What's New in August 2020
LARGE Panoramas - Suitable for enormous prints metres wide.
I'm writing this blog entry in the early days of our "second wave" lock down here in regional Victoria. Necessary restrictions to avoid the further spread of the Covid-19 virus have curtailed even local travel for the next several weeks at least, giving me plenty of time to reflect upon and appreciate the short, pre-lock down trips that provided the images in this series. I was germophobic long before the word "coronavirus" was part of our vocabulary, so you can imagine my caution now. Fortunately landscape photography lends itself well to isolation and out of the way locations. It's quite easy to not only avoid buildings and surfaces, but people entirely. In any case I don't want to dwell on the topic we're all obsessed with currently, but instead write of happier things, back when travel was permitted.
As usual I won't bore you with the failures, and just focus on the keepers, the first of which occurred on a damp day out at Mt Macedon whilst exploring the region for photographic potential with our son. Having tramped about for a few hours, we stumbled out of the woods into this lovely scene and both started setting up tripods almost immediately. What a great find and a wonderful experience to have shared. Only an hour from home it's been a location we've become quite familiar with. Being that bit colder than the surrounding valleys the mountain is often shrouded in low cloud or dripping wet with rain which makes it the perfect target for woodland photography. Now if only our boy was old enough to carry his own pack I might be able to keep up with him.
The Malmsbury Viaduct is an old stone railway bridge in a quaint little township that hasn't been forgotten despite the Calder Highway bypassed. Only a few minutes down the road from home, I had the luxury of returning quite a number of times before benefitting from some spectacular light. The bridge can be shot from several angles, but I was particularly taken by the mossy rocks of the stone retaining wall, and wanted to feature them somehow. To create balance, however, I knew I'd need something to off set the visual weight of it. What it needed was a fiery sunset in the left of the frame. Using an app that predicts the sun's position I was able to know when it would cast its glow without being obscured by the structure. Then it was simply a question of turning up, over and over until the light played ball, which fortunately it did upon one evening. Nice!
With a few days available I had the opportunity to plan a longer, solo trip. I'd had in mind a particular snow-shoe hike to Pretty Valley Hut at Falls Creek for some years, and conditions for it were optimal. The issue was going to be maintaining zero-contact with people. Regional travel was permitted, but I wasn't keen on taking chances, so I ordered my parks pass online and, after arriving on the mountain, avoided the ski lifts and instead trudged up the peak behind Falls Creek village on foot. It was steep going, but with legs fresh from hours of sitting in the car the kilometers went by well enough and I had brought with me a secret weapon in the form of some new snow boots.
I've always seen dedicated snow boots as a luxury item. After-all a good pair of hiking shoes and some waterproof gaiters should, in theory, do just as well and be usable all year around. However after a few decades of wet socks and frozen toes I was ready to part with some coin. All I can say is, "why didn't I do this earlier?". And so it was with toasty dry feet I arrived at the hut to find it wonderfully fogged in with low cloud making for some great atmosphere. I worked the scene well into the late afternoon, until the light faded. When I eventually returned in the dark by torch light, quite fatigued, visibility was reduced to a few feet at best and I was very grateful to spot the lights of the village.
With that shot in the bag, I spent some days exploring the Snowy River National Park, discovering treasures I'd not seen before like Victoria's deepest canyon at Little River Gorge. It's crazy deep and scary, not to mention photographically challenging. A nearby waterfall also looked amazing, but ultimately I didn't come away with anything gallery worthy. Maybe something to return to. Certainly the countryside around Buchan looked gorgeous as I drove through, so in the right light there's surely a shot to come back for.
With time running out I needed new inspiration. There's a couple of coastal scenes in the east of the state, that I've been revisiting over the years. An obvious choice, but they need very particular conditions so the probability of success was low. What I wanted was the injection of creativity that comes with investigating a new area. Looking at the map I spotted the Mitchell River near Bairnsdale which feeds into the Gippsland Lakes system forming the longest "silt jetties" in the world - something that looks impressive even on a map.
I set about hunting for a vantage point that would catch the evening light. The river winds its way through some little nature reserves, and in my experience these tend to be a good place to search. It was, however, getting quite late in the afternoon before I found a composition atop a crumbling cliff overlooking a lush valley. The sky had been heavy with cloud, but a tiny gap sat just on the horizon where the setting sun would be revealed. I quickly got into position and willed the clouds not to close over.
The scene was spectacularly still and quiet, even the faintest, most distant bird calls could be heard. I waited, and waited, checking and rechecking my camera, tripod, and the sunset times. And then it happened. That magic ingredient, glorious golden light. The exposed cliffs shone like a beacon, broadcasting their presence and the trees both backlit and side-lit exploded with colour. Even the water took on rich hues. I shot quickly, but carefully, knowing I had scant moments. What seemed like mere seconds later the light vanished, but what a magic spot and a wonderful way to end the trip.
So that's it for this blog. As always dear readers, I hope you find your own moments of joy and happiness. Stay safe and well.