(Sunset – Coral Bay)
“I sit in our 4WD vehicle in comfortable silence. The cool feeling on my skin from the air conditioning is deceiving as the dashboard tells me it’s 39 degrees celsius outside. In the distance I see smoke rising from the bush into the bright blue sky – bush fires are a harsh reality of the Australian summer. A wedge tailed eagle soars in the sky above us, leading us from the Indian Ocean coast to the outback of Western Australia.
As our road trip music transitions from Bob Dylan to Midnight Oil, the landscape also changes. The soft hues of the coastal roads are replaced with the harsh contrasts of the Australian outback.
Everything feels more dramatic, more vibrant and more intense.
Western Australia has already exceeded my expectations – and the adventure is not over yet!”
I’ve travelled to seven continents in search of travel and photography opportunities. But each step on foreign land has reminds me I have been neglecting my own country. After spending time in South Australia and Tasmania last year, I became more and more aware of the spectacular landscapes, energising remoteness and intriguing wildlife that exists in Australia.
So when the opportunity came up to join two other photographers in Western Australia, I jumped at the chance.
I’ve taken part in photography workshops/tours run by professional landscape photographer Glen Campbell in Scotland, Tasmania and Croatia and am a big fan of both Glen and the style of his trips. But this was going to be different: Glen had invited myself and another Australian amateur photographer on a field trip to help him plan the workshop he would be running in the area in a few months time. Exploring a new location with countless photography opportunities, in the country I still call home despite moving to the UK in 2000, with two laid back, fun and friendly guys held all the ingredients to a great travel and photography adventure.
And I wasn’t disappointed.
Having just returned from this incredible trip, I have a series of photography and travel posts that I’ll be sharing over the coming weeks. In the meantime, here is a teaser with some of my favourite photographs, taken as we travelled more than 4,000 km through Perth, Cervantes and the Pinnacles, Kalbarri, Ningaloo Reef and the Coral Coast, Karijini National Park and Meekatharra.
Lancelin Sand Dunes
Lancelin is a small fishing town less than 100 km north of Perth. It also boasts the sand dunes that attract 4WD enthusiasts, adventurous sand boarders and on this particular day…three photographers.
Pinnacles Desert, Cervantes
Our first day ended on what felt like another planet in Nambung National Park. Ancient limestone rock formations of different shapes and sizes rise from the saffron coloured sand in the Pinnacles Desert. Dramatic clouds and perfect light created a photography playground that we lost ourselves in until darkness took over. Even then, it was only our rumbling stomachs that motivated us to head to Cervantes, our home for the night.
Nature’s Window, Kalbarri Gorge
After a beautiful drive from Cervantes to Kalbarri, our plan to visit Kalbarri Gorge for sunset was thwarted by a bushfire caused by lightening that closed the area. Thankfully the roads opened in time for us to visit it on our way out the next day, as it’s a really beautiful location and deserves a visit. Nature’s Window is a natural rock formation, reached via a 400 metre loop walk, that frames the river view perfectly.
Ningaloo Reef, Coral Bay
Ningaloo Reef is one of the world’s largest fringing reefs, stretching for 260 kilometres off Western Australia’s mid north coast. And the small but comfortable Coral Bay was the perfect location to enjoy it from. I only had to step a few metres from my room to feel the sand between my toes and cool off from the searing heat with a swim and snorkel in the calm and turquoise coloured water.
Sunset at Coral Bay
It didn’t take me long to learn that the sun sets over the Indian Ocean on the west coast of Australia with a consistent and dramatic vibrance. And the long sandy beaches provide enough space for everyone to enjoy their own private view. A magical way to end the day.
Oxer Lookout, Karijini
By the time we packed up our 4WD and started heading inland away from the Indian Ocean coast, Western Australia had already exceeded my expectations. But the best was yet to come…
Karijini National Park is WA’s second largest national park with 627,422 hectares of spectacular outback landscape. The collection of gorges that sit within the park each boast their own unique characteristics, with waterfalls, pools, flora and fauna attracting travellers, hikers and photographers. We were looking forward to four nights in the park and planned to explore and photograph Dales, Hancock, Weano, Knox, Kalamina and Hammersley Gorges. We arrived in time for sunset and headed straight a lookout point.
Oxer Lookout is only a few metres from the car park, providing instant gratification with its dramatic and colourful views of the intersection of Weano, Red, Hancock and Joffre gorges.
It was one of our favourite locations for both sunrise and sunset.
Weano Gorge, Karijini
The walking trails within Karijini’s gorges are rated from Class 1 to 6 (with Class 6 only accessible to accredited climbers and abseilers). The walk into Weano begins as a Class 3 before increasing to Class 5 as the tunnels pictured below lead to a steep climb down into the Handrail Pool. Weano was one of my favourite locations, with the lines and colours on the gorge walls pulling me through like a magnet.
Spa Pool, Hammersley Gorge, Karijini
As we reached the end of our fourth and final day in Karijini we drove towards the Hammersley Ranges and soon realised we had left the best till last. Besides a local miner enjoying his RDO with a swim in the gorge, we had the place to ourselves and it was truly spectacular. The Spa Pool pictures below was reached by a swim through the gorge, providing some welcome relief from the searing heat.
Milky Way, Karijini
It’s hard to beat the skies of the Australian outback, especially on a clear night. The permanent tent we were staying in within the Karjini Eco Resort provided the perfect foreground to the iconic Milky Way.
Peace Gorge, Meekatharra
Karijini’s remoteness and isolation is part of its appeal. But it also means an incredible four day stay is followed by an inevitable long drive home. We broke up the two day drive to Perth with an overnight stay in Meekatharra, enjoying the best Chicken Parmigiana of the trip whilst watching my beloved Bombers win their first game of the AFL season! On the way out the next morning, we searched for a sunrise location and practically stumbled across the Peace Gorge.
A Land of Conflicted Values
In the visitor centre at Karijini, I read a poignant phrase: “Karijini is a land of conflicted values between conservation, tourism and mining.” It’s a though-provoking phrase that I feel applies to so many places I’ve been, both in Australia and beyond. And it was symbolised by these silhouettes in Cue, a small outback town we drove through on our way to Perth.
On the Road
We travelled more than 4,000 km to reach a diverse collection of locations that provided some of the best landscape photography opportunities I’ve experienced. But the driving part of the road trip was a highlight within itself. Sharing the highways with road trains and vehicles transporting oversized mining equipment was offset by the empty dirt roads that us through Karijini. Roadhouses provided characteristic breaks, changeable landscape broke the monotony of the long and straight roads, and circling wedge tailed eagles reminded me I was back where I belonged – in Australia.
I’ll be sharing more photographs and stories from my Western Australia adventure in coming weeks, so stay tuned! If you are interested in joining the Western Australia photography workshop that Glen is running in June, you can find more information here.
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