Camel trains are a regular sight on Birubi Beach, NSW. Justin Gilligan explains how he was able to capture the familiar from a unique perspective.

I’ve spent many summers on Birubi Beach near Port Stephens winding down during the Christmas and New Year’s break. Quite often I have my camera on hand to photograph the sites, which range from spectacular sunsets to the nearby Stockton Beach sand dunes.

The camel tour on this beach had become so familiar that I simply overlooked it as a photographic subject – it was as though it had become invisible to me.

That all changed during an afternoon walk on the beach when our paths crossed. It was an intriguing encounter as tourists wielding selfie sticks road aloft of the chain of the slowly meandering beastly creatures.
It soon dawned on me that it was a quintessential scene that really represented this beach. So I returned with my camera and housing in the hope of achieving a “crabs-eye” perspective of the tour for something a little bit different.

The day was hot and the sea conditions a little rough. As I waded into the water with waves washing around me I accepted this was going to be a challenging concept to pull off.

The key to success was preparation, so I determined the correct exposure for the bright clouds in the sky and took a few test shots before reviewing the histogram. My goal was to shoot at the highest aperture possible at a relatively low ISO, whilst retaining a high shutter speed to freeze the action.

In terms of focus, I selected “Continuous” System Mode to ensure that the camera continually focused as I changed composition, and “Single” Area Mode in the hope that the point would land on the camels in the center top-third of the scene, rather than focusing on the lower underwater portion of the scene.

As the tour approached I started clicking away with waves lapping over the dome port of my housing. There was little time to review images, I simply held the camera at a range of angles and hoped for the best.

This was a slow-burn concept many years in the making, but more than that it was just another fantastic day at the beach during a summer escape.

Nikon D800, Sigma 15mm lens, 1/200s @ F13, Ikelite underwater housing.

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