Site Changes and Maintainence

My Blog is undergoing some site changes, revisions and maintenance over the next few days to bring the overall look and feel of the blog more in line with my primary gallery website at There may be some older posts that require some re-formatting and/or other parts of the site that don’t look or work quite right during this period. Apologies in advance for any such problems – they should be rectified shortly. A big thank you to Luke Hall who has undertaken the development of the custom CSS for the Blog. Luke your print will soon be in the mail!

Camera Raw 6 and Lightroom 3 Lens Correction Features

Adobe Lightroom’s Product Manager Tom Hogarty has very kindly posted a You Tube video of some of the new Lens Correction features in Adobe’s Camera RAW 6 and the yet to be released full version of Lightroom 3. These new capabilities are very exciting and I am eagerly looking forward to Lightroom 3.0’s official release. Unfortunately there is still no word on wether Soft-proofing will be included in Lightroom 3 (But I have my fingers crossed!)

Yarra Valley in Autumn and the Big Stopper

I had a chance today with the Anzac day public holiday to get out and do some photography. I had been itching to try out the new LEEBig Stopper‘ 10 stop Neutral Density filter I purchased a few days ago and today was my first opportunity. I set my alarm for 5:00am, crawled out of bed, grabbed my gear and headed out to the Yarra Valley in the hopes of a good sunrise and some Autumn/Fall colour. The golden colours in the leaves are just starting to peak in certain parts of the Yarra Valley at the moment (in particular in the many vineyards) and I was hoping to be able to capture a little bit of it.

There was a thick fog as dawn broke and unfortunately no sign of colour in the sky. Normally, I get quite excited when we have a fog as the photographic opportunities are usually wonderful. However, this time the fog was thick and was obscuring the colour I was looking for. I have not been able to crack a really good Autumn sunrise recently despite several attempts (I will just have to keep trying, and it gives me a reason to go back). Thankfully, the dawn fog quickly burned off in the morning sun whilst I enjoyed a cafe lat’e in one of the many Yarra Glenn Cafe’s. With the fog gone the morning had developed into a glorious sunny day with some lovely high cloud that was very photogenic.

These two photographs were shot about an hour and a half after sunrise at the Yarrawood winery (actually its the same photograph with a different crop as I could not decide which I prefer?). I scouted this location more than a year ago and had kept it in the back of my mind for its beautiful lake with the old rowing boat set against the vine yards. I used my 24mm lens in combination with the LEE Big Stopper to give me a 13.0 second exposure in bright sunlight at F8/ ISO 100. Contrary to how it might appear I did not use a polariser. The long exposure has captured the clouds streaking across the sky and has added a good deal of drama to the image. Metering with this new filter is quite easy in the field. Just meter the scene as normal without the Big Stopper in place, then slide the filter into place and consult the handy LEE exposure chart to determine the corrected exposure. Switch the camera to Manual or Bulb, set the exposure accordingly and the exposure will be correct. Its a little more fiddly than just pressing the shutter, but after a half dozen frames or so I pretty much had it nailed and could do it quite quickly. The soft mount system of the Big Stopper is very effective in keeping out extraneous light and the fit is firm and feels good in the filter holder.

Cloud Warp
Cloud Warp

One of the first tests I did with the new filter was to shoot exactly the same scene with and without the Big Stopper in place so that I could compare them side by side in Lightroom for any noticeable flaws such as a colour cast. I am happy to report as expected that there is no noticeable colour cast with this filter in place (as is the case with all of LEE’s ND and Grad ND filters). Overall I am very pleased with this new ‘Big Stopper’ filter. It provides the ability to keep shooting long after sunrise and still create dramatic photographs in the right conditions. This filter is now a permanent addition to my photographic kit and I suspect will see quite a bit of use in shoots to come.

iPad Reads RAW Files

It appears the iPad may have more use as an ‘in the field’ photography tool than I first thought. With the use of a USB SD card reader adapter  the iPad can read all the normal RAW files that Mac OSX, iPhoto and Aperture can handle. This makes it potentially an extremely useful tool for reviewing work in the field. The large iPad screen would be a welcome review tool in the field compared to the cameras small LCD display and is a far better alternative to luging around a full size laptop. A demonstration of the process for ingesting RAW files into the iPad is in the You Tube Video below. Although you can inport photos directly from the card into the iPad the usefuleness as an editor for me personally is still extremley limited because the iPad wont run Adobe’s Lightroom. However, the ability to store RAW files does also make the iPad an effective back up tool when working in the field.

A New Bit of Kit – The Big Stopper!

I decided after my recent shoot at the Pinnacles at Cape Woolamai that I needed and wanted the ability to have more than 6 stops of neutral density available to me in the field. Up until now I have stacked a couple of graduated .09 3 stop filters in my Lee filter holder when I have needed to slow down the shutter speed, or used a polariser in combination with a grad filter. Sometimes however, 6 stops just isn’t enough and I want and need more. This was the case at Cape Woolamai where I could easily have used more neutral density to slow shutter speeds even further to give me the desired effect of milky waves and ocean swells.

Thankfully LEE filters have a new product called amusingly enough ‘The Big Stopper‘. The Big Stopper is a 10 stop (expensive at $203 Australian) neutral density filter that is now part of my photographic kit for landscape work. Use in combination with a graduated neutral density filter this is going to give me up to 13 stops of neutral density; and that should be heaps!

Unlike LEE’s graduatued neutral density filters the Big Stopper is glass and not resin. It is exceptionally well designed with a soft mount system that prevents light leakage around the edges when in the filter holder. For this reason the Big Stopper must be positioned in the very first filter holder in the LEE system. Graduated flters can then be added in front of it as desired. The Big Stopper comes with a useful exposure compensation chart to help in calculating exposure times with the 10 stop filter in place. Its a simple matter of metering the scene wthout the Big Stopper, consulting the exposure chart, placing the filter in place and adjusting the exposure accordingly.

Ten stops might sound like a lot at first blush, but in reality its extremely useful for landscape photography. In both of the photographs posted below from Cape Woolamai I used a 3 stop graduated filter to both darken the sky and slow shutter speeds. The addition of a ten stop filter would have allowed the ocean and waves to go even more milky and whispy. Or, would have allowed me to open up the lens’s aperture more to an optimum aperture like F8, rather than shooting at F16 or even F22 where diffraction can play its ugly hand resulting in overly soft images. I am looking forward to trying this new filter on my next shoot.