New South Wales – Perry Sandhills Part One

This was my first visit to Perry Sandhills near Wentworth in New South Wales. ‘Cap in hand’, I did have a fairly strong preconception about the sort of photograph I wanted to come away with from this location – the iconic first light of dawn playing across the dunes with some spectacular cloud formations lit with sunrise colour. Not to much to ask was it?

As is so often the case, the preconception is stronger than the reality; and not just because the weather conspired against me – I ended up with rainstorms; which produced some dramatic and unexpected lighting. Landscape photography at Perry Sandhills presents some fairly unique challenges based on its location, surroundings and weather. To start with the Sandhills themselves are surrounded by ugly Mallee scrub and underbrush that detracts from the softness and curves of the dunes. In addition, the dunes are somewhat overrun with weeds and other distracting vegetation. It is quite difficult to frame a shot without this unwanted element intruding into the scene. I found the best solution was to get down low to the ground with a wide angle lens and then some judicious use of the spot healing tool in Lightroom to clean up any unwanted weeds. Landscape photography is often the art of subtraction rather than addition and choosing what to leave out is often more important than what is included.

The other major photographic obstacle is that the Sandhills are a fairly popular tourist destination so the majority of the dunes are literally covered in footprints. Finding a bit of pristine sand involves some fairly arduous hiking into the dunes; being careful not to walk into a potential photograph. Its very similar to my experiences of landscape photography in the snow. In some instances the addition of a human element such as a footprint can really help (with things such as scale); but generally I try to avoid showing the hand or rather foot of man in my landscape photography.

This first photograph was taken just after a rain storm about ten minutes before sunset. The light was quite dramatic and the rain helped greatly with saturation of the dunes. I used a three stop soft graduated neutral density filter to hold back the sky and a two stop coral graduated filter on the bottom half to warm up the sand. It is quite difficult to see in the small jpeg but the pot marks from all the rain are visible at 100% on screen and in a print. I enjoyed my brief stint photographing the Sandhills and will undoubtedly stop off there again on my next trip into the area.

Mungo Trip – A Wash Out

Unfortunately I have had to cut my photographic trip to Mungo, Mildura and the Walls of China a couple of days shorter than I had originally intended. Pretty much non stop rain for the last 48 hours meant that the road into Mungo and the Walls of China was a total quagmire and closed; combined with unforeseen circumstances at the office in Melbourne and it was time to throw in the towel on this trip and head home.

I did manage to squeeze in some photography between the rain storms at the Perry Sandhills near Wentworth in New South Wales as well as an old abandoned house near Charlton in Victoria that I stumbled across on the way home; so the trip was not a complete write off. The road into Perry Sandhills was in a similar state to the road into Mungo. Soft sand, combined with days of rain turned the whole thing into something akin to quicksand and I nearly got bogged several times just getting into the car park. I am pretty tired after more than fourteen hours of driving in the last two days but will post some more photographs from the trip soon. I am not looking forward to washing the BM!

Iceland Volcano – Katla Situation Update

RSEO is reporting 28/05/2010: Katla is the second largest volcano in the country of Iceland, and Iceland’s president is issuing a warning saying that the eruption of Katla is close. Icelandic president Ólafur Grímsson has warned other governments around Europe “that a significant eruption at the volcano is close.” “We [Iceland] have prepared … it is high time for European governments and airline authorities all over Europe and the world to start planning for the eventual Katla eruption,” he said. Europe is still experiencing clouds of volcanic ash from Eyjafjallajokull that erupted in April. Airlines all over the world have lost significant flight time and money due to flights being cancelled as a result of the ash clouds. An eruption of Katla, the second largest volcano is Iceland, could spell even more trouble. There has been speculation about Katla since the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull. Katla is the larger of the two volcanos. The planet appears to be in a perpetual state of unrest. From today’s 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Vanuatu to the pending eruption of Katla in Iceland; it seems like Mother Nature is kicking up her well worn heels.

My Take on the Situation -“a significant eruption at the volcano is close” What does this really mean? In and of itself, not much as how does one define ‘close’?. Was Ólafur Grímsson speaking in geological terms? Or, was he indeed referring to the possibility of an eruption any moment?  We know historically that Katla is usually triggered by an eruption at Eyjafjallajokull. Its just a matter of when not if Katla erupts. It could happen tomorrow or it might not happen for years. Increased seismic activity at Katla points to sooner rather than later; but ‘sooner’ could still be some way off. As the clock ticks down to my own trip to Iceland trip I am growing ever more concerned about when ‘sooner’ might be.

Mungo Trip – The Walls of China

I am leaving tomorrow morning for a few days landscape and wilderness photography in the far north of Victoria at Mungo, the Walls of China and Perry Sandhills with a probable stop off in Mildura. I have not been to any of these locations before for photography. The Walls of China at Mungo are supposed to be quite scenic and I have seen some pretty good photography come out of this area so have my fingers crossed for some good weather and light. The timing is otherwise excellent with a full moon and relatively clear Autumn skies.

Its a good six hour plus drive from my house to Mungo and then around 70 kilometres of dirt road to get into the main camp area. I am told the road is usually closed during or just after heavy rain so I am hoping the weather is on my side. I am taking my full Canon and lenses kit (except the 85mm F1.2L) as well as all the necessary camp equipment for a few days stay. Mobile phone and internet reception is supposed to be non existent at Mungo (I am not sure about Perry Sanhills) so probably wont be able to post any updates from the field.