A colony anomaly, dreamscapes and landscapes… WA delivers…

SO after an early morning bird photography treat, off we went from Dunsborough to shoot landscapes. The first point of call was  Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse, followed by Cape Naturalise National Park proper and Yallingup…

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I had a level of excitement and anticipation, as I was going to try out my new Lee Filters for landscape photography, along with my new landscape lens too. Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse was well frequented by tourists and whilst many went inside the lighthouse itself, photography inside or from the top of the lighthouse was not permitted; so we skipped the tour and proceeded to take landscape shots from other locations around the lighthouse.

We approached the lighthouse on foot as access to the lighthouse itself was prohibited for motor vehicles. So up we went, photography gear in tow…

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It wasn’t too much of a trek to be honest but the vistas from the top, and just beneath the lighthouse itself from the pictured road, were really beautiful. The previously flawless azure skies of days previous were now peppered with cumulus clouds that provided some contrast to a wonderful canopy that stretched forever, and the clouds navigated their way across the blues and hues, via a hurrying wind aloft.

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I found it quite strange at this point, to be thankful for cloud. In Singapore, being tropical and a mere 1 degree north of the equator, the thought of having pristine blue skies are so far removed from considered possibility, as to render such thoughts as mere wishful thinking at best.  Upon reaching the top of the small rise, next to the lighthouse itself, I decided to try and show cloud movement in the photographs of the lighthouse, by effectively using a filter to delay the shutter speed overall by 10 stops, and with a polarising filter to enhance the sky held hues.

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I like the dreamy and creamy effect that this movement, with filter, has on the sky, coupled with an expression of extended time.  Given that the lighthouse itself has stood for many years and shone brightly across many an evening and night sky, elapsing time seemed appropriate.

After the lighthouse we drove to Yallingup and whilst looking for nice landscape vistas, I noticed some white shapes on rocks in the distance. My landscape lens wasn’t going to provide me any clues as to what these shapes were, but I figured it was a bird colony of some kind – the question was, which birds were colonised there? The landscape lens was caressed back into my gear bag and the EF 500mm f4 with a 1.4x teleconverter soon was appended to the Canon 1DX. And lo and behold. A turn and terns for the better. Yehey! Tripod was switched quickly to my birding setup with video head, and off we went – my darling armed with landscape gear and me with all the equipment necessary to take my tern.

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A colony of a hundred or so Greater and Lesser Crested Terns were in situ on rocks that had been made affordably accessible by an ebbed tide. Surfers could be seen in the distance, plying their trade with much dexterity, tremendous core strength and yet with grace that when compared to the terns, had all the fluidity of granite. Terns are, after all, passé-partout of the skies, taking aerodynamics to new levels and a banking or cornering adeptness rivalled only by electricity. Many were close to a distant beach, merrily dipping themselves in pristine waters and preening drenched feathers by design.  After preening, the birds singularly began to return to the colony and I took the opportunity to follow them in the viewfinder, snapping them merrily upon proximity to the colony and a selected landing site.

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Bird by bird they arrived, freshly groomed, feathers resplendent and aerodynamically renewed. An unwitting ability to hang on the wind, naturally suspended above perilous rocks, their colony associates, seemingly frozen momentarily in time.

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I have to say I find terns fascinating, having shot them many times in SIngapore. Flying, feeding, diving with verve, and breeding too. And I never tire of those trademark flight manouevers, resplendent with those tell tale tail feathers dispersed deliberately and always geometrically perfect.

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After revelling in these stunning creatures, I released that my darling had begun to shoot her landscape shots and that I had said I would join her. I checked my watch. Over an hour had passed and time had simply lost all plausibility, whilst I had been engrossed with my terns for the better. Nonetheless, landscapes awaited, so with some verve, rocks were navigated, slippery rocks avoided, birding gear deposited back in the hire car and landscape gear was on my shoulder to descend towards the search for a pleasant vista. I have to say in WA that finding a vista is Sooooo difficult. There’s so much to shoot… where do you even begin to look? We settled on Canal Rocks, close to Yallingup and part of Cape Naturaliste National Park for our sunset shot. We still had time, however, to shoot some other landscapes before the sunset was in full swing.  First off I drove around the coast road at Cape Naturaliste and we happened upon a bay that had a degenerating jetty leading out into the bay, and with distant sandstone cliffs in view along the coast. I’d heard that some tourists go absailing down these cliffs yet saw no evidence of that, on this day. I hadn’t instantly seen this vista as a “must shoot”, but my darling beckoned me to look as I drove by and if she could have pressed the brake pedal, I’m sure she would have :).

To her, a vista like this is instantly seen. I have to stop, clear my mind, and purposefully look for it.

The shot below I call “dreamscape”. I don’t know why. I just look at this shot and that’s the thought that pops into my head. Open. Unobtrusive. Calming. Serenely peaceful. And when we visited, it was quiet. Not a human sound from anywhere interrupted nature’s deafening silence, save for the gentle lapping of the ocean waves on re-submerging water’s edge features. My imagination was harking back to ‘what may have been’ yonder times and the activity that once was perhaps quite vibrant at that jetty, which now stood flaring, yet drawing one’s eye still to sea.

I just HAD to shoot this vista and I was so grateful that my darling’s mind’s eye had instantly selected this scene as we drove nearby…

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I thought of Wordsworth for some inexplicable reason whilst here. Wordsworth isn’t particularly a favourite poet of mine. Yet into my mind his prose emerged and I felt sad his daffodils had not been the sea perhaps, as I played with that poem’s prose in my mind…

“I wandered lonely as a cloud,

that broke the sapphire ceiling shroud,

and came to land from ‘cross the sea,

that cotton, approaching, playfully

above Ma Nature’s inlet scene,

with memories of what once had been

serenity present, my  heart a-flutter,

whilst beauty stifles a camera shutter

Behold the sight, that did unfold

and stories left, perhaps untold”.

I hoped my camera had maybe captured the scene for some of those untold stories and thoughts to be imagineered. For me at least, the captured scene does exactly that 🙂 .  Time was passing quickly now, the sun was noticeably losing intensity,  and so back into the car we jumped and sped to our selected sunset shooting location, at Canal Rocks.

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I was excited to shoot a sunset; new lens, new filter set up, no real clue as to how exactly I as going to get a decent shot and we had arrived with sufficient time to prepare and for me to give some thought as to the effect I was hoping to achieve. Landscape photography is not intuitive to me… I have to think. It’s not like the best vista and from what position jumps out at me. in the picture above of Canal Rocks themselves, I thought about achieving several things. Firstly I wanted to find a foreground that could frame the shot, whilst leaving the Canal Rocks themselves to draw the viewers’ eye towards the setting sun. Secondly I wanted to be sufficiently high to provide for the setting suns’ beam to illuminate the sea both ocean and bay side of the rocks… bringing the rocks themselves into focus as an interruption to what would otherwise be a vast expanse of featureless sea. Thirdly I wanted the sea itself to take on a misty calmness, a flat like appearance that could provide for that mirrored beam in a broken, yet undistorted way. Fourthly I wanted to ry and capture actual sun rays emanating from that glorious setting sun. And lastly I needed to fool the camera into thinking the available light was way less than reality was reflecting… leaving the shutter open for much longer than san Aperture Priority program would provide at an f-stop of around f16… then I could grab more colours in the sky, smooth the ocean and reflect some, but not too much, movements of sunset lit cumulus clouds in the sky. Phew! That’s kind of a lot for a noob to try and achieve!

A colony became an anomaly as I hadn’t set out to shoot birds and the Terns demanded their turn. Landscapes evoked thought, prose even,  amid dreams of what may have once been amid beauty that still was. And thereafter a sunset to die for. What subjects for me to experiment with and revel in the moment. So there you go… a lovely morning’s bird photography was more than ably supplemented later in the day.

Mother Nature laid forth the vista – so glad I hadn’t missed her.

Happy Days indeed!

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