After months of planning, including scouting missions, this morning I was able to arrive at the mouth of the Harvey River to photograph the dawn in this magnificent landscape.
In 2014 my goal is to photograph many of the unreachable locations of the Peel and South-West region. I am taking any measure I can to get to them, including kayaking across open water loaded up with my camera gear.
And that is exactly what I did. With $40,000 worth of camera equipment in an esky, and a tripod strapped to the back, I kayaked across the Harvey Estuary to where the Harvey River finally flows out into the open water. Due to a massive long term buildup of sediment and vegetation growth, the river actually extends several kilometres from the shore of the Estuary. This makes the only feasible way of reaching it by the water itself. It also meant that if I wanted to be there at dawn, I would have to leave in the darkness of night .
So at 5am in the morning before there was any light in the sky, I carried my kayak and all of my gear to the waters edge and was away.
The journey to get there was slightly confusing. Aided only by my Google Maps on my iphone telling me where I was, I travelled across the dark water and watched the first light appear in the sky. Half way there I stopped and took the photo to the left with my phone.
When I finally arrived at my destination, I could see that the sun was not far from appearing over the horizon. I grabbed this first photo with my camera to mark my arrival. 6:10am
Remember: you can open images for a larger view by clicking them!
The river breaks apart into many small outlets of water, all surrounded by these ghastly looking remnants of trees. This is the trait of this river that I wanted to capture today.
The only problem with taking a photo like this is that I need to rest the camera on a tripod, and the water beneath me is almost 2 metres deep. So after extending every leg, and raising the centre column of the tripod to it’s maximum height, I sunk the tripod down into the deep black water until only the head was poking above the water. I then delicately attached the camera to the tripod and began taking my first photos, all the while balancing next to it on the kayak.
Finally in the position I wanted, slightly more comfortable with the slightly shallower water, I set the camera up and watched the sun rise. The orange light shining on the white trunks and branches of the trees is exactly the look that I wanted.
The difficulty of course was keeping the kayak as still in the water as possible to avoid ripples rolling out from underneath me. I would often have to control the speed of my breathing for several minutes in the hope of letting the water settle enough for the photo. After all, it is the reflections that make the photo.
Once the sun was over the horizon, it was finally bright enough to shoot properly without the tripod. The big advantage of the Leica S system is that for a medium format camera, it really is no more cumbersome to use than a regular SLR. I decided to go for a paddle, camera around my neck and just shoot as I saw fit. I left the tripod behind, it wasn’t going anywhere.
I paddled fast enough to keep ahead of the waves the kayak generated. It allowed me to move up the river while still capturing sharp reflections on the waters surface. I looked behind me and saw the light reflecting off my wake and onto the shoreline.
The water was so thick with dirt and particulates that visibility was only a few inches beneath the surface. This did help the reflections though.
After an hour I returned to the sandy shore of the river mouth and hopped out of the kayak for a walk. This place is pristine. There were no footprints other than the birds and my own. Not a single piece or scrap of rubbish. It was as if no one ever came here. Considering what I went through to get here, I don’t doubt it.
There is a saying in the eco-tourism industry. Take only pictures, leave only your foot prints.
The tide here is never large. None the less I was here at low tide and could see the marks on the soft sands from the high tide. Some times they formed interesting patterns.
This would be a wonderful location for a secluded picnic.
For this shoot I used the Leica S2 medium format camera plus the Summarit-S 70mm and Elmarit-S 30mm lenses. A perfect camera system for this type of work. Extremely robust, splash proof and perfect image quality. If you want to look into the system contact PRA Imaging.
In April 2015 I returned to Harvey River to take advantage of some stormy weather. It was great to return to this amazing location, to see what has changed over a year, and to see how the weather and tide made such a massive impact on the visual style of the photos.
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