Category 'New Zealand'

The best part about staying at Larnach Castle was waking up in a goddamn castle and for a very brief moment this morning the dense fog cleared and we were able to see the breathtaking view that surrounded the property ... before it were gone just as quickly. After a lovely breakfast in the stables we took the audiovisual self-guided tour and learnt about the castle’s origins and tragic history followed by a wander through the gardens enjoying the little tributes to Alice in Wonderland. [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3506,3507,3508,3510,3511,3512"] [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3505,3513"]   Our destination today was Invercargill but the journey was more about meandering through the Catlins to get there. The Catlins is an area of “rugged coastlines” “overlooked by tourists” which I can vouch for because I counted on one hand the cars we passed along the way. It’s one of those places where there’s no specific itinerary except to drive through and pull over at anything that takes your fancy. But I should have known by how hard the marketing tries to get you there that it would actually be disappointing. (Mind you a tour guide suggested we may have visited at the wrong time of year, so who knows? Seriously though - just skip it.)   [caption id="attachment_3528" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Farmland on the way to the Catlins[/caption]   The maps suggest a number of notable stops but from our experience most of them require lengthy drives along loose gravel roads with no guarantee of what you want at the end (I’m looking at you seals). These conditions made our drive more stressful than relaxed and I’d suggest if the Catlins truly wants to be a prime tourist destination they’ll need to pave their roads and maybe throw in a couple of cafes and servos. The stops we chose to visit were:

  • The oft photographed Nugget Point Lighthouse with its rocky outcrops that are supposedly teeming with wildlife (we didn’t see any but still a beautiful and worthy stop nonetheless). It's a ten minute walk from the car park to the Lighthouse.
[gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3515,3516"] [caption id="attachment_3517" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] The view from the Lighthouse[/caption]  
  • Cannibal Bay, home of sea lions although we didn’t see a single one, and the long and winding gravel road to reach it was one of our most harrowing drives in all of NZ.
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  • Purakaunui Falls, a pretty waterfall down a short track. We had a couple of minutes to ourselves (just enough time to set up a tripod) before it was inundated with tourists, the only other people we saw all day. Asian tourists have this uncanny ability to sense when someone is setting up a shot and go out of their way to ruin it.
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  • Cathedral Caves, I was really looking forward to this because it looks incredible in photos but being totally dependent on tide times it was closed for the day.
  • Curio Bay, which is an interesting fossilised beach where you can actually see fallen trees in the rocks. Good for a wander but also dependent on tides.
[gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3523,3524,3525,3526"]  
  • We really wanted to reach Slope Point but by then it was getting dark and we had grown weary of sketchy roads so we headed to Invercargill.
Invercargill seems to have a weird obsession with fast vehicles and not much more. If you are following along with this itinerary I would suggest skipping the Catlins and Invercargill altogether and use the extra night either in Wanaka to explore Mt Aspiring, or in Lake Tekapo for some star viewing with the extra day in Mt Cook doing another walk. We stayed at: ASURE Townsman Motor Lodge We stopped at: Larnach Castle, Nugget Point Lighthouse, Cannibal Bay, Purakaunui Falls, Whistling Frog Cafe, Curio Bay, Invercargill Distance: From Dunedin via the Catlins to Invercargill is approx 3 hours 50 mins drive not including scenic stops. It takes 2.5 hours if you take the direct road (ie. not through the Catlins).

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The benefit of staying in Oamaru, besides its steampunk fascination and its penguin playground, is that it’s quite near the Moeraki Boulders. These oversized and otherworldy boulders scattered along a beach are usually pictured in guidebooks bathed in glorious sunrise light surrounded by silky smooth water. To capture this same shot I plotted out sunrise, checked the tide times and dragged poor Mum out of bed at ridiculous o’clock for the 30 minute drive to the boulders. But because the weather gods hate me it was raining, windy and far too bitterly cold to be out at 6.30am (or 3.30am according to our body clocks). And if you do a Google image search of 'Moeraki Boulders' this weather seems more the norm than those sunrise shots would have you believe. Still, who can complain when you’re surrounded by 1 metre spherical boulders, believed to be 60 MILLION YEARS OLD. [caption id="attachment_3380" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Shitty weather, Koekohe Beach[/caption] [caption id="attachment_3377" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Moeraki Boulders[/caption] [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3374,3381,3375,3376,3378,3379"]   It’s hard to be cranky for long when nature is being so impressive so we hammed it up for the camera for as long as our bodies could handle and then bundled back into the car for the hour long journey to Dunedin. Dunedin is chock full of delights and your itinerary should include:

  • The Old Railway Station which is worth a wander for its grand architecture and if you time it right, you might even be able to snap a photo without bus-loads of Asian tourists.
[gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3385,3384"]  
  • Cadbury World. I’ve wanted to visit here for YEARS only to arrive and find out that, due to school holidays, all the tours were booked out for the day. DO NOT make this mistake and DO NOT then try to relieve your misery by stuffing yourself full of sugar in the café.
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  • St Clair Beach. Lovely for a stroll and some snaps of the wooden poles. You may even spot a seal.
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  • Baldwin Street. The world’s steepest street! Much fun for selfies with a difference and if you’re really keen (and stupid) you can even attempt to drive it, but personally I prefer roller coasters when they’re under someone else’s control.
[gallery size="full" ids="3393,3394,3395"]  
  • Signal Hill for sublime city views
[gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3401,3398,3399,3400"] [caption id="attachment_3396" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Stunning panoramic views of Dunedin from Signal Hill[/caption]  
  • A drive around Portobello Road where the water’s edge is almost at your car tyres. This will take you to Otago Peninsula and the Royal Albatross Centre.
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  • The Royal Albatross Centre. If you’ve made the journey here, definitely take a tour (although it is pricey). We took a brief tour with a sweet Maori woman to do some incognito Albatross spotting (only one in residence at the time, but still cool). I mention that our guide was Maori because she was one of only a handful of Maori people we saw. Where are your Maori people, South Island?
[gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3405,3406,3407,3410"]   To top off your perfect Dunedin day, if your budget allows, I highly recommend a stay at Larnach Castle! A castle, you guys! If the weather is good, take the scenic Highcliff Road there, and if it’s not, don’t or you’ll find yourself on windy roads steeped in fog with not much scenery to be seen, let alone much road. Not super fun. However, arriving at a castle steeped in fog is another story altogether because that’s exactly as castles should be. [gallery size="large" ids="3411,3412,3413"]   Our evening at Larnach involved dressing in our finery (cleanest pair of jeans) and attending a three course meal in the Castle Dining Room where we mingled with fellow guests and learnt about the castle’s history, before eagerly falling into our fancy pants beds. See how much you can fit into a day when you’re up at the crack of dawn? [caption id="attachment_3414" align="alignleft" width="432"] Lodge Room[/caption]                   We stayed at: Larnach Lodge, Larnach Castle. We stopped at: Moeraki Boulders, Dunedin Railway Station, Cadbury World, St Clair Beach, Baldwin Street, Signal Hill, The Royal Albatross Centre, Larnach Castle. Distance: Oamaru to Moeraki is approx 30 minutes. Moeraki to Dunedin is approx 1 hour. Dunedin to the Royal Albatross Centre is approx 40 minutes. Larnach Castle is approx 20 minutes from Dunedin and 30 minutes from the Royal Albatross Centre. * Not including scenic stops.

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It’s not often you get excited about a drive but I was relishing the opportunity to travel the scenic Mount Cook Road once again as we made our way out of Aoraki / Mount Cook and down the east coast. But as usual low lying clouds insisted on hampering my plans, though Lake Pukaki was looking particularly stunning and the sky was an insane colour. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3317,3320,3318,3319,3562,3322"]   We travelled through Twizel, which didn’t seem worth a stop, to Omarama (if you’re headed to Queenstown turn off here via the reportedly beautiful Lindis Pass) and toyed with but decided against visiting the Clay Cliffs. The road travels on through the Waitaki Valley which is particularly pretty. [caption id="attachment_3323" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Lake Benmore near Otematata[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_3335" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Fields of yellow, everywhere[/caption]   We lunched in Duntroon where we discovered the delight that is New Zealand bakeries and their delicious range of interesting treats before exploring nearby Elephant Rocks, a collection of large limestone rocks in the middle of nowhere where not another soul was to be seen (well, except for some curious cows and skittish lambs). I love to photograph surreal landscapes and so these kinds of stops are always a must for me, although Castle Hill along Arthur’s Pass provides a similar experience if you can’t manage both. The rocks themselves were created because this whole area was once under the sea and now they act as a nesting place for local birds. You may recognise the area as Aslan’s camp from the Chronicles of Narnia films. The rocks are housed on private land but are free to visit and have basic toilet facilities if required. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3324,3327,3325,3326,3331,3330,3332,3329"] [gallery columns="1" size="large" ids="3328,3333"]   Afterwards we made our first petrol stop and nearly had a heart attack over the price of petrol at $1.87 per litre, about .60c more expensive than Australia! And this is apparently cheap. What the hell New Zealand?! Our stop for the evening was Oamaru which is a little like stepping back in time and then travelling to the future because this town has a bizarre obsession with all things Steampunk! Take a wander through the ye olde Victorian district with its fabulous old buildings and then visit the massive Steampunk HQ, full of rusty treasures, where you’ll delight in the infinity room. [gallery columns="2" size="large" link="file" ids="3337,3338,3339,3350,3340,3341,3342,3343,3344,3347,3346,3345,3349,3348"]   Oamaru is also famous for its colonies of blue and yellow eyed penguins but due to the wild, windy weather (the worst the town had seen in weeks apparently – just my luck!) we decided to forgo a night out in the elements for a quick glimpse as they waddled home from the sea. You can take day tours of the blue penguin colony (put Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony into your GPS or follow the signs) but for some inexplicable reason this wasn't offered to us when we visited. Maybe next time penguins. We stayed at: ASURE Ambassador Motor Lodge, Oamaru, totally worth it just for their excellent drier which ACTUALLY dried our clothes within 30 mins (gasp) and was free! Also, free muffins (yay). We stopped at: Elephant Rocks, Duntroon and Oamaru including the Victorian District, Steampunk HQ and the Blue Penguin Colony We wore in Spring: Being a windy day a puffer jacket with hood was ideal plus layers including thermals. We were told it was unseasonably cold and overcast though. Distance: Between Aoraki / Mount Cook Village and Oamaru is approx. 2.5 hours, not including scenic stops.

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Today was drizzly and foggy, and what perfect weather to take a four hour 10k hike? Rugged up in our best weatherproofs we walked Mount Cook's Hooker Valley Track through scenery so out of this world that I coined the phrase ‘that’s some Lord of the Rings shit right there’ which was then repeated ad nauseam for the rest of the trip. [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3293,3296,3294,3295"]   If you’re only in the Mount Cook area for a short time this is the one walk out of the numerous on offer that the locals say is a must-do and once you see the utterly gorgeous views you’ll understand why. Bright yellow tussock grass, surrounded by snow-capped mountains with the aquamarine Hooker River bubbling by, this was quite possibly the most stunning landscape I’ve ever seen.   [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3297,3299"]   [gallery columns="1" size="large" ids="3298,3310"]   The walk is flat and not difficult but I still found it a touch strenuous towards the end, likely from the 8kg of camera gear I was carting and the light rain that plagued us the entire way. I definitely recommend driving to the start of the track and walking from there rather than adding an extra hour to the journey by walking from the village as some of the guidebooks suggest and if you’re only here for a REALLY short time, at least walk the 15-20 mins to the first swing bridge for the immense view.   [caption id="attachment_3300" align="aligncenter" width="960"] The look-out over Hooker Valley[/caption]   Speaking of swing bridges, there are three along the track which you’ll either find fantastically fun or a crime against nature, depending on how you feel about heights and the sensation of the ground moving as you walk. If you need a rest there’s a small hut, approximately 2/3rds of the way in that acts as a rest stop and toilet break. For us it was a much needed reprieve from the constant rain and a chance to refuel with some snacks. [gallery size="large" ids="3301,3303,3302"]   About ten minutes after you’ve started clawing at strangers screaming ‘is it much longer?!’ you'll reach the farthest point of the walk, a spectacular glacial lake, featuring the remains of rapidly melting icebergs. The lake is flanked by Aoraki / Mount Cook, NZ’s tallest mountain, which was sadly in hiding while we were there but the view didn’t suffer for it.   Once you’ve drunk in the scenery the return journey follows the same path back and my tip for serious photographers is to use a wide angle lens on the way in and a zoom lens on the way out so you can capture the stunning vistas in their entirety and some close up details for interest. [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3312,3306,3308,3311"]   Unfortunately we were so exhausted and wet by our return that we guzzled a pack of choccy biscuits and fell into bed without dinner and in my greatest regret of the trip I missed out on doing the walk to Tasman Lake, but I guess you have to save something for next time!

  • We wore (in spring): Snow boots (we loved our snow boots because they kept our feet dry but sneakers will do fine otherwise), rainproof pants and jackets, thermal underwear, gloves, scarf and beanie. The scarf turned out to be really handy for wiping water off my camera.
  • Take on the walk: Camera, sunscreen (for sunny days), rainproof gear (for wet days), snacks and at least one bottle of water (get from the village before you leave and expect to pay a fortune).

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When I received an invitation to a wedding in New Zealand I thought to myself, why not? New Zealand has never been high on my bucket list of destinations which I suspect is due to the “friendly” but actually somewhat damaging rivalry that Australians have with New Zealanders. Unfortunately this meant that I had NO IDEA that New Zealand is the world’s best kept secret and is actually the most stunning and friendly country on earth! Move it to the top of your destinations list STAT and for tips on where to go and what to do make sure to refer to this blog series. We arrived in Christchurch around the start of spring and after pursuing cherry blossoms in Japan earlier in the year I was delighted to discover that Christchurch was chock full of cherry blossoms in peak bloom and without all the pesky crowds that Japan draws. [caption id="attachment_3237" align="aligncenter" width="600"]A cherry blossom in Christchurch Botanic Gardens A cherry blossom in Christchurch Botanic Gardens[/caption]   In a strange juxtaposition Christchurch is still very much suffering the effects of the 2011 earthquake as evidenced by the multitude of beautiful ruins. But if you’re like me and are fascinated by abandoned buildings a slow drive around the city centre is like stumbling into a bittersweet dystopia. Christchurch contains so many utterly gorgeous heritage buildings, both intact and otherwise, that I was disappointed to have scheduled so little time here. Had I known I would have forgone that trip to the Re:START shipping container mall with its tourist fodder and ludicrous parking prices and spent my time strolling the streets admiring the buildings. (No photos to show because not enough time obvs.) NB. You'll hear a lot of people say they wish they'd spent LESS time in Christchurch but I think that's because there's just so much to see on the South Island, not that Christchurch is necessarily a crap place to be. [gallery columns="2" link="none" size="large" ids="3238,3239"]   When the Botanic Gardens take up roughly a third of the entire city centre you know it’ll be worth a visit and Christchurch’s gardens naturally did not disappoint. We spent an all too brief morning here after breakfasting at the gardens’ Ilex Café where the waffles are so damn good we came back for them again at the end of our trip and wandered among the gorgeous spring blooms where I had visions of Alice stumbling into Wonderland. In fact I’m planning an Alice inspired art series using pictures I snapped here.   [gallery size="large" link="file" columns="2" ids="3243,3244,3241,3242,3240,3245"]   That afternoon we pointed our hire car towards Mount Cook and at the first sighting of snow-capped mountains pulled over and took roughly 100 photos completely unaware of just how many snow-capped mountains our future held.   [caption id="attachment_3248" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Snow! Snow![/caption]   I recommend you make your first major stop on this drive at Lake Tekapo, 27km worth of brilliant blue glacial waters of which the main road passes only the very tip. This is where you’ll find the Church of the Good Shepherd, which has become almost a rite of passage for astrophotographers due to its location in a dark sky reserve (meaning there’s no artificial light pollution). Unfortunately what we found was bus-loads of tourist and a church far tinier than expected, but as I quickly learned from New Zealand, even when conditions are disappointing the views are still so mind-blowingly stunning that you come away feeling like you’ve experienced something magnificent regardless. If you’re all about star chasing be sure to spend a night here but from what I’ve heard it’ll be a far less solitary experience than you’re probably imagining. Also, summer is a recommended time to visit when the picturesque lupin flowers are in bloom. [caption id="attachment_3249" align="alignleft" width="960"]lake-tekapo-mountains Views of Lake Tekapo[/caption]                     [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3250,3251,3247,3252"]   Further on is NZ’s largest lake, Lake Pukaki and its Information Centre where we stopped for an ice cream with a side of views. [caption id="attachment_3253" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Lake Pukaki Lake Pukaki[/caption]   This lake then accompanies you almost all the way to Aoraki / Mount Cook. The road to Mount Cook is 40 minutes of pure bliss. With an icy blue lake on one side and snow covered mountains in every other direction it’s hard to know where to look but do keep an eye on the road in case freshly shorn sheep are wandering across because this is New Zealand after all!   [caption id="attachment_3261" align="aligncenter" width="960"]the-road Photo stop on the way to Mt Cook[/caption] [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="large" ids="3260,3256,3257,3258"]   We arrived at Mount Cook just on dusk to see the surrounding mountains quickly swallowed by fog (mountains? what mountains?) which dashed my plans for photographing the stars but meant I could get comfortably cosy in the South Island’s snow covered heart. Be aware that due to its remote vicinity Mount Cook’s food choices are expensive and mediocre at best so self-catering is highly recommended. [gallery columns="2" size="large" link="file" ids="3262,3254"]   [caption id="attachment_3259" align="alignright" width="300"]You can't be driving and doing this at the same time Skip driving for selfies with mountains[/caption] We stayed at: Azena Motel, Christchurch (terrible, suggest trying Merivale area instead) and Aoraki Mt Cook Alpine Lodge (good for budget and self-catering but most people stay at the more costly Hermitage). Recommended photo stops: Christchurch City Centre (many roads closed to public), Christchurch Botanic Gardens, Lake Tekapo and the Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Pukaki, and every roadside pullover on the way to Mount Cook (or get your non-photographer friend to drive and use a high shutter speed to freeze the moving scenery). We wore: In spring it was mainly foggy and overcast, cold, but not freezing. Suggest layers and a puffer jacket with hood. Distance: Between Christchurch and Mount Cook Village is approx. 4 hours, not including scenic stops. Please note, although Fox Glacier / Franz Josef is close to Mount Cook on a map, you can only get there by helicopter so you'll need to drive to the West Coast to access it. This confuses TripAdvisor so make sure you're staying in the right township.

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Whenever I travel overseas I always muse about how little history Australia has compared to the rest of the world but that’s because I live in suburbia and forget that driving just an hour or two inland is like travelling back in time. It makes me wonder how many tourists miss out on country town Australia by never leaving the beaten track. There are plenty of stunning coastal destinations within easy reach of Brisbane but when I need a fix of the country I head to the Southern Downs region; an area that contains the perfect mix of history and nature. From Brisbane, take the Cunningham Highway towards Warwick. Admittedly the drive is a little dull for the first hour but picks up around Aratula which is a great place to stop for some local produce and a bite to eat. Shortly after you’ll enter Main Range National Park as you drive up Cunningham’s Gap through the Great Dividing Range. There’s a number of hikes of various lengths around here, but as I always tend to visit in the warmer months I prefer to appreciate the mountainous scenery from my air-conditioned car. [caption id="attachment_3461" align="aligncenter" width="300"] View from Cunningham's Gap[/caption]   I tend to always visit the region during summer so I can photograph the sunflowers but with many outstanding outdoor locations the cooler months would be more pleasant for exploring. There’s a variety of ways to spend your time in the Southern Downs region so here’s a few of my favourites to pick and choose from. Click the map for exact locations.

Glengallan Homestead:

Once you reach the New England Highway take the turn-off towards Allora and then a quick right to visit Glengallan Homestead. Glengallan is a heritage listed and semi-restored house open to the public from Wednesdays to Sundays. Built in the 1800s, it later fell into disrepair and has since been revived with funding. I’ve seen a few old homesteads in my time but this one really tickled my fancy because the restoration is incomplete and I love anything abandoned and rundown. Don’t miss the mummified cat. A visit here will take roughly 30 minutes and costs $10. [gallery size="large" ids="3462,3463,3464"]  

Mary Poppins House:

If you have the time drive on to Allora where you can see the childhood home of P.L. Travers, the author of ‘Mary Poppins’. The house is found towards the end of the main street and can be visited by appointment only. We were incredibly lucky to be passing by just as the owner was out the front and she kindly agreed to allow us to look through. [gallery size="large" ids="3465,3466,3467"]  

Sunflowers:

My favourite reason for visiting the Southern Downs is sunflowers! If you visit during the summer months there’s a chance you’ll stumble across a sunflower field but I’d strongly suggest checking out my sunflower post for specific tips on where to find them.

Warwick:

It’s 20 minutes back to Warwick from Allora. Warwick certainly has that colonial country town feel we lack in the cities and no shortage of beautiful heritage buildings, but not a whole lot to do otherwise. We had dinner at Soban House which was a grossly understated gem and the best Japanese food I’ve ever had!

Queen Mary Falls:

If you’ve got a hankering for a waterfall 40 minutes east of Warwick near the lovely township of Killarney you’ll find the Falls Drive. There’s plenty to explore so refer to this map to plan your trip. We first visited Daggs Falls lookout which is just beside the road and then continued on to Queen Mary Falls. You can do a short walk here which overlooks the falls and then decide if you wish to walk on to the bottom of the falls (the on-site map makes this much more confusing than it actually is). I was devastated to discover that due to recent rainfall the longer track was closed so I’d suggest checking track conditions before you make the trip. [gallery size="large" ids="3469,3470,3471"]   If you continue on towards Boonah you’ll find Carrs Lookout with stunning views but be warned, if you decide to drive back to Brisbane from here you will find yourself on very steep, narrow and almost deserted road. There were a couple of times on this drive I thought I was going to die. The one perk is that you’ll drive through Main Range National Park where you’ll find yourself completely surrounded by the sound of bellbirds and cicadas. It’s truly magical but still not worth the stressful drive. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3472,3473"]

Stanthorpe:

If food and wine experiences are more your thing then a visit to Stanthorpe is a must. Only 45 minutes from Warwick you’ll start to discover an abundance of wineries and plenty of local stores full of farm fresh produce. The area is particularly famous for apples so you can’t go past Suttons Juice Factory for a slice of pie. And if you stay the night I recommend Stannum Lodge Motor Inn followed by Brinx Deli for an excellent breakfast.   [caption id="attachment_3474" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Mount Marley lookout, Stanthorpe[/caption]   Girraween National Park: Being a photographer I try and seek out unusual landscapes and Girraween National Park, 30 mins south of Stanthorpe, certainly ticks my boxes. Situated in the Granite Belt the landscape is primarily rock with huge boulders in impossible formations, walking tracks and waterholes. We visited in summer but apparently in the cooler months the place is alive with wildflowers. There’s also camping options if you’re that way inclined. [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3475,3477"]   What’s your favourite thing to do in the Southern Downs?

Wandering through a field completely alone yet surrounded by flowers as tall as a man who whisper in the breeze to the sky above, ablaze with colour. Watching sunset from the middle of a sunflower field is one of the stranger, yet loveliest things I've done. The blooming of the sunflowers in the Southern Downs region is an event on every local photographer’s calendar as there are few things more picturesque than rows upon rows of the biggest, brightest flowers raising their faces to the sky. The places to spot them are around the areas of Warwick and Allora but they can be tough to find as they only bloom for a month of two throughout summer and only if conditions are prime. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3438,3439"]   Without doing the proper research you’ll probably find yourself like me on my first visit, driving along Warwick’s Sunflower Route expecting to be surrounded by fields of gold but finding only fields of green. My best advice is to check in regularly with Warwick QLD Visitor Information Centre’s Facebook page from December to March and once they announce the sunflowers are in bloom wait until people start posting their own photos to the page so you can hone in on specific locations. If you’re really keen there are a number of Brisbane Photography Facebook groups full of sunflower seekers who’ll be sure to offer advice. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3440,3441"]   The three best locations I’ve found (based on ease of entry and safe areas to pull over) are:

1. Freestone Road

My favourite drive from Brisbane to Warwick is via Cunningham’s Gap through the Great Dividing Range. As you get closer to Warwick, Freestone Road will be a turn off to your left. Travel along for awhile and once past Freestone (blink and you’ll miss it) there’s a well accessible field to your right with shoulder height, tightly spaced, sunflowers. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3443,3444"]  

2. Cunningham Highway junction between Warwick and Allora

The Cunningham Highway reaches a junction where you’ll need to choose between turning right to Allora or left to Warwick. Dead ahead you’ll find a couple of huge fields with 6 foot, well-spaced sunflowers. (They’re very close to Glengallan Homestead.) NB. When we headed up to Warwick it was heavily overcast and threatened to rain the entire day. About 30 minutes before sunset I looked out the hotel room window and noticed a touch of colour in the sky so I jumped in the car  and drove back to the sunflowers *just in case*. These images were the result. [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3447,3446"] [caption id="attachment_3445" align="aligncenter" width="960"] The mean sky gave me an F-[/caption]  

3. Emu Vale, between Yangan and Killarney

From Warwick drive towards Yangan/Killarney and around Emu Vale you’ll spot yellow faces in the distance. Take the left just beforehand for best access and here you’ll find perfectly sized and spaced sunflowers.   It’s always recommended to get the farmer’s permission before you go tromping about in the fields but in all honesty I found it difficult to know which properties to approach and just tried to be as respectful of the flowers as possible. I definitely recommend taking gumboots as the ground can get squelchy if there’s been rain about and be prepared for bees and flies aplenty. Being the height of summer also remember the hat and sunscreen; I came away burnt after only twenty minutes. [caption id="attachment_3431" align="aligncenter" width="171"] The gumboots I've had in my car for 5 years finally came in handy.[/caption]  

Tips for photographing the sunflowers

Use a high aperture (f/11 or above) and take overhead shots of the field to get the rows of sunflowers in focus. Use a low aperture (f5.6 or below) among the flowers themselves to blur those closest to camera and direct the eye to an interesting flower or person. Try and put something or someone into the scene for interest, preferably in colours that stand out from the flowers. Aim for a time when the sun is low so you can capture it shining through the flowers. Warwick is a good two hour drive from Brisbane and if you’re keen to photograph the sunflowers at sunrise or sunset you’ll need to spend a night in the region so check out this post featuring recommendations on other things to experience while you’re here! Have you been to see the sunflowers?

For me every new year is a chance for reinvention so with 2017 on the horizon I have been going through a period of deep self -reflection. 2015 was the year I became an artist and I built a portfolio of 40 pieces that I’m very proud of. 2016 was the year I spent most of my time on marketing that body of work and as a result I only created 12 pieces. It has been a year of highs and lows; a year where I started to make money and gain recognition for my work but also, somehow, had no time to create art. [gallery size="medium" link="none" ids="2841,2869,2933"]   I’ve learnt so much about the art world—mainly that art is consumed differently from its hey-day in the 80s and yet it’s still trying to operate on an antiquated gallery-focused model. I’ve learnt that the art world, particularly in Australia, is divided between traditional and subversive and my work doesn’t fit into either box. My exhibition at the Hub Gallery, Caboolture The Internet has given artists the opportunity for wider reach but it’s also flooded with competition so I’ve spent the majority of my year learning about arts marketing and implementing different strategies with limited success. I’ve seen so many fellow artists become marketers and educators – setting up online courses, mastering email marketing funnels, trying to make their work go viral – all in the hope that they’ll begin to make serious money from their art but in the process they lose the essence of what it is to make art. I don’t want this to happen to me. I signed up to be an artist, not a teacher, not a marketer. So I’ve decided to stop buying into all this arts marketing crap and getting caught in the nets of people trying to capitalise on artists and instead focus on the things that make my heart sing. The one useful thing I’ve learned is to picture exactly what I want my life and my business to look like and then work towards that goal every day. This may surprise you but my ultimate goal is to travel and either get paid to do it or live off a passive income. In fact this line has been in my bio since day 1: “My dream is to travel around Australia creating photographic art in rural and iconic locations.” While I have been taking baby steps towards this goal, mainly through my travel Instagram account (@hayleyrtravels), it’s unlikely anyone looking at my art would even know this about me. That’s why in 2017 I want to launch something new. My four passions are photography, travel, art and writing, in that order, and so I’m trying to create something that combines all four. I don’t know exactly what it will look like and the experimentation process has been really hard because it’s a whole new way of thinking and working, and I’m the kind of person who gets frustrated if I’m not good at something right away. It feels weird to be back at the drawing board but I know if I keep at it something will come together eventually. The things I am working towards are:

  • Travelling more
  • Writing a blog about each place I travel to
  • Creating a photo essay documenting my travels so I can pursue more landscape work
  • Making art pieces created out of photographs I’ve taken in those locations
The road to Mt Cook As I learnt from my 2015 Exposing Illusions project I am a better artist when I have a project. So this new project will involve art pieces inspired by travel. I intend to create much more simply, art that takes hours instead of weeks, because I long for the wilderness and need to stop spending so much time at a computer. I plan to sell prints and products made from my work using an online distributor at a price everyone can afford in the hope that these sales will fund future travel. I will also sell limited edition feature prints created by a professional printer at a higher, more collectible, price point. I will market this work to commercial, travel and stock agencies in the hope they see value in what I do. Naturally this all terrifies me. Deep down I’m convinced that I will only ever be mediocre no matter how hard I try. But I need to try regardless. For now I ask for your patience while I create this project and your assistance to help me fine-tune it. I’d like you to be my test audience and will ask for your honest feedback on various components. I’d love for you to be my champions, helping me get the word out about this project. I know that it will be a long journey to my end goal but I’m excited about all the things I will learn on the way. Come for a ride?

22
Apr

2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Day 6 : Dunedin to Invercargill

The best part about staying at Larnach Castle was waking up in a goddamn castle and for a very brief moment this morning the dense fog cleared and we were able to see the breathtaking view that surrounded the property … before it were gone just as quickly. After a lovely breakfast in the stables we took […]

8
Apr

2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Day 5 : Oamaru to Dunedin

The benefit of staying in Oamaru, besides its steampunk fascination and its penguin playground, is that it’s quite near the Moeraki Boulders. These oversized and otherworldy boulders scattered along a beach are usually pictured in guidebooks bathed in glorious sunrise light surrounded by silky smooth water. To capture this same shot I plotted out sunrise, […]

25
Mar

2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Day 4 : Mount Cook to Oamaru

It’s not often you get excited about a drive but I was relishing the opportunity to travel the scenic Mount Cook Road once again as we made our way out of Aoraki / Mount Cook and down the east coast. But as usual low lying clouds insisted on hampering my plans, though Lake Pukaki was looking […]

11
Mar

2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Day 3 : Aoraki/Mount Cook, Hooker Valley

Today was drizzly and foggy, and what perfect weather to take a four hour 10k hike? Rugged up in our best weatherproofs we walked Mount Cook’s Hooker Valley Track through scenery so out of this world that I coined the phrase ‘that’s some Lord of the Rings shit right there’ which was then repeated ad […]

25
Feb

2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Days 1-2: Christchurch to Aoraki / Mount Cook

When I received an invitation to a wedding in New Zealand I thought to myself, why not? New Zealand has never been high on my bucket list of destinations which I suspect is due to the “friendly” but actually somewhat damaging rivalry that Australians have with New Zealanders. Unfortunately this meant that I had NO […]

11
Feb

A weekend in the Southern Downs

Whenever I travel overseas I always muse about how little history Australia has compared to the rest of the world but that’s because I live in suburbia and forget that driving just an hour or two inland is like travelling back in time. It makes me wonder how many tourists miss out on country town […]

4
Feb

A visit to the Southern Downs summer sunflowers

Wandering through a field completely alone yet surrounded by flowers as tall as a man who whisper in the breeze to the sky above, ablaze with colour. Watching sunset from the middle of a sunflower field is one of the stranger, yet loveliest things I’ve done. The blooming of the sunflowers in the Southern Downs […]

4
Dec

Flying dreams

For me every new year is a chance for reinvention so with 2017 on the horizon I have been going through a period of deep self -reflection. 2015 was the year I became an artist and I built a portfolio of 40 pieces that I’m very proud of. 2016 was the year I spent most […]