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My first gallery exhibition

Updated: Nov 13, 2022

I was thrilled to discover this image was selected for the first exhibition held by In Focus Women,

A community created by Steph Vella & Sarina Jackson dedicated to bringing together female landscape photographers from around the world.

Not only was I excited to be included in a very talented pool of landscape photographers, it also meant a little weekend getaway to Sydney! But first there were some housekeeping items required. This included details such as shot location, price (always tough and still a bit icky!) and a name for the image if you wanted.

Naming is hard. I asked around for some inspiration, but nothing seemed quite right. Then I thought about the process of making this shot and it came to me – Creating Calm.

Because this is what the conditions actually looked like that night…windy and wavey!

When Sarina spoke at the exhibition opening, she prompted people to find an artist and ask them what the story is behind their shot because there is always a good one and photographers love to talk about it. This post is evidence of that!

So what is my story? Well, there are a couple of layers to it and both tie into the image name. Let’s start with capturing that sunset...

1. The process

I had been following Adam Dyson (@adam_dyson) for a while on the socials. He ran photography workshops along the Great Ocean Road, but at the time I could never quite justify the time away from the family and the cost. So when Adam announced a short sunset tutorial in my own backyard, I jumped at the opportunity!

There were several of us who met Adam at Mentone beach in the 'burbs of Melbourne on a very ordinary looking summer evening. We set up around the old jetty (not sure of its history, whether it was actually a jetty or groyne) which is a very popular spot with local photographers and kids alike. It has been slowly decaying over the years and since these photos were taken, most of the cross beams have been removed (they were very wonky!).

There was plenty of time to play around with composition and perspective, plus get some handy tips from Adam. I was using my NiSi filter system which included a CPL (circular polariser filter), which helps reduce reflections and glare by filtering out light that has become polarized due to reflection from the water. On top of that I had a soft GND or graduated neutral density filter. As cameras cannot expose the detail of both extremely low light and dark scenes at the same time, GND filters help you get the correct exposure.

Shooting with a Canon 70D and EF-S 10-18mm f4.5-5.6mm IS STM lens

Adam leant me a hard GND which he explained is good for this situation, where you have defined separation between the bright and dark areas of your scene (i.e. horizon). This allowed me to darken the sun and get detail in the foreground.

I later added a hard GND to my kit!

Hard and soft GNDs, CPL (NiSi Filters)

The best way to describe filters is that they are like sunglasses for your camera. Without them, the shutter speed is fast in order to stop the image being overexposed. When you add filters, you can slow the shutter down and control movement. In this case, I was wanting to play with how the water looked and the longer I had the shutter open, the smoother it became. Hence, I created calm.

Back to the shoot. I tried some different angles and as you can see below, it was kinda grey and overcast. However, there was a break in the clouds at the horizon that was looking promising...

As the sun dipped, we started to see a bit more colour and I settled into position waiting to see what the sky would do.

As you've already seen, it did not disappoint!

For those that are into metadata (I know you're out there!), in the exhibition image I had the shutter open for 80sec at f / 11 and a focal length of 10mm.

In terms of post-processing, I tweaked a few things such as exposure, shadows and highlights. The colour didn't need any adjusting. The sky was on fire!

2. The backstory

The other layer of the image story is more personal. As the exhibition approached, I was reflecting on what was happening in my life when I took the photo. It was January of 2019 and our family was experiencing a very challenging time.

My dad was in hospital recovering from major surgery. His treatment saw him in hospital for 8 weeks all up, with 2 weeks spent in ICU over the Christmas period. His doctor later told us that we nearly lost him three times, due to multiple infections he picked up post-surgery.

It was an awful time and I saw things I hope to never see again.

I was going to the hospital about every second day and helping mum out the rest. Her health was also not great, so she needed quite a bit of support around home and to get to appointments and such. The kids were on school holidays and hubby was holding the fort at home when he wasn’t at work. My sister had just moved to regional Victoria, so she had a massive drive to get up to Melbourne and came as often as she could. We were exhausted and afraid.

It was no wonder then that I jumped at this chance to get out there and do something I love. And to create a little bit of calm for myself during a turbulent time.

Two weeks later, I brought Dad home.

Not quite ready for bubbles, but we sure were!

The Exhibition

I attended the exhibition opening with fellow photographer friends and also had some of my Sydney family in attendance. It was quite something to see my work up there on the wall surrounded by such beautiful imagery, and to speak with people about the story behind my image and to hear other artists' stories.

I hope to have the privilege again. Regardless of if I do or not, we plan to make this trip to Sydney an annual photography event.

Be sure to check out the amazing work of female landscape photographers from around the world, just search #infocuswomen on Instagram and Facebook.


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