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Archive for February, 2015

At the turn of the 19th century, the Hill 50 gold mine near Mt Magnet in Western Australia was the dominant mine in the area. It was regarded as a mine which would last forever. Through good times and bad, depressions and boom, its fortunes ebbed and waned. From it decline during the war years it raised itself back up to be Australia’s most profitable mine in the late 1950s.

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When Hill 50 closed in 1976, it had produced 1.4 million ounces of gold from 3.6 million tonnes of ore for a value of A$700 million.

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The once proud head frame stood silent witness as a procession of new owners tried their fortune.

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The years have seen the surrounding landscape torn apart in the relentless quest for gold until only a small island of what once was, remained.

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When the moon was full it was sometimes possible to glimpse the phantom miners as they started their shift and hear the strained protests of the old winder as it hauled it’s ghostly ore from the dark recesses below.

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Truly a piece of Australian mining history and a testament to the dogged determination and pioneering spirit of those that came before us.

So today……..

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    We blew it up!

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_EBT4769I spent a couple of nights up at Nanga Brook near Dwellingup (about an hour and a half south of Perth).  Tall trees, cool night air and solitude right on the banks of the Murray River.

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Nanga Brook runs throught the old township and in the late afternoon the chorus of birds and light playing off the water makes it a wonderfully peaceful place.

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Nothing is more frustrating than trying to photograph wildlife in the early morning or late afternoon and finding there’s just not enough light to get a sharp shot. Unless whatever you’re photographing is happy to sit and pose the result is usually blurred to some extent.

Much as I love my 150-500mm lens its maximum f6.3 aperture makes it pretty slow (meaning it doesn’t let a lot of light in and a slower shutter speed has to be used).

Pumping up the ISO is always an option but noise then starts to become an issue.

The other option is using a flash. The trouble you run into here is that flashes tend to scatter light over a wide area (even in telephoto mode) and have a fairly limited range. This is where the flash extender comes into play.

better-beamerA flash extender is exactly what it claims to be, a device that extends the range of your flash. There are numerous different types available and probably the best known of these is the ‘Better Beamer’. If you live in the US they’re reasonably cheap at around US$40 but I couldn’t find anywhere here to get one and to have one sent over was going to cost US$120 or more so I decided to do some research and make my own.

fresnel_lens_groovesTurns out to make a flash extender all you need is a housing to fit on your flash and a ‘Fresnel’ lens. Now I had no idea what a Fresnel lens was but a quick Google search enlightened me that this exotic sounding device is actually the thin magnifying plastic you can get at most stationary stores.

_EBT2158I decided to knock up a rough version first to see if it worked before I got too excited. Using a piece of lens out of an old ruler I had in a drawer, a couple of bits of cardboard and some sticky tape I had one ready to test drive in about 5 minutes. I estimated the distance to put the Fresnel lens in front of the flash by using it to focus on an object and then measuring the distance between the object and the lens.

This first attempt taught me not to have the lens at the correct focus distance in front of the flash because it does two things. Firstly it will cast a shadow of the concentric rings of the lens._EBT2124

Secondly, it focused the flash beam way too much. Now you might think that a good thing, but remember that you have to try and line up the, now very narrow, flash beam with your distant subject and your camera lens. Might be OK if your subjects not moving and you have the luxury of having a few shots to adjust it and get it right.

_EBT2143So I experimented with progressively shortening the length of the housing extender back until I got the result I was happy with. (I’m sure there are more scientific methods of achieving this)._EBT2144

Once I was happy with the prototype I bought an A4 sheet of Fresnel lens on eBay for $3 and used some old photo matting (strong but easy to cut) to make the housing. Glued it all together and then wrapped it in some cloth tape to add more strength.

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The end result was a complete success.  The photos illustrate the effect of the extender

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no flash

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on camera flash (SB700) in telephoto mode

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with Flash Extender

 

 

 

 

This shot was taken at dawn using the extender, the cockatoo was 25m (82ft) up in the tree, not bad for a $3 extender.

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Dubai - Dubai Mall 002        One thing that can’t be disputed is that Dubai has some amazing shopping centres.

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I mean who hasn’t thought at some point “You know what? While I’m down the shops picking up the paper and some bread I wouldn’t mind a spot of skiing or maybe a quick whizz around the ice rink”.

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Or maybe a roam through the aquarium while waiting for the hairdresser.

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and who could say no to a life size Predator?  I would so like to sneak him into the kids room in the middle of the night and leave him by their bed.

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and if you’re wondering how big they are…. let’s just say big enough to have their own in store taxi service 🙂

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Bali’s Ugliest Dog

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I’m not a big fan of neck straps on cameras as a rule.  They seemed to be genetically programmed to snag on everything and always at the worst possible time.  They flap about in the wind and cause camera shake on long exposures and just generally get in the way!  _EBT4001

My usual preference is to carry my camera in my hand and for this I find a wrist strap more convenient.

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However neck straps do have their place, I’d hate to try and lug my 500mm lens around one handed for any length of time and there are plenty of situations when having two fee hands is a bonus if not a necessity.

The trouble is, straps are like lenses, I always seem to be changing them to suit the given situation and taking them off or changing them is not a simple task.  The Nikon straps weave through buckles and loops and then back upon themselves, all very secure, but also time consuming, especially if you have fat fingers and limited dexterity like me.

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So recently I struck upon a solution.  I bought a couple of small clips off eBay for a grant total of $4 and attached them to the end of both my neck and wrist straps.  Now changing or removing the straps only takes a couple of seconds.  Wish I’d thought of it years ago.

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