What's New in April 2017
LARGE Panoramas - Suitable for enormous prints metres wide.
This little cluster of images is the result of three separate trips. I won't bore you with the details of days spent finding and working on other scenes (not shown) that ultimately failed due to sub-par conditions, but instead focus on the keepers.
I'd hatched a plan some years ago to hike "The Castle" in Morton National Park, but had been putting it off each year because I couldn't find anyone crazy enough to try it with me. I'd say "who wants to drive 30 hours and hike something stupid steep and dangerous in the dark for a single photo?", but curiously there'd been no takers. I seem to have little difficulty doing silly things in the name of photography, so eventually I decided to have at it alone and see what happened.
I geared up in the afternoon so as to avoid the heat of the day, optimistically intending to take my time through the night and be in position for dawn. I packed way too much. Not quite knowing what I'd find I took all manner of camera gear, extra clothing and heavy water bottles, and as a consequence, over burdening myself.
The route begins with a river crossing, so within the first 15 minutes I had my shoes and pants off and waded across a surprisingly cold river. Redressing I found leeches on my legs and pack, and had a struggle to expel them. When I finally was moving again a snake appeared on the trial, making me question yet again if doing this alone was truly wise.
Somewhat unnerved, I headed up, and up and up. It's seriously steep, with each step requiring clambering over obstacles, hauling on tree roots, crawling over and under boulders, and slushing through mud and undergrowth. After slithering through a rock tunnel, lowering out on some old fixed ropes, solo climbing some exposed boulders, it was well after mid-night and getting very hard to find the track.
From the GPS I knew I was only 1km away but my last hour of upward progress had yielded only a few meters and I was completely spent. A younger me would have forced myself onwards, despite my water being almost gone. I bailed, heading back down with pain in both knees and legs on fire.
Fortunately I'd managed to capture an image as the sun set, so I didn't come away empty handed. The evening sun streamed into the camera creating fingers of light across the hills, in a very pleasing manner indeed. I'm actually quite happy with the shot, though I will be back another year to try the summit again, next time with much less kit and better a water plan than just lugging a heap of it.
The next trip involved a different tactic. I'd had it in my head to re-photograph Old Currango Hut at Kosciuszko for some years, but had been put off by memories of an exhausting cross country trek, sans track, through boggy plains. So instead I dusted off my mountain bike, which I'd not used in nearly 10 years. Driving up in the night I had a pleasant dawn at Long Plain Hut (see photo), and then refocused on the main objective a 25km return bike ride to Old Currango.
After a long nap I spent an enjoyable hour meticulously packing my new "F-Stop Tilopa" camera bag which I absolutely love and can't recommend highly enough. Smaller and lighter than a full overnight rucksack, but more voluminous than a simple day pack, it can handle having tripods strapped to it whilst protecting delicate camera gear within its conveniently accessible internal housing. I joyfully filled its numerous hidden pockets with myriad bit's and bobs, stuffed in three litres of water, mounted the trusty metal steed and I was finally off.
Within a few short kilometres, however, two things become abundantly clear. Firstly, I'd forgotten padded bike shorts and the trail was rock strewn, so I'm sure you can imagine the discomfort. By the end of the trip it was so bad I couldn't remain seated but rode standing up. Secondly, I discovered the gears didn't like the damp cold air or something, because I was stuck unable to shift off the middle ring. These two things aside I had a blast, tearing down a mountainside at what seemed an extraordinary speed for a middle aged man used to trudging gruelling walks at a snail's pace.
I made the hut in very good time. So much so, that I was able to lay down for a nice kip and spend an age fine tuning my composition before the sun was anywhere near setting. I captured the last of the direct golden light, watching the shadows grow longer and longer until they overcame the scene. Quickly packing, I rode out as twilight set in, wild horses thundering across the plain behind me as if to spur me on, my head full of the grand adventure.
Oddly enough the mountain I'd torn down was less exciting on the way back. Gears jammed I walked most of it, pushing uphill through the dark. Somewhere nearby the stallion was stamping his feet and making noises, but my head torch never revealed him. I finally crested the rise and was able to ride again, sliding through night alone with my thoughts. Occasionally I'd stop for a drink and to ease the discomfort. I'm not sure how long it took, but several hours later the car appeared in the narrow beam of my lamplight and I knew I'd made it!
One last adventure occurred during this period and that involved our boy and I checking out Silver Brumby Hut at Mt Hotham. It was a short walk, though it descended rapidly. A nearby brook became an endless source of entertainment for our lad (now six) whilst I worked on capturing the scene.
The sun had been harsh and bright all day, so my hopes weren't too high, but as it went down, a softer light penetrated the valley, seeping out from under gathering clouds and illuminating the little white flowers in my foreground. What a delightful place!
The walk out was, of course, quite steep but our boy was keen for the challenge, demonstrating that his youthful energy was more than a match for my longer legs. We made the car just as twilight vanished, and headed back down the mountain to camp. Great company!