The image of Sugarloaf Rocks in the storm I posted a few days ago did not convey the feeling of being there very well – I think this was because the sun was shining through a gap in the clouds and everything looked pretty nice. It was actually blowing a gale, there were big seas and it was threatening to rain. So I reworked the image in black and white and I think this better conveys the sense and power of the storm.
It seems winter is dragging on forever. This last storm has some of the strongest winds and biggest swells of the winter. For those unfamiliar with Sugarloaf Rocks, the main rock is at least 25 metres high, probably more.
It was hard to stand still to take the shot – every time a gust of wind hit, you were forced backwards!
The whale watching season has started! At the moment there is about 1 humpback an hour passing on their way back to Antartica for the summer feeding grounds. It is very early in the season, and individual whales seem to be arriving – perhaps these are unaccompanied males. As the season progresses the numbers will increase (last year they peaked at around 8 an hour in October), and we will start to see pods with mixtures of calves and grown whales.
For those who aren’t familiar with the humpback migration off Western Australia here are some facts.
Each year an estimated 36,000 humpbacks leave the Antarctic waters and migrate north to Campben Sound north of Derby. The Antartic waters are too cold for newborn calves who have very little or no blubber to protect them. The mothers-to-be travel north to give birth in the warmer waters, and the rest go with them. They seem to gather in Flinders Bay near Augusta before rounding Cape Leeuwin and going north. This occurs April/May and we rarely see these whales in Geographe Bay – they seem to travel a long way offshore. Up north the new mothers have to fatten the calves before their return to Antarctica. Whale milk is around 60% fat and the calves put on a layer of blubber nearly 1m thick, and this all comes from the mother. While up north the whales have no food source, so it is believed they don’t eat from the time they leave Antarctica to the time they return.
On the return southwards journey many of the whales travel closer to the coast. Those closer inshore eventually wind up in Geographe Bay. When they reach the shallow waters of the bay they turn west and round Cape Naturaliste before continuing south. It seems perhaps 15-20% of the whales travelling south wind up in Geographe Bay and they can often be seen less than 50m from the shore. Castle Rock, Meelup, Pt Picquet, Eagle Bay, Rocky Point and Bunkers Bay are all good vantage points as well as the whale lookout near the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse.
These were from the same shoot as the last one.
In this second image the water flows very fast into this little bay. If you drop something in there it is gone forever!
Here is another example.
The stormy setting made for some interesting images – enjoyable until the rain came.
I went to Kilcarnup with Mark Stothard this morning. It had been raining solidly all night, but we saw on the radar that the southern edge of the rain band was level with Kilcarnup, so it was worth a try. There were a couple of showers early but we managed about 90 minutes before we saw a solid band of very black cloud from horizon to horizon. At that point we gave up and headed back to the car in the rain. Here is one of my efforts.
We have had some severe gales lash the coast this week. There were forecasts of a lot of rain (which we got), 125k/hr winds (which never got that strong), and 6-8 mtr swells (more like 2-3). I went to Sugarloaf rocks today and the swell/waves had increased but not to 6m levels.
With the stormy weather we have been having lately, there have been some spectacular cloud formations. Here is one taken at Yallingup mid afternoon.
This shot was taken in Commonage Rd, outside Simmo’s Icecream. Our neighbour was driving along here at the height of the storm. He said this section looked frightening with the wind blowing trees everywhere. He decided to pull over (the wind was so strong he faced the car into the wind in case it blew the car over!). While he watched 3 trees were blown down over the section of road he had been about to drive down. This photo was taken about an hour later. We had to deviate through Simmo’s carpark to get into Dunsborough.
I went out to Sugarloaf Rocks yesterday. The wind was gusting around 40 knots and there was spray everywhere. I had my camera well covered because of the salt spray everywhere.
I think the seas will continue to increase during the week, and I will probably go out again around Wednesday or Thursday. (The forecast is for wind gusts up to 125km/hour tonight – after Sundays storm that is really only a gentle breeze!
It has been wet and windy down here lately. I went out to Canal Rocks last night to see if I could capture a nice sunset. There were some nice clouds around.
A short time after this storm came across Cape Naturaliste.
We have had some rough weather down here. Last evening I took my D800E to Canal Rocks. It was hardly ideal conditions, wind gusting to 45 knots, spray everywhere, and shooting into the sun. The camera was in a rain cover to protect it from the spray. I couldn’t let go of the tripod or it would have blown over. I had seen some evidence that the D800E was very good at recovering detail from shadows, so I just braced myself, tried to steady the tripod and decreased the exposure until the sky was not blown out (except directly at the sun). The rocks and water all looked pretty black. Back at home and in Lightroom I was easily able to recover the shadows!
This was not the best image to judge the resolution of the D800E – at times it was all I could do to stand up, and focussing through the plastic of the rain cover was difficult. However a large print looks pretty good, so I am pleased with the result.
There is a front coming in tonight. Over at Yallingup this is what it looked like. 10 minutes later it was bucketing down with individual raindrops that you could feel each one as it hit you.
I think the winter is the best time for photography in this area (except for photographing vines which are boring at the moment). The clouds are more interesting, the area is green, the streams are running, and the sunsets and sunrises are better. Importantly sunrise is 7:15am not 5:15am! Also as the sun rises in winter further north, it will light up the coast in Geographe Bay, whereas in summer it rises inland.
Here is shot of a stormy day at Bunker Bay.
In the early hours of this morning a front went through with strong winds (forecast 125km/hr!) and heavy rain. But this is winter and you have to expect that. However there was a strip from Quindalup (near Elmore Road), to the Quindalup Siding Road, and from there along the Vasse Yallingup Siding Road, and down Chain Avenue to Carbanup that got hit by an extraordinary storm. You can see by these photos that this was an exceptional wind event. It was fortunate that most of this area is farmland, and very few houses were hit directly. We saw one house in Quindalup that had lost its roof and another in Old Dunsborough that had been damaged by a large tree falling on it. The damage shown in these photos is only a few km from where we live, and we were unaware that the storm had been so bad.
When these photos were taken the local Shire had been working for hours and in places had only managed to clear a single lane by pushing the trees off the road. It is clear that it was very fortunate this happened in the early hours of the morning, and no-one was driving on these roads at the time. If there had been I doubt they would have survived.
On Sunday morning I got a call from Mark Stothard. He was at Sugarloaf Rocks and wanted to know if I wanted to join him in a shoot. I think he was really looking for someone to watch out and rescue him if he got washed in! (See his recent post, although he wasn’t in any danger when he got wet). As I had just got a new Nikon D7000 the day before, I was out there before you could say “ISO6400 wow”! There are a few differences with my old D90, and I had a bit of learning to do. This is my first panorama from the D7000. It was a bit tricky because of the waves.
So far I am very pleased with the D7000. Focussing while zoomed-in in Liveview wasn’t possible with the D90, so at times especially in low light it was hard to focus accurately. The low light capability of the D7000 is a leap ahead from the D90, and it has better mirror up functions, an intervalometer, slightly more megapixels and much more.
There were strong winds from the NE this morning, and it was creating very rough conditions in Geographe Bay (well – very rough for Geographe Bay!). I normally fish off the big rock that now looks like an island. If you compare this to the image at the top of this page, this was taken from a position to the right of the top image looking towards the left. There is no beach at the moment.
Yesterday a big low pressure system and front hit the south west of Western Australia. This was taken at Canal Rocks just before the storm hit.
I took this about four years ago when I went to a wedding reception in a nearby restaurant.
I am enjoying looking back through my older images. I am discovering images I had forgotten about. This was captured August 2009. The Cape to Cape track seems to be at its best in winter – at least for a photographer. The streams are flowing, and there are usually clouds in the sky.
Update – I reprocessed this image from the raw file as Mark suggested (see comments). This is the updated version.