to the city, I sometimes like to run or walk home. Taken during winter as I was leaving work.

Another photo as I made my way home from work.

Back to Hobart Briefly…

I went back to Hobart for my birthday to catch up with friends and family. Having not been taking many photographs since moving to Melbourne, I was pretty keen to have some early mornings and shoot some sunrises.

Mt Wellington from the Hobart Eastern Shore.

Overcast sunrise at South Arm, Tasmania

Playing around with reflections at Eaglehawk Neck on sunrise

Back to Melbourne

When I got back to Melbourne I was asked to photograph our IT staff for the staff intranet and phone book. It was different but fun.

A friend – I like this one.

It took me a while to start leaving the city and taking photographs. I was lucky to meet some guys who shared the same interest as me so we made a few trips throughout the year.  This series is from Marysville.

Playing around at Docklands on sunset

Cape Woolamai – I took a trip down to Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island with some friends who I also went to Marysville with. It was probably my favourite place I’ve taken photos all year.

Clouds passing above during a 13 minute exposure at Elwood Beach.

And finally, another trip back to Marysville on a cold and wet morning. Probably my second favourite set from this year and a nice set to close with.

 

I hope you enjoyed these photographs and thank you for all the support from people who have commented and emailed throughout the year.

– Alex

Click here to view my 2010 Retrospective.