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.