Tag Archives: all terrain 4wd safaris

Capturing Mitchell Falls

I am on record for not being a big fan of waterfall images in general. Unless you place that running water in an wide open interesting context and show the surrounds I find close-ups of running water not so interesting. Wanting to get a nice waterfall image in my portfolio while in Western Australia I figured I might as well get a big one! Or rather, four big ones as Mitchell Falls is not technically one but four stringed together.

Mitchell Falls are found on the Mitchell Plateau, off the Gibb River Road in far north Kimberley, Western Australia. Access requires either a plane or a fun but spine-breaking 5-6 hours of driving on a corrugated rocky dirt road turning north from the Gibb River Road up the Kalumburu Road. The Gibb is a highway compared to the Kalumburu, especially the last 90 k’s to the Mitchell Falls camp ground. I went with my mate’s company All Terrain 4WD Safari and we broke both back shock absorbers going up there! Hardly felt it though, was so bumpy anyway! Just a few days earlier, two 4WDs had rolled over on the road, so if you go up here, safety first and get all the up to minute advice on the road condition from Drysdale River Station.

Once at Mitchell Falls campground you trek about 4-5 gorgeous kilometres through the outback crossing rivers and other waterfalls to get to the Mighty Mitchell Falls. Safely arrived you trek around the waterfall and this is where the real fun begins – find a good spot for shooting without actually testing gravity too much! The area is bushy and rocky and first of all with a steep drop into a huge plunge pool. Very much like the wall you see on the left side of the image below. I did not want any foreground protruding into my image rather I wanted a clean composition. I accomplished this somewhat hanging over the edge, holding on to camera, tripod and cable release with one hand, holding on to a tree with the other hand. With the waterfall roaring loudly in front of me almost shaking the ground this was quite a thrilling shoot.

I used my 9 stop ND filter to slow down time or rather prolong the exposure (how awesome if this thing could really slow down time!). Unable to look through the viewfinder – that would test gravity too much – live view was extremely handy for composing this 2 image vertically stitched panorama. I like this composition as there’s a great sense of height here.

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Mitchell Falls vertical panorama
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

I am also releasing this image as a horizontal panorama as well as seen below. Must cover all bases now that I finally captured a waterfall!

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Mitchell Falls panorama
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Kimberley, final frontier, no shock absorbers

Kimberley. Final Frontier. Captain’s log, stardate 8975.1. We received a distress call from bloody tourists lost in the wild and have been sent to investigate. We are not at warp speed 9 but bumping along on a corrugated washboard-like dirt road that threatens to dislocate every bone in our body. Scotty is keeping the engine alive with a never ending supply of Scottish swear words. Our phasers are useless in this setting and have been replaced by cans of mossie repellant. First officer Flemming has clearly lost it, keeps repeating ‘Into the Wild’.

The Gibb River Road and the Kimberley area of Australia is often described as the ‘final frontier’. Well, Space is the final frontier, but the Kimberley is still a wild, remote, rough and reasonably untouched wilderness part of Australia. Three times the size of England, home to only 35,000 people but you will be surprised by the amount of people you meet since there is only one main road. But  you can at least pretend you’re charting uncharted territory as you bump along on corrugated dirt roads into the wild:

Kimberley. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Driving the Gibb River Road is as much about the journey as the destination. Photographic opportunities are there but can be few and far between. I have a knack for attracting extraordinary light and clouds but used up most of this year’s supply in Namibia. Light was bland, but the journey was amazing, had a brilliant time with a brilliant group, got the shots I wanted and the shots I promised my mate at All Terrain Safaris. A brilliant journey! A few highlights:

Windjana Gorge at dawn

If you are a regular reader, you know I love Windjana gorge as described in this post. The power of this place is awesome. This time I walked in the gorge at 5am in the darkness, the eyes of freshwater crocodiles reflected in torch light. Many people do not think much of Windjana Gorge, but it is my favourite gorge in The Kimberley. You can feel the Bunuba people’s spirit here as you stand in between the mighty towering walls of what was once a coral reef under water in the Devonian period, some 350 million years ago! You can also feel the pain of Bunuba’s massacred by the police.

Composition is hard here and it helps to re-visit this gorge a few times. The view is so wide you need to stitch a lot of shots to capture the grandscape here, this is just a quick cropped jpeg preview of a wide angle shot at sunrise:

Windjana Gorge. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography.

Mitchell Plateau

The Mitchell Plateau and mighty Mitchell Falls was new for me, was my main mission and what an awe inspiring experience it was. And I am not easily impressed by waterfalls. A waterfall itself is boring, but string 4 of them together, have them roaring down a massive plateau shaking the ground you walk on ending with an 80 meter fall into a massive pool surrounded by towering walls -  and I am mighty impressed!

To find a vantage point without trees or grass in your shot takes courage, dedication and a love of spinifix grass cutting up your legs! I scouted the very rocky bushy area and without falling into the abyss, found a good spot someway down a cliff face. I had my tripod right on the edge of a 200 meter drop, holding on to a tree with one hand, cable release in the other. I had the 4 tiered Mitchell Falls roaring in front of me drowning all sounds and the abyss threatening to swallow me. A sensational and humbling experience of power, Mother Nature showing off!

Mitchell Falls. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography.

As you can see I used a bit of my powers to attract beautiful clouds on this special day, was the one day with nice light!

The Gibb River Road is a bumpy corrugated dirt road but having just been grated it was in very good condition. Now the Gibb is a six lane tar highway compared to parts of the Kalumburu Road leading up to the Mitchell Falls. Rocky, bumpy, treachery with river crossings, it is 6-8 hours of bone and car breaking track! Day before we got there, two 4wds rolled over on the track. We only broke off both back shock absorbers (shockies) on the truck. Not that it made much difference, track is so rough you hardly feel the difference, shockies or no shockies!

King Brown Snake

I like snakes and I have finally seen a King Brown Snake in the wild! They are highly venomous and have a bit of a reputation of being aggressive but I reckon you are fine with snakes as long as you do not step on them or do anything stupid like pick them up! This King Brown Snake was spotted at night, 10 meters from our camp. About 1,6 meters long it was obviously cold and shy, moving very slowly through the grass just trying to get to cover. So beautiful. Peaceful. Potentially lethal. I slept fine outside under the stars in my swag, no worries, happy to have met and share camp with a King Brown.

Randomness

  • 4 weeks of walking in bare feet or thongs (flip-flops) have almost cured my toes. And made me hate socks and shoes, back to nature, into the wild in bare feet! My feet will never get clean again, a little warning to Rod and Casey who I will soon be going on road trips with!
  • My little portfolio photo book is a huge success and I really recommend bringing something like this with you as a travelling photographer. Had I brought 50 copies I would have sold them all (and had to pay for a bit of overweight on the plane with the earnings!). I have been taking orders from everyone interested, a photo book from me is definitely coming up later this year so stay tuned.
  • What the hell is going on with me and mossies on this trip? I continue to donate blood, I continue my love/hate relationship (they love me, I hate them) but this is getting ridiculous. I tempt fate by sleeping outside of course but even on Cable Beach they track me down and have a feast. Fresh Scandinavian blood is obviously a delicacy for mossies!

On Broome Time and oh the stupidity.

Lazy Days. Holiday mode. I don’t usually allow myself much time to relax while travelling (must shoot photos. Will die if I don’t. Eternally Restless) but have been forced into lazy holiday mode. I am now in Broome, Western Australia, a small but popular outback town where relaxation in 34 degree perfect sunny days is not too bad at all. Why am I forced into holiday mode? My own stupidity!

Last week, walking down the street to Cable Beach with my head in the clouds as usual – I have a real problem with not looking where I am going – I am actually studying the beautiful clouds thinking this will be a stunner of a sunset. Up comes the big heavy Detour sign (ironic isn’t it). Now, I pay this no attention at all but simply hammer my left foot (just wearing a thong or flip-flops as some people know them) full force into the sign. I fall forward. I get my head out of the clouds just in time to brace the fall. At which point the tripod, in the tripod holder on my camera backpack, slides forward at great speed, comes to a full stop when it collides the stationary object that is my head and proceeds to tattoo a Gitzo logo in the back of my skull. Ouch. I now lie in the red dirt. I take a few seconds to gather myself and wonder what hurts the most, my foot, my head or my dignity. I choose all 3 but the following day reveals two toes on my left foot commands attention. Nothing broken but very severely sprained and coloured like a rainbow. Can almost not bloody walk at all, left foot now 2 sizes larger than right foot. Need to use tripod as a crutch and generally look ridiculous as I limp around Broome with yet another bump in my head and an Elephant’s foot.

It is a big disappointment, but somehow lucky that the All Terrrain Photo tour was cancelled (didn’t get enough bookings). I would need a wheel chair for that. So, all original plans are off, and can’t walk, need new plans! I had such amazing light in Namibia, I think I used up my luck for a while. I may go up the Gibb River Road next week after some more recovery. Also need to adjust to a new leg of this tour as Namibia was such an incredible experience, I can’t really get over that it had to end at some point. My desert, where are thou now?

Well, I have managed to get around and shoot some in Broome, Cable Beach, Town Beach, Gantheaume Point, Reddell Beach etc. Decided I could at least build up a good stock library of Broome images. It is not art, but stock images are nice, they usually pay the bills so we can afford to shoot art. Here’s a few of my Broome stock images:

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Sunset on Cable Beach. Managed to find a bit of sand dunes with ripples on Cable Beach! Not quite the Namib, but it’s sand! Crazy sky is smoke from bush fires lit up by the setting sun.

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Surreal water- and cloudscape – Cable Beach at dusk. Shot roughly one hour after my little accident. The colours at dusk in the tropics can sometimes be simply ridiculous. Like, you look at it and think, how is that possible in nature? I attempted to create a slightly abstract surreal look here. Water and a beach is clearly not my element, I don’t really know how to shoot it and I’m not very good at stitching wave shots. Earth is my element!

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The famous Broome ‘Staircase to the moon’.

It is the full moon reflected into the mud banks at low tide. Only happens of course when there’s a full moon (duh) and a low tide as the moon rises so the exposed water on the mud banks can reflect the light. In every shop in Broome you can buy photos, canvas, postcards etc. of the Staircase to the Moon. I needed my shot as well, even though it is impossible to create anything that doesn’t look like all the other images of this. In the image on the left, I chose to blend two exposures, one for the moon, one for the foreground as I wanted more detail in the foreground than you usually see. Also, even though I had seen a thousand images of this it really was quite special to witness this as it really is good fun and a bit of magic. Locals told me it was the best in years, so a bit of luck I still have left. I also had heaps of fun explaining moon photography to a crowd of many who noticed tripod and gear etc. The moon itself is actually super bright (it is reflected sunlight, like daylight!) so shoot it almost like it was daylight!

Randomness

  • Panasonic LX3 -small My bag of clothes arrived 3 days late from Johannesburg. When I leave home I spend a few hours precision packing everything into camera bag (bring on plane) and big check-in bag. It is the only time this is possible, on next flight I will have bought stuff and shuffled everything around and can’t be bothered and it just never fits in one bag again. So I have an Eagle Creek soft compact fold-out duffel bag I then use for clothes etc. meaning two check-in bags. Jo’burg airport is apparently notorious for handlers ‘lending’ items from luggage in the airport. Somehow (got no idea how) my custom street-modded Panasonic LX-3 compact (see image) complete with Voigtlander 21mm viewfinder and leather strap was in the clothes bag. Was. Is no more. Some lucky thief in Jo’burg now uses this! He seemed less interested in my underwear as that was left in the bag!
  • I think the tripod knocked a few braincells loose! As I said, been shooting around Broome. Went to Gantheaume Point. Then remembered it is all rocks. Navigated this in thongs on one leg. Then remembered I had forgotten mossie spray. Was promptly eaten alive. Some Aussies from Noosa took photos of me taking photos from top of a rock and doing the ‘insects go away dance’ and kindly came to the rescue, spraying me with Bushman mossie spray. Also dropped ND grad filter in sand about 10 times. Brain not really working!

Kimberley Photography Tour 2009 with All Terrain 4WD Safaris

Are you looking for a one of a kind photography tour designed by photographers for photographers, and a true outback experience, sleeping under the stars, driving on the Gibb River Road through the famous Kimberley region of Western Australia? Then jump on the Kimberley Photography Tour 2009 departing on 29th of April 2009 with All Terrain 4WD Safaris:

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I know the managing director (he’s also a photographer) of All Terrain 4wd Safaris. We’re hoping this will be the first of many photography tours. I have travelled with All Terrain, and I very much recommend them and so feature this little ad and recommendation on my blog today. All Terrain offer true outback adventures, and visit places like the Mitchell Plateau, Tanami Desert and Wolfe Creek where no one else goes.

I had a hand in creating the itinerary for this photo tour and as you will see on the tour page, a few of my Kimberley photos are featured. Your official photography hosts on the tour will be the very experienced and great local photographers Peta North and Nigel Gaunt – but with a bit of luck and a spare seat (or roof space!) you may also have the pleasure (?!) of having yours truly on board! See ya’ on the Gibb River Road with All Terrain 4WD Safaris!