|Tree and Dune - Fuji x100s, 1/100, f/8, ISO 200, Polarizer|
The Aus Photography Workshop with Wicus Leeuwner and JJ van Heerden was a great success! It was an excellent learning experience for me, I had much fun and got some decent shots.
I suspect that my blog has in common with Playboy that most people come here for the pictures rather than the text. So I'll oblige with lots of pics below the fold (SFW, don't worry), along with some descriptions.
LandscapesAlthough not officially part of the workshop, a few of us took a day off to do a tour of the Sperrgebiet, the restricted diamond zone along the Southwest coast. Its history is fascinating (go read it elsewhere), and the landscapes are pretty stark. There are also various ghost towns and abandoned mining machinery rusting in the desert.
|Bogenfels - Canon 40D, Tokina 11-16, 60sec, f/16, ISO 100, ND Filter|
This is the famous Bogenfels rock arch in the Sperrgebiet. I used an ND filter to blur the motion of the waves and clouds, making the arch look more solid and permanent in contrast. I was hoping for a wilder sea, which would have made the foot of the arch appear to emerge from fog, but the day was unusually calm. The arch is huge, by the way, I should have included a little figure for scale.
|Nara Plant - Canon 40D, Sigma 8-16mm, 1/100, f/16, ISO 400|
Naras are melons commonly found in Namibia. They're edible, but for some reason the horses there don't eat them.
|Garub Plains - Fuji x100s, 8x1/250, f/8, ISO 200, polarizer|
|Petrified Dunes - Canon 40D, Sigma 150-600 C, 1/1250, f/8, ISO 400|
Long lenses are great for compressed landscapes. That lovely Sigma 150-600 Contemporary was loaned to me by Sigma South Africa, along with the 8-16mm ultra-wide angle lens and the fast 35mm f/1.4 Art lens. All three lenses were very impressive. I wrote up my experience with them for Sigma's blog here.
|The Celebritree - Canon 40D, Canon 17-55, 1/60, f/2.8, ISO 100|
This is the Celebritree, one of the most-photographed quiver trees in the world (or would be, if more people came here), standing at the edge of God's Window with an amazing view of the Garub Plains. It really is a particularly lovely specimen.
|View from God's Window, Canon 40D, Tokina 11-16, 3x1/8, f/8, ISO 100|
Here is a view from God's Window. It's three shots, stitched into a panorama. I still didn't get enough in, so the bottom two corners are actually fake, courtesy of Photoshop's "content-aware fill" function. Did you notice?
|B&W Sunset - Canon 40D, Canon 17-55, 0.4+1/10+1/40 HDR, f/5.6, ISO 100|
Okay, not the world's best sunset image, but I made some HDR images of sunsets, and frankly this one looks better in black and white than any of the others do in color.
|Geisterschlucht - Fuji x100s, 6.5sec, f/11, ISO 200, IR filter|
JJ and I arrived a few days before the workshop and hung around exploring and taking photographs. I had a great time in the noonday sun with my little Fuji x100s and an infrared filter, while JJ napped, and photographed the charismatic acacia trees in the Geisterschlucht valley where we stayed. I can really recommend the little Fuji for infrared (and for little flowers, and for nightscapes...)
|Six-Headed Hydra - Canon 40D, Sigma 150-600 C, 1/1000, f/8, ISO 640|
Most of our time was spent at the Garub water hole, an artificial water source created for the feral horses. These six ostriches showed up nearly every morning.
|Three Desert Horses - Canon 40D, Sigma 150-600 C, 1/200, f/8, ISO 200|
|A Frank Exchange of Views - Canon 40D, Canon 70-200 f/4 IS, 1/125, f/4, ISO 500|
|Desert Horse Sunset - Canon 40D, Canon 70-200 f/4 IS, 1/500, f/4, ISO 500|
|Golden Dust - Canon 40D, Canon 70-200 f/4 IS, 1/1250, f/4, ISO 200|
|Cartoon Horse - Canon 40D, Sigma 8-16, 1/320, f/5.6, ISO 400|
|Sociable Weaver - Canon 40D, Canon 70-200 f/4 IS, 1/1000, f/4, ISO 800|
|Lizard - Canon 40D, Canon 70-200 f/4 IS, 1/200, f/11, ISO 100|
|Gemsbok - Canon 40D, Sigma 150-600 C, 1/1000, f/9, ISO 400|
|Bat in Flight - Canon 40D, Tokina 11-16, 1/250, f/5.6, ISO 800, flash|
|Lithops - Fuji x100s, 1/80, f/8, ISO 500|
|Fenestraria - Fuji x100s, 1/110, f/11, ISO 200|
|Bushman's Candle - Fuji x100s, 1/1250, f/5.6, ISO 200|
|Staircase 1 - Canon 40D, Sigma 8-16, 1.6sec, f/8, ISO 100|
Kolmanskop is a ghost mining town, that was once very prosperous and advanced. It had the first x-ray machine in the Southern hemisphere, though this was used for finding smuggled (or swallowed) diamonds rather than broken bones. The visit here is always one of the highlights of the workshop.
|Staircase 2 - Canon 40D, Sigma 8-16, 0.5sec, f/8, ISO 400|
Now the houses are being reclaimed by the desert.
|My Door is Always Open - Canon 40D, Canon 17-55, 1sec, f/11, ISO 100|
|Triptych - Fuji x100s, 1/950, f/8, ISO 400|
This is not really a triptych, but a plain photograph of three toilet booths which are overdue some maintenance.
|Setting Sun - Canon 40D, Sigma 150-600 C, 1/250, f/8, ISO 100|
I was invited to join the workshop as a night photography "expert" (the real experts demanded real money, I guess ;). I had a great time in this capacity - I love being out in the desert, I love photographing and I love teaching, and here I had the chance to combine all three.
|Crescent Moon - Canon 40D, Sigma 150-600 C, 1/200, f/8, ISO 800|
The workshop was held over new moon to guarantee dark skies. So when the moon did arrive, it was a lovely crescent, and with the 600mm at my disposal I got some nice shots of the side-lit craters.
|Saturn - Canon 40D, Sigma 150-600 C, 1/90, f/8, ISO 800|
I even got a picture of Saturn, though it is only some 20 pixels across.
|Galactic Heart - Canon 40D, Sigma 35 f/1.4 A, 15sec, f/1.4, ISO 3200|
The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 turned out to be great for photographing the Milky Way. Clearly, aperture is king. The field of view is a bit narrow (on my 1.6x crop sensor), so I stitched a number of exposures into a panorama:
|Milky Way Rising - Canon 40D, Sigma 35 f/1.4, 12x15sec, f/1.4, ISO 3200|
I didn't anticipate how much people would struggle with their cameras in the dark; initially even experienced daylight photographers found themselves stymied by their lens caps, HDR modes, mirror lockup, etc. With hindsight I should have known: all of this has happened to me, too. Focusing was a huge challenge, and so the Focus Bush was born - a torch left in a bush some 20m behind us, which people could use to focus on.
|Ghost Car - Canon 40D, Tokina 11-16, 2x30sec, f/2.8, ISO 3200|
The above is a first for me: I had never used Photoshop for panoramas before, preferring to use the infinitely versatile and immensely frustrating Hugin. But in very simple cases (e.g. the above is made of only two exposures) it works quickly and easily.
The above car has sat at the entrance to Geisterschlucht for a long time, but has been mysteriously accumulating bullet holes over the decades.
|Early Morning Shoot - Canon 40D, Tokina 11-16, 10x30sec, f/2.8, ISO 3200|
We left horribly early on our trip to the Khoichab River, and stopped for an impromptu night-sky shoot, which was great fun. So in the early morning the Milky Way has moved across the sky so that in a typical panorama, the two Magellanic Clouds lie outside the arch of the Milky Way, instead of inside it, as happens when you shoot this in the evening (example).
And if somebody can tell me how to get rid of that stupid panosphere icon that Google plasters onto my image, I would be very grateful.
|Heavens Above - Fuji x100s, 4x30sec, f/2, ISO3200|
This was pretty much the last serious picture I took at the workshop, and here I discovered that my little Fuji x100s is very well suited to night photography (the f/2 aperture is useful, especially combined with the excellent sensor), provided one makes panoramas to get a decently wide field of view. Also, I should shoot more in weak moonlight - in fact, perfectly dark skies are overrated - my best images typically involve some light pollution or at least moonlight.
I hope you enjoyed these pics. See you in Namibia next year?