On the weekend I travelled to Lake Dumbleyung near Wagin and … Dumbleyung in Western Australia.  I’ve been meaning to get out to some salt lakes a bit further than my normal travelling distances.  This was more than 3 hours drive away from home.

Lake Dumbleyung is where Donald Campbell set world water speed record in 1964 in his vehicle – the bluebird.  Read about the story here – http://dumbleyungbluebird.com.au/.

Salt lakes in Australia appear very differently throughout the year.  It’s still winter now and visiting the location there was a fair amount of water.  Walking around my feet sank an inch to a few inches into the muddy banks and salt crystals glistened in the sun.  In a few months from now, I expect the lake to start drying up and more salt with come to the surface.  Eventually it may look like a blanket of white and then may begin to create pressure ridges and crack.  I expect to travel to several salt lakes in the upcoming year to image during their different phases.

This image is not Lake Dumbleyung – but another salt lake – the ridges were much larger than expected – some of them being 2-3 inches in height.

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I arrived a few hours before sunset to do some extensive scouting.  The two trees that I eventually used stood out quite quickly – they weren’t too far from where I could park the car.  I trekked around with my hand held gps and marked way points interesting spots that I could visualise doing some astrophotography from.  Getting darker – the clouds started rolling in – which was to be expected.  Forecasts indicated that it would get quite maybe 40%-50% cloud cover just past sunset and then reduce.  This would have been perfect for a sunset with the reflections off the still water – however unfortunately the cloud rolled in the wrong directions and was only a think layer over the horizon over the lake.  It looked more interesting over the hills behind me.

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Once it got dark enough, I started running a few flash tests.  I’d brought my Canon 430exii with me this time rather than my Yongnuo 560iii – I hadn’t realised however that the Yongnuo will power down to 1/128 power – a full stop less than the canon that bottomed out at 1/64.  While it seems strange that I’d want less power – this is more relevant when I’m shooting at F2.8 ISO 6400.  Remembering for flash – shutter for the ambient light – this was still F2.8 ISO 6400 – but only about 1.6s – the power of the flash was 1/64.  So this is the expected brightness of the flash in the exposures.

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When it got dark enough to image – I was in a bit of a hurry.  I knew that the milky way core would be quite elevated, so had to start moving quickly.  The first range of images was at 16mm – but I’d realised I’d mis-composed and then recomposed to have the milky way coming to the right of the tree.  Unfortunately I was having some flash and trigger battery problems at this time too, needing me to take multiple images because the flash didn’t fire.  More cloud rolled in and I had to check my vertical composition – shifting to 14mm and accepting some vignetting on the lens as I knew when stitching it together that most of that would go.  14mm is around 104 degrees or so as a horizontal field of vision, so it effectively covers a little bit of the horizon (required for the stitch) and enough of the milky way directly above me for an image.  A very light layer of cloud shrouded the milky way a little – causing a little bit of diffusion.

The reddish area in the clouds to the left is due to the light from nearby town of Dumbleyung.  Some stars are reflected in the lake to the right of the tree.  Clouds are a bit muddy because it was a dark night.  Regarding the method of panorama used – refer to my previous post here.

I originally meant to stay till midnight for a few other images, however with the battery problems I was having and also allergy problems, decided it was prudent to return home.  In the dark – the gps was invaluable.  The tree line and hills looked all the same.

 

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