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Vanuatu : Tanna Adventures

Our arrival at Port Vila filled me with more excitement than the corresponding entry to Fiji a year ago. Along the way, we flew over the crystal waters of New Caledonia which looked even more sparkling than the Vanuatu Islands from above. The airport was small, tidy, friendly and fan cooled with an appropriately tropical feel to it. We found a cab fare for 1200 VTU , and with prices reasonably regulated, we were confident at least that we weren’t getting ripped off. Our hotel was the Moorings Hotel , located just outside of the city centre along the main highway. What struck me as we drove was that there appeared to be little urban development , less in the way of road rules and definitely a sense of laid-backness that I didn’t feel when we landed in Nadi which was comparatively more urbanized.

View from Moorings Hotel

The temperature was perfect too. Warm and humid but not oppressively so. After settling into our air conditioned hotel room, we went for a wander into town not realising that we had actually walked past the so called ‘strip’ of dining locations in Port Vila (with very limited selections on the main street but with much more hidden off side streets that we only learned about later).We did note that despite the natural beauty, there was ironically less care for the environment with petty littering a significant problem. There was also a palpable presence of Chinese both in retail and infrastructure development in the area.

View from Chantilly’s , near Moorings Hotel

After lunch at ‘Kung Fu Noodle’ ( a pretty spartan noodle place run by mainland Chinese), the girls had a great time around the hotel pool while I managed to sleep through a great deal of it. When evening came around (and a bit of a failed shoot at some old jetty pylons), we wandered back into town to ‘Island Time’ , a popular burger joint for locals and to a lesser degree, tourists. The meal itself was reasonable with a large fish and chips serve priced at 12AUD. They certainly took their time serving customers though! We then settled in for a good night’s rest with all four of us sharing a room for the first time ever on holiday! Only barking dogs really disturbed our sleep.

Tuesday July 2:

The morning was beautifully clear. We were the first to arrive at the resort dining room for a resort breakfast before making our way to Tanna. It was there that we met who would turn out to be our cab driver for the trip. A friendly local called James whose number I have for any possible future trips. He took us to the domestic airport where we managed to arrange a pickup and transfer to Aquana Beach resort on our return 4 days later. The domestic airport was much smaller and felt very much like the smaller Nepalese airports such as Lukla or  Pokhara. After a prolonged check in done in Vanuatu time, we played a game of Uno with a local kid who picked up the game so quickly that he even ended up winning a round! The flight itself was aboard a 72 seated propeller drive plane.

When we landed at Tanna, we were literally the only expected arrival and after the plane’s engines were shut down, it was a strange unaccustomed airport silence that we had not experienced before! We then received our baggage through an opening in the airport walls before moving on.

We had arranged our accommodation through the ‘Tanna Adventures’ webpage and had corresponded through an agent Greg, who was remarkably helpful with his advice. Our guide Esso was waiting for us outside of the airport. We found him difficult to read in that his natural expression was dead serious but he would burst into bouts of enthusiasm and humour. It seemed from early on that he knew nearly everyone on the streets! While driving to get some lunch at Lenakel ‘seaview’ restaurant, he picked up his daughter Amy who was teaching in town. The beach immediately outside of the restaurant was crawling with hermit crabs, a theme that would be common every beach we visited.

Lenakel seaview restaurant : a three table veranda !

We opted to skip a walk around town and headed straight for the giant Banyan Tree. Along the way, we experienced just how difficult it is to access places independently around Tanna. The roads are rough demanding 4×4 vehicles, and there are literally no signs anywhere with turnoffs to villages popping up sporadically along the way. Something else we would experience was that along the way to the Tree, a seemingly random local jumped on to the back of our ute. Turns out that he would be our guide ! Max was a local from the area who took visitors for a trip around the tree for the princely sum of 2000VTU per adult (25 AUD) and 1000VTU for children. I had zero expectations of what to expect from a Banyan Tree ‘attraction’ let alone a Giant Banyan tree that had claims to be as large as a football field. Fortunately for all of us, the 800 year old tree ( according to local stories and estimates) definitely did not disappoint. It is quite hard to describe the intricacies and complexity of how this trees root structure extends all around for a massive area forming secondary trunks. After demonstrating his tree climbing skills, Max let us all have a go where we were comfortable , not insisting on any OH&S standards. It was refreshing to see that common sense was being relied upon though I suspect that in the future, there may well be Instagram selfie related injuries occurring from this location.

One of many sections of the Giant Banyan Tree

Our trip back to the accommodation saw us pick up some fuel not from a petrol station but from a randomly ‘old fuel lady’ with her team of younger workers operating out of a hut in Lenakel. Another stop at someone’s house for bread and we headed along the bumpy ground down track to Louniel Village and Essos’ property. Rachel and Esso’s property was located perched near a dropoff giving great views down to the Pacific Ocean, Futuna Island and distant Yasur pumping out smoke in the background.

We settled in to our single room hut and had shower by hot water cups before eating one of many great tasting dinners provided by Rachel and her daughters (Brenda in particular). We were given free reign to explore the village but that would wait as we settled in to our tiny bungalow. I’m not sure why it took us a few nights to work out that the best evening routine was to leave the lights off while using headlamps as required. By using the bungalow’s one bulb, we attracted all manner of bugs ranging from wasps and beetles to moths and giant huntsmans that were better off left unseen in the dark.

Sunset over Futuna island in the distance from our hut

Wednesday July 3:

The so called ‘Big Day Out’ was indeed a big day out!

We departed from Louniel Village at 830am with our new guide (Jack , Esso’s son) who has a habit of expectorating and comically swearing under his breath. Our first stop (after some bumpy roads) was a grand lookout of Yasur. Sadly , this spot was along a highway with no pullout and when a Lorry chugged up behind us, we had no option but to move on along the narrow one land road. Due to the hastiness of our departure, I ended up sitting in the trunk of the ute for the next 30 minutes experiencing what all the locals would do on a regular basis.

A view of Yasur from the distance of our accommodation

The next stop was quite fun as we firstly explored some Magma fields , drove at high speed along ashen plains at the base of Yasur, then had a quick climb up the ash dunes leading to Yasurs crater rim. The temperature and humidity were up this day and this started to have an effect on the girls’ willingness to be actively walking and exploring. 

Patterns of the Magma fields accentuated by an ultrawide 12mm perspective

Unfortunately, the next stop was truly filler as we were meant to visit Shark Bay to see live swarms of sharks swimming below from a clifftop viewpoint. At low tide however, there was nothing to be seen. The locals probably knew this as we drove through their village without a guide hopping on to assist us.

Next up , we drove to the village of Port Resolution for lunch and ‘Tina’s seafood restaurant’. It was more or less a shelter with a table and a kitchen out back. The food wasn’t bad though I have been learning to avoid ordering meat dishes as the consistency often ends up more like jerky … I wandered through the village which seemed to be an anthropological time warp save for the mobile phone connected to a Bluetooth speaker blaring out music in the middle of the village square.

After lunch, we spent 1 hour at the beautiful White Sandy Beaches with practically all of the other groups on Tanna doing the Big Day Out tour. It was unfortunate that the tide was incoming since there appeared to be plenty of fish in beautiful clear waters and attractive reefs The lack of population and relative lack of visitors certainly seems to be evident in how much more pristine things seemed than say, around the Warwick resort in Fiji. Once we had dried off, we were ushered to the much less impressive ‘Hot Springs’ which I related to a scaled down version of New Zealands ‘hot water beach’. And finally, it was time to visit Yasur, the main reason why we decided to visit Tanna in the first place.

Port Resolution with an incoming tide obscuring the reefs

By the time we arrived, the conditions were starting to look a little threatening but thankfully, the weather ultimately held on. While we were waiting, there was a kids playground game happening in the ute assembly area. Jaime was clearly the youngest, but that didn’t stop a number of older children from showing their true colours by goading her and taunting her in a game of chasey which she fortunately took in good spirits. As sunset approached we were then ushered into a small viewing area were local tribes performed a safety ritual and two ‘Kastom’ dances. I’ve unfortunately forgotten the name of the local tribe (help me out if you know!).

Kastom dances prior to our ascent

After this was done, we were packed into our jeeps and headed off as a large group toward the base of the summit. To Vanuatu tourisms’ credit, there are no real over the top restrictions here either . Refreshingly, there were few barriers around the Volcano rim with a lot of faith being put in tourists’ common sense and straight out fear of death by incineration! One day again, I suspect there will be something done to limit access when an unfortunate fool loses their life while seeking self-validation in the area.

Charlotte making her way up to the rim at sunset

Unfortunately, the slow place of the group meant that we missed the most amazing light for the afternoon with sunrays shining at an angle into the crater. On this evening, Yasur was supposedly at Level 2 activity and thanks to some advice from Luke Tscharke, I had a CPL on for the whole shoot just in case ash caused damage to the front element of our lenses. Ultimately, it wasn’t needed as few of the eruptions put out enough ash to cause anything but stinging eyes. 

Yasur erupts!

As we were allowed to explore further along the rim, the girls became more nervous with the constant rumble underfoot mixed with the occasional boom that could be felt as air was expelled out from the crater along with lava and rock. I was a little disappointed that we only stayed until 6pm (almost true darkness by then) as I only captured a few of the larger explosions.

Our drive back was a 90 minute effort thanks to the speedy driving of Jack who at times was driving at a rapid pace along Ash plains in the dark with the only points of reference I could see being other cars headed vaguely in the same direction?? He avoided some of the rough roads that we entered the area along and by the time we arrived home, ate and bucket showered , it was 10pm : a huge day out for the girls. Jack was a quiet guide but a long the way , we played us some of his favourite songs followed by us introducing him to Amy Shark through his Bluetooth speakers. During one of our conversations, he told me about the 7 different languages spread throughout Tanna which aren’t even vaguely related – so much so that he cannot understand the local dialects of the Yasur tribe.

Thursday July 4

This was one of our more relaxing days. After a discussion with Esso the previous evening about an unanticipated price hike at the blue cave (9000VTU per adult) we still committed to going on the trip but with the kids sitting out since it was likely they would not want to go in the cave anyway.  I think one option we will try for if we ever revisit the island, is to stay locally where attractions are in order to give us the best access. For instance, from Tanna Adventures, the transfer fees were 6000VTU each way for all of us whereas if we had stayed at a local bungalow, the price to visit the cave was only 2000 VTU and could be access via a stair case rather than a boat ride.

On the boat to the blue cave

The day itself started with rain which thankfully cleared by the time we began the tour at Whitegrass Resort. We were concerned that the Blue Cave might not even appear blue in cloudy weather, but those concerns gradually came to rest as the waters  appeared a deep blue even in the absence of any direct light.

The ‘Blue Cave’ during cloudy conditions believe it or not!

The initial plan was for the girls to wait on the boat until Marianne had seen the cave and retuned out to go snorkelling with them. However , due to the low tide and gentle swell, the tour operators kindly allowed them to venture in anyway (without charge). Inside the cave, it was a colourful myriad of rock and water colours with an opening into the jungle above. It’s a pity there wasn’t sun shining down into the cave as we could have stayed warm in there much longer. My dry bag worked a treat and after a few photographs, it was time to explore a little under the water before getting back onto the small boat and returning to Whitegrass. The heavens really did open up on the way back so we spent the afternoon back at Louniel Village.

That evening, the skies again cleared allowing me a window (during a toilet break!) to photograph the stars above Mama’s Nima.

Clear skies, no light pollution and a beautiful setting for our nights

** During our drive today, we found out that Esso was the president of land transport for Vanuatu’s Southern islands. He was due to meet the Prime Minister on Friday to discuss issues such as proper price regulation. Overall, our thoughts are that Tanna has been  costly but a very worthwhile set of experiences with a laid back, not overly paranoid administrative feel that was very welcome. Though, some measures of self regulation in the future may be worthwhile for the government to explore**

Friday July 5

I’m writing this at Tanna airport while waiting for a plane that we were way too early for. In fact, I’m not sure why we allowed such a long time to get to the airport and to check in at all? This morning was sunny, very tropical and a real pity that we didn’t choose this day for the blue pool visit! Nonetheless, our walk to Louniel waterfall was a very refreshing and sweaty  one simultaneously! We did the 3km return walk (with 160m elevation) with the girls, Brenda Jackie, Helen and the two dogs Lolly and Brazil.

Jaime and Brazil (after her bucket shower!)

The girls managed fine despite the often steep and muddy sections toward the end. If Jaime can do this at 5 years old, I’m presuming it would be suitable for most families. For some reason, the 2 dogs seemed almost excited as we were and appeared to be watching out for us. Way finding was not difficult and I’d love to do this independently some day to allow more time for shooting the cascades ad the bottom. The walk up was sweaty culminating in everyone having a washdown and me having my first cold shower for the trip!

Waterfall near Louniel , a tropical paradise as you could only dream of!

Lunch was a hearty one before we made our way to the airport . The departure time was 350pm but for some inexplicable reason, we were initially planned to be picked up at 12? Instead, the first driver didn’t show but a replacement driver eventually arrived at 1pm, a slightly more appropriate timing given that Tanna airport was deserted at the time we tried to check in.

Tiny Tanna Airport and the runway beyond

Going back to Port Vila almost seems an anticlimax after these last few days but I feel we’ve got a lot out of this trip if nothing more than knowing that we can all cohabit in the same room for at least 4 nights in a row! The girls are definitely keen to return and to stay with Rachel and Esso again. Fingers crossed that we will get the opportunity.

Thanks to Brenda and Helen and Tanna Adventures!
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Autumn in Tasmania : trip notes as they occurred!

April 20:

It was a little unusual for us to be departing for a destination at the end of the day. Somehow in the past, it has always worked out that we’ve been on morning flights so the girls have had something to look forward to on waking up instead of the anticipation building throughout the day. We managed to get a few things packed during the morning as well as drop off aging Giz (our Jack Russell) to my parents place. After a quick lunch, we introduced Charlotte to her first superhero movie Wonder Woman . From a 7 year old’s perspective, she was just interested in the fighting and glory scenes rather than any character building or plot advancement moments!

We took our first ever UberXL ride to the airport which I have to say, worked out at least as well as any cab we’ve taken. Then the girls went through their usual airport routine of checking in while stopping off for a play at the playground before boarding the plane. Everything went smoothly. Oh except for the swearing bogans behind us …..clearly situational awareness and foul language around children are aspects that some don’t care about?

The flight itself went very well and our landing , baggage collection and car pickup all went seamlessly. By the time we landed, it was well after 7pm so we opted to go for the quick MacDonalds option for dinner before meeting up with Marianne’s parents, Pat & Quyen at the supermarket since things had gone so well.

Arrival at Hobart Airport

The accommodation was in the suburb of Dynnyrne. It was a beautiful and massive home which was really meant to be two separate 2 bathroom apartments which we had hired out for the whole family. It was one of the best places we had stayed in save for the rather tricky parking. There were two parks nearby and Mount Wellington was basically straight up a road two blocks away from us. South Wellington was the plan for the following morning.

April 21:

This was one of many early dawn walks for the trip. Pat and Quyen decided to come along for the hike to South Wellington. We left at 5am and arrived on the mountain a bit more than an hour before dawn. The colours had already started to shine and unfortunately I took a wrong turn down the zig zag path which chewed up 5 minutes of valuable time. Having never been to the area, I decided to explore off track before the Rocking Horse and photographed some of the leaning dolerite columns before attempting some commercial shots for icebreaker. The wind up there was pretty intense and it was good to have shot on the leeward side of the mountain.

South Wellington Dawn

When we returned home, everyone was up and about ready for a day’s activities. We decided to visit Mount field National Park, which on an Easter Sunday  , we anticipated would be very busy. Along the way, the fall colours of Westerway and New Norflolk were particularly striking , especially the poplars lining Tyndall Park. By the time we arrived, it was late morning and we spent a good 90 minutes exploring Russell and Horseshoe Falls. The kids enjoyed a ‘secret’ path to the 2nd tier of Russell Falls. Unfortunately at Horseshoe Falls ,  I slid and dented the V6 ring- it was able to be undone and a testament to its strength!

Second tier of Russell Falls
Horseshoe Falls at low flow

On the way back, we dropped by the Possum Shed for a yummy BLT lunch, stopped by the raspberry farm before heading back to our apartments for some rest. I thought about going out to Mortimer bay for sunset but decided against it based on the cloud; rookie mistake photographically but it turned out great nonetheless because we had a great time with everyone at a local park (Parliament street park) with its massive blue slippery dip. Dinner was a struggle to organise on Easter Sunday, but we finally ordered some OK pizza anywhere we could find! Cargo pizzeria was the only one open on the public holiday and was kind of acceptable for hungry people!

Autumn colours at Westerway

April 22

I arranged to meet Luke at Fossil Bay for dawn while Pat and Quyen decided to sleep in after considering coming out earlier. I forgot to bring my 12mm and regretted it! The 16mm really had limitations down there and ever since, I’ve made sure the 12mm and the filter kit was with me. So far , on all of the shoots save for the waterfalls, there hadn’t been anyone else photographing.

Fossil Bay at dawn

After a very efficient clean up and goodbye to an awesome rental, we were on our way to Freycinet in great weather. Our first stop was more grocery shopping before stopping by at Richmond for an un-anctipated long stop on account of its charm. On Easter Sunday, the place was buzzing with tourists. After stopping by the sweet shop and hanging around the historic bridge, we headed to Swansea for lunch , one of several bakery lunches for the trip at the Bark Mill Tavern and Bakery. As a side note, bakery lunches while on the road were something we sorely missed while we were travelling in North America – it’s not everyday that I feel like having a full cooked lunch!

Richmond bridge (Marianne’s phone pano)

Our second rental at Coles Bay was situated off the main road toward the national park and had amazing grandstand views of the Hazards from the upstairs deck. The living area upstairs was very well setup however, compared to the previous 2 nights in Hobart, the place was not as well set up for 2 families. Downstairs was crammed with 3 bedrooms and a tiny bathroom and the bifolds on our bedroom just didn’t close! Nonetheless, I’m not one to complain about such things given the amazing setting.

That afternoon , in dry weather, we set out for Mount Amos and arrived after 1 hour of sweaty climbing on the granite rock faces. Marianne was able to get out for the first time in ages since her parents looked after the kids and kindly looked after food preparation for the evening. At the top, we were alone for the evening as everyone else was headed down. Overall , the walk was not as long or as difficult as I remembered from 2008 given I was in a big rush on that occasion.

Halfway up!
Sunset Panorama
Post sunset hues over Wineglass Bay

April 23

The morning looked slightly cloudy and  I was keen to get some colour and clouds in images of Mount Amos so I set off in very calm initial conditions . Inexplicably, after 1.5km of the 2.2km, it started raining! Rain on that side of the mountain was basically an extreme hazard , so I donned my emergency spikes and carefully made my way down the mountain without incident save for one short slide which was almost unavoidable due to the lack of footholds. I still managed to get to Sleepy Bay in time, however, dawn cleared completely and I later found out that the Hazards looked great from the Coles Bay side of town.

Sleepy Bay at dawn

After returning, we made plans to go to Friendly Beaches and Bicheno for lunch. Friendly beaches were pure pristine white with blue waters and comfortable temperatures. With holidays in full swing, there were quite a few people around. We ended up spending much longer at the beach than anticipated as the girsl made a beach nest and castle. During that time, I think we managed to get a couple more shots for Icebreaker.

Friendly Beaches

We moved on to Bicheno where we spent much more time looking for critters rather than the blowhole itself . After another bakery lunch, we scoffed some icecream courtesy of the local IGA before heading back to relax at the rental. Marianne’s parents went to buy some Oysters and Mussels from Coles Bay.

By mid afternoon, we were again ready for an outing. This time, the whole family went to the Wineglass bay lookout which was extremely crowded. Charlotte showed her very good fitness by following Quyen up and down for parts of the way while not even working up a sweat . As nice as the views are, once you’ve been up to Mount Amos, the lookout here is almost no comparison. Our evening was spent at the esplanade photographing a beautiful sunset. This was literally the only occasion from the whole trip where we met other photographers – on this occasion Serena Ho and Kaspars Dzenis who were on honeymoon appreciating the warm weather after settling down in Iceland.

Wineglass Bay lookout
The Hazards from Coles Bay Esplanade

Dinner was a feast of pasta and seafood purchased earlier in the day.

April 24:

My morning shoot was not an ambitious one. I went to Sleepy Bay having scouted out positions to shoot from previous day’s mistakes. The shoot and light itself went very well but i became convinced that I had lost my gopro there when in fact I had let it slip out in the boot of the car.

Sleepy Bay with pink!

After we had speedily packed up and readied ourselves for a long drive, the whole family went to Sleepy Bay to help with the search for the gopro. It was only as we were leaving that i found it stray in the boot ….. egg on face for wasting everyone’s time!

First stop afterward (after gas) was Campbelltown for a pee break, then onward to Liffey Falls. Our timing was a bit off because google maps directions took us to the campground and not the upper carpark! We arrived there just before normal lunch time and by the time we had finished up shooting (Charlotte again showing her hiking strengths) , it was after 1pm.

Liffey Falls
The spout at Liffey Falls

Lunch at Deloraine was at 2pm at the Amble Inn . It was a pretty hearty lunch since most of the family decided that enough bakery food had been consumed (I could have kept going!). We then stocked up for our anticipated bad weather run at Cradle Mountain before finally setting off for Highlander cottages at 330pm. Fortunately, the drive there was pretty uneventful and we arrived at 5pm to a no frills checkin . We were staying in Pandani cabin , the smaller of the two with two levels. One queen and 4 bunks in a separate room upstairs. The others had the bigger Stringybark cottage which had one queen and a queen and bunks in the other room. It was definitely the more spacious of the two and had a genuine log fire.

Dinner on the first night was a home favourite of salmon and couscous (replaced by risoni) with quinoa. The weather started to set in that night and that made Pat and Quyen decide against a Cradle summit attempt – a wise decision that I was trying to push them toward gently since they didn’t have full on wet weather gear.

April 25

I woke to showers , wind and no visibility. Nonetheless, I decided to take the gear up pfaast Marion’s lookout and to Plateau creek overlooking Dove Lake as that was really the only direct sunrise facing option. On a morning like that, that was the best and possibly only chance of getting any light. After a cold slosh along plateau creek battling the cold and mists pouring over into Dove Lake, I managed to catch the 1 minute of glorious light before it all faded away.

Plateau Creek, Cradle Mountain

When I returned, the latest time of any trip this holiday so far, everyone was ready for an outing so off we went to Dove Lake along the shuttle bus system. While Pat and Quyen went up to Marions’ lookout (which was misted out), Charlotte and I hiked to the Wombat pool while the others turned back at Lake Lila. Jaime needs to build endurance and patience in the wild to be more like her big sister!

Dove Lake Boatshed
Wombat pool
Fagus in variable bloom

The weather became wilder that afternoon, but after a crowded lunch back at the visitor centre, we went wombat hunting at Waldheim. This area has never disappointed and true enough, we encountered a total of 13 wombats that afternoon. By the time we headed back at 330pm, the day had been a great one and the girls rested up with some screen time before we popped over to the other Cabin for another home made dinner.

Near Waldheim , crazy weather!
Wombats everywhere!
Weindforfer forest walk

April 26

Snow set in overnight! Unfortunately it wasn’t a pleasant kind of snow fall but a wild and temperamental mix of rain, snow, hale and other precipitation through the day. The girls were great sports in the morning , enduring the wild conditions through short hikes based at the Ranger Station before we returned for a warm up and lunch at the bigger cabin. Afterward, with the snow build up, we managed to have a brief snowball fight and snowman creation session before the afternoon was yet again indoors. I had  a brief outing to Upper Quaille falls which was every bit as pretty as I had seen.

Snowing at Pandani cottage
Upper Quaille Falls

The last dinner with a happy crew was at the Cradle Tavern – great food, great atmosphere and here we are packing up about to drive back to the airport and back to Adelaide where its 20 degrees warmer than the 0 degrees here today!

Avengers Endgame on Sunday to round off a great week!

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!