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Photographer's Blog: Tuesday, December 1, 2020
East Bound Again
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As we head towards the end of another year, I thought it would be a good idea to write something about the last couple of photography trips I have undertaken. The images in this series come from spending a few weeks travelling around Victoria, much of it with our boy, now 10, who has also begun producing work of this own. Sometimes we are set up with tripods near touching, but he is also developing his own style. It may be a few years before you see is creations online, but he is taking to it like a duck to water, and I am greatly enjoying our adventures together when money and time permit.
With the focus of these journeys being on the far east of the state, it became apparent that we would have to find a way to avoid Melbourne and its then virus lockdown. As such, our path involved many extra hours of driving up into the mountains. Curiously, it was these detours that provided my favourite photographs, like those of the cute little Tomahawk Hut near Mansfield, all covered in snow.
For such a picturesque building surrounded by impressive trees you would think the image would practically compose itself. However, on each of my many previous attempts I felt the photographs needed something extra, that elusive wow factor that would transform it from good to grand. Often this element can be the quality of the light, but in this case the hut is situated so deeply within the forest that only harsh midday sun has any chance of penetrating the scene.
The evening before I had secured another favored image in this series, that of Lake Eildon from a high vantage point. Due to a small gap in heavy rain clouds it had been spot lit by a blazing golden sunset. A tremendously exciting capture.
We camped the night and awoke to find a thin blanket of snow covering our site. Snow, at Lake Eildon! Impossible, and yet there it was. With great excitement we drove into the mountains and were soon beholding Tomahawk Hut covered in a thick layer of white power. Being quite low, I had never considered the hut could be thus adorned. We both set to work quickly, before the warmth of the day could melt our hopes.
I had just enough time to secure half a dozen compositions, being careful not to create unwanted footprints, before the place was inundated with a batch of off-roaders. Kids ran about throwing snowballs, whilst several more families arrived. It was good to see people enjoying the outdoors, more so because I had the shot in the bag already.
Another highlight of the Lake Eildon region was managing to hike into Stones Outstation Hut. I had had this one on my list for a while but knew the walk was steep and might be too much for our boy. As it turned out I was more tired than he when we finally got back to the car by torch light. The little stream beside the hut proved irresistible to him. Not sure what it is about running water, but boys do not seem to be happy until their socks are wet.
However, with the intent of this travel centered on the east, I should talk about those easterly locations. Unfortunately, some of the best are not represented here due mainly to wind. Turns out the east coast of Victoria has an abundance of the stuff. Wind is like photographic kryptonite. Landscape photographers can handle a little rain. We actually like storms and head towards them. However, wind is the enemy of sharp images. Sometimes it can be managed with faster shutter speeds (or extremely long ones) but not when you are being lifted of the ground by hurricane-like gales.
With so many days up our sleeves, we had plenty of time to scout new locations and ranged all the way to the far end of Croajingolong National Park in search of them, where we found roads closed due to bushfire damage from last season. Not wanting all that driving to be for nothing, we stayed up late and worked on some astrophotography which our lad was particularly keen to try. He experimented, making some images by silhouetting trees outlined against the stars. By now it was very late, so we packed up a little hastily, heading out of the park to camp beside a river a good hour away.
In the morning, the bird life was abundant, and our boy was quite enthusiastic to break out the long lens. It was at that point, however, that I had a sinking feeling. We were one tripod short! We had left it back under those trees during the night. I have always said, don't cheap out on your tripod, it's worth spending serious dollars to have something reliable that will last decades. Of course, the downside is you will need sufficient braincells to not leave it behind.
With anxiety growing, I drove all the way back into the National Park, to the lonely little spot we had been so happily staring at the heavens, and there it was, still waiting for us. Such a relief! I had only recently lost some expensive trekking poles in a similar fashion, so I was particularly glad to see my silly mistakes do not always end so poorly. Note to self: slow down and double check when leaving a location.
Right so, what else? An unusually calm evening at Lakes Entrance gave us a shot of the pier, and nearby we found good light, finally, at Stony Creek Trestle bridge after many previous attempts. Camping one night at Buchan offered us a view of rolling green hills that was worth capturing and exploring Tarra Bulga National Park also gave me an image from their suspension bridge. Not sure if you have ever tried to balance a tripod on a suspension bridge before but, turns out, it can be done. I loved the trees in Tarra Bulga, and even found one I had photographed decades earlier, still standing and still looking lovely. A bit of fog and it would look amazing, so I will be back someday soon.
When it was time to head home, we drove over the mountains again, through Omeo. If anyone has read this far an wants a tip, Omeo bakery is right up there with the best and reasonably priced. And that is coming from someone who has had road tripped all over the country and consumed far too many pies and coffee than is good for him.
Despite it being a well into spring there was still some snow around on Hotham and that faint, but very fresh covering gave the perfect conditions for an image of Dinner Plain Hut I'd been working on for years. It is a surprisingly tricky subject given that it faces the rising sun and is only a stone's throw from a major road. Without a footprint in sight to mar the carpet of power and the dawn light illuminating the surrounding trees, I was able to create a picture that is, hopefully, unique and captures the feeling of that chilly morning.
So that is it for another blog. I hope you have all come through our difficult 2020 intact, healthy, and perhaps looking forward to some travel of your own. Be well, dear readers.