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Morden O'Hare Photography Blog.  Blog posts discussing travel, photography, wildlife photography, landscape photography, camera gear reviews.

Karijini National Park

One of the most amazing places in Western Australia is Karijini National Park. It is located in mining country in our 'red centre' and its main feature is the layered rust-red rock canyons. The geology of the Pilbara region is interesting.  The rock has a high iron content so when it is exposed to the air through erosion it oxidizes to a distinctive red rust colour.  If you break open a rock you can see the black iron colour of the natural rock.  The gorges show the layers that have built up over millions of years and in some places (like Hamersley gorge) you can see folded and shifted strata layers hinting at the enormous pressure of the geological processes involved in creating this landscape.

Photographically speaking the whole park is incredible. The red rock contrasts beautifully with the green vegetation (especially after the summer rains).  The scenery ranges from slot canyons and gorges with secluded pools and streams to rocky rolling plains with sparsely spread trees and enormous skies.

There was quite a lot of rain in the area before my arrival and the cloudy skies lasted for the first part of my six days in the park which made for some gorgeous lighting at sunset and sunrise especially from the gorge lookouts. I had a lot of success at Knox Lookout in particular. 

This trip was my first real test run for my new landscape dedicated camera the Pentax 645z which I will talk about in a future post.  This camera has a 50mp medium format sensor that really shines when it comes to picking up all the detail that the landscapes have to offer here.

Knox Lookout - Pentax 645z, 28-45 @ 28, f11, 13 sec

Knox Lookout - Pentax 645z, 28-45 @ 28, f11, 13 sec

Knox Lookout - Pentax 645z, 28-45 @ 28, f11, 48 sec

Knox Lookout - Pentax 645z, 28-45 @ 28, f11, 48 sec

Knox Lookout - Pentax 645z, 28-45 @ 28, f16, 2.5 sec

Knox Lookout - Pentax 645z, 28-45 @ 28, f16, 2.5 sec

The lookouts are well suited to doing some stitched panoramic photo's and the following image is constructed from three 50mp images stitched together to create an enormous file (13,727x4845 pixels) that could be printed to billboard size - which I would do if I had a billboard size wall to put it on! 

Knox Lookout - Pentax 645z, 28-45 @ 28, f16, 1.3 sec (stitched panorama)

Knox Lookout - Pentax 645z, 28-45 @ 28, f16, 1.3 sec (stitched panorama)

Hamersley gorge is part of Karijini National Park but is about one hour drive from most of the other gorges and attractions. It is well worth the effort as it has a couple of the most fascinating photo opportunities available in the park. They are on the hit lists for most photographers visiting the park so of course I had to go and give them a shot myself.  The first is a beautiful blue pool that has a long backdrop of sloping strata and a single tree. The other spot is 'spa pool' which involves clambering over a lot of dodgy rock face to get to. It is a delightful little scene but to actually get a photo of the pool you have to perch your tripod in some rather precarious positions.  Fortunately when I was there I was the only photographer on the scene so it wasn't as crowded for space as I've heard it can be when a photo tour group visits the spot.

Hamersley Gorge - Pentax 645z, 28-45 @ 45, f11, 3 sec

Hamersley Gorge - Pentax 645z, 28-45 @ 45, f11, 3 sec

Spa Pool, Hamersley Gorge - Pentax 645z, 28-45 @ 28, f16, 2.5 sec

Spa Pool, Hamersley Gorge - Pentax 645z, 28-45 @ 28, f16, 2.5 sec

Fern pool is quite accessible from the Dales Gorge area of the park and has a gorgeous setting. It is an oasis of blue and green amidst the red rock cliffs.  Early morning is a good time to get there while the light is filtered and  before the sunlight starts shining directly into the gorge.  I had to shoot this with my Canon body and 70-200 lens and stitch images together as the falls are actually quite a long way from the viewing platform. If you follow the gorge from this point all the way to the other end you come to Circular Pool which is not so nice for photography but a good place for a swim. 

Fern Pool - Canon 5D mkiii, 70-200 @ 135, f8, 8 sec (stitched panorama)

Fern Pool - Canon 5D mkiii, 70-200 @ 135, f8, 8 sec (stitched panorama)

When you climb down the 'step's into Weano Gorge the first place you come to is a magical little pool ringed with red cliffs and greenery with a terraced waterfall at one end. The below image was taken in the morning as the sun was starting to hit the wall of the gorge which created a lovely golden sheen to the water.  From this point you can follow the gorge down through the slot canyon to handrail pool.

Weano Gorge - Pentax 645z, 28-45 @ 28, f11, 13 sec

Weano Gorge - Pentax 645z, 28-45 @ 28, f11, 13 sec

This hidden away little pool is in the slot canyon just before you get to "handrail pool" in Weano gorge. Handrail pool is so named because to get down into it you have to hold onto an installed rail and climb down the running water and onto a ledge beside the pool.  I found this smaller pool more photogenic though.  Even to get to this point though requires a hike from the 'steps' down the length of the canyon. There are sections of running water that can not be walked around due to the sheer sides.  The depth of the water can vary depending on the time of year but luckily I only had to contend with a waist deep level. Even so I took a lot of care not to fall over as that would have meant a lot expensive camera gear in my backpack taking a bath! When I come back next time I plan on bringing a dry-bag for extra insurance. I might even tackle the spider walk in Hancock Gorge which I gave a miss this time due to water levels.

Weano Gorge - Pentax 645z, 28-45 @ 28, f16, 5 sec

Weano Gorge - Pentax 645z, 28-45 @ 28, f16, 5 sec

From where I live south of Perth it is 16 hours drive (unless you want to fly). I chose to tow a hired camper trailer up there and spend 6 nights in the Savanah campsite at Karijini Eco Retreat. Despite the hours behind the wheel and 'roughing' it I am certainly going to go back again as Karijini truly is one of Australia's greatest locations.