Roaming Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island - Perth's summer island playground by Paul Amyes on
Rottnest Island’s beaches are its big draw card. The many small bays around the island make for delightful sheltered beaches that safe for swimming.


Eighteen Kilometres off the Western Australian coast near Fremantle is an island. It’s name is Rottnest Island. In terms of size it’s not very significant – just 11 Km long and 4.5 Km wide. It has just one settlement and that has a permanent population of around 300 people. But for all its insignificance it receives about 500,000 visitors a year. On a busy day 15,000 can be on the island at one time. It’s most famous residents aren’t even people, they are Quokkas (Setonix brachyurus) a small marsupial animal in the same family as Kangaroos and Wallabies. They are so important to Western Australia that they are the face of the current tourism campaign in the media with the hope that possibility of taking a selfie with one of cute critters will bring legions of overseas tourists who will enrich the coffers of the state government now the mining boom is over. For young people finishing school Rottnest is a right of passage where the teenagers go for a booze fuelled week-long party to mark the transformation from school kid to adult. For other Perth residents a trip to the island is what summer is all about.


Rottnest Island - Perth's summer island playground by Paul Amyes on
Quokkas are a small marsupial that inhabit Rottnest Island and they have now become the islands icon.


Rottnest Island - Perth's summer island playground by Paul Amyes on
Quokkas can be found all over Rottnest Island even in the Thomson Bay Settlement during day light.


Rottnest Island - Perth's summer island playground by Paul Amyes on
The supermarket in Thomson Bay Settlement has a strict no quokka policy.


You get to the island via a ferry. Rottnest Express has ferry services leaving Barrack Street Jetty in Perth, the B-Shed Fremantle Harbour and Northport Rouse Head. As well as the ferry service they run a variety of package tours to the island and you can rent  snorkeling equipment from them. Rottnest Fast Ferries  sails out of Hillary’s Boat Harbour and they also run a variety of day tours and cruises.


Rottnest Island - Perth's summer island playground by Paul Amyes on
There are no cars on Rottnest Island, cycling is the main form of transport.


The best thing about Rottnest is that there are no cars!!!! I’ll say that again. No cars!!!! Cycling is the main form of transport. Brilliant. You can either bring your own bike on the ferry at an extra charge or rent one from either Rottnest Express (if you travelled with them) or get one from Rottnest Island Bike Hire located behind the Hotel Rottnest on Bedford Avenue. The last time I visited the island I took my own bike and did an abbreviated circuit of the island.

Distances are not vast, but before you set off make sure you take plenty of food and water with you as there is none out- side Thomson Bay Settlement.

1. Starting at the Visitor Centre head south following the signs for Hotel Rottnest. After 200 metres take the left fork that runs along the beachfront in front of the hotel. Turn left into Forrest Avenue and  this swings round into McCullum Avenue. At the end of McCullum turn left into Parker Point Road.

2. Follow the signs for Kingston Barracks and after 870 metres go past the turn off for Kingston Road and go over the railway crossing heading for Parker Point. After a little while you pass Henrietta Rocks where the wreck of the vessel Shark can be seen from the look out point. The wrecks of the Lady Elizabeth and the Raven also lie off this point. If you are lucky you may see a sea-lion or two.

3. After 4 Km you arrive at a junction, take the left turn and follow the Parker Point Loop. If you have brought a mask, snorkel and flippers with you a stop here is a must as there is a snorkel trail that takes you out on the coral. After 2 Km you are back at the junction, take the left turn and ride along the edge of Salmon Bay.

4. At the 9 Km point you reach the intersection of Parker Point Road and Digby Drive. If you have had enough turn right onto Digby Drive and follow it back to Thomson Bay Settlement, otherwise turn left and then 1 Km later take the right fork following the Geordie Bay sign.

Rottnest Island - Perth's summer island playground by Paul Amyes on
Rottnest Island is Perth’s summer playground as families look to escape the heat of the mainland and enjoy the relaxed carefree beachlife of the island. Geordie Bay is one of many safe swimming beaches on the island.

5. Turn right into Bovell Way and follow the road back to the settlement on the northern side of the island. After 5 1⁄2 Km you reach Geordie Bay which is another good spot for swimming and snorkeling. Keep going along Bovell Way until it ends at the intersection with Geordie Bay Road where you turn right onto it and cycle along the edge of Herschell Lake. After 600 metres you reach a cross-road, turn right onto Digby Drive and cycle back through the settlement.

Rottnest Island - Perth's summer island playground by Paul Amyes on
Bathurst light house on Rottnest Island guides boats safely into Thomson Bay.

When you’ve returned to Thompson Bay you will in serious need of some refreshment. The Hotel Rottnest is in the old governor’s summer residence. The hotel used to be called the Quokka Arms and most of the locals still use that name. A great location for a quiet coldie on a hot summers day or for a gourmet meal. Another popular  eatery is the Rottnest Bakery – a visit to the bakery is considered mandatory for every visitor to the island and it is famous for its fresh bread, pies, slices, and cakes. It is the perfect place to refuel after surfing, snorkeling, swimming or cycling. It is also the most likely place you will meet a quokka.


Rottnest Island - Perth's summer island playground by Paul Amyes on
Waiting for the last ferry to arrive from Rottnest Island at the B Shed Fremantle Docks. Fremantle, Western Australia.



Bleedin’ Taters*

The secret to time lapsing is having a comfortable chair to sit in while you wait for the shoot to finish.

Got up at “stupid o’clock” the other morning to try out a new bit of time lapsing equipment. Streuth it was cold, and as I drove down to Monger’s Crossing I mused that the brass monkey would be tucked up at home in bed if he was sensible. A Swedish friend of mine once told me that there’s no such thing as cold weather just poor clothing choices. Well I took Matts’ advice to heart and I had more layers  than an onion.  On reaching the river it was dark and foggy, not the most photogenic conditions, but I thought for the purpose of this test it would be OK.  So I set  up the camera and sat down to wait for it to shoot one frame every twenty seconds for one hour.

The Canon EOS 550d and Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 OS on the Syrp Genie Mini pan and tilt kit.The observant will have noticed that the camera is held together with gaffer tape.

I tried watching a video on my iPod but it was so cold that the battery ran flat real quick so I thought I’d take a few pictures of my companions on the river bank.


A yellow billed spoon bill searching for food on a cold and misty morning on the banks of the River Avon. York, Western Australia.


A white-faced heron wading on the banks of the River Avon on a misty winter’s morning. York, Western Australia.

As to the time-lapse, well bearing in mind it was just a test to see how it worked, well it was a reasonable first attempt. The only downside was that the camera sensor was filthy and that meant a lot of cloning in Photoshop.



* English is pretty confusing at the best of times for non native speakers. “Taters in mould” is Cockney rhyming slang for cold.

The Highlands of Tasmania



Now according to Wikipedia the Highlands of Scotland are:

“…north and west of the Highland Boundary Fault, although the exact boundaries are not clearly defined, particularly to the east. The Great Glen divides the Grampian Mountains to the southeast from the Northwest Highlands. The Scottish Gaelic name of A’ Ghàidhealtachd literally means “the place of the Gaels” and traditionally, from a Gaelic-speaking point of view, includes both the Western Isles and the Highlands.”




The other day I knew that I was in the Georgian Town of Richmond in Tasmania, Australia, but you could be forgiven for looking out over the Coal River Valley at the distant hills and imagining that you had suddenly been transported 17,324 km (10764 miles) to the Scottish Highlands. This was particularly reinforced when the skirl of the pipes was to be heard floating across the valley. The reality was not that I had been suddenly swept up in Gaelic daydream and astral planed to a far off land but I was at the St Andrews Richmond Highland Gathering where all things Scottish were being celebrated. According to their Facebook page:

“The St Andrew Society Hobart Incorporated was formed in 1960 by a group of people who wanted to keep alive the traditions, dancing, music, sports and literature of Scotland. The motto of the Society is “Cairdeas”, a Gaelic word meaning “Friendship”. Membership of the Society is open to persons who are interested in fostering the objectives of the Society. “




The Scots are the third largest migrant group in Tasmania and they were numerous among the early settlers lured across by the prospect of farming in the Midlands of Tasmania which reminded them of their homelands. Prior to 1830 most Scots who migrated were farmers and landowners who were trying to escape the economic recession of the 1820’s. Other Scots came because they had served in the British Colonial forces and they stayed on when their term of service ended. From the 1830’s onwards the working poor joined the diaspora and they headed for Hobart to work in the industries there. This rate of migration has remained steady throughout the Twentieth Century and into the Twenty First.




So it was no wonder that as we pulled up in Richmond that the town was positively heaving with visitors. Now Richmond is well and truly on tourist route number 1 in Tasmania and can be busy throughout most of the year, especially so in summer. But nothing prepared us for this. I struggled to find a parking space, but luckily after a slow lap of the town I found a spot down by the Coal River and just a short walk from the village green where the action was happening.




At this point I feel compelled to make a public disclosure. When I was a young lad I had been exposed to the bagpipes through attending things like the The Royal Tournament at Earls Court in London. At that point I was fairly bagpipe neutral – I neither liked or disliked them. Then in December of 1987 we were in Kathmandu, Nepal, during the wedding season. Part of the wedding ceremony is to have a procession through the streets which is led by a marching (and I use the term loosely here as most seemed rather shambolic) band. Here I was subjected to bag pipe-playing of the most hideous nature. There are not words in the English language that adequately describe how bloody awful it was. The nearest I can get is to imagine a cat with a soprano voice being fed through a mangle while gargling on razor blades whilst having its nether regions probed by red-hot pokers and that doesn’t nearly describe the aural torture that I experienced. Ever since then I would rather slide down a banister rail made out of razor blades using my testicles as brakes rather than listen to bagpipes. It was, then, with some trepidation that I approached the green. The first thing I saw was the Scottish dancing with young tartan clad girls deftly defying gravity as they leapt and pranced on the stage. A walk around the perimeter of the green found a plethora of stalls selling on manner of Scottish items ranging from Celtic crosses to your clan’s genealogy. In the centre of the green there were competitions for the best pipe band, the best piper, the best pipe major, the best dressed band, demonstrations of Scottish country dancing and a choir. The strange thing was that I really enjoyed it. There was no sound of screaming mangled cats – it was all a thoroughly enjoyable experience.















So if you ever find your self in Southern Tasmania in February nip up to Richmond for the Highland Gathering its a fun day out.



Equivalence Schmalivance

Comparing the sizes of full frame, APSc and m4/3 cameras and lenses.

Internet forums are full of self-proclaimed experts spouting absolute crap about things they know nothing about. Unless you were hiding out in a cave with Osama Bin Laden or not visited the home of countless pointless photographic brand based crusades that is otherwise known as you maybe aware of this hot topic that has spawned a thousand fevered posts and countless character assassinations. If not it goes like this: equivalence is the idea that the size of the camera format effects focal length, depth of field, and exposure, and that when talking about equipment one should express this in terms relating to 35mm equivalents. These arguments became particularly prevalent when Olympus and Panasonic started to have some success with their micro four thirds format. The people express this idea most fervently are those who have sold two of their children and a kidney on Ebay to fund the purchase of a so-called full-frame dSLR and they want to let everyone who uses a smaller format that they are using an inferior product. Usually these arguments go like this:

m4/3 user: Hey I’ve just got my self a new lens, it’s the Olympus 45mm f1.9. It’s a lovely lens, wide open it produces very portraits wide open.

Full framer: It’s not a 45mm f1.8 it is a 90mm f3.8. It cannot render out of focus backgrounds and the smaller sensor needs more light and therefore longer exposures or higher ISO. A proper photographer would use an 85mm f1.2 on a full frame camera.

The argument will typically degenerate and lead to insults and other full frame users diving in to bolster the argument with lots of spurious mathematical equations, graphs and claims of mental deficiency on the part of any smaller format user and maybe even casting doubts on the mental faculties of their parents as well. So what is all this about then and why are people getting so hot under the collar?

Equivalence is not a new thing, it didn’t come with digital, it was a known fact back in the dim dark ages of film, and then funnily enough 35mm film was seen as the miniature inferior format. In those far off times a lot of professional work, and when I use the term professional I mean done for money, was shot using large format, the smallest was 5×4 inches and the largest practical was 10×8 inches. The next step down was medium format where a roll of film was used that was nominally 6cm wide, the popular sizes were 6×7, 6×6 and 6×4.5 cm. Small format, or miniature format was 35mm and smaller. It wasn’t until the advent of modern electronics  and a significant breakthrough with tabular grain film  in the 1980’s that 35mm really took off as a format. The ease of use that automation made with sharper finer grained films that made many professional photographers and advanced amateurs take up using 35mm and by the end of the 1990’s the larger formats had become niche products for specialised uses.

Professional photographers were well aware of equivalence.  A 10×8 camera with a 300mm lens has the same angle of view as a 5×4 camera with 150mm, a 6x6cm camera with 80mm and a 35mm camera with a 50mm. As most working photographers ran more than one format and some three or more favourite angles of view would be duplicated across the systems. So for 5×4 a photographer may have a 90mm, a 150, and a 300. His/her 6×6 system would then have a 55, 80 and 150mm lenses, and the 35mm system  35, 50 and 100mm lens all giving roughly the same angles of view.

Factors that influence depth of field are:

  • format size
  • focal length
  • distance to subject
  • magnification
  • lens aperture

From this we can, therefore assume that the larger the format size , the longer the focal length, the closer to the subject, the larger the lens aperture, and the greater the magnification the less the depth of field. So that is clear then. Well no because when we talk about depth of field it is also important to remember that what we are really talking about is acceptable sharpness because a lens can only render one single distance in focus (the plane of critical focus) and objects at other distances to the front and rear will have diminishing sharpness the further they are away from that point. The reality of this is that for most normal usage part of the scene will be acceptably sharp both in front of and behind the point of critical focus, and this zone will be formed that 1/3 of it is in front of the subject and 2/3 behind. This zone can be shallow with only a small part of the scene appearing to be sharp, or it can be deep with the apparent sharpness seemingly covering everything. Seems simple so far, well it gets more complicated because you can break these relationships. As magnification increases the depth of field decreases and the zone of apparent sharpness also shifts from the one-third in front and two-thirds to the rear to an equidistant amount front and rear. Also once you start playing with the plane of the lens in relation to the sensor and subject then everything can go a bit strange. Typically one of the problems that plagued large format shooters was that of getting enough depth of field. Large sensor, small depth of field, not much chop if you’re a landscape shooter. Well using the Scheimpflug rule you can place the plane of focus wherever you want in a scene by positioning the plane of the lens to be parallel with the plane of the subject by tilting the camera front, if that does not completely achieve what you want then you tilt the sensor plane as well  so that the planes of the subject, lens and sensor form an intersecting point and this will mean that the subject plane will then be completely sharp while shooting wide open. Working the other way round you can diminish the zone of sharpness  by swinging and tilting the camera front. This is not the sole prerogative of large format camera, tilt and shift lenses are available in medium format, 35mm, APS and even m4/3 . The other thing that throws a spanner in the works for depth of field is that the size of the output and viewing distance plays a big part. Simply put big print viewed at a distance and apparent sharpness is reduced.

12mm .v. 24mm

To test the theory I decided to print out an A3 sized lens resolution test chart and this was then set up on an easel in my garden. A tripod was then set up 1.8 metres away from the easel. The cameras tested were the Olympus EP-2 and the Canon EOS5d, both having roughly the same number of megapixels. Choosing lenses was somewhat problematic although I have a set of professional grade fast aperture constant zooms for my 5d I don’t for the EP-2. The lenses used were for the Canon an EF 24mm f2.8, a Sigma 105 f2.8 macro and  an 75-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM. For the Olympus the lenses were a Zuiko 12-50mm f3.5-6.3, a Zuiko 60mm f2.8 macro, and a Zuiko 40-150mm f4-5.6. Each camera was mounted on the tripod in turn and set to shoot large quality jpegs in aperture priority, image stabilisation where appropriate was switched off and the self timer was used to prevent any camera shake. The lens was focused on the chart. None of the images have been processed in any way and the full-sized images can be seen by clicking on any of the composite shots below where you’ll be taken to my Flickr account. At the 24mm and equivalent view the DOF was pretty much equal, although I suspect that there maybe more apparent differences at apertures of f2 and wider, but I wasn’t able to test that. The comparison between the two short telephoto macro lenses highlighted the most difference and at wide open at f2.8 the Olympus manages to resolve some background detail while the Canon doesn’t at all. At the equivalent of 300mm at f5.6 there is very little discernible difference, but that changes at f8 and smaller where the m4/3 camera starts to resolve more detail.

Zuiko 60mm .v. Sigma 105mm
150mm .v. 300mm

So what happens to exposure. Doesn’t that change? The short answer is no. When I got my first medium format camera, a secondhand Mamiya C330 Professional , it had no built in metering and the  handheld Weston meter that came with it had obviously been dropped and no longer worked properly so I used my Olympus OM1n  as a meter and guess what? It worked! Much later when working in the studio with studio flash I determined the exposure with my flash meter and would often make exposures with different format cameras but the exposure value remained the same and the images were correctly exposed. Memory is a fine thing, but I wanted to make definitely sure so I decided to run a quick test comparing full frame, to APS-c, m4/3 and compact camera with a sensor measuring 8.07 x 5.56 mm. The test was simple each camera would use a lens of as near as possible field of view equivalent to 105mm on full frame. The ISO was set to 200, and the shutter speed was set to the maximum synch speed so as not to let ambient light interfere with the result. White balance was set to flash, and pictures settings were natural and the images recorded as fine jpegs. A Canon 550EX speedlite was mounted on a light stand, set on manual to 1/2 power and fired at the test scene through an umbrella diffuser and was triggered by a synch cord. The flash output was measured with my Minolta flash meter which is accurate to 1/10 of a stop, the aperture required for correct exposure was f7.7, each cameras lens was set to the nearest corresponding value which was f7.1. All images are straight out of the camera without any processing. Each cameras image was opened up large in Lightroom 3 and screen shot was taken of the image showing the histogram. Looking at the histogram shows that there’s barely any discernible difference between each cameras recording of the scene.

Canon EOS5d
Canon EOS550d
Olympus EP-2
Panasonic Lumix LX5

So what does all this mean? Well the full framer is right in that a 45mm lens on m4/3 does have an angle of view equal to a 90mm on a 35mm sensor. As to the inability to have shallow depth of field that is wrong, it is definitely possible to minimise depth of field but we are talking about subjective differences here as there is that nebulous term “acceptable sharpness” and then it depends on how big you print, and how close you are when you view it. Personally when I take a head and shoulders portrait of someone I like to have from the tip of the nose to the ears in focus as I like to be able to see who I’m looking at. Shooting at 85mm f1.2 the depth of field can be measured in millimetres and so the iris of the eye might be in focus but the rest is just blur. This is just a matter of taste. If you were shooting landscapes using wide-angle lenses then there is little to choose between m4/3s and full frame, and in fact I might go as far to say that the smaller camera has the advantage being smaller and lighter. As to the matter of the smaller format needing more light to form an image that is just plain wrong.

So is the 35mm dSLR superior to m4/3? Yes and no. Infuriating aren’t I! It all depends upon your photographic priorities. If you want to squeeze every last ounce of image quality out of a scene then 10×8 or whole plate large format film cameras either contact printed or drum scanned cannot be beat. Hopeless though for getting shots of the rug rats playing at the park, expensive to run, not very portable and definitely not conducive to spontaneity. Want something you take anywhere and be able to upload images to the web, well your phone cam is your best bet. My Olympus EP-2  is my favourite go anywhere camera. I can rig it up to be like a dSLR by adding its optional electronic viewfinder when I want to use a long lens, put on the 17mm f2.8 pancake lens and it fits in my jacket pocket, put on a mic,  a loupe, put it in its cage or rig and its a great little video camera. It perfect for lightweight travel. Out walking the dog or shopping then chances are I’ve got my Panasonic LX-5. My Canon EOS5d  is the original 13Mp version and I still keep for certain things and for certain lenses that I just don’t want to give up. There are no absolutes, pick your camera for what you need not what other people think that you should use.