Published on the 22nd December 2018
Earlier this year myself, @jovianshadowphotography and @shafterphotography had all discussed the possibility of doing the Overland Track together and seeing what we could capture along the way. This would be my second trip along this 6 day hike with it being the first for both Nathan and Simon, and I was really hoping to plan it around snow and heavy rainfall to allow us the best opportunities to capture heavy flow on the waterfalls throughout the trip. Plans were made to set off on this little adventure at the beginning of July and thankfully the weather was exactly as I had personally hoped – cloudy and overcast, wet, plenty of snow and just perfect conditions for offering diffused light, moody atmosphere and incredibly water flow throughout the streams and creeks we passed through over the next 6 days.
These conditions were perfect for the type of images I was hoping to capture – but not so good for the walking that we needed to do in between the parts where we were using our cameras. Basically we spent 6 days completely soaked. The track was quite muddy and wet especially through the rainforest sections along the walk. There were issues with a Sony A7rII (sorry Nathan, I couldn’t help myself 😆 ) which didn’t like the damp conditions. And Simon decided to carry a few (several) kilos of chocolate too much which contributed to a slightly too heavy backpack, even though he likes to constantly remind me of how light his micro four thirds Panasonic camera and tiny lenses are compared to my Canon gear… Luckily for Nathan and I we had plenty of chocolate to eat along the way and we could say we were doing our part to help Simon offload some of that excess weight.
The night before we started our walk I was met by a very welcome surprise when @jana.klippert, who was supervising a school group starting the Overland Track the day before we were scheduled to start ourselves appeared behind me at our accommodation. Earlier in the day we had heard that a school group had to turn back due to extreme weather conditions and a possible medical emergency. I was aware of the school group and had deliberately tried to ensure that myself, Nathan and Simon didn’t leave on the same day as them so our groups didn’t meet. I spent a good part of that afternoon stressing about what had happened, and with no way to directly contact Jana was really worried by the time we were almost ready to settle down for bed ourselves. Thankfully everyone in the school group arrived back safe and sound, and the decision was made that they would try again the following morning, the same departure day as us now, and push through a day quicker by completing the track in 5 days. So technically I can say Jana came along on the Overland track with us too (but please Jana, don’t ever stress me out like that again 😆😘)
Throughout this trip the weather conditions really played a big part in how we were able to shoot. Being soaking wet and freezing cold for the majority of the trip meant that rather than pulling out our tripods and neutral density filters constantly from our bags, we were shooting more handheld images. And we were shooting throughout the middle of the day when the sun is higher and shadows are being cast when it did come through the clouds. I think the moody conditions we had made for good opportunities to create black and white images throughout the 6 days. And it also gave us perfect conditions for shooting waterfalls as well, which was my main focus in the images I was hoping to capture on this trip myself.
If you have ever been out shooting waterfalls with me I am sure you would attest to the fact that I have no issues getting wet and jumping into the water in pursuit of a beautiful cascade image (while also quite possibly stupidly risking my camera gear on many occasions). After my first trip along the Overland Track a couple of years ago, I began researching some of the streams and creeks that we had passed over via online maps like LIST / HEMA and other resources and I was fairly certain that it wouldn’t take too much to locate some new waterfalls that are either unknown or at the very least not widely published or shared by anyone who has seen them before. We just needed the perfect weather conditions to make exploring, searching for and photographing them worthwhile. I don’t think this trip could have been planned at a better time for doing this.
By day 3 on our way to Pelion Hut from Lake Windermere I think we were all resigned to the fact that we would be soaking wet for the rest of the trip whether we liked it or not, and did our best to dry out during our downtime in the cabins each night. Another good thing about doing the Overland Track during the Winter is the fact that far less people will be on the track than during Spring / Summer. This means you are far more likely to be able to sleep in the cabins rather than camping in a tent. Unless you happen to be on the trip with a school group, of which there are several that leave during winter at the end of the second school term. Luckily for us there was still plenty of room in the cabins even with the school group and we could make use of the heating to dry ourselves, our clothes and our camera gear out as much as possible.
During sunrise on day 4 we finally saw the first signs of colour in the sky – which lasted all of just a few minutes! None of us had our camera gear ready and I am sure we looked a bit crazy running to get our gear and then getting outside as quickly as possible to capture that light. I have a tip for anyone doing the Overland Track during winter – running in socks and thongs (flip flops for those reading this from the other side of the world) across icy boardwalks is not so good. Thankfully I didn’t get any serious injuries as I slipped over on the walkway running to capture the image below. There had already been one guide from another group helicopter lifted out of this area on the day before due to a dislocated shoulder, with an emergency guide needing to walk in to the Pelion Hut via the Arm River Track to replace him.
Some of the bigger waterfalls like Dalton Falls and Fergusson Falls which are found during day 5 of the walk were flowing so hard that they were almost impossible to photograph without getting ourselves and our camera gear completely drenched in the process (and quite possibly swept downstream never to be seen again). The volume of water coming through the Ducane Range and down the Mersey River was quite substantial and made accessing the more popular large waterfalls extremely dangerous. Thankfully I had already photographed these waterfalls myself on my previous trip so I wasn’t too worried if I got decent images of them this time round.
By the end of this walk including the side tracks and extra exploring my GPS tracking data showed that we had done near enough to 140km of walking across the 6 days. And by the time we were catching our ferry across Lake St Clair to finish the track, I was definitely well and truly over eating pre prepared dehydrated camp food. I am sure Nathan and Simon were too. On the last day we decided to skip the Bert Nichols Hut due to worsening weather conditions, and continued through to the Narcissus Hut which we shared with a tour group that had left a day before us. As part of their group they had 2 people who were quite sick due to a gastro bug, most likely from the water supply. I should have taken note of this myself. But clearly I didn’t as the night I returned home to Hobart I was struck down quite severely with the same bug myself. Thankfully it happened when I got home, and not while I was still on the track….