Sydney Bushfires - M6 + 6D (32mm, 11-22mm, 100-400mmL II)

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Marco Nero
Marco Nero Veteran Member • Posts: 6,413
Sydney Bushfires - M6 + 6D (32mm, 11-22mm, 100-400mmL II)

EOS M6 + 32mm - Dense smoke on my street this week... over 95km from where the fire is.

SYDNEY'S BUSHFIRES:  December 2019
This is a catastrophe of epic proportions as Australia is hit by the worst fires on record.  The city has been subjected to smoke levels that are so bad that spending more than a few hours outside is said to be as bad as smoking two packs of cigarettes at once.  Even in the suburbs, almost 100km from the nearest fires, the smoke is so bad that your body reacts the moment you open the door to your home. In Sydney last week, the smoke was so thick that it set off all the fire alarms in Sydney... over 128 km away from the fires that were emitting the smoke. Visibility was reduced to just 3km.  Airports closed.  Ferries were cancelled. I chose not to put my air-conditioning on, even during a heatwave with 37C temperatures and yet I was getting headaches from the smoke that had made it into my house.  As if the bush-fires weren't bad enough, we're in the middle of the worst drought in 200 years.  Next week, a new heatwave is hitting the country and tonight's NEWS warned that the South of the country is expected to experience temperatures over 50C degrees!  Nobody knows when it will end.

EOS 6D + EF 100-400mmL II - Picking up my wife after work in the smoke-filled air.

Photographing the Fires and Smokey Landscape:
Being a once in a lifetime chance - as these are the worst fires in 220 years, I thought I'd go up to the mountains and was surprised to find the air was clearer in some places. Carrying a camera meant several things happened.  The larger lens branded me as a journalist so the Firemen asked me not to publish their faces (images not shown below) and the tourists would constantly ask me to take their pictures with their own cameras at the lookouts.  Another thing that happened was that quite a few photographers came over to talk equipment with me, especially at the lookouts.  They were all extremely polite.  Two weeks prior I was literally screamed at by a Nikon-toting woman with a cheap model DLSR and kit lenses... who claimed I'd walked into her shot as she crouched between two rocks, dressed entirely in camouflage clothing with the sun behind her. My camera wasn't visible so I think she just felt entitled.  What she was doing by challenging me was actually breaking the law but what's the point in challenging someone who is self-focused. We ended up exchanging profanity and I took her picture, just to irritate her a little more.  And to mark the exact time of the incident.  In all my years, that was a first.  I'm always very courteous towards others in the real-world and I've never had a confrontation with a photographer before.

EOS M6 + 32mm - Sunset on the first day of the fires, over a month ago.

EOS M6 + 11-22mm - The fierce Wollomi National Park Fire - about 50 km away from me.  Taken 3 weeks ago - long before the fires reached the size they are today.  These fields eventually burned. Note how dry the grass is on the right.  This fire was believe to have been deliberately lit and is now, three weeks later, looking to consume more than 400,000 ha, not including the other fires.

I chose to carry the gear listed below and that enabled me to carry two different bodies with me. The EOS 6D is my leisure DSLR and I bought it especially for Astrophotography.  I wanted to have the EOS M6 handy with the 11-22mm lens so I felt that the EOS 6D was for the best performance with the EF 100-400mmL II lens... although I did have the lens adapter with me in case I wanted to mount it to the M6.  I also chose to use the 11-22mm lens because the f/4 aperture and wide field of view were in my interest for landscapes. After sunset I swapped to the 32mm lens for the f/1.4 aperture.
I made the mistake of taking a hike without putting sunscreen on my arms or wearing a cap so my forearms were severely burned from the UV light in the thin mountain air.  I had what was close to second-degree burns and it took 4 days for the pain to drop. The smoke in the air imitated the effects of fog to a degree.  The main difference being that fog dissipates as the day grows longer.  So I got quite a few interesting shots were smoke created a layering effect in the landscapes at the time of day when fog wouldn't be present.  I've only oploaded images that I felt were of key interest and out of a few thousand shots (after I'd edited out the flies), I ended up with a lot of repeats but about 500 keepers. With some of the rich colors and smooth skies or smoke filled scenes, banding was a slight problem if I wanted to push the colors further during editing... so I generally left them as they were.  It only affected a few images (three) and the only image that annoyed me was the canyon shot with the blue sky (below).  Fortunately, I had taken two shots of that scene and exposed for both the sky and the land. The end result is a slight blend of the two. RAW would have possibly offered more leeway but I was happy with these results and there's still room to edit them far beyond the JPEG files captured.
The city (Sydney) is swamped in smoke and there's a warning about tomorrow being hazardous in terms of air-quality.  But I have to get in there to visit the Markets to buy something my wife spotted a few weeks ago... so I'll be in the city with the 32mm lens again.  I got some great shots with it last week in the city and it's just the right focal length for the sorts of shots I like to take.  But in the mountains, a wider 11mm view that can be quickly reset to 22mm is my preference from the EF-M lenses.  I always try to keep my posts to under 10 shots although these images are scattered in different folders and I was assured in the past that it wouldn't be a problem as long as it wasn't a common occurrence.  Just trim my post any replies to keep the forum tidy if you can.
Two Cameras / Wide-Zoom + Telephoto-Zoom
As usual, the benefit of carrying two different systems leans heavily towards the strengths of each sensor type.  Longer focal lengths with less light transmission and CPL filters at 400mm really did benefit from the Full Frame sensor.  And wider focal lengths with smaller apertures made the most from the APS-C type cameras when it comes to landscapes.  Most of the time I couldn't really tell if the shots were okay until I got home.
There was also a fly plague in the mountains so every third shot had flies in it. They were even sitting inside the lens hood of both cameras and that posed a problem sometimes. They were on my lenses and on my clothes.  I sprayed my face with repellent but they went up my nose and into my eyes behind my sunglasses.  Bush-flies don't get out of the way when you swipe at them.  I saw a woman slap herself in the face by accident, knocking off her glasses and cap from the accidental blow while trying to swap flies.  When I got into the car between locations, my record was 80+ flies trapped inside.  I even took the time to count them and film them.  The rest just stuck to the car, waiting for me to return. it took another 8 hours of driving to get them out of the car again. There was a third camera: The Apple iPhone that I had with me.  It performed quite well with panoramas and at one point it outperformed the M6 + 11-22mm lens - at least up until the editing stage.  I was happy to snap a few shots with the iPhone simply for convenience - just as long as the sun wasn't facing the lens optic.
Hope you like them.  The blend between the different cameras and lenses helped to keep the images interesting and refreshing.
Canon EOS M6 Mirrorless
Canon EOS 6D  Full Frame DSLR
Apple iPhone6S (samples not show here)
Canon EF-M 32mm f/1.4 STM
Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
Hoya Circular Polarizer
Manfrotto Monopod
Manfrotto Tripod (Night shots only)
Setting vary from P-Mode to M-Mode
All images taken in JPEG
Edited for color/contrast in Lightroom and Photoshop

EOS M6 + EF 100-400mmL II -  colorful sunsets on my street over the last few weeks

EOS M6 + 11-22mm  - Clear skies and a moon to the North... but those clouds" on the horizon are from a monstrous 361,000 ha fire that is sending ash all the way to the New Zealand glaciers.
EOS 6D + EF 100-400mmL II - 'Elvis' the Sky Crane - about to drop 10,000 liters of water
EOS M6 + 11-22mm - New spot-fires working their way up an escarpment.

EOS 6D + EF 100-400mmL II - Trails are closed to prevent tourists from getting burned.
EOS M6 + 11-22mm - Tourists tolerating the smoke at "The Three Sisters" lookout.

EOS 6D + EF 100-400mmL II - Park Ranger using infra-red cameras to locate spot-fires.

EOS 6D + EF 100-400mmL II - another wild sunset on my street

EOS M6 + 32mm - The type of colors we're seeing in the skies at the moment

EOS 6D + EF 100-400mmL II - a massive fire that threatens Sydney's water supply.

EOS M6 + EF 100-400mmL II - More weird sunsets on my street

EOS 6D + EF 100-400mmL II - worst garden hose ever (venomous snake)

EOS 6D + EF 100-400mmL II - Almost like a cheap watercolor.

EOS M6 + 32mm - Another nebulous sun overhead.

EOS 6D + EF 100-400mmL II - Eastern Water Dragon trying to get some sun.

EOS 6D + EF 100-400mmL II - Smoke between the hills at Narrow Neck Ridge, Katoomba

EOS M6 + 11-22mm - Stunning Panorama at Cahill's Lookout, Katoomba

EOS M6 + 32mm - Last light - from where I parked my car.

EOS M6  + 11-22mm - Another photographer stops to admire the view

EOS 6D + 100-400mmL II - Massive fire to the South contributes to the effect.
EOS M6 + 11-22mm - Waiting for the sun to drop further.

EOS 6D + EF 100-400mmL II - Looks like a shot from the Mars Rover.

EOS M6 + 11-22mm - Last Light

EOS M6 + 11-22mm - Another fellow photographer

EOS M6 + 32mm -  Fires in the distance that only the lens saw + Venus - at Lincoln's Rock

EOS 6D + EF 100-400mmL II - The fire-front at Katoomba

EOS M6 + 11-22mm  - Chatting with the Ranger

EOS 6D + EF 100-400mmL II - Two other photographers at Boar's Head Rock.

EOS 6D + EF 100-400mmL II - Fellow photographers setting up for a sunset.

EOS M6 + 11-22mm - The famous "Three Sisters" rock formation at Katoomba

EOS 6D + EF 100-400mmL II - Amber sun through the trees.

EOS 6D + EF 100-400mmL II - Smoke rising between the ridges on Narrow Neck Ridge.

EOS M6 + 32mm - Fire approaching my location - under moonlight.

EOS M6 + 32mm - Fire on the other side of the road from where I parked.

EOS M6 + 32mm - A peculiar ochre colored Ash Moon on my street this week

EOS 6D + EF 100-400mmL II + EF 2x III - closer view of that Ash colored Moon

EOS M6 + 32mm - Red sun with barely any light

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Marco Nero.

 Marco Nero's gear list:Marco Nero's gear list
Canon PowerShot S95 Canon PowerShot G1 X Canon EOS 60D Canon EOS 5D Mark III Canon EOS M +17 more
Canon EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS II Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Canon EF-M 32mm F1.4 Canon EOS 6D Canon EOS M6
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