Category Archives: Insights

Kakadu Wrap Up

It’s been a couple of months now since I got back from Kakadu National Park and now that I’m back to the grind at work it means that I have precious little time to post up images individually so here is a wrap up of all of the images that have made it into my portfolio. I had spent a few months planning this trip by researching tourist sites and looking through other photographers work for inspiration. The biggest thing you need to factor into a Kakadu trip is the weather, you can generally categorise NT seasons into the ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ seasons. I wanted to get to the park in the wet season when there is a lot more water in the billabongs and waterfalls. The problem is though, the rain starts to close roads and tracks that you need to go down to get to the places that are best seen in the wet.

So I headed out of Darwin with a plan of what I would hit and when, first up was Ubirr Rock but needless to say that after visiting there nothing went to plan!

Ubirr Region, Kakadu NP. 2015-2232

Ubirr Region, Kakadu NP. 2015-2232

After checking into my accommodation I drove out to Ubirr, as this area is only open in the afternoons during the wet season. With the threat of rain there were few other people there so I pretty much had the whole place to myself! At Ubirr there is a walking track that takes you past Aboriginal rock art paintings that are tens of thousands of years old. I spent a fair bit of time photographing them from various perspectives. The overcast light was perfect for getting the details in the art out. I spent the whole time considering that for all the progression in technology, art is still fundamentally the same. To stand in the same spot where another artist like me had spent many thousands of hours was truely remarkable.

Ubirr Region, Kakadu NP. 2015-2245

Ubirr Region, Kakadu NP. 2015-2245

It’s hard to show the scale and the detail of the art on screen. This panel is quite high up and probably 15 meters wide, it is full of drawings and even includes some areas that look like they were painted over at some time. You really need a large print to appreciate this scene, the above panorama will easily print out 50 inches wide.

Ubirr Region, Kakadu NP. 2015-2254

Ubirr Region, Kakadu NP. 2015-2254

Here is a close up of a section of the above wall. A lot of the art documents the lifestyle of the Aboriginal people from thousands of years ago, there is drawings of the food they ate, how they hunted and also moral stories.

Ubirr Region, Kakadu NP. 2015-2261

Ubirr Region, Kakadu NP. 2015-2261

After finishing up with the rock art I climbed up to the top of Ubirr rock. You can find many images taken by photographers and tourists alike of the sunset at the top of Ubirr but I didn’t travel all that way to simply re-create the image that everyone else gets so I looked for something different. The image above provides a unique perspective of the trees in the area, the leaves are finally getting some water and have gone a nice green and because I could photograph it from the top of the rock you don’t see any sky in the background.

Ubirr Region, Kakadu NP. 2015-2266-Edit

Ubirr Region, Kakadu NP. 2015-2266-Edit

At the top of Ubirr there is a really dynamic looking rock, after roaming around to find a foreground object I found this large tuft of grass growing in the cracks of the rocks. By using focus stacking I was able to get high sharpness right from the foreground to the background of this image. Unfortunately the rangers ushered me out of the park right on sunset so they could close up, I wasn’t too upset as I knew I had gotten some great shots already.

It was during this shoot that I realised that I had left one of my batteries and the charger back at home!!! This meant that the next day I would have to drive 300km back to Darwin to pick it up then drive back out again. I wouldn’t be able to go to at least one of the spots on my list but my wonderful wife agreed to bring the battery and charger half way and save me a bunch of time. Isn’t she a keeper?

Kakadu National Park, NT. 2015-2309

Kakadu National Park, NT. 2015-2309

With recent rain in the area some of the best shots I got were from the side of the road. With a little time up my sleeve before meeting my wife I stopped in a few spots to shoot the grass and trees in the water – a favourite subject of mine.

After picking up my battery charger and once again being indebted to my wife for my own stupidity I did a little exploring that was mostly fruitless while I waited for my sunset cruise on Yellow Waters.

As I’ve already mentioned on this blog I got a private cruise! When no other tourists turned up in the meeting area I was kind of worried that they would cancel the tour, but when my guide showed up he was lugging a long-lensed Nikon, as soon as he saw my camera gear out and ready he was more than happy to go. Turns out he studied photography but now works in tourism, over the next two hours I got a private tour and he was more than happy to go certain places and stop so that I could get shots that I wanted.

Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu NP. 2015-2363

Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu NP. 2015-2363

Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu NP. 2015-2394

Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu NP. 2015-2394

Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu NP. 2015-2400

Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu NP. 2015-2400

Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu NP. 2015-2413-Edit

Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu NP. 2015-2413-Edit

Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu NP. 2015-2415

Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu NP. 2015-2415

Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu NP. 2015-2434

Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu NP. 2015-2434

Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu NP. 2015-2515

Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu NP. 2015-2515

There’s nothing better than being able to get into the right place with the right light. I don’t think I would have gotten the same results if I had been on a ‘regular’ cruise. I asked my guide for suggestions as to what to shoot the next morning and he pointed me in the direction of Motor Car Falls. It was going to be a bit of a walk but I decided to go for it and hope the effort would be worth it. I’ve already written about that ‘little walk’ here but here are the images I got from the falls for the sake of completeness.

Motor Car Falls, Kakadu NP. Limited Edition Print. 2015-2547-Edit

Motor Car Falls, Kakadu NP. Limited Edition Print. 2015-2547-Edit

Motor Car Falls, Kakadu NP. Limited Edition Print. 2015-2555-Edit

Motor Car Falls, Kakadu NP. Limited Edition Print. 2015-2555-Edit

Last but not least one more of the flooding on the side of the road. There were areas with a lot more water but it was these kind of images that I was aiming for so I didn’t stop for the really flooded bits! (Plus, you know crocs and stuff!)

Kakadu National Park, NT. 2015-2525-Edit

Kakadu National Park, NT. 2015-2525-Edit

Well that ticks another item off the bucket list and a main reason for moving to the NT. I’ll be back but with the family in tow so that we can share the experience, that’ll mean a bit less time for photography but I’m content with what I have for now (but I still need to go to the Gunlom infinity pool).

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Kakadu’s Motor Car Falls – Limited Edition Image

You need to put in a lot of effort to get really spectacular images but this shot required more effort than usual! December is not the best time of year to visit Kakadu, the days are hot and humid, roads and walks begin to close and the wildlife starts to present a greater danger than usual. This didn’t stop me from using the leave pass my wife gave me for my birthday to get out to Kakadu for three days. After a lot of research I knew where I wanted to go and while I had it all planned out I don’t think one aspect of the trip went according to that plan 🙂 With my plans all stuffed up I decided to head out to one of the places not on my original plan. After confirming with the rangers that Motor Car Falls was open and getting a recommendation from a tour boat driver I decided to head out there on Thursday morning.

Plan was to get there in time to make the walk in before the heat set in but as soon as I stepped out of the car I realised that I was already too late for that! While prepping my gear for the 7km trek I discovered another problem that was to plague me the whole day – flies… These flies bite and only about 50% of them were put off by insect repellant (Bushman’s – the stuff that has 40% DEET in it…) Heat + humidity + flies + heavy camera gear do not make Rob a happy photographer (and sweat mixed with Bushmans tastes bad when it runs into your mouth 🙁 ) but as soon as I started to hear the falls I knew it would be good.

Motor Car Falls, Kakadu National Park. NT Australia. 2015-2547-Edit

Motor Car Falls, Kakadu National Park. NT Australia. 2015-2547-Edit

I scrambled up to a rock that I knew would be a good vantage point, set up my gear and got to work. The light was rapidly changing as the sun went in and out of the clouds, constantly changing the light. I used a 10-stop ‘Big-stopper’ Neutral Density filter to increase my exposures and get the silky smooth look to the gushing falls. After the long hike it was cool and calm by the falls, I was considering a quick swim but I didn’t have too – the rain moved in after I had been there for 30 minutes or so and quickly cooled me off!

After 2 hours by the falls watching the light change and trying a few different compositions it was time to start the hike back. The return hike was the opposite of the hike in, instead of hot and humid it was cold and pouring with rain! I eventually got back to the car cold, dripping wet and exhausted but I haven’t seen an image of these falls quite like this one so I will limit production of this image to 50 prints only.

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Orange Sunset At Darwin Beach

Clear, cloudless days mean boring sunsets, right? In the NT you can get these but you can also get really vivid displays of orange, yellow and red after the sun has dipped below the horizon. I used some of the large boulders on Vestey’s Beach to frame the action of the water against the rocks.

Vestey's Beach, Darwin, NT. Australia. 2015-1904-Edit

Vestey’s Beach, Darwin, NT. Australia. 2015-1904-Edit

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Long Exposure On Vestey’s Beach

I continued my exploration of the Darwin shoreline last night by going down to Vestey’s Beach. I really wanted to get images of the water flowing amongst the rocks but although I got there at the right time to meet the tide, this turned out to be a lot harder than I thought. I had to find a rocky outcrop that was a little higher than the rest, then delicately trek out there over razor sharp barnacles. Once I’d gotten in position I had to balance myself and my tripod on the rocks and work quickly so that I could get out before I was swallowed up by the tide!

Today I tried out my ND1000 filter that I got for my birthday 🙂 it is a very very dark filter that cuts the amount of light by 1000 times. I wanted this type of filter to get the kind of shot below – the afternoon sun is still shining brightly on the cliff in the background but I can use a long enough exposure to get movement in the water. I couldn’t get this look any other way.

Vestey's Beach, Darwin, NT. 2015-1870

Vestey’s Beach, Darwin, NT. 2015-1870

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Sunset light on tree at Sandia Peak

Just the one image tonight, as I was hiking up to Kiwani’s Cabin on Sandia Peak the last night of the day was streaming through the trees illuminating some but not others. I kept my head on a swivel looking for a place where just the right amount of light was striking just the right tree in just the right way (and trying not to trip over the rocks on the track at the same time!) It took a while and a few different attempts but this particular tree was perfect, I love how complex the branch structure and the moss on the tree is and a really busy background just makes it perfect.

Sandia Peak, Albuquerque. NM. 2015-1769

Sandia Peak, Albuquerque. NM. 2015-1769

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Kiwani’s Cabin At Sunset

It’s not often that I forget my camera but I left my camera behind when a group of us decided to check out the Sandia Tranway in Albuquerque. By the time I realised that it was still in my room it was too late to go back, what the hell – I’ll make this a scouting trip and then come back another day. We took the tramway from Albuquerque (at 6,000ft altitude) to the top (10,000ft) and the hike to Kiwani’s cabin seemed interesting. Now, I’m a sea level person and even walking along level ground at 10,000ft got the heart and lungs racing! Walking uphill was a whole lot more effort but it was worth it! The views were stunning both along the trail and at the end. It was so good that I decided that I needed to shoot it the cabin that night so after walking 2.5km to the hut I walked it back, took the tramway back to Albuquerque, drove back to get my camera and then repeated the whole trip back again.

By the time I got back to the cabin it was right on sunset and I was exhausted but I managed to capture some great images of the hut and the scenery (to follow soon).

Kiwani's Cabin, NM. 2015-1784

Kiwani’s Cabin, NM. 2015-1784

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Fallen Tree On Sandia Peak

Sandia peak looms large over the city of Albuquerque so I had to go up there. The tramway takes you from the city at 6000ft to 10,000ft. For this poor bloke who has lived his whole life at sea level this meant that setting up the camera too some effort, hiking even more so! I took a few really nice images while hiking around the peak, I really liked this little place and something about it made me want to crop square.

Fallen Tree On Sandia Peak, NM

Fallen Tree On Sandia Peak, NM

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Sunset at Fannie Bay Beach

Cloudless days make for boring sunsets right? Not always! The trick is to have a clear view of the horizon and to be patient. The sun was long gone and it was getting quite dark when the sky lit up like this and it was only when the red appeared in the sky that I could make a composition with the magenta coloured rocks work.

Fannie Bay Beach, Northern Territory, Australia. 2015-1690

Fannie Bay Beach, Northern Territory, Australia. 2015-1690

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Something Different

As promised, here is something a little different to what I normally create. When I shoot I normally have my ultra-wide lens on the camera, I like to use near-far relationships in landscapes to highlight depth and add complexity to a scene.  This article on Luminous-Landscape got me thinking about my neglected telephoto lens, I’ve taken some great shots with it but for me, it’s rare that a scene screams “CHANGE LENSES!!!!” loud enough to grab the tele out of the bag. For this shoot down at East Point I put the tele on straight up and forced myself to think differently, here is one of many shots that I’m proud of and will print soon.

East Point, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. 2015-1649

East Point, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. 2015-1649

One down side to using my tele is that I don’t have a filter adapter for it, I took this shot with an ND filter that I had to hold in front of the lens. This can work but it is a bit of a pain, especially when you drop the filter into the water and only just catch it before it gets swept out to sea! Then I had to dunk the filter back into the water to get the sand off it before I could wipe the water off with a cloth… All good fun while you are perched on a rock with the tide coming in around you.

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Fiery Sunset At Tanilba Bay

Gotta a quiet Sunday so I had a flick back into the Lightroom collection I have of images that I’ve identified as needing a ‘bit more work’ and picked this image from Tanilba Bay as one to spice up. I took this on a stunning evening in 2010, the tide had been out a long time so the crabs had left plenty of sand holes on the beach but there was still a little pooled water to provide a reflection. Stunning.

Tanilba Bay, NSW Australia. 2010-1525-Edit.

Tanilba Bay, NSW Australia. 2010-1525-Edit.

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