Selling our souls or enjoying life’s freebies?

 

A few weeks ago, we were approached by Julie King and associates regarding a trip to Dubai that would be sponsored in terms of return airfares and 5 star accommodation. My first response was – hang on, really? Is this a scam? There’s got to be a flip side to this right? After very brief discussion with Marianne, we decided to enquire further since a free holiday wouldn’t hurt right? At this stage, it was only early February and Julie was looking for social media influencers to promote Dubai as  a stopover destination en route between Europe and Asia. The deadline was that this needed to occur sometime in February or early March. Given the relative short notice, we felt that it would be difficult to impose on relatives to look after our kids Charlotte and Jaime. The most realistic way for this to work would be to somehow incorporate this as a family trip. The requirements of us were fairly straightforward : regular Instagram story posts (5 per day) and one static post per day for the duration of our stay and all to be linked to Tourism Dubai.

‘We do shoot cityscapes, we promise!!’ Gold Coast circa 2016

We wrote back indicating that it would be possible in the first week of March (when I had miraculously managed to find an empty slot in leave allocations at the hospital)but that we would have to bring our kids along with us. In return, we would be willing to up the ante in terms of static posts since I felt that I had seen many interesting futuristic images of Dubai shot from rooftops. During this negotiation period, we were all truly excited. I contacted Daniel Cheong, Sebastian Tontsch and Dale from DK photography who had all frequently visited Dubai. I am thankful to all of them who were more than willing to share what was possible to shoot using Dubai as a base. As a result of my enquiries, I now see Dubai as a genuine possibility for a future independent visit. I had looked forward to shooting from several locations: The rooftop of the Shangrila hotel, rooftop of the 4 seasons Sheraton , Dubai Marina , rooftop of the Atlantis overlooking the Palm Jumeira and various possible locations for Dune images. I had an idea that during a week’s stays, I could quite conceivable come up with at least one usable architectural image per session of shooting. It was also quite an opportunity to test NiSi’s new V6 filter holder system and I was looking forward to using the night filter for cityscapes in particular.

Combining a walk with a cityscape ? The view from Mount Maunganui

When looking a gift horse in the mouth however, you may end up finding that you’ve been lurking in the mouth of a hyena. First, after being provided a list of potential hotels, we didn’t hear back for nearly a week. When we did hear back, we were then told that the images weren’t for Tourism Dubai per se, but for the specific hotels we were staying in. No dramas, many of them either had fantastic places to shoot within or vantage points from. We chose Atlantis and Bab Al Shams as possible bases so that we could come at the Instagram stories from the viewpoint of family travel ; something that ‘everlook photography’ is already known for. Images of our kids doing kids stuff would certainly not be out of keeping with what we have displayed on our feed in the past. Atlantis looked like the best option given it’s theme park setup with plenty of family activities and adult activities such as diving for Marianne (who has recent completed her training!). Given that we were asking for two rooms to accommodate the children, we were asked by Julie if we could supply high resolution images to soften the deal. We were fine with that given that it’s pretty unlikely that any of these images would end up as ‘portfolio’ images though we did ask that the hotel would only have ‘non exclusive’ rights to them.

Tourism Canada, you would have been welcome to this image in high resolution in exchange for a sponsored family stay there 🙂

Silence. The request for those hotels went through two weeks before planned departure and there was no response for a week. We had to know what our travel plans were so that we could inform the school and extracurricular activities that we would be absent for a week. By Monday night prior to the planned departure there was still no response from the Atlantis. Even a response in the negative would have assisted with planning another hotel but nope, nada. By Tuesday morning (before a planned Friday departure) Marianne and decided that this was a bridge too far crossed and we called off the entire trip with disappointment. If you were to ask me whether I would have been disappointed to miss out on a trip to Dubai the month prior, it would have been an instant ‘no’. However, after the significant amount of energy expended, not so much through the negotiations with Julie, but the background research into what would optimise our visit there, it turned out to be a huge disappointment. This left me pondering a few issues.

One of my first sponsored shoots – this time when asked to be an ambassador for NiSi in 2015 – taken with the old V3 system

  1. The life of a ‘typical’ instagram influencer is clearly not a lifestyle we are suited to. I don’t know how ‘last minute’ many of these arrangements are but we are definitely the type of people to plan out a trip months in advance to give us freedom of choice after hitting the ground. We don’t have the freedom to muck around ‘before’ a commitment to travelling and then inventing plans with two young children without knowing potential multiple plan B’s. This, as a family choice makes it difficult to suddenly fly off somewhere ‘on a whim’. For those reading who are instagram influencers who go on paid promotion missions, I’d love to know what the typical time frame of a gig is!
  2. The gravy train of social media influencing has certain left the station on a fixed destination. Marianne and I both suspect that the hotels were uncomfortable with ‘using’ us as influencers given the nature of our social media feed (glorified landscapes). I certainly intended to present Dubai in a light that was representative of our ‘style’ for this location. I felt that during our trip to Fiji last year, we were able to capture images in the ‘everlook’ style that belied the ‘usual’ tourism promotion style images of Fiji. I guess institutions want to put their money where the crowds already look not where new audiences may or may not choose to look. As an anecdotal aside, I was told that at work, some of the younger doctors who follow our account are trying to expand their social media audience base and were doing things like waking up extra early to get the ideal light on their housemate sipping coffee. My response was that this could well end up with their image being featured on ‘instarepeat‘ (‘disembodied hand holding steaming coffee mug). I don’t particularly feel like stepping aboard this gravy train and perhaps it was a blessing in disguise that we didn’t go on this trip lest we start to head down ‘that’ path. Now to contradict myself with the next point !
  3. Some people are far more convicted with their chosen path than we are. I believe that as a photographer, I am primarily a landscape photographer and that all other genres are a distant second. That said, I do take the occasional selfie (with nature in the background), we used to photography weddings and I love taking pictures of my kids. I don’t discriminate between wilderness images, man made landscapes/cityscapes and easy access iconic locations. In my teens, I learned a valuable life lesson for myself (which may not be applicable to everyone). The lesson was that following principles for principles’ sake led me to an endless loop of questioning self worth which led to self doubt and ultimately years of depression. Once I learned that moral principles are merely guidelines for regulating my behavior rather than totems etched in black or white, I was able to enjoy life so much more. I’m no anarchist, I’m just more flexible with each individual situation than I was when I was younger. In this scenario, I felt ‘morally flexible’ enough to allow for a big corporation to pay for a free family experience. I’m always on the lookout for win-win situations. We may well have learned that we disliked the trip , but a mistake in retrospect is yet another valuable life experience.
  4. Lastly, it’s hard to write a post like this without coming off as being some kind of hypocrite whose eaten a gigantic bunch of sour grapes. If you feel that’s the way this has read then you’re free to make that choice just as I’m free to tell you that despite the disappointment, the process of what went on in the last few weeks has been yet another humbling learning experience. We’ve since been approached by ‘icebreaker’ to promote their gear in nature which seems far more in line with our style of photography so we’ll let you know how that all goes! Perhaps expect to see a few more images of Marianne and myself in among the epic landscapes 🙂 .

I had previsualised a view from Dubai Marina to be like this but on huge doses of steroids!

 

Or maybe I should stick to photographing while staying in my own type of 5 star accommodation 🙂

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Tasmania from Plan A to Z : According to my DSLR

See the previous blog post for the actual events of the trip.

https://everlookphotography.wordpress.com/2019/02/15/from-plan-a-to-z-in-tasmania-according-to-my-phone/

As a companion to the travel diary, here are the representative images and the brief story behind how I photographed these scenes:

Cape Raoul:

The tip of Cape Raoul. If you’re moderately fearful heights, I would suggest spending a good half an hour wandering around the clifftops without camera gear to get yourself acclimatized before bringing your setup to the edge. I needed to bring tripod and filters to this small ledge as I wanted to shoot this scene as a long exposure with a 6 stop ND filter. I excluded the sky as there was no light on the horizon. Focus stacking was required as I shot this at approximately 24mm focal length.

 

On a summers dawn , the sun will rise just out of frame from this vantage point near the Seal colony lookout. With direct light, the Cape will light up with golden hues. I chose a long exposure again due to the chaotic nature of the water that would have clashed texturally with the columns of the rocky cape. Focus stacking was again needed.

Cape Pillar:

At the end of 15km walk, this is your reward from a 5 minute stroll up to the top of the blade. Looking back toward a hazy sunset using a 10 stop ND filter

 

Looking due south, the amazing Tasman Island looms. It’s not a spot to shoot from if you’re afraid of heights or if it’s windy. I hid behind a rock for much of the shots I took here as the wind was blowing in unexpected gusts from the west.

 

I took this image as a stack of 8 X 4 minute exposures using an average method to reduce noise in the foreground, and stacked the stars to achieve the star trails looking due south. The Cruise Ship Celebrity Solstice cruised past during the time I shot this.

 

Cape Pillar by dawn light through the smoke haze. Image taken with a 6 stop ND filter and 3 stop medium grad GND. The direct light lit up some dirty spots on the filter which needed to be cloned out

 

Easy shoots around Eaglehawk Neck:

New fire (?deliberately lit) at Waterfall Bay Road.

 

Norfolk Bay glowed presunset through the smoke haze – it would have been absolutely stunning at sunset without the smoke though. This was taken with the Laowa 12mm lens as I wanted the accentuate the depth of the jetty.

 

A glorious dawn at the Tessellated Pavement . If you are planning a trip to photograph the pans and loaves , plan for a low tide or they will be washed over.

 

Boomer Bay at dawn. I shot this at the end of the trip having returned here while staying at North Hobart on my last night. Light painting was done with two exposures – 1 framing the door and the other with light source in the shed shining out on to me.

Frenchmans Cap Hike

Late afternoon light shining down from Barron Pass. A good option is to take the extra effort to climb up from Lake Vera to camp on the pass if photography is your mission. As ever though, take care to leave no trace.

 

The wider version of the previous scene with light illuminating White’s Needle on the left. Shortly after this, the sun would sink below the distant mountains with no cloud in sight. This is a blend of 3 exposures for dynamic range while retaining tonal contrasts.

This was short in pre-dawn darkness with 2 focus stacked frames for the foreground and a third frame for the southern cross above Nicole’s Needle. This is a potentially good spot for star trails but I didn’t have enough darkness to do so.

 

After dawn, there was some nice pink light emanating from sunrise to the left and behind Nicole’s Needle. This scree slope is actually a short climb off the main track up some boulders.

 

Turning around from the previous shot, I could see Frenchmans Cap lit up while weather started to come in from the west.

 

After the previous shot, that evening and the following morning were both washed out. Fortunately in the late afternoon of my third night, conditions started to clear and I was on the alert for rainbows due to the presence of passing showers and sunlight.

 

I learned a new term ‘Virga’ for precipitation that doesn’t hit the ground – coupled with a rainbow, I wanted a close up with a long lens to capture the fractured shafts of light.

 

This was shot from the Lion’s Head which overlooks Lake Tahune opposite Frenchmans Cap. In the distance, amazing light glowed down on the west coast.

 

My final dawn on the trail was greeted with clearing conditions once again. This image is a panorama with 8 vertical frames of three images taken for dynamic range. To the right is Frenchmans Cap

 

My final shots from the Trek were of the waterfalls along the section of walk between Lake Vera and Barron Pass. With rains, there are ample opportunities you would have to explore. This was taken with a screw on circular polariser.

The ‘fireflight’

A number of wilderness areas that are also popular walking tracks were burned out this year. The track to Lake Rhona was one such victim of the Gell River fire.

 

Another affected area was Southwest National Park. This is the track leading to Eliza Plateau and Mount Anne which started as a fire around Celtic Hill.

 

Surviving vegetation from the Celtic hill fire

 

The Riveaux road fire caused much of the concern south of Hobart

 

Burnt out Huon River as it meets Lake Pedder

And for now, that’s all folks! We have another trip to Tassie with extended family in April during Fagus season. In the meantime , there’s a possibility we might be visiting Dubai but we will keep you posted!

From Plan A to Z in Tasmania – according to my phone

From January 26th to February 2nd, I traveled around Tasmania and visited as many areas as I could that were safe from the raging fires all around the state. I tried to take as many pictures as I could with my phone in between the times that I would take out my DSLR to take dedicated landscape images. Most of the trip was spent hiking with a backpack for camping gear and a frontpack containing my camera. These are some of the images that I took along the way along with thoughts that I scribbled down on an old fashioned pen and paper diary.

January 26: While on the plane:

The plans for this trip have had to be altered time and time again due to raging fires that were worse than our 2016 trip. Our original plan to hike the Eastern Arthurs was abandoned several months ago as Tim, Francois and eventually Luke, had other pressing life issues to attend to.  My leave was already set in stone and since we would be moving out of home shortly after this trip, I figured I would persist with the trip.  Lately I feel that I’ve been struck by some sort of travel curse. First , there was the snow incident in Canada where I managed to dent a rental with my bare hands while trying to push it out of snow. Then, there was the alleged accident that I caused in 2017 while driving to Nelson Lakes (which I still feel I wasn’t responsible for!). This was topped by being septic with appendicitis in March last year needing emergency surgery while in Tauranga.  Thankfully, a couple of family trips to Fiji and Canada since have proven uneventful. However, the travel curse came back to haunt me as three weeks ago, I inexplicably came off my bike resulting in a fractured 9th rib. It was still sore though not so much when walking. I hope that carrying a heavy pack doesn’t aggravate the injury too much or limit my walking!

January 26 : Adelaide to Cape Raoul

I’m writing this section of the diary from the amazing Lake Tahune hut which I will describe later. I should note that I’m writing this while sitting on a bench under a thermostat regulated heater while my phone charges on a USB hub. Looks like I made the right decision to push on through to here for 2 nights ! Anyway, back to the trip.

Adelaide airport 1 hour before departure!

 

When I arrived, the rental car queue was already growing and it was just pure bad luck that a first time renter was immediately in front of me in the queue. He spent 20 minutes asking all sorts of insurance questions which I’m sure I caused me great angst once upon a time. My pickup was once again, very routine and by 1pm , I was driving to meet Luke (http://luketscharke.com/) at Sorrell Woolworths after picking up some jetboil fuel from Anaconda. The poor air quality that I could see from the plane was evident right throughout this first day. In fact, from the plane, the fires over the Great Lakes area could easily be seen.

My shopping list from Woolies : 10L of water for dry hikes, a pack of hot cross buns, muesli bars and skittles for munchies. I had packed everything else from Adelaide. We had a fast food lunch at MacDonalds while discussing the potential candidate hikes for the rest of my trip. Mount Rufus, Frenchmans Cap, Freycinet circuit were all mentioned and at this stage I was favouring the North East given that no fires were present in that part of the state. We only set off from lunch at 2:30pm an drove through constant smoke haze behind many Australia day holiday goers who magically thinned out once we were past Port Arthur. Cape Raoul’s car park at Stormlea lay off a dirt road and was reasonably large, possibly in anticipation of integrating this with the already established Three Capes  walk.

During our 7km hike, we talked mainly about photographic issues and the trail really only opened up once at a lookout 30 minutes into the walk , and then 1km from the end of the trail. Thanks to some directions from Nick Monk (http://nickmonkphotography.com/) about camping sites, we were able to find some locations protected in the scrub but in the end, we opted for the bushes lining dried out pond right near the end of the Cape.  From here we explored a few vantage points as the sun set below thick smoke haze leading to a disappointing lack of light during ‘golden hour’. At the tip of Cape proper, it took me some time to acclimatize to standing 200m above the sea with steep dropoffs either side. As we returned to camp and chowed down dinner (Rice and Bovril for me), I found that my MSR tent and new fly stood up to some brief downpours of rain and moderate gusts of wind overnight.

First lookout 30 minutes in

Luke near the tip of Cape Raoul

January 27: Cape Raoul to Cape Pillar

This dawn would be one of a few bushfire ‘hazed’ dawns for the trip. The sun itself shone red through the smoke haze which prevented colour  from permeating through the horizon and the rest of the sky. Luke did his best to tempt fate at the edge of a particularly sketchy cliff face while I played it just a little safer! While Luke kept shooting well after dawn, I took the opportunity to have my prepacked breakfast of powdered milk and muesli and had a brief snooze.

Pre dawn camped at a watercourse that is usually a bit wet

Tip of Cape Raoul

During the 7km walk out, Luke and I discussed many things including some common ground about how we felt about the Australian Geographic NPOTY results from 2018. Overall, we were concerned that the direction seemed to be toward ‘pure art’ rather than the depiction of natural world and representation of real scenes, real light and real conditions. Discussions like this with like minded photographers only serve to consolidate my desire to continue shooting the wilderness primarily (though I will shoot anything!). After goodbyes at the car park where Luke lent me his personal locator beacon, I wolfed down a chicken pie and coke before heading to the Cape Pillar trail-head at Fortescue Bay campground. The campground was completely full and I nearly couldn’t find a park to begin the walk!

By the time I sorted out my bags , it was just after 12pm and I had given myself 4 hours to get to the tip of Cape Pillar. The first section through the ‘old Cape Pillar’ track was stifling due to the heat and complete lack of breeze. The more attractive forest scenes started to appear only after the track joined the new Cape Pillar track heading to Munro hut and beyond.

Views from Munro Hut

Munro Hut – very clean!

During this section of the walk, the boardwalk was certainly a nice feature to walk on. Indeed, there were cries of it being a ‘superhighway’ but personally, I felt this to be a bit of an over-call. I do feel it’s a touch excessive but I’m sure not unappreciated by the likes of people like me and many others. Munro Hut looked amazing and for the price of the paid walk, it had better be!. I noticed lots of clean boots outside immaculate dorms and many clean walkers thanks to the presence of a shower! My 5 minute water break there was a relief. The last 6km to the Cape were quite painful on the shoulders, feet and spirits though the walk itself wasn’t at all tough. Even my eyes were smarting from the smoke and sunscreen laden sweat.

Hand sanitiser on the feet works wonders!

A lotta steps (for me!)

Shortly before 4pm, after a marathon boardwalk section leading to the spectacular sea cliff section of the walk, I found a camping site very close to the turn off for the ‘blade’. Given how established these spots seemed, I’m guessing they were used by the workers constructing the trail. After 23km of walking for the day, I had a bit of a granny snooze with the tent set up without the fly. I made a few trips of the short climb to the blade and again acclimatized myself to standing at the edge of a precipitous drop overlooking Tasman Island to the south. Fortunately , despite the westerly gusts, the top of the blade offers sheltered sections to retreat to if you lose your nerve temporarily! That evening, I felt that I got some reasonable images and headed down well before sunset thanks to the predictable smoke induced ‘unset’ that obliterated any light 20 minutes before actual sunset.  Bovril rice and jerky for dinner again and I was not yet sick of it!

Sunset diffuse lighting

January 28: Cape Pillar to Lufra Hotel

With the camp to myself and less violent conditions than the previous night, I actually got a few hours of much needed sleep that night. When I got up, I thought I’d check out Tasman Island for potential star trails but sadly, smoke haze was heavy due south so my only night shots were of the magellanic clouds with the cruise ship ‘Celebrity Solstice’ inbound for Hobart sneaking across my frames. The capes were also lit up by massive floodlights which I presume was for the benefit of the cruise passengers? Dawn itself heralded another ‘unrise’ thanks to smoke blowing in from the west, but there was some interesting lighting on Tasman Island nonetheless. Just after 8am, I had packed up and broken camp, a routine I’ve rapidly accustomed to on this trip.

Sunrise lighting!

My castle for a night

When I started walking, I was initially worried about some hamstring tightness and my sore feet but thankfully both settled in as the joints warmed up. The return leg seemed a little easier with my stops planned out in advance. Along the way, many walkers were doing a day trip from the Munro Hut and a few appeared to be heading out for a very long in and out from the carpark. When I arrived back at the carpark , 3hours 15 minutes had elapsed and my first priority was to get clean and have a snooze in a bed before planning what I would do for the rest of the trip. Lufra hotel was conveniently situated at the Tessellated Pavement and after a hasty check-in and shower, a beef burger was downed in record time. After laundry was done, I napped for an hour before taking a random drive in search of an easy sunset location.

I found the thirty degree heat to be quite stifling so I didn’t really achieve anything other than using up fuel. A new fire had unfortunately developed on Waterfall Bay road but thankfully, aerial bombing was successful and it was extinguished by that evening. It did however leave the area smoked out for the rest of the evening. Luke had given me a tip that the Dunalley bakery was a pretty good failsafe but unfortunately, this was the dedicated Australia day holiday and as such nothing was open. Dinner by the ‘Doo-lishus’ fish and chips stall was , as its namesake, delicious! I had plenty of time on my hands , so I headed to Norfolk Bay where I witnessed colours gradually obscured by the haze of the day’s fire. Despite having a comfortable bed to spread out on, I really didn’t sleep much – perhaps a touch of worry about the unknowns that a trek to Frenchmans Cap might bring? Big shout out to Nick Monk for giving me assistance with planning a possible night up at Barron Pass at some stage during the walk.

2 choppers put out this fire thankfully

Dinner at Doo-town’s Doo-lishus van

Sunset at Norfolk Bay – one wonders if the smoke wasn’t there!

January 29 : Tessellated Pavement to Barron Pass

An early start thanks to an absolutely blazing dawn. Unfortunately the patterns I may have shot at the pavement were mostly not possible due to a high tide. Another note to self: No barefoot shooting there! I was eaten alive by mozzies the moment I took off my boots so that I could keep my feet dry for the upcoming hike.

Blazing dawn at the Tessellated Pavement!

At 6:45 after shooting a timelapse and many single frames, I checked out of Lufra and set off for the trailhead. I briefly stopped at Sorrell for supplies – including some dental floss of all things. I called home to let Marianne know I was headed to Frenchmans Cap and had a chance to talk briefly to the girls before their first day of school for the year.

Hitting the road, I entrusted google maps to get me there using the quickest route, however I ended up on dirt road for a good 45 minutes at one stage. By the time I was approaching Tarralea, I was flagging so I stopped for a quick bite to eat and stocked up on 2 sausage rolls for the hike in. It was a strange town set up around the hydro operations there – almost seemed like a fake town??

45 minutes down the road at 10:45 I arrived at the trailhead and instantly noticed the fly infestation in the area. These flies were serious – so big that I thought for a second that a swarm of bees had descended on me! As I finished preparations for the backpack and checked the logbook, I noticed many had started the trail in the previous 3 days but only 1 other party on the same day as me. My memory of the track was that it was in awesome condition! There had been no recent rains, but even so, the irrigation systems and boardwalks looked like they had been doing their job in recent times thanks to Parks Tasmania and Dick Smith’s valuable contributions.

Crossing the Franklin River 10 minutes into the walk

Frenchmans Cap imposingly far away from Mount Mullens

The Loddon River marks the 1/3 mark of the walk

Rough timelines for future trips in include : 75 minutes from the carpark to the Loddon River ; the highlight was seeing Frenchmans cap for the first time at the top Mount Mullens. Another 75 minutes of gradual ascent around from the previously known (but now diverted) sodden Loddon plains led to another steep climb and descent to the plains where Lake Vera lies. I stopped for a drink and snack break before pushing on toward Barron Pass. The section along the north shore of Lake Vera was beautiful with rather inventive track cutting .

Inventive track cutting

A small waterfall on the way up to Barron Pass

After filling up my drink bottles at Vera Creek, it was a tough 80 minute slog up to Barron Pass. I was really feeling the previous two days walking coming up this section of track – beautiful and lush as it was. At the top of the path, the scenery really opened up giving grandstand views of Nicole’s Needle and White’s Needle , the valley beyond and Frenchmans Cap in the distance. I pitched tent in a small pad just off the path to White’s Needle and rapidly rehydrated and rested. I didn’t have the energy to search for the aspect of Nicole’s Needle that Luke had shown me courtesy of a Dombrovskis image.  Sunset was clear but brilliant as rays shone down into the valley and on to the face of White’s Needle. As the sun sank below the ridgeline, I managed to check a forecast on my phone which suggested cloud cover incoming overnight. With that in mind, I opted for an early night.

Camping on Barron Pass

Sunset from Barron Pass

January 30: Barron Pass to Frenchmans Cap

This is finally ‘today’ as I am writing this rather in retrospect. The sleep in my awkwardly pitched tent was reasonably good despite the uneven ground and roots. I rose at 3:30am and saw a sliver moon with stars despite the forecast for 100% cloud cover! I put on some gear in a hurry and about 20 minutes later, found myself among pandani along a boulder scree slope overlooking Nicole’s Needle. Having only been introduced to the Dombrovskis shot 2 days earlier,it was hard to tell if I shot the same one? There were so many appealing compositions to choose from.

The walk back in dawn light was when I could really appreciate the path that I took. I broke camp fr the last time this trip and again by 8’ish, I was on my way out without having been in any kind of rush. From Barron Pass to Lake Tahune only took 1.5 hours of leisurely walking without getting clammy. It’s probably the best stretch of the walk in terms of feeling you are among the mountains. Along the way, I met some younger hikers on their way out from what I would later hear, was a packed Lake Tahune hut.

White’s Needle

After another steep descent past ‘Artichoke Valley’ the magical electrical self sustaining Lake Tahune hut appeared and I’ve had a warm comfy base to return to ever since! I met a few more outgoing hikers while 3 others were staying a second night keeping me company. They had all done much more walking in Tasmania than I had as we shared stories over the usual hut activities.

View from Artichoke Valley

Frenchmans cap rising vertically 400m from Lake Tahune

After they had all departed on day trips, I slept for an hour or so to recover from the previous nights average sleep. I then set off on a recon walk with no gear and somehow ended up on Frenchmans Cap summit as I kept going up and up and up. Being completely honest, despite the expansive views from the summit, everything felt so distant that I felt that it wasn’t a great spot for photography. (That and lugging up camera gear up some dodgy sections). In the afternoon, the cloud settled in thickly so it was a night in for the first sunset that I didn’t shoot during the trip. Throughout the course of the day, I met three people staying the night with me. An elderly spritely man (Roger) and his son (Rohan) from Hobart and a well walked traveller from Canberra . We had easy conversations about various hikes before we all hit the sack pretty early. The weather forecast mentioned a possible break in the weather in the morning but sadly it would not hold true.

Hikers coming up the final stretch of the ascent to Frenchmans Cap

January 31st: Lake Tahune Cabin Fever

1200pm Weather has been terrible today and I don’t’ have much hope for any clearing this afternoon or even for dawn tomorrow. Fingers crossed the trip can finish on a high and I’ll be able to get some half decent shots to finish off!

230pm and it’s still misty as. Not actually looking like clearing. I’ve also just realised that Dan Broun was in the party I’m sharing the hut with!

Panadani family that I’m sure Nick Monk shot before me!

930pm: I’ve just returned from a walk to the Lion’s Head and the walk started on a high note with rainbows , storms and the most defined clouds I’ve seen. After that it was a cat and mouse game with both the path and light. I ended up going too far along the path to Irenabyss and had to backtrack to climb up Lion’s head. Then, the light gods really let loose with light beaming all over historic Macquarie Harbour and the dense forest and scrub that lay before it. As soon as the light was done, so was I as I headed back down where two late stragglers arrived at 930pm. I’m debating a sleep in tomorrow morning since I doubt I’ll top the light from tonight’s efforts! Over and out, waterfall shooting tomorrow!

Distant rainbows

Light breaks loose over Lake Gwendolene

 

February 1st: Lake Tahune to North Hobart.

The last hut sleep was typically restless made worse by the fact that as  was nodding off, someone’s alarm went off before 5am and we had to hunt for the appropriate phone to turn it off. The skies were covered but I still dragged myself out of bed and started the day witnessing some Tassie glory with the sun rising over Lake Tahune in glorious fashion. By the time I came down, everyone was busy getting ready to leave. Dan and three others were staying to hike while two of his party were heading out.

Final dawn in the area

Looking back at Lion’s head where I stood the previous evening

With a slightly lighter pack and 2 days relative rest, the morning felt really good. I didn’t need to have any stops en route to Barron Pass and paused only to take some phone shots to document the walk. On the way down to Lake Vera, I stopped to photograph 2 of the particularly pretty cascades while noting how tired I must have been on the ascent as it seemed nowhere near as long or challenging on the return leg. At least 7 walkers were heading up to a crowded Lake Tahune hut.

The view of Barron Pass walking back from Lake Tahune

Mists in distant valleys

Love heart lake for a Valentine’s Day ?

The same waterfall as on the way up, with more water!

Cascades along Vera Creek

I stopped briefly for lunch at Lake Vera at 11am, 3 hours after leaving Tahune. There, I had a chat with two middle aged women from Brisbane who were just doing an out and back to Lake Vera. I guess they were in it for the walking experience as I felt the real value of the walk to be everything past Lake Vera! There on end it was a 3.5 hour slog to the carpark over 15km of undulating but mostly downhill terrain. I passed the father and son pair on the way and hope I get to see them again on the trail in the future.

I grew more weary as the hike went on , particularly as the head and sun grew more prominent , and the final 300m ascent up Mount Mullens nailed me! At least I could say a goodbye to Frenchmans Cap on a blue sky day. By the time I reached the car park, cleaned my feet, stowed the camping gear for good and drove to Derwent Bridge, it was an unexpectedly early 3pm.

A sausage roll and coke at the Hungry Wombat went down in record time after the day’s 22km March. Luke wasn’t due back in Hobart until after 9pm so I booked myself into Tower Motel in North Hobart. Surprisingly, with Lewis and Veronica chatting away on Triple J , I had no moments of sleepiness on the 2 hour return drive to Hobart.

On arrival, I found that the motel was one of the spots for Chinese group tours! No matter, it was clean, efficient and I managed to destink in an importantly high pressure shower! I then found a 4.7 star Malaysian café 1km down the road which would have been easy to miss since the storefront had no sign. $23 Char Kway Teow is a tad exorbitant but hey, hunger makes everything taste perfect! (ps. Apparently the name of the place is Myu Easy Bites.

Not much of a storefront for Myu Easy Bites!

Luke eventually replied to a text about shooting Boomer Bay the following morning. I was tempted to bail in order to get more sleep, but pfft, sleep can wait! I was up after 5 hours of sleep at 3am anyway so it made no difference. He arrived at the hotel at 4am and we were off to Boomer Bay for the end of the night.

February 2nd: Hobart to Home!

It was almost a relief when Luke agreed to call off shooting before actual dawn as the sky was clear and 20 boats were due in for a fishing competition at Boomer Bay. We headed to Salamanca for breakfast where several things happened in a hurry.

  • I learned of the term ‘Dark Green’ used in a political sense
  • Luke mentioned that he had been in contact with Climate Council regarding aerial documentation of the fires. Before we knew it, a few twitter messages later, 11am was the departure time on a chartered flight. We had to bail on Nick Monk who deserved to be on that flight much more than me as his investment in the Tasmanian wilderness is exponentially deeper than mine. He unfortunately could not risk missing the start of his performance in Les Miserables which I had planned to attend but had no time for!

The flight with Par Avion (https://www.facebook.com/paraviontas/) was again amazing, scary, educational and potentially even emotional. Coming along for the flight was landscape legend Rob Blakers whose Tassie images had always inspired me. Grant Dixon was also due but could not make it on short notice. I took a maxolon tablet 30 minutes pre-departure and it did wonders considering that I didn’t once feel like vomiting during the 2.5 hour flight (albeit the previous flight over the Arthurs in 2016 was far more turbulent).

Our path took us over the massive Gell River fire scar that encroached upon Lake Rhona and the Denison Range. We then swung around Lake Gordon and the southwest fires near Mount Anne before flying past some backburning operations near the Riveaux Road fire.

After the flight, we all paused for a debrief before Luke and I headed for lunch at the ‘Room for a Pony’; a well recommended place and overwhelmingly sized Nachos! After we said farewells, I stayed around for another hour finding some gifts for Marianne and the girls before heading to the airport. I found some coral earrings which in my mind matched some of the tops Marianne was wearing in recent times. The quality wasn’t particularly high but I hope a minimum gesture to show my gratitude was in order since her looking after the kids has allowed me to have probably the most productive week of photography in recent memory.

The car rental return , check in , flight, disembarking (after the smoothest landing I’ve experience in a while) , pick up, welcome hugs and then sleep in my own bed back in Adelaide went as well as I could possibly hope for.

End…. Oh and a sneak peek of 1 edited shot from each area I visited 🙂

Cape Pillar from the Blade. 6 stop ND filter used at sunset.

Lake Tahune on the climb up to Frenchmans Cap

Devastation caused by the Gell River fire around Lake Rhona