Category Archives: Landscape

Autumn exotica at Alfred Nicolas Memorial Garden – and in Liverpool!

The display of autumn colours at Alfred Nicolas Memorial Gardens.
Not from around here

[For my UK-based friends: it’s late autumn here in Melbourne.]

This is a photograph that I made at Alfred Nicolas Memorial Gardens. To a pom like me, this is a location with a beautifully odd mix of indigenous and non-native flora.

The estate belonged to an eponymous, mid-twentieth century one-percenter. Mr Nicolas made his money from “rediscovering” the formula for Aspro. His – now our – gardens are in the Dandenong Ranges, a bushy, hilly area to the east of Melbourne.

Regular visitors to my blog will know I’ve been spending a lot of time photographing the local we-don’t-do-autumn trees. That’s because I find them striking, sometimes beautiful, sometimes unsettling. I suppose I must think they are “exotic”.

I visited the gardens on Saturday when it was difficult not to trip over assorted tripods and camera gear backpacks. The place was teaming with landscape photographers excited by the, I suppose, “exotic” autumn colour. I made an effort not to mention the Yorkshire Dales or the Lake District or even Liverpool’s Sefton Park. The latter had – still has – a “hot house” where I used to go to keep warm when I should have been at school – I remember it had exotic tree ferns like those in the background of this photograph. At the time, I didn’t pay much attention to the fabulous display of autumn colour on the chilly side of the greenhouse’s condensation-clad glass.

The "boathouse" at Alfred Nicolas Memorial Gardens
Alfred’s garden shed

An exercise in high country landscape photography

Looking south along Cathedral Range ridge from North Jawbone Peak towards South Jawbone and Sugarloaf
I took this photograph on the first of my renewed and long-overdue “proper” hikes. I was standing on the North Jawbone Peak, looking south towards Sugarloaf Peak on Cathedral Ridge in Victoria. How would this look before sunrise or after sunset? Or half-draped in a cloud inversion? Only one way to find out … more hiking and some wild camping.

Nearly six years ago, before I began leading photography workshops, I was physically much fitter. And not just because I’ve now made it into my early fifties. Back then, as well as being a jobbing photographer and photography teacher, I led hikes. I guided HF Holidays‘ guests around the UK’s most beautiful uplands in Scotland, The Lake District, The Yorkshire Dales, and so on.

Of course, people had cameras with them on those walks, including some “serious” kit. But these were emphatically not photography holidays – this was obvious from the peer pressure amongst the guests when their companions were thought to be faffing about photographing.

I had joined HF – after enduring its rigorous outdoor skills and people management assessment – because, although I’ve always loved hiking, and I had moved my family to the Yorkshire Dales to be near the hills, I was always finding excuses not to go for a walk.

So I hatched a plan: if upwards of fifteen people had travelled hundreds of miles and paid good money to go walking with me, I’d have to get my backside into walking gear.

The plan worked. I led up to ten weeks’ hiking each year. I enjoyed expenses-paid walking holidays based at HF’s lovely country house hotels. And, because I was sometimes able to resist the sumptuous desserts, I was leaner as well as fitter.

Those hiking gigs often coincided with HF’s photography holidays. I’d tell my guests what they wanted to hear: I’d sooner keep the walking and the photography separate because one invariably gets in the way of the other. But, increasingly, I fancied some expenses paid landscape photography trips. So I put myself forward to lead photography holidays. Then, for a couple of years, I mostly hosted photography, fitting in fewer pure-play hiking leads.

I enjoyed leading the photography holidays, but I got a whole lot less exercise.

Fast forward to now. In significant ways, my Photography First landscape photography workshops are unlike most of the workshops available here in Australia – click on that link if you want to know why. And, for practical reasons they don’t include anything that could be described as “serious hiking”. Understandably, people paying for a photography workshop don’t want to waste valuable photography time yomping over mountains.

Time for another plan

Accept that most workshops can’t involve “serious hiking” and make more time to do some of the latter for myself.


  • proper hiking once a week as aerobic exercise
  • beautiful upland scenery
  • ideally, a few (maybe less) satisfying landscape photographs that aren’t possible less than a kilometre from the car!

Use the contact form if you’d like to join me.

The jetty less photographed, in the light less understood

An unsung hero of a pier on the Mornington Peninsula's Shelley Beach
No longer the bridesmaid

Piers and jetties are popular landscape photography subjects – the jaded amongst us may say they are clichéd.

They are popular for some good reasons. They are, of course, at the water’s edge, and we like coastal and lakeshore scenes, don’t we? They are usually made of wood, a pleasing, natural material that waves and weather render characterful. They suggest travel or escape or serenity – even if the latter is more or less affected by over use of Big Stopper-type neutral density filters. And they are compositionally useful because they imply depth in a two-dimensional medium.

The most popular jetty or pier landscape photography image on the Mornington Peninsula
That Jetty! Click to view large.

A few minutes of Googling will reveal, if you didn’t already know it, that the jetty pictured alongside this paragraph is the most landscape photographer-popular jetty on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. If you haven’t done so already, you can find and photograph it on Shelley Beach.

I haven’t conducted a scientific survey, so the following assertion is somewhere between idle speculation and educated guesswork: This jetty – That Jetty – is more popular than its peers (!), including the three or four other jetties adorning the same strip of sand. It’s a big photographic hit because of the shed-out-of-water buildings optimistically perched on flimsy-looking woodwork. That, and the rakish angle of the landward end of the structure … you get the picture: it’s a dock in demand; a primus inter pares, a near peerless pier!

Where am I going with this? Well, because I lead landscape photography workshops, there’s a reasonable expectation that I’ll take my guests to photograph the “iconic” images in any particular area. Princes Pier (another pier!) and Brighton Beach huts in Melbourne, for example; or London Bridge on the Great Ocean Road, and so on.

While I was researching Mornington Peninsula landscape photography locations – because, if you haven’t spotted it, I am relatively new to Australia – Google showed me lots of photographs of That Jetty on Shelley Beach and, in spite of my self-image, I had recently become self-conscious about not having a photograph of it in my Mornington Peninsula gallery. So, after a morning of personal photography invested squandered photographing obscure bits of rock on the more bracing Tasman Sea side of the Peninsula, I gave in and set off to “bag” my very own That Jetty shot.

Arriving on the genteel-looking Shelley Beach, I “discovered” That Jetty’s more sophisticated neighbour: the truly classy piece of beach furniture pictured at the top of this post.

The afternoon sun was high in the sky and plenty of landscape photographers may have silently admonished me, or shot me one of those all-the-gear-but-no-idea looks while holding out for golden hour lighting. But, after noticing the interesting shape of not That Jetty, I saw what was becoming its echo. The parallel shadows were not pronounced, or even separated from the structure, but I could see they may become that way as the “harshly-lit” early afternoon turned into just as harshly-lit late afternoon. My theory: this would make for much more of an interesting, convention-challenging photograph than yet another “red sky at night, photographers delight” sunset-with-seaside-prop shot.

I think it worked out quite well and, perhaps because of That Jetty’s photographer pulling power, Google can’t find anything too similar for the location – yet …

But back to Operation Photograph That Jetty … 

I walked the short distance along the beach to That Jetty and photographed it in the style of a lovely picture postcard – although the clouds and the water may be a bit too “landscape photographer” for that genre, and I didn’t fancy the “rule” of thirds at all.

I left the scene before sunset so I could be home in time for my daughter’s bed time story and our night-night hugs.

The most popular jetty or pier landscape photography image on the Mornington Peninsula
That Shelley Beach Jetty. Click to enlarge

Yarra Ranges bush ballet

Pirouette – captured from the Donna Buang rainforest gallery, a spectacularly positioned walkway amongst the treetops above Cement Creek. Click to see the detail.
Pirouette – captured from the Donna Buang rainforest gallery, a spectacularly positioned walkway amongst the treetops above Cement Creek. Click to see the detail.

Generally, I take few photographs when I am hosting a landscape photography workshop. As my refrain goes: “It’s about you and your photography, not me and mine.” But, on Saturday’s Yarra Ranges workshop, after a couple of setbacks caused by an up-rooted tree and a forest road closure, I came up with a “plan B”. We drove the beautiful Acheron Way to Cement Creek. The image below is an impromptu demo that I set up to help my guests find compositions amongst the chaotic beauty that is Victorian rainforest.

“Plan A” had been to visit waterfalls and the quiet lusciousness along the Taggerty River. Cement Creek provided some compensation for missing out on that. But we’ve agreed to redress the rest of the balance by making a special and complimentary trip to The Meeting of the Waters and Keppel Falls when my guests are next in Melbourne.

New images from the Yarra Ranges

ribbon and burnt bark
Pictograph – ribbon bark against a bushfire-burned tree trunk near The Meeting of the Waters, Marysville State Forest. Click or tap to view large.

I’ve hosted quite a few landscape photography workshops in the Yarra ranges area during the last 18 months, and they’ve all been full of creative discovery for me as much as for my guests.

Tomorrow’s workshop promises to be quite special too. It’s been raining for most of the week and the bush is looking colourful and intriguing again after a very dry late summer.

Here’s a gallery of recent images that I’ve made in the area. Click or tap to view.


BYO sunset on a soggy St Kilda Pier

And, after standing around in the persistent rain during the afternoon. I headed for St Kilda Pier for “sunset” …

A rainy evening on St Kilda Pier

“Technical” details: 13 seconds, f16 (hence the starbursts), ISO 100; umbrella for the rain and micro fibre cloths for the condensation. The sea is flat and glass-like because, despite the rain,  there was no wind. The fishermen are invisible because they were moving between rods either side of the pier, not standing still for long enough to make an impression.

A dreich photography day In Melbourne

Checkmate in three moves
Checkmate in three moves

Months of dry weather in Melbourne has ended with more than 24 hours of rain. And It looks like it’ll carry on raining for a couple of days.

st kilda in the rain-807153

So, after my one-to-one photography workshop guest sensibly decided to take a rain check on the rest of the day’s photography, I was splashing along the promenade at St Kilda when I noticed some colour in the murk.

As usual, these photographs look better large, so click or tap for a better view.

dreich = dreary; bleak: a dreich early April day

Angel versus Mammon in colour versus black and white bake-off

Deborah Halpern’s “Angel” revisited without colour

When I was processing that photograph of The Grotto in both colour and monochrome, this photograph of Angel by Deborah Halpern came to mind. It’s another image where I have attempted to use the harsh strong lighting to graphic effect. I was thinking that it may work better in black and white. The colour version is below. Do you think one is stronger or better than the other?

I’ll keep my opinion back for a while so I don’t influence any comments.

Click or tap the images to enlarge.

Angel confront's Melbourne Mammon
Angel confronts Melbourne Mammon