15.03.2014 Gunung Bromo

I'm sitting in the passenger seat of an old Toyota Landcruiser roaring through the empty streets of Malang, East Java. It's just after midnight and our destination is Gunung Bromo. The six-hour drive will take us to a vantage point from where we will photograph the volcanic landscape at sunrise.

This isn't my first trip to the well-known Indonesian landmark. In fact, I've visited twice before. For this trip I have brought both an ultra-wide angle lens and a tripod - two essential pieces of equipment for capturing the sweeping landscape in the morning light.

At this point the outlook for our early-morning is not promising. Drizzle is falling on the windscreen of the Landcruiser. Now climbing steeply into the mountains, the old 4X4 heaves around the corners across rocky and broken asphalt. Our driver cheerfully wrestles with the steering wheel, unfazed by the weather and sleep deprivation. The laborious ascent is causing the engine to heat up and my feet are being slowly baked through the floor.

After hours of lurching along rough four-wheel drive tracks we reach our destination. We have chosen a vantage point low on the crater's rim. With my tripod in place, I reflect upon my previous visit to Bromo. The weather had been clear, and the early morning light had stained the sky with rich pinks and oranges. This morning, however, we weren't so lucky. The cloud cover was a thick blanket across the landscape rendering it a dull, grey colour.

This photo shows the volcano in the early morning light. Captured over 174 seconds, the photo shows the movement of the clouds across the landscape. A car crossing the crater floor leaves a stroke of red in the foreground. My third trip to Bromo didn't give me the pink sunrise I wanted. That might have to wait until trip number 4.

 

19.01.2014 Horseshoe Falls

Growing up in Tasmania, I developed a deep respect for the landscapes around me. I was fortunate to be borne of parents who were keen bushwalkers and we would regularly take hiking trips into the state's spectacular National Parks. The island state was a wondrous playground for the young and adventurous. Whether it was an easy day hike or an epic 10-day mission, I would always marvel at the landscapes we passed through.

These days I have fewer opportunities to visit Tasmania. Since moving away at the age of 18, I rarely return home more than once a year. As a consequence my ventures into the wilderness are few and far between. Over the recent Christmas break I made the trip home to see my family. As always I was keen to get out and shoot some landscapes.

Mount Field National Park is home to some of the state's most well known waterfalls. Arriving late in the afternoon, we made our way up to Horseshoe Falls through the rainforest. With the last light of the day fading from the sky I set up my tripod by the falls.

This image draws inspiration from the work of Olegas Truchanas and Peter Dombrovskis, whose work has been integral to many campaigns for the protection of the Tasmanian wilderness. This photo was taken with an ultra-wide angle lens and a neutral density filter, allowing for a 30-second exposure. It captures something about Tasmania that have treasured from a very young age. I can only hope that future generations may have the same opportunity.

 

07.12.2013 Whale swimming in Vava'u

I'm fumbling around in my wetsuit furiously trying to pull on my flipper. My fingers keep slipping and a knot of frustration forms in my throat. Finally my foot slips into place and I draw myself to the edge of the boat. Our guide and group members are already in the water and swimming away. They are making their way towards the humpback whale that has just surfaced off the stern off our boat. I plunge in after them

We are on the island of Vava'u in the Kingdom of Tonga. Just 24 hours earlier a rickety old twin-prop had dropped us at the capital. From here we would be taking day trips out into the waterways. Each year humpback whales migrate north where they spend August - November swimming amongst the Tongan islands. With the help of local guides, we hoped to capture witness these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.

Earlier in the day the guide had warned that it hadn't been a good week for whale sightings. The weather had been unusually rough causing the whales to become restless. Despite his warning, I had been optimistic that we would find them. After months of anticipation, I flatly refused to accept that I wouldn't see one.

Catching my first glimpse of a whale underwater is a memory that will never leave me. In the weeks leading up to the trip I had tried to visualise how it might be. I had pictured myself floating calmly, gazing upon it with admiration. The reality wasn't quite so idyllic. I was swimming furiously against the swells in a pathetic attempt to keep up with her. With no apparent interest in spending time with us, the whale continued swiftly on her way. A few languid tail flicks later and she disappeared from view. The encounter was awfully brief and yet it was more than I had ever expected.

 

28.10.2013 Alistair Morrell

Alistair shakes his arms out and turns to the camera. As I position myself to catch the best light he talks about his recent achievements. One week prior to our shoot, he had taken first place in his first bodybuilding competition, the International Natural Bodybuilding Association ACT Physique titles. It's a massive reward for Alistair, who has been so focused on his fitness in the past year.

In the coming week Alistair would be competing in the national physique titles. Encouraged by his debut success, Alistair is even more determined to place at the national event. There have been challenges to overcome in preparation for the comp. Most difficult was a knee injury.

"During my off-season I suffered a knee injury which prevented me from training legs properly. About eight weeks out from the first comp I started intensive training of my legs to make up for lost time. From now, there are only minor improvements I've set out to work on."

"The hardest part of comp preparation is diet. It's so crucial to success but so easy to be tempted by naughty food. I try my best to have meals ready to eat so I don't find myself scavenging for food in the fridge. Coming close to competition I have to be really strict, which becomes a real mental battle.

The battle has had wide-ranging benefits for Alistair, who is an ardent advocate for good nutrition and fitness.

"It's amazing how much fitness has improved my regular functionality. I find myself more productive with better time management and more energy. I am happier from having a purpose and working hard towards it. I am also healthier, I rarely get sick and when I do, I feel like I am back fighting fit in no time."

In the week following our shoot Alistair went on to place 2nd in the INBA National Physique titles.Looking forward to his future competitions, Alistair is cautious about becoming complacent.

"There is a very powerful saying that I repeat to myself almost every day: 'Be proud but never satisfied.' I'm thrilled that I have done so well in my first year. Now I have set my sights higher, aiming next year to compete internationally."

 

23.08.2013 The destination + the journey

I've long held the belief that travel is equally about journeys as it is about destinations. A recent trip through New Zealand's picturesque North Island stands out as a case in point. I had found myself in Auckland after spending a week travelling through the country for work. With no commitments for the weekend, the opportunity for a weekend getaway presented itself. I've always wanted to visit New Zealand's renowned volcanic mountain ranges and this was my chance to catch a glimpse of them.

Our destination for the weekend is the Tongariro National Park. We would be staying just outside Whakapapa, a village perched on the side of Tongariro's Mt Ruapehu. We had chosen this destination based on its reputation for spectacular scenery and quality hiking tracks. In order to reach our destination we would need to cover the 350km to Whakapapa by nightfall. The journey promised spectacular scenery and demanding roads.

Our vehicle is a white BMW 320d. With our route set, we head straight for the mountains. I grip the wheel impatiently as I steer the car out through Auckland's city streets and flyovers. I'm keen to reach Whakapapa in time for sunset and there have been few chances for the 320d to stretch its legs. Soon, however, we pass into the North Island's rural countryside. Heading south, the motorway melts into to winding country roads and the scenery becomes increasingly beautiful. This is where the car starts to shine.

Climbing up through the hills towards Whakapapa is exhilarating. Now clear of the city, the 320d hunkers down and grips tenaciously through every bend. It growls with a deep resonance as we wind our way upwards. Reaching higher into the mountains, new landscapes unfold with every bend in the road. The late afternoon sun casts a warm light over the hills and the views are simply breathtaking.

Just as the sun is setting Mt Ruapehu comes into sight. Snow-capped and surrounding by pink sky, it's a breathtaking end to the day. We spend the following day hiking on the trails in the National Park. Reflecting upon the experience, the destination was definitely spectacular. But the journey to get there was just as good.

 
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