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Western Arthurs : January 21-26 2017

This January, I had the good fortune to hike part of the Western Arthurs Traverse with Luke Tscharke, Tim Wrate and Francois Fourie. This was a trip that we had planned for last year but had to pull out due to the bushfires preventing access to the trailhead. The weather gods this year did smile upon us at times and we all head a great trip. In all, we spent 6 days and 5 nights on the trail and experienced just about everything we could have hoped for. This is an ‘adapted’ version of the diary I kept while on the track.

Saturday : 21st Jan :

Hobart’s as beautiful as ever but there’s some strange connection between my arrival here and fatal hit and run incidents. Last year, a woman and her unborn child, this year 6 dead as a result of a crazed driver hurtling through Bourke Street. I’m in a better frame of mind thanks to a far lesser state of anxiety from Marianne and a happy farewell. I was sad to be leaving Charlotte’s affections while it was hard to feel the same about screaming Jaime as I left for work that morning. Ah the terrible twos. QANTAS really do need to get their act together. Nearly all of their flights were delayed or late as I listened to announcement after announcement in at the boarding gates. The rest of the process though, was smooth and thanks for Francois’ hospitality, I spent the night resting up here in Hobart before hitting the trail. Marianne predicted 130,000 steps for the week but I thought it could have been more!

Monday 23rd January

(Written in retrospect and also some parts added in after the trip)

Reviewing the last 3 days will be difficult to put to paper as the expectations of the hike are just too incredible. Last year , I wrote an article for Australian Photography Magazine about managing expectations (which will be published in April). So this year, as we were headed in, I’m not sure whether it was a defence mechanism on my part to play down expectations or whether I was distracted ; but there wasn’t the same degree of hype.

Luke & Tim were waiting for us with their massive bags undoubtedly full of post trek comforts I wish I had packed . With all things jammed in the rear of Francois’ car, we headed for the trailhead in somewhat grey conditions and stopped at  New Norfolk Banjos for morning tea and a lunch pickup. This seems to have become a routine for us in the last two years! Getting past the town of Maydena was a huge psychological relief as that was where our literal roadblock form last year lay. Once we were at Scott’s Peak Dam, it was hard to gauge what the Arthurs would ultimately look like as we knew we had hours of scrub and mud to squelch through before the plains opened up for views of the range. Two people who had just completed the full traverse looked reassuringly ‘not that muddy’. Famous last words!

Preparing for the trek : Reorganisation fresh from the airport and last minute wholesome lunch.

Preparing for the trek : Reorganisation fresh from the airport and last minute wholesome lunches.

The first hour of walking saw little in the way of mud but for the next two, approaching and beyond Junction Creek, it was pretty foul stuff to get through. Keep your head down and walk, you just had to. Most of the decisions to be made were around going through the middle or attempting to skirt around the puddles and bog. Both ended up in many a foot, knee and even hip into the mud. Not the most pleasant of experiences and the mud would never truly leave the equation for the rest of the trip.

Easy going at the start of the Port Davey track

Easy going at the start of the Port Davey track : Luke looking happy

The track starts to open up before the range at Junction Creek

Tim and Francois slosh through mud as the track starts to open up before the Western Arthurs at Junction Creek

Brief pause at Junction Creek for afternoon snacks

Brief pause at Junction Creek for afternoon snacks

Our walking time was 1315 to 1600 to Junction Creek.  After the plains slog and a short unintentional detour off route, we arrived at the base of Alpha Moraine at 550pm. We decided to push for the top of the range that evening and while I didn’t sweat much , it still took a lot of energy to get there at 745 pm for ‘no light’ as a reward. We couldn’t look far for camping spots as light was fading by the time Tim and Luke arrived at 830pm. The wind was also picking up at our relatively exposed camp site. I thought I would sleep a welcome sleep of the dead, but it wasn’t to be; yet another restless and sleepless camp night after the first of many freeze dried meals cooked in the vestibule of our tent.

Halfway up Alpha Moraine. better to just keep the head down and climb until you suddenly aren't climbing any more!

Halfway up Alpha Moraine. Better to just keep the head down and climb until you suddenly aren’t climbing any more! 750m ascent in 2km is the meaningless equation. The trailhead is seen in the distance near Lake Pedder at the top left.

SUNDAY

The morning looked grey as I peered out of our tent, but I was keen to head for Mount Hesperus. The others were initially more keen to take it easy after the previous day’s slog,  and given that my phone GPS failed, I was not keen to roll the dice on getting lost in the mist covering unknown terrain. Now that I’ve walked the terrain, I’d have had a little more confidence in doing so. The light ended up being absolutely beautiful but I was in no position to shoot the peak of it. Ironically, the light was best seen from closer to the camp site. Nonetheless, we all still captured a stunning introduction to the range.

Strata : Layers of cloud , land and light featuring Scott's Peak and Lake Pedder

Strata : Layers of cloud , land and light featuring Scott’s Peak and Lake Pedder

Layer upon layer of mountains and changing conditions ; a feature of the Western Arthurs.

Layer upon layer of mountains and changing conditions ; a feature of the Western Arthurs.

The rest of the day was spent making our way up and down toward the saddle between Mount Sirius and Orion. As we did this , we passed Lake Fortuna in the mist, and Lake Cygnus which were both remarkable spots on their own but for the waiting jewel of the range in Lake Oberon beyond. Climbing up and down Mount Hayes was a challenge , particularly one section of steep scree. Our aim was to have lunch at Square Lake past Procyon Peak. We thought we would be there on a few deflating occasions , only to be led to another ascent and descent en route. When we finally did get to Square Lake, we stopped for an hour’s lunch and napped on the rocks in bright sunshine. It was there that I ate my infamous Kung Pao chicken meal.

Walking through the mists toward Lake Fortuna

Walking through the mists toward Lake Fortuna

Luke walking at the base of Mount Hesperus

Luke walking at the base of Mount Hesperus

Walking below the mist at Lake Cygnus

Walking below the mist at Lake Cygnus

Descending the scree slopes of Mount Hayes

Descending the scree slopes of Mount Hayes

 

Afternoon snooze at Square Lake.

Afternoon snooze at Square Lake.

Following our sunbaked snooze, we gathered water from Square Lake’s outlet creek and headed to the pass above Lake Oberon. The uphill was surprisingly short , taking only 30 minutes or so. Francois and I then darted off to take a look at the famous entrance to Oberon and its numerous Pandani. We believe that we found the 3 pandani made famous by the late Peter Dombrovskis and for personal reasons, I opted not to take an image here.

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After pitching tent and relaxing , the late afternoon and evening blue sky shoot was from Mount Sirius and Square Lake. Despite plain skies, it was such a beautiful evening and we knew we wouldn’t get much sleep due to astro conditions being on offer. The milky way was predicted to rise at around 230am.

Quadrantic: Beautiful evening light illuminates the quarzite peaks of Mount Procyon and Mount Hayes in the background. Luke Tscharke is seen in the mid ground as well as two tents along the shores of Square Lake for scale.

Quadrantic: Beautiful evening light illuminates the quarzite peaks of Mount Procyon and Mount Hayes in the background. Luke Tscharke is seen in the mid ground as well as two tents along the shores of Square Lake for scale.

MONDAY

Sleepless while waiting for the stars is one thing, sleepless because of Kung Pao diarrhoea is another (or was it the Beef Bourginon???). Explosive diarrhoea all night including an effort at the Oberon entrance was not a pretty sight and left me drained for the rest of the day. Luke, Francois and I shot some astro frames before meandering along the numerous intersecting paths offering views of Oberon with pandani in the foreground. It was a magical kind of dawn and morning as we watched moonrise, milkyway rise and then sunrise within a few hours and I’m hoping the images represent my wonderful memories from that morning (health issues aside) . Following breakfast, it was yet another jaunt up to Mount Sirius to catch receding shadows of Mount Pegasus on the Lake. I think we had more photographic success from up here again.

Genesis : Moonrise, Milkway rise and the beginnings of sunrise as shot from the saddle above Lake Oberon.

Genesis : Moonrise, Milkway rise and the beginnings of sunrise as shot from the saddle above Lake Oberon.

Cleansing: The sun starts to peak over the top of Mount Pegasus bathing the pandani garden in red hues.

Cleansing: The sun starts to peak over the top of Mount Pegasus bathing the pandani garden in red hues.

Hypnosis : Cloud rush past overhead as we looked down upon Lake Oberon from the summit of Mount Sirius. 15 stop ND filter used for the sky effect.

Hypnosis : Cloud rush past overhead as we looked down upon Lake Oberon from the summit of Mount Sirius. 15 stop ND filter used for the sky effect.

Standing atop Mount Sirius

Luke and Francois standing atop Mount Sirius

After breaking camp, we bumped into two very seasoned brothers who were 100% gristle and sinew and knew the path probably better than anyone. They gave us some pointers while we listened and soaked in the experience. Then, it was time for the famous descent into Lake Oberon.

Honestly speaking, some may make light of it , but I had never done anything quite like this before. It really was rock climbing for 30-50m of the trail where false moves could have resulted in serious injury. Nonetheless, we all made it down (several times during the next few days) without incident. On arrival to the camp site, the weather was balmy but expected to turn. With that in mind, we all took a cleansing dip in the freezing waters of Oberon while getting ourselves refreshed. A quick afternoon nap came and went and the weather began to look inclement.

Our beach camp site at Lake Oberon - clothes out in the temporary sun in an effort to de-stink .

Our beach camp site at Lake Oberon – clothes out in the temporary sun in an effort to de-stink .

Francois and I tried to head up Mount Pegasus before dinner but I chickened out at the sight of ascending fairly smooth and sheer exposed rock faces. I feared with my 2 hours of sleep that coordination might not be at my strongest. I earned a new respect for those who continue on to do the whole traverse with heavy packs on.

Mount Orion and its shadow as seen from a tarn at the base of Mount Pegasus

Mount Orion and its shadow as seen from a tarn at the base of Mount Pegasus

We all settled down to use our phones at a tarn just above the campsite which still strikes as being odd. Yes , the weather forecast is helpful but the sight of four walkers sitting down staring at their phones seems kind of like an antithesis.  After dinner, there was no opportunity for photography as strong winds, then heavy rain set in and did not let up. By 8pm , I was asleep in bed and having the best camp sleep I had ever had.

TUESDAY

6am : no sunrise , steady rain and we were getting battered by wind. To pee or not to pee, that was the question ……bladder wins out and an opportunity to refix a few stray guy lines.

8am: everyone decided to skip breakfast and stay asleep. A good call as the buffeting continued. it was good opportunity to catch up with diary writing.

1pm. Finally we ventured out of our tents for lunch and inspected the sogginess of our beach /mud camp. In retrospect, it wasn’t the best idea given the rain would predictably transform the sand into a boggy morass. After lunch, more snoozing as the rain continued but finally by about 4pm, it relented! I decided to go walking to the tarn for some attempted long exposures while Luke shot the various streams around the base which are clearly visible from above.

730pm: After an early dinner, I decided that I would go up for sunset on the saddle given that there were patches of blue sky. What a grand decision that ended up being as I made the ascent in surprisingly short time (20 minutes). I was greeted by blazing pre-sunset light and shot this from halfway up Mount Orion before heading to the Pandani forest overlooking Oberon. The sunset eventually petered out and as I was heading back to the trail, I bumped into Luke and Tim who had decided to come up after me. Together we went down in the dark with safety in numbers. The only incident being Tim’s shoe getting wedged between a root and rock necessitating some extraction. That night, sleep did not come at all which wasn’t surprising given that I had slept 18 of the last 24 hours.

Epiphany : Glorious light illuminates Square Lake and distant peaks during blustery conditions nearing Mount Orion's summit

Epiphany : Glorious light illuminates Square Lake and distant peaks during blustery conditions nearing Mount Orion’s summit

Aftermath : Sunset faded away but had some moments of gold illuminating the foreground pandani.

Aftermath : Sunset faded away but had some moments of gold illuminating the foreground pandani.

WEDNESDAY

A keen 430am awakening to the sound of our alarms and we set ourselves to climb up for one more view of Lake Oberon. Each time we did the climb I felt that it had become more instinctive and less of a risk. The conditions themselves looked promising and ended up delivering in rays of golden light! So much so , that we hung around shooting well after peak light. It was one of those mornings where you start to pack it all in with satisfaction, and then even more light happened. In a small cove of pandani, it was  difficult not to get in each other’s way but I think we managed to do it well enough. A few selfies later, many SD cards later and we were headed back to camp quite satisfied with what we had achieved. We even dared to dream about other epic shots for the rest of the trip that would unfortunately never eventuate.

Glory : Morning light breaks through rapidly moving cloud while illuminating this beautiful pandani shelf.

Glory : Morning light breaks through rapidly moving cloud while illuminating this beautiful pandani shelf.

Luke lining up a composition in epic lighting on our last morning of shooting

Luke lining up a composition in epic lighting on our last morning of shooting

Packing up the tents was messy business that morning as the waterlogged bog of a beach had infiltrated all of our gear. Even Tim’s tank of a tent suffered some minor tent pole damaged from the high winds. The climb out from Oberon was a last hurrah and a fitting farewell to an epic location. Timelapsed selfies were done and the plans adjusted to Lake Cygnus for lunch.

Climbing out of Lake Oberon - just above the 'tricky' section

Climbing out of Lake Oberon – just above the ‘tricky’ section

Farewell to Lake Oberon

Farewell to Lake Oberon

Though we thought we were prepared for all the ups and downs, there were still seemingly more than we thought.  At the top of our ascent out of Oberon, the weather started to turn a little funky.  By the time of the ascent to Mount Hayes and its scree slopes, it was nearly 2pm and we thought that we’d have arrived at Cygnus already. That last section dragged on and the weather forecast was poor, so we pushed on to pitch tent at Cygnus. Along the way, a father-son duo and pretty clueless French dude were the only other walkers we saw on the trail.

When we arrived at Lake Cygnus, Francois ducked off and discovered the cache of beer he had hidden a year ago when he did the trek with Ben Wilkinson!  Legend! If only I actually drank beer, the moment would have been even more momentous. The plan was to spend the next 2 nights here and wait out bad weather for a walk out on Friday. The site was pleasant enough with matted floors but a few things conspired against us.

  • Weather : this turned foul late afternoon to the point of whiteout at dinner time. Luke returned from a search for a Dombrovskis composition overlooking Mount Hayes and was soaked through.
  • Toilets: F*@*#@me ! overflowing and with maggots no less.
  • Poor calculation: It was going to be fairly unrealistic to leave after sunrise on Friday and still make it back to have Francois meet his promise to Erin to be at the Hobart beerfest by 5pm.

Dinner was had in our vestibules where we narrowly dodged a gas cannister explosion. For an awkward few seconds we just watched the fire slowly recede around the cannister kind of just hoping it wouldn’t escalate.  Sleep actually came fast until the diarrhoea arrived again at 1030pm. It was near whiteout conditions outside and I began to frantically search for a spot to dump since I knew I wouldn’t make it to ‘that’ disgusting toilet on time. So much for eco camping – I ended up having to dig a hole just off the path and hope it wouldn’t contaminate the water source. I suspect the French dude we bumped into , whose tent was adjacent to ours, may have heard some interesting sounds.  Fortunately this was a once off and I did sleep the rest of the night.

THURSDAY

We awoke to greyness and showers. This consolidated a last minute decision to head out one day early and it was a good one. After having some sips of my beer and sharing the rest around, we broke camp and prepared for a long hike out. We calculated 8 hours on the trail and our start was delayed by a Luke toilet call, in ‘that’ toilet.

1 year old mountain chilled beer!

1 year old mountain chilled beer!

For the ridge sections, we battled horizontal wind and rain the whole time with no visibility whatsoever. So much for epic views from atop Mount Hesperus! Luke still managed to stop for some photos though in those conditions, the sony was proving its liability in damp conditions. We were glad to reach the leeward side of the mountain for the 750m descent down Alpha Moraine. Tim and Luke’s bulging knees held up but not Tim’s already torn boots.

Alpha Moraine was a soul destroyer on the way up and to a lesser degree on the descent. It did require constant concentration not only to negotiate drops , but the ever present mud. On the way down there were passing showers and light typical of our whole time on the range. Francois, Tim and I managed the descent in 75 minutes and waited a good 30 minutes for Luke before deciding on lunch at Junction Creek only 3km away. The Aus Geo article should have some pretty good passing light from that descent. As predicted, the track was a boggy stream which worsened on the approach to Junction Creek. Thanks to Tim’s steam train efforts, we made rapid time to the campsite in 45m minutes where we had our last freeze dried fill of food for the trip. HOORRRAYAY. Luke arrived at camp a little while later and after lunch we were off again on our last leg! The weather down below had warmed significantly so I ended up leaving waterproofs only below but hiking in a T shirt.

Wet but at least having seen off Alpha Moraine . This group was on their way up to pretty bad conditions up top but which were predicted to clear.

Wet but at least having seen off Alpha Moraine . This group was on their way up to pretty bad conditions up top but which were predicted to clear.

Our approach for this boggy section was simple. Mud in the way? Bash right through it! This did make things easier to the point that the last 10km went by in 2.5 hours. This included a waist deep episode for Francois and three false ends in forests that were morale sapping. Tim and Luke were only 30 minutes behind for this leg. Along the way, we met a few parties heading out on Australia day. A guided group of 4 led by the same  guide we met on the ferry out from the Overland Track last year. He was leading Hobart photographer Sohee Kim to Lake Oberon. There was an ill prepared trio with no gaiters ! I’m sure their feet were suffering from each sucking step threatening to pull their boots off.  Finally a solo traverser who gave us an indication that we were only 1 hour from the car.

When the end finally came, it was sweet! Our gear was scattered, my excess weight in fresh clothes was put to good use and overall, we felt just that much more human.  100,000 steps and 1400 storeys of climbing, 1300 photographs and a few hours of footage concluded here. The 3 hour drive back was rewarded with pizza, soft drink and a 5 minute shower before crashing into a mattressed bed. END

Mud above and below Tim's gaiters and the smashed up boots

Mud above and below Tim’s gaiters and the smashed up boots

I’ll remember this trip with fondness for a long time. The group banter, the quality tent time, the wild, changeable, beautiful and horrendous weather, the amazing views of grand and prehistoric scenery, the f@#$ explosive diarrhoea, the sore shoulders, the fatigued legs, the scoparia riddled cuts. It was ALL worth it and I’d love to do it again ( and again) in the future! It might even be worth hiding a cache of beer up there again 🙂

 

Farewell Lake Oberon , until next time!

Farewell Lake Oberon , until next time!

 

 

 

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Tasmania Adventure part 2 : On a whim

Continuing on from our departure from the Labyrinth, we once again had a tired discussion about what to do for the following three days. As commercialized as it is, I wouldn’t have minded embarking on the three capes walk but that would have meant removing the option to fly at the end of the trip if we wanted to keep things cost neutral.  As it turned out, the weather was pretty dicey for the rest of the trip anyway!

Wednesday evening was a quiet one spent getting clean and not even attempting any shooting. Somehow time skipped past and an intended early night turned out to be reasonably late. It was one of those sleeps where not two seconds after falling asleep, you’re being awoken by an alarm, in this case, an ever enthusiastic Francois inviting us to get up! The skies did not look promising with heavy bands of showers passing over the entire state (though unfortunately not necessarily where the fires were located). Nonetheless we headed out to the Tasman Peninsula well before dawn and Francois took us to check out a cool spot at Fossil Bay where the opportunity to photograph giant waves with golden morning light could have occurred had the light been conducive. Instead, we opted to wait it out at the Tessellated Pavement as the rain swept past. While the guys slept in the car without optimism, I went down to the beach anyway , not expecting any light but more just to get out there and give some spite to Norman.

Initial greyness at the Tessellated Pavement

While I was setting up , light actually began to build as the rain and clouds cleared directly out to the east while behind us the gloom persisted. I had taken a series of shots and decided to try out the 16-35mm F4’s image stabilisation capabilities. I tried going to as low as 1/3 second at 16mm but not a single shot turned out tack sharp. They were probably OK for some social media web presentation.

Light on the pavement!

Francois photographing the waves while I was testing IS on the 16-35mm F4

Francois photographing the waves while I was testing IS on the 16-35mm F4

As we left the pavement and headed toward Fossil Bay again, I thought I had misplaced my filter pouch! In a moment of panic, I drove back to the pavement while the others stayed to photograph crashing waves. After revisiting the beach and cursing the dark side of human nature upon the THIEF who stole my pouch, I wandered back up to the car and had less of a panicked boy’s look. And there it was sitting in a gap between seats with the imaginary face of Norman full of cheerful spite. By the time I returned to Fossil Bay, I wasn’t expecting to stay long as the guys had been photographing for a good half an hour by this stage. However, the hypnotic pull of large waves and backlit green seas meant that we all stayed shooting that little bit longer while our stomachs grumbled. The nisi filter holder system here was quite advantageous as I was experimenting with polarisation and different densities of ND filtration to achieve crisp waves or direct splash action.

Longer exposure with Nisi filter setup

Shorter exposure with polariser alone

After a hearty breakfast, we embarked on what was meant to be a short walk to Crescent Bay in full sun. From here, Francois had been eyeing direct long lens shots of Tasman Island from the beach. We soon found that the most direct path to the beach traversed private property and so, do-gooders as we were, we decided to walk around the property. This very quickly degenerated into a disoriented bash through scrub following indistinct wombat pads through the bush. Finally, after uncountable switchbacks and reaching walls of scrub, Luke’s phone saved the day. We had reception and a version of pdf maps application found us a way back to the original path which was really only 50m from where we were! By the time we reached the beach, it was a good hour after we had planned but the sun was beating down and beckoning a dip. And so we were headed until we climbed the last dune before the Bay and were mesmerised by the green/blue waters below. Only Francois and I headed down to the actual beach as we spent more time shooting from above. I’ve definitely bookmarked this spot for future family summer visits! We even tried our had at boarding down the dunes on a left over real estate sign and sheet of perspex . I had visions of ‘Rey’ from Star Wars on a salvaging mission returning home with a triumphant slide down the dune which ended up in a frustrated bum shuffle that went nowhere …..I believe one of the guys may have that accompanying video .

Francois wandering down to Crescent Bay

Light over Tasman Island from Crescent Bay sand dunes

A late lunch was gobbled down at Port Arthur Lavenda while I hunted for some gifts for Marianne. It was then , that the weather started to turn sour as the rain which had been dodging the area finally settled in. Dramatic clouds flew in as we debated whether or not the sunset was going to survive. While this was happening, I hoped to add to Francois’s backyard panorama collection by taking one of my own! I no longer have the motivation to take #dbreezied shots from my backyard given the setting of his. After many thoughts to and fro-ing, we decided to head to the Mortimer Bay fence. To cut a long story short, we got wet, I got to test my makeshift garbage bag raincover (which worked) , Francois did an ‘instaceleb’ routine for us, and Norman again, smiled sardonically at us.

Poking fun @instaceleb shots

With the weather that was around, we decided the best option was to photograph waterfalls the following day. The following day once again arrived after seemingly another 2 minutes of sleep which was actually a few hours. Francois and I decided to chance it heading up to Mount Wellington in the hopes that the clouds would clear. They didn’t , and we ended up sleeping in the car until after dawn. As we were driving back down, it appeared that the forecast for rain was true and all that was on show was grey cloud. After picking up Tim and Luke, we then headed to Secret Falls in heavy rain. As we approached, it was apparent that all four of us would not be able to photograph each of the waterfalls so we split up into pairs with one of us holding an umbrella for the other while we took our images. Luke and Tim apparently acted as good bait for leeches as Francois and I were not troubled by them! Both falls steadily grew in flow during the time we were there and though I struggled to find anything original to photograph from that location, it was still great to see this beautiful spot which lures photographers like flies to a popular flower.

Luke and Tim teaming up at Secret Falls , while leeches rained down upon them !

Secret Falls

Myrtle Gully Falls

As we were heading out, thunder and lightning were roaring all around us as we made a quick trip to Strickland Falls as Francois had a family deadline to meet. On the way, we noticed mammatus clouds , mmmmm, mmmmammmatus. Strickland Falls is in a bit of a mess with recent fallen debris from upstream so if I were to give one a miss on a future trip, this might be it!

Strickland Falls

Can you say mmmmmammmmatus?

As we drove home for a relaxing afternoon, the last of the leeches finally fell off in Francois kitchen…. Francois surprised the three of us with fresh pairs of dry, non-stinky socks which was HUGELY appreciated. From the week of dampness, I still ended up with a case of athelete’s foot on my return home but no doubt this kind gestures at least stave it off for a little while!

Thunder and rain roared overhead as we headed back out to Mount Field National Park. We were hoping that the dryness we had encountered during our initial walk around Lake Dobson would be remedied by the constant rain. Indeed when we arrived, water was flowing briskly and the forest was looking at its moist, green best. The only competition we would have for compositions were a trio of Irish (who we somehow became convinced were having a threesome party at the back of their motorhome???) who seemed to be either on a funded marketing campaign, or were just very happy to strip down while being filmed by a rig of four simultaneous gopros .

Russell Falls and Horseshoe Falls are among the most photographed falls in Tasmania and it’s probably quite difficult to capture anything resembling a unique angle. Nonetheless, I went for it and placed emphasis on exploration rather than photographing what I know could be effective. Besides, I had always wanted to find my way up to the second tier of the falls and it was surprisingly easy to follow a pad in that direction. Rain and spray made it difficult to take an effective image but I have ideas to return here with direct sun and hopefully some mist in the future (not asking too much of mother nature of course!).

Second tier of Russell Falls

Russell Falls from above

By the time I had reached Horseshoe Falls, it was already nearing on 8pm and light was fading. It looked like our plans to walk to Lady Baron Falls would not come to effect as is often the case when you get lost in trying to create works of art ! My 16-35mm had already been dampened with a screw on CPL and the Nisi CPL wet beyond its ability to take clean images. As a result , I had to think differently to take images of Horseshoe Falls with the 24-70mm and ended up opting for a few sets of panoramas. Surprisingly, despite a barefoot dip in the water, no leeches for me! By the time we had finished photographing, it was well after sunset and nearly dark. A dinner worthy of Argentinian timing (after 930pm) was yet again gobbled down before we yet again ended up sleeping later than intended.

Horseshoe Falls : Panoramic view with the 24-70

 

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, that night’s sleep also literally felt like 2 minutes worth! Somehow Francois manages to have that ‘I’ve slept 8hours look’ about him at 4am in the morning but I’m pretty sure the rest of us look like its 7th consecutive day with sleep shortage! Charged with some milo (since I bucked the trend of caffeine and alcohol on this trip) and sugar, I offered to drive initially to Boomer Bay where we had scouted out a boatshed with a remarkable resemblance to the Crawley boat shed in Perth. As we arrived though, there was a boat right in front of the shed, and the conditions seemed better out North toward Marion Bay. Zooming along so as not to miss light, I missed the fact that there was a huge depression in the dirt road as Francois’ Subaru Liberty went airborne before landing with not so much as a skid. Believing that we had escaped damage, we set off from the car park as fast as we could as the light was peaking while we were parking! The beach itself is a drainage point for a tanin filled stream which , after the rains, was gushing out into the sea. It was a case of shoot now or miss the light!

Marion Bay as light was peaking

Thereafter, things calmed down as the light faded to a small region on the horizon. I wandered over to where Luke was shooting and started shooting a stray piece of driftwood which we all ended up congregating around. I’m sure this sort of thing happens frequently on photography workshops, but having never been on one, it was a novelty for sure!

A popular piece of driftwood for the morning!

As luck would have it, the light really broke through the cloud spectacularly as we were walking back. I don’t think I have any awesome shots from this location but I wonder if Luke does!

Luke and some late light!

 

We were on a bit of a high following the good light we experienced, one of very few moments during our trip. This bubble was quickly burst when we noticed a flat back left tire, undoubtedly from our little airborne experience an hour ago. Fortunately some holidayers at the car park were able to loan us a pump to reinflate the tire temporarily as we drove slowly back to paved road. The air pressure seemed to be holding as we headed toward Sorell to reassess its progress. We were met with a ‘she’ll be roight’ from the tire guy as the pressure did indeed seem to hold though we would find out after the trip that it was indeed a slow leak. The rest of the morning was spent working out the logistics of our flight including how we might make ourselves some lens hoods to stop reflections from the plane windows. After several suggestions of black cardboard all the way to a black flower pot, we somehow arrived at the allegedly genius solution of using a felt top hat from the dollar shop with a hole cut at the top.

Having never done any aerial photography (apart from a joyride over the Barrier Reef on our honeymoon), I was basically setting the bar low for any images I would personally get so I was happy to sit wherever people didn’t want to. Luke seemed particularly pumped about the flight and was probably feeling more pressure than the rest of us to produce some good images given that he was the one who negotiated our flight through Tourism Tasmania and Par Avon Wilderness Flights.(http://paravion.com.au/flights/south-west-tasmania/a-day-in-the-wilderness-tour/)

Our flight was slightly delayed as we settled into our crammed seats with Luke aside our pilot , Tim and Francois in the second row, and 60kg lightweight me in the back. The first challenge was encountered very early  : the top hat setup was too large for me use as a lens hood so I ended up not using it at all. This was compounded by the fact that there was significant turbulence flying close to the mountains . To combat this I would anchor the lens onto the window using my left hand flush on the window ; again precluding the top hat use! The next limitation was that there were only moments of brightness so I decided to take off all of the polarisers from my lenses once the bright sun disappeared behind cloud after the first half an hour of the flight. Shooting through glass was also a challenge due to the reflections in the windows from either stray light or my supporting hand. The major limitation of the flight for me struck about 1 hour into the flight just as we were entering the mountains as the constant live-viewing and turbulence conspired to bring on air sickness. As a result, for large portions of the flight, regardless of light or scenery, I had to sit looking at the horizon while waiting for blasts of cool air whenever Luke opened his window for some top down shots. These short bursts of cool air seemed to temporarily relieve the nausea. The following images are part of a series of 800 odd images I took during the flight , some of which were spray and pray series during severe  turbulence over the Arthurs. My go to settings were iso400-800, F4-5.6, shutter of at least 1/1000.

Lion Rock on the south coast. One of the last shots I was able to take with a CPL due to available light falling off.

Federation Peak and the Eastern Arthurs. This looks like a great one to do from the East though I’m dubious about actually summitting Fed peak.

Lake Oberon and the Western Arthurs with Mount Sirius in the foreground.

Patches of light from above. Mount Anne was covered in mist so we flew straight on to Lake Gordon.

Dead trees in Lake Gordon

Damage from the Strathgordon fire. It was no wonder the access roads to the Arthurs were closed off.

Wearing my ‘top hat’ and the Cessna we flew in

By the time we landed, it was just about sunset and despite the light that was developing, we didn’t really have the energy to take images overlooking the Tasman bridge. Instead, we headed back to Salamanca to meet Nick Monk (http://nickmonkphotography.com/) for a quick drink. Naturally, we were #dbreezied.

#dbreezied, Salamanca style!

Salamanca was full of the kind of crowd who at our age , made us think that we were too old to be there. Indeed on several occasions a few of us were randomly denied entry on account of our attire. Perhaps my top hat would have sealed the deal? We discussed all sorts of things related to photography with the highlight being Nick’s @instaceleb hand drawn series of images . We introduced Nick to the concept of ‘nutscapes’ and challenged him to combine multiple aspects of instagram fame into a single glorious satirical piece.  Perhaps the head of a canoe pointing into mountains with an overblown sky and two hairy , out of focus balls hanging from the top with a caption listing a random brand name and sponsor? On our way out we encountered an American tourist after the ‘real beer’ and none of this ‘craft beer’ he was experiencing in Salamanca. Fortunately we had Nick to point him in the right direction.

The next morning, we hoped that we might catch Norman unawares and experience a golden dawn from atop Mount Wellington. Unfortunately Norman was well and truly aware of our plans and gleefully greyed out the summit until just the very minute we descended from the mountain. Eager to capture some light, we did eventually end up at Signal Station overlooking the east side of the bay. I think we were relatively spent by this stage and only took a handful of images before settling for a fast food breakfast. Thereafter, it was a repack into lighter bags than when we started and we parted ways after a week of constant decision making we never thought we’d had to do.

Signal Station , and signing off from Tasmania for this year!

Despite the challenges, I thoroughly enjoyed myself on this week away with the guys . We were all very grateful to Francois and Erin who put us up and fed us from time to time and I’m very grateful to Luke for having brought his metabones else I would have literally done no shooting during the trip! I like lists, so here’s a random lists of things I learned from this trip to sum things up.

  • I learned that I could travel with other people without going crazy, though travelling with other photographers made me want to take images that they weren’t . This meant that we wouldn’t all end up with the same images. I think this mindset made me think laterally more than I otherwise would have
  • I learned that the Tasmanian landscape photographic community as a whole, are very passionate about preserving the unique landscape and this passion rubs off on you just by being in their presence.
  • I learned that with a positive frame of mind, Tasmania has plan B all the way to Z so it doesn’t matter if plan A has been ‘Normanised’. If you have your own inner Normans to deal with, just laugh at him and pretend he wasn’t there to begin with and any plan will then be a good one.
  • I learned a lot about how different people work a scene whether it be how to proficiently take panoramas (Tim) , how to consider timelapses (Franocois) and the benefits of infra red photography (Luke).
  • I learned that not matter how much easier life seems without the kids and Marianne, I was very eager for to see them on my return. And it seems, they were too 😉

Next up, the trip video! (and planning our next little getaway to Kangaroo Island for 5 days)

The Western Arthurs from above and path we hope to walk with our own boots one day!