Joy in the Park, a sunset lark and stars after dark… great fun!

Having “reccied” the park previously, we thought it would be nice to revisit, stay overnight at the local inn (within the park itself) before heading to Margaret River region, shoot birds in the daytime at the park, catch the sunset at Two Rocks and maybe try and capture the starscape at the park that evening.

A39T7555-impThe first bird that really caught our attention were, unsurprisingly, Galahs.

I love the pink and grey colour combination of these birds and hoped to capture them with wings open and crests standing. Despite their commonality, they gave me much pleasure as it is not usual for me to see this bird – there are no such species in Asia, that’s for sure. It was early morning and ducks were in flight aplenty, though at distance.

A39T9192-impI kept my camera settings ready for BIF shots and was happy to see a flock of Grey Teal come into view, though not very close by any means. Those trademark, giveaway teal coloured wing bars gave away the species readily, but then a small group of Pacific Black Ducks winged their way onto the water.

A39T7349-impI was able to shoot these too and was astounded at how pretty the wing bars were – teal coloured too, though far prettier than the Grey Teals. What a lovely surprise that was!

A39T8963-impA White Headed Stilt proceeded to put on a show for me, posing nicely. There were plenty of them though in the main were at distance, so it was nice to see and shoot one a little closer.

A39T9275-impWhen it then proceeding to have a scratch and a stretch, this provided for some less than typical stilt shots…

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At one point a whole bunch of waders and ducks in the distance took to the air en masse. Evidently something had caused them to be disturbed and it was some time before I could figure out what may have done this. Then all became clear and eventually this gorgeous raptor came reasonably close to me, against an unruffled sapphire sky… a Whistling Kite had flushed the alarmed birds, and what a beauty it was too!

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Accommodation for the evening had been arranged at the Yanchep Inn and apparently there’s three levels of accommodation, including one that’s a tad ‘more luxurious’. I opted for that one and was glad I did… if that was luxurious, I shudder to think what the others would have been like. The important thing, though, was to be there.

During lunch at the Yanchep Inn we ate outside. This action alone seemed to provide an alarm call for some of the local birds, who were extremely awake and aware to the presence of humans and the offerings that may follow.

A39T8150-impA few birds came either up close or remained on the periphery, in nearby trees and grass, so see what scraps may be made available. Red Wattlebirds seemed to be everywhere. Pretty aggressive too, as they seemingly drove all but crows away when anything in the way of food had been seen.

A39T7769-impAustralian Ringneck parrots came from far and wide and initially took up situ in nearby flowering trees, proceeding to remove colourful buds and leaves with verve.  At this point we were having coffee after lunch and an Australian Ringneck came close and landed on a chair.

A39T9486-imp I thought nothing of it as there were no morsels to provide anyway as all the meal was finished. This didn’t deter the parrot who simply hopped onto the table and grabbed a tube of refined sugar from the saucer of the coffee cup. I was very surprised but didn’t expect the parrot to be able to do much with a sealed tube of sugar. How wrong was I?!!! He opened the tube with consummate ease and proceeded to enjoy the sugar with careless abandon. I had to chuckle at seeing this.

A39T8866-impI noticed a flash of white on the grass and caught sight of a Little Rosella. I’d seen a few earlier but as they were perched high in trees and against a sky background, couldn’t shoot them clearly at such distance.  This time proximity was less of an issue and aside from having a white bird lit by a brilliant sun (never a winner for bird photographers), I was able to capture this fellow.

It was time to make our way out of the National Park and visit Two Rocks, a nearby location where we thought an ocean backdrop may provide a nice sunset shot opportunity, if we were lucky. It wasn’t a long drive so we left late in the afternoon.

Two Rocks was a rock structure upon which many cormorants had come to roost. Shooting into the falling sun didn’t provide chances to capture them in detail and in any event, it was the sunset I wanted to shoot most of all. Landscape photography is totally new to me and I’d just acquired a new Canon L series 16-35mm f4 landscape lens as the reviews it had received were excellent – apparently this lens is reportedly sharper that the more expensive f2.8 version. I’d also equipped myself with Lee graduated Neutral Density filters and Circular Polarisers, along with all the lens adaptors. Had absolutely NO IDEA how to use all these properly, and figured the experimentation would be fun. It was…

A39T8536-impWe arrived at Two Rocks as the sun was beginning to leave us for the day, illuminating one of the rocks (shot at distance) with a 500mm lens – not exactly the typical landscape set up one might expect!

A39T8539-impI set up the landscape gear and proceeded down to beach level, with the main subject for the sunset foreground already being cast into shadow, revealing the cormorants atop. The sun began to descend quickly and whilst there were no cloud artefacts in the sky to bring greater depth and focal points to the shot, the sky took on beautiful changing hues as each minute passed. I decided to change the perspective of the shot and defocus the gap between the two sets of rocks, bringing into view more of the ocean and the wake of the incoming waves. It was a real “first attempt” at a landscape shot using the tools of the trade and I was desperately trying to recount the articles I’d read and videos I’d watched in order to get a nice rendition of the beauty before my eyes.

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I’d seen many shots taken of Two Rocks before and invariably the sun is depicted setting to the right of the rocks. Personally i liked the view above better, shot a little wider, and with the light from the ebbing sun and the lines from the tidal wash drawing you into the rocks themselves. Like I said, it was an experiment. I envy those that can “just see” the shot without much thought. I have to think a lot, which tells me that I either do not have much artistic ability, do not really know what I am doing with landscape photography, or maybe both. My money’s on both… LOL. Nonetheless, the shot above, whilst the foreground is a little underexposed, is pleasing to my eye. I simply lightened the rock artefact and haven’t changed the colouration or photoshopped the shot to death. A simple ND filter was used to balance the exposure disparity between the shadowed foreground / beach and the highly illuminated sky. It’s pretty much is how I saw it at the time. And it was, beautiful.

After dinner we thought we’d try and shoot “Milky Way” type starscapes at Yanchep National Park, where we were staying. I’d never tried this before, either. All I had done was read some tutorials and watched a few “do’s and dont’s” type videos, and had written key pointers down in the Notes section of my iPhone. After all, how much can any one person remember?

My darling kept reminding me that foreground subjects and artefacts were every bit as important with starscapes as with general landscape photography. And I forgot what she said. So I had lots of shots in the viewfinder of distant tree horizons and a starry sky. It felt bland, empty, lifeless. Nothing was drawing me to the stars when I looked at the shots. And then I remembered what she said – at exactly the point when she said “this bare tree may make an interesting  foreground” … haha. Oops. SO with notes and phone in hand, camera settings were adjusted to give base points for shooting, with experimentation to follow from there. It was a first try, so I had low expectations. But upon reflection, and given I’d never done, nor seen anyone else do this type of photography before, I was very happy what the “noob in me” had managed to capture…

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Sure it could have been better. Yup it would have been nicer if those ambient lights on the horizon, presumably from Yanchep town, had not been in the shot (i couldn’t figure out how to cause a general area power failure and NOT get arrested, LOL). But as a first attempt? I like this. I’m VERY happy with this to be honest. Not because it’s a wonderful picture, even though it’s pleasingly eerie to me. But because of the experience. Coordinating with my darling to make sure we shot at the same time and didn’t introduce any light to the scene at all. Taking note of things around you. Having your headlamps reveal kangaroos foraging in the darkness.

And perhaps most of all? Because this is a type of photography I will now do again in the future. Whenever I see a foreground subject that is distinctive I’ll consider “what if I shot the stars above this?”

A new concept. A new genre. A new challenge. And enthusiasm rekindled anew 🙂  .

Happy Days 🙂

 

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