Cape Woolamai is a beautiful location for landscape photography. Situated on Phillip Island, about 130 km from Melbourne in South Eastern Australia, Cape Woolamai is around a 30 minute walk, either overland or by following the beach, from the car park at the well appointed Woolamai Surf Club.
Know The Location You’re Going To Photograph
If you follow the beach be careful to keep an eye on the sea, so as not to be isolated by the fast moving incoming tide. Going inland is arguably safer but, during warmer months, you’ll need to keep an eye out for snakes.
Photographing By The Shores Of The Southern Ocean
The Cape itself can be quite wild with ferocious winds and crashing waves. It’s important to come prepared as its easy to be caught out by changeable weather.
But it's a spectacular location that overlooks one of Australia’s great surfing beaches. The walking track will take you right up to the Pinnacles where great photography opportunities exist at the edges of the day.
Memories Of Adventures Past
I first visited Cape Woolamai in, I think, 1989. My old friend Stuart Murdoch and I were undertaking undergraduate studies in photography under Les Walkling at Phillip Institute of Technology (PIT). Stu was a great friend, one of the best blokes I've ever known.
I remember being shocked by the short-tailed shearwaters (i.e., mutton birds) we found at the top of the cliffs from where some folks make their way down to the first of several small, rocky beaches on one side of Cape Woolamai. It appeared that the mutton birds, that nest in the area, had fallen prey to dogs or foxes.
An Eventful Return Journey
We stayed to photograph the sunset and then got ourselves into trouble as we headed back, inland, towards the car park. Though there was no chance of getting lost it got dark very quickly and we must have strayed off the path and soon found ourselves constantly falling, thigh deep, through the ground.
As well as being extremely fatiguing it was also scary, bringing back memories of haunted graveyards. The fact that we were likely falling into mutton bird nesting sites did not make us feel any better.
Thankfully we found our way back onto the path before too much damage had been done. Nowadays I suspect there’s much more defined walkways but the most positive outcome for me was that, from that day onwards, I made sure I had a much brighter headlamp in my camera backpack.
Photographing The Rocks At Cape Woolamai
The above photo was made on a subsequent trip to Cape Woolamai with a Leica R8 film camera, Leica 90 mm f/2 Summicron-R lens and Fuji Velvia 100F transparency (i.e., slide) film. Of the more than 30 cameras I've owned over the years it's probably the one I've enjoyed using the most. While quite a big camera it was extreme well engineered, ergonomically designed and simple to use.
The original color transparency was scanned and rendered into black and white on the desktop. It's not a great scan and, one day, I might get a better one. As shape and texture are so important to this image, black and white was the obvious choice.
It was a tricky photo to make as I struggled to keep my balance, while stretching to straddle rocks just out of frame.
Finding Harmony While Keeping Ones Balance
The key to this image is it’s harmonious composition. The photo contains rocks that, over millennia, have been smoothed by water, wind and sand. Their circular shape is helpful, but really it's the way these rocks have settled on the landscape and have then be framed, in camera, to produce this study in balance. Ironically, it was by balancing on adjacent rocks that enabled me to produce such a harmonious result.
Nature is inherently chaotic and it's often difficult to find a well balanced, harmonious composition. The trick is to approach your photography with an open mind and be aware of what's going on around you, in the here and now, rather than arriving with a particular image in mind.
Sometimes Infinity Is Closer To Home Than We Might Think
I think it’s also a good idea, instead of always looking outwards, towards infinity, to keep an eye out for the beauty that exists just below your own feet.