My introduction to this beautiful part of the world was on a cool, crisp and sunny October morning.
I was scouting for a good location for a dusk or dawn photo shoot during a short visit to the southern end of the Bay of Fires. Having only a day up my sleeve I decided on a quick visit to the small village of Binalong Bay, near St Helens, due to its easy accessibility.
Stopping first at the beach I was struck by the blinding white sand and crystal clear water. I could have been in tropical north Queensland, except my woollen beanie and parka confirmed that I was actually standing on the east coast of Tasmania.
I thought I was prepared to see the iconic orange lichen on the granite boulders of the Bay of Fires as I’ve seen many images from here, but nothing compares to seeing this almost alien landscape in real life.
The rocky point at the small harbour at the end of Binalong Bay Road is covered with granite boulders, and has many small rock-lined channels. There are views over water both to the east and west, making it an ideal place for photography either at sunrise or sunset.
The scene was like nothing I had seen in Australia, so my impatience to return here at the right time of day was already building, and I decided to return for some dusk shots.
Heading off the following afternoon we encountered very thick smoke billowing from the hills behind St Helens on the way, almost blocking out the sun. A hazard reduction burn probably, but the Bay of Fires was living up to its name, and the smoke I thought should add an extra element to the mix of light and colour.
Then, in no time at all an unwelcome cover of thick grey cloud rolled in, and I had all but given up on seeing any sort of sunset. All was not lost though, with more time now for an early dinner with a brilliant view at the Binalong Bay Café. I had one eye on a plate of delicious local oysters, and the other trying to spot whales out in the bay on their journey south.
After some great Tassie seafood the time came to head for home. Just then as if flicking a switch, the clouds overhead warmed up in a soft glow from a break in the clouds to the west.
As the sky brightened a distinctive ‘UFO cloud’ was illuminated. I later discovered the meteorological term for this cloud formation is “lenticular cloud”, which is apparently responsible for many UFO sighting claims around the world!
With the sudden change in light there was barely enough time to drive to the location and set up my equipment. The display of colours and cloud formations was incredible, almost outrageous! The light smoke haze exaggerated the brightening pinks and oranges in the sky, the lower lenticular cloud hovered in its extra-terrestrial brightness, and all this warm, rich colouring was reflected from the sky to the water below. With a foreground of orange lichen covered rocks and green weed the scene really did look “Out of this world” as I captured this image at 7:31 …
Four minutes later the pinks in the sky became even brighter, casting a more concentrated reflection on the water below, and the UFO cloud had transformed into a suspicious looking dark shadow. “Fire in the sky” was captured at 7:35 …
Just five minutes later with darkness descending, I went for a slightly different composition, and a longer 13 second exposure. To emphasize the moodiness I felt from this image I darkened the corners slightly in post processing to enhance the atmosphere in “The Final Curtain” …
Seeing the newly imported images later on the laptop, I wanted to preserve the integrity of the colours from a natural scene that had been truly surreal. This was quite a challenge, but I was determined to be restrained in my interpretation, and to present the warm colours faithfully.
When the image “Fire in the Sky” was recently featured on the Discover Tasmania and Tourism Australia Facebook pages, I was really pleased to see the feedback from Binalong Bay locals, proudly assuring all that yes, it really can look like this.
This memorable afternoon reminded me of how important it is to be patient as a photographer, and to always be set up and prepared for the few brief minutes when a grey cloudy gloom can suddenly transform into a colourful sky show. Sure, it might not happen every day, but I can only imagine my disappointment had I driven off and seen this incredible sky when I was back on the highway.
I was so fortunate to have experienced Binalong Bay on this particular afternoon. I really envy the fortunate people who live in this amazing area, and for whom these natural wonders must surely be a great source of pleasure the whole year around.
Note to self: Come back very soon to spend more time in this beautiful part of the world.
Prints of these images are available for purchase. See my Tasmania gallery.
Technical Info …
Sony DSLR-A850, Carl Zeiss 16-35mm f2.8 lens, Lee Filters ND Grads 0.9 soft (3 stops) & 0.6 soft (2 stops). Cable shutter release. Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod with 496RC2 ball head. RAW conversion in Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw 7.0.
All images are from single exposures using graduated neutral density filters.
“Out of This World”: Focal length 20mm. 6 secs @ f18. ISO 100, Lee ND Grad 0.9 soft & 0.6 soft. “Fire in the Sky”: Focal length 17mm. 3.2 secs @ f16. ISO 100, Lee ND Grad 0.9 soft. “The Final Curtain”: Focal length 20mm. 13 secs @ f20. ISO 100, Lee ND Grad 0.6 soft.