Castle hill

This is a shot of Castle Hill in Canterbury, New Zealand. There are a series of limestone rocks around this area, but I liked this angle as it showed the series...
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This is a shot of Castle Hill in Canterbury, New Zealand. There are a series of limestone rocks around this area, but I liked this angle as it showed the series of steps between how nature breaks these larger boulders down into smaller ones.
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Behind The Lens

This photo was taken out at Castle Hill in Canterbury New Zealand. This place is covered in all these neat limestone boulders and cliffs. Such a cool spot. In 2002 it was also named a "Spiritual Center of the Universe" by the Dalai Lama !
I am a fan of getting up early (and staying out late) to get that magic hour of sunrise and sunset, but I must confess this photo was taken during gentleman's hours. I headed up to Castle Hill at 2pm, to give myself plenty of time to explore and find a scene to photograph for the magic hour around 6.30 pm. But I got lucky and found this scene happening in middle of the afternoon ! Goes to show you that you always need to have that camera handy at all times I guess.
I wanted this image to feel dramatic with that powerful sky. Also, I was keen to have the vivid green of the grass there to bring a bit of colour and life to the image, which I wanted to have as a contrast to the dead feeling of the rocks around it. So I needed to take a couple of exposures so I could blend in the brighter dramatic sky, with the brighter foreground.
I love camera stuff (as we all do), but I don't actually carry that much. This shot (and almost all of my photos) was taken with my A7RII and the sony/zeiss 16-35 f4. I love the detail you can get our of the A7RII with its 42 mp sensor, but most of all, I like its small size. I love the 16-35 too, although it isn't that fast it is perfect for wide-angle landscapes and the zoom means I usually just take the one lens with me. I had the camera set-up on my gitzo tripod + ball head, which has served me well over the years
This scene inspired me because I think it tells a great story. Running your eye from top to bottom you can see the process nature is forcing upon the limestone boulders and cliffs, breaking them down into smaller pieces of rock and then into sand. It think the powerful sky was made even more eye catching in this scene by the neat texture it presented, which was caused by a brewing storm.
I had to do a bit of processing in Photoshop on this to get to where I wanted the image to look. I processed the sky on one -2 exposure first to get that looking dramatic with enough detail so you could see the neat texture. Then I worked on a 0 and a +2 exposure to get the elements of the foreground looking how I wanted them. Then I aligned all three images in Photoshop, and blended the areas together. I then worked on the colours using a luminosity mask and added a bit of vignette in the sky, just to help draw the eye in towards the cliff. Most of all though, I just had fun playing around with the photos, until I could get them roughly like the picture in my head
In my camera bag
The bare minimum is my philosophy ! I love camera stuff (like I have already mentioned), but when I am going out, I think the lighter your bag, the further you will walk and the more cool scenes you will see and photograph. So the first thing that goes in, is obviously the A7rII and 16-53 f4 + 3 spare batteries (the A7rII loves to use a bit of battery). Then I put in my polarised filter and a 6 stop ND filter with some nice cloths for cleaning. I have a zeiss loxia 50 mm f2 that I take along for the ride, but it rarely ends up on the camera, I just walk a bit closer if I need to. The last, but most important item is the gitzo carbon fibre tripod + ball head. I can fit all this camera stuff into a small pacsafe camera bag, which I sling over my shoulder (or put inside a larger backpack if I am feeling really energetic and want to walk a few hours) and then I just carry the tripod I my hand usually. I really don't find myself missing any shots from not having enough lenses for my style of photography, which is generally wide-angle type stuff.
I think the first thing to look for is feeling and story. I think you need to focus on scenes that make you step back and think wow, that is cool, look at the ....(fill in this space) and how it (fill in the space). Once you have that feeling happening in a scene you will naturally be drawn into it and capture more compelling images as you try to convey a message of how you feel and how you are interpreting a scene. One general thing I always look at though in landscapes is the sky. The sky will often make up at least 1/3 of the scene, so having a neat sky goes a long way (be it some neat dramatic clouds or a nice sunburst). Then always look for a nice foreground element, otherwise it can leave things feeling a bit vast and empty (which could be the feeling you are looking for sometime though).

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