Let’s kick off this (partial) photographic tour of Western Australia with some useful information. I mean, once in a while, it can’t hurt. Most of the time, we’re just drooling over expensive gear (plenty of that coming up, rest assured) or exploring remote areas that are inaccessible to most of our readers.
But today, here’s a down to Earth look at an easily accessed place that many can enjoy: Hyden Rock (stupid useless grin, this side of the keyboard).
Before you leave precipitously, let me redeem myself. I did write Hyden Rock, not Wave Rock.
Although the main tourist highlight of the area is indeed Wave Rock, there’s a lot more in the area than that. Which makes this remote excursion well worth the effort.
Had it not been for strong migraine, I’d never have visited myself. For my fourth (of many more to come) visit to Western Australia, I had no plans to check out Wave Rock close up. Not any more than on the 3 previous iterations. Once you’ve seen a photograph of it, you’ve seen it all. That’s it, get the T-shirt, go home. So let me save you the expense: here it is in all it’s glory.
And again, with fellow humans, for scale.
Luckily, the Gods have bestowed upon me a super-talent for mind-numbing migraines. So, instead of an early rise to collect a camper-van and driven into the morning light to Kalgoorlie, I was only able to leave home at 4pm and decided to head a little further South, to split the journey in half ans stay the night at Hyden.
A great choice, from a photographic point of view. Not so much, travel wise: what the tourist maps don’t tell you is that the 200km “shortcut” from Hyden to Southern Cross is gravelled and rental cars aren’t allowed gravel roads. Some of them are tracked remotely and if you are caught in one of the forbidden roads, you receive a strong fine form the rental company. Be warned. Even if you are not tracked, your insurance will not cover you.
So we had to backtrack significantly and it took almost 6 hours to reach Kalgoorlie/Boulder, about as much as from Perth. Oh well … no biggie, and the roads are spectacularly lovely, particularly at the end of winter and spring, where the fields are so colourful throughout the wheat belt.
But back to Hyden, and it’s rock. ‘Rock’ doesn’t fully do it justice, mind you. Technically, it is a granite monadnok (isolated hill). Once you have seen Wave Rock, you can climb on top of it to get a sense of its scale and importance for the local communities.
One particularly interesting feature is a small stone wall erected in 1928 to follow the contour lines of the rock. It captures and channels the rainwater to a local dam that sits between two of the domes of Hyden rock. In a climate where most of the meagerly 330mm of rainfall occurs in short intense showers, this little wall provides freshwater all year long to the city.
Further up the dome, a landscape of valleys, boulders and cairns greets you, as well as holes, called gnamma holes, that retain water and aquatic life for a long time after rains, providing the only traces of green on an otherwise barren plateau. The holes have strong meaning for the local aboriginals.
So what seems like a 10 minute tourist trap is in fact an area you can explore for days. Several trails take you to Hippo’s Yawn …
… and to a series of lakes and swamps that are very reminiscent of Mordor 😉 Lake Magic and Kondinin Lake make for superb photo trips for those in search of exotic landscapes and weird & wonderful colours.
And a 15 minute drive on good quality roads brings you to Mulka Cave, named after a local aboriginal legend and home to hundreds of petroglyphs. The hand stencils, made by blowing pigment over a hand place on the rock, were apparently used as a form of signature left by those who had rights to the area.
It is quite dark in the small cave (really the underbelly of a large rock) and the backlighting can make it very difficult to photograph when the sun is high. It is a lovely area to visit at sunrise or dusk.
All in all, the area is really worth a trip and has much more to offer the photographer than the (beautiful but fairly limited) main attraction that is Wave Rock! By stitching together the numerous 1-2km easy to moderate hikes you could easily spend two days exploring the area on foot and return with wonderfully off-the-beaten-path landscape photographs. Besides, the countryside in that part of the country is so beautiful (particularly in local winter and spring) that it will make you weep.
The Wave Rock Caravan Park is powered, very nice and has super powerful wifi which you can use from the comfort of your flavour of mobile home.
As is usual in Western Australia, everything is super clean, thoughtfully laid out and presented, and just feels reassuring and comfy. A note to foreigners: unless explicitly written, you are not allowed to camp outside of campsites.
If you fancy a visit, count 3.5 hours of leisurely driving from Perth. And you could do worse than visiting during the annual music festival held in the campground. The late September date screams wildflowers. Point you camera anywhere and bring back a masterpiece 😉
Have you ever visited the region? Any further thoughts?
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Have I ever ….. ? Are you kidding, Pascal? Well to ‘fess up, I knew when I was young that once I set foot in Europe, I’d never both touring around Australia again, so I saw what I wanted to and live & went where I wanted to before I hooked a flight out of here on my first international flight. And there are only two areas I haven’t bothered with – the area north east of Kalgoorlie, up through places like the Gun Barrel highway & the Giles meteorological station – and Western Australia’s north-west (Pilbara, Kimberleys etc).
You are in danger, mon copain – the more time you spend in the “real Australia” rather than the synthetic enclaves of white “civilisation” in the coastal cities, the more the spirit of this vast island seeps into your blood and into your soul. Bonding you to the land, in just the same way as it has done to the indigenous population for something like 60,000 years.
I read a complain the other day from a New Yorker, saying it’s impossible to see any starts in the New York sky because of all the artificial lighting in that vast metropolis. Perhaps he should try somewhere in the middle of Australia – at night, you can hear things perhaps a hundred kilometres away (at least, so some people claim) – there is a clear, stillness – and the sky is like a photo from the Hubble telescope. No shortage of stars here – LOL
The tribal art you photographed is probably more recent than the art found in other parts of the country – possibly 50,000 years old, and therefore perhaps older than the oldest art in Europe (Spain) or Asia (Indonesia). Currently being checked out, results to be published within the next few months.
My pick out of those photos is the B&W after the Gods bestowed things on you. Normally it’s the colors that “grab” you when you’re photographing out there, but that one grabbed me instead.
What’s the meta data on all these shots? It must be tempting to plug in a tele or a zoom, but I suspect there are a lot of w/angle shots in this selection. And I’ve no idea which cam you used.
Speaking of w’angles, the eagle has landed – I must be a terrible disappointment to Nikon, the only Nikon lens in my kit is the kit zoom that came with the D7100 and which (instead) now lives on the D7200. The D810 has two Otuses – the 55 and the 28 – as well as the 100mm Makro Planar. OK – so I can’t photograph steeplechases or Olympic diving competitions with those lenses, but OMG, they take fantastic shots. When I get off my bum and use them. Currently throwing discretion to the winds and planning to bring the two Otuses with me next year, when I return to l’Occitane and head up the Rhone to Lyons. Had the 55m on the stackshot this afternoon, photographing one of my orchids – using a couple of old ‘pods to hold a pair of studio lamps on the “subject”. No point wasting money on special stands for the lamps, when retired ‘pods will do the job and the money can be spent on something more interesting than a stick with three legs. (Or two sticks, with six – to be more accurate, in this case).
Pete, I’m afraid it’s much too late for me. Australia has already left its mark on me. This was my 4th long visit and I’m already planning the next. I can never get enough of the wide expanses and the sheer variety of landscapes. To be honest, I would love to live there. At least for a couple of years. We’ll see …
On a previous visit, we slept in a sheep farm on the Murchison River, not far from Kalbarri. The night sky, on a new moon, was simply staggering. Nothing like I’d ever seen in 40 years of amateur astronomy !! We’ll time our next visit for another new moon and I’ll bring a telescope with me. The Pilbara is my next goal. We were supposed to visit Karijini NP this time, but it’s a heck of a drive and it’s been photographed so extensively, I was worried it would be a bit of a disappointment, much like Monument Valley in the US. But Cape Range and inland of that seems to be and incredible area too … 🙂
I like the B&Ws too. The stone wall seems to glow far more than on the colour shots. Plus, that kind of tone is clearly one where the Sony struggles to find good white balance. The other B&W, with the small wall swerving is probably my fave.
So you fell for the OTUS 28 🙂 What do you think of it ? The best lens money can buy, if you ask me ! (just as well, given it’s also one of the most expensive 😉 )
My gear was super simple on this trip, the A7rII a 35mm and an 85mm. Something wider might have been useful but stitching is getting so easy I didn’t bother bring my Distagon 25. Maybe a Loxia 21 is in order ?!
I’d love to see your orchid shots !
Sorry guys – that was full of typos or spelling errors – sigh – too bad, it’s english anyway.
I grew up in the eastern wheatbelt not far from Hyden.
The most obvious photographic thing that I think you have missed is evening light on the Salmon gums (Eucalyptus salmonophloia a local eucalyptus species, also the name of a town). The smooth bark becomes luminous in evening light, and is often most alluring in summer and autumn. Perhaps you will be covering in further installments on your way to the Goldfields.
Final point on lingo- its paddock not field (unless you are from the city and brought up on US & UK television programming).
Hi Noel, that something to look forward to. You’re right we missed that totally (I’m ashamed to admit it but the closest we got to that are the gums lit up in King’s Park, in Perth). The Karris in Boranup and Pemberton have a similar glow to them that feels really dreamy. We’ll have to come back in Autumn for the best light.
Paddock: thanks for that, I had no idea 😉
All the best,
Once again i traveled by coming on DearSusan, thanks Pascal ! I never went out of europe in my thirty-ish years of life, and there are still a lot of things to see here, but i never thought of Australia before. It looks magnificent from what i saw and heard here, i would love to see it with my own eyes.
Thanks Mikael, we talk about gear too much 😉 This should be more about sharing locations we love. Australia is indeed magnificent. And huge, so it’s a great place to get a small van, drive and shoot without plan. If you are looking for famous landmarks, it falls remarkably short because it doesn’t have all that many and each are so far from one another. But a day drive through the wheat belt around Perth will fill 2 cards with glorious memories. I’ll be posting a lot more of Australia in the coming weeks. It’ll give you an idea of what to expect in the South Western corner alone. Cheers, Pascal.