It’s off on an adventure, down an unmarked dirt road through the Kings Creek Station and into Curtin Springs Station. It’s hundreds of square kilometres of remote outback Australia and only a handful of people have access to the track, so we see no one else for the next day until we reach the Lasseter Highway several hundred kilometres south.
Our vehicle is purpose designed for this sort of travel, yet even so we find ourselves bogged at the top of a particularly soft sand dune. No trouble! We bundle off the vehicle, grab the metal boards from the trailer and dig them under the wheels. It doesn’t take us too long to sort it out, but we do unload a few suitcases to make the vehicle lighter. Was that a good idea? Possibly not as we found ourselves carrying our suitcases along the sandy track to the rescued vehicle – it certainly made a comical picture.
Future sand dunes were approached at higher speed and we only had one more situation to deal with. It certainly made it exciting for a bunch of people used to life in the city, although I dare say our driver Dave was a little unhappy with himself getting bogged the second time!
It’s amazing how much the landscape changes and we soon found ourselves in some beautiful parklands. We sheltered in the shade of desert oaks and set up camp well before sunset, giving us time to prepare our meals and take photographs as the light improved. We all went our separate ways, investigating the surroundings and struggling a little with the complex landscape.
However, once the sun was gone and the stars were out, we discovered a fantasy land right next to our campsite. The red embers from the fire were throwing a warm light on the surrounding trees, contrasting beautifully with the Milky Way above. We tried different exposures from 10 seconds to a couple of minutes, hoping there was not too much breeze moving the delicate leaves.
Between the shoot and preparing this blog post, Capture One Pro 7 has been released and it was an interesting insight to see just how much better the new version is. Look at the comparison pics below.
I have done my best to ensure the settings in Capture One for both versions were identical so we have a fair comparison. However, there is some folly in this argument because maybe Capture One 6 (on the left) needs different settings to look its best. Even so, to my eye there was a clear improvement the moment I pressed the ‘Upgrade’ button to change to the new processing engine.
The noise reduction has been handled automatically – I haven’t knowingly tweaked the settings. I mean, this is a pretty tough image to process. Taken on an EOS 60D, I think even Canon would agree that ISO 3200 is towards the limits of the camera’s capability (technically, it can be pushed to ISO 12,800). Give your subject lots of light and the camera will perform miracles, but here the foreground and the tree are either in darkness or lit by the dying embers in a fire some 50 metres away.
Can you see noise and grain? Yep! Do I like it? Yep – I think the image has a really great painterly feeling to it. Is it technically perfect? Who cares! In terms of communicating the amazing stars you see in Australia’s Red Centre, and the enjoyment of camping out in a swag, I think the resulting image does an admirable job. So I’m happy!
There was a colour difference between the top of the tree and the bottom of the tree (see photo above), so I added in a Local Adjustment and adjusted the colour of the top of the tree to match the bottom. Not exactly sure why there was a colour difference in the first place (possibly tall grasses filtering the light from the fire), but it was easy to fix.
Next, I added a second Local Adjustment to lighten the foreground, putting in some detail that doesn’t deserve to be there. It was a 76 second exposure, so the grasses have moved in the evening breeze, but as a descriptive image, I am happy with this.
Peter Eastway’s passion is undoubtedly for landscape photography, but he is equally comfortable with portraiture, advertising and travel. He is currently an AIPP Grand Master of Photography, one of only a dozen in Australia and earned from a career spanning over 30 years.