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Photographer's Blog: Tuesday, November 1, 2022
NSW Central Coast
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In the spring of 2022 I had the opportunity for nearly two weeks of landscape photography travel and chose to head up into New South Wales. Unfortunately our lad, who was very keen to accompany me, picked up a cold at the last minute and had to sit this one out. So with a car packed and the open road before me, I headed north planning to focus on the central coast between Newcastle and Port Macquarie with some inland exploration as well.
The weather proved the greatest challenge providing a week of clear blue skies followed by a week of solid rain, neither of which is conducive to my kind of photography. Never-the-less I managed to come back with quite a selection of keepers which I will attempt to describe now.
First up was a day in the Blue Mountains which never fails to yield something of interest. Ever since obtaining the Fuji GFX 100s medium format camera, I had been chaffing at the bit to reshoot the beautiful Sylvia Falls with its delicate tendrils of flowing water. Knowing it gets very busy, very fast, I made sure I was down in the gully well before dawn and had both Sylvia and Empress Falls in the bag before a single other person arrived. It had rained heavily all night, causing the already picturesque rocks and foliage to take on an even more saturated appearance.
This was a great start to the trip and kept my spirits high during the next few days of disappointingly empty skies. I went north and soon found myself at Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse near Seal Rocks. The sunset was not epic, but at least some cloud remained and by keeping the emphasis on a strong foreground interest I believe the image still works. The last of the golden light spot lit the headland adding that extra splash of interest. It was a little spooky walking out in the dark for some reason, but I was soon on the road again.
Dawn found me at Crescent Head, one of my favourite landscape photography locations. The light was a fizzer, but I ended up returning here again on the way back when the clear weather had turned into major storms and that is when I captured the image of a dark evening over the little peninsula with wet foreground rocks awash with waves.
I love the dynamic nature of this photograph. With the waves swirling over my feet, the ocean spray and intermittent rain showers it was a challenge, but fortunately there was very little wind so keeping the camera dry and safe was actually not that big of a deal. As a result I had a blast, and shot some 200 frames over the course of an hour or two. From those this one was selected. Hopefully you like it as much as I.
Back to that first week, where I kept heading north. I was keen on revisiting Dorrigo National Park, mainly to reshoot Crystal Shower Falls, but when I got there the water level was a pitiful trickle and all the rocks looked baked in the sun, lacking that lush feeling. I ended up walking away without taking the camera out of the bag. Looking at the forecast I could see lots of rain on its way in a day or two which ought to have improved the situation. I was not enamoured with adding even more kilometres to the trip, but figured it would be possible to circle back to Dorrigo later.
It is always good when planning a trip to have many backup ideas. I used one now, driving south to Ellenborough Falls in the night. The GPS sent me down some dirt roads, but I did not think about it too much and soon arrived, slept, and was ready to shoot as the sun rose. I was not to be disappointed. Glorious golden light filled up the valley and reflected off puffs of morning fog that wafted into the scene whilst dark storm clouds gathered overhead. It was quite something to behold and certainly had me excited to capture it. Having balanced myself and my expensive medium format camera on the viewing platform railing for an hour or so I was very happy to pack up without incident.
However on the way out I managed to become bewitched by the myriad of forest roads, many of which dead ended in a locked gate or simply disappeared into the wilderness. Lured by the soft tones of the GPS I kept trying whilst eyeballing the fuel gauge and suppressing a rising panic. Fortunately a friendly farmer in an old white Ute appeared as if by magic and kindly directed me back to Ellenborough, where the one and only store provided the correct directions back to the highway.
At Comboyne, I found civilisation, and after a pie and a coffee I was feeling like myself again. My earlier anxiety and frustration had gone and was replaced with a certain embarrassment at having relied so heavily on technology instead of actually looking at a real map and planning the fuel vs distance more carefully.
My next destination was Shoal Bay where I played around with compositions at Zenith Beach and up on Tomaree Head, but despite sinking a sunset and dawn into it, I ultimately felt the images were not an improvement on previous attempts. At this point I was keen to get back up to Dorrigo and after a lot more driving and another hike I was standing before Crystal Shower Falls for the second time in a few days. To my dismay the rain which was now everywhere along the coast, had caused the river to turn into an ugly brown mud slide. Any thought of capturing lush, delicate beauty was shattered.
Not to be deterred, however, I decided to use the rainy conditions to my advantage and focus on woodland photography instead. Dorrigo National Park has some amazing jungle-like rainforest and the drizzle created a foggy haze perfect for creating layers of separation. I found an endless supply of compositions, eventually refining the selection to the two shown here.
The only issue was keeping everything dry. After a four or five hours of shooting under a big umbrella I noticed my camera bag was wet through, all the way into the internal padding, saturating my gear. Stupidly I had left the bag on the track, which had become a minor stream that invaded through the zips. Had I left the bag (a well-worn F-stop Tilopa) on my back and attached the rain cover like a sane person it would have been fine. Luckily the spare batteries were safe, and the various bodies and lenses weather sealed. I headed back to the car, hung everything out and got the heater started whilst planning my next move.
It was at this point that I ended up driving back to Crescent Head via a long inland route. On the way I tried a few other photographic ideas but was met with poor conditions, and wrote it off as scouting. Firmly going south now, I arrived a day or two later at Long Jetty and had a chance to shoot it and Norah Head Lighthouse both of which yielded results.
Down on the beach well before dawn, with my tripod up and ready for action, the lighthouse looked promising. Whilst the sun never made a direct appearance the sky took on some amazing hues and I was able to capture some long exposure wave movement and reflected light on the foreground. Given my expectations had been quite low, I was very pleased to have been granted such a wonderful morning.
My last chance for photography was at Royal National Park where I revisited Curracurrong Falls, which descends off an impressive ocean cliff directly into the sea. Hiking into this location under the shadow of a giant impending storm seemed ill advised, but sometimes those are the best conditions for landscape photography. On this occasion the gamble paid off.
Harnessed up and safely anchored I waited on the cliff edge. With my tripod inches from a big drop into the ocean, it was tied off as well. Fortunately I did not have to wait long before the setting sun forced its way through massive dark clouds providing a dramatic backdrop to an already dramatic scene.
A few minutes later the wind and rain came. I made myself as small as possible under a big umbrella and waited it out feeling tiny against the mighty tempest, all alone on a precarious rock outcrop above a wild sea. I gave my rope another once over and tried to settle in. Before long, however, the violence abated, the clouds passed, and the remaining light dimmed as if nature had decided to go to sleep. I walked out in the dark by head torch, very happy with the images and the whole experience.
I have also included a few of images in this series that were shot locally here in Victoria during earlier trips, being Trentham Falls, Beehive Falls and Mount Arapiles. Hope you like them! Even after 35 years of dedicated hiking and landscape photography trips around Australia, I still have plenty of unexplored ideas not that far from home. So even though this blog was about travelling thousands of kilometres, it is good to remember that beauty and peace can be found much closer as well.
So that is it for another blog. If you managed to read this far, then thanks for listening. All the best in your own endeavours.