This morning I woke to the alarm at 4am and shimmied the blinds apart to check the sky… I was disappointed to see that the moon was half visible and struggling to poke its head through the clouds. At this point I was highly tempted to just call off my seascape sunrise and jump back under the doona, it would have been so easy ! The reason for this, the sunrise expectations not the going back to sleep part, is that when the sky is covered in storm or rain clouds they block too much of the suns light and we don’t end up with a colourful light show. What we see is a muggy grey/brown/pink and its not very inspiring to me. But ! I chucked together some gear anyways and had a quick vegemite and cheese sandwich on my way out the door. I live in the eastern suburbs of Sydney and was planning to go over to the northern beaches, but after calculating the cost of the city tunnel plus harbour tunnel there and back… not to mention petrol, I figured I was better off waiting for nicer conditions as I went to Freshwater yesterday. When I got outside my building and couldn’t see a single star I jumped in the car and headed to Bondi Beach instead. At least if the sunrise was uneventful I haven’t strayed too far from home was my train of thought. On arrival I started to get a little excited as the clouds were beginning to part ways and some deep colours were developing… I’d struck gold ! hehe, I went into over drive and started running to and fro to capture some of Bondi’s more iconic landmarks as I’d only photographed the area once or twice before.

This is the first of many great shots I got this morning and it was one of those sunrises that lasts about 30 minutes and everything seems to have this pink glow to it. Some of the places I made it too were:

– The Iceberg baths, sea water lap pools (pictured)

– The rock shelf, just off the boardwalk south of the Iceberg baths

– A view from above the Iceberg baths

– And finally right down on sand near the waters edge on Bondi Beach

over the next few days/weeks I’ll select a few of the best exposures to share with you here on so check back every couple of days for more of this Bondi Sunrise.

I liked this particular image because of this kind of choice we are given as the viewer- If we are transporting ourselves into this scene, do we dive into the ocean and swim off (free as bird or should I say fish) or do we dive into this sea pool on the right and swim back and forth. I don’t know about you but both look very tempting to me, although that could have something to do with the HEAT Australia is starting to feel as we move into summer- Western Sydney hit 32 degrees celsius yesterday ! Ugh !


I don’t normally share my workflow as I’m usually too busy to take the time to write it all out for you, but I found an hour or 2 to explain a lot of the shot mentality and editing process.

So here goes…


So first off this is a a hybrid image of a tonemapped image from Photomatix and then I used Luminosity masks from two of the frames in the bracket I shot.

Whenever I’m in shooting mode apart from all the millions of other things buzzing through my mind I know the most important to me is “Shutter Speed”. So everything else comes 2nd to this, BUT I use the other settings to get the shutter speed I want. On this one I decided I wanted the speed to be somewhere around or less than 0.5sec. I could have gone for something like 15seconds or crisp and sharp at 1/100 but I wanted something with a little movement in it but not too much, which showed the shape of the water on the oceans surface but also the fact that it was moving.

TIP- 2 seconds is also great exposure times for water, try those out some time !

Now that I’ve decided on a shutter speed I don’t actually change the shutter speed, instead I go into aperture mode and I adjust the aperture and the ISO until I get the shutter speed I’m after. So if I wanted a long shutter speed I would use a low ISO and a high aperture. If for example I wanted a fast shutter speed than I would use a high ISO and low aperture. There are also a lot of in between areas and issues to consider like depth of field and noise, but as I said my primary goal when shooting is shutter speed so I develop the rest as I go. For me I prefer to have a lower ISO when possible so this usually takes the most importance over the preferential aperture.

So I used these settings on my camera and fired off 5 shots manually adjusting the EV values.

Aperture: f/1.8, ISO: 200 and Shutter Speeds: 1/15, 1/10, 1/5, 0.5 and 1.0 seconds.

So I shoot a 0 frame (this is your normal exposure). Then I shoot a -1, -2, +1 and +2 and look to see if I have covered all the areas of shadow and highlights with these frames. Here is how these images turned out for me.


Post Processing and Software:

Now that the shooting was done it was time to upload them to my macbook PRO. I import them into my Adobe Lightroom 5 catalog where I have my images separated by the date I shot them, as well as my separate cameras. Its just a great way to catalog your galleries and backups.

So from looking at my images I could tell that they were really dark in the ocean but the swimming pool turned out quite bright. This is because the Bondi Icebergs have these huge flood lights shining down on them so the camera picked up all this light and recorded but the lights weren’t shining on the ocean.

Photomatix PRO – Is a MAC and PC HDR software for creating stunning HDR images. They have a trial, but if you end up buying a copy of Photomatix you can get a 15% Discount with the coupon code LukeZemePhotography

I made the plan then that I was going tonemap all 5 images in Photomatix Pro and just use the sky from that image. Also whilst in Photomatix Pro I was going to use selective deghosting on the water and only use 1 frame for those areas to see how the results turned out as I might use this in the final image. If you ever tonemap an image its always a good idea to just use the one frame in water, trust me. I wrote a tutorial on Photomatix deghosting here.  If you look at the image on the far left, you can see it turned out great for the ocean so I was going to use that frame along with the 2nd frame and create a luminosity blend in Adobe Photoshop CC. Then from the two results I would combine those either with masks OR using a gradient filter in Photoshop. The masks would be more selective so that would probably be the road I took. This would then constitute the area below the horizon in my image.

I created a tonemapped image in Photomatix Pro by loading up all 5 images into the software and this is the result I made.

Photomatix Pro 

icebergs-toneAll HDR software creates images from the data and the result is the best that the screen can display it. The issue, from my understanding, is that the monitors today are inadequate to display this data correctly.

So this is why HDR photographers stylise their images with filters after they have tonemapped them, as we are trying to get a closer representation of the scene and how our eyes actually saw it.

Anyways, I left my tonemapped image for now and began editing 2 of the RAW images in Photoshop CC using luminosity blends. These blends allow me to selective choose different aspects of the darks, midtones, or lights and that is where their power lies. I can select any of these 21 areas of which I usually have 7 levels of each (7 darks, 7 midtones and 7 lights) loaded in my channels. You can then make any adjustment to just one of those levels if you like… really really powerful stuff.

Here is a glimpse of the luminosity blend in action using Photoshop CC

Iceberg-blendsI use all sought’s of adjustment layers during my blends and it depends on what Im trying to achieve at the time. If its to bring out the details and light in the shadows for example I’d use  bightness contrast or curves, or I might be trying to enhance a particular colour to make it more realistic so I might try color balance. You can see all the adjustment choices above the layers panel on the right and there are many to choose from.

So after I combined this luminosity blend with the tonemapped image from Photomatix Pro I then took the image into On1 Perfect Effects. Perfect Effects is a great filter program for its variety of choices, but I also like to use Topaz Clarity & Adjust 5 quite a bit too. Whats great about perfect effects is that you can layer the different filters inside the add-on as you go. Here you can see me layering 3 filters at once. These can also be adjusted on the right side till you get them just right.

On1 Perfect Effects 


So at the end of my workflow I always do 2 things – Sharpen & reduce noise.

Noise Reduction is an important step and I use Topaz DeNoise 5 to do this as I’ve found it gives a lot of bang for your buck. I had a trial and ended up purchasing it towards the end of the trial because it was so good !

Sharpening can be done by any tool of your choice- you can use one of the many sharpening options in On1 Perfect Effects  like the high pass sharpening, or if you don’t have perfect effects you can just use one of the Photoshop CC sharpening methods. Photoshop has some great sharpening filters like unsharp mask- which sounds like it isn’t sharpening it from the name but thats because it can blur as well as sharpen 😉 

It’s a long process, but at the end of the day I enjoy making these images and I get lost in the colours and tones. Each image has a different process for me and the more you learn the more approaches you can see to take for them and thats when it starts to become fun.


Image Location:

View -33.894838, 151.274697 in a larger map


Hope you enjoyed this extended Gallery post,

Thanks, Luke

If you have any questions or comments you can leave them below.

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