BACK FROM CRADLE MOUNTAIN TASMANIA

I am back from four days photography in and around the Cradle Mountain National Park in Tasmania. The weather and conditions were not great for this trip and as such I actually did more hiking than photography – the light and weather were most un-coperative. Apart from a few hours either side of midday the mountains were ‘clagged’ in with cloud and mist with dull grey overcast light – such is life. Not much one can do as a landscape photographer in situations like this except wait it out. I cannot help but think however, that if this had been my first trip to the area, or if I had come from Europe or somewhere much further afield that I would have photographed anyway. Its easy to get spoiled when a great location is so close to home and to not shoot when the conditions are less than ideal. I abandoned my back up plan of driving down south to the candlestick as the prevailing weather forecast was always for it to clear. And indeed it did – the morning I was leaving.I did keep a sort of journal during the trip as there was no real internet access to speak of at Cradle Mountain for blog updates – or at least I did not want to drive out of the park to try and get some mobile reception. Below is a brief recount of the few days I spent in the area.

Journal

Arrived in Cradle Mountain early Friday morning around 9am to be greeted by overcast conditions, mist and cloud – the Mountains socked in with some very average weather and grey dull overcast light. Decided to go for a stroll around  Dove Lake for a couple of hours and unwind from the office and get into a more relaxed state of mind more suitable for photography. Stumbled upon some Pademelons grazing on the wet grass and spent a few minutes photographing the inquisitive little creatures. I then headed over to the Tasmanian Wilderness Gallery to have a look through the gallery and a spot of lunch (all quite civilised really). More to come on the Wilderness Gallery in my next post.

The weather forecast is currently predicting some afternoon breeze/wind along the coast – which; with a bit of luck will blow off the cloud later this afternoon. Tomorrow is supposed to be better. I am planning to hike up to Crater lake this afternoon for a sunset shoot – wether its successful or not will be very weather dependant. I have been up there before and the scenery is spectacular – so as long as the light and conditions are co-operative I should be able to get the shot I want.

Tomorrow (Saturday) I will get up for sunrise at Dove Lake and then take a leisurely breakfast before heading up for the long steep hike to Twisted Lakes and little Big Horn to scope it out for a sunrise shoot the following morning. I have seen some photography from this area before and it looks very promising.

If the weather holds tomorrow I will then possibly charter a helicopter for an aerial sunset shoot over the summit area. If it’s a bit dicey weather wise and if the helicopter cant fly or conditions are not ideal for photography I will then take a bit of a chance and instead make for the summit of Cradle Mountain on foot. I have had two attempts at the summit proper on other ocassions. The first time with my wife – we got close before she decided she had had enough and we came back down. The second time I was on my own and was turned back by waist deep snow just past Kitchen Hut after trudging for hours in horrendous conditions.

The following morning – Sunday; will very much depend on wether I got the right light and conditions on Saturday. If I manage to nail Dove Lake on Saturday morning then I will rise extra early and head back up in the dark to Twisted Lakes to photograph little Big Horn. But again, its very weather dependant.

Update Friday evening Sunset – Or rather lack of it. Hiked for two hours up to Marions lookout and crater lake late this afternoon. A strong wind sprung up and gusted across the mountain tops making the whole hike in the wind and rain quite arduous and very cold. Unfortunately for me it did not clear – despite my patience. Waited for two hours at Marions peak in the hopes of it blowing over before descending in the dark with my headlamp. With any luck it will all blow over tonight and dawn will provide better opportunities.

Update Saturday lunchtime – I got up at 5am this morning but the bad weather had not cleared. The mountains were still clouded over and there were high winds. I hiked up to twisted lakes after breakfast and the weather has continually improved throughout the day. The sun is out and the wind has died down. If it stays like this there should be a good sunset and some decent light. As you can see in the photograph below: By Midday the skies were relativley clear; it was not to last.Update Saturday night – Hiked up to Kitchen Hut for sunset but the weather did not hold and rain clouds blew in obscuring everything. Sunset was a non event and it was another long cold descent in the dark after waiting a couple of hours in the frigid weather near the summit. Arrived back at camp at 10pm.

Sunday morning – raining and cloudy. Sunrise was not to be seen – hidden behind thick cloud and rain. After breakfast hiked up to the base of Dove Lake falls from the Ballroom forest and did some photography. Wonderful wilderness- atrocious conditions.

Sunday afternoon and the weather has finally started to improve – almost all of the cloud has blown away. Hiked up to Kitchen Hut just below the summit of Cradle Mountain for sunset and was finally rewarded with some decent but brief golden light. Relatively clear skies meant that twilight did not end until nearly 9pm. Yet another long cold, dark descent back to camp under headlamp – arrived back at 10:30pm; pretty physically shattered.Monday morning – Rose at 5am to be greeted by clear skies; not a cloud in site and not a breath of wind. Managed to squeeze in a few frames just before sunrise at Dove Lake before I had to high tail it for Devenport to catch the 8:00pm Spirit of Tasmania Ferry back to Melbourne. Made it with less than 5 minutes to spare.

Overall this was an enjoyable trip – if not an overly successful one photographically. Despite a few brief minutes of golden light it was pretty uneventful photographic wise. Still, that gives me reason to go back and try again – perhaps in winter this time when the mountain is capped in snow.

More Walls of China

I am still sorting through and processing my ‘selects’ from my recent trip to Mungo as I get time; but I wanted to squeeze in another blog update before I leave for Tasmania. This photograph was taken just a few minutes before the one below at the Walls of China at Mungo in New South Wales. I was scurrying back and forth amongst the features trying to find just the right combination of subject and composition during the all to brief golden light. So often landscape photography is like international air travel – hours of sheer boredom followed by ten seconds of sheer terror during landing. Or in the case of photography, hours of waiting around for ten minutes of great (hopefully!) light either end of the day. That is partly what makes photography in Iceland so special – the long hours of golden light under the midnight sun. And, hopefully this experience is repeated later this year when I visit Antarctica.

Tasmania – Cradle Mountain Trip

I am heading to Tasmania later this week for a few days photography in and around the Cradle Mountain area. Cradle Mountain is my favourite location in Tasmania for landscape and wilderness photography – it is an iconic location. This is I think my fifth or possibly sixth trip to Cradle Mountain and probably my twelfth trip to Tasmania.  There is almost limitless potential for producing beautiful photographs from nature in the Cradle Mountain National Park and I am looking forward to spending time there again. On top of being just a fantastic location for photography the largest wilderness photographic gallery in Australia is located just outside the park – a perfect place to spend an afternoon if the weather is uncooperative.

I am taking the Spirit of Tasmania car ferry from Melbourne so that I can take the 4WD and as much kit as I can fit (in other words all of it) and will spend a few days in the Cradle Mountain National Park. With a little bit of luck the weather will be co-operative and there will be some great light. I am planning to make this an ‘icon’ shoot and will photograph Dove Lake as well as several other of the most famous and recognised landmarks – weather and light permitting. Cradle Mountain has its own micro-climate so one is never really sure what the weather is going to do until you are amongst it. I do have a back-up plan in mind if by chance the area is ‘clagged-in’ with bad weather. This being the case I will head down south to the Candlestick and southern coastline. Internet access is extremely limited in the Cradle Mountain area (at least it was during my last visit)- so it is doubtful I will be able to post updates or photographs during the trip.

Mungo and Walls of China – Almost an Epic

I am back from my recent trip to Mungo and the Walls of China in New South Wales and it was quite a memorable trip for a number of reasons. Firstly, with all the rain and flooding that has been going on in Australia of late (in particular Victoria and Queensland) it was kind of inevitable that it affected the trip – as indeed it did. Part of the Calder Highway was underwater during the recent floods and the subsequent traffic of big trucks after the waters have receded has destroyed the road in parts – forcing more than an hour long detour around the damaged sections. This turned what should have been approximately a seven hour drive into nearly eight hours. And that was just to get to Mildura. Mungo is another hundred and forty kilometres past Mildura and a good eighty kilometres of that is rough dirt road. As it turned out I seriously underestimated how long it would take to get there. Thankfully, I wasn’t travelling alone this time and had taken my cousin along for the ride – which at least gave me someone to chat to on the long drive.

I learned the hard way from previous attempts to get into Mungo that the road is often closed during and shortly after rains. The surface is mostly a very fine red Mallee dust that when mixed with water turns into something akin to high strength cement (I am sure you could lay foundations with the stuff). This time I checked in with the parks office who assured me the road into Mungo was open; although there was some water on parts of the road and they were advising caution and a recommendation of four wheel drive vehicles (which is fine as I have a 4WD – albeit with road tyres). The road around the park was closed due to storm damage; but that was ok as I did not intend to circumnavigate the park but rather camp in one spot and photograph the lunette and Walls of China feature.

With the long delay caused by the floods detour we were already racing the setting sun to have any chance of a sunset shoot on arrival. Unfortunately I took a wrong turn shortly after Mildura; which cost us another hours delay before I realised my error (memo to BMW: Please add the Arumpo Road outside of Mildura to your Satellite Navigation DVD upgrade). Finally back on track we arrived at the entrance to the Park and the beginning of roughly eighty kilometres of dirt road. With the sun already setting it was now clear we were not going to make it in time for a sunset shoot so the plan changed and became one of at least getting there before total dark to work out where to go in the morning for the dawn shoot.

Roughly fifty kilometres into the dirt road the sun was set and twilight showed a wonderful pastel mauve glow in the sky that had me cursing the wrong turn and lost time. It was about then that we hit a large patch of water/mud/cement at around eighty kilometres an hour that quickly saw us bogged knee deep in the infamous Mallee mud. Even with the BMW 4-Wheel drive system we could do no more than roll back and forward maybe five metres – well and truly stuck in deep mud-filled tyre ruts that were all but invisible on approach under the water.

Twenty minutes of cursing and continued effort saw us slowly able to get the car sideways and extricate ourselves from the bog. I am sure a 4 wheel drive fitted with ‘real’ off road tyres would have been out quick smart – but the road slicks of my car made the job that much more difficult.

We finally arrived at camp at Mungo just as the first stars were appearing. We were able to locate the ten kilometre road into the Walls of China feature for the planned dawn shoot and sat down to a meal and some sleep. The whole trip had taken more than nine hours. By the time we crawled into our sleeping bags it was after midnight and I was totally knackered from the long drive. It was to prove worth the effort however as we were rewarded at both Dawn and the following Sunset with some gorgeous light for photography.This first photograph was one of the last exposures I made at the Walls of China and is subsequently one of my favourite images from the trip. Whilst wandering around the features I was immediately attracted to the curving line of sand leading from left to right that I have used in my composition to draw the eye into the photograph. I am always looking for leading lines in Nature as they help convey a sense of depth to a photograph that greatly enhances the viewers experience. The natural formations of the Walls of China really add a sense of drama to this photograph that I find very appealing. This photograph was taken around ten minutes after sunset. You can still see a very faint glow in the Eastern sky. The sandstone features of the Walls of China are softly illuminated by reflected light off the high cloud.

I will post some more photographs from the trip over the coming weeks as I get time to finish sorting and processing the roughly four hundred frames I took over a period of two days.

For anyone who is interested there is some interesting information about Mungo and the Walls of China and how they formed on Park New South Wales Website.