• Andrew JK Tan

Nikon Z 6 - Landscape photography at awesome Walakiri Beach


Ever since I saw the image of the "Dancing Trees" which are actually mangrove trees at Walakiri Beach (located in West Sumba island , Indonesia) while googling the web , I was determined to photograph this location when I had the chance.

ISO800 f10.0 30 seconds RAW Purplish tones in this image tweaked during post production. This image was the most popular of all the images captured from this trip , hitting very close to 18,000 views on FLICKR as of 18th July

My opportunity arrived during the first week of July. Together with 5 other photographer friends we travelled first to Bali (which was 4.5 hours from Singapore) to catch another domestic flight to Tambolaka Airport , West Sumba. This flight was another 1.5 hours in a propeller powered passenger plane.

There are only 4 domestic Indonesian airlines that flies in to Tambolaka so some level of planning is needed. We stayed in West Sumba for a night for some photography before we journeyed by car for another 5 hours towards the East to reach Walakiri Beach.

The other alternative would be to fly into Umbu Mehang Kunda airport in East Sumba which would then be very much nearer to the beach.

ISO4000 f5.6 1/30s RAW Overexposed in camera & tweaked during post production to reduce the deep shadows to produce a lower contrast & softer overall look & feel

The most important thing to plan when photographing this location is to check for low tide timings to access this location easily & get the best photography opportunities. Other than the tide timings , the only other main hindrance is the crowd of visitors that frequent the location. This spot is one of the more famous Instagram locations & also especially popular for wedding photography !

We were there for two sessions (over 2 evenings) and there was definitely a good crowd which was of course frustrating when composing for a shot without human elements but there was of course the ocassional time (which was rare honestly) when that human element (s) add greatly to a well composed scene.

ISO2500 f6.3 1/50s RAW One of my rare captures which included human elements into my composition. For this shot another element added into the scene was the ripples in the foreground. To get the ripples , I got our host to toss a pebble during the image capture process. To get the tone in this image , my Nikon Z 6 white balance was set to Shade.

To capture the scenes WITHOUT all that human presense , the only real practical action I could do was to wait until the sun had set & for the entire location to get too dark for the smartphones & compact cameras which most of the visitors were using to contend with. Of course using a tripod then becomes a necessity.

ISO500 f10.0 30 seconds RAW Other than the blues of this blue hour capture being made a little more vibrant during post production , there was not much more tweaks other than lightening the shadows to reveal more details of the trees & the reflections

Before I share my milkyway capture at this location which was one of my main goals for this trip , I want to share how the mangrove trees really looked like when they were lighted in the evening

ISO200 f8.0 1/100s RAW When the location was brightly lit , it becomes a much greater challenge to compose then when photographing the Dancing Trees in silhouette form. The main challenges were to get the appropriate foreground and create the layering while minimising overlap between the trees & human elements.

Composition wise , my photography strategy was simple. First & foremost was to minimise any overlap between the trees & the second was to get lower then the trees when necessary for the composition to add more overall impact

ISO5000 f5.6 1/50s RAW This is when the flexibility of the Z 6 articulated LCD screen comes into it's element , my Z 6 was just above the water level with my camera tilted slightly upwards to capture the nearest tree with no clipping and I was squatting of course (tough for an old man like me ha ha). One reason why I used such a high ISO was because it was a hand-held shot. Why hand-held ? simple , it would take too long with a tripod setup even for me to capture the scene with the light quality I wanted.

Just to reiterate the importance of not overlapping the trees and keeping the composition as simple as possible. The guideline of LESS is MORE is extremely apt for this location.

ISO1250 f8.0 8 seconds RAW Overexposed in camera & tweaked during post production to get the tone that I wanted (I wanted a soft romantic tone) and reduced the deep shadows to produce a lower contrast & softer overall look & feel

ISO5000 f5.6 1/20s RAW Unfortunately I could not prevent the overlap of the furthest tree but I still liked the image.

Now onto my milkyway capture with the famous Dancing Trees. One of the reasons why I was so motivated to capture such a scene was because I could not really find that many milkyway images with the Dancing Trees that I liked.

ISO3200 f4.0 20 seconds RAW It was a pretty difficult image to produce because to photograph the milkyway with the Dancing Trees , first an ultra wide angle was needed to get the milkyway + the trees into a single shot & the biggest challenge the photographer was to contend with were the very bright shops & cafes that lined the beach. This shot was taken just after 8pm & there were 3 things that I did to create this shot

1st - capture the milkyway (with setting above)

2nd - capture a 2nd shot with the shops & cafe appropriately exposed to be blended during post

3rd - light paint the nearest Dancing Trees to avoid a total silhouetted look to the trees

ISO3200 f4.0 25 seconds RAW Composition was the challenge here , I wanted the tree to stand tall but it should not overlap with the milkyway , note that I was composing in the dark with a backlit scene , not easy at all with any camera mirrorless or otherwise

Remaining Dancing Tree @Walakiri Beach highlights

All the images shared in this blog were captured with my Nikon Z 6 which really is an incredible all round photography tool and the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4S or Nikkor Z 14-30mm f/4S lenses.

This was my very first visit to Walakiri Beach and I was of course happy with the results , special thanks to the great weather that greeted us during the photography sessions. Would there be a 2nd or 3rd trip ? Definitely , I would not hesitate to explore this location & Sumba Island further.

Hope you like this blog and if you get the chance to make the trip to Walakiri Beach , do it , it is definitely worth the trip.

Till the next blog , my best wishes on your photography journey !

Cheers,

Andrew

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