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Ormiston Gorge, Central Australia


Ormiston Gorge isn’t as big as the Grand Canyon, nor as deep or as wide, but it does have a spiritual presence. The age of the rocks, the ruggedness of the terrain, the light spinifex grasses and the white trunked gum trees create an enchanting landscape. Around two hours west of Alice Springs, it’s not far from Glen Helen Gorge where we were staying for the night and we planned to be there for the morning shoot.

We awoke at a reasonable time, 5.00 a.m. which was an hour or so before sunrise. A short trip in our vehicle and we found ourselves at the mouth of the Gorge. From the car park, you can take a level stroll around a dry river bed and into the gorge itself. There are several deep pools locked by towering rock walls, but to walk further requires a more agile state of mind and some rock hopping. We went this way on a PODAS a couple of years ago with Kevin Raber, Ken Duncan and Jeff Schewe.

The other option is to climb up a path. There’s a great gum tree up the top of the rise and it can be photographed from a point half way up, or up at the tree itself. I went all the way to the top and spent a magical hour watching the light intensify, the sun rise and the light snake its way from the top of the gum tree down to the bottom of its trunk.

Just being up and out at this time of the day is wonderful enough, taking a few great landscape shots even better!

Across from the tree, a finger of land pushes into the Gorge, requiring it to dog-leg around. As the sun rises, its rays skim across the top of this land, lighting up the trees and grasses, but I’m also seeing the strong reds come through in the rock faces below and behind. To my eye, it’s a strong composition, but it requires a telephoto to make it happen. Although many people think landscape photography is best approached with a wide-angle or a panorama camera, I find a lot of my shots work better by simplifying the scene with a telephoto.

The accompanying image is photographed with a 110mm Schneider Kreuznach, so it’s only a mid-telephoto, but long enough to crop the scene and eliminate the sky behind. By removing the sky, the image has the feeling that the rock face behind goes upwards forever, plus it reduces the number of compositional elements to deal with.

And while I might be teaching most readers to suck eggs, when shooting into the light, it’s important to not only use a lens hood, but perhaps shade the lens hood with a cutter or your hand as well. It’s essential to keep any unwanted flare under control.

Peter Eastway Uses

Peter Uses

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