Tag Archives: mosquito

Capturing Australian tropical sunrises

As a follow up to Where Sunrises Rule The World I will take you back to Hawk Dreaming and the edge of the crocodile and mosquito rich river. I will share my sunrise shooting experience with two new panoramas from this morning.

I am back in Hawk Dreaming on the edge of the river. I have arrived early to capture the dawn light and greet the mosquitoes. I have chosen my composition, setup my gear and applied a full can of mossie repellent. It is an astoundingly beautiful morning; it is already more than 25 degrees but the air still has a crisp and fresh morning feel and smell. As the very first dawn light appears I capture the first panorama while it is still quite dark:

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

East Alligator River at Dawn
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Ten minutes later and it is already close to daylight and the light has warmed considerably. I make small adjustments to the composition and exposure and shoot our second panorama in this series:

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

East Alligator River at Sunrise
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

I could have wished for a few more clouds (the appeared later as seen here) and a stronger composition. But the colours and the light are gorgeous and a true representation of sunrise at this river, and at large size you can see the lovely thick layer of mist on the floodplains. Let us examine in detail how to capture this light and these colours.

Shooting the tropical sun rising

Walk softly and always carry mosquito repellent! The composition in these panoramas is dictated by the mosquitoes. Ideally I would have been lower and closer to the water; making the river (a finger of the East Alligator River) seem bigger with more colour reflection in the water. No go mate. I have never experienced a wall of a million mosquitoes quite like this! There was no choice but to step back 7-8 meters from the edge of the river and still I was getting eaten. Without mossie repellent you won’t get these shots so arm yourself. This is Where Mosquitoes Rule The World!

Be prepared; be quick! Coming from a cold dark non-tropical place you will be surprised by how quickly the sun rises in the tropics. You have very little time to work in before the sun basically jumps to the top of the sky and is at full force. So be prepared, arrive early and find your composition before the light show begins. The very best light is usually at dawn so no sleeping in! You should basically be setting up in complete darkness.

Use ND graduated filters! I used a Cokin 2-stop ND grad filter to even out the exposure between sky and ground but learned that this is nowhere near enough to tame the tropical sun rising. I needed a 4-stop and even a 6-stop in my kit as the difference in light level especially at dawn is incredible. Still a 2-stop is better than nothing and without an ND grad filter you would either blow out the sky or capture a pitch black foreground.

Do not blow the red channel! The red channel will be at least a couple of stops brighter than the other channels, so do not trust the luminance histogram on your camera. A blown red channel will ruin a tropical sunrise or sunset, creating ugly yellows and greens where there should be orange and red! Study your RGB histogram carefully if you have one, or bracket your exposures.

Finally…enjoy! Do not get so caught up in shooting, checking histograms, looking through the viewfinder, levelling the tripod, setting exposure, focus and aperture etc. that you completely forget to enjoy the spectacle! Step back once in a while and take it all in. We shoot landscapes because we love nature so don’t let the camera get in the way all the time. Enjoy!

In the footsteps of Bill Neidjie and the Bunitj Clan

Imagine sitting in a shelter, a large natural rock cave 30 meters above ground. Look out over the floodplains and you have a timeless uninterrupted panoramic view. No roads, no power lines, no people. Look down and on the rock you sit on are grind holes from thousands of years of grinding paint and food. Turn around and study the rock walls close up. Aboriginal art in several styles from up to 40 to 60 thousand years old grace the walls. No signs, no fences, no people. No sounds. Just you and the power of Hawk Dreaming; country of the Bunitj clan in Kakadu National Park.

Then the sun rises. The world awakens. Sounds of the wildlife of Hawk Dreaming fills your ears. I feel almost embarrassed to mix in the loud shutter sound from my camera. Sounds like a gun in this natural soundscape. There is nothing to distract you; nothing to remind you that the year is 2008. It might as well be 10,000 years ago and you really expect a family from the Bunitj clan to be there as you sit in their home and their shelter and watch the sun rise.

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I have blogged about Big Bill Neidjie and Hawk Dreaming before and first visited this magical place in 2007. I wanted to return this year and further explore and photograph this area as I cannot image a more special and powerful sacred place in all of Australia. Nowhere else will you find a place with amazing floodplain landscapes and one of the highest concentrations of aboriginal art sites in Australia. Certainly no place with access to as there are probably more places like this in Arnhem Land but they are totally off-limits. Hawk Dreaming has it all.

I hired a private charter for 3 days (from now on this is the only way I’ll go on tours!) from the only company allowed to bring people into Hawk Dreaming – the super good Aussie Adventures. Les Thorne – known as “the white aboriginal” to his friends for his deep love and knowledge of aboriginal culture and history – was my brilliant guide and teacher. My aim was to shoot landscapes at Hawk Dreaming and see and learn as much as I could about the aboriginal art and history. I am extremely fascinated by and feel connected to aboriginal culture though I only know just a tiny bit about the incredible 60,000 years of history.

The 3 days were absolute magic and spectacular. With my own guide, teacher, mate and 4WD I got all the landscapes I wanted with 2 sunrises and 2 sunsets at Hawk Dreaming. I got to see the roughly 15-20 art sites that we were allowed to go to and Les kindly shared his deep knowledge. A personal highlight for me was sitting in Bill Neidjie’s cave where he lived from 1975 when the land was finally given back to the Bunitj people – Bill played a huge part in this – almost up to his death in 2002. In Bill’s cave you will see rock art and that is 10,20,30 thousands years old – and rock art that is perhaps 20 years old! Bill’s children and grandchildren would paint rock art and paint things they learned in school in the Oenpelli community such as the British alphabet and an image of Sydney Harbour Bridge! A strong and powerful place; an experience burned in my memory forever.

Adding to the magic; I was actually sort of on assignment. Every commercial photo from Hawk Dreaming has to be approved by Jonathon Neidjie, Bill’s son and the current custodian of Hawk Dreaming. Of course no art shots can be sold; not that I would ever do that anyway – that is not my art to sell! Les got me in touch with Dwane Baker, manager from the Djabulukgu Association, at the Bowali Visitor Center in Kakadu. Dwane had Jonathon on the phone and I showed a few of my shots from Hawk Dreaming last year (fortunate I had these in my bag). Dwane seemed to really like them and quickly asked if I would supply them with copies of the landscape files I shot and also help shoot and document the art sites? If so I could shoot and sell all the landscapes I wanted. They really wanted some landscape shots from Hawk Dreaming and also the art documented and I was more than happy to agree; I get my landscapes and I help Dwane, Jonathan Neidjie and Hawk Dreaming. Making a small contribution that way is an honour. Thanks to Dwane and Jonathon for all the help and setting up an agreement so smoothly and quickly in 15 minutes, something that I know from Les can usually take a long time. Very much appreciated, I know I was very very lucky and fortunate. Must be my amazing photography skills and country boy charm 😀

So I was on a mission and shot photos from dawn till dusk. Landscapes and art sites, rock climbed with tripod etc. to get pristine shots of the art sites for Dwane and Jonathan. I had a fantastic time; absolutely loved it! I have enough photos (the two featured here are quick and dirty previews) and stories from Hawk Dreaming to last a year so stay tuned on this blog.

I’ll end with my ongoing relationship with mosquitoes. Me and Mossies. We go way back. I donated quite a few liters of blood to the mossie community in the Kimberleys and continued my contribution in Hawk Dreaming to the fantazillion of mossies that call the East Alligator river (brilliant name you white folks; there are no alligators in Australia!) at Hawk Dreaming home. Standing by the river at dawn ready for sunrise and a wall, an armada of mossies attack me and Les. I empty a full can of toxic and highly flammable but effective Bushman mossie repellant on my body and clothes. Had I still been smoking and lit a ciggy I would have exploded, I was that saturated in chemicals. The repellant helps some. Little bit cheeky them mossies though. Climb under my shirt and get fresh blood! Les escapes to the Landcruiser leaving my blood as the only food source. So as you watch this sunrise shot from Sunday morning; know that I payed for it in blood!

Hawk Dreaming Sunrise 21-sep-08

Hawk Dreaming. home of the Bunitj clan.
I will return.
Feels little bit like your country is now a part of me!

 

Bill Neidjie

Rock stays, Earth stays.
I die and put my bones in cave or earth.
Soon my bones become earth, all the same.
My spirit has gone back to my country, my mother.
This story is important.
It won’t change, it is law.
It is like this earth, it won’t move.
Ground and rock, he can’t move.
Cave, he never move.
No-one can shift that cave, because it dream.
It story.
It law.
This law, this country,this people,
no matter what people,
red, yellow, black or white,
the blood is the same.
Lingo little bit different,
but no matter.

Country, you in other place.
But the same feeling.
Blood, bone, all the same.
This story,
this is true story.
My people
all dead.
We only got few left.
That’s all, not many.
We getting too old.
Young people.
I don’t know if they can hang onto this story.
But, now you know this story,
and you’ll be coming to earth.
You’ll be part of earth when you die.
You responsible now.
You got to go with us.
To earth.
Might be you can hang on.
Hang on to this story.
To this earth.
You got children,
grandson.
Might be your grandson will get this story,
keep going,
hang on like I done.

– Bill Neidjie

Kimberley. Home.

“Man was born in the desert. Desert is home.” writes Bruce Chatwin. The Kimberley in North West Australia is not a desert but the extremely hot and tough conditions and wide open desolate plains certainly makes Bruce Chatwins words ring true to me.

The Kimberley is an area in North West Australia of wide open spaces, stunning scenery and vast desolate expanse creating an amazing sense of wonder and adventure. A land as old as time – and almost as timeless to quote a very funny Australian comedian. It is much larger than Great Britain but only home to less than 30,000 people. The Gibb River Road runs from one end to the other and was originally built for transporting cattle. It is an unsealed rocky corrugated dirt track most of the way and usually only accessible by 4wd – sometimes not even by 4wd. Although it is fast becoming more accessible and touristy in the cooler months of June and July it is still a rough and rugged experience travelling it and an experience like no other in Australia. September is a very hot month to hit the Kimberleys but the upside is you will have the scenery and the mosquitoes to yourself!

I cannot describe how much I love travelling through the Australian far outback like the Kimberleys. It feels like home. It creates an actual physical reaction in me. I simply love it. It can make me incredibly sad as well. I just want to stay for all eternity. I want to roll out of my swag in a bush camp on the Gibb River Road every morning every day and shoot sunrise like the one I caught here:

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I want to travel through the bush and end the day every day with sunsets like the one I caught here in Purnululu (also known as Bungle Bungles) National Park:

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I never want it to end…

Pit stop

Having said that; a little pit stop is alright. 14 days of bush camping in stinking hot humid heat with flies and mozzies can get to ya; even to me. It was pushing +40 degrees all days in the sun; it was 37 degrees in the shade at Mount Barnett. The buildup to the wet had already started and conditions were trying. It is an experience like no other. I cannot count the number of mozzie and ant bites and bruises and cuts on my arms and legs (fire ants are bloody lethal!). Shooting every day at sunrise and sunset means you take the full force of the first wave of attack! I have a heat rash so bad I had to buy bloody skin irritation cream relief lotion crap stuff today at a pharmacy. I then had to apply the lotion to arms and legs. Not normally into any kind of bloody lotion! But I was scratching myself to a bloody pulp. All minor details though and totally worth it!

Shooting the Kimberleys

I shot thousands of shots and many large stitched panoramas. Lightroom 2.0 is killing my laptop so I have just exported these 2 quick and dirty previews of the many shots to come when I get home. The Kimberley light is a tricky thing to master; it so incredibly bright and harsh with a dynamic range no camera can capture and it takes a lot of practice and a different shooting style. I’ll go into more details in a post some day. All my equipment survived the Kimberley just fine; but my Canon 20D backup camera did see action as I lent it to fellow photographer Rosi from Sydney to use after her 350D died.

A sad day in Bungle Bungles

A very sad note about the Purnululu Sunset photo; actually from my second visit. The smoke is from a 1 kilometer long bushfire started just hours earlier by a helicopter crash and explosion that killed the pilot and all 3 tourists. I did not know this when I shot the photo and it makes it very weird to look at now. I was up in those very same helicopters just a week before during my first visit to Purnululu and had booked to go up again the day right after the crash. All flights were cancelled of course after the accident. Accidents happens unfortunately and I still feel safer in any helicopter than in any car. But it is a very strange uneasy feeling looking at this shot now knowing what is causing the fire. A bad day in the Bungles.

House

Funny story. Today I arrived back in Darwin for 2 days of pit stop and lotion. Some of the people working at the hotel know me by now and as I stepped in the door towing bags of camera gear covered in red dust they all shouted “hey mate; how are ya; how was the Kimberleys; got good shots?”. Then because I had to wait an hour before my room was ready they upgraded me to a town house! A bleedin’ 2 story larger than my flat town house with downstairs kitchen and living room and upstairs bedroom and bathroom. I just want a swag and a sleeping bag!

So you will have to excuse me; I am busy applying lotion to my skin in a feckin’ town house! Thank the maker I go bush again Friday morning as I take off for Kakadu National Park!