Curtis falls is an extremely popular waterfall located up on Mt Tamborine. It’s about an hours drive from Brisbane City and takes you through some windy roads littered with spectacular lookouts along the way. The purpose of my trip was to capture some beautiful images of the falls that hadn’t been done before. I knew this was going to be tricky considering budding photographers visit it every day!
I packed up the car with a fellow photographer friend and left home around 4:30am. The roads were quiet, and the early morning air was very cool. It certainly woke us up along the way. As we took the Camp Cable road exit that
leads us toward Mt Tamborine, we were surrounded by a thick eerie fog that covered the surrounding fields and paddocks. This alone, would have made some stunning pictures, but we were on a mission! We had to get our work done before the crowds started pouring in.
We arrived at the falls just after 5am. The carpark was empty and the air was filled with birds and other wildlife scattered throughout the park. The descend down to the falls isn’t very long, maybe 800 meters or so. Even if you have very limited fitness ability, you should be able to handle it no problems. There are stairs at some sections though, so keep that in mind.
As the sun began to rise, it filled the falls with a beautiful warm, soft light. No harsh highlights or burnt out shadows. I was planning on using an ND filter, but didn’t need to at first. I setup my camera and took some time to get myself composed. I started off using my 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. ISO100 meant less/no noise in the photo, I stopped down the aperture to about 10, and had a 25 second exposure.
We took photos for about an hour and a half before we saw another person. Then we decided to continue further downstream to see what else we could find. The path gets a little less defined the further you go. You’ll have to climb across rocks and skip across rivers to get some nice vantage points. It’s all worth it in the end though. Make sure you take care as the rocks are extremely slippery!
By now, the harsh highlights being cast on some of the falls and bodies of water made it difficult to correctly expose shots. We had to get creative. I switched my lens from my 24-70mm f/2.8 and put on the 18-135mm. I wasn’t too concerned about the smaller aperture as i’d be stopping it down anyway. I stacked an ND4 and ND8 filter resulting in a 5-stop light reduction. This allowed me to get some nice 2-3 minute exposures without blowing out those highlights. The rest I’d be able to fill in later on in post-processing.
For those of you that don’t know, ND (or Neutral Density) filters restrict the amount of light entering your camera. It’s basically like wearing sunglasses for your camera. Using something like an ND400 (9 stop) will let you achieve that slow exposure, milky water – even in the middle of the day! ND filters can be quite expensive depending on the brand, and the size of your filter. On this trip, I just packed my el-cheapo filter set that I bought online for about $15. Sure, they’re made of plastic, they’re flimsy and give off odd color casts – but they do the trick. I didn’t want to risk an expensive ND filter in case it was dropped and damaged on the rocks. This is a perfect solution for photographers to get used to ND filters before committing to a more expensive purchase. You can view (and buy) the set I used here – http://www.digitalrev.com/product/digitalrev-dr-501-5-in/MTAwMDc5Mg_A_A
Unfortunately, we ran out of time before we could get too far downstream. I had other things to do during the day and we were already cutting it short for time. I captured a handful of images that gave me exactly what I was looking for and that’s the main thing. You will often find yourself discarding a lot of photos after days like this, but it’s all part of the fun! I will consider writing another blog entry that covers some post-processing of the final images, or maybe publish a tutorial video if I get the time.
You can view the images I got from the day in the Places gallery – http://theblakeimage.com.au/?page_id=47
Until next time! Blake.