Big Australian Rock in Heaps’a Water

Sugarloaf Rock. It is a famous rock on the beautiful Southwest coast of Western Australia. Australia has a great tradition of very uninspired place names – Mount Bruce, Mount Sheila, Lake Disappointment and I could go on all night. With this tradition in mind, Sugarloaf Rock is actually not too bad. I would have expected it to be called ‘Big Rock In heaps’a Water’. That reminds me, I still have to write the Places With Wrong Names To Be Renamed list to the Australian government (Kakadu, Nourlangie, Alligator river etc). So much work!

I got a couple of scoops of Sugarloaf back in February. We met up with True North Mark and he took us to the Big Rock In Heaps’a Water. Christian Fletcher we had met earlier, but he was unable to come out and play that night, something about having sold his house and car for a Phase One camera.

Big Rock In… really is a big rock. Images do not do it justice as it really is much bigger than it looks and it is a really gorgeous location for a sunset shoot. Mark being Mark, he naturally climbs the highest and hardest to get to rock straight away and sets up shop for his shot, then iphone browses while he waits. I climb around a bit, try a few locations but having never been here before I end up searching too much and do not really find my sweet spot. My best image from the first night is this dusk panorama, shot while escaping mossies on the way back to the carpark:

Sugarloaf in dusk light - blog

We went back the night after and the light was completely different and I created this panorama that I quite like. A dark and moody Sugarloaf is going to sleep image:

Sugarloaf night - blog

Both images are stitched panoramas from about 3-4 horizontal images. It is easier with less images when you have moving water. Long exposures using stacked Lee filters made stitching fairly easy. I export all the layers to Photoshop from PTgui so I can manually mask and blend them and get the waves looking natural, also I can choose the best wave from each image.

Looking at both of them it is clear I did not nail it, did not get the job done. In both images I feel I am too far away from the scene, feels too passive, not enough drama or motion. I want to be down in the water with the rock towering in front of me and the waves crashing into me. Something I have learned about seascapes, the ones I like have action and drama and needs to be shot standing in the water basically. I look forward to tackling Big Rock… again some day, see you down there mates!

22 Comments on “Big Australian Rock in Heaps’a Water”

  1. Several thoughts for your consideration:

    1. The drama here is the intersection of sea and land. It needs more of the land as the framing crops off some of the water's edge at the bottom.

    2. To show height, that is best done from the lowest point not the high point! Once you are up high, the emphasis shifts to the view not the height per se.

    3. Horizon in the middle! Yikes! Crop the sky as the "visual story" is all about the context of sea/land edge. If you want a greater sense of grandeur, go wider. I think of granduer when I have to turn my head to see it all; thus Guandeur = wide.

    I do like the second one better.

    1. Hi Zane, hope you are doing well. Thanks for your great inputs, they are always really useful. You need to get your blog or something going my friend 🙂

      1) I would prefer it with no land at all, that's why I want to be in the water. I just want water, Big Rock and sky.

      2) Agree, gotta get in the water 🙂

      3) Yeah not the best of framing. Horizon in the middle is less of a problem in wide panos though I feel, but still, it's not the best dynamic composition by far.

  2. Not bad mate, it is actually a hard place to shoot and saying that the better shots I have were taken from water level. Have a look at pete east ways version. It is pretty nice and was taken from way up high. I think he stretched it taller though.

    1. Thanks mate, yeah I must get in the water next time n try and get something better. I know Peter's version, very nice but yes the top of Sugarloaf looks a bit stretched now that I look at it. Pete's magic photoshop techniques also added a human if I recall? 🙂

  3. Not bad mate…but I think I prefer my capture on that evening with the big square stitch…but for sure I had the advantage of having scoped it before a few times.

    I too want to try a close to the water perspective next…maybe when you're next down this way you never know!

  4. I think i like the first image better myself – I like those tones. I recall Mark's image and remember it as being a bit different to the norm. Water level may well be the go here next time 🙂

  5. yeah i really prefer the 2nd image Flem.
    lovely colours and framing of the rock with not only the rocks, but the clouds.

    and you would like to shoot the rock from in the water… did you not see any of Christian's wave photos!!!?? haha. can get a wee bit rough down there 😛

    1. Yeah 2nd image is by far the best, but still, I can do much better.

      Haha, yeah it was a bit rough when we were there as well. Might have to settle for standing close to the water 🙂

  6. The second image is the best light but i like the composition of the first image.
    Looks like a place you could spend a lot of time to get different angles and light combinations!

    1. That's a nice shot Luke, although I do feel that 'view camera' composition style makes Sugarloaf look somewhat too small. I would get in the water and the shoot up, have no foreground, just a towering Sugarloaf (and big waves threatening to end me!)

  7. It looks like a fantastic location, I must get there one day. I like the warmer version better, however, the place looks like it needs a big storm and massive waves, like Peter Eastway's version.

    1. Cheers Will. Know what you mean, some locations just takes so many goes before you nail it and then there's always still room for improvement. That perfect storm, that perfect light etc.

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