What's New in August 2019
LARGE Format - Suitable for enormous prints metres wide
With winter upon us once more I decided to try and manage at least one snow trip and hopefully add to my High Country Mountain Huts collection. First up was Mount Buller. Having scouted the mountain a few times over the years, I decided to brave the conditions and the fees once more and this time to attempt a dawn shoot. By 3am I was in the lower carpark having been directed to a nice slot by a friendly attendant. (Do these guys ever sleep? Now that's dedication).
I geared up and ascended to the top of the ski resort, on foot by torchlight, quickly discovering that visibility and temperature were both dangerously low. I knew I needed to follow the main ski lift higher, and could just make out the first giant concrete tower. Donning my snow shoes I trekked up and stood below it, peering forward. Yes, the next tower was just barely visible, but the wind was now howling, threatening to push me over with each step.
Tower, by tower I advanced, now and then, checking behind me to see if retreat was still possible. The village was swallowed by swirling snow and low cloud, but my phone was optimistically forecasting a break in the weather just on sunrise. Finally some buildings came into view, and I gratefully hunkered down beside one shivering. Nothing could be seen beyond. Should I venture into the darkness? Try to find the hut by GPS alone?
I decided to wait. If the weather didn't clear I'd head down again. The cold was bad, but out of the wind it was bearable. An hour went by, and just as I was thinking of giving up, clear gaps opened before me momentarily revealing the whole mountainside. Yes! Just enough time. I forced myself to move, quickly warming up again and a few minutes later I was beside the hut.
Having decided on two possible compositions during my last visit, I selected the one that worked best with the conditions at hand, and began firing shots. The wind was crazy, but there were lulls of dead calm every few seconds, enabling me to capture the scene. The main problem was the cold. I needed my gloves off to handle the camera, but my fingers quickly refused to move. Fortunately, when the light caught and colour filled the sky I was ready.
A few minutes later I was packed up and walking down. So much easier in the clear light of day! People were up and about, the village was coming alive. Time for me to go. Before long I was back in Mansfield, warm, fed, happy and ready to take on a more familiar location, Mount Hotham.
Once again I was determined be there for a dawn shoot, the lack of people at such an hour being the main draw card, though obviously also hopefully the quality of the light. As it turned out said light was nowhere to be found, just lots of fog and low cloud, but as luck would have it I believe the conditions actually enhanced the scenes, creating a sense of mystery and allure.
Driving up Hotham in the dark wasn't an issue, the road was wonderfully clear, and Diamantina Hut is literally right beside it. In fact it's so close that eliminating the road, when photographing wide, is usually almost impossible. Not this time however, the fog hid everything. I really like this image of Diamantina, it's quite different from my normal style. Looking at it, I can remember just how cold it was, my fingers painfully frozen, and the hut revealed in the early morning, welcoming travellers with a promise of shelter. Nice.
On the way back down I stopped at Blowhard Hut as I had done many times before. If you've ever driven up Mount Hotham, chances are you've seen Blowhard Hut and maybe even stopped for a quick look. Barely a stone's throw from the road up to Hotham Heights ski village, it's a good spot to pull over, adjust snow chains and let your kids run around a bit, before the final few metres up to the summit where parking becomes a whole other adventure, at least in the popular snow season.
I had it filed away in my mind as worth a shot if the conditions were special enough. This year, as fate would have it, it was looking particularly ice encrusted. Visibility was still low and temperatures were still bitingly cold, with snow and ice clinging to every tree. Perfect! I worked the scene for as long as my fingers would last, waiting for lulls in the wind and snow spray, and came away knowing I had captured a moment worth preserving.
So that's it for this series. As for the future, I've a short trip to Western Australia coming up, to see family, but I've also allowed a few days for photography as well. I haven't been that far from home in decades so I'm quite excited.
Anyway, until next time, all the best dear readers.