Fitzroy Falls and the Milky Way (Astro-photography)

distanbach-Fitzroy Falls-2

I’m back!

Well, all I can say is that its been a while. I could try to contrive a bit of a sob story but to be honest, my time has just been divided amongst too many things. Work, family, friends, photo business… it can be a delicate balancing act sometimes, can’t it? If you’ve managed to keep everything ticking along sweetly since the start of 2014, all power to you, my hat’s off in your honour.

Fitzroy Falls

Today, I’ve decided to share a few shots I took when we went down to the Southern Highlands (about a 2 hour drive south of Sydney) for a quick break over the January holidays. Its rural, quiet, and just plain pretty. Just the place when you want to get away from the bright lights of the city and re-connect with the land. The shot’s featured here were taken at Fitzroy Falls lookout. Granted, we hadn’t had much rain and the falls weren’t exactly gushing, but the view towards Kangaroo Valley and beyond is quite special and typical of the Australian bushland around here.

The panoramic shot below has been processed quite heavily. It was mid morning when I was there and the sun was just too bright and high creating harsh shadows. You can also see that the image has been split toned, de-saturated and has had a lot of dodging and burning done in order to bring out the rock face and reveal deep shadows. Colour wise, I quite like this treatment… I think. I’ve included the reference image prior to the colour adjustments as this is what the scene looks more like to the naked eye.

Incidentally, this panorama comprises 5 images which were shot handheld in portrait position. They were stitched together in Photoshop, before being brought back into Lightroom for editing. I haven’t done much photo stitching before, but was quite happy with how this turned out. When shooting, I overlapped each image by about third so the final image wouldn’t be too distorted.

distanbach-Fitzroy Falls pano-2



distanbach-Fitzroy Falls pano-1Above: Same image, processed differently. Personally, I like the top one better when viewed individually (not side-by-side as its presented here). The colours are closer to what the vista actually looks like in the bottom image.

distanbach-Fitzroy Falls BW-1Above: Single frame, given the B&W treatment. I’ve dodged the rock face quite a bit in this shot to increase the contrast between the foliage and land mass. Not quite how I envisioned but getting there. 

First Attempt: Astro-Photography lessons (from a beginner)

In my opening I mentioned escaping the bright lights of the city for out little family getaway. Our first night at Kangaroo Valley afforded me the opportunity to try some night/astro photography. It was fun to experiment and think about a different technique. Some lessons I learnt from my opening attempt:

  • Set camera to Bulb mode and use a shutter release/remote to trigger the exposure. You need things as still a possible.
  • The trick is not having the shutter open for too long that you start to get light trails from the stars.
  • Anything much longer than 30 seconds and the stars start to smudge a bit due to the earths rotation.
  • To compensate for the relatively short shutter speed, I had to crank my ISO up to 3200.
  • The ‘noise’  (digital static in the final image) that the Canon 7D produces is significant at this higher ISO setting but the faint light from the stars makes its necessary.
  • Clean up as much ‘noise’ when you edit your image later on the computer.

distanbach-Kangaroo Valley-Milky WayAbove:  I figured this old caravan would provide some nice foreground interest to this shot. I illuminated it by painting it in light from the glowing screen on my iPhone (not the torch – that’s way too bright!).

distanbach-Milky WayAbove: The Milky Way; as seen from the southern hemisphere.

Cheers guys, its good to be back again 🙂 Need to catch-up on some lovely comments/replys next.



For people who prefer to view the images in the full screen carousel, click on an image below. I’ve repeated all the shots above in this slideshow viewer.



5 Comments Add yours

  1. drawandshoot says:

    Your first attempt at astro photography is great, Distan!
    Beautiful photographs., and I think you do excellent processing.


    1. Distan Bach says:

      Thanks Karen. When I look back on my catalogue of photos over the last 5 years I can see the changes in my ability to post-process images. While I’m not denying its essential to try and get it right in-camera, you can almost always improve the RAW image. I kind of liken it cooking – the RAW image file is a bit like looking at all the ingredients for a meal on the kitchen bench top; its not until they’ve been chopped up and cooked with love and attention that those ingredients become that beautiful meal. The more knowledge and expertise you have, the better the dinner.


  2. V-Light says:

    Welcome back Distan! 🙂 Well, i’m certainly not any better when it comes to using my time as i should and i certainly suck at multitasking, so i keep disappearing every now and then without any real dramatic reason. Don’t worry, you are fine 🙂 I’m glad you’re back though and this is a very nice post and lovely photos! I find astro photography very appealing but unfortunately it’s hard to find a place that’s not light polluted in my area. I kinda envy such shots and yours are still very nice even though you are only a beginner as you say :p Nice job!


  3. Distan Bach says:

    Cheers Alex, your words of encouragement are much appreciated by this procrastinator :-). I know what you mean about the light pollution. Its just impossible to do night shots in an urbanised city. Having said this, I remember as a kid being able to see sooooo much more at night. The Milky Way was clearly visible and it wasn’t dissimilar to the shots above. Sydney’s population has increased so much in the last 35 years that now you can really only make out the brightest stars and nothing else. Its one of the great things about getting out of town – being able to see the skies and those distant galaxies.
    It was lucky I had a crack at these shots when I did too. The other nights we were away it was just too cloudy or hazy that these photo’s wouldn’t of been possible.


  4. Trifocal says:

    Like these, especially the astro shots. Like V-Light I do nor have easy access to a really dark area, and in the UK there are not too many very clear nights 🙂


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