Welcome to another Into The Wild Photography Behind the Scenes blog post! This is where I tell the stories of what it was like photographing a specific image in my collection. I also include actual camera settings and techniques used. This month I’ll be talking about an image I took in the incredible environment that is Lake McKenzie, Fraser Island.
As a professional nature photographer, one thing I have learnt is that so often it is the completely unexpected moments that can create the most incredible images. And on this particular day on Fraser island, that played out to perfection! Fraser Island, located off the Queensland Coast near Hervey Bay, is the world’s largest sand island and received its World Heritage Listing in 1992. It boasts a unique and stunning environment enjoyed by nearly 400000 visitors per year.
In the middle of Fraser Island, lies Lake McKenzie. With its stunning crystal clear water, white silica sand and stunning backdrop, it is a major attraction for anyone visiting the island. My friends and I had been on a commercial shoot elsewhere on Fraser Island and decided to finish up at Lake McKenzie to enjoy a short walk and some lunch. We wandered down to the beach with no actual photographic plan in mind and I casually threw my Canon 5d Mark IV over my shoulder just in case. I’ve lost count of the number of images I’ve missed by not having a camera with me and this would have been a heartbreaking example if not for this simple decision!
As we stood there chatting and enjoying the view I caught a glimpse of some movement further down the beach right on the edge of the lake. A pure Fraser Island Dingo! Politely I said to my friends “gotta go” and took off down the beach - determined to get a closer look as Fraser Island’s most iconic animal merged with one of it’s most beautiful environments. As I quickly walked towards it - maybe 200 metres away, I started dialling in my camera settings. I decided to start on Aperture Priority mode as there was heaps of sunlight so shutter speed wouldn’t be an issue. For depth-of-field I chose F8 on my 24-70 lens. This would give me a sharp image with subtle separation from the distant background. I chose ISO 200 and 2/3rds of an F stop positive exposure compensation to adjust for the bright scene. I already had a polarising filter on the lens and as I walked I turned to the direction I would be shooting and adjusted it to give some richness to the water and sky. I then set the drive mode to high speed burst shooting. Firing a couple of frames as I walked, I checked the exposure via reviewing the histogram and ensured I had enough shutter speed - 1/320th of a second would be fine for a walking Dingo.
As with all wild animals, Dingos need to be respected and never approached too closely. The 24-70mm lens gave me enough zoom to adjust my composition from a safe distance, still important despite the relaxed vibe this beautiful creature was exhibiting! As he sat on the edge of the lake I chose a composition to tell the story of this scene - the reflection, the solitude and the calmness. He then simply lay down right on the water’s edge and even rolled over to catch some rays on his belly! I moved around a little adjusting my composition, searching for something that really conveyed the moment but I didn’t have it yet… So I stopped shooting for a moment and looked around - “how could I step this up a level?”. To my left were the iconic Fraser Island paperbark trees, popular with tourists and professional photographers for years. With a number of people now gathering around to watch the dingo I decided it was time to take a gamble and positioned myself right in front of the trees - just in case. I envisioned the image I hoped for - the perfect blend of Fraser Island’s magical Lake McKenzie and a pure Dingo framed perfectly by the landscape photographer’s favourite trees! Now to wait and watch… Will it go left or right?
Almost on cue, the Dingo stood up and started wandering lazily along the beach directly for the trees! A quick review of my settings, and a minor adjustment of the polarising filter and I began shooting, two frames at a time as he made his way into, and completed the scene. Fraser Island seems to have a habit of offering up magical moments and this was one of the best! This was an incredible display of nature’s beauty - the type of moment I have witnessed several times in my life both with and without camera in hand. But today I was stoked to have my camera gear with me and the opportunity to create one of my favourite artworks from the little piece of paradise that is Fraser Island.