It’s that time of the year again!
2017 has been a year where I feel that I’ve shot less than in previous years but there have been some very special moments in the field for me. With Marianne switching to other artistic media full time, there have been less images to post but I hope you’ve still managed to enjoy at least some of them! This year, I’ve gone with the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid). I’ve shot when I’ve felt like it, in a manner that brings me joy and presented the images that reflect a sense of happiness and wonder. In previous years, I feel that I’ve been overly concerned with other photographers’ perception of my motivation to shoot and the way images were processed. As a result, I started trying to shoot like other people, present images with a look similar to others. In hindsight, this was beneficial for my development as tried to teach myself to see things differently but in the end, I always come back to what I love : the grand, sweeping landscape bathed in vibrant light. I feel this is largely reflected in my favourites as even the longer focal length images attempt to convey the grand scene. If you have the time, see if you can pick the two images shot with the 70-200 and the two images shot at 24-70 focal length.
As the children grow up, they play more of a role in each shoot whether it’s part of the behind the scenes stories or whether the shoot is part of a grand plan for a whole day. With that in mind, here’s a countdown of my 12 most valuable experiences for the year.
12. Starting off with my favourite backpacking trip of all time! In January, I joined Luke Tscharke, Francois Fourie and Tim Wrate on a 5 day trek along the Western Arthurs to Lake Oberon. This image was taken after the first night of hiking . We had woken up to misty whiteout conditions which quickly cleared to a glorious morning. There are naturally a few more scenes from this trip in my countdown!
11. Noosa Heads National Park. In June of this year, we visited the Sunshine Coast as part of a family holiday. We had all walked out to enjoy the evening on this stretch of coast when sudden showers had everyone scampering for cover. I stayed out in the rain with Brisbane photographer Steven Waller and witnessed some amazing light on sunset. This was a poignant moment for immediately after the joy of witnessing this, I slipped and in fell the A7r2 into the water …..
10. Lake Bonney has always been a great go-to location for me. Because it’s a fair distance from Adelaide, I tend to go when the girls have a sleepover at the grandparents! So it was that on this morning, I was testing the Laowa 12mm F2.8 lens and was greeted with fantastic astro conditions after midnight followed by an amazing dawn! As with many of the shots this year, the photographs were taken in the context of mixing photography and family commitments. I drove straight from Lake Bonney to Port Gawler where we had a very successful crabbing session to fill our bellies for the next couple of evenings!
9. The Wanaka Tree: I must admit, I just don’t get the hate for this location. I shot here twice during the last trip to New Zealand. Once at sunset while waiting for takeout and the other at dawn on our last morning. On both occasions, I wasn’t really pushing myself to be overly creative but was blessed with great conditions. On both occasions , I managed to have some great conversations with people who were shooting there. I don’t make enough face to face contact with photographers and feel that perhaps I can be a bit elusive in the field ! These moments are valuable for me to shoot with others in mind and trying to come away with something different to the 20 other photographers there.
8. Motukiekie beach has to be one of the most dramatic seascape locations in the world. The addition of starfish colonies in the area perhaps put it even above many of the others! I was lucky enough to visit this location during a very low tide which allowed the whole family to experience the grandeur of this location. We stayed nearby and managed a few trips to this spot punctuated by one particularly awesome evening.
7. My only astro shot in this compilation was this memorable morning above Lake Oberon . At the time of this shot (with moonrise and milkyway rise occurring simultaneously), I had been explosively ill with some dodgy freeze dried Kung Pao chicken from this previous evening. Blowing wind and rain did not help the cause one bit! Thankfully around this time, the weather started to settle along with the bowels and I was able to take this image!
6. Rocky Creek Canyon. In November, Marianne and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary and decided to venture somewhere without the kids. Our last trip without Charlotte and Jaime was to Karijini so it would seem that we have a love of canyons! We are forever grateful to Jake Anderson and Blue Mountains Adventure Company who made this visit possible for first time visitors with a very limited time window. Normally, we wouldn’t be jumping into the water with the air temperature at 11 degrees but with the appropriate gear and guidance, it was a ton of fun! This was the last shot I took before heading out.
5. Nelson Lakes National Park has so much more to offer than just the jetty that is often shot. As pretty as that scene is, I feel it’s only a prelude to the wilderness beyond and hope to revisit the area in the future. This second trip up to Lake Angelus hut was special in that I had never really visited locations in full winter conditions. The Lake itself was completely frozen as was the water supply. Having to chip wood to start a fire, boil ice for water and help frostbitten late comers into the hut made this an amazing experience over and above the photography.
4. Back to the Tasmanian wilderness! After an evening and day of being battered by 100km gusts while being holed up in our tents, the following evening appeared to clear somewhat. I made a quick decision to hike up to the ridge above Lake Oberon and was greeted by an amazing light show. Golden rays were shining through rapidly moving cloud at eye level which made me feel as though I was standing in the midst of a timelapse.
3. Hooker Lake is one of my favourite in and out walks while visiting Aoraki National Park. One day, I’m hoping to get some colour and cloud over this spot but on this year’s trip, the clear skies worked its magic . The night temperatures were subzero which led to the shores of the Lake starting to freeze over. The patterns of ice were fascinating and I chose to use the 12mm lens to accentuate their depth. While this scene didn’t give the sense of awe that other scenes did, I really liked this image the moment I shot the 3 frames needed for it. Marianne commented instantly ‘that’s the shot of the trip’ when she saw my LCD even though we were only 8 days into a 3 week trip!
2. There are some mornings where the light bathes you in crimsons and reds. I was lucky enough to experience one such morning while watching the icebergs slowly move on a still Tasman Lake. This was our last morning in the Mount Cook area and what a send off it was! I to get to this scene and almost ran out of petrol for the return trip back to the south end of Lake Pukaki where we were staying.
Number One! It should come as no surprise that my favourite image from the year and favourite morning of shooting for the year came from the Western Arthurs hike. This particular morning also started off grey but with swirling clouds above, there were moments of brilliant passing light that was simply magical. We lingered until the last possible moment of light and packed up headed back for Lake Cygnus. For the remaining 2 days on the track we would be engulfed in swirling, wet,greyness as though mother nature had declared that this scene was our gift for the trek. It’s likely that this will be my favourite image of all time for quite a while.
If you follow our work, how did that list pan out for you? Were there any other images that you remember giving you a stronger impression than the ones I’ve posted? If so, it’s always good to know so leave your thoughts in the comments below! Wishing everyone a fantastic photographic 2018 🙂
Along the way, the road conditions were fantastically smooth and not at all tricky like they were on the way north . Our travel time was therefore far shorter which allowed us a few stops at Lake Louise (to return the cards from Pyramid lodge which we accidentally hung on to) and then at Morant’s Curve before arriving in Canmore at 4pm with the girls having slept in the car. They were again very good during the travel time during the day and are fast becoming seasoned travelers in all modes of transport.
That evening, Marianne went out to Policeman’s creek where despite some nice cloud, no light occurred . The evening light gig certainly seems like mission impossible around here with the Rockies to the west. She met Stacy , the guy behind ‘sentinel photography’ and we’ve made another contact through this shoot.
Dinner was late at the ‘famous Chinese restaurant’ . Canmore is quite easy to navigate with north south avenues and east west streets. Or maybe the other way round. It was reasonable Chinese food which we always crave while we’re travelling. After a good fill, it was home for the last night of late dawns with the change back to non daylight saving time to happen in 24 hours.
Saturday November 5
Dawn at Policeman’s creek. Curiosity got the better of me as I got to the location in the still of night and wandered around looking for alternative spots but the spot people shoot from does indeed seem to be the best. That morning, I met a woman from Red Deer house sitting in Canmore, a mountaineering guy from Canmore and Stacy was again there so we all exchanged pleasantries while witnessing an absolutely amazing dawn unfold! Two in a row! What were the chances of that given our trip?? It was good to be back home not too late either given that this location was literally 1km from our accommodation.
Lodges of Canmore is very well set up and the 3BR apartment we have is the best we’ve had all trip. The price is a little higher than we would like but far better than what we have paid for similar setups elsewhere. That morning, we did as much exploring of the town streets as the girls could tolerate. They absolutely loved Café Books which is a great store on the main street (8th ave).
It was a pretty chill and relaxing day as we finished off with another attempted sunset shoot at Spray Lakes. The wind was blowing a gale and predictably, nice late afternoon light faded into nothing. A home dinner and bed time before readjusting clocks to the new time.
Sunday November 6
I had a couple of choices this morning – I could have hiked up to Grassi Knob and photographed the 3 sisters again, or I could explore Kananaskis county. I figured that the workout part of me wanted to go up the mountain, but I made up for that later in the afternoon by doing a 6.5 k run on a treadmill. Instead with rain and wind forecast, I headed down to Wedge Pond.
In the dark, it was clear that this would not be a great spot. The water was all rippled up from the wind and without any foreground matter of interest, it wasn’t that great a spot. I went briefly searching for the reflecting pools of Mount Kidd but didn’t look too hard after Dani told me that they had been washed away by floods. Instead, I just took a walk down the Galatea Lakes trail and made a random turn off the footbridge as I thought a bend in the river might give me great views of Mount Kidd. Fortunately, that hunch was proven correct even if compositions were limited. Light didn’t really happen at dawn but there was passing light over the mountain well after dawn. The sony seemed to perform very well in these green foresty conditions.
Later that morning , Marianne took a walk down the main street again while I entertained the kids at the train playground in the lovely set Three sisters village south of Canmore. As usual, it was time for Jaime’s sleep and I decided to have one as well. The lack of a sleep in was really starting to catch up on me.
Our last evening was spend attempting for sunset light again at Spray Lakes with some success as at least it fizzled out only after starting to go pink. We killed some time filling up petrol and using a car wash before heading to dinner again at the famous Chinese restaurant. Early sunsets were now at an Adelaide sunset time! That evening, we had a bit of resorting to do for the drive back out to Calgary . I offered Marianne one last chance to go out shooting at dawn to at least experience the light out in the field but she chose not to again.
Monday November 7
What a boom dawn! Even from 1 hour out you could start to see something happening and that’s the beauty of being out early. It allows for some degree of indecision before settling somewhere. I chose Two Jack Lake since the other easy access locations had already yielded some results such as Vermillion lakes and back at Policeman’s creek at Canmore. The problem with Two Jack is the distant mountain range and the relative lack of any foreground matter of interest particularly when there are no reflections to work with. For that reason, I think I was the only one out there until some late comers from Calgary arrived on the scene way after the peak light had finished.
After a quick packup routine (probably our record!) we headed out from Canmore since none of the shops were open until 11am. We ended up driving to Signal Hill in Calgary where there was an enormous Indigo bookstore. You could literally get anything book related there and we spent a good hour there exploring before having lunch at a random hillside. The girls were getting good at adapting play to whatever was around.
Thereafter, it was a final night in the downtown Best Western followed by an uneventful flight out from Calgary. There was an amusing moment going through US customs where Jaime had an adorably avoidant photo taken at the customs checkpoint but we weren’t allowed to keep it ! This was basically the end of our trip photographically and the rest of the time would be spent in California mostly attending a medical conference.
I thought I’d share excerpts from my diary that I kept during our last trip – interspersed with some pictures of course. This first section is more a lesson on the things NOT to forget when going overseas , but first, a picture to distract you 🙂
We had been preparing for this trip for several months beforehand and one of the most ironic things to have occurred is that we completely forgot a major detail : that my passport had expired and that Charlotte’s was expiring in 5 months. We had all of our clothing packed, all of the locations we were going to visit packed, all of the people we were going to meet organised and everything was all set with one last step to check in online on Saturday night before our planned departure on Sunday morning . WRONG. I couldn’t check in and kept wondering why until I looked with horror that my passport had expired in June!!!!! Marianne and I were deeply upset as no doubt, this would have been the best lead up to a holiday that we’ve had with good health and so many things to look forward to on this trip. I just had a sense of profound hopelessness as I went through the motions of ringing the DFAT, Air New Zealand and asked if anyone through social media knew of anything possible that I could do to get on a plane within 12 hours. Not happening…..
Early on Sunday morning, we had to break the news to the kids who really didn’t seem to mind!! To get our minds off the fact that we should actually be travelling, we decided to head to Monarto zoo instead. So this actually, was the start of our holiday albeit back home and not in San Francisco. It was a great distraction and that night, sleep did not come well as I concocted plans to obtain a new passport urgently on compelling grounds. Favours needed to be pulled and the guys from Nisi were amazing in dealing with that with a cover letter from Andrew Code (from Nisi Australia) stating that I was on an equipment testing trip that could not be cancelled. I am forever grateful to them for that act of kindness , any image from this trip is Nisi’s to use as we literally would not have been there without that letter. As a side note, I realise that many people were trying to be helpful but I managed to bust a heap of travel myths that were thrown at me (all in good faith of course).
- You do NOT need to have a valid passport for 6 months when visiting the USA or Canada (just valid for time of travel)
- You do NOT need to have a valid passport for 6 months on re entering Australia (just valid on reentry date)
- ESTA visa is practically instant and not a 72 hour wait. Same for the new Canadian equivalent.
Monday morning was the date of the imagined inquisition I would have from the office. This never eventuated. I turned up just after opening time at 830am and was 1 hour early. Fortunately the first appointment was running late so I snuck in and managed to very quickly talk my way into getting the passport done by that day! I was still not counting my chickens as I wanted to actually feel happy again only after I had my passport in hand. This occurred at about 2pm after we took another distraction to Marion aquatic centre. These last two days with the kids made me think that even if we were at home doing stuff with them every day, that wouldn’t be such a bad holiday!
Monday afternoon was a happy one . With passport in hand, we managed to rebook our flights (albeit at a loss of big $$$ due to the specials that we booked our original flights on). I contacted everyone to tell them that we were on our way and they were all extremely sympathetic and even willing to bend their schedules to meet our unusual circumstance. Brent Lok in California was particularly friendly offering to shift our dates at the cost that we had already paid!. Sleep did come well on Monday night and 28 hours later, this was the actual start of our holiday.
Tuesday October 25: (Aus and USA)
The flight was always going to be a tiring one but I must admit that the kids were better than predicted (though Jaime was a handful). From Adelaide to Auckland, Jaime did manage a tiny nap when lying flat with a blanket over the top of the seats. Despite very little rest, they managed the very quick turnaround time in Auckland airport very well. As we left Auckland to board our skycouch seats, the weather was epic there with rainbows and pink skies surrounding us – using up our trip’s light mojo dammit!!!!
The long haul was on two sky couches. Marianne and Jaime in one and Charlotte and me in the other. I think that it definitely has a comfort advantage with 2 occupants but with three, it would be of questionable benefit. Better than premium economy I suspect. Out of all of us, Charlotte got the best sleep while Jaime only had about 2 hours of solid sleep for the whole flight. I doubt that Marianne and I actually had any sleep ! Food was good, service was good and overall, couldn’t really fault Air New Zealand for their effort on the flight.
Our arrival at SFO was a very uneventful one in the late morning. We managed to get our rental quickly, head over to the rental accommodation at Mill Valley. Throughout that afternoon, things started to clear and looked as though it might actually be a decent sunset. When we arrived at our accommodation that our preprogrammed GPS expertly pointed us to ,we instantly regretted (further) our inability to spend the full three days at this location . It was beautifully set among the redwoods and had a great ambience to it. It would have been an absolutely amazing location to get over jetlag and relax. As it was, we had an early dinner at 430 in the evening and put the girls to bed. I went out for a shoot at Rodeo beach which fizzled badly and when I returned at 7pm , all were fast asleep. By the time I managed to get everything ready for bed, it was 9pm and by that time , the girls’ body clocks were far from adjusted. We had to get them out of bed at 10pm to play for an hour before they finally did go back to bed at around 11 something for the rest of the night. The next morning, they were sleeping like the dead when we woke them for our airport run.
Two travel tips :
- Loading POI’s onto your GPS is easily done through the site POI editor which saves your points of interest as GPX
- Travelling to the USA , you can prepay a USA SIM (from Australia) to insert as you land from Mobi Passport.
Wednesday Oct 26 : O Canada!
After cajoling the kids into action, we dashed off to the airport and returned the car with no hassles. Golden light was glowing across the golden gate bridge and the kids loved the airtrain ride to the airport passing through all of the terminals. Check in was relatively painless though security was quite a painstakingly long process. No tanties in the line, nothing but well behaved kids ! We had some time on our hands afterward due to a slight delay on our outbound plane to Calgary. The plane itself was a small one with 2 x 2 seat rows in economy but made up for it with leg room. The lack of sleep did catch up with everyone as Jaime, then Charlotte fell asleep on the relatively short 2.5 hour flight.
Upon arrival, there was indeed no issue with Charlotte’s passport expiry and after a scare that one of our bags hadn’t arrived (it actually had but was placed upside down on the conveyor belt fooling me!). Rent-a-wreck rental pick up went smoothly as we ventured out into an overcast Calgary evening. For some reason, the rental operator seemed a bit paranoid that we didn’t want to take out collision damage waiver? We haven’t to date with any other company?? Oh the irony as we would find out later in the trip ……With the GPS set, the kids excited to be in Canada , we headed off to Banff!
As the mountains approached, everyone was falling asleep in the car (except for me since I was gawking at the beautiful mountains approaching looking for any hint of a sunset stop that didn’t eventuate due to poor light). By the time we arrived in the beautiful township of Banff, set beneath Cascade Mountain, it was past 8pm and pretty cold by our standards! The choice for places to eat was overwhelming and so , with a sigh, we resigned ourselves to a meal at MacDonalds (which would be our last !). Check in at Inns of banff into a three bedroom unit was also uneventful and we settled for what we hoped would be a good night’s sleep. And so it was for the kids who slept until 10 the following morning but not for us as we didn’t get to bed until past midnight despite severe deprivation. We were at last, in Canada !!!