Tag Archives: river

Capturing Australian tropical sunrises

As a follow up to Where Sunrises Rule The World I will take you back to Hawk Dreaming and the edge of the crocodile and mosquito rich river. I will share my sunrise shooting experience with two new panoramas from this morning.

I am back in Hawk Dreaming on the edge of the river. I have arrived early to capture the dawn light and greet the mosquitoes. I have chosen my composition, setup my gear and applied a full can of mossie repellent. It is an astoundingly beautiful morning; it is already more than 25 degrees but the air still has a crisp and fresh morning feel and smell. As the very first dawn light appears I capture the first panorama while it is still quite dark:

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

East Alligator River at Dawn
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Ten minutes later and it is already close to daylight and the light has warmed considerably. I make small adjustments to the composition and exposure and shoot our second panorama in this series:

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

East Alligator River at Sunrise
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

I could have wished for a few more clouds (the appeared later as seen here) and a stronger composition. But the colours and the light are gorgeous and a true representation of sunrise at this river, and at large size you can see the lovely thick layer of mist on the floodplains. Let us examine in detail how to capture this light and these colours.

Shooting the tropical sun rising

Walk softly and always carry mosquito repellent! The composition in these panoramas is dictated by the mosquitoes. Ideally I would have been lower and closer to the water; making the river (a finger of the East Alligator River) seem bigger with more colour reflection in the water. No go mate. I have never experienced a wall of a million mosquitoes quite like this! There was no choice but to step back 7-8 meters from the edge of the river and still I was getting eaten. Without mossie repellent you won’t get these shots so arm yourself. This is Where Mosquitoes Rule The World!

Be prepared; be quick! Coming from a cold dark non-tropical place you will be surprised by how quickly the sun rises in the tropics. You have very little time to work in before the sun basically jumps to the top of the sky and is at full force. So be prepared, arrive early and find your composition before the light show begins. The very best light is usually at dawn so no sleeping in! You should basically be setting up in complete darkness.

Use ND graduated filters! I used a Cokin 2-stop ND grad filter to even out the exposure between sky and ground but learned that this is nowhere near enough to tame the tropical sun rising. I needed a 4-stop and even a 6-stop in my kit as the difference in light level especially at dawn is incredible. Still a 2-stop is better than nothing and without an ND grad filter you would either blow out the sky or capture a pitch black foreground.

Do not blow the red channel! The red channel will be at least a couple of stops brighter than the other channels, so do not trust the luminance histogram on your camera. A blown red channel will ruin a tropical sunrise or sunset, creating ugly yellows and greens where there should be orange and red! Study your RGB histogram carefully if you have one, or bracket your exposures.

Finally…enjoy! Do not get so caught up in shooting, checking histograms, looking through the viewfinder, levelling the tripod, setting exposure, focus and aperture etc. that you completely forget to enjoy the spectacle! Step back once in a while and take it all in. We shoot landscapes because we love nature so don’t let the camera get in the way all the time. Enjoy!

Kakadu National Park

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South Alligator River panorama

On the road I posted quite a few photos and wrote quite a bit about Kakadu National Park, especially in the posts from Hawk Dreaming – but I also did a scenic flight over Kakadu that I never had time to write about before now. This week I went through some of the photos from the flight and was surprised to find some that I really liked, I remember initially being very disappointed because the shooting conditions were incredibly difficult – more about that later. Here’s the tale of Kakadu from above.

You can do scenic flights over Kakadu from either the township of Jabiru in the park – or from Darwin. I took off from Darwin airport in a small plane with four fellow passengers and one pilot on a very early Monday morning. From Darwin it’s about an hour of flying time to get to our pitstop in Cooinda in the park.

It is just after sunrise and the light is brilliant. It is  a very hazy morning though making photography hard with very little light to work with. At least the air is still cool from the night so no turbulence – yet! We fly over the amazing South Alligator river where we spot crocodiles on the banks heating their bodies in the morning sun. We see the wetlands of Kakadu (the bit that’s still wet in the dry season) and the Yellow Waters Billabong and the little tour boats. It’s a beautiful flight and the only way to experience the scale of Kakadu national park – you really get a sense of the nearly 20,000 square kilometers of Kakadu from the air. The photo above and the following two are from the morning flight.

Click to see large size on my gallery! Wetlands of Kakadu

Click to see large size on my gallery! Kakadu and Adelaide River

We touch down at Cooinda for an hour and a half, allowing people who wish to do so to join the Yellow Waters cruise. I’ve actually done that yesterday so I re-visit the amazing Warradjan Cultural Centre (the best cultural centre in Kakadu).

At about 11am we jump in our plane again and take off for the Escarpment and then back to Darwin. Now by this time it’s about 35c degrees, the sun has burned away all the haze and heated the air – a lot! Because of the hot air and the cyclone strength winds coming off the tall Escarpment plateau we have turbulence like I have never experienced before. The plane is jumping up and down like some huge hand of a weather god is shaking it and it quickly gets extremely hot and uncomfortable in our little cabin. Two of my fellow passengers use their complimentary plastic bags and say hello to their breakfast again! I try to shoot photos but looking through the viewfinder is impossible so I just point the camera and shoot blindly out the window and concentrate on keeping my own breakfast down (I succeeded fortunately!). Here’s the spectacular Escarpment that’s causing the spectacular turbulence!

Click to see large size on my gallery!Looks majestic, quiet and peaceful doesn’t it! Well in our plane it felt like the perfect storm! I love flying but when we touch down in Darwin again I am actually a bit happy to be on terra firma again. Even for me that turbulence was a bit too much and the rest of the day my balance is off. With the turbulence and the haze in the morning, photography was difficult and looking through the photos in the evening I was initially very disappointed with what I got. But revisiting the shots now with some work on the RAW files in Rawshooter there are actually a few that are fine and I’m pleased to have shots of Kakadu from above. Looking at them now is almost giving my stomach some not so pleasant flashbacks! See more Kakadu aerial shots in my Kakadu gallery.

I would definitely recommend a scenic flight over Kakadu – if you have the stomach for it! If you wish to experience the Kakadu turbulence please shake your head or your monitor violently as you browse my photos 😀

It has been an exciting and eventful and beautiful Kakadu flight certainly and thank you for flying Flemming Bo Airlines!