New photos - Cania Gorge National Park
Last week I ticked off another new location on my list of places to see and photograph – Cania Gorge National Park. It’s a small Park of sandstone cliffs, granite outcrops, caves and rocky streams situated just north of Monto in Queensland. There are two privately owned camping grounds adjoining the Park that provide comfortable living (hot showers!) and easy access to walking tracks.
As a first time visitor, the most striking thing about the landscape is the sandstone rock faces that line the gorge. Photographically, my first thought was to try and work these into my photos as grand backdrops but this proved more difficult than expected – the views from the walking tracks are mostly too ‘up close’ to capture the wide, rugged feel of the gorge as a whole. The best views of the sandstone cliffs I could find are from the road that runs through farmland between the two camping grounds – the problem here is that there is a fence, pastures and powerlines between the road and the Park and it’s hard to keep these unwanted features out of photos without trespassing onto private property. I suspect with the permission of the landowner there would be some excellent photo opportunities to be found closer to the cliffs but that will have to wait for another trip.
I snapped the two shots above from the carpark at Cania Dam with my compact Panasonic Lumix LX3 – they’re the type of shots that a lot of people bring home from Cania, but they give a good idea of the rugged scenery of the area.
The best way to get a feel for any natural area is to hit the walking tracks. The Fern Tree Pool circuit track passes through dry woodland and rainforest before arriving at a little oasis of greenery high in the hills. I spent an hour or more scrambling around the rocks and carefully treading around the ferns with camera and tripod to get these shots – unfortunately the water in the Fern Tree Pool was a little brown from recent rain and runoff but it was still a beautiful spot.
Returning from the Fern Tree Pool, the track winds up to Giant’s Chair Lookout with some excellent views over the surrounding countryside. I ended up returning to this spot several times, including at sunrise the next day to get these photos of first light.
The same view from Giant's Chair captured at sunrise and in the softer tones of sunset.
Other short walking tracks lead to caves, rainforest pools and lookouts and are all worth a look. The shots below were taken with my compact Lumix which got quite a workout on this trip – it’s an excellent alternative to an SLR when you’re hiking and the ‘big’ camera is stowed away in the backpack. A polarising filter has added depth and vibrance to the colours, and is a real bonus when photographing in full sunlight.
The view from Dragon Cave
As with any new location, it takes a few days to begin to get a feel for the place and hone in on the best photographic approaches. After spending a few days at Cania, I’m now loaded with new ideas and angles that will have to wait until next visit.......the sooner the better!
New photos - Kwiambal National Park
The best thing about searching around the countryside for new landscape photo opportunities is the occasional surprise discovery of a hidden treasure. I’d never heard of Kwiambal National Park until a visitor to my market stall mentioned it as a worthwhile place to visit – it’s well off the beaten track and not particularly big so is easy to overlook when poring over maps for new location ideas. But after spending a few days walking through its cypress pine and ironbark woodlands, and along the rugged, rocky courses of the Severn and Macintyre Rivers, Kwiambal is a spot high on my list to visit again.
The two images above are stitched panoramas – the top one of the Severn River is made up of 5 separate photos taken in portrait format (ie. camera held vertically), and the bottom one of the Macintyre River is made up of 4 vertical shots. The digital files get pretty large when you stitch photos like this, but the detail and resolution are amazing – these could easily be printed at several metres long without any significant loss of quality.
The park is a 6+ hour drive from Brisbane - after passing through Warwick and Stanthorpe, you head west along the Bruxner Highway for an hour, then south to the little village of Ashford, and on up into the hills to Kwiambal. The camp ground at Lemon Tree Flat on the Severn River is very picturesque with tall river redgums lining the rocky riverbanks, grey kangaroos grazing on the grassy flats, and (surprise, surprise) some very healthy lemon trees among the campsites – they were sagging under the weight of the winter lemon crop when I visited. White cockatoos create a ruckus each evening when they come to roost in the redgums, and possums and gliders are easily spotted by torchlight after dark.
The two rivers are the main scenic features of the park – there are spectacular views down into rugged gorges, and also excellent rock-hopping opportunities down at river level. You can explore along several kilometres of riverbank from the camping area....the going is easy even carrying a camera and tripod.
The Severn River near Lemon Tree Flat
The other thing that will catch the attention of first-timers to this area is the soft grey and olive-green hues of the woodlands. The National Park protects important and beautiful cypress pine / ironbark / box woodlands that look quite foreign to people like me who live near the coast. The usual tree shapes and colours you expect to see nearer the coast are mainly restricted to lower areas along the rivers, while the hills and ridges are clothed in triangular native pines and gnarly eucalypts in shades of grey and grey-green. Wattles begin to bloom in winter, and wildflower displays peak in spring.
An excellent hiking trail leads from the campground to the junction of the Severn and Macintyre Rivers around 4 kilometres away. The main trail is an old 4WD track (closed to vehicles) and ends at a well-placed picnic table under shady trees overlooking the junction. An alternative trail follows more closely along the course of the Severn River and joins with the main trail at several points, so the walk can be done as a loop.....or a figure 8 if you want to get clever. There are some great views down to the Severn River along the second trail, the most spectacular being a rugged stretch of massive boulders known as the Dungeon. This is an amazing spot at the driest of times, but must be an awesome sight when the river is in flood. There are similar views down to the Severn Falls further along the track, but the best vantage points are reached by scrambling up onto unfenced rocky outcrops so you need to take it carefully.
Near the junction of the Severn and Macintyre Rivers
Overlooking the Dungeon
Severn Falls at dawn
A ten minute drive from the campground brings you to the Macintyre Falls picnic area where several walking trails head off up and down the river. The main falls aren’t particularly high or wide under normal flows, but together with the massive rock faces and boulders that frame the river, and the huge rock pool that the falls drop into, the scenery is breathtaking. A half hour walk downstream brings you to Slippery Rock (aptly named!) and another beautiful set of cascades and pools.
....and a closer view
Slippery Rock on the Macintyre River
Slippery Rock again
As with most landscape photography, early and late in the day are the best times to find good light. Even though there was very little colour in the sunrises and sunsets during my visit, the soft light around dawn and dusk shows the subtle greys and greens of the woodlands at their very best, and highlights the contrasting reds and yellows of exposed rocky gorges. The often flat light of midday washes out these colours and can produce harsh, overly contrasty, and much less vibrant photos.
One other thing – don’t be surprised to run into groups of feral goats who behave like they own the place. The Park’s population of these pests is unfortunately healthy, and their tracks and droppings can be seen wherever you go. The head ranger for Kwiambal, Chris, told me they conduct annual culls to try and keep numbers downs, but goats are tough animals and this rugged landscape seems to suit them.
On my last morning I climbed up onto an exposed boulder overlooking Severn Falls to photograph the sunrise. Engrossed in what I was doing, I was more than a little startled when a loud grunt/cough sounded off to my left. Swinging around I spotted a big old billy goat peering down at me from a ledge about 15 metres away, and he didn’t seem too pleased that I was there. I’d noticed the round nugget-droppings around where I was standing but hadn’t thought too much of it. I suspect my rock was one of his early morning viewing posts, because he stood there grunting and dipping his head at me for a full five minutes....which I imagine in goat language means “Get the hell off my rock!”. I had a quiet chat to him and he seemed to see reason, because he skirted around my vantage point and headed on down the cliff towards the river. It wasn’t an unpleasant encounter, but it is unfortunate that it was a feral goat who doesn’t really have a place in a National Park.....although from his perspective, it was no doubt annoying that an equally feral human was trespassing on what he considered his homeland and sitting on his favourite rock.
I’d highly recommend a visit to Kwiambal, goats and all. I feel like I only skimmed the surface with my short stay there, and I will be back.
The Severn River near Lemon Tree Flat
New photos - Moffat Beach
Here are a few shots from an early morning session at Moffat Beach (Caloundra) on the first day of winter. The sunrise was lacking a bit colour-wise but it was still a beautiful morning. I spent most of my time crawling around the rocks at the southern end of the beach, and came across one rock in particular that really appealed to me - it just seemed to have a lot of character....for a rock! I didn't realise until I got home and downloaded the photos how many shots I'd taken of it from different angles. These three photos were all taken before the sun had crept above the horizon so the light was still quite dim - that means relatively long shutter-speeds (more than a second) which give that soft, silky look on the water. It's not a look everyone likes, but combined with soft pre-dawn light I think it adds a dreamy, ethereal feel to the photos.
There was a small surf rolling in and a bunch of surfers were making the most of it at the northern end of the beach - you can't see them in the small images below but they are quite clear when you zoom in on the full size photo.
New photos - Ewen Maddock Dam
This small reservoir near Landsborough is fringed by tall reeds and paperbark wetlands - a walking trail skirts around the northern and western shores of the lake, and there is an excellent boardwalk at the picnic area off Mooloolah Connection Road. The hardest thing about photographing it is finding clear access to the bank, except along the dam wall and from the boardwalk...but that's too easy! I wanted to use the reeds as a foreground for some photos and eventually found a couple of spots where I could actually see over the top of them - and even then I had to set up my tripod as high as it would go. These shots sort of captured what I was after, but I recall from a hike a few years back that there are some excellent spots around the far side of the lake - so next time I'll try to get out of bed a bit earlier to make it around there for sunrise.