Monthly Archives: November 2008

Bells Gorge – with falling water

I am on record for not being a big fan of photos of waterfalls. I very often find them quite boring and there are too many ordinary waterfall photos in galleries around the world for my taste. A long exposure close-up photo of a waterfall is a winner with most customers and viewers but not for me; I have little fascination with water. I am a desert man. An interesting waterfall shot has to at least place the waterfall into context and show the surroundings. Ken Duncan and his incredible eye for composition is very good at this as demonstrated in his Mitchell Plateu shot. With no surroundings it is simply water falling; it is gravity at work!

During my recent photo trip to Australia I shot one composition that included a waterfall – even though the Kimberley has quite a few waterfalls. I love The Kimberley, but it’s the landscape and not the falling water that does it for me. I have promised several people to post this one waterfall image and as I’m always a man of my words here is magnificent Bells Gorge from Kimberley, Western Australia, complete with falling water:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Bells Gorge Panorama 
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Bells Gorge and composition

Bells Gorge is one of the many impressive Kimberley gorges cutting through the rocky and dry landscape. I’m no Ken Duncan but I have certainly placed the waterfall into context here. To the extent of the waterfall almost disappearing in this small web sized image; but at full size I quite like dramatic wide angle view in this shot. When I return I will work on improving composition though by climbing some more rocks! It is great fun and a great challenge climbing the rocks in these Kimberley gorges seeking the perfect composition. When viewing my shots later I often think ‘oh I should been standing there’. It’s the great skill challenge of composition and finding the most effective viewpoint (without falling down and killing yourself) and in the Kimberley gorges you can certainly sharpen these skills! If you study the photo you’ll see little travellers by the pool. It’s possible to climb much further; all the way down the the rocks on the left side and access a lower part of the gorge way out of this frame. You have to be a mountain goat though but I hear the results are worth it so I’ll attempt it next time!

This image is a stitched panorama and I deliberately went for a dusty and hot arid look here. Bells Gorge in mid September was a nice warm spot with 40+ degrees in the sun and the special Kimberley light. I remember exactly what it was like but then again I don’t. You can’t remember this; you have to experience it. Nothing but the desert would prepare you for these fantastic conditions in the Kimberley. It is incredibly hot; the light is blindingly bright and the sun rays cuts like lasers. As impossible as it is; I want to replicate these conditions in my photo; make you feel the Kimberley and these great gorges!

This is my one Kimberley waterfall shot but who knows – after my next Kimberley trip you may actually see waterfall image no. 2 from me. Start a trend!

The camels oh the Broome camels

I had told myself that I was not going do it no matter what. No bloody way was I going to do it. No way in hell the world needed another stock image of camels on parade on Cable Beach in Broome. I really like the animals themselves, the camels, but I really don’t get why tourists find it exotic to sit on a camel (or horse for that matter) at sunset. Not too crazy about the camel pushers (as I call them) either. Also every gallery and shop in Broome has wall to wall canvas prints of the camels at sunset. Cliché shot no. 1. is getting those camels silhouetted against the setting sun and I was definitely not going to do it!

But…you’re on Cable Beach and they walk right in front of the lens as you’re shooting and what can you do. Talk is cheap and so are pixels. So I shot just two camel shots and looking at them in Lightroom I find that one of them is actually sort of nice! The first shot is my stock image, entertainment for the masses and hopefully money in my pocket, camels silhouetted in the sunset as they basically just walked right into my sunset shot:

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Camels silhouetted on Cable Beach
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

The next one is the one I find is not too bad. At dusk the light is just drop-dead gorgeous on the huge Cable beach and I had this idea of capturing the light and the massive beach with something to show the scale. Could it be…camels! I looked left and saw yet another team of camels (there are lots of them) so I quickly swung the camera around on the tripod and shot one image:

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Camels at Dusk on Cable Beach
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

The story of camels in Australia is an interesting one actually. Thousands of them were brought to Australia in the 1800s for expeditions in the outback as they’re just perfect for the desert-like environment. When cars etc. became available large herds of camels were let loose and not surprisingly they do very well in the Australian outback! Meaning that Australia now has the largest population of wild camels in the world and the camels (of the one-humped Arabian variety) are so genetically pure that they’re exported to the Middle East!

Yes my friends; I can tell a good camel tale at the camp fire and can now also deliver the photos. Apparently the world needed just two more camels on a beach images!

Windjana Gorge and the Bunuba people

The mighty rock walls towers up to 100 meters in height on the flat spinifex covered Kimberley savannah. The gorge cuts the Napier Ranges in half for about 3.5 kilometers. The Lennard River runs through it and is home to at least 70 crocodiles. The mysterious Wandjina spirits have left their shadows on the walls in the form of rock art. The Bunuba people have lived here for hundreds of generations and still fight for their survival against the invasion of their country and destruction of their people.

We are in the Bunuba home visiting Windjana Gorge National Park in Western Australia; and the above are  just a few of the reasons why Windjana Gorge is my favourite gorge on the Gibb River Road! The mighty towering walls and the history of this area is magic to me. It is also a photographers paradise. You have the mighty rock walls, the crocodiles, the gum and boab trees, the caves, the art, the flat savannah, the station ruins and Tunnel Creek ensuring you won’t ever run out of compositions here! I managed a few different compositions while I was at Windjana but look forward to revisiting again.

Towering Walls

The steep ranges of the Napier Range are the walls of the gorge and even from a distance these impressive ranges will catch your eye. Below my old Fujichrome slide from my first visit in 1998 shows the walls towering straight up out of the ground!

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Hawk Dreaming Sand Palms at Dusk
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

I have attempted to capture the wide gorge and mighty walls of the Napier Range in this duotone panorama:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Walls of Windjana Gorge in Duotone
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

I converted this stitched panorama to duotone as I felt it gave the image more character, drama and a timeless quality compared to the original slightly flat and harsh colour version. I used Alien Skin Exposure filter and my technique documented here but for this photo I did two conversions and layer blended them. The rock walls and the sky is almost entirely the red channel which ensures a dark dramatic sky and bright rocks. The sandy foreground is mostly the blue channel as this ensures detail; the red channel had very little detail in the sand.  Blending different conversions is a great way to ensure details in all areas of your image.

Crocs!

The gorge is home to many freshwater crocodiles and if you explore the gorge in the early hours of the day you’ll see crocs sunbaking all along the river. Freshwater crocs are no danger as long as you don’t provoke them and keep a bit of distance. Keeping an eye on the crocs it is easy to slowly approach them. I chose to show the crocs in their environment placing them in an image with the rock walls towering above them in a vertical panorama:

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Windjana Gorge Crocodiles 
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Lillimooloora Station – Jandamarra and the Bunuba Resistance

On the flat open savannah outside the gorge you find the remains of the Lillimooloora Station. This station, which also housed a police outpost, is integral in the story of Jandamarra the Bunuba resistance fighter. Once working as a tracker for the police he turned resistance fighter and is now a hero to the Bunuba people. Jandamarra’s fight against the terror of the white colonisation is still a symbol for the ongoing struggle to protect the law, the land and the culture of the Bunuba. I highly recommend reading Jandamarra and The Bunuba Resistance from Magabala Books; the book also contains many great and interesting photos. My photo of the Lillimooloora Station ruins was shot as the ruins were lit up by the setting sun with the Napier Range in the background. Arriving late and having to work really fast in the disappearing light I feel my composition can be improved on my next visit but still like the view:

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Lillimooloora Station Panorama
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Gum Trees at the Gorge

The gorge is also home to some very impressive old gum and boab trees rich in character and story. As my Finding a Tree post explained it is hard and sometimes impossible work finding an isolated tree that can work in a composition without a distracting background. At Windjana I chose the opposite, filling a busy panorama with a glorious large old gum tree having the rock wall as a background. A bit of painting with light on the tree and the result is this panorama:

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Glorius Gum Tree at Windjana Gorge
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

You can spend days at Windjana Gorge shooting, there is so much to work with here! I will hopefully get a chance to teach others about this wonderful place as I will quite possibly be part of guiding a photo tour in the Kimberleys in 2009. As long as we don’t loose a few photographers to the crocs I am sure Windjana Gorge will prove to be a highlight yet again!

Two Toned World Strikes Back

Kimberley Gum Tree, Flemming Bo Jensen Photography Previously I have blogged about A Two Toned World and Return of the Toned World so I messed up the sequence a bit, but this is the 3rd of my tutorials on black and white and can now only be called: Two Toned World Strikes Back!

Following in the footsteps of all the classic and contemporary black and white landscape photographers; I show you how to and create stunning black and whites from your digital images – click ‘Keep reading’ link.

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My Hasselblad Experience

Hasselblad and 5D - 1I recently had the pleasure of spending 4 days shooting with a Hasselblad H3D-39 digital SLR camera with 80mm lens – pictured on the the left alongside my Canon 5D with 17-40mm lens.

*temp* Weighing in at around 2,5 kilos with the 80mm lens attached, capturing light on a 39 megapixel medium format 48x36mm digital back and costing an arm and a leg (about 20,000 Euros or 38,000 AUD) this extraordinarily looking beast of a camera makes a strong first impression!
Click ‘Keep reading’ below to read all about my Hasselblad Experience.

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Capturing Manning Gorge

The Kimberley is home to many great gorges and one of the best known is Manning Gorge. It is very easy to access from the Gibb River Road, has a huge camp ground with a toilet and shower block (powered by a rather noisy generator that is turned off around sunset) so it’s quite popular and you certainly won’t be camping alone here. Slightly too busy for my taste Manning Gorge is still a gorgeous (gee that joke is getting old) place. This is a duotoned view of sitting on the banks of the billabong in the middle of the day. It’s a boiling 40+ degrees but the rock wall provides a nice shady spot:

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Manning Gorge and Gum tree in duotone
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Manning Gorge is split into Upper and Lower Manning and the camp ground is at Lower Manning. To get to the Upper gorge it’s a great 3 km bush walk; but first you have to swim across the river floating your clothes, camera etc. in a foam box pushing it in front of you as you swim. Water is not all that appealing to me or my camera so I chose to explore only the Lower gorge this time!

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Manning Gorge in Moonlight
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Photographing gorges

It takes a lot of practice and work getting good at shooting gorges. They’re big and beautiful but really hard to fit into a composition that shows them as big and beautiful. I always wish I could levitate (walking on water hasn’t worked for me) in the middle of the river shooting down the gorge with the gorge walls on both sides. But often you’re stuck shooting from the banks of a river or billabong and also you’re fighting the Kimberley light as one side of the gorge is bound to be in deep dark shadows and the other in extremely bright sunshine. You really have to work to find good compositions.

The answer as always: get up for dawn and stay for dusk (and bring mossie repellant!) My Finding a Tree post was from around Manning gorge at dawn and this is a Lower Manning Gorge panorama in very late dusk light:

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Manning Gorge at Dusk Panorama
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

This little spot proved to work very well and I was fortunately the only one there. If you’re at Manning then walk down to the river at sunset, turn left and keep going until you find yourself standing underneath a rock wall and almost in the water. Wait for that glorious warm and red dusk light to warm the sky and you have your shot!

I am working on my Kimberley gallery at the moment so come along as I develop and upload; there are many more gorgeous Kimberley gorge shots to come!

PS. There are some beautiful old and very large Boab trees at the camp ground. Beautiful old trees some bloody idiot campers have carved their names into! People carving their names into trees surely should be fed to the crocs!

The quintessential Outback Australia photo

One of my photographic quests is to capture the perfect Outback Australia image. My perfect Outback Australia image that is.

Outback Australia is a million different things; but for me in my perfect image in my head there are some elements that must be present: Red rock and earth, a few gum trees, spinifex grass, all bathed in golden light on a huge wide open desolate desert-like plain with a blue sky of outback clouds (you’ll know when you see them). A morning in the Kimberley area of Western Australia presented a very special moment with many of my elements present:

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Silent Grove Sunrise Panorama
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Unless you’re as obsessed with the outback as I am (is there anyone else?) I don’t know if this panorama means much but I am extremely happy with it. It is not my perfect outback image of course; but I feel it really expresses the desolate beautiful nature of the outback and has a lot of the elements I love (you see what I mean by outback clouds?). I do not like any man-made objects in my photos, but here I picked the middle of the dirt road to have a strong leading line into the image. I shot this as 8 vertical images and stitched in PTgui. Silent Grove is just the name of the camp close to Bell Gorge on the Gibb River Road; and this is basically just me having run about a kilometer down the dirt road finding an open place. The hardest part was finding a spot where I could hide the shadow of me and my tripod!

The sunrise itself was out of this world fantastic by the way; albeit a more ordinary image for me personally. I woke up at camp before dawn; saw the clouds, rolled out of my swag, grabbed my gear and sprinted down the road to find a spot. This is just me standing on the dirt road pointing the 17mm lens at the sunrise, standing next to the tripod with cable release in hand, shooting and enjoying the spectacle of nature:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Outback Kimberley Sunrise 
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Like any quest for perfection it is futile and will never end; the perfect outback image exists only in my head (although Ken Duncan sometimes comes very close with his brilliant outback work). I will just have to keep coming back to the outback and enjoy many fun and frustrating experiences chasing perfection!