Brent Stephenson is an ornithologist who spent years studying the breeding biology of Australasian gannets in New Zealand. He co-re-discovered the "extinct" New Zealand storm-petrel in 2003, and has traveled virtually everywhere, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, Australia, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, French Polynesia, China, the Americas, and Africa. When traveling with Zegrahm, he is frequently our photographer; he even took the above photo on our 2016 Voyage to the Kimberley expedition.
To capture the spectacular scenery of the Kimberley requires a camera…yep, fact! But it really doesn’t matter what sort of camera you travel with; it needs to be something that fits your needs, the way in which you travel, and what you want to get out of the trip. If you want a few images of the beautiful landscapes we’ll be traveling through, and the thought of worrying about any camera upsets you, then don’t forget most modern smart phones have amazing capabilities, and will give those memories you require. The panorama feature on smart phones does an amazing job of stitching together the big scenes that are so hard to capture in a single image, and in essence, the entire Kimberley region is full of such scenes.
However, if photography is something that is important to you, and part of your reason for visiting the Kimberley, then let’s delve a little deeper. Most modern point-and-shoots are going to do a pretty good job of capturing the scene, but make sure you are familiar with the cameras settings, especially with things like exposure compensation. This can make a big difference in your photography; we can talk about how and why to do this during the voyage, but remember—your camera is not perfect, and will not always get the exposures correct. A classic time to shoot is on the bow of the ship, taking a photo of an incredible sunset. Oftentimes, the camera just doesn’t capture it in its true vibrance. Why? Generally, the camera is over exposing and thus losing the color and saturation you are seeing with the naked eye.
If you are going to venture out with a Digital-SLR and some lenses, then it really is time to talk. The classic question in this situation is, which lenses should you bring. My classic answer in this situation is, ‘Yes!’ When I travel to a location like the Kimberley, I generally have four main lenses in my backpack:
- Super Wide—I carry a 17-40mm, but even wider—like a 10mm fish-eye—would be good in some situations, like in caves with aboriginal art, narrow gorges, etc. The 17-40mm is great for getting as much in when things are close, like when we are cruising through narrow rivers, with grand geology towering above us.
- Wide to Medium—I tend to bring a 24-105mm, which is a really versatile range; wide enough to capture general landscapes and the stunning scenery and sunsets, but useful for zooming in and identifying and isolating parts of landscapes like rock features, layering, waterfalls, trees, or aboriginal rock art.
- Zoom Telephoto—I carry both a 70-200mm, again for isolating elements of the landscape and for closer wildlife, as well as a fixed 400mm lens for true wildlife photography. You could just carry a lens with a 100-400mm zoom, which would save you a bit of space and weight, but I love my fixed 400mm. There will be some incredible wildlife during the trip—water birds, osprey, and other birds of prey, estuarine crocodiles, and hopefully some dense seabird breeding colonies—so a longer lens will definitely come in handy.
If there is one additional item to bring with you, it would be a circular polarizing filter. These will make all the difference in getting your sky to pop with that deep blue, as well as the water, and it even helps bring out the greens of leaves and trees, as well as the red in the rocks and sand, by removing glare and reflections.
We also tend to try new things on these expeditions: During our 2016 voyage, we didn’t find what we expected at one site, and decided to explore a site we had never been to before. And wow—as the sun set, the light was spectacular. For a photographer, what could be better than finding a famous boab tree or two with the sun setting behind to provide a beautiful silhouette? A little star-burst and bingo, an image I will remember for a very long time.
Join Brent in the Kimberley:
Australia's Kimberley: A Voyage to the Outback | May 15, 2018