Karijini, Western Australia’s second largest National Park, is a photographer’s playground. Whether you are a traveller who takes photos or a photographer who travels, you will find yourself overwhelmed with inspiration and opportunities.
But to get the most out of such a unique and dramatic location, a little preparation goes a long way.
For travel tips on how to get there, where to stay and what time of year to visit, check out Travel Planning and Tips for Karijini NP, Western Australia. For photography tips, including essential equipment and possible photography subjects, keep reading!
Photography Tips for Karijini: What to Bring
My camera bag included:
- Canon 5D Mark III
- Lenses: 16-35mm, 24-105mm, 70-300mm
- Filters: Polariser, ND, Grads
- Remote cable release
- Spare battery and charger
- Cleaning fluid and plenty of cleaning cloths (you are in the outback, it gets dusty!)
Other essential gear:
Laptop and portable hard drive (I’m paranoid – I back up daily!). This also let me review my images along the way so I could make improvements to how I was shooting whilst I still had the opportunity to make changes.
Dry bag, essential for protecting my camera gear whilst swimming or wading through water in the gorges. I love my Sealine Boundary Dry Bag which can be worn as a lightweight backpack, perfect for holding my gear whilst both hiking and swimming.
Shoulder strap for my tripod, allowing me to be “hands free” whilst climbing in and out of the gorges and swimming through the water.
Photography Tips for Karijini: What to Shoot
Spectacular gorges that have eroded into the landscape over billions of years, iconic Australian outback scenes, vast night skies and local wildlife: the photography options in Karijini are endless. But to capture each element of Karijini at it’s best, it helps to have the right equipment in the right place at the right time of day.
1. The Gorges – From Above
(Knox Gorge at Sunset)
The main attraction of Karijini are the gorges that are scattered throughout it. Whilst each gorge has its own unique characteristics, they all have one thing in common – they are huge! The best way to appreciate their vastness is from the top. And the best time of day is sunrise and sunset when the changing light highlights the vibrant colours in the rock formations that are hidden by the harsh midday sun.
You may enjoy:
For sunrise: Oxer Lookout, Joffre Gorge
For sunset: Oxer Lookout, Kalamina Gorge, Knox Gorge
A tripod to shoot in low light without increasing your ISO.
Grad filters to help balance the exposure within the sky and the gorges.
A wide-angled lens to capture the vastness of the landscape.
2. The Gorges – From Within
Whilst the best way to appreciate the vastness of the gorges is to view them from the top, the best way to discover the characteristics that make each one unique is to climb down into them. Beginning hikes just after sunrise often captures some great light and also helps avoid the heat of the day. My comments below for each gorge are based on the water levels we found in March 2014. These will vary depending on the time of year and the rainfall levels.
A word of caution: Each climbing or hiking trail within a gorge is graded, from 1 (being the easiest) to 5 (being the hardest). The level of difficulty may be related to fitness or technical ability. Don’t take chances – not only do you risk your own safety, but you risk the safety of volunteers who will be called in to rescue you. If you are unsure, ask the staff at the Visitors Centre or the Eco Retreat for advice.
Also remember gorges are subject to flash flooding, so avoid climbing into them shortly after rain and get out of there as soon as you think rain is on the way.
You may enjoy:
Dales Gorge: Boasting three of the park’s highlights (Circular Pool, Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool), this gorge provides the opportunity for a good long hike (that is not too difficult), waterfalls and swimming opportunities. Circular Pool is best reached in the morning before the shadows creep in.
Hancock Gorge: After following a path from the car park and descending down two steep ladders, you will find yourself walking, wading and swimming through the varying levels of water (depending on the time of year) towards Spider Walk and through to Kermit’s Pool. There is the opportunity for long exposures with the trickling streams and, if you are lucky with the light, great colours in the rocks and pools.
Joffre Gorge: Those who make the Grade 5 climb into the gorge are rewarded with great opportunities to shoot Joffre Falls, other smaller waterfalls and light bouncing off the rock formations. But be warned – this isn’t for everyone. Although I made the climb I have dodgy knees and felt a little unconfident. I’m not sure I’d do it again.
Weano Gorge: A short walk from the car park and you’ll find yourself wading through water towards the narrow tunnels that twist and turn towards Handrail Pool. The pool is reached by gripping a handrail as you navigate around a steep bend, before gripping your feet into the rock wall to slowly descend to the pool. Lots of opportunities for long exposures with moving water, light bouncing off the rocks and great textures through the narrow corridors.
Hamersley Gorge: Sitting on the outskirts of the park, visiting Hamersley Gorge requires an hour or two of driving. But it’s worth it! Spectacular landscape breaks the monotony of the drive and the gorge itself was one of my favourites. A kaleidoscope of colours is created by the ever-changing light hitting the textured rock formations. And a short swim rewards you with the opportunity to photograph the Spa Pool, a flow of water framed by a variety of textures and colours.
Dry bag to protect your equipment if you need to wade or swim through water.
Shoulder strap for your tripod to allow hands-free climbing or swimming.
Tripod and ND filters for long exposure shots at waterfalls or streams.
Polariser to reduce unwanted glare or reflections in the water.
I chose to carry one lens (24-105mm) to keep my backpack light and found this to be the ideal range for shooting within the gorges.
3. The Night Skies
(Milky Way above our tent at the Karijini Eco Resort)
Staying within the park at the Karijini Eco Retreat or Dales Gorge Campsite will reward you with the opportunity to photograph one of the greatest elements of the park – the outback skies! Depending on the time of year, the moon phase and weather conditions, you may find yourself gazing up at the milky way, photographing a landscape lit up by a full moon or attempting to capture a spectacular lightening display.
Tripod is essential for shooting at night, when exposure can be 30 seconds or longer.
Remote cable release, particularly useful when experimenting with exposures on lightening shots.
Wide-angled and fast lens (16-35mm f/2.8 is great for night shots)
4. The Countryside
(Hamersley Ranges, Karijini)
When you’re not setting your alarm for sunrise, cooling off by wading through the gorges during the day, delaying dinner so you can shoot the sunset or gazing up at the star filled sky, there is still plenty of photographic inspiration in the area. Karijini possesses all the characteristics of the iconic Australian outback with it’s unsealed and dusty roads, gum trees reaching to the skies, spinifex carpeting the red soil, wide open spaces occasionally broken up with a mountain range or two, all within an energising and deafening silence.
Capturing the landscape at sunrise or sunset maximises the light, but don’t put your camera down during the day. We constantly found ourselves inspired by thick clouds, approaching storms and great texture on the dirt roads and trees.
A tripod and grad filters will come in handy if you are shooting at sunrise or sunset, but if you are driving or walking through the bush during the day, you’ll just want your camera and a lens or two.
5. The Wildlife
I was surprised not to see more wildlife in Karijini and my sightings were limited to a handful of lizards in the gorges and little critters in our tent. But I was more focused on the the landscape. Wildlife photography opportunities are certainly out there if you have the patience and determination to find them.
Have you been to Karijini? Do you have any photography tips to add?
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