Photos from South Georgia and the Falkland Islands Added To Gallery

My favourite images from my cruise to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia are now in the gallery. The amount of wildlife on these islands was breathtaking.

View new images in South Georgia and the Falkland Islands gallery.

Driving Around Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

Sunset Over the Hawkesbury River: Sunset Over the Hawkesbury River

On the weekend I went for a drive around Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, stopping frequently to take pictures of great views and to hike down some short tracks near the road. It’s amazing how far out in the bush the park can feel even though it is still within the Sydney metropolitan area. Towards the end of the day, we came across a Wallaby near West Head lookout – the first wild wallaby I have seen in the Sydney area. We then saw a nice sunset over the Hawkesbury River near West Head Road

Coal and Candle Creek from Cottage Point Road: Coal and Candle Creek from Cottage Point Road
Smiths Creek from Cottage Point Road: Smiths Creek from Cottage Point Road
Illawong Bay: Illawong Bay
Burnt bushland along the Willunga Track: Burnt bushland along the Willunga Track
View back towards Sydney from the Willunga Track: View back towards Sydney from the Willunga Track
View along Willunga Track: View along Willunga Track
Pittwater from the Willunga Track: Pittwater from the Willunga Track
Barrenjoey Head from West Head Lookout: Barrenjoey Head from West Head Lookout
Pittwater from West Head Lookout: Pittwater from West Head Lookout
West Head Beach: West Head Beach
View from West Head Lookout: View from West Head Lookout
Wallaby seen near West Head: Wallaby seen near West Head
Hawkesbury River Sunset: Hawkesbury River Sunset

Sydney New Year’s Eve 2012 Fireworks

Fireworks from the Cahill Expressway: Fireworks from the Cahill Expressway

Having been away travelling on New Year’s eve for the past couple of years, it was nice to be home in Sydney to watch the fireworks display. I was fortunate to win some tickets to watch the midnight fireworks on the Cahill Expressway. However, as we weren’t able to to access the viewing area until 10:30pm, we decided to watch the 9pm fireworks at Observatory Hill.

Arriving at the observatory around 6:30pm, we had limited choices for seats, and ended up low down on the hill. We had a great view of one of the fireworks barges, but were unable to see much of the harbour water and didn’t have a great view of the bridge – fortunately for us, the bridge wasn’t used at all for these fireworks! Surprisingly, the crowd was very relaxed, with no one standing up during the fireworks!

Afterwards, we quickly made our way to the entrance of the Cahill Expressway, and were several hundred people back in the queue. Despite this, we were still able to get a good front row position for viewing the Harbour Bridge. While more packed than Observatory Hill, it was still much more relaxing than my experiences in other public areas around the harbour in previous years, and the views for the midnight fireworks were brilliant.

Below are some of my favourite photos of the night. And of course, Happy New Year!

Fireworks from the Cahill Expressway: Fireworks from the Cahill Expressway
Fireworks from the Cahill Expressway: Fireworks from the Cahill Expressway
Fireworks from the Cahill Expressway: Fireworks from the Cahill Expressway
Fireworks from the Cahill Expressway: Fireworks from the Cahill Expressway
Fireworks from the Cahill Expressway: Fireworks from the Cahill Expressway
Fireworks from the Cahill Expressway: Fireworks from the Cahill Expressway
Fireworks from the Cahill Expressway: Fireworks from the Cahill Expressway
Fireworks from the Cahill Expressway: Fireworks from the Cahill Expressway
sydney-nye-fireworks-cahill-freeway-8: sydney-nye-fireworks-cahill-freeway-8
Fireworks from the Cahill Expressway: Fireworks from the Cahill Expressway
Smoke around the bridge just after the fireworks: Smoke around the bridge just after the fireworks
Fireworks from Observatory Hill: Fireworks from Observatory Hill
Fireworks from Observatory Hill: Fireworks from Observatory Hill
Fireworks from Observatory Hill: Fireworks from Observatory Hill
Fireworks from Observatory Hill: Fireworks from Observatory Hill
Fireworks from Observatory Hill: Fireworks from Observatory Hill
Fireworks from Observatory Hill: Fireworks from Observatory Hill
Fancy shaped fireworks from Observatory Hill: Fancy shaped fireworks from Observatory Hill
Fireworks from Observatory Hill: Fireworks from Observatory Hill
A stunt plane flying around the harbour: A stunt plane flying around the harbour
Crowds leaving the viewing areas: Crowds leaving the viewing areas

Warragamba Dam Wall and Burragorang Lookout

View from Burragorang Lookout: View from Burragorang Lookout

The dam wall from Terrace Gardens: The dam wall from Terrace Gardens
Access to the wall of Warragamba Dam, the main water supply for Sydney, has been closed to the public since 1998 for renovations. It was recently announced that until the end of January, part of the wall will be reopened for public access on weekends as part of a trial.

Warragamba Dam behind the wall: Warragamba Dam behind the wall
On the weekend I went with a few friends to see it. We were only allowed to walk around halfway across the wall, but it was enough to get a good view looking straight down the 100m wall and across the valley. From the wall you can go down a flight of steps to the Terrace Gardens, just to the front side of the wall. From here there were some partially obstructed views of the dam wall. Unfortunately a small platform that looked like it would give a great front on view was inexplicably closed off.

One of the information signs at the dam: One of the information signs at the dam
The area looks like it had very recently been refurbished, with new information signs about the dam and its construction placed around the viewing areas. One of the signs had some text that didn’t make much sense: “Warragamba dam was originally designed to cope with floods that have one chance in 700 of happening in any year. Experts say it’s now possible to experience floods with up to one chance in 100,000 of happening in any year.”

After visiting the dam, we went on a pleasant 45 minute drive south to Burragorang lookout, which gives a high vantage point over part of the lake formed by the dam. The view was well worth the trip, and would be a nice place to catch sunset.

Lake Burragorang seen on a flight to Adelaide: Lake Burragorang seen on a flight to Adelaide
Lake Burragorang near Warragamba Dam: Lake Burragorang near Warragamba Dam
The Warragamba Dam wall from the air: The Warragamba Dam wall from the air
Looking downstream from the wall of the dam: Looking downstream from the wall of the dam
A side view of the dam wall: A side view of the dam wall

Photos from Thailand and Cambodia Added To Gallery

At the end of last year I went to Thailand and Cambodia with a few friends. My favourite photos from that holiday – from the beaches and cliffs of Southern Thailand, the elaborately decorated temples of Bangkok and the incredible ruins of the Angkor civilisation in Siem Reap – are now in the South-east Asia Gallery.

View new images in Southeast Asia gallery.

Coober Pedy and The Breakaways Country

Coober Pedy from the air: Coober Pedy from the air

My favourite photos from the Coober Pedy area can be found in the Outback Australia Collection.

Sunrise from Coober Pedy: Sunrise from Coober Pedy
Coober Pedy, in central South Australia, is famous in Australia for being the home of Opal mining, and for the searing summer temperatures that have resulted in a large percentage of the population living in underground homes. During a short visit this year, I discovered that this quirky and remote outback town is nearby some beautiful, and remarkably relatively unknown, natural landscapes.

The interior of the Lookout Cave Motel: The interior of the Lookout Cave Motel
My journey to Coober Pedy started at the main Adelaide bus station, where I boarded a Greyhound coach for a long overnight 11 hour drive. After draining my laptop and phone batteries, I tried to get some sleep by lying down across two seats – given how narrow bus seats are, this was pretty uncomfortable. Finally, the bus arrived at 5am, but being a small country town, nothing was open, so I had a further three hours of sitting outside waiting for my hotel’s reception to open for the day. Forgetting to pack a book didn’t help time pass, though I did see a nice sunrise.

True to the nature of the town, most hotels are underground. I stayed at the Lookout Cave Motel, built into the side of one of the larger hills in the town. The hotel itself was pleasant, and the underground rooms meant the temperature stayed warm over the cold winter night.

Outside the town – Breakways Country

The featureless Moon Plain: The featureless Moon Plain
The main reason for my trip to Coober Pedy was to see the Breakaways country around Coober Pedy, where, in a few small places, steep hills of white, orange, yellow and red rock protrude from an otherwise flat, featureless desert landscape. They are the remnants of an ancient sea floor that covered much of inland Australia millions of years ago.

The Dingo Fence stretching over the Moon Plain: The Dingo Fence stretching over the Moon Plain
A journey to two of these places, The Breakaways and the Painted Desert, involves traversing the Moon Plain – a perfectly flat, lifeless expanse of rocky plain as far as the eye can see. This expanse of nothingness is interesting for being nothing much enough to have been used to depict nothingness in several films that were not nothing, including Mad Max and Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

The Moon Plains are bisected by a part of the Dingo Fence, a 5,600km fence running from Queensland To South Australia. Described as the world’s longest fence, it was built to keep Dingoes separated from the sheep stations in Southeastern Australia.

The Breakaways

Salt and Pepper: The Salt and Pepper rock formation in the Breakaways near Coober PedySalt and Pepper
Of the three main scenic sights, the Breakaways are the closest to the town, at around a 30 minute drive along a good quality dirt road across a small section of the Moon Plain. For those without cars, many hotels offer tours, both during the day and at sunset. Sunset or sunrise are the best times to go as the hills glow in the late afternoon or morning sun.

One of the most prominent features of the Breakaways is the locally named Salt and Pepper formation; striking for the contrast between a starkly white hill and an adjoining orange hill. After this, I went up to the main lookouts to view a spectacular sunset over the entire reserve.

Sunset Mesas: The spectacular arid landscape at the BreakawaysSunset Mesas
The Breakaways: The colourful rock formations of the Breakaways near Coober PedyThe Breakaways
Stand Out: The Salt and Pepper rock formation in the Breakaways near Coober PedyStand Out

The Painted Desert

Road restrictions sign heading towards the Painted Desert: Road restrictions sign heading towards the Painted Desert
The Painted Desert is located on Arckaringa Station, around 200kms north of Coober Pedy. The rough, and at times bumpy dirt road to the Painted Desert is very remote and desolate. As such, without a 4WD and proper equipment, joining a tour from Coober Pedy is the best way to see the area. I went on a day tour offered by the Desert Cave hotel, and our guide was great.

The dusty road the Painted Desert traverses some of the most featureless and barren landscape I have ever seen, only broken by occasional winding lines of greenery that surround dry river beds. After making a few photo stops entering the Painted Desert area, we headed to the Mt Batterbee lookout for an amazing view over the plains and multi-coloured hills. After a picnic lunch, we headed climbed one of the mesas for another brilliant view.

Desolation: The flat, empty landscape of the Moon PlainsDesolation
A Painted Landscape: Across the Arckaringa Floodplain from Mount Batterbee LookoutA Painted Landscape
Yellow Mesas: Mount Arkaringa in the isolated Painted DesertYellow Mesas
A dry riverbed in the desert: A dry riverbed in the desert
An old car on the way to the Painted Desert: An old car on the way to the Painted Desert
Wild horses in Arckaringa Station: Wild horses in Arckaringa Station

The Painted Hills

Scenic plane for Painted Hills flight: Scenic plane for Painted Hills flight
Only recently discovered on the vast Anna Creek station (which at 6 million acres, is the largest cattle station in the world and is larger than Israel), the exact location of the Painted Hills remains a secret in order to preserve the delicate landscape. The only way to view them is to take a scenic flight from one of the nearby towns, such as Coober Pedy or William Creek. I went on a scenic flight from Coober Pedy to see the hills. After passing over barren, brown/red landscape, suddenly mounds of white, orange and yellow sandstone appeared almost out of nowhere.
The Painted Hills: Sandstone monoliths in the Anna Creek Painted HillsThe Painted Hills
Anna Creek Painted Hills: Anna Creek Painted Hills
Controls of a light plane: Controls of a light plane

Inside the Town

Interesting no stopping sign in Coober Pedy: Interesting no stopping sign in Coober Pedy
While for me the scenic sights around the town were the main reason for visiting, there is enough to do in Coober Pedy itself to occupy a day. The main attractions are the numerous opal mines, which, due to laws prohibiting large companies from mining, are generally owned by locally families. Some of the larger mines have small tours, such as Tom’s Working Opal Mine, where they take you underground and show you how opal mining works, and what seams of opalised rock looks like compared to the surrounding sandstone. One of the more interesting facts was learning how people decide where to dig for opals – if you loosely hold long metal poles in each hand together, they will twist away from each other as you walk over an opal seam.

Other places to see in the town in the various underground churches, the many opal shops along the main street, a kangaroo orphanage that cares for some very cute baby kangaroos, and some quirky pieces of film paraphernalia dotted around the town. Additionally, being located in a very sparsely populated area of Australia, it is worth driving a few minutes away from the town and enjoying the star filled sky.

Not wanting to have another 11 hour bus ride, I decided to end my enjoyable journey into the South Australian Outback by catching the Rex flight back to Adelaide.

Opal mines from the air: Opal mines from the air
Desert scenery around Coober Pedy: Desert scenery around Coober Pedy
Baby kangaroo orphan: Baby kangaroo orphan
Danger sign seen around Coober Pedy: Danger sign seen around Coober Pedy
Dust extractor for opal mines: Dust extractor for opal mines
Inside an opal mine: Inside an opal mine
Rex plane at Coober Pedy Airport: Rex plane at Coober Pedy Airport
Serbian Orthodox Church: Serbian Orthodox Church
Under the Milky Way: Viewed from near Coober Pedy in the South Australian OutbackUnder the Milky Way

Photos From Antarctica Now In Gallery

A couple of years ago I went on a three week expedition cruise to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. My favourite photos from the Antarctic Peninsula, and nearby islands and seas are now in the Antarctica gallery. Blue icebergs, vast penguin colonies, seals, glaciers and ice covered landscapes are some of the amazing sights of the pristine wilderness of the Antarctic Peninsula.

View new images in Antarctica gallery.

Photos From Outback Australia Added to Gallery

New images from the Outback, including Lake Eyre, the multi-coloured hills of Outback South Australia (the Breakaways, the Painted Hills and the Painted Desert), the Flinders Ranges, the Pinnacles of Western Australia and the night sky are now in the gallery.

View new images in Outback Australia gallery.