Snowsearch - Crowther’s Forest, Bullocks Hill Trail & Brumby shoot. 17th Oct 2019. October 20 2019

It’s difficult getting your head around dressing for a Snowy Mountains Spring Snowsearch photography run when you live in a southern Sydney beach-side suburb. Outside temp around 3am is about 14 deg C. I’m pulling on Thermals now, because I won’t want to later. It's going to be a cozy drive ! Packing scarves, beanie & layers, without much commitment. As it turns out, I forgot my finger-gloves, & froze in each of the day’s 3 shoots. Started driving at 4.15am. 2hrs to Goulburn, 2hrs to Cooma. Fill the tank, & start visualizing the 1st shoot as I turn onto the Snowy Mountains Highway.

1st shoot was at Crowther’s Forest; a stand of young Scribbly Gums, just before Adaminaby.  Really beautiful to see, with smooth white trunks glowing in the mid-morning sun, whether from a distance or close-up. The wind was howling, the wind chill was impressive & I was tired & hungry after a 5hr drive. I enjoyed the hunt for a few minutes, told myself to `do your best’ for a few more minutes, & suddenly realised I was freezing. Realised I needed a coat, despite the warm sun.  Happy, though. Great to be shooting such beauty. The arty scribblings in the bark are the result of a grub gnawing it’s way through the day. Possibly, the inspiration for generations of graffiti-artists ? Unlikely. Nothing so noble.  Shot with a Nikkor 60mm F/2.8 Micro lens.

After brunch at Adaminaby Café (Steak Sandwich & a Flat White - awesome !), I drove through Kiandra, to Bullock’s Hill Trail. The snow hadn’t yet arrived (!), although intermittent Hail showers were blowing through. Mostly light, with hail the size of bean bag pellets.  In the image featured here, I’m ringed by 4 hail showers moving through the image. Lovely to watch as the showers moved into the distance. The light was beautifully-saturated clear gold & dark cloud, in as long as it took me to type this. Crikey. And so it proved. In the time it took me to shoot 5 sets of 6 & 7 images, the images were full of dark & gold. Never mind. It is what it is.

Did the set-up for  the 2nd shoot  in the hanging valley I’ve wanted to shoot for ages. Been here lots, without great light. As you’ll see, the light’s everything in the Australian bush. If you don’t get great light, the Australian bush is dark, even without the dark cloud of today’s shoot.  It’s my 1st Pano-gear set-up on Tussock grass, (I often free-shoot my images on trips, when I don’t feel inclined to set up the rig) & I found with a shock that it was impossible to get a guaranteed set-up. Didn't see that coming !. The Tussock grass is a complete ground-cover; thick as, & very spongy. And, the wind was up. Do your best. If it doesn’t stitch accurately, deal with it then. No worries, though. All good. Enjoying myself enormously, with 2 great shoots done. A 6 (portrait) image stitch, shot with a Novoflex Pro-ll Panorama rig, & a Nikkor 85mm F/1.4 Prime lens.

Next, to hunt for some Brumby images. I packed up the gear, & drove back towards Kiandra, turning onto the Link Rd, driving past the (closed-for-summer) Selwyn Ski Resort, driving through to 3 Mile Dam. Tired as I was, the landscape looked windswept, dark & uninviting. The cloud had thickened & descended, & the forecast Snow hadn't happened. Despite a half-hour snooze before the previous shoot, my tiredness was hampering my mood. However, I’d found a herd of Brumbies in a side valley on the drive in. Let's do this !

The 3rd shoot became a Brumbyathon. From the 1st sighting, they’d moved slowly up a ridge, parallel to the road. Moving slowly, I was able to plan an intercept, which worked. I had the pleasure of watching & shooting a mob as they fed & played & fed again. They're amazing to watch. The light was beautiful & hopeless as the cloud ripped across the landscape.  Eventually, I stopped shooting because my fingers wouldn’t work any more. It was a great shoot, & the closest I’ve been to them, at 5 metres at the end of the shoot. At that point, I’d started to feel a bit vulnerable, & began to back away, as they moved towards me.  I’d shot them in mock-battle play earlier, & was stunned at the sight. When they rear, they’re big ! In all truth, though, they accepted me. In fact, I was irrelevant. They were totally about fueling-up for the approaching night, moving slowly towards a sheltered valley I’d found them using in blizzards on previous trips. Shot with a Nikkor 70-200mm F/2.8 zoom lens. Blown-away, too, by the muted colours in the landscape. So good. 

 A couple of stallions doing what they do, with the rest of the mob ignoring the display of bravado totally. 

 Imagine a photographer under this ?. I suppose, if you jagged the correct settings, your last shot would be a ripper.

 How cute are you ?

I'm watching you ..

 

I left, totally amped at the experience. I've made a point of shooting the Brumbies as often as possible this last seaon, & got to know something of their habits. Such beautiful animals, & such survivors in an incredibly harsh environment. It was a profound experience; being able to shoot such a peaceful yet dynamic group of animals, particularly from such close range. Photographically, with Brumby shoots, I usually wish for more reach, but this time was great. So good.  I hadn’t got any Snow, but got hailed-on regularly, which was great fun, listening to the hail rattling on the Goretex shell. Just brilliant.

  

The drive home was as drawn-out as ever, with commitments the next morning ruling out a sleep or a stopover. Happily, the car is beautiful on the open road, & I enjoyed the drive home. After driving 1055 km in the day, I finished the trip as fresh as a daisy. Nevertheless, probably the last run for the Type-R. It’ll go shortly, making way for an AWD that’ll give me more flexibility & safety on back-roads & snow-filled roadsides. The Type-R doesn’t do chains & is too low for bush tracks. End of an era, approaching. Sigh .. 

 Footnote: you won't find Crowther's Forest on Google ..