FINE ART ATELIER: 06 | Pilbara Storm

Press the play button above to view the movie.

The Pilbara lies in the north west of Australia and in summer it is hot and humid, perfect conditions for generating local thunderstorms. On our way to Marble Bar, the hottest town in Australia, we skirted around an amazing storm - lightning, thunder and willy-willies. It produced an incredible image.

What you are seeing in this movie is a series of steps from the basic capture to the final rendering. The steps are not necessarily the quickest way to create the image, rather they follow the thought process of discovering the image through colour, contrast and exposure. And while this movie uses an earlier version of Photoshop, the approach is identical in current versions. 


FINE ART ATELIER: 06 | Tone's Tree

Press the play button above to view the movie.

While Tony Hewitt and I visit Middlehurst Station regularly, the 'paddock' a few kilometres away from the homestead is not named after him, it's named after the Tones River. And the tree is in the middle of the river bed - hence the title, Tone's Tree. Tony believed he discovered the tree and the amazing light that hit it. I prefer to say that he photographed it first - but to understand the full story, you'll need to join us for a Middlehurst photography retreat in New Zealand one year!

What you are seeing in this movie is a series of steps from the basic capture to the final rendering. If you're not familiar with how Photoshop works with its layers, we have a Reference section here in the Landscape Photography MasterClass (the last item on the menu) where you can learn all about layers and how to use them. It is introductory in nature, so if you're unsure about some of the techniques or processes used in this movie, all will be explained when you view the three movies on layers in the reference section.


KNOWLEDGE: 06 | Landscape Photography Accessories

So what else is hiding in a landscape photographer's camera case? Let's begin with some of the accessories I take with me on most shoots. 

Cable or Remote Release

It can be tempting to press the shutter release with your finger when the camera is sitting safely on a tripod. I certainly do this myself, but usually when the light is changing rapidly and I'm worried about missing the shot.
If I have time, I always use a cable release or electronic release because although I can fire the shutter release using my finger, there is a risk of bumping the camera unintentionally. If you've spent time and money to get to the point you're about to take a photograph, why risk everything? It just makes sense to use the cable release – a form of insurance. (And don't forget to use the mirror up function if your camera has it as well!) 

Of course, there are other options. You can use an app with your smart phone to trigger many cameras these days, and this works well. Or, you can use the self-timer on your camera so that after pressing the shutter release, the camera is given several seconds during which time any camera shake from pressing the shutter button has left - but the self-timer solution is not optimum if you're trying to time your exposure to match the action in the scene, such as a wave breaking on the shore. You really should have some form of remote shutter release with you.

Grey Card or Expodisc

How can you be sure of getting accurate colour balance with your photographs? Sometimes there isn't anything neutral in a scene and so later in post-production, the 'automatic' controls don't always work as expected.
One solution is to use a grey card and take a test photo with the grey card in position. Then, when you're viewing the files on your computer, you can use the colour temperature picker to set a neutral colour balance. The you take these colour temperature settings (Kelvin and Tint) and copy them to all the other other photos taken under the same lighting conditions.
The Expodisc uses a similar approach, except you screw it (or hold it) to the front of the lens. You end up with a grey image and the procedure in Photoshop or Capture One is the same: use the colour temperature picker to set a neutral colour balance and apply that colour setting to photos taken under the same lighting conditions.
I wish I followed my own advice more often as it makes the post-production process so much easier!


Spare Batteries

With modern DSLR batteries so good, you can comfortably shoot for several days without having to recharge your batteries. Nevertheless, I still carry a spare battery with me because, without power, my cameras are dead. Some batteries are quite heavy and may add to the weight of your bag, but I think this is just the cost of shooting digitally. A spare battery is essential. 

Spare Storage Cards

So are spare storage (memory) cards. In the old days, I can remember several times having 30 GB in cards and running out of space because there was so much happening. I laugh at this now as my standard card is 128 GB and I'm shooting with 50- or 150-megapixel sensors. I no longer run out of cards, but only because I always take along so many spares. How easy is it to leave a few extra cards in your camera bag so you need never worry?
Of course, being on the Sandisk Extreme Team these days, I'm never short of storage cards. I'm currently flush with 32GB, 64GB and 128GB XQD and SD cards, so I'll never run out of space. 


Laptop Computer

I love looking at my files as soon as I can. When travelling, this is usually in the hotel at the end of the day, possibly in the restaurant or back in my room. I take a Wacom MobileStudio Pro. It's a 16-inch screen which is also good for giving presentations and lectures. 
I don't consider most laptop computer monitors to be nearly good enough to do accurate colour work. Some of the Apple screens are pretty good and now the screen on the Wacom MobileStudio Pro is excellent (especially the 16-inch version).  I'll even do a few edits with my files, but they will always be checked back in the studio on my EIZO monitors before release – except for small blog photos, of course.
The Wacom computer I have uses a solid state hard disk (2TB) which makes the computer lighter and faster, but most importantly, the hard disk can better handle the rough and tumble of life in a landscape photographer's backpack. 
Once I reach a destination, the laptop will generally stay at the hotel rather than carrying it around. It weighs a little under 2 kilograms, so that's 2 kilograms less to carry. 

Spare Hard Drives

While I have plenty of storage space on my 2TB computer drive, I need backup files as well, so I need to take some portable hard drives as well. I currently take along LaCie's Rugged and Rugged SSD drives, 2TB or 4TB capacity.
Unlike cheaper office drives, these drives will survive a drop or a knock, so while I still take care of them, it's extra insurance.
Why at least two drives? After copying the files from my storage cards to the computer, I then copy them onto both drives. This means I can delete the files from my storage cards and computer as the shoot proceeds, if I need to, and still have two copies. I try not to delete any files from anywhere until I have returned and archived my work on my work station, but that's not always possible on longer trips.
Importantly, as the drives are so small, I can leave my cameras and laptop in my hotel room (assuming I feel comfortable about security), and just go out for the day or to dinner with one drive in my pocket. If my gear were to be stolen, at least I have a copy of all my photos.
However, if there is any doubt in my mind about security, I simply take the camera backpack out to dinner with me. On most occasions, my gear is either in the room safe or it is with me. Trust no one and you're less likely to be disappointed!

Torch, Coins, Allen Keys

Early mornings can mean setting the camera up in the dark. The solution is a small LED torch which can also be used when walking in the dark or for light painting. Or you can use your phone of course - assuming it is sufficiently charged! I still like the separate torch and these days it's usually a head torch which keeps both hands free.
From time to time, my tripod legs will work loose or the quick release plates start to swing – I take a coin and a couple of Allen keys to ensure I can tighten things up in the field if necessary.


I don't use filters very much, with two exceptions. My time exposures during the day require strong neutral density filters, and a polarising filter can be really useful for controlling reflections. I'm currently using NiSi filters.

Cleaning Gear

I carry a couple of small lens cleaning cloths, but nothing to clean my sensor. My thoughts are that cleaning the sensor in the field is not a great idea, so brushes, tissues and solutions are taken in a second camera bag which sits inside my general luggage, to be used at night in my hotel room or cabin. However, a cloth in the camera bag for cleaning lenses and filters is invaluable. 

Bits and Pieces

Of course, there other little bits and pieces. A few business cards, pen, notebook, room for my iPhone and wallet. The idea is to keep the bag relatively light because you don't want it to be a burden – if it's too heavy, you won't enjoy your photography as much!


POST PRODUCTION: 06 | Local Contrast

Press the play button above to view the movie.

Local contrast is used to describe small areas within an image where you can build up the contrast between the light and dark areas, helping bring attention to this area within the composition. With image editing, it is also used to make overall adjustments which build up contrast on a local basis, creating an appearance of greater clarity. Both techniques are extremely important when it comes to refining your landscape images in Photoshop, Lightroom and Capture One.


POST PRODUCTION: 06 | Capture One's Layers

Press the play button above to view the movie.

Most participants will be using Lightroom to process their photographs - and Lightroom does a great job. However, there are other raw processing engines available that can produce subtly different results, such as Capture One. You don't have to use Phase One cameras to use Capture One software, but you are likely to still need Photoshop. However, in some ways this is not the point. Photographers choose to use Capture One because they like the way their photographs are processed, even if they take the output into Photoshop later on for further work. Here's a brief introduction to Capture One and how it offers 'layers' in a very similar way to Photoshop.




Tucked up in the north west of the continent, the distances in the Pilbara region of Western Australia are huge. It takes a long time to fly there (days to drive), and once there, it's a long way between destinations.

Yet in many ways, it's these long distances that give the Pilbara its character.

The Pilbara surrounds Port Hedland and Karratha, and extends down beyond Karijini NP.

It's hot. It's big. And it's red!

My first trip to the Pilbara was the result of an invitation from FORM to visit the Pilbara as a photographic artist along with Christian Fletcher (the project's mastermind), Tony Hewitt and Les Walkling. Michael Fletcher accompanied us and shot some great video. Christian and Tony were using the Nikon D3x, Les had a Hasselblad with a 39-megapixel sensor, and I was shooting on my Phase One P65+ and a Lumix GH1. I had two goals that linked together nicely, one for a future exhibition in Port Hedland with FORM, and another for a book Ken Duncan was producing for Lumix cameras on Australia.

We flew into Port Hedland and from there made several forays into the surrounding areas, down south (west) to Karratha and out east to Pardoo and Marble Bar.

A road train runs away from the storm into which we are heading!

Most people do not visit the Pilbara in February because it's the hot wet season, but the wet season is also the time of some great cloud formations and thunderstorms. If you go in winter (say May to September), the temperature is much kinder, but the skies are generally detailless blue, so without having experienced the latter, I can certainly recommend the former as long as you don't mind the heat.

How hot?

Well, on the way back from Marble Bar (the hottest town in Australia), we stopped at a small rise off the highway to take a photograph. A few metres from the car, we stepped over an orange plastic road marker (a witch's hat), but it wasn't a very high step as the marker had melted like wax into a faintly recognisable blob. We reckon it was 48C that day (the marker had melted some time ago on an obviously even hotter day) and it was too hot for me to stay out too long. However, the early mornings and late afternoons are very pleasant and ideal for photography.

Sunrise just outside of Marble Bar. Great light, wonderful colours and it's not too hot (yet)!

Around Marble Bar are lots of wonderful detours - canyons, plains and the Marble Bar (gorge) itself. If I go back there, I will stay a few nights as there is lots to shoot for a landscape photographer.

Port Hedland

We flew into Port Hedland and this was to be our base. Although not a large town, it has all the services needed. It takes two hours to fly from Perth, instead of the two days you would allow if driving the same distance.

The town is red, covered in a characteristic dust stain from the iron ore that is exported from its port. For a city-slicker (me), it was fascinating to see heavy industry so close to an urban area. While most of my landscapes to date had been of natural and urban scenes, to turn my lens onto something distinctly industrial was really exciting.

Of course, we had slightly better access than the average photographer when it came to touring the plants, although most photographers could probably gain access with a guided tour if they give the mines and sites sufficient warning. We obviously weren't the first photographers to be shown around.

Rio Tinto's salt 'mine' at Port Hedland

In between Port Hedland and South Hedland lie the salt ponds. We snuck onto one of the ponds early in the morning to take a few snaps. Access is easy off a main (dirt) road leading out to the coast and there are no fences to worry about. However, don't go too far in - I'm sure we would have been sent away had there been anyone around at this hour of the morning!

Later that week we had an official tour and much closer access. The image above is taken from a giant conveyor belt (my non-technical description) which was used to stockpile the salt. The image below is one of the ponds from which the salt will eventually be extracted - the colours are really very strong and need very little assistance in Photoshop. In fact, just adding a little contrast builds up the colour.


Salt Pond, Port Hedland

Right next to the salt ponds, indeed in many places along the coastline here, are systems of mangroves. Our helicopter shoot revealed some great meandering waterways, but there was a slight red tinge in the highlights which I surmise is from the all pervading red dust.

Mangroves, Port Hedland

Day Trips

South, or more correctly, west of Port Hedland is Karratha and the Dampier Peninsula. We spent a couple of days on the peninsula itself and out on the surrounding islands. Up north, or more correctly east of Port Hedland, we visited Pardoo Station which passes through some really interesting country and some wonderful trees.

To make the most of a trip to the Pilbara definitely needs a car. Most of the places we visited are accessible with a standard sedan, but the weather can change so quickly that a four wheel drive with safety equipment really is essential because there will be times when you simply can't resist the dirt tracks. We hired four wheel drives to take us around, so flying in is still an option. 


PHOTO ADVICE: 06 | Critique Session

Press the play button above to view the movie.

During the production of the Landscape Photography MasterClass, some of our early subscribers kindly provided some images for critique and review. This has turned into a very popular part of each MasterClass and we have received many complimentary comments about how useful the Critique Session is.

Of course, there are no absolutes in photography and so what you view in this movie is really just one photographer's opinion about another photographer's work. However, hopefully the advice and observations can be helpful in improving your own photography.


BUSINESS ACUMEN: 06 | Presentation: Why It's Important


In this Masterclass, I want to write about the packaging in which we wrap our photography. At first glance, this might appear to relate primarily to professionals selling their work, but when you think about it, presentation is just as important when putting up a print at a local camera club, posting on social media or designing a website.

Which Solicitor?

Let me paint you a picture. You need to visit a solicitor and two are recommended to you.
To visit the first solicitor, you drive to the local shopping mall and, off the main shopping area, down a short corridor, you climb some narrow stairs and reach a plain door with 'Solicitor' on a small metal plaque. Inside there is a waiting room with a couple of aging couches, a coffee table with old magazines (nothing newer than 1928), and no receptionist. The door to the office is shut, so you sit down and wait…
For the second solicitor, you have to drive into the city. You walk to the base of a modern office building, enter the elevator and press '52'. After a short while, the elevator doors open and you step into a large, airy reception area with modern leather seats, exotic patterned rugs and original Peter Eastway prints on the walls. A receptionist, smartly dressed and well spoken, asks your name and offers you a cup of filtered coffee…
Question: Assuming you know nothing about law, which solicitor gives you the most confidence?
Question: Which solicitor is going to charge you the most?
Note, I haven't asked which solicitor was the best at practising law, how long they would take to do the job, or how skilled they are. In many ways, all this is irrelevant because of the presentation each has used.

Which Photographer?

If you have wondered why Ken Duncan and Peter Lik do so well, visit one of their galleries. Their presentation is excellent, from the way the photographs are presented and lit, to the staff and the way they treat you.
Ken used to have one of his galleries at The Rocks, in Sydney. It was a boutique store, like all the others along George Street, but smart, the prints were beautifully lit and his staff were professional.
Outside of Sydney, Ken's newer gallery at Erina is much larger, sitting on an acre or two of land with a coffee shop and a small theatrette attached. There is ample space to exhibit his large prints and a shop where you can buy his books and other merchandise.
In Las Vegas, Peter Lik has several galleries in the casinos lining The Strip. His prints are also beautifully framed, hung and lit. If you're interested in buying, a salesperson will take you into a special sales room with a comfortable couch, place the prints for viewing on a ledge, and adjust the lighting to enhance the experience.
And when you're looking at unframed prints from the gallery's print drawers, the salespeople always wear white gloves and treat the prints with the utmost respect.
Every aspect of their 'business' is professional. Everyone is treated as a potential investor.
Yet at the end of the day, all Peter and Ken are doing is selling photographs. In fact, there are many photographers in the world whose images are equally as good, some would say even better, yet they don’t command the same market or the same price.
Buying a print is an experience. The print is important, of course. But so is the experience.

Presentation Is Always Important 

The point of this essay is to show how important presentation is for a photographer, amateur and professional. Whether you're selling a print in a gallery or displaying a competition entry at your local camera club, the way you print, matte and frame your prints is important. How you handle your images when others are watching is also a factor – if you just throw your prints around, it indicates you don't value your own work. A good print deserves to be handled with respect. And the quality of the files you post on social media - correctly exposed, colour-balanced and spotted with sufficient resolution - also speak volumes about you as a photographer.
Note, none of this affects how good your photographs are. You can have the best photographs in the world and if you're not showing them to anyone else, then presentation is irrelevant. For work that you will never display or show, presentation doesn't matter.
However, most of us will show our work to friends, at camera clubs or exhibit professionally. What does your presentation tell the people who view your work? Does the presentation show them that you value what you have done?
It should.

What Is Good Presentation for Prints?

If you're producing prints for exhibition or sale, then presentation begins with the quality of the print itself. This is derived from your expertise as a photographer and print maker. You will know when you have created a great print on screen and hopefully that follows through to the printed work.
Next is the framing. A good quality matte and frame (if this is your approach), suitably sized and designed, can make a huge difference to the way your work is perceived. Personally, I have rarely seen prints with strongly coloured mattes that work – don’t try to match the reds or greens in the print, just use a white or off-white matte instead. Sometimes a black matte can work, but usually it looks dark grey. Muted colours can work, but so often a simple white matte is best.
Similarly a simple frame is probably your best bet, but I acknowledge that a master framer can certainly enhance a photograph with the appropriate surroundings. On the other hand, an ornate frame is not going to make an average print that much better.
Finally, you should title, sign and date your work. It is traditional to sign on the print itself, generally on the front with a lead pencil or in permanent ink. (You can't do this for competition entries that need to be anonymous.)  I know that Cartier-Bresson signed some of his prints with blue Biro and on one I know of, today it has almost completely faded! Some photographers also sign on the rear of the print, but this seems pointless if the print is going to be mounted and framed. So, generally sign the print either just under the image or just inside the image, depending on how it is to be matted.
For many readers, this may be all the presentation that is required as your prints will only be exhibited at home, but if you're going to take the plunge and exhibit your work in public, what other steps can you consider?

Public Exhibition

For a public exhibition, think about creating a logo for yourself. A graphic designer can really help you here and I'd advise against designing your own unless you really are very good at it!
The logo can be used on all your stationery and promotional work – business cards and exhibition catalogues mainly, but also for banners and posters used to promote the exhibition, and for your website and emails.
If you are selling your prints, consider making 'Certificates of Authenticity' which confirm the print and edition number (if you have one). Certificates aren't necessary, but they can be a helpful sales aid – it builds the presentation.
Of course, how you look and behave at the exhibition is also important. This doesn't mean acting like a prima donna artist with a bad temperament. You should be confident and enthusiastic about your work, and approachable. People are more likely to buy a print if they like you. It's part of the experience! 


A website isn't the main solution for selling your prints, but it can be part of a solution. Assuming you have attracted people to visit your website, what are they going to find? Is the design modern and upmarket, or crafty and folksy? How does that fit in with the prices you wish to charge or the reputation you wish to earn?
A professionally designed website is essential and you can find a lot of website designs for very little cost all around the internet. This website is based on a template from Shape5 which specialises in templates for Joomla, the content management system we use. You can also sign up to websites designed to host photographers and their portfolios – these generally look much more professional than home grown affairs. My personal Peter Eastway website (www.petereastway.com) is built with Zenfolio, for instance.
Whether you're a professional or not, there's also a sense of pride and accomplishment that comes from finalising a landscape print and presenting it appropriately. I hope you now have a few ideas about how you can best present your own work.