Tag Archives: gibb river road

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!

Gibb River Road and We eat the snake!

I will be offline for 8 days as I depart Wednesday for a trip up the good old Gibb River Road in Kimberley, Australia! I am going with All Terrain Safaris, I am friends with the manager and in return for the trip, will be shooting landscapes for me – and him. He has also asked me for some ‘people shots’ for his website so I’ll have to remember to disable my Anti-Face-Recognition software! We’re going up the Mitchell Plateau up to Mitchell Falls where I have never been before. Should be interesting, the Mitchell road is so bad it breaks 4WDs in half and eat them for breakfast and people regularly get stuck up there!
Until I return, enjoy my personal favourite of all my Kimberley images:

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

Kimberley, Silent Grove Sunrise Panorama
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Randomness

  • Many years working in IT, dealing with servers, storage, faulty hard drives, corrupted files, blown up controller, blown brain cells on operator (me) has made me paranoid about data protection – see my post on backing up your images. While travelling I have 4 copies of each RAW file. The images from Namibia are priceless, irreplaceable, can never be re-shot. The light we had was one in a million, the trip I had was unique. So I am not formatting the memory cards from Namibia (memory cards are almost impossible to kill). And I still have 4 copies on 4 hard drives of each RAW file. I even carry one, a small WDC Passport drive, everywhere I go so even if my room is raided, or the backpackers burn down – I still have my files!!!!! Like I said, paranoid! Storage is cheap, my images are priceless (to me at least). Murphy’s Law is real and he was a very optimistic person!
  • Having not walked into anything seriously for two weeks my sprained foot and toes (one of them at a strange new angle?) are ready for outback action. Hope the Flying Doctors answers our call as I foresee beautiful clouds and me walking into more things! Need new bionic left leg!
  • Absolutely brilliant quote from the brilliant book ‘Someone Else’s Country’ by Peter Docker, spoken by an aboriginal elder. Adam is of Adam and Eve of course. ‘Mob’ basically means people or group.
    “We’re not Adam’s mob though.
    Snake come offering apple?
    We eat the snake! haha!”
    I want that on a T-shirt! Snake offers apple? I eat the snake!

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:

allterrain1

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!

Bells Gorge – with falling water

I am on record for not being a big fan of photos of waterfalls. I very often find them quite boring and there are too many ordinary waterfall photos in galleries around the world for my taste. A long exposure close-up photo of a waterfall is a winner with most customers and viewers but not for me; I have little fascination with water. I am a desert man. An interesting waterfall shot has to at least place the waterfall into context and show the surroundings. Ken Duncan and his incredible eye for composition is very good at this as demonstrated in his Mitchell Plateu shot. With no surroundings it is simply water falling; it is gravity at work!

During my recent photo trip to Australia I shot one composition that included a waterfall – even though the Kimberley has quite a few waterfalls. I love The Kimberley, but it’s the landscape and not the falling water that does it for me. I have promised several people to post this one waterfall image and as I’m always a man of my words here is magnificent Bells Gorge from Kimberley, Western Australia, complete with falling water:

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

Bells Gorge Panorama 
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Bells Gorge and composition

Bells Gorge is one of the many impressive Kimberley gorges cutting through the rocky and dry landscape. I’m no Ken Duncan but I have certainly placed the waterfall into context here. To the extent of the waterfall almost disappearing in this small web sized image; but at full size I quite like dramatic wide angle view in this shot. When I return I will work on improving composition though by climbing some more rocks! It is great fun and a great challenge climbing the rocks in these Kimberley gorges seeking the perfect composition. When viewing my shots later I often think ‘oh I should been standing there’. It’s the great skill challenge of composition and finding the most effective viewpoint (without falling down and killing yourself) and in the Kimberley gorges you can certainly sharpen these skills! If you study the photo you’ll see little travellers by the pool. It’s possible to climb much further; all the way down the the rocks on the left side and access a lower part of the gorge way out of this frame. You have to be a mountain goat though but I hear the results are worth it so I’ll attempt it next time!

This image is a stitched panorama and I deliberately went for a dusty and hot arid look here. Bells Gorge in mid September was a nice warm spot with 40+ degrees in the sun and the special Kimberley light. I remember exactly what it was like but then again I don’t. You can’t remember this; you have to experience it. Nothing but the desert would prepare you for these fantastic conditions in the Kimberley. It is incredibly hot; the light is blindingly bright and the sun rays cuts like lasers. As impossible as it is; I want to replicate these conditions in my photo; make you feel the Kimberley and these great gorges!

This is my one Kimberley waterfall shot but who knows – after my next Kimberley trip you may actually see waterfall image no. 2 from me. Start a trend!

Windjana Gorge and the Bunuba people

The mighty rock walls towers up to 100 meters in height on the flat spinifex covered Kimberley savannah. The gorge cuts the Napier Ranges in half for about 3.5 kilometers. The Lennard River runs through it and is home to at least 70 crocodiles. The mysterious Wandjina spirits have left their shadows on the walls in the form of rock art. The Bunuba people have lived here for hundreds of generations and still fight for their survival against the invasion of their country and destruction of their people.

We are in the Bunuba home visiting Windjana Gorge National Park in Western Australia; and the above are  just a few of the reasons why Windjana Gorge is my favourite gorge on the Gibb River Road! The mighty towering walls and the history of this area is magic to me. It is also a photographers paradise. You have the mighty rock walls, the crocodiles, the gum and boab trees, the caves, the art, the flat savannah, the station ruins and Tunnel Creek ensuring you won’t ever run out of compositions here! I managed a few different compositions while I was at Windjana but look forward to revisiting again.

Towering Walls

The steep ranges of the Napier Range are the walls of the gorge and even from a distance these impressive ranges will catch your eye. Below my old Fujichrome slide from my first visit in 1998 shows the walls towering straight up out of the ground!

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

Hawk Dreaming Sand Palms at Dusk
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

I have attempted to capture the wide gorge and mighty walls of the Napier Range in this duotone panorama:

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

Walls of Windjana Gorge in Duotone
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

I converted this stitched panorama to duotone as I felt it gave the image more character, drama and a timeless quality compared to the original slightly flat and harsh colour version. I used Alien Skin Exposure filter and my technique documented here but for this photo I did two conversions and layer blended them. The rock walls and the sky is almost entirely the red channel which ensures a dark dramatic sky and bright rocks. The sandy foreground is mostly the blue channel as this ensures detail; the red channel had very little detail in the sand.  Blending different conversions is a great way to ensure details in all areas of your image.

Crocs!

The gorge is home to many freshwater crocodiles and if you explore the gorge in the early hours of the day you’ll see crocs sunbaking all along the river. Freshwater crocs are no danger as long as you don’t provoke them and keep a bit of distance. Keeping an eye on the crocs it is easy to slowly approach them. I chose to show the crocs in their environment placing them in an image with the rock walls towering above them in a vertical panorama:

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

Windjana Gorge Crocodiles 
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Lillimooloora Station – Jandamarra and the Bunuba Resistance

On the flat open savannah outside the gorge you find the remains of the Lillimooloora Station. This station, which also housed a police outpost, is integral in the story of Jandamarra the Bunuba resistance fighter. Once working as a tracker for the police he turned resistance fighter and is now a hero to the Bunuba people. Jandamarra’s fight against the terror of the white colonisation is still a symbol for the ongoing struggle to protect the law, the land and the culture of the Bunuba. I highly recommend reading Jandamarra and The Bunuba Resistance from Magabala Books; the book also contains many great and interesting photos. My photo of the Lillimooloora Station ruins was shot as the ruins were lit up by the setting sun with the Napier Range in the background. Arriving late and having to work really fast in the disappearing light I feel my composition can be improved on my next visit but still like the view:

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

Lillimooloora Station Panorama
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Gum Trees at the Gorge

The gorge is also home to some very impressive old gum and boab trees rich in character and story. As my Finding a Tree post explained it is hard and sometimes impossible work finding an isolated tree that can work in a composition without a distracting background. At Windjana I chose the opposite, filling a busy panorama with a glorious large old gum tree having the rock wall as a background. A bit of painting with light on the tree and the result is this panorama:

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

Glorius Gum Tree at Windjana Gorge
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

You can spend days at Windjana Gorge shooting, there is so much to work with here! I will hopefully get a chance to teach others about this wonderful place as I will quite possibly be part of guiding a photo tour in the Kimberleys in 2009. As long as we don’t loose a few photographers to the crocs I am sure Windjana Gorge will prove to be a highlight yet again!

Capturing Manning Gorge

The Kimberley is home to many great gorges and one of the best known is Manning Gorge. It is very easy to access from the Gibb River Road, has a huge camp ground with a toilet and shower block (powered by a rather noisy generator that is turned off around sunset) so it’s quite popular and you certainly won’t be camping alone here. Slightly too busy for my taste Manning Gorge is still a gorgeous (gee that joke is getting old) place. This is a duotoned view of sitting on the banks of the billabong in the middle of the day. It’s a boiling 40+ degrees but the rock wall provides a nice shady spot:

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

Manning Gorge and Gum tree in duotone
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Manning Gorge is split into Upper and Lower Manning and the camp ground is at Lower Manning. To get to the Upper gorge it’s a great 3 km bush walk; but first you have to swim across the river floating your clothes, camera etc. in a foam box pushing it in front of you as you swim. Water is not all that appealing to me or my camera so I chose to explore only the Lower gorge this time!

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

Manning Gorge in Moonlight
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Photographing gorges

It takes a lot of practice and work getting good at shooting gorges. They’re big and beautiful but really hard to fit into a composition that shows them as big and beautiful. I always wish I could levitate (walking on water hasn’t worked for me) in the middle of the river shooting down the gorge with the gorge walls on both sides. But often you’re stuck shooting from the banks of a river or billabong and also you’re fighting the Kimberley light as one side of the gorge is bound to be in deep dark shadows and the other in extremely bright sunshine. You really have to work to find good compositions.

The answer as always: get up for dawn and stay for dusk (and bring mossie repellant!) My Finding a Tree post was from around Manning gorge at dawn and this is a Lower Manning Gorge panorama in very late dusk light:

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

Manning Gorge at Dusk Panorama
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

This little spot proved to work very well and I was fortunately the only one there. If you’re at Manning then walk down to the river at sunset, turn left and keep going until you find yourself standing underneath a rock wall and almost in the water. Wait for that glorious warm and red dusk light to warm the sky and you have your shot!

I am working on my Kimberley gallery at the moment so come along as I develop and upload; there are many more gorgeous Kimberley gorge shots to come!

PS. There are some beautiful old and very large Boab trees at the camp ground. Beautiful old trees some bloody idiot campers have carved their names into! People carving their names into trees surely should be fed to the crocs!