An explore at the National Arboretum


It’s probably going to appear here a few times, but I was at the Arboretum again last weekend. A photographer friend runs monthly photo walks, and this months walk was supposed to be on Sunday. The weather wasn’t looking good first thing in the morning so she cancelled. I had a look at the forecast, and out the window, and concluded that provided I went somewhere there was shelter if needed, I could still do a photography walk. The Arboretum came immediately to mind. I’ve been there several times lately – it has several nice walks if you’re just after the walk, but there are a huge number of photo opportunities if you’re into that too… And it should be no surprise if you’re reading this blog to realise that I’m definitely into the photo opportunities!

The day

As I said, the weather started fairly ordinary. Rainy, a bit of wind, with possible thunderstorms predicted. By 9am, however, the BOM had lifted the Thunderstorm Warning, so I felt more confident about being outside exposed to the elements somewhat. It wasn’t exactly hot, but it certainly wasn’t cold. From memory it was low 20’s temperatures (celsius, for those in strange countries that use other units…). Our originally scheduled walk location was rather exposed so I decided it wasn’t a good choice. The Arboretum, however, has the central cafe/bookshop area to shelter in, with several good photographic options not far from there.

It was still drizzling slightly when I got to the Arboretum, but it did look like it might clear. I had told people that I was going to the Arboretum in case people wanted to join me, so I decided to start with a coffee (hot chocolate, actually) to give other people a chance to turn up if they wanted. No-one else did, but that’s okay. By the time I’d finished my hot chocolate (and cake – the cafe there usually has a few gluten-free cake options, and that day had a multitude of options to choose from, so I had to encourage this behaviour) the rain had stopped, so I headed outside.


My friend Cristy, who organises the walks, is mostly into macro photography. I have been enjoying macro, and it poses its own challenges, but isn’t entirely what I like trying to capture. So I started out with the 24-70mm general purpose lens on the camera. I took a few shots of the view out towards Civic (what we Canberrans call our city centre), where it was a bit clearer than where I was. There was a children’s birthday party there too, and they were out flying kites, so I took a few kite shots as well. I then swapped to the 70-200mm telephoto zoom to better try and capture the views. A took a few shots with that, but I wasn’t completely satisfied. A few alright shots, but nothing that really stood out for me. The 200mm reach of that lens isn’t quite what I want in a telephoto lens – I’ve been spoilt by having a 100 – 300mm lens on my Pentax APSC sensor DSLR, which gives an effective reach of 150 – 450mm, and this just doesn’t feel the same (although I can crop it down to achieve the same effective zoom, but what I see in the screen isn’t the same, so psychologically it just doesn’t feel the same).

Margaret Whitlam Pavilion, hunkering down before the approaching storm cell. The storm cell never arrived – it stayed parked over Woden.

Experimenting with Panoramas

I’ve watched a few videos on stitching together multi-shot panoramas, so I decided to give that a go. Using the 70-200mm lens, handheld (I didn’t take the tripod with me), I took a series of shots capturing the view in an (approximately) 130o angle. I did two sequences – one in portrait mode (this is the recommended for a horizontal panorama) of 9 photos, and one in landscape of 6 photos. In playing around I did stitch them both together, but I present the 9 photo version (stitched together from portrait orientation photos) here for your enjoyment.

Panorama from the National Arboretum: From Black Mountain on the left around to Woden Valley (under a storm cell) on the right – Projection: Equirectangular (2) FOV: 134 x 48 Ev: 12.92

You probably want to open that image in a separate tab so you can zoom in and scroll around to appreciate the sheer resolution. The full image is approximately 34,000 x 6,000 pixels, but the version here is approximately a quarter that. At 11 Mb it is still a very large file so don’t try this if you’re on a mobile.

After playing around taking shots for stitching together panoramas for a bit (and a few more kite shots for good measure, but from further away using the bigger zoom), I wandered back towards the main building. They have a few sensory and exploratory gardens there, which can be good subjects for macro photography. On the way, this image came into view, and I have to say, it is my absolute favourite for the day (and probably my favourite for the last several months, to be honest). In hindsight it would have been just that bit better if I’d moved a bit more to my right to get all of the dropping greenery between the framing trees.

A splash of colour between the trees.

I then spent a bit of time taking macro photos in the gardens. I have been taking image sequences to make focus stacked images, but I haven’t yet worked out how to merge them in my software, so you’ll have to wait for those. I did get this fantastic single shot of a flower covered in water droplets, however.

A flower covered in water droplets.

So, that’s it for this week. A few bonus images below for your enjoyment as well.

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