Finding new light on a familiar subject – James Allan

We last went to Port Willunga 4 and a half years ago.  The pylons of the derelict jetty have been the subject of more photo club images than I care to mention.  The Jetty pylons are all that remains of Port Willunga’s early days as a grain port.  Here is a picture of the jetty from 1872.

Many of the judges regard this subject as overdone – perhaps a tad trite or cliched.  Of course they are wrong.  Being that popular it must be a great photographic location.  I certainly have enjoyed the trip down south on several occasions.

It was an overcast day without much promise until just after sunset, when the sky lit up.

A stump

It was one of the best attended excursions we have had in years.  Just have a look at this collage of images.


The photographers were Adrian Hill, Jo Tabe, Graham Field, David Tulloch, Adrian again, myself, Yvonne Sears and Melinda Hinde.  It is hard to believe that these images were all taken within a period of 15 minutes.

Yvonne Sears Light Ball

Yvonne Sears had brought a torch and was keen to try some light painting.  Here is her image.

Sticks and Balls 3-1

This was my attempt, taken from a different angle.  I was fortunate to catch more of the fire in the sky.  OK  I am putting my hand up.  I think I messed this one up.  I had used a Cokin filter to darken the sky.  My biggest regret however was the quality of the image.   I like so much about this image.  The light ball is half formed but quite pleasing none the less.  However it is a Jpeg image exposed for 15s at f5.6 ISO 2500.  In my opinion it’s too grainy, and the Cokin filter has obscured the right hand edge of the image.  This is my 4th attempt to correct these deficiencies in photoshop.  What would I do better next time?  I think I would use a longer exposure, a lower ISO and darken the sky in camera RAW.  Well lets see if I get the opportunity this next week.

This is Denis Smith, the master.  He makes it look easy.


It is worth doing a search on Google to see how others have tackled this subject.  When I looked I discovered wide angled gaudy skies, monochrome landscapes, crashing waves, minimalist and abstract images with ghostly figures walking between the pylons, even a wedding shot.

So the way I see it we have unfinished business here.  Once we have perfected the technique, perhaps we will be able to move on.  Perhaps we never will, but we will benefit from trying.

Here is a gallery of some of my other visits to “the sticks” .

Hope to see you there on Sunday.



  • Search images on Flickr or Google for new ideas
  • Weather forecast – dress for the weather
  • Check sunset / moonrise and moonset / tide times
  • shoes for the beach


  • Tripod
  • Camera
  • Remote Shutter release
  • Lens – standard / wide angled – use light lenses (f2.8) if you have them
  • torch – for setting up
  • Wristwatch, stopwatch or mobile phone for timing “bulb” setting.

Light painting equipment

  • Torch
  • Speedlight flash
  • coloured filters
  • string
  • plastic tubing
  • rolled paper

Camera Settings

  • long exposure 30 seconds or “bulb” setting.
  • apperture – try f8 for good depth of field
  • ISO – experiment – low (100) for silky smooth textures, high (800+) if you are looking for stars.
  • Quality – Jpeg + RAW settings

Now here are the photos from the actual excursion