Well, another very strange pandemic year of lockdowns, social distancing, masks, vaccines, and endless Zoom meetings has come and gone! For my photography this has meant a year focused very much on landscape images – lots of seascapes at sunrise and sunset along the northern beaches, chasing waterfalls when the heavy rains have arrived, and the occasional sortie into the urban centre at night when lockdowns lifted. So, here’s a quick rundown on my photography year for 2021, based around a selection of my favourite 9 images posted on my Instagram account. Not necessarily my most popular images re ‘likes’ but shots that represent the range of my photography this year and were for me particularly memorable re technique and context.
This is the only drone image in my 2021 Favourites collection. In truth, I really didn’t fly the drone very much this year. This image was captured in March and had been a composition I’d been wanting to attempt for some time. The idea was to photograph Mona Vale ocean pool on a high tide with a decent bit of swell right on daybreak, so that the sunrise colours were captured but also the pool was illuminated by its lights. This turned out to be easier said than done. During my first attempt right on sunrise there wasn’t enough light to really get the pool exposed without cranking up the ISO. This was the second attempt and is a series of bracketed exposures stitched and processed in Lightroom. Quite happy with how this experiment turned out and it proved to be my most liked image on IG this year.
Stone and Water
We’ve been blessed with some good rainfall in Sydney over the last two summers and I’ve been chasing waterfalls whenever the big rains have arrived. This is of course Lodore Falls on the Valley of the Waters walk in the Blue Mountains. My first time exploring this marvellous walk and I was blown away with the procession of stunning waterfalls which were really showing off after a big downpour of rain the previous few days in February. I tried various compositions but found this low and close angle worked best. Shot on my go-to landscape combo – Olympus EM1ii, M.Zuiko 7-14PRO. Like most of my waterfall images, I used the camera’s high-resolution mode to create the dreamy flow in the falling water. Should look great printed BIG!
For most of the year I’ve been exploring the local headlands and beaches for new locations and compositions. One of my favourite spots is Long Reef which is a short walk from home and is always changing with the tide, light and the myriad details you can find. This shot was taken during a rather uneventful sunset, when I spotted this beautiful bluebottle washing up next to where I was shooting. I decided to get down real close and contrast the vivid blue and purple fringes of the jellyfish with the yellow orange setting sun behind it.
Given the various pandemic lockdowns I haven’t really ventured into the city much at all over the last year, however about 3 weeks back I had an appointment in the city in the late afternoon and decided to stay back and explore the streets at night. The city was a ghost town and I found this interesting angle down near Circular Quay from which to capture the lights of the passing trains. A very difficult spot to shoot as there isn’t much space for a tripod and as you can see this was a long-exposure image using the Olympus high-resolution setting – 8 exposures of 6 seconds each – so 48 seconds all up which demands a stable setting. You also have to anticipate the trains and ideally having two trains moving in opposite directions to render the most light. After a few attempts, I ended up with this image which provides a nice contrast between the ‘speeding’ light trails of the trains and the vacant illuminated city. The rusty chain wire fence was an unintentional but very welcome framing for the shot!
Another shot I’ve been wanting to try for a while having been inspired by an image I saw on IG a while back. I’d scoped out the location several weeks prior but decided it really needed a cracking sunrise and an early morning without people to really work. Got there before dawn and got set up with my Sirui tabletop tripod and wide-angle lens waiting for the dawn light. Being cramped up in a little cave seemed to fit with the lockdown vibe at the time, however the sunrise did not disappoint! I gave the cave interior a bit of light painting with my headlamp!
Another favourite location on my afternoon walks is Turimetta Beach. This shot was taken from the front of the headland ledge looking back towards the setting sun in the west in June. It’s a bit of climb over the rocks to get there and as the name of this image suggests, there are regular rock falls so don’t hang around under the ledges here. This was my first time back to this location in about 3 months and as you can see the whole front of the headland had had a bit of facelift from a recent fall! I went for a long exposure to capture the movement in the clouds and give it that zoomed out effect.
Another Long Reef image, this time from a place I call The Boulders. During this cold, late May afternoon I really wasn’t expecting much but had packed the camera gear just in case. Really glad I did as the forecast was wrong and this crazy sunset materialised from behind stormy clouds. The large tree trunk provided a marvellous leading line to the sky and I’ve tried to accentuate its texture against the coloured boulders it lies on.
Something a bit different for me with this one. During late April and early May, I was inspired by the marvellous autumn colour images that were being posted on social media and this led to excursions up to Mount Wilson and other famous ‘fall colours’ locations. However, this vibrant image was actually shot not far from home in leafy St Ives. The mid-afternoon sunshine and blue skies are not my usual favoured settings, but the tree provided some great patterns and light and I shot this at a small aperture to accentuate the sun star. Again I’m relying on the marvellous Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14PRO lens which is amazingly sharp and at 7mm (14mm FF equivalent) creates some really nice wide-angle effects. It has rapidly become one of my favourite lenses!
Last image in my Best of 2021 goes to this very recent capture up at Avalon during a spectacular burner of a sunrise. I got there nice and early on a Saturday morning and could already see the colour forming on the horizon as I walked to the pool in the dark. Met another photographer (@johnnyjam1) who was also setting up and for the next 30 minutes we clicked away madly as the sky went from bright pink and vermillion to burning orange and blue before the harsh light of the rising sun got higher in the sky. A really fun morning and great to capture the flow of the ocean against the colour of the sky.