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Morning trip to Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island

Cape Woolamai
Using welding glass to create a daytime long exposure at Cape Woolamai
Using welding glass to create a daytime long exposure at Cape Woolamai

Look I won’t lie, I’m a light snob and when Ricardo Da Cunha told me at 7am that we weren’t heading down to the Yarra Valley to capture some nice fog lit forrests but instead down to Phillip Island I did raise my eye brows slightly. One of the things I’ve learnt over time is that for certain scenes, there’s not much point pulling your camera out unless it’s at certain times of the day. For waterfalls I generally find they’re best when the weather is overcast and miserable while for seascapes I prefer to shoot around sunset/sunrise to capture the golden hour light and colours that unfold. So with this in mind I smiled and thought I could at least resurrect the situation with some day time long exposure shots but that didn’t quite turn out to be. More on that later.

On our way down the idea was to catch up with Andrew Sharpe who has only just recently purchased a Phase One setup. I’d not seen one in the flesh and while not tempted myself, it’s a beautiful camera and I’m envious. Personally speaking, I’m a too rough with my camera’s and also like to get a little too close to the action like the time I lost my camera to a waterfall… So the idea of walking around with a camera worth upwards of $20,000+ alone would scare me. Hell, sitting on the train with a bag of camera gear can be nerve wracking enough. But either way, it was a beautiful camera and the results it puts out are stunning.

The walk into the Pinnacles is stunning and a must visit if you're ever down Phillip Island way
The walk into the Pinnacles is stunning and a must visit if you’re ever down Phillip Island way
Ah... The lovely muddy descent down to the Pinnacles. Always a pleasure.
Ah… The lovely muddy descent down to the Pinnacles. Always a pleasure.

I’ve been down to the Pinnacles at Cape Woolamai only the once and it’s one of my favourite places for seascape photography in the state. There’s something about walking down the beach for a km or two and finally making your way to a set of stairs then walking further before you begin to descend down into the Pinnacles. A private little bay where the waves are endless and wild. It’s one of those places that never disappoints and would be hard to take a bad photograph. A must visit for any travelling photographer who is interested in seascape photography.

We made our way down to Cape Woolamai and the sky was overcast with not much going on. I quickly learnt that I had left my B+W 110 10 stop filter at home. The filter that I thought would allow me to at least capture a couple of frames using day time long exposure effects and resurrect the trip.  Bit of a dampener but I quickly remembered that I had a Hoya R72 (infrared filter also great for long exposures) and some welding glass in my camera bag. I’ve blogged about using welding glass in the past with this post about using welding glass as a DIY neutral density filter which explains what welding glass to purchase and how to remove the colour cast from your shots.

With lighting conditions quite diffused from the overhead cloud this allowed me to capture the movement of water through some short long exposures using my Cokin Z-Pro filters like the shot below which involved the use of a .9 Cokin graduated neutral density filter. Some more information on the different types of filters out there and how to use them can be read on a recently posted blog post in case you are interested in further information.

Cape Woolamai
Cape Woolamai

We didn’t hang around too long and ended up making our way back to Melbourne by lunch time. Would I shoot seascapes again during the day? Probably not but it’s a good slap in the face for me to be less of a light snob and get out there in conditions that are less ideal and make the most of what you are given. As opposed to only shooting locations when the conditions align.

Although that being said I find this seems to be one of the biggest mistakes I see for beginner photographers – not shooting according to the conditions and expecting to go out in the middle of the day and walk out with nice photos. If you are starting out I’d recommend learning what conditions work best for certain conditions and shooting around this time. So if you’re keen on shooting a favourite beach, find out if it is sunset or sunrise facing and get down there at that time as opposed to the middle of the day where you will be battling strong light or dull skies. Just don’t become a light snob like me 😉

Thanks for reading,

– Alex

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Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island

A photo taken a couple of months ago at Cape Woolamai, Victoria. I’ve been sitting on this for a while, slightly unhappy with the processing and not completely sold by the composition. After 4 processing attempts later, here it is.

Technical Details

This is a 3 minute exposure captured at F11. with a Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 17-40, remote and Manfrotto tripod.

For this shot I used the magic cloth technique (more on this in a future post). But in short, it’s a technique where you place a cloth over the top half of the frame during long exposures to act as a graduated neutral density filter. I used this technique for the first time as my filters and been packed away and were slightly dirty from sea spray. Surprisingly it worked quite well.

Post Processing

This photograph consists of two exposures with one for the sky and another for the rest of the image.

Blending exposures is helpful when you don’t nail the initial in-camera exposure. Fortunately I captured two images with one quite over exposed and suited well for the rocks as part of the foreground and another under exposed which captured the sky perfectly. Rather than attempt to use either the over or under exposed image, I combined the two elements from both shots to maximise dynamic range. Confused? You can see two images to the side which demonstrate which parts from the over exposed image were combined with the under exposed shot. I find gradually painting the over exposed with a low opacity allows for the blend to be more seamless and less obvious to the viewer which in my opinion, is the most important thing.

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The Pinnacles, Cape Woolamai – Sunset Long Exposure

One from a few weeks back at The Pinnacles, Cape Woolamai.

Arriving a few hours before the sunset gave me plenty of opportunity to find a nice vantage point and setup my gear and wait… Unfortuntely there wasn’t as much swell as I’d had liked but it was enough.

This is an 8 second exposure and is shot with a Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 17-40 and Cokin Z-Pro Neutral Density filters. In case you’re wondering, the B+W 110 neutral density filter very much goes back into the bag at this point of the sunset due to limited available light rendering the filter almost useless.

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Daytime Long Exposure

Normally I loathe heavy vignette but this seems to work okay and not make me want to stab myself in the eyes.

This is a 15 second long exposure captured on ‘golden hour’ just a bit before sunset. The day time long exposure was made possible by using a B+W 110 10 stop neutral density filter which allows the camera to be stopped down significantly.  Minimal processing including a slight desaturation of the sky, curves and obviously the vignette.


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Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island – Seascape Photography

Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island - Seascape Photography

Ever since moving over to Victoria in January I’ve been meaning to get out and shoot some new coastline. On Saturday I finally got around to it with a trip down to Cape Woolamai off the south eastern tip of Phillip Island.  Weather conditions were ideal with some lovely light peaking through the pinnacles lighting the scene nicely. It was a fun outing with quite a few seascape and long exposure photographs captured which I hope to share with you over the coming weeks.

This photograph was shot with a Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 17-40 and Cokin Z-Pro .9 neutral density filter.