Desert Oasis


Thomas was a bit late to the game. Uluru is great. The Olgas are a bit better, and local trails had previously topped the charts. But the new reigning champion of cool stuff I’ve seen in Central Oz is a place called Palm Valley. Directions: Go to Hermannsburg. Go a little farther and take a left. Keep going. Cool sights? Don’t stop. Continue to the end.


A boring road, but exciting scenery the entire journey. I’ve tried a bit of an ’S’ curve here, I could’ve pulled out a little more though (heh), it’s almost straining a little too much against the confines of the frame.

Enough about that one, here’s this one:


This was one of the crags in the walls. Higher up, my Nikon 200-400mm f/4 got me the reach I needed. 300mm, ISO 400, f/4, 1/160 sec. I’m not a fan of the fecal matter painting the rocks on the left, but maybe that just adds to the charm of it… can’t have anything too nice, can we? 

It had water, which may have been what made it so magical. I've gotten word that without water, the experience was lacking. As it was, I was slack jawed by the natural beauty the entire time. It was fun with a slightly technical 4x4 track to boot. The amount of colors was amazing, the blues of the sky, reds of the rock, yellows and greens of the brush and trees…. reflections of it all in pools of water. 


This, with the 85mm at f/1.4, is a shot that I really wished I’d been better at getting. I’ve cut off the left of the puddle, and in the shots where I’d gotten all of it (or enough), I had changed my perspective to get more of the sky… it ended up trivializing the main subject. I’ve cropped the above image to be more balanced, but I’m still missing that major part of the left.


Changing perspective is always something you have to consider, getting lower is a good rule of thumb to improving your shot (as it brings the viewer to a vantage point they normally don’t see), but in this case, I needed to consider what it was doing to my subject. It was only in post that I realized how big an impact it had on the shot. 

Here’s another shot where I was trying to play with the idea and composition, but an appropriate subject was lacking:


You can see that I’m obviously trying to use that leading line/’S’ curve of the grass in the crack of the rock… But your eye is lead to a dead plant. Hooray! Interesting subjects make for interesting photographs. Besides getting a shot that falls on its face, I also enjoy seeing where I’ve tried to use something for my own gain. I get to see my progression, and looking back, I can usually improve with what I’ve learned since. I’ll see this one when I try for something similar in the future. I guess what you can pull out of this is the balance of what was intended to be a good subject. The reverse question mark leads and curves into the frame. There’s enough breathing room for the sky. and the would-be subject is centered with enough space on either side (notice the slight bit of leading room where the question mark ends?)

I feel like I keep going on about these tiny little smidgens of changes, little bits of balance here and there… same thing repeated over and over. I need to change it up… I’ve gotten into a rut with the centered framing and images that are too 2D. But at least for this portion of my style, it’s the stuff that I really enjoy, or that comes out more akin to how I imagine it… it’s the smaller and more minuscule details and modifications that make larger and larger differences in my work. Refining, whittling away at the parts that don’t belong, simplifying. I’ve done a pretty decent job at that I think, I’ve had a minimalistic style for most of my stuff recently, but I want to start building photographs that have more than one story, that are dynamic and flowing and aren’t just a eye-catcher. People are easy to do that with because of expressions… there’s so much to be told if you can get it right (Not saying I can do it well, just that I see it), but with landscapes or scenes without that human element, it becomes very easy to descend into chaos.

I’ve been wanting to try wide again. Getting some wider angled shots that involve more into the frame.


Not all that grand of a shot, quite drab in all actuality, but I was going for the shape (and kind of desperate to get something with the wide angle) of it all. Weak compositionally, balanced nicely (had a time trying to get the two large gray patches of spinifex in the proper spot for balance), but lacking a real subject… something to draw the eye. Perhaps it needs a splash of color? Anything to hold your eye.

And speaking of shots that really aren’t that great, but are in my ‘put up’ bin because they’re the only ones I have and I need to show something for my efforts, is this damn bird:


So the bird itself is actually sharp, but the background is just atrocious, distractors everywhere! The bird’s basically in a static pose, so there’s no interest there… but I was following that bird, and he’d let me get some ones of him looking bored and walking around, but when I got just barely close enough, his wings would steal him away. Of course the couple shots I had were at too slow a shutter speed for a flying bird at 400mm. I promptly upped the ISO to something that would allow me to keep my shutter speeds over 1/400sec.

Driving home was something of a treat. The sun was setting and I kept racing (okay… maybe not quite ‘racing’ in Sandy) to get a good vantage point of the West Macs as the sun set.


All of them were quite far away, so the 200-400mm stayed on. 300mm is the magic focal length for that lens… for anything near infinity focus. It softens quite a bit when you go above that. It’s a common problem with this lens, and I knew it when I got it, but there’s always some way to make it work ;). This photo is another gently hued shot. Not as eye grabbing as the red rocks at the top, but soothing and pleasant to look at. ISO 400, 1/320sec, f/4. The two taller bushes in the foreground control the composition, they act as stops for where your eye wants to travel while giving the frame balance.


I did particularly like this stretch of road. The newer asphalt on the edges creates a pattern as well as more leading lines. This late in the afternoon and heat waves are nonexistent. 200mm, 1/200sec, ISO 400, f/4.

Time traveling to the beginning of the day. I was in a cave. I’m mildly claustrophobic and it took me a good five minutes of sitting, willing myself to crawl into that space where the crushing weight of the land above could crumble and pin me somewhere with quickly dwindling air and no way out. Not only did I have to get myself through there, but my camera bag and tripod as well. Two trips.

Steeling my resolve, I cautiously pushed myself forward. Like a wall, the air of the cave was a physical, stale resistance that I had to accept. Just like that, outside air one moment, and cave air the next. This was Thomas’ first time under the earth. 

Inside, it opened up enough for me to stand up, it was larger than I had thought. Shining the light around, I saw rocks, candles, lines of string reminding me of  Theseus and the labyrinth. A little unnerved, I went ahead and started exploring. There was a little group of bats smaller than the palm of my hand, but they took flight when my light hit them.

Basically it was a little creepy, and I finally went through another couple of caves until I found a suitably far enough spot. I sat down. 

I turned off the light, and sat there. 

Zero light. But you could feel the wisps of wind as the bats flew inches from my face… could hear them through the air as the swept right by me… It was incredible. I don’t like tight spaces, but I do love the dark. It was surreal, just there, perspiring ever so slightly, and enjoying the depth of it all. I don’t know if I’ll be going back there any time soon, but that isolation/deprivation was something to behold. I think I sat there for a good 30 minutes just taking it all in. 

Finally I relinquished myself from the dark’s hold.


That goes down at a steep angle. No thanks cave, I’ll stick with spot here. I also tried different ISO’s with varying lengths of time. There was no light… I can work with very minimal, but no light got me diddly. I left after a time, and went back to find the bats… they wouldn’t stay still for me to assault them with the 200-400mm (yes, inside a cave, muahahahaha) I was going with the SB-900 using the focus beam to help if I were to get something in frame. Nothing happened. I left.

Still, an interesting start to a pleasant day. 

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