Australia is one humongous island. It has some of the most amazing beaches and countryside in the world. Visitors are often amazed at how beautiful some of these locations really are. And it’s definitely well worth a visit. If it’s not on your list of destinations to visit one day then try to organise three weeks at least and come.
There is a rich panorama of different types of countryside as you travel around but on this blog I want to talk about the West Australian coast. It’s called the sunset coast because facing West it naturally gets the sunset. Remember that Australia is huge and therefore when you’re talking about a sunset coast you’re talking about a coast thousands of kilometres in length. It is stupendous when you visit some of the views that you can have as you travel up and down the coast. From Augusta in the south and travelling north past Geraldton and past Carnarvon as you work your way north you are in for some literally amazing sights of the sunset over the Indian Ocean. Time and again I’ve gone to the coast when I’ve seen a variety of different cloud formations and time and again I come away with a mixed bag. But over the years it doesn’t take long to build up a good collection of some of the most amazing sunsets that you will get to see. If you come here on a visit you must include time to watch the sun go down.
However, it’s a little different taking sunset shots here. When I lived in England I used to have plenty of time during the twilight hours to select an appropriate location to take a sunset and I got some nice pictures. Here twilight doesn’t really happen except for a very short period of time. My watch is equipped with a little information box which tells me the time of sunrise and the time of sunset. And it’s an extremely important thing. You see we live within just a couple of kilometres of the coast and I can look out of the family room window or my office and I can tell that the light is changing and that there’s going to be a nice sunset. But, and this is a big thing here, by the time I get into the car and drive to the coast there is every chance that the sun will have set already. It happens fast. I’ve never tried to work out the dynamics of why it’s like this. All I know is that if I want to shoot the sunset and I like the look of the clouds I need to head to the coast about 30 minutes before I know the sun will be down and stand and watch and be ready to shoot.
I guess like most photographers I got into the habit of scouting locations that I feel are going to be good. Sometimes I like to have boats in the foreground because I feel that that makes the shot work and sometimes I like to have trees around. Sometimes I just want to stand with a view of quite a choppy ocean with the sun setting in the distance. Sometimes we are rewarded with a storm off the coast and we get a combination of clouds and lightning and sunset and the ocean all in one. It’s well worth the trip. Let me tell you it really is.
Just a few tips for photographers. I’ve sold a few sunset images over the years and they haven’t all been taken with wide-angle lenses. If you going to shoot with a wide-angle lens and you going to capture a sensational sunset one of the lenses that I would recommend is the 16 to 35 mm zoom. I’ve sold a number of images taken of magnificent sunsets off the coast of Western Australia that were shot with that particular lens though I had attached by means of a converter to a Sony A7R mark2. Not the best combination really but the results were excellent. Good old-fashioned 24 mm wide-angle lenses are fine but they don’t have that extremely big viewpoint of a big sky which tends to make a sunset work really well. So just the tip that working below 24 mm in that 16 to 24 mm range generally gives you better results and for me 16 mm is great.
But I’ve also had sensational results shooting with a focal length of 85 mm or similar. For example I shot a lot of sunsets using the latest Olympus 40 to 150 mm lens which when attached to a micro 4/3 camera gives you a focal length of 80 to 300 mm. I shot a lot of images at the 40 mm end and the results are superb. In fact when I was going to shoot the end of year for 2018 I went to the coast because I saw it was quite a clear day and there was going to be that lovely image of the sun hovering just over the horizon with a small bank of cloud running down the middle. You know the shot, it’s a great landscape feature and makes a great print. You know and I’m sure you’ve taken it in that style. I shot using the micro 4/3 camera from Olympus and with that particular lens the results were just awesome. What I really liked about using that lens was the fact that if you get your spot right and there are fishermen nearby you get the chance to take two or three different types of shot. At a particular spot that I like to use there always seem to be fishermen and I go and shoot the sunset but I’m conscious of seagulls that like to fly around in that low evening light checking out the fishermen to see if there is anything that they can purloin. So you often get a shot of the sunset in the background and the seagul in the foreground flying and of course you need a camera that focuses quickly which the Micro 4/3 system equipped with the Pro series lenses does very effectively. I’ve had more hits than with any other combination in those sort of light conditions using the Olympus micro 4/3 system. I know I tend to plug the Micro 4/3 system quite a bit but it’s interesting that people have asked me why the quality of my images has improved in recent times given that I’ve produced a lot of quality images over 40 years and the images they are pointing at are the Micro 4/3 system images which do have that extra clarity that that system presents. I know people want to talk about dynamic range and all sorts of things like that but really when you get down to the nitty-gritty some of them over balance the argument and in so doing they miss out on some of the great features of these cameras. I always carry both a full frame and a micro 4/3 system in my camera bag at all times and I’m always happy with the results.
One of the scenes that I really like is if you can find a boat harbour with yachts. Who doesn’t like that shot where you’ve got yachts lined up or various types of boats lined up and you got the sun setting over the ocean. If you come to Australia and you want to do some shooting of the sunsets then you are guaranteed to be able to find spots with boats in the foreground. It’s one of those classic shots that you want to take and they really do work well and as I say there are a great shot to take and much more interesting than just the ocean unless of course you got an amazing sky going on with lots of light and dark cloud and that deep red colour.
Another thing to think about when you are on the West Australian coast is that the colour tends to change depending on where you are. So for example we’ve noticed in the southern part of the state that we often get a little bit more golden light but as we work our way north we often get a little more red in the sunsets. Now some people might dispute this but I’ve got thousands of images that prove that this is the truth. There is definitely a different quality of the light depending on where you are. Bear in mind that Australia is a massive island and this coastline is massive and then think of the different lights you get in different parts of Europe and then you realise how this must be the case on an island of this size and on the coast that stretches that far north.
I think I need to post some more examples here so I’m going to sign off wishing all of you the very best. I’m fortunate to live in a beautiful part of the world with a magnificent coastline. Please feel free to pop me a line and show me some of the sunset shots that you’ve taken in your part of the world. In the meantime here’s a few to be going on with and it’s been a pleasure to chat about this particular topic.
A few comments re Lenscraft Photography. When we comment on equipment in these pages the comments are based on use in the field. They are never based on a single use or just a couple of days using the equipment. We try the equipment with at least two disciplines in photography and determine how it performs from there. Lenscraft Photography is a website devoted to photography and sharing experiences with equipment. We are not affiliated with any manufacturer. We have used equipment professionally from Canon, Nikon, Ricoh, Minolta, Sony, Leica, Olympus, Hasselblad, Zeiss, Sigma, Pentax, Zenit, Bronica, Rollei & Kodak.
Some of these companies have been absorbed into others. Currently we regularly use equipment from Olympus, Nikon, Sony, & Hasselblad. [Plus lenses from Zeiss and Sigma]