Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.

Surfing with the Paparazzi

My last day in Sydney was June 11th, and I only had half the day before heading to the airport for my flight. I decided to check out the world-famous Bondi Beach, renowned for its surfing.

Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia

The waves weren’t massive, but they were big enough for a few of the better guys to get some serious air!

Surfer at Bondi Beach

While I was snapping away I met a fellow photographer who was taking some pics of the surfers. Turns out he was a paparazzi, and was shooting the surfers as “cover,” because Ewan MacGregor was in town. The guy thought Ewan might come to Bondi Icebergs club for lunch. Hah!

Surfer at Bondi Beach

This hard left turn into the oncoming face of the wave was a big favorite. Maybe a surfer can enlighten me on what that’s called, if there’s a fancy name for the trick?

Surfer trick at Bondi Beach

You can see “WTF!?” quite clearly in the body language of the older guy in the bottom half of the shot. “Don’t run me over, dude!”

Surfer trick at Bondi Beach

Sometimes you eat the wave, and sometimes the wave eats you.

Surfer wipeout at Bondi Beach

One last carve across the top of a breaking wave…

Surfer trick at Bondi Beach

And I’m out! Tomorrow, it’s back to New Zealand, where the first stop is Waitomo Caves to check out the glowworms. Has anyone ever seen one?

Bondi Beach, Australia with CPL

Posted 7 years, 5 months ago at 3:20 pm.

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Wildlife in the Big City

On June 10th, I went for the triple extra super bonus pass: only $50 AUD to see the Aquarium in Darling Harbor, visit Wildlife World (right next to the Aquarium), and go up the Tower in the center of town.

Considering how expensive everything is in Sydney, it’s really not a bad deal.

The aquarium is quite good, and has two massive habitats that you can see from beneath, walking in Plexiglas tunnels. Here are a couple of my better photos. The first is a favorite meal of mine (sorry, veg friends), the “uncooked calamari,” also known as squid.

Squid in Sydney Aquarium

Next up is a tank with nothing I’d eat, though one might eat me if I were just a wee bit smaller. <bad Scottish accent> “Eh, he kinda looks like a baby!” </bad Scottish accent>

Shark and small fishies in Sydney Aquarium

Wildlife World has a LOT of terrariums and small habitats for snakes, insects, etc. There are a few large habitats for kangaroos, koalas, and birds, but remember this is a city-center zoo. It was cool to see the most poisonous snakes and spiders in the world, which are (of course) native to Australia. But, they were asleep and hard to see, so don’t expect too much there. Baby crocs are a lot more photogenic:

Baby Crocodile in Sydney Wildlife World

And one of the koalas was actually not asleep! If you’ve ever seen koalas at a zoo, you know how hard it is to get a picture of one with its eyes open.

An AWAKE Koala in Sydney Wildlife World

Next I headed to the tower. I’ll have to do another post about that, because I have so many fantastic pictures. But here are just a few of the best night time pictures. First up, Darling Harbor. On the near side of the channel are the Aquarium and Wildlife World; on the far side is the Maritime Museum (just to the right of the bridge).

Darling Harbor at night from Sydney Tower

Here is a nice view of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, with some tall (and beautifully lit) business-looking buildings on the far side:

Sydney Harbor Bridge at Night

I’ll cap it off with this bridge. I kept asking people for days, “where is that signature Sydney bridge I’ve seen in photos? No, it’s NOT the Harbor Bridge…” Well, I believe it’s called the ANZAC bridge, and it’s near Darling Harbor. The tower gave me the best view I had of it.

ANZAC Bridge at night from Sydney Tower

How to take night photos from a glassed in tower:

  • Take a tripod. If you don’t have one, or they don’t allow them, just forget taking pictures anywhere near this good. You might get some decent ones if you can brace your camera against a railing, but it’s magnitudes below this quality.
  • Put the lens right up against the glass if at all possible. This reduces the reflections quite a bit. I suggest having a UV filter on your D-SLR (if you have one), though anyway it’s not really possible for the lens glass to touch the window unless you have a super fisheye.
  • Use some kind of cloth or shirt (black color!) to help reduce reflections. For most of these photos, I was pressing my black Smartwool sweater against the glass, letting the cloth hang down over the camera. If I saw reflections in a photo, I’d reposition the sweater to eliminate them and try the shot again. This is critical, because there are MANY reflections off the things behind you inside the tower. They WILL all screw up your shot.
  • For exposure: use a low ISO (100-400) for sharp details and low noise. Use the “S” or shutter priority mode where you choose the shutter-open time. Lower times (5-10s) are usually OK, go for 15-30 if you want maximum car taillight trails on the streets.
  • I use incandescent white balance setting, since it is a good balance between all the different types of lights on in a city.
  • Lastly: use the camera’s timer for every shot! Even with a tripod, your finger on the button will move the camera slightly. If you set the timer (even just for 2s), the camera will have time to stabilize after your hand leaves the button.

Happy nighttime shooting! Let me know if you have any other questions about night shots – it’s really a fun way to experiment with any D-SLR or even an advanced pocket camera.

Posted 7 years, 5 months ago at 3:06 pm.

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What a Manly Day!

Based on a Manly article by a fellow blogger, I put the Manly Scenic Walkway on my must-do list when in Australia. Manly is not only a state of being, but also a district outside of Sydney. The first thing that struck me when I arrived on June 9th was this:

The First White Man at Manly

Aussies are definitely not as “PC-scared” as Americans. I like that! Although it must be said: the 1928 sentiment of this plaque is a bit outdated, when you look at how the Aborigines were treated.

The Manly Scenic Walkway is about 10km, and passes through a great park in the middle. I saw lots of native plants I never even knew existed, along with quite a few local birds, lizards, and other animals. Absolutely a must for nature lovers.

Australian Bird

If the tide is low enough, you can walk along the beach in several areas and look into some cool tidal pools. A CPL (circular polarizing filter) helps reduce reflections when taking photos of them.

Aquatic Life in a Tidal Pool

I’m not sure what this flower is called, but apparently it’s very tasty to the local bees.

A Bee on some Australian Flowers

I was expecting to see more lizards, but then I realized: it’s winter! Most of them must be hiding below-ground when it’s cold and windy out. This guy braved the elements to catch a few rays in a wind-sheltered spot.

An Australian Lizard in Manly

Around Manly there are more sailboats than I’ve ever seen in one place (except perhaps Starnberger See in Germany).

Sailboats near Manly

And at Manly Beach you can see lots of surfers, or try it yourself if you want to catch a few waves. Definitely wetsuit weather in June when I was there snapping photos.

A Surfer catches a wave at Manly Beach

As you can see, Manly has a bit of everything. I even had a great fish & chips: grilled salmon instead of the standard fried whitefish! So, the next time you’re in Sydney, put Manly on your list of places to see. Especially if you’re a nature lover like me.

Posted 7 years, 5 months ago at 3:32 pm.

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Bats in the Daytime, and Sydney at Night

Strangely enough, the best time to see bats in Sydney is the middle of the day. They all sleep in the park! Apparently it’s a big problem, because they damage the trees they roost in.

Bats on a tree in Sydney Botanical Gardens

I took some photos for a friend in the hostel on June 8th, and thought I’d share them here as well. These are some seriously huge bats!

Sleepy bats in Sydney Botanical Gardens

I didn’t expect too much when a few bats took to the air. But my trusty Nikon D90 and 18-200mm VR did not disappoint. With a fast shutter and a bit of cropping, I managed to get this.

A flying bat in the daylight at Sydney Botanical Gardens

Okay, now that your skin is crawling, I’ll drop it down a notch. (Sorry, Emeril). Here’s what else I’ve got for today. I’m gonna say the bokeh has blurred this kid’s face enough for privacy. “What you doin’ on my walkway, mate?”

Some bird looking at a kid in Sydney Olympic Park

Now for the night shots! I’ll just put a few of the best ones. All are long exposures requiring a tripod, with ISO of 400 or lower to avoid noise. Here’s the Sydney Opera House, lit up on the side facing Circular Quay. The colors are projected in an ever-changing video.

Sydney Opera House lit up at night

Majestic downtown Sydney:

Downtown Sydney as seen from Macquarie's Point

And finally a nice combination of the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge.

Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge at night

If you’re interested in how to take nighttime photos, check some other articles on the blog where I explain a bit about it (e.g. Paris at Night). There will also be a post up shortly about night pics taken from Sydney Tower. Or just leave a comment on this post and I’ll do my best to answer your question!

Posted 7 years, 5 months ago at 3:06 pm.

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Sydney – Thick & Creamy

I really don’t know who had the idea for this “Brokeback” yogurt ad. Needless to say, the Aussie sense of humor must be pretty good if you can post an ad like this on a billboard.

"Brokeback Mountain" yogurt ad in Australia - Thick & Creamy

I continued June 7th in the Botanical Gardens, which has fantastic flora and curious fauna (and I don’t mean this aphid – more on strange park animals tomorrow).

A rose in the Sydney Botanical Gardens

From there I continued around to Mrs. Macquarie’s Point, where one can take great pictures of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the world-renowned Opera House with its beautiful “sails.”

Sydney Opera House from Mrs. Macquarie's Point

I’ll also have shots of the bridge tomorrow, perhaps at night… mu-hahaha.

Another fantastic and much-overlooked attraction in Sydney is the Chinese Garden. This was built in cooperation with a Chinese sister city (which one, I can’t remember).

Dragons in the Sydney Chinese Garden

Admission is only $6, making the Chinese Garden perhaps the cheapest activity in all of Sydney, besides throwing a penny in the talking-dog fountain by the Queen Victoria Building. (Wait… they’ve eliminated the penny… smart Aussies! Let’s make it 5c.)

Tomorrow: strange animals and a few nighttime pictures! Sign up with the orange RSS or Email buttons in the left sidebar to read more.

Posted 7 years, 5 months ago at 3:10 pm.

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