Saturday, 15 March 2014

Shooting The Bush - Read my ebook free

Last year I wrote a new ebook Shooting The Bush. As I sit here planning my next trip to gather images for my new book on The Great Ocean Road I've decided to make Shooting The Bush available as a presentation for free.

The book will help you find places to shoot, gear to take, seasons, times of day and photographic techniques and even what to wear. I talk about Neutral Density filters including Black Glass and which types of lens to use for particular scenes. I also discuss the etiquette of entering land and camping.

If you like the book you and wish to support my photography so there can be more you can buy a pdf to keep on Google Play.

Once you've watched the presentation, if you'd like to buy a PDF to keep forever you can buy it on Google Play.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Urban Exploration, Legalities, Hazards, and Risks

I noticed a post in a g+community from an urbexer who was lamenting that they had discovered after visiting many times that the site was full of asbestos and they were observing that there were no warning signs.

I thought I'd put a few words together about Urbex (Urban Exploration) in general and specifically address a few things. Let me start with a disclaimer - this is not legal or medical advice - its just common sense (which means I shouldn't have to write it down right?). You should seek competent advice that applies to you in whatever location you want to Urbex.


It is illegal to enter a property that you are not authorised to be in. In Victoria the police do have the power to evict you and to order you to keep away. You can be charged with trespass as a criminal act without having physically broken in or done any damage, simply being present within the property is enough. It should be noted that the police are allowed to take you into custody for your own protection without charging you and this includes confiscating your camera and gear. It would take you a while to get it back. It could be retained as evidence if you are charged and you may never get it back.

Civilly you can be sued for entering a property, but IMHO feel it's unlikely unless the entity (person, government, corporate) can prove that you somehow damaged them. This damage could be physical vandalism but it could also be more subtle. As an example, if a company feels that you've damaged their brand by including their logo within an urbex photograph then they could take you to court. My personal feeling is that they would be unlikely as its a bit of a no win situation as you're not likely to have much in the way of assets for them to take.

I do strongly suggest that you obtain your own legal advice if you are thinking of undertaking an urbex. I follow the practice of enter easy through existing openings, take only photos, leave only footprints.


Abandoned buildings have oodles of hazards ranging from killers like blue fluffy asbestos, to manageable like asbestos cement sheet walls, to unsafe structures, up pointing sharps, other people within the structure. You cannot expect to be warned about any of these things. The owners probably don't want you there and are not obligated to protect you. That's up to you. I know what the various forms of asbestos look like. I know that disturbing it means asbestosis and a likely painful death (seriously!).

Other hazards such as upturned rusty nails could lead you to a nasty case of tetanus so keep your shots current. Other sharps such as a druggie's syringe could give you Hepatitis C or worse AIDS.

Unsafe structures damaged by the ingress of water, rot or vandals could collapse at any time.

Chemical and material hazards abound in industrial sites, I know of one on the western side of the city that had vats still full of acids and alkalines. Both do nasty things to humans. Many are not so obvious, old electrical equipment can leak toxic oils. Industrial equipment in a chemical plant could be contaminated with nasties like lead, poisons or biologics. The best bet is to simply touch nothing and be careful how you treat your clothes when you get home. Right into the wash. At some places you might wipe down your boots and bag your clothes and bin them afterwards.

Mould can be an interesting one particularly since the spores of some mould like warm humid places (like lungs).

Criminals can be a major hazard. Some abandoned places might house a pop up meth lab for example.

These all sound pretty bad, but remember people worked and or lived in these abandoned places so how bad could they be really?


A risk is defined as the likelihood of a hazard causing an impact to you and what the likely consequences would be. You need to become an intrinsic risk management expert to urbex. Common sense will go a long way.

The right clothes good thick sold ankle supporting leather boots, safety boots with steel caps if you think you need them and long pants and long sleeves would be the basics.

If you feel the need for a face mask then don't depend on one of those bits of cloth shit from the chemist or hardware store. Get a proper one from an industrial supply that sells into the demolition and building industries.

If you're protecting yourself from asbestos then you need a full body suit and full face mask with canned air (it is the only way) and a deluge shower to wash it off before you take off the suit. Anything less and you're kidding yourself. You may not suck down the fibre through that cloth mask but when you get home you spread the shit throughout your house when you take off the clothes you were wearing exposing the rest of your family. But really if you need full containment then the site just isn't worth it.


23/03/15 Yesterday a young man was killed exploring a drain in Brisbane so be careful out there.
Every now and then I try new things in my digital workflow. Normally for injestion into my catalog of images I use Ingestamatic by Marc Rochkind

It does cool things like apply different meta data to what every image(s) I want in whatever order and position I want. It has all my presets so I can import depending on the style of shoot etc. It makes a second copy in logically named folders for the date and shoot name. It converts to DNG and sets up everything nicely for synchronising with lightroom.

I thought I'd give Lightroom 5 a go for importing to see if it had improved over LR4. Has it? Bluntly no. It kind of does everything I do with Ingestamatic in new annoying ways that mean manual work afterwards.

  1. It's second copy (import backup) does go into a nominated folder but it's got a generic name "Imported on Monday, 10 March 2014" instead of 2014-03-10-urbexpowerstation which is the date of the shoot and shoot name so immediately the backup is useless, it's lost it's connection to the shoot. Everything imported today is all lumped in together in one folder. It's basically just a copy of the card data. This is not configurable.
  2. I've got it set to make the folder name based on the shoot name, but it doesn't. It just has the date. Bug. This is configurable but not working and I have to rename the folder on disk and re-associate it with the folder in the catalog.

It does have some advantages over Marc's app - it's DNG conversion and the copy are done simultaneously and is MUCH faster and it seems to support a card full of images where as Marc's app manages about 350 or so at a time with 16GB of RAM.

I think I'll wait for LR to improve further before using it. I don't want the manual rework and the opportunities of lost backups.

If you've never tried Ingestamtic give it a crack. If you don't understand the concepts of Ingestion and Digital Asset Management then read about my workflow on my site

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Dust-Aid Platinum Sensor Cleaner - A Trial

I had seen people on my social network talking about sensor cleaning and a few people mentioned a new product Dust-Aid Platinum.

Note: The image is linked from the Dust-Aid website and is not mine.

For loose dust I generally use an Arctic Butterfly static brush which works quite well but stubborn spots have needed a wet clean. I've written about this process before on my blog "Got Dust Bunnies? Wet Clean Camera Sensor" and to be honest it's pretty frustrating. Most recently I've just paid someone else to do a professional clean and written about it in the article "Is it worth getting a professional optical path clean?".

There seems to be only one supplier of Dust-Aid Platium in Australia and that is Camera Check Point in Dubbo. Everyone else seems to still be stocking the old adhesive based product which I wouldn't touch with a barge pole.

This product uses a plastic wand with a silicone pad on the base. The silicone attracts and picks up the dust from the sensor or so they say, well the proof is in the pudding as usual. I grabbed Matt's camera which was quite spotty as it had not been cleaned for a couple of years and shot this test image at f/22 focussed on infinity of the clear sky.

Yuck it's got measles. Spots everywhere. I started by cleaning the outside of the camera thoroughly with a micro fibre dusting cloth then set sensor cleaning mode and cleaned around the image box with a swab and did a single pass side to side with the static charged Arctic Butterfly.

Next I opened up the Dust-Aid and used one of its cleaning pads to clean the silicone as recommended in the directions and cleaned the sensor with a number of direct down presses of the silicone pad on the wand. I followed their directions exactly except for the bit about using a rocket blower - to my mind that just blows in more dust unless you've got a filtered blower that you keep sealed. The result is below.

While the result still has some spots and there is some residue from the butterfly brush in the top left this is pretty impressive for a single pass of their cleaner. This is considerably better than a wet clean first pass. There is still some more work to do to get it truly clean but this is pretty good.

The brush solutions tend to clump dust up and drop it in piles. The wet cleaners often leave streaks.

I'd be happy to use Dust-Aid Platinum as a field cleaner when I'm away on trips and didn't want to try and tackle a wet clean. Give it a try - for about $40 you can't really go too wrong.

To be clear I've got nothing to do with Dust-Aid.