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