Happy New Year’s Eve – some photos from Melbourne, Australia

Written by Gary on January 1st, 2010

I had arranged to take my wife to a city hotel for New Year’s Eve this year just to be different, and I chose the Sofitel Hotel on the south eastern aspect of the CBD.

I was initially given the 50th floor (top floor) but my room looked out to very nice views of the north-eastern aspect of Melbourne, but no view of the fireworks, so I had it changed for the 44th floor, looking south-west over Federation Square, the Art Centre, Southbank and to Port Phillip Bay, as well as views to the north.

Unfortunately, as I discovered, the view to the main fireworks at Docklands to the west of the CBD is obscured totally by the adjacent ANZ building.

I decided to only use my Micro Four Thirds Panasonic GH-1 camera with 14-140mm kit lens and a very small, compact tripod, leaving my heavy Canon 1D Mark III behind. The photos are essentially untouched jpegs straight from the camera and resized for the web – click on them for larger views.

New Year’s Eve day in Melbourne was hot and windy with temperatures to 38 deg C before a Summer storm blew in from the west at dusk:

storm coming in 1
Hand held. ISO 400, 1/40th sec, f/5, 32mm (64mm in 35mm terms). ND grad filter; Looking north with Mt Macedon in the distance.

and the view overlooking the Bay was even more ominous:

storm 2
Hand held. ISO 800, 1/20th sec, f/4.5, 19mm (38mm in 35mm terms). ND grad filter.

It was time to go down to the east facing Club lounge on the 35th floor for some desserts, and we were pleasantly surprised by the full moon rising before it soon disappeared behind the approaching storm clouds: This is the first Blue Moon on a New Year’s Eve since 1990.

moon rise
Hand held. ISO 800, 1/160th sec, f/5.8, 140mm (280mm in 35mm terms).

It was obvious that this storm was here to stay and the rain and wind made outdoor fireworks photography not that exciting, so we retreated to the comfort of our 44th floor apartment where the raindrops on the window were to also impact on any photographic efforts.

Nevertheless, I set up my small tripod, and set the camera to the settings as I advised in my previous post on fireworks photography – daylight white balance, manual focus, manual exposure, ISO 100, 4 secs at f/8, and managed to grab a couple of shots in between rain drops on the window:

fireworks 1

fireworks 1

Yes, that was the strong wind blowing the fireworks to the right – not great conditions for aesthetic firework photography, but at least in blew the smoke and most of the rain away from my window!

I also managed to get some nice HD video of the fireworks using the GH-1 in manual movie mode, and it seems that f/5.6, ISO 800 and 1/10th-1/40th sec, daylight white balance, manual focus was the most reasonable settings to use.

Here is a quick unedited sample of what the GH-1 will do at ISO 1600, f/5.6, 1/15th sec, 720p motion jpeg uploaded as is to YouTube:

Click here to see it as HD video on YouTube.

I would have liked to get more, and also shots of the lightning strikes (as with this one I took in Nice, France at 2am from a balcony with my Olympus C8080 during a storm), but this was New Year’s Eve and to be enjoyed.

After the midnight fireworks, the rain subsided and we went for a walk for an hour or so mingling amongst the very noisy, happy, variably wet and drunk but well behaved New Year’s Eve crowds in the city streets – but I decided rain and intoxicated people were not a great mix for the camera and thus it was left in the safety of the hotel. If only I had an Olympus E-P2 with Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens to take amongst the crowds at night – would have been perfect!

For those interested in staying at the Sofitel Hotel
, it was built in 1980, has 50 floors of which hotel rooms occupy the 36th to 50th floors. Luxury and Prestige rooms are corner ones which give 180 deg views.

The 35th floor has a restaurant (“No 35”), bar (“The Atrium”), the famous male urinals with a widescreen window view across to the MCG and for those whose room includes “Club Lounge” access, the Club Lounge. Car parking will cost you an extra $38/day but at least it is a no fuss friendly valet service for that price.

The Sofitel Club Lounge faces east and in addition to providing free business facilities including WiFi internet access, it is where you get your buffet breakfast (6.30am-10.30am), midday tea (noon-2pm), afternoon tea and cakes (2pm-5pm), evening drinks (wine, spirits) and very nice canapes (5.30-7.30pm) and evening sweets (chocolates, nougat, etc 8pm-10pm), all inclusive with your Club Lounge room rate – not a bad offer at all!

Check the Sofitel out on wotif.com. If you want the 50th floor though, you will need to call them directly and see what deal they can do for you as it is normally a $50-120 upgrade over the usual Prestige Suite price.

Oh, and if you are thinking of booking into a hotel for next New Year’s Eve, be aware that they may double their usual hotel room rate – I could have bought an Olympus E-P2 for the amount I paid for this room for the night – but I did have to show my wife that I loved her more than cameras – so now it will be back to work to pay the credit card off 🙁

Hope you all had a happy and safe New Year’s Eve and may 2010 be kind to you.


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