8 tips for taking great winter photographs on South Australia’s Kangaroo Island

Winter on KI is truly special, especially when it comes to photography. Here’s how to make the most of it.

South Australia has some of the most photogenic landscapes in the world, and Kangaroo Island is no exception.

The island is home to spectacular coastlines, a huge abundance of native plants and animals, and wilderness found nowhere else in the state.

If you’re wondering when to visit, consider a winter getaway – especially if you’re keen to capture your adventure on camera.

Photographer Ross Evans, who lives on KI, says the cooler months are a special time to visit and photograph. All you need to do is rug up and you’ll reap plenty of rewards 

Here are his top tips for using the island’s winter conditions to your advantage:

1. Make the most of the elements

In summer, the sun is strong and can easily lead to your photos being ‘blown-out’ – where the sky appears white, without any features.

But if you visit in winter, the sun is generally lower in the sky and there’s usually greater cloud cover. This means the sky is a little darker, so you can get great photos without needing a filter on your lens like you would in summer.

With the sun lower in the sky and the sky not as bright, conditions also make it easier to produce long-shutter photography that can produce the milky effect on waves and running water.

Top tip: give long-shutter photography a go at Billygoat Falls on the Waterfall Creek Hike in the Western River Wilderness Protection Area. It’s perfect in winter when the waterfall is in full swing.

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‘Moody Sky’ (image courtesy of Ross Evans)

2. Let the moody skies be the star of the show

Along the same lines as the tip above, let KI’s winter skies be more than just a supporting act to your photos.

Unlike in summer, where the sky gives you a simple background of hazy blue, in winter you get some epic clouds breaking up the scene and becoming the focal point of the photo.

At sunrise and sunset, these clouds either filter the sun’s light or creates a canvas for the sun to paint its masterpiece on.

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‘Sunset over Bay of Shoals Sanctuary Zone’ (image courtesy of Ross Evans)

3. Capture the wild waves

Southerly winds can add more than a little drama along the coast at some of the island’s popular national parks.

A great spot to photograph is in Cape Gantheaume Conservation Park. Take the heritage self-guided drive, which takes you past some interesting cultural sites as well as amazing beaches and surf spots.

Sewer Beach at the end of the tour is the best spot to capture images of the powerful swells that bring epic breaking waves.

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‘Blue thunder’ (image courtesy of Ross Evans) 

4. Be at the ready for wildlife shots 

KI isn’t short on wildlife year-round, but it’s in winter that it’s more active. 

Cool weather, increased water sources, and breeding season for a lot of the wildlife means there’s more activity from many animals that, at other times of the year, would be asleep or hiding out in the shade for most of the day. 

Kangaroos and Tammar wallabies are everywhere, so be careful while you’re driving – particularly in one of the many national parks and wildlife protection zones on the island.

 Either end of winter is a really good time to spot a duck-billed platypus along Flinders Chase National Park’s Rocky River Hike, as the rains create healthy pools along the river. Sunset and sunrise are your best times to catch a glimpse. 

Also, down at Admirals Arch in Flinders Chase National Park, winter is a great time to spot long-nosed fur seals battling the frothy surf, surfing the waves or basking on the rocks.

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‘In the wash’ (Image courtesy of Ross Evans) 

5. Keep your eye out for fungi 

National parks on KI during winter time are a great place to spot some truly enigmatic fungi. Parks like Flinders Chase National Park and the Ravine des Casoars Wilderness Protection Area, are without doubt fungal ‘hotspots’ during winter. 

In the Rocky River area of Flinders Chase alone, about 450 different fungi species have been recorded. At the Ravine des Casoars almost 300 species, and at Kelly Hill Conservation Park 140 species have been found. 

There are many types of fungi on KI, including the extraordinary ghost fungi that gives off an eerie ghost-like glow in low light. Jelly fungi can also produce some vivid colours that contrast sharply against other vegetation.

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‘Jelly in the park’ (image courtesy of Ross Evans) 

6. Make the most of later sunrises and earlier sunsets 

The shorter daylight hours that come with winter mean sunrise and sunset occur at a much more convenient time of day. Which means there’s really no excuse for not getting up in time to take stunning sunrise shots, and your sunset photo shoots won’t interfere with your dinner plans. 

Make the most of the Blue Hour, the hour before sunrise and after sunset, when the light is blue and diffused, and the Golden Hour, the hour before sunset and after sunrise, when the light is golden and soft. 

Keeping with the ‘light’ theme, you might like to capture the sunrise from Cape Willoughby Lighthouse in the east and the sunset from Cape Borda Lighthouse in the west. With the rich yellow and red hues of the Golden Hour, the two lighthouses provide perfect foreground fodder to contrast against the epic sunrises and sunsets that grace the skies behind them. 

If you happen to be on location a bit early for sunrise or late for sunset, don’t despair! The diffused light in the Blue Hour provides a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the light from the lighthouse and a long shutter setting on your camera to create something like this:

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‘Cape Willoughby Alight – blue hour’ (image courtesy of Ross Evans) 

7. Look to the stars for inspiration 

The west of the island is a perfect place to view and take photos of the night sky. Not only is it area of virtually no light pollution but there are some great places to have in the foreground of your photos. 

Places in Flinders Chase National Park like Remarkable Rocks, Cape Du Couedic and Cape Borda Lighthouse, as well as secluded beaches like West Bay, all provide spectacular foreground settings, while places like Snake Lagoon offer the opportunity to capture a mirror-like image of the night’s sky – as long as there’s no wind. 

Winter can be tricky though. While the cold night air holds less moisture, making the sky crisp and clear so you’re more likely to get a clear view of the stars, there is a trade-off with cloud coverage. 

Top tip: download some mobile phone apps to help you plan your astrophotography,such as ‘Windy’ (which uses Bureau of Meteorology data to show cloud cover, wind, lightning, etc.), ‘Phases of the moon’ (to show how strong the moon light will be), and ‘PhotoPills’ (to plan your Milky Way photos).

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‘A Remarkable Milky Way’ (image courtesy of Ross Evans) 

8. Follow the rolling green hills

Winter on the island takes on a green hue with much of the plant life springing to life and the grass turning a lush green. 

So get off the island’s main tourist routes and explore the rolling hills and secluded spots on the north shore. 

Lathami Conservation Park is not just a great place to spot one of the burgeoning population of the endangered KI glossy black-cockatoo, it also offers great views down the valley towards Stokes Bay. 

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‘Green Coast’ (Image courtesy of Ross Evans) 

Fun fact: KI glossy blacks are now on the rise thanks to the hard work of the Glossy Black-Cockatoo Recovery Team. 

For more ideas on how to spend your time on KI, check out our stories: 10 treasures of Kangaroo Island and 10 things to see and do at Flinders Chase National Park.

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