Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Fraser Island Photography Tour Better than Books at School

Guest blog and images by Caitlin Allen

15 year old Caitlin is finalising some work experience with Danielle at Bluedog Photography and part of a special treat was a trip to Fraser Island. Here's a few of Caitlin's thoughts:

As a very special treat for my birthday in August 2011, my Mum took me along on the Bluedog Photography Fraser Island Tour.  As part of the group, I learnt a lot of amazing things about photography that helped me create better-looking images by getting to know my camera and being able to take it off ‘auto mode’ and try out lots of different settings, including manual!

Our tutors, Danielle Lancaster and Peter Meyer, were always there to give me advice about the shot I was taking and were very knowledgeable about the wildlife and history of Fraser Island.  This made every day really interesting while I was also learning more on important methods of photography throughout the tour.  In fact, most of the time it didn’t even feel like learning as it was so much fun!   The photographs we took helped me to get a better understanding of the way my camera works and also important aspects of photography including composition, white balance and long exposure shots. 

During the tour we visited a number of well-known places on Fraser Island that were amazing to see and great to photograph, such as McKenzie Jetty, the rainforest, Indian Head and the Eastern Beach.  The Eastern Beach and Indian Head would have to be my favourite places. Then again, there was the whale watching tour, which would also have to be on my favourites list.  These majestic creatures were absolutely awesome to watch as they played around our boat!  We had to make lots of noise so the whales would come closer to check us out, which they did, and it was an amazing thing to be able to photograph them so close.  I am positive it is something I will never forget.

The enthusiasm of Danielle and Peter along with the untouched wilderness on the island, the amazing wildlife and the scenic views we experienced were among the things that have inspired me to keep taking photos and advance my knowledge on the subject.  Oh, and Danielle and Peter are the greatest photographers, tutors and tour guides on the planet!

 Fly's in a Field of Flowers

ISO 320 f9; 1/15th; Focal length 60mm; WB shade
Canon 50D; 18-55mm
This Little bug was the cutest!
The image captures his hair and his eyes sharply while he was walking
around on top of the pretty yellow flower. 

 Emerging Darkness upon the Jetty
ISO 400; f10; 30secs; Focal Length 22mm
Canon 50D; 18-55mm
The Lighting in this shot was amazing as the jetty was painted with a torch light and the colourful leaves in the foreground made an awesome focal point.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Photographing Whales

Yesterday was our last day on Fraser Island and once again the Gods of Fraser smiled upon us. As we boarded the Hervey Bay Whale Watch Quick Cat II with skipper Brian at the helm, a pea soup fog slowly surrounded us. Many on board looked worried but I knew that this was a good sign. I tried to alleviate the group that by the time we motored up to Platypus Bay it should lift and usually after a thick fog the day will have clear blue skies – perfect conditions for whale watching. All we needed now was whales in the bay.

At the Jetty at Kingfisher Bat Resort just before we took off
and the fog in the background got thicker but the light was awesome!
Nikon D3 f13, 1/80th, ISO 200, exp compensation -0.33,
Focal Length 66mm, polariser filter used.

Image by Danielle Lancaster

And whales we had! We stopped counting at 12 and they came right into us so we could almost touch them. They were splendid. Pods of no less than three at a time waved back at us, slapped at the water and passed from one side of the boat to the other (thankfully underneath it) and rolled in just a mere few centimeters under the water right next to us. It was truly another memorable whale watching trip.

How close did they come!
Image by Danielle Lancaster
Nikon D3 f8, 1/640th, ISO 800, exp compensation -0.3,
Focal Length 52mm, polariser filter used.

 We often term it as whale soup!
Can you see the two?
Image by Danielle Lancaster
Nikon D3 f8, 1/320th, ISO 800, exp compensation -0.33,
Focal Length 32mm, polariser filter used.

 Playing to the people:)
They love the interaction and while at first you feel a fool waving
and calling it does make them come to us for a play.
Nikon D3 f8, 1/400th, ISO 800, exp compensation -0.33,
Focal Length 36mm, polariser filter used.
Image by Danielle Lancaster

Platypus Bay, on the north western side of Fraser Island is one of my favourite locations to view humpback whales. The reasons are very simple: it's usually calm, I have never missed seeing numerous whales each time I go out and the numbers each year just keep on growing.

It is hard to imagine we nearly hunted them to extinction and that when whaling in Australia was finally banned in 1963 it was estimated there were only 200 individual Southern Humpback whales left. Numbers are increasing at the rate of 8% to 11% per year. Today it is thought between four to five-thousand humpbacks that pass along the east coast of Australia will venture into Platypus bay.

I was a happy camper and not alone. All on our Bluedog Kingfisher Bay Photography Tour were more than ecstatic and it was a brilliant way to finish off yet another tour. See you next year Brian!

A Couple of Humpback Whale Facts
Whales migrate along the Eastern Coast of Australia from August to October south to the Antarctic with their calves.

Humpback whales belong to the group of mammals called Cetacea. This group includes all of the dolphins, whales and porpoises.

There are two populations of humpback whales in the world, one living in the southern
hemisphere and the other in the northern hemisphere.

Humpback whales are marine mammals and like other mammals they are warm blooded and air breathing. They give birth to live young and their young suckle milk. At some stage of their life they have some hair on their bodies. The humpback calf will suckle up to the rate of 400 to 500 litres a day.

Humpback whales are the fifth largest of all the dolphins and whales - with adults growing up to 15 metres and weighing up to 40 tonnes. A new born calf is around 4.5 metres long and 1.5 tonnes in weight.

A Couple of Whale Photography Tips
Call out and wave to them – yes you will feel silly at first but they do react to us and will come closer to have a look.

Use a polariser.

If you can take two cameras: one with a larger zoom or telephoto lens and another wider lens. I generally use a 500mm and a 24-70mm.

Take the time to enjoy the moment without the camera in front of your face. They are truly incredible creatures!

Shipwrecks, Sand Blows, Scribbles and Scenic Lookouts

Yes I am running a day behind with our Fraser blogs so you’ll all have to wait til tomorrow to hear about our adventures with the humpbacks.

Yesterday, our day exploring the Eastern Beach was a huge day and another that turned out perfect with the weather. Amazing clouds graced the sky; we were treated to a magnificent sunset and had a little birthday party for one of our crew.

After a stop in the Scribbly Gum Forest and another tutorial we headed onto 75 Mile Beach with perfect timing with the outgoing tide making our journey along this designated road an easy drive down to the Pinnacles and its coloured sands. We stopped to capture paper dasies and play games with reflections and at Indian Head where we hiked to the top we were rewarded with sightings of whales, turtles and colourful finches and wrens – the last two had our keen birdo photographers eagerly snapping. 

 Judith, Leah and Caitlyn photographing the Paper Dasies
Image by Danielle Lancaster
Pretty Paper Dasies
Image by Danielle Lancaster

By now the sky was really looking like it may do some ‘trippy’ things for the arvo so we headed back to the Maheno as now the light would be better to capture her sitting silently on the beach.

Did you know that between 1856 and 1935 there have been 23 recorded shipwrecks in Fraser Island waters? Even the island is named after shipwreck victim Eliza Fraser. And we all love a good shipwreck story don’t we?

 The S.S. Maheno
Image by Danielle Lancaster

The S.S. Maheno, which is undoubtedly the most famous and has become a landmark on the island came to grief beaching near The Pinnacles in 1935. Her story is not an overly glamorous one. Built in 1905, it was one of the first turbine-driven steamers. She plied a regular route between Sydney and Auckland until she was commissioned as a hospital ship in Europe during World War One.

In 1935, she and her sister ship the Oonah were sold to Japan for scrap. The rudders of the boats were removed and they were being towed to Japan. When they reached Queensland Waters, a cyclonic storm snapped the tow chain and the Maheno drifted helplessly onto Fraser Island's ocean beach.

During World War Two the wreck was used for air force target practice and the Z Force Special Unit used her to practice with limpet mines prior to the raid on Singapore Harbour. Surprisingly enough she still stands her rusting hull now signposted a no go zone. She does look terrific though when the waves come crashing through and while overcast skies deter many this can present wonderful photographic opportunities. Low tide can offer tremendous reflections especially if the sky turns on a show.

However, I was a little saddened to see some idiot had thought it a must to acknowledge their presence at the site by applying purple paint to her rusting hull. Why oh why is this so?

Why is there a need to do this?
Image by Danielle Lancaster

With the clouds now starting to roll and fluff we went to one of our favourite sand blows on the island. This desolate landscape came alive and soon we were all down low capturing isolated dwarfed trees hanging on by bare roots systems, weathered stumps and sand ripples in what many would consider an almost uninhabitable environment.

Leah and Danielle get down low.
Image by Pete

Time for sunset and Pete and I choose one of our preferred Pandanus Palms that sits on a razor like edge of sand. Thank you once again to the Gods of Fraser as the sky now turned pinks, purples and mauves. To finish off the day’s shooting, well we could not resist and did a little steel wool burning on the beach which soon had the fisherman joining us and relishing the free show. Even a dingo came to see what all the fuss was about.

Sunset on Fraser
Image by Danielle Lancaster

With darkness now around us it was time to head home. We skirted the incoming waves and guided the vehicles along the soft sand of the upper shore line and off the beach once again through Frasers Forest. But the cameras were not away long as we soon came across Echidnas out for their night stroll which afforded us another great opportunity to fine tune some flash photography.

Yes we were tired when we finally arrived at dinner but excited too for it had been a really great day and topped off with a double chocolate Forest cake for our birthday girl. I am sure we all slept very soundly after our adventurous fun-filled day.  

Did you know:
The 158-ton schooner named the Seabelle was one of the first ships to be recorded as lost off Fraser Island after leaving Rockhampton on 7th March 1857.

Rumours abounded about survivors of the Seabelle. A white woman and two white girls were reported to be living with Fraser Island aboriginals. New South Wales authorities commissioned the captain of the Coquett to investigate and he bought to Sydney two young girls who were albino. They were never returned to their parents as he had promised and they died in an institution in Sydney at an early age.

Footnote: I am still on the road so all images straight out of camera.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Fun with Photography in the Rainforest and at the Old Jetty on Fraser Island

What a day! The forest is looking fabulous, the lakes pristine and the weather has been well can I asy it, near perfect!

The unique rainforest on Fraser Island I have always thought to be one of its best hidden secrets. The crystal clear waters silently running along Wanggoolba Creek’s sandy floor once again astonished our group with one telling me it was ‘way cool’ at Central Station. Ancient  Angiopteris ferns, boasting the largest single frond in the world, edge the creek interspersed with palms and rainforest timbers.

The Gods of Fraser once again smiled on us. We had a day of fun with wonderful light.

The giant rainforest timbers caused quite a controversy on Fraser for many years after being discovered in  1842 by Andrew Petrie, a former superintendent of public works in the Brisbane penal colony, when he explored Fraser Island and returned with glowing reports of the abundance and quality of timber that Fraser Island had to offer. Timber as an industry in Queensland was just beginning with massive building ventures planned good supplies were keenly sought. 

 Exquisite fungi in a range of colours grow from the huge rainforest trees.
Image by Danielle Lancaster

Most don’t know that in 1860 Fraser Island was gazetted as an Aboriginal reserve only to revoked two years later when the value of its timber was realised.

Logging operations started on the island near Wanggoolba Creek in 1863 when John Yankee Jack Piggot, a brash, red-haired American timber cutter, harvested kauri pines. These pines were rafted up the Mary River to the Maryborough mill.

As you could imagine timber getting and European settlement caused many conflicts with the Aboriginal people.  A significant turn came with the tragic clubbing to death of John Piggot in 1864. Logging was halted on the island until 1868 when the first bullocks were brought in to haul logs. These timbers were far too valuable to leave alone and logging soon spread across the rainforest of the island.

Interestingly enough while we are on a little history, the first reafforestation scheme in Queensland occurred on Fraser Island during 1883-84 with the planting of 28,000 kauri pine seedlings among heavy scrub. Unfortunately the planting was not successful as kauri pines are not shade tolerant.

The timber industry grew and grew. Tramways were laid, camps set up, villages appeared, even schools were built. Thousands and thousands of acres were purchased for the right to log.

Tallowwood and blackbutt were the most highly sought after timber species. Denser hardwoods were also harvested and as these could not be floated to the mainland, the logs were punted on barges to the mills.

 Macro lenses were given a work out in the pretty rainforest today.
Image by Danielle Lancaster

The magnificent satinay trees, prior to 1925, had not been popular as they were regarded as too soft for hardwood and too hard for softwood; however the timber was found to be resistant to white ant, borer and fire and the close texture of the wood and beautiful lustre when polished made it became popular for cabinet making. Fraser’s satinay timber even made its way to the lining of the Suez Canal and the London Docks.

During the 1980s the State Government came under increasing pressure from conservation groups to halt logging on Fraser Island. Logging finally ceased after recommendations from a Commission of Inquiry with Mr Gerald E.(Tony)Fitzgerald as Chairman in 1991. Thankfully not everything was felled.

Today we visited Pile Valley which has the tallest of the Satinay and brush box on the island. Pretty Wanggoolba Creek and Central Station where there are still remnants left over from the heady timber getting days.

Of course Lake McKenzie was on the list, where sadly the best tree to photograph has been placed behind a wire fence to protect it from human impact. We still had fun playing with the light reflecting in its clear waters, the colourful reeds and tiny sun dews.

And to finish off it was to McKenzie’s Jetty – well what remains of it. Mr H. McKenzie was a big timber merchant who invested a lot of money and time in Fraser’s timber industry and this jetty is an absolute gem at sunset.

White Balance was one of the many tools we played with here. To this day I just don’t understand why more don’t use it. Acquiring the image colour balanced or fairly close in camera has to be a bonus.

The graduated filters also came out and then a little light painting. All in all a fun filled day. Thank you to the Gods of Fraser Island! 

25 second exposure on Nickon D3 then leaves and jetty painted with torch light.
Image by Danielle Lancaster

Did you Know: There are stands of Kauri Pines dating to more than 200 years old that call the Yidney Scrub, to the north and inland of Happy Valley, home.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

We are back on Fraser Island!

I get to travel a lot, however Fraser still ranks in my top 10 places on Earth to visit. There is just an exceptional ‘thing’ here and to me it is so special to accompany people to the island to discover some of our secret photography haunts.

Fraser Island stretches over 123 along the southern coast of Queensland, and is the largest sand island in the world. The whole island was inscribed on the World Heritage List: “in recognition of its natural values as an outstanding example representing significant ongoing ecological and biological
processes and as an example of superlative natural phenomena”. It is indeed a extraordinary place formed from the shifting of sands over the last 700,000 years.

While on tour we stay at Kingfisher Bay Resort. Why did we pick this resort for our abode? Well as some of you may know we here at Bluedog are trying very hard to be green, clean and eco-friendly. Kingfisher Bay Resort is a leading example of eco-tourism. Their dedication to environmental tourism has been recognised by receiving 32 Australian and international awards for development, architecture, and environmental tourism since opening their doors in 1992.

All the resort buildings are deliberately set below the tree line – you can’t even see them from the jetty when you arrive. They are leaders in energy efficiency: the building’s design, use of low energy bulbs and room key shut-off systems is estimated to save 855,000 kW hours of electricity per year!

Add to that all paper, glass, aluminium, tin and plastics are recycled. There’s an on-site worm farm turning sewage sludge, waste paper and kitchen preparation scraps into compost for the herb garden plus other waste minimisation, green purchasing and green product programs complete their environmental program. Not bad for a resort that welcomes thousands per year.

Anyway back to the tour. After arriving on the ferry we all checked in and headed for lunch at the Sand Bar. Your packs were handed out, the fun daily ‘challenges’ revealed, questions answered and already we are all sharing jokes and laughing a lot. Something tells me this is going to be a great group to tour with.

During lunch we talked about a few of Pete and my tips for their next few days including looking after our gear – sand can be disastrous to our gear, salt water worse but with a little care and attention we can make sure our gear is in top shape when we return . Tomorrow we head in land exploring the forests and lakes with sunset at the old McKenzie jetty.

One of our tips here to the group was to take the time to look for the finer details in the forest, textures and patterns and the way the light is falling through the foliage. This tiny fungi below was smaller than my pinky finger hidden by the base of a tree along Wanggoolba Creek. Many would have missed it.

Taken on Nikon D3 with a 105mm macro lens
Image by Danielle Lancaster

After lunch while the others got to have a little relax time to explore the resort, Pete and I went and completed all our paper work for the vehicles and permits to transport our crew around the island over the next two days.

So it’s almost time for me to head on down and meet them all now to photograph sunset across the Sandy Strait and enjoy our complimentary welcome drinks at the jetty hut before our dinner and presentation by Pete and myself later tonight.

The clouds are looking like it’s going to be a good one. The wind is down and the sand is warm. It’s so good to be back on Fraser!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Spring Specials

Spring is just around the corner and for a few of us, including myself I will be glad to see winter on its way out. So what’s new and what’s hot for Spring?

Here’s a few we have found that raised our interest.

The Compact Courier 80 offers a 2-bags-in-1 solution for the Sony® NEX series Worn over the shoulder or across your body, packed with a camera with 18-55mm attached lens, plus a pancake/16mm lens. In addition, remove the inner Mini Quick Case and carry your camera with just the attached 16mm lens for a minimal approach. The built-in leash tethers to your camera strap, securing the Mini Quick Case to the camera while wearing and shooting.  RRP: $52.00 and available in stores now
Souls Massage Thongs, Australia’s own massage shoes, are celebrating their 10 year anniversary! To mark this achievement, Souls are releasing a brand new range of styles and vibrant colours, available in September. With thongs designed for adults and grommets, there’s something for the whole family!
Using therapeutic massage “bubbles”, the foot-bed of Souls Massage Thongs moulds to your feet as you walk and the masseur bubbles act as pressure points to massage your feet and stimulate blood flow with every step.
Sounds good to us!
For more info:
Air Asia
Fares from Gold Coast to Kuala Lumpur for only $199! Perfect timing for the Bluedog Photography Cambodia Tour in 2012!!

Bluedog Photography Spring Specials!
During SPRING, book and pay for any TWO workshops  and receive 10% off both workshops!!
*Only valid for workshops booked and paid together and taken in Spring – September, October and November 2011 - redemption vouchers not acceptable.

Bluedog School Holiday Specials!
Children enter for free on our Gold Coast @ Dusk Session when they accompany a paying participant at SkyPoint on the 12th September!

Bluedog Photography Father’s Day vouchers valid for 12 months!
Order and pay for a Father’s Day Bluedog Photography Voucher and the voucher will have an extended six months of availability! Shopping made easy. Simply email us at

Watch our Facebook Group for more Spring Specials!

The view from SkyPoint!
New iPhone Apps! 
Create that cool Retro look for Free, with Pixlr-o-matic, a new'ish, easy to use app, retro effect photo app from Autodesk Inc*, that lets you take or load a photo on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, and then apply any of the 25 predefined film effects, 30 light effects, or 31 frames, through a simple interface, and then save at full resolution, and all for free.

Is Retro Back with this new free App?

: The Language of Flowers
Over 30,000 flowers and blooms on show!
David Jones welcomes the arrival of spring with the annual flower show, (now in its 26th year) running from 1-11 September 2011 at their Elizabeth h Street Store in Brisbane.
For more info:

Kenita Dreaming Stay – Lord Howe Island
Enjoy 4 nights of blissful escape at Capella including one bonus night (Stay 4, Pay 3). Find the perfect picnic spot, savour an Island-inspired BBQ lunch pack (including premium wine) and sit back to prepare for a long lazy afternoon in the gentle sun. Relish the moment - the view, the wine and the company of the one you love. Revive in the Capella Spa with one $50 treatment voucher (maximum 1 per suite). Kentia Dreaming is valid 1 May - 30 September 2011 inclusive. Please someone take me away here?
For more info:

Qimage Ultimate 2012 released
We hear a new version of Windows imaging application Qimage Ultimate has just been released from ddisoftware Inc.
Features an improved user interface, a black level detection function, and support for 3D photography, among other bug fixes and tweaks to the application.
Send us your best Spring Special and go in the draw for a $50 Bluedog Photography voucher! Roll on Spring!