The Northern Migration – Whale Watching off Sydney Heads

I’ve been really lucky over the past couple of weeks to have been out whale watching from TWICE from Sydney – yes TWICE :)

Both days were warm and sunny and we were SO lucky {and grateful} to see some ‘Humpback’ whales heading north during their annual migration.

Each year – around May, Humpback whales leave the cold waters of Antarctica and swim north to the warm tropical waters of Queensland, Australia, to mate and give birth to their young.

They are such amazing creatures…We spotted our first couple of humpbacks not far off Sydney heads..

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These majestic creatures can grow to an average length of 12-18 metres and weigh as much as 45 tonnes.

The two whales travelled along together for a while, diving and giving us a glimpse of their tails – {click, click, click went my camera :)}

Whale Tail

Humpbacks are VERY acrobatic {considering their size} and one of the two whales we were observing really decided to put on a show…

Breaching is said to be either purely for play, to loosen skin parasites or it may have some social meaning. Check out the splash he made when he hit the water!

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He then ‘spyhopped’ {poked his head out of the water for around 30 seconds} to check out what was going on.

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Again this was followed by a playful ‘splash.’🙂

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Finally, he waved good-bye…and they continued on their journey north…

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Then just to top off a fantastic day, an albatross flew past {for anyone that knows me, I LOVE albatross.}

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Our second day out whale watching was completely different…it was two weeks after the first trip and the whales seemed to be more intent on heading north as quickly as possible….

We just observed them for a while before we headed back to Darling Harbour…

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I can’t wait to photograph them again when they head south down the East coast. Have you seen any humpback whales this season? I’d love to hear your stories. Please let me know in the comments below🙂

bye for now,

Chris🙂

Early morning photography at Mahon Pool, Maroubra

I love getting out and about with my camera and particularly enjoy starting the day early, photographing a sunrise🙂

Last Saturday we discovered a brilliant spot for photography – Mahon Pool, Maroubra Beach Sydney.

The first part of the morning I used my ND {neutral density} filters to create slow shutter speeds and movement blur in my photos….I love the effect the slow shutter has on the water – each photo is so individual…the swirling water looks like mist and gives the image an ethereal look.

So, what is a neutral density filter and what does it do?

As you all know {well I’m hoping you do} to SLOW DOWN YOUR SHUTTER SPEED you need low light….
So at dawn, dusk or night time, it’s easy….
But during the day {when the sun is shining :)} even if you set your camera to a small aperture {like f20} and your ISO way down to 100….sometimes the shutter speed is STILL NOT SLOW ENOUGH to record movement and blur within a photograph.

So, in comes the neutral density filter {ND FILTER.}

There are several different types of ND filter on the market. Circular threaded screw-on ND filters are the simplest to use, but have the disadvantage that stacking them together soon leads to vignetting issues.

A more recent innovation are variable Neutral Density filters, which screw onto the lens but have an adjustable outer ring, which you rotate to adjust the density depending on the light conditions and the effect you want.

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Variable Neutral Density Filter

Slot-in filters require you to first attach a filter holder to your lens via a ring adapter {the same size as the diameter of your lens – in my case – 77mm}, then insert square or oblong filters into the holder – the chief advantage is that, once set up, it’s easy to swap filters, stack them or add different kinds of filters to the mix. Slot-in filters are usually the most expensive option when purchasing ND filters.

Here’s my Lee slot-in filter set up below.

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Lee adaptor and holder attached to the front of the lens

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Lee .9 ND filter inserted into holder.

It’s SUPER easy to use the slot-in ND filter system.

I have 4 filters –

.3  – reduces the s/speed by 1 stop.

.6 – reduces the s/speed by stops.

.9 – reduces the s/speed by 3 stops.

‘The little Stopper’ – reduces the s/speed by 6 stops.

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So, how do they work?

Lets say you meter a scene at f22 and the s/speed is 1/250 sec in Manual mode.

Now, insert the .3  {1 stop} ND filter into the holder on the front of the lens. Roll the shutter speed dial till the exposure level indicator meets in the middle. The s/speed will now be 1/125 sec – 1 stop slower than 1/250 sec.

Remove the .3 filter from the holder.

Now insert the .6 {2 stop} ND filter. Roll the shutter speed dial till the exposure level indicator meets in the middle. The s/speed will now be 1/60 sec – 2 stops slower than 1/250 sec.

Remove the .6 filter from the holder.

Now insert the .9 {3 stop} ND filter. Roll the shutter speed dial till the exposure level indicator meets in the middle. The s/speed will now be 1/30 sec – 3 stops slower than 1/250 sec.

Remove the .9 filter from the holder.

See how it works? You can also stack the filters in front of one another in the holder – eg
I could insert the .3, .6 & .9 filters into the holder and reduce the shutter speed by 6 stops -{1 +2+3 = 6 stops.}

Another really cool thing about ND filters is that they enhance the colours and will create more contrast in your image.

So, experiment with ND filters and different shutter speeds to achieve some really cool effects in your images:)

Click on each pic to view as large image…..

The second half of our shoot I experimented with FAST and SUPER FAST shutter speeds. Using the Canon 70-200mm zoom lens in AV mode, I raised the ISO to 640 and varied the aperture from f5 to f7.1. The shutter speeds ranged from 1/800 second up to 1/5000 sec. Don’t you just love the frozen action of the waves?

Click on each pic to view as large image…..

If you have any questions about ND filters, please email me at bernasconiphotography@gmail.com

Chris🙂

P.S If you would like to connect with me on Instagram – click hereFacebook – click here & Twitter – click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn Colours – Mount Wilson NSW

Don’t you just love autumn? The colours, the textures and the way the plants change….

This year in Sydney we’ve had a really warm autumn….25 degree days – for the last couple of weeks – even as I speak – today is going to be 25 degrees again!!

I thought I might have been a bit late to head up to Mount Wilson and photograph the colours…but they surprised me….when you are way up high the temperature really does its thing to the trees and landscape…

Here are some pics I took yesterday at two ‘Open Gardens’ at Mount Wilson…. ‘Windy Ridge’ and ‘Breenhold’  – Ray and I really enjoyed soaking up nature and being in the open spaces of these awesome properties.

I shot with two cameras {Canon 5d mk 11 and 5d mk 111} – I had my 24-105mm and my 100mm macro on both canon cameras – {thanks Ray for helping me with them.}

Remember to click on each photo to enjoy a large view…

cheers

chris

 

First Prize in the ‘Urban Landscape’ Section – Sydney Royal Easter Show

What a wonderful week its been for me…

I took out first prize in the ‘Urban Landscape’ section of the Sydney Royal Easter Show photography competition with a shot of our iconic Sydney Opera House…

And boy am I chuffed🙂

There were so many wonderful photographs, congratulations to all the other winners.

Have a great weekend everyone🙂

 

 

The FANTASTIC Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens

I’ve just returned from a month in the Arctic {more about that later – and yes, it was sensational.}

I added a couple of new lenses to my kit before going away, one of them being the sensational Sigma 150-600mm F/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens.

I hired the previous model of this lens when I visited the Antarctic a couple of years back and overall wasn’t very happy with the sharpness of the lens. Everything on the latest model – Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens – has improved significantly, especially the image sharpness. I am ecstatic with the results🙂

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Here’s the rundown:

Overall build and cost

The build of the lens is SUPER SOLID and is very well designed. It retails for around $2245 AUD and at this price, it makes a very welcome addition to your kit.

The 150 to 600mm sports lens is heavier than most of the opposition. Weighing in at 2.860kg, this is not a lens that you want to hand hold for long periods of time. I used a monopod whilst we were on the land. In the zodiacs, I either stood up or sat and used my elbow and the side of the zodiac to take the weight of the lens.

The lens features dust and splash proof construction and a water & oil repellent coating on the front and rear glass elements of the lens.

The lens is packed in a very substantial padded carrying case and features a VERY SOLID LENS HOOD which offers great protection to the front of the lens {especially with rain, splash and general knocks etc.} and can be reversed over the barrel for transportation. The overall length of the lens {with the hood reversed} is 121.9 x 289.6mm. This lens fitted easily into my Lowepro Pro Runner RL x450 AW rolling camera bag.

With the lens zoomed to 600mm and the hood attached, the entire lens grows to 480mm in length {be prepared for lens envy.}

The filter size is 105mm {not many suppliers will stock this size.} I had to really hunt around to source the UV filter for this lens.

This lens is available in a Canon, Nikon and Sigma mount.

The only annoying aspect of this lens was for some reason Sigma didn’t supply a lens cap? I purchased one direct from Sigma for $20AUD.

Focal Length

At 150mm to 600mm, this lens suits wildlife, distant landscapes, street scenes, sports photography and more. I could capture a complete iceberg at 150mm {as they were a fair distance away.} However, I used the lens at 600mm for most of the trip to photograph wildlife and closeups of icebergs and mountains.

Aperture range

F5-6.3 to F22. This lens has a ‘variable max aperture’ which means that wide open aperture exposure settings will change as the lens is zoomed from 150mm to longer focal lengths.

Image sharpness

Using the lens at 600mm required faster shutter speeds to deliver sharp hand held results. At times I used a monopod, but most shots were taken in a moving zodiac, standing up, with the lens at full 600mm zoom.

The lens has ‘image stabilization’ but I did find I had to increase the ISO to obtain a fast shutter speed to freeze the action. The results were fantastic. 9 out of 10 shots were ABSOLUTELY TACK SHARP.

Take a look at these shots for sharpness!!

It was easy to photograph this harbour seal at 600mm. He hardly knew I was there. F6.3 1/320 sec ISO 1250
It was easy to photograph this harbour seal at 600mm. He hardly knew I was there. F6.3 1/320 sec ISO 1250.
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Now for a close up of the whiskers🙂 Super sharp huh?
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And the eye…again, tack sharp.
Here's an iceberg in Greenland. Taken from a moving zodiac. Focal length 600mm. F11 1/2000 sec ISO 640.
Here’s an iceberg in Greenland. Taken from a moving zodiac. Focal length 600mm. F11 1/2000 sec ISO 640.
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Now, lets zoom in…still sharp!
This shot was taken on a research station near Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Note where the weather station is :) F8 1/250 sec ISO 200.
This shot was taken on a research station near Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Note where the weather station is🙂 F8 1/250 sec ISO 200.
Here's the weather station taken at 600mm on the Sigma lens. F8 1/1000 sec ISO 400.
Here’s the weather station taken at 600mm on the Sigma lens. F8 1/1000 sec ISO 400.
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This is the zoomed in shot..Super sharp!

Conclusion

If you are looking for a SUPER SHARP, AFFORDABLE telephoto lens – then this is the lens for you. Yes, it’s heavy {always use a tripod or monopod and you’ll be fine} but the IMAGE SHARPNESS is the real WINNER.

I am super impressed! Rush out and buy it now. Right now🙂

If you have any questions about this lens, please email me at bernasconiphotography@gmail.com🙂

 

 

VIVID Sydney….through my eyes

Vivid Light transforms our beautiful city into a wonderland of ‘light art’ sculptures and super cool light installations for everyone to enjoy – for free. It is the world’s largest outdoor ‘art-gallery.’

Last week I took off to visit VIVID SYDNEY 2015 with my photography buddy Kris…

We had a great night out and particularly enjoyed the ‘back street’ installations this year..

If you are into photography, or just want to enjoy the colourful lights head to VIVID SYDNEY…This event runs until the 8th June…

Click on the first photo to view the pics as a slide show🙂

Wilbur & Woody…Assistance Dogs to the Rescue….

I know I’ve said this before, but photographing beautiful labradors and Golden Retrievers is SO MUCH FUN!!

Last week I had the pleasure of photographing ‘Woody’ & ‘Wilbur’ for Assistance Dogs Australia. my favourite organisation:)

These two 16 week old labradors {who are SO super cute} are involved in a new Assistance Dogs initiative – helping children with Autism.

The program is called ‘PAWS’ – Parents Autism Workshop and Support. For more info click here.

The pups are placed with a ‘Puppy Educator’ at 8 weeks of age to share experiences and offer help to a child with autism on a day to day basis.

These pups were gorgeous….enjoy the pics:)

Click on the first photo to view the pics as a slide show🙂