Another December was drawing to a close impossibly quickly. A hectic lead-up to Christmas, the long road trip to Inverell, and day upon day of summer heat had been draining. The premature prospect of the New Year was looming large. Adding insult to injury, the first hot cross buns had appeared most impertinently in the supermarket. I just wasn’t ready for this!
When it’s time to hit the eject button I can always rely on photography to come to the rescue and take me to my happy place.
Escaping to the great outdoors for me is a pretty obvious way to recharge. Add a camera and tripod to the equation, and you’re really forced to decelerate, observe, focus and absorb the present moment. Once in a while this even helps me to completely lose track of time – a rare occurrence for me back in the city, and always very calming.
So, before I fell into January’s clutches, I jumped at the opportunity to explore Kwiambal National Park in the far north of New South Wales.
This isolated park offers the most rewarding walks and dramatic landscapes to be found anywhere in the Inverell Shire. The highlight would have to be the wild and rugged granite gorge country carved out by the Macintyre and Severn Rivers.Taking an unscripted approach to a photography trek can open the door to spontaneity and a more creative approach in choosing subjects to capture. This was one such time when I was content just to meander and discover. I did want to scout the Severn River side of the Park for future reference, but that was more or less the full extent of my plan.
I’d already switched to creative mode during the drive north from Inverell on the Ashford Road. Some insanely intricate cloud formations had me transfixed, and tempted me into some roadside photo stops along the way.Arriving at the park in the mid-afternoon I left the car at the Lemon Tree Flat campground and set off along the Junction Walk. This is a reasonably easy path, although steep and rough in places, following the Severn River downstream to its confluence with the Macintyre. Those extravagant clouds were long gone, but the captivating trees and granite boulders on this walk now had me fully engrossed.
A slow pace in the shade of photogenic trees suited me well on this hot, still mid-summer afternoon. My preoccupation with trees and rocks had already helped me to switch off, but this meant that I didn’t reach the Severn Falls before daylight faded. A return trip was now obligatory!
I decided that early morning would be a better time to explore the park at this time of year. So for the second time around, two days later, I started out from Inverell before sunrise.
For the best quality of light, landscape photography usually demands an early morning arrival or an evening departure from your location. In this part of the world there’s an abundance of creatures, great and small, all wanting to share the road with you.
Large kangaroos, wallabies, wild goats, cattle, and emus were darting left and right. It was a slow and cautious drive, especially on the unsealed section of road. I’ll seriously consider camping out next time to make better use of time.The cooler temperature of the morning made for a more comfortable and productive walk, and gave me ample time to reach both the Severn Falls and The Dungeon, further downstream on the Severn via the Junction Walk. The views of the river overlooking the falls are superb. I took plenty of time at this location exploring different viewpoints and potential compositions; the best uninterrupted views being found slightly off the track.
To capture the full scale of the scene in a single frame was a challenge, so I took advantage of my recently acquired L-Plate to compose some stitched panoramas.Further down the track, I came across this intriguing, weathered, gravestone-like slab of granite. In the contrasting light I shot with a dramatic black and white image in mind, and I love the end result.
With so many distractions along the way it had taken me over 3 hours to eventually reach the lookout over the gorge at The Dungeon.
I could have spent the rest of the day just scrambling around The Dungeon looking for dramatic compositions, but towards midday the temperature was creeping steadily upwards. I called it a day, delighted with my orientation to this side of the park, and happy to leave with a handful of fresh images.
Despite feeling overheated, thirsty and physically tired, the post-Christmas workout was badly needed, and I was starting to feel the positive effects of the instant recharge already. It didn’t occur to me until later that I’d spent a total of eight hours walking and exploring, and hadn’t come across a single person on the track the entire time – although the shady campground was well populated.The rugged scenery around The Dungeon especially appealed to me, and this location in itself is definitely a worthy project for another time. By all accounts this is quite a sight when the river is in flood. The remainder of the trail down to the Junction will have to wait for another visit, perhaps in the cooler months.
Mission accomplished, I headed back to town refreshed and inspired to invest some serious time here next time around.
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