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Lunar eclipse in Sydney

The total lunar eclipse of 26 May 2021 was visible from here in Sydney in the late evening. The weather was nice and clear, so I set up my camera to take a few photos.

Lunar eclipse 2021-05-26

The moon is quite a small photographic target – smaller than many of the birds I photograph at the distances that I get to them. You really need a telescope to photograph the moon with good detail, but I made do with a 400 mm lens. Focusing is also difficult, because a tiny adjustment of the lens causes a relatively large adjustment in focus for objects at extreme distances.

Lunar eclipse 2021-05-26

Exposure is also tricky for the moon. Normally for a subject as dark as the eclipsed moon, you would take a long exposure, of maybe 30 seconds or so. But in 30 seconds the moon moves across the sky by an appreciable amount, and the resulting photo would be dominated by motion blur. So instead I raised the ISO speed and set the exposure to a maximum of one second. Even at one second, you can see some motion blur in the stars caused by the rotation of the Earth, but it’s not so obvious on the moon itself. This is where a telescope with star tracking motor would be able to do a lot better than a camera on a tripod.

Lunar eclipse 2021-05-26

So I got some decent shots, but nothing as good as you could get with a dedicated astronomical telescopic camera. Still, it was fun!

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Capturing the clouds

Yesterday the sky here put on a spectacular show, with streaky, wispy cirrus clouds covering it from horizon to horizon.

Cirrus clouds over Sydney

The view was so amazing and beautiful that I just stood gaping in awe, looking up at the sky.

Cirrus clouds over Sydney

Naturally I stopped to take some photos. I took some of just the sky, to get an abstract feeling with no sense of scale.

Cirrus clouds over Sydney

Then I took some with a bit of foreground for contrast.

Cirrus clouds over Sydney

Cirrus clouds over Sydney

Sometimes it’s good to sit back and just bask in how beautiful our planet is.

Cirrus clouds over Sydney

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Bird photo trip to Mudgee

Last weekend I went on a photographic expedition to the New South Wales town of Mudgee. It was actually combined with a weekend away with my wife and our dog – we’d been planning a trip for April, but had to cancel it when COVID travel restrictions came in, so we were keen to hit the road when the restrictions were lifted.

The weekend was rainy, but I did manage to get a clear morning to visit Putta Bucca Wetlands, which is a wildlife reserve just outside the town. I went before breakfast to get the early morning light. Here’s an Australian raven and a magpie-lark:

Australian raven vs Magpie-lark

A black swan on the lake:

Black swan

A red-browed finch:

Red-browed finch

And a crested pigeon:

Crested pigeon

I think this pigeon was the shot of the trip, and I think I’ll add it to my portfolio of photos available for purchase as prints. So it was a successful trip, both in terms of a relaxing getaway, and for photography!

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Market updates and bird shoot

Things have been very quiet with the current COVID-19 lockdown restrictions here in Sydney. There have been no more market days since my last one on 1 March, as markets have all been cancelled until further notice. I’m looking forward to them coming back, and will be keen to get out there and show off my work.

I also haven’t been able to get out very much to take photos, due to the travel restrictions. But with things loosening up with Stage 1 here in New South Wales, I took a short drive to Warriewood Wetlands yesterday to photograph some birds.

Superb fairywren, non-breeding male

This is a male superb fairywren, in non-breeding plumage. I saw some females too, but didn’t get any very good shots of them. Most of the males were in non-breeding plumage, this relatively dull brown look. But I did find one male who still retained breeding plumage at the end of the autumn as we move into winter:

Superb fairywren, breeding male

Hard to believe this is exactly the same sort of bird, but yes, they moult their feathers between these two colour forms twice a year.

And here’s a nice shot of a Pacific black duck.

Pacific black duck

Hopefully I’ll be able to get out a bit more and take some more photos soon!

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Market closures and sunrise

Unfortunately due to the COVID-19 pandemic, markets here have been closed down. So my last planned market stall on 15 March was cancelled, and it looks like the next one on 19 April will be as well.

This has given me a bit more time to go out and take some photos, and I did another sunrise shoot on Saturday, this time at North Curl Curl ocean pool.

Poodle rock

The pool is situated on a rock shelf, just east of the surf life saving club.

North Curl Curl pool, dawn

I got there well before sunrise, and there was a thin crescent moon in the sky, above where the sun would appear. And yes, as the above photo shows, there is a large rock in the middle of the swimming pool.

Division of water

The pool is separated from the ocean by a concrete wall. The tide was approaching high for the day, and at this time occasional waves crash over the wall and into the pool. The above photo is a long exposure, and the dark patch in the pool on the left is a swimmer.

Heron breakfast time

A white-faced heron flew onto the rock shelf next to the pool, and as I watched it fished a small crab out of the water to eat. I wasn’t quick enough to a get a photo of it eating the crab.

Three worlds

A few minutes later the sun appeared on the horizon and climbed up into the sky. The sky goes from dark to light really quickly in Sydney, and as a photographer you have to adapt, changing exposure rapidly.

Dawn laps

Just a few minutes later I had the camera off the tripod and was taking hand-held shots of early morning swimmers in the pool.

Morning swim class

And not long after that about 50 kids arrived for some sort of swimming class. They all did a few laps of the pool and then ran off again, giving me a chance to get some interesting silhouettes against the rising sun.

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Sunrise photo expedition

On Friday morning I got up early (before 5:30) and headed to Sydney’s Balmoral Beach for a sunrise photo session. I planned to do one of these last weekend, but on the day I had set aside it was raining heavily that morning, so I changed plans.

This time I got to the beach and headed down to a small exposed sandstone rock platform, jutting from the sand into the water. The tide was low – at high tide these rocks would be covered with water. The sky was just beginning to lighten, but unfortunately the cloud cover was not great for sunrise photos:

Edwards dawn

There was a dark, thick band of cloud right on the horizon, and barely any cloud in the nearby sky above. This is exactly the opposite of what you want for shooting a sunrise: a clear horizon for the sun to shine through, and lots of cloud above for the golden and red light to bounce off and set the sky ablaze with colour. Early morning swimmers and joggers appeared on the scene, providing small points of interest for photos. After a while the tide started coming in, so to avoid being stuck on the rocks and having to wade back, I moved back across the sand and took photos from the path behind the beach. You can see the rocks I had been standing on in the middle of this next photo:

First light at Edwards Beach

As the sun continued rising, it became light very quickly. I ditched my tripod (I’d been taking exposures up to 30 seconds long), and walked around, taking some handheld shots.

Morning kayakers

With the sun up and the day beginning, I packed up to head off for the rest of the day. I love getting up early and seeing the world wake up!