In May and June of 2019 I lead two back-to-back landscape workshops to the Great Ocean road region of Victoria and both the East and West coasts of Tasmania with my co-leader and friend Phillip Bartlett. Both of these workshops were structured to provide outstanding and varied opportunities for landscape photography as well as the opportunity to see and experience the wild coastal region of the Great Ocean Road and World Heritage Wilderness areas of Tasmania. Both of these locations offer world class landscape opportunities, yet both remain relatively unknown on the world stage (at least for now). We planned to not only photograph the fantastically varied landscape of these two locations, but also enjoy the fantastic fresh food and produce both of these locations are well known for.
In May and early June in southern Australia we are in the transitional phase from Autumn to Winter and the weather is often varied and unsettled. It can be quite cold, occasionally wet, but also extremely beautiful. Sunrises and sunsets are often intermixed with dramatic cloud and when the wind is up it can result in wild weather as storms and squalls roll in from Antarctica to smash into the coastline. As it turned out and as expected, we experienced a little bit of everything weather wise during both workshops. Our workshops were deliberately timed in the hopes of some dramatic weather and light and we encountered both during the two workshops. As also expected we lost a day, or part thereof on each trip due to intermittent rain, but we more than made up for it with beautiful light on several occasions.
We began our workshops with three days of intensive landscape photography along the spectacular Great Ocean Road and Otway forest region of Victoria. I have been travelling and photographing this part of Victoria for many, many years now and over this period of time have discovered many wonderful locations to photograph and learned a lot about the ideal time to visit these locations. Contrary to popular thought, many of the more obvious locations for sunset actually work much better at sunrise with the massive sandstone sea stacks picking up their own equivalent of an alpine glow before the sun crests the horizon. Sunset is in many ways too obvious for the westward facing sea stacks and experience has shown me sunrise usually provides better light and better opportunities. Typically, there also fewer photographers around and one almost always has the location to themselves – as we frequently did. Knowing where and when to photograph is key to getting great results along the Great Ocean road and there is simply no substitute for local knowledge in this regard. This time I decided to include a fellow participant for scale to show just how gigantic some of these sea stacks truly are.
During our time in Victoria we also made several stops at some of the Otway Ranges waterfalls. On both workshops we were blessed with ideal shooting conditions that included low cloud and mist – perfect conditions for this sort of forest photography. Despite Victoria being somewhat unknown for its waterfalls we do actually have several fantastic places that offer superb opportunities when the conditions are optimal. My own preference is always overcast light with low cloud for the soft box light effect. The addition of mist or light rain also adds a further element to really add mood to the photographs. Recent rains ensure the waterfalls are in full flow and at their best for making photographs.
After we finished in Victoria we returned to Melbourne and made the short flight down to Tasmania where we spent the next few days exploring and photographing the world heritage region at Cradle Mountain and Lake St. Claire National parks. Cradle Mountain is without doubt the jewel in the crown and heart of Tasmania. This rugged and wild region of the island offers an opportunity for mountain and forest photography that is as unique as it is impressive. Cradle mountain itself forms an ideal photographic back drop to Dove Lake (the large alpine lake that rests in front of the mountains), whilst the surrounding old growth forest adds a primordial feel that gives the whole place that fantastical ‘Tolkien’ look. The opportunities for dramatic and unique imagery in this area are as expansive as they are untapped and we explored and photographed quite extensively during our time in the area. With our luxury accomodation just outside the park we were perfectly positioned to maximise our time in this area. Some of us even took the opportunity to hike to Marions look-out and walk many of the forest trails. For those that were keen there was also wildlife opportunities with Wombats and Wallabys in abundance.
From Cradle Mountain we travelled south to the small seaside town of Strahan on the wild West Coast where we were based for two nights. During our time in Strahan we took a day cruise out to Hells Gates (the narrow entrance to the harbour) and then on up the Gordon river – an extremely scenic journey into the pristine old growth world heritage forest. Our cruise included a stop at Sarah Island on our return. Overcast light with low cloud and mist is again ideal for this sort of forest photography and we made the most of the opportunities provided to us. We were also fortunate to get fantastic reflections on the river. On our first trip we also tried to find and photograph the Fairy penguins (now known as the Little Penguin) at Bonnet Island but had only marginal success with only a couple of penguins arriving on the island well after dark. The population of Fairy penguins has been in decline at Bonnet Island in recent times and my feeling is this is now pretty much a dead end for penguin photography. In lieu of the penguins we took an opportunity to photograph Tasmanian Devils on the second workshop at the sanctuary near Cradle Mountain which proved productive and worthwhile.
From Strahan we travelled East to Coles Bay in Freycinet National Park where we spent several more days exploring and photographing this rugged and exposed peninsula. The Freycinet peninsula possess some of the most amazing granite boulders to be found anywhere on earth. Pink and orange granite boulders adorn both sides of the rocky peninsula and offer limitless opportunities for landscape photography. Perhaps best of all, this hidden gem is virtually untouched and un-photographed by world standards. During the many hours we spent photographing in this region at both sunrise and sunset we did not encounter a single other photographer – a rare treat these days.
From Freycinet we travelled South to Hobart where we wrapped up with a final sunrise photography session atop the rock riddled, Mount Wellington. The days are short this time of year in Tasmania; with sunrise around 7:30am and sunset around 5pm. This timeline is absolutely perfect for this type of workshop and meant we could get in a full days photography from sunrise to sunset before ending our day with a fantastic locally produced meal in one of the nearby restaurants. With many of the towns in Tasmania located on or near the coast the fresh seafood on offer is amazing with some of the best fish, oysters and scallops to be found anywhere.
Landscape photography in Tasmania is an absolute joy. Free from the crowds of tourists and photographers that have inundated many other corners of the world, Tasmania remains a quiet back water, mercifully blessed with fantastic food and wine, and world class landscape for the travelling photographer. Although I have been to Tasmania many times in my life, I never tire of returning to this small Island just a short stones throw from my home in Melbourne. The landscape is as irresistible as the fresh seafood and as such I will return again next year for one more workshop to the Apple Isle. You can drop me an email to register your interest.
Footnote: On the second workshop I decided to take a Canon EOS R mirrorless camera with me. This was the first time I had spent with the camera in the field and I was quite surprised with my findings. I will have some more detailed thoughts in another post in the next few days. My conclusions might surprise you.