Uluru Photography – read all about it! So this is an occasional series where give a full account of a particular image… in this case it’s all about a quite odd series of events and decisions…
My original photo story went something like …
Few images are as fortuitous as this. I took this on the last morning of our stay, after 100% blue skies for many days. I’ll write a full blog entry on this [hey this is it!] but it was all about being Right Place Right Time. I took this shot from the sunset car park. The colour changed as the minutes passed before sunrise, and thankfully I have learned a few things over the last few years. It’s a composite image, I bracketed from the camera meter/histogram and took several frames at 0, -1 -2, -3 stops and chose the best two frames to merge. Without the merge I would have lost the beautiful delicate purple hues. I still can’t believe how the clouds shaped themselves perfectly to augment the shape and positioning of Uluru on the frame.
A few more details:-
What you don’t see.
So, let’s back track. The night before had been our ‘Five Star Eats Night’ at the Sails in the Desert buffet as it was our last night at Yulara. Or is that Ayers Rock Resort? I’ll admit it, the food was good, (and a big shout-out to the oysters, they were sensational) the beers plentiful, and maybe I had a night-cap when I got back to my room. It was a Good Night by any standards, with my ‘Landscape Photographer’ hat nowhere to be seen.
The great thing about the outback is those clear blue skies, they are oh so blue, and thus by definition oh-so not full of clouds. Australian Photography at it’s best 🙁 The night before there had been not a cloud in the sky, and on the way back to our room, late at night after eating, also no clouds. So to be honest, I knew I was faced with clear blue skies the next morning. Which really meant a re-shoot of a bluer than blue photo-shoot the previous morning. Potentially no new images to be had.
So I ummed and ahhed, went to bed, turned off the light, lay there for a while…. and decided I would have more of a lie in, and get there just at sunrise rather than one hour before. So I deferred the alarm by half an hour or so. I still couldn’t sleep, so I deferred by half an hour again and drifted off. I then woke up with the alarm, and my it was nice and cosy in the bed. Finally! – I dragged myself out, and jumped in the car. It was minus one with frost on the roof. The stars were shining bright! As they would!
I drove out of the resort, and approached the park entry station, and of course joined the queue. (Read on about park logistics in my Uluru Travel Guide here). As the light started to glow in the east, I did a double take… oh boy. There was a high bank of cloud that I could just make out, with a pink tint. And I was still driving!!! I knew it was 10 minutes get close enough to The Rock so I gunned it. The pink grew, and I knew it was going to be oh-so tight… I hammered the full length of the sunset car park on the main road, and entered via the exit, to save maybe a minute, and … very interestingly then noted ‘there is a sunrise, it’s a subtle but beautiful colour and shape and I will do it justice’. [Or something very close, to that]
So, very calmly I set up tripod and camera, no panic, and took a number of frames at varying exposures. In short I did everything I should have done if I had not been in a hurry. I waited and the colours changed, I enjoyed my flask of coffee, added as many extra layers of clothes as I could find, and I took another set of images. A slightly different hue.
I then realised the sun was about to rise, and the car-park did not give a good composition. I packed up my gear into the boot, drove around 500m past the car park, and set up again. Despite this being less than five minutes for pack, start car, drive to ‘right’ place, stop, unpack, this time I did miss the very first rays. However, I took a very usable shot.
So let’s consider this in retrospect…
IF I had got up one hour earlier, I would have driven to the old sunrise viewing area (east of Uluru) and seen the colour start to form behind me. I would have had to have driven back to the sunset area, and just might have been in the right place at the right time.
IF I had got up half an hour earlier, I would have driven to the old sunrise viewing area (east of Uluru) and the colour would have been its peak in the sky when I arrived. But behind me! Non-usable for an Uluru sunrise. I would have got exactly the same landscape photographs as two morning before and been 100% gutted
What I saw Afterwards
Ah, back at home. I recalled the cold and crispness of the air, and the deep blues with the contrast of the pink. The cloud colour was oh so high, and in a beautiful swirl. The negative space and the shape of the cloud worked wonderfully together. I opened my files, and pretty much saw what I had seen In Real Life. The next step was a bit creative. Because I had taken so many frames, at varying exposures, each exposure highlighted certain colours best. So with Photoshop layers I was able to re-create an image as I saw. Completely freehand with brushes on layer masks, no rules followed, I made it all up as I went. I added a little fill to give the grass clumps some texture as well, but not too much.
Am I Happy?
I am sooo happy, as would any photographer, to come away from the desert setting with a dawn (or sunset) image with colour. It doesn’t happen often!
Canon EOS5D Mk III ~ Canon 16-35 F4 @ 16mm (of course) ~ 1/125s freehand-blended with 1/15s ~ F8 ~ ISO 100
The Berowra Photographer. Well, the Uluru Photographer this time.