Rob Embury - Pale Blue Dot Photography: Blog en-us (C) Rob Embury - Pale Blue Dot Photography (Rob Embury - Pale Blue Dot Photography) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:20:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:20:00 GMT Rob Embury - Pale Blue Dot Photography: Blog 120 67 Mt Gower Trek, Lord Howe Island

“Keep awake, while you may, in mountain mansions so rare”

– John Muir (if you don't know about this guy, and love the outdoors, you should definitely jump on Google)

The 14km Mt Gower trek is an adventure that will stick with you long after you have left this island paradise. It’s as tough as it is rewarding, and taking in the incredible view of one of Australia’s most stunning locations from 875m is simply mind-blowing.

The twin peaks of Lidgbird and Gower dominate your view to the South from most places around the island – goliaths that create their own weather, with a sense of mystique and awe that feels as though you’re watching a scene from Jurassic Park.

The trek itself is graded medium to hard, and you’ll experience sections of rope-assisted climbing, scrambling through rainforest mazes, sheer drop-offs and of course, incredible views. The island board dictates that you need to head up with a licensed guide, and there’s a good reason for this – unless you know exactly where you’re going, it’s very easy to miss a mark and lose yourself.

The benefits of using a seasoned guide of course extend far beyond the possibility of getting lost – you’ll return armed with some awesome knowledge on the island’s flora, fauna and history. I’ve been up twice now, both times with naturalist Dean Hiscox (or “Ocker” as the locals know him) from Lord Howe Island Environmental Tours. Ocker served as Lord Howe Island Ranger for 16 years, and has been instrumental in the development and maintenance of the trek. If there’s a question that he can’t answer for you about the island, you get your trek for free (disclaimer – that comment was not in any way endorsed by LHIET – sorry Ock).

OK – on to the trek itself… After a briefing, you start off with a nice gentle walk towards Little Island, where you can take in the imposing behemoths ahead of you in the morning light. You’ll scramble over a rocky beach in the shade of Lidgbird, until you come across a barely noticeable entrance into the jungle. This is where it really begins. From here, you go UP.

The first rope-assisted climb through the jungle is near vertical, and tough, but a great exercise in conditioning you for the rest of the adventure. Heart pounding, you’ll get a chance to catch your breath beneath the kentia palms and towering granite walls of Mt Lidgbird, at the entrance to the section known as the Lower Road.

The Lower Road is a narrow stretch of the track that sees you traversing Lidgbird, with vertical cliffs to your left, and a sheer 100m+ drop to the crashing waves on your right. Put plainly, it’s awesome. And a tad scary – if you’re any bit afraid of heights. You’ve got ropes to hold on to against the cliff, and the path is wide enough, but that drop to the right is daunting to say the least!

From there it’s back into the forest as you make your way around the southern face of Lidgbird and into the Erskine Valley, that separates the twin towers. You can enjoy a nice view up to the summit of Gower before immersing yourself in the jungle again. This part of the trek is a fairly mild ascent compared to the rest, and there’s plenty to learn about this amazing forest ecosystem along the way to the rest stop at Erskine Creek.

And then, after a quick recharge by the usually gently flowing creek it’s up. Up, up, and then some more up. But boy is it worth it once you emerge from beneath the canopy to gaze across the saddle that separates Lidgbird and Gower. This is your first “no words needed” moment, and if you’ve got any breath left from the taxing ascent, then the view will quickly take it away.

In front of you, you have the somewhat odd shape of Lidgbird, surrounded by a dense carpet of lush green treetops – and surrounding that, the great big blue. The colours of Lord Howe are kind of hard to describe accurately. That blue is just so damn blue it hurts. It’s an assault on the senses.

If you’re not grinning ear to ear by now, you’re in the wrong place – and besides, it actually gets even better from here on. Energised by the visual reward of your achievements, the next part of the climb is tough with many rope-assisted scrambles, but somehow it doesn’t feel so bad with the scene you just witnessed etched firmly in your mind’s eye.

The next viewpoint, and another chance to take a rest, is affectionately called “The Get Up Place”. I mean, that’s pretty much what you do there – there’s another steep rock scramble, and all of a sudden you’re in the open with another incredible vista to feast your lucky eyes on. From here you can start to see the lagoon peeking at you from behind Lidgbird – where the azure water turns to turquoise – and if you’re lucky, you might be able to see the incredible Balls Pyramid jutting from the ocean 23kms away on the other side.

Behind and above you looms the flat-top peak of Gower, and it feels oh so within reach… It is. Important to note that from the saddle to the peak is only about 1km of actual walking, but takes in more than half of your altitude gain. Thankfully, here you use your arms a lot as well with ropes and plenty of hand-holds.

And then it changes, quite suddenly… You’re in the “Cloud Forest”, and you’re no longer going up… This part of the trek is like stepping into another world. Have you died somewhere on the ascent, and is this soft-underfoot, lush, misty, moss-laden garden your first view of heaven…?

Fortunately, you are still very much alive, and you’re on top of Mt Gower. You enjoy a lovely little stroll through the forest, under the watchful eye of the resident Lord Howe Island Woodhens, and then BAM. Unless you’re in the clouds (which can happen quite often up here, and is the reason behind the “Cloud Forest” name), you will be looking at one of the most stunning views you’ve ever seen.

Below you, Lord Howe Island, in all of its stunning glory, surrounded by the Tasman Sea. Sit down, take it all in, have a drink and feel damn good about what you have just done. But don’t be complacent, as the Lord Howe Island Currawongs (a LHI endemic version of our mainland Pied Currawongs) have followed you up. They picked up your trail on the saddle, and have shadowed you ever since. They want your lunch, and if you take your eyes off them because you’re too busy snapping pics, they WILL take it.

The Currawongs do make an incredible foreground interest, and as a bird-lover, this is actually up there with my favourite shots ever taken. That view… seriously. I’ve been up Gower twice now, and both times I have been lucky enough to have clear skies, with cloud just overhead.

After spending about half an hour up top, you’ll begin the downward journey via the same path. Your legs will be burning, so take extra care in choosing where you drop your feet on the steep parts. Keep a hand ready to steady yourself, should you slip or stumble. Whilst the tough ascent is behind you, getting down is still no easy feat – especially after the strength you will have sapped going up.

The trek ends as it begun, with a nice gentle stroll. You look up at what you just conquered with a huge grin and a shake of your head as you chat away with the rest of your group. This adventure will stick with you for life – and you’ll struggle to put to words exactly what it was like when people ask you. I’ve given it my best shot here, but this is one of those things where words just don’t come close.

A huge thanks to Lord Howe Island Environmental Tours for having me on the trek – and to Dean and his extended family for always making my Lord Howe Island experience so wonderful. If you’ve got questions about Lord Howe or the Mt Gower trek, hit me up – and please feel free to leave me a comment.


Lord Howe Island Environmental Tours
Lord Howe Island Tourism


Canon 60D
Canon EF-S 10-22mm

(Rob Embury - Pale Blue Dot Photography) australia tourism australian photographer lord howe island lord howe island environmental tours mt gower mt gower trek mt lidgbird new south wales pale blue dot photography rob embury see australia travel photography visit nsw we are explorers Wed, 26 Jul 2017 08:58:31 GMT
Chasing Monsters: Tornado Hunting on the USA Plains  

Quay/Tucumcari WideQuay/Tucumcari Wide

It’s late afternoon. After a hot Spring day on the plains near the Texas/New Mexico border, a menacing shadow creeps over the sun and casts an eerie darkness on the land. Churning, towering masses shoot 40,000 feet in the air, gathering strength at a rapid rate.

It’s storm season in the USA’s famed “Tornado Alley” region. As these supercell thunderstorms build and grow in ferocity, they wield incredibly destructive power. Only people that call these parts home could tell you the things these beasts are truly capable of, like hurling hailstones the size of grapefruits sideways with 100mph straight-line winds.

While we’re talking winds, we shouldn’t neglect the real reason we’re here – to witness Tornado Alley’s most monstrously beautiful production, the tornado. Most people try to get away from them. We’re hunting them. We couldn’t think of anywhere we would rather be…

After the StormAfter the Storm

I’m over here chasing this dream with fellow photographer and idiot (I mean that in the nicest way possible) Anna Gottlieb aka Fox Cottage Photography. We’ve both been weather and storm obsessed since we were kids, and I can guarantee you that the fascination began well before the movie “Twister” came out (seriously, that’s the first question people ask when you tell them you’re a storm nut).

I distinctly remember seeking out B grade storm movies from a very young age, and scouring through the Reader’s Digests at the doctors surgery in the hope that there would be a story about tornadoes. I remember writing essays and talks on how tornadoes form in primary school. I remember writing short fictional stories about people being terrorised by them.

It didn’t stop after primary school – in fact, it got worse. My wonderful late Nana always had the Australian Bureau of Meteorology weather calendar (which, ironically is this month featuring my shot of lenticular clouds over Lord Howe) – and I would study it feverishly every time I went over to her house.

Lord Howe LenticularsLord Howe Lenticulars

Finding photography as a passion later on in life finally gave me an outlet to communicate my love of all things weather in a way that’s not boring my friends at parties, or boring girls on dates by pointing at the sky and reeling off some random scientific cloud name.

Heading to the USA to photograph the biggest and baddest storms on the planet was something that simply had to happen. I mean yeah, we get storms here in Melbourne, sure, but seriously – this stuff is next level.

And it did not disappoint. Not one little bit. We got what we came for, and a whole lot more. Our storm chase with Extreme Tornado Tours and 9 other like-minded crazies saw us crossing 3 states over 10 days, and bearing witness to some of the most spectacular weather we have ever seen.

Trouble AheadTrouble Ahead

Our first chase day started in Oklahoma City, crossing through the top of the Texas panhandle and all the way to just south of Tucumcari, New Mexico. It was there we watched an isolated storm stall over a canyon and grow into a fire-breathing monster, its base rotating ominously beneath an incredible corkscrew updraft towering 40,000 feet into the sky.

We saw a lightning strike set fire to a field a few miles away, and then watched as the storm cycled over and over again, becoming even more beautiful as the afternoon passed. It produced a number of funnel clouds that didn’t quite touch down as well as 2 confirmed tornadoes, 1 of which we caught a glimpse of in the distance.

As darkness fell, the storm kicked it up a notch and produced a lightning display like nothing we had ever seen before. With almost no gaps in between, lightning strikes arced out from the core of the storm like frantic spider webs, illuminating the still rotating updraft well into the night. Incredible. I actually got goosebumps writing that, just thinking about it.

Quay/Tucumcari Lightning-2Quay/Tucumcari Lightning-2

Over the next few days the action was non-stop. It was incredible watching storms grow from initiation – some just beginning as humble little cotton ball-like cumulus clouds before conditions allowed them to sprout straight up – through their stages of development into supercells, becoming severe warned, and then tornado warned as radar detects rotation within their structure.

One such storm near Sudan in Texas dropped 2 brief tornadoes right in front of us, but even without tornadoes on the ground, the cloud structure was jaw-dropping and the power of these beasts was undeniable. Watching the entire base of a storm cloud, hanging low to the ground and spinning fast right in front of your eyes, with an eerie aqua green hail core looming above, is simply an unforgettable feeling of awe.

Sudan TXSudan TX

Whilst we had a few small and/or distant tornadoes on the board, it wasn’t until day 4 that we witnessed the true beauty of a fully-fledged tornado. We watched the funnel drop from the base of the cloud, making a few failed attempts to touch down before condensing completely.

Watching it from its inception in the cloud to the point where it was there on the ground, sucking up dirt from the field with incredible force, was just mind-blowing. At one point it even developed another satellite “sister” funnel that moved around the main area of rotation but wasn’t able to complete its formation.

We drove alongside it for a while with no safe spots to pull over, and sadly by the time we were able to stop it had somewhat disappeared into the rain band that was wrapping around it. Rain-wrapped tornadoes pose huge hazards, and this storm sadly went on to produce another larger tornado that was completely concealed by rain and went on to destroy parts of a nearby town, and take a life.

Fritch TX PanoFritch TX Pano

Storm chasing is dangerous stuff, and getting yourself in a good spot to get the right shot is extremely risky business. More often than not, you don’t have a lot of time, and need to be thinking more about your next move than you are about your current one. Our guides from ETT were beyond exceptional – they nailed it every time. Not just in deciding which storms were the right ones to chase, but positioning us based on how the storms were behaving, as it happened, and knowing where their escape roads were (and what they were made of – you don’t want to be bogged in mud with a storm throwing baseball sized hail at you).

Whilst getting up close and personal with tornadoes is an adrenaline pumping experience, some of the most stunning views of these storms are seen further back from the action. The structure of a supercell is a sight to behold, and features like a wall cloud, updraft, inflow tail, hail core, anvil and mammatus clouds all provide mesmerising views and brilliant photographic subjects.

Waynoka UpdraftWaynoka Updraft

This epic adventure has barely scratched that “weather nerd” itch for either of us. It has served to make that passion for severe weather, and weather photography in general, just that much stronger. We learnt so much about photography in these types of conditions, as well as invaluable information about storm behaviour and forecasting.

We survived being caught in the “bear cage”, we “core-punched”, we got rocked by a “gustnado”, and we watched the “whale’s mouth” billow overhead as an ominous shelf cloud passed. We marvelled at the beautifully intense blue/green hues of a hail core, and we even heard the scary crackling/rumbling sound created when large hailstones smash against each other inside a cloud, known as a “hail roar”.

This is an experience I will never forget, and I’m glad I got to enjoy it with such a great bunch of people. I’m pretty sure I speak on Anna’s behalf when I say, “we ain’t done yet”… Next year, when storm season rolls around in the USA again, you’ll know where to find us.

Panhandle UpdraftPanhandle Updraft

A huge thanks to:

Extreme Tornado Tours (you guys seriously rock), the other awesome chasers we met over there, Benro Australia tripods, and Canon Australia for the use of Canon 5DMkIV and Canon 5DsR bodies, and EF 11-24mm and EF 16-35mm lenses. And of course to Anna, and the rest of our chase crew, for being both hilarious and awesome.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this story, and feel free to ask questions if you’re interested in knowing more about storm chasing.

You can find all of my storm chasing shots in my Weather Gallery

Finally, here’s my timelapse made up of about 5,000+ still images from the trip – please go full screen, watch in HD, and watch until the end (trust me)…

(Rob Embury - Pale Blue Dot Photography) Australian Photographer Benro Australia Canon Australia Extreme Tornado Tours Lightning Pale Blue Dot Photography Photography Rob Embury Storm Chasing Storm Photography Thunderstorm Timelapse Tornado Tornado Alley Travel Photography Weather Photography Wed, 05 Jul 2017 08:03:37 GMT
2017 Bureau of Meteorology Weather Calendar Lord Howe LenticularsLord Howe Lenticulars
I'm absolutely thrilled that the Bureau of Meteorology has chosen my photo of lenticular clouds over Lord Howe Island as the July image for their 2017 Australian Weather Calendar. This is Australia's highest selling calendar, and marks a huge highlight in my still very short photography career for a number of reasons. A huge number of keen weather photographers send in absolutely mindblowing images each year, and even just to be shortlisted was a huge achievement - but here's why it means more to me.

I grew up admiring this calendar. My Nana would have this calendar on her wall every year, and I would take it down and go through every page and photograph multiple times every time I visited her house. I studied every photograph, in awe. I read the descriptions about each photo and absorbed all of the background information on the cloud formations or whatever phenomenon was depicted, and then when I went home I found out more. I noticed every time there was a weather event going on and would relate what was happening in the sky to what I had seen in the calendar. I was a tad obsessed.

My Nana knew how much I loved it, and she was always very encouraging of my passion - I think she was actually a bit of a weather nerd herself... She passed away a couple of years ago, just when I was really starting to get into my photography. I know she would be the most excited person in the world if she were around to know that one of my photos made it into the calendar. I can picture the enormous smile.

Sentimentality aside, it was the stunning images on the BoM calendar that really intensified my passion, made me want to learn more about the incredible sky show that Mother Nature is capable of, and drove me towards wanting to photograph it in all of its glory. I can honestly say that to have an image featured in this calendar was one of my earliest photography goals.

So, a bit about the image itself. When I visited Lord Howe Island in 2015 I spent a lot of time walking around taking photos (obviously), and in doing so had a lot of conversations with other tourists and the locals about my photography and being a weather nerd and so forth. It just so happened that on my last morning there, while I was on the back of my wonderful friend (whose family are so hospitable to me every time I visit) Darcelle's ute heading to a drop-off point for a hike, one of those people I'd happened to speak to saw me and told me about these "strange clouds" sitting over Mt Lidgbird and Mt Gower.

Lord Howe Island Lenticular CloudsIncredible lenticular clouds cover Mt Lidgbird and Mt Gower on Lord Howe Island, off the coast of New South Wales in Australia.
Of course, being a weather nerd and a Lord Howe Island fanatic, I was aware that the mountains were capable of producing lenticular clouds - the mountains actually produce cloud spectacles quite regularly, but well defined lenticulars are rare (rare anywhere, let alone Australia where the geography means that there are very few places where they can form like that). Surely I couldn't be THAT lucky...?

We pulled off the road and I ran to where I had a clear view of the mountains, and there they were. Perfectly defined, sitting atop Lidgbird and Gower like multi-layered hats. Seeing these clouds in books and online is pretty cool, but seeing them THAT perfect, in person, and in such an incredibly stunning location - I was completely blown away. The shot that made the calendar was, would you believe, the first shot I took.

They frayed and dissipated a little after that and after another 30mins or so they were a combination of a number of cloud formations, but I'm so incredibly lucky to have been able to witness them and take that shot when they were perfect. Thank you to BoM, thank you to my Lord Howe friends, and thank you to all of you who have followed my photography for motivating me to keep doing it.

Anybody who is keen on learning how to take photos AND exploring the inimitable Lord Howe Island at the same time, check out the 8 day photography adventure that I am running in February 2017.

If you want to know more about the lenticular clouds, check out the Wikipedia page here.

If you are interested in buying a copy of the calendar, which contains some absolutely incredible images, head to the BoM website here.

(Rob Embury - Pale Blue Dot Photography) #bom #bureauofmeteorology #lordhoweisland #palebluedotphotography #seeaustralia #visitnsw Australian Photographer Australian Weather Calendar BoM Bureau of Meteorology Landscape Photography Lenticular Clouds Lord Howe Island New South Wales Pale Blue Dot Photography Rob Embury See Australia Travel Photography Weather Weather Photography Mon, 07 Nov 2016 06:03:14 GMT
Three Capes Track - Tasmania - Part 1

The jaw-dropping Tasman Island with the viewpoint known as "The Blade" just to its left

After a whirlwind trip down to Tassie with some mates a couple of months back, the Three Capes Track was a photographic itch that I knew needed to be scratched ASAP. When I heard that the prices had dropped from $495 to $250 during July/August, the decision was made. This is unique, wild and rugged coastline, and some of Australia’s most pristine natural environment. To put it plainly, it is stunning.

Whilst the track itself was previously accessible for campers only, Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife have created a wonderful 4 day 46km hiking experience that can only be described as world-class. The 3CT was officially opened in its current incarnation in Dec 2015, and Parks reports that the improvements have resulted in a drastic increase in the number of people taking on the hike. Mark my words - the full $495 price tag is absolutely worth every cent.

Munro Hut under an incredibly clear night sky with the galactic core of the Milky Way overhead

The most drastic addition to the hike is the inclusion of 3 incredibly comfortable hut precincts, at which you are able to rest your weary limbs after each day’s walking and exploring. The huts include cooking facilities (with utensils), wood-fire heaters in the common rooms, dining areas, board games and books, bunked rooms with memory-foam mattresses, and a host Ranger to answer your questions and provide you with background information on the region as well as the latest updates on the weather conditions (which is super important).

The fact that you don’t need to cater for tents or cooking gear in your hiking packs can’t be understated here – it saves a LOT on both weight and bulk! Other well-placed additions to the track include various checkpoints that correlate with a nicely presented guidebook, providing you with insights on specific aspects of the track and its formation, natural features, and information on the area’s rich convict history. There is far too much to describe, and far too many photographs to tackle this in a single blog post, so this is Part 1!

Day 1 – Port Arthur to Surveyors Hut

I really have to make mention of our driver from Pennicott Wilderness Journeys, who bussed us from Hobart Airport to the starting point of the 3CT at Port Arthur. We were the only 2 on the bus (being winter) and he showed us some great spots on the way (including Eaglehawk Neck, which is the narrow isthmus connecting the Forestier and Tasman Peninsulas), as well as providing a stellar introduction to the area - particularly for my American hiking partner Brenna, who had never been to Tassie.

Tessellated PavementTessellated Pavement

The awesome "Tessellated Pavement" rocks at Eaglehawk Neck, a geological marvel formed between 60 and 160 million years ago by faults in the Earth's crust, and further shaped over time by continued erosion from the relentless Tasman Sea

The view from Eaglehawk Neck looking over the Tasman Peninsula, with Cape Huay (our Day 4 destination) in the far distance

You start your adventure from the World Heritage Listed Port Arthur Historic Site, a place in itself that is well worth spending a bit of time at if you can. Port Arthur is a window into Australia’s convict history, and among the most significant convict era sites worldwide. Before you get used to your hiking legs, you’ll get to test out your sea legs with a 90-minute boat tour (also through Pennicott) prior to your drop-off at Denmans Cove.

The "Isle of the Dead" is part of the historic Port Arthur convict settlement - between 1833 and 1877 over 1,000 people were buried on this island

Due to some recent wild weather, our launch wasn’t able to get right up on the sand, so with packs on and hiking boots hanging over our necks we waded through the crystal clear shallows to the beach. Jumping into crystal clear waters, soft sand underfoot, with a hiking pack over your shoulders, to enter a deserted cove on a remote peninsula and start your 46km walk… if that isn’t a perfect way to kick off an adventure then I don’t know what is!

To ease you into the days ahead, the walk on Day 1 is only 4km, and takes you into the Tasman National Park with stunning views over the waters of Port Arthur and towards Safety Cove. After a mild ascent you’ll find yourself in Surveyors Cove, which is a beautiful little cobblestoned beach and the perfect rest and snack-point before a gradual climb up to Surveyors Hut.

Surveyors Bay is a perfect spot to rest and take in the view before the gradual climb up to the Surveyors Hut

If you have done a bit of organised hiking in the past, I can only say that you will be blown away by the quality of the huts. When Surveyors materialised out of the forest I was beyond impressed. The architecture has been done naturally and incredibly tastefully, and the designs complement the natural landscape beautifully.

Surveyors Hut with the decks glistening in the morning sun after an overnight shower

You’ll find tables/chairs and sun-lounges for the warmer months sitting out on a vast deck that gives you a direct line of sight across to the impressive Cape Raoul in the distance. When we arrived, the rest of the hikers were already well settled in to the common room with a fire blazing and hot drinks on the boil. What can I say? I take photos, and I stop to listen to animal and bird noises, and I take it all in – I was a nature nerd in my element, and in absolutely no rush…

Speaking of nature nerds, we had a couple of gorgeous Bennett’s Wallaby youngsters just grazing right next to the hut at dusk. Known on mainland Australia as the Red-Necked Wallaby, these guys are common residents on the Tasman Peninsula.

A young Bennett's Wallaby grazing near Surveyors Hut at dusk

Being an obvious glutton for punishment, we actually hiked 2km back to Surveyors Cove after dropping our main packs, on the potential promise of a ripper sunset that sadly decided not to deliver on this particular evening. Still, the serenity was intoxicating, the scenery spectacular, and Day 1 was but a taste of the adventure to come…

Big shout out to Ranger Jess, who was our host at Surveyors Hut - very friendly, incredibly knowledgeable and a great 3CT ambassador.

Stay tuned for PART 2, as we hit the track again for the next day’s 11km leg (which we naturally added an additional 14km on to, so that we could watch the sunset from one of Australia’s most jaw dropping clifftop ledges)!

Morning coffee at Surveyors Hut with Cape Raoul in the distance‚Äč

With thanks to:

Samyang Australia for the use of the wonderful Samyang 14mm f/2.8 AE lens
Benro Australia for the use of their BRILLIANT GoPlus Travel carbon fibre tripod (only 1.3kg)
Discover Tasmania
Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Service
Three Capes Track
Pennicott Wilderness Journeys

(Rob Embury - Pale Blue Dot Photography) #RoamAustralia #australia #behindthescenery #discovertasmania #palebluedotphotography #seeaustralia #tasmania 3 Capes Track Australia Australian Photographer Benro Australia Discover Tasmania Landscape Photography Pale Blue Dot Photography Port Arthur Rob Embury Samyang Australia See Australia Tasmania Three Capes Track Travel Travel Photography Tue, 16 Aug 2016 13:28:49 GMT
South Australia Roadtrip #RoamAustralia
Last year I was lucky enough to win Europcar’s South Australian leg of the #RoamAustralia photography competition, with one of the shots from my trip to Lord Howe Island. The prize was flights for 2 to Adelaide with 5 days’ luxury car hire, and spending money.

South Australia had been on my list of places to travel to and photograph for some time, and what better way to do it than on a road trip with a good mate?!

With so many picturesque locations on offer, it was always going to be tough to nail down an itinerary. So in mid-March we jetted off to Adelaide from Melbourne, with a few days to enjoy the beautiful “City of Churches” before hitting the road in our little Mercedes A Class.

We headed down to Port Willunga, a beautiful coastal spot well known to local photographers thanks to the jetty pylon ruins that date back to 1868. The beach itself is stunning – the turquoise colour of the water contrasting wonderfully against the golden cliffs that tower above it, with the jetty ruins providing further photographic and historical interest.

From there we checked out Hallett Cove – the conservation park here is one of Australia’s most important geological and archaeological sites, and has some incredible natural structures that are evidence of glacial formation associated with an ice age 280 million years ago. Mind blowing stuff.

Later that evening in Glenelg, Mother Nature put on one hell of a show at sunset. I spent a good hour and a half sitting down on the foreshore by the pier taking photos. Just incredible. I always get excited when it’s getting towards sunset and there are Cirrus clouds (the high level wispy ones that look like strands of fairy floss), because they ALWAYS light up brilliantly.

Glenelg SunsetGlenelg Sunset
The next day we drove through to Hahndorf via McLaren Vale (and of course stopped in at a few wineries on the way). These colourful little guys were all over the vines at the SC Pannell winery – I did some research and apparently this caterpillar belongs to the Grapevine Moth, which makes perfect sense given where I found them!

Australian Grapevine MothAustralian Grapevine Moth
The drive from Hahndorf across to Barmera was the longest single leg of the trip, and takes you through some seriously stunning landscapes. You start off with rolling hills and lush green valleys, then head through endless grapevines skirting the edge of the Barossa region, into what really is the edge of the desert – long straight roads and arid landscapes, eventually arriving in the Riverland region alongside the mighty Murray River.

Lake Bonney at Barmera is a favourite place for photographers for a number of reasons. The lake itself is dotted with these incredible twisted dead trees, which make great foreground interest in your shots, and there is water access basically the entire way around the perimeter (so whatever direction you need to be shooting in, there’s a spot for it). The sunset was incredibly fiery and vivid, and whilst my mate had a nap back at the accommodation, I had a curious pelican to keep me company.

Lake Bonney Sunset PelicanLake Bonney Sunset Pelican
The other reason photographers come to Barmera and Lake Bonney is the night sky. I got up at about 2am, which is when my trusty astronomy app told me the galactic core of the Milky Way would be rising. I don’t know what else to say but WOW. The amount of the Milky Way and the night sky in general that you can see here with the naked eye is quite unbelievable. With very little light pollution, and regularly clear skies, this place is perfect for Astrophotography. I decided to use the ruins of the Lake Bonney Hotel as my foreground for something a bit different.

Lake Bonney HotelLake Bonney Hotel
A South Australia roadtrip obviously isn’t complete without a visit to the Barossa Valley, so Tanunda was our last stop before heading back to Adelaide, and it did not disappoint. We checked out a few of the local wineries and had a few beers (and a cracking feed) at Barossa Valley Brewing.

After having perfect weather every day, it stormed up big time as a powerful cold front slashed its way across southern Australia. I managed to snap this shot on the Sturt Highway near Truro as the storm clouds gathered.

Sturt Highway TruroSturt Highway Truro
Absolutely loved my time in South Australia, and many thanks to Europcar for giving me an opportunity to check it out.
What a fantastic competition. Thanks also to Samyang Australia for allowing me to road-test their 8mm Fisheye lens (awesome fun roadtripping lens with almost 180 degrees of vision in frame) and the 14mm f2.8 lens (THE best lens for shooting the Milky Way). Still plenty more of this beautiful state to explore and photograph, so South Australia, I will be back!

Glenelg Dawn B&WGlenelg Dawn B&W

Canon EOS 60D
Canon EFS 10-22mm
Canon EFS 55-250mm
Samyang 14mm f2.8
Samyang 8mm f2.8 Fisheye CS II
Haida ND3.0 (10-Stop) Slim Pro II


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(Rob Embury - Pale Blue Dot Photography) #RoamAustralia #palebluedotphotography #seesouthaustralia Australian Photographer Europcar Australia Landscape Photography Pale Blue Dot Photography Rob Embury Samyang Australia See Australia South Australia Travel Travel Photography Thu, 28 Jul 2016 06:26:18 GMT
Craig's Hut - Victorian High Country Craigs Hut PanoramicCraigs Hut PanoramicPanorama of the incredible mountain vista as seen from Craig's Hut in the Victorian high country
The Victorian High Country is simply stunning, and Craig’s Hut is one of its most loved icons.

Craig’s Hut is one of a string of high country huts, and provides you with one of the most awe-inspiring views this country has to offer. In fact, Australian Traveller listed Craig’s Hut at #5 in their list of the 100 Best Views in Australia.

Unlike the other high country huts (which were built by Australia’s historic cattlemen for shelter whilst driving their cattle to the high plains for summer), Craig’s Hut was actually purpose-built for the cinematic adaption of Banjo Patterson’s legendary poem The Man from Snowy River in 1981.

The enormous alpine bush fires of 2006 burnt the original hut down, and a replica was constructed and re-opened to the public in 2008. You’ll need a 4WD to get right up to the hut by car, or you can park at the base on Circuit Rd and hike the last 1.2km. My Subaru Forester handled the 4WD part pretty easily, but the larger your clearance the easier it is. Circuit Rd is, I believe, closed at Telephone Box Junction during snow season.

Craigs Hut B&WCraigs Hut B&WBlack and white long exposure of the historic Craig's Hut, located on Mt Stirling in Victoria's beautiful high country
At the hut itself you will find fire pits for camping, which was handy on the night that I visited given that the mercury dropped to a crisp 2 degrees Celsius. There are additional camping grounds further down the track, but I opted to pitch a swag/bivy up top – and I had the entire place to myself for the night. Amazing.

Whilst the view during the day is jaw-dropping enough, watching a sunset here is just something else. I had incredible pastel colours with the last golden light of the sun reflecting off the hut’s windows as Jupiter rose in the clear alpine sky.

Craigs Hut SunsetCraigs Hut SunsetThe sun's last golden rays reflect off the windows of the historic Craig's Hut in Victoria's stunning high country region
If you haven’t seen clear skies in the high country, you haven’t seen clear skies. The Milky Way was simply astonishing, and I managed to witness the galactic core rising over the hut at around 1.30am. The amount of detail visible to the naked eye is breathtaking, and as luck would have it there was also a comet visible (the aqua smudge just to the left of the core).

I shot the stars with Samyang's brilliant 14mm f2.8 lens. The clarity that this lens finds on the stars and Milky Way is the best that I have seen, and it's a lens that EVERY budding astrophotographer needs in their kit. 

Craigs Hut Milky WayCraigs Hut Milky WayThe galactic core of the Milky Way rising over the historic Craig's Hut in the Victorian high country
Sunrise was just as awe-inspiring, with low cloud drifting through the maze of valleys that stretch out below you as the Australian high country slowly fills with life and colour. I found myself taking far less photos than I expected to, because I just wanted to watch. Flame Robins chatter away and Kookaburras laugh as dew drips from the Snow Gums, and the feeling slowly starts to return to your fingers and you realise how lucky you are to be able to witness such a spectacular sight.

Laughing KookaburraLaughing Kookaburra
If you’re up at Mt Buller during ski season, you can take a helicopter flight over to the hut. Seeing this place with snow on the ground is absolutely on my list. Stunning place.

Tips – if you plan to shoot the night sky here, bring a lens warmer or something you can wrap around it. My lenses fogged up as soon as it went dark, but I was able to warm them up enough to be able to shoot the stars without any issues – I’ll be keeping them warm from the start next time. Bring a toilet roll (you’re on your own with nature when it calls), and make sure you take your rubbish with you, and leave this beautiful place exactly as you found it.


Canon EOS 60D
Canon EFS 10-22mm
Canon EFS 55-250mm
Samyang 14mm f2.8
Haida ND3.0 (10-Stop) Slim Pro II

Awesome Links:

Visit Victoria - Cattlemen History
Explore Australia - Craig's Hut Camping
Samyang Australia Facebook
Canon Australia Facebook
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(Rob Embury - Pale Blue Dot Photography) #palebluedotphotography #seaustralia #seehighcountry Australia Craigs Hut Landscape Photography Pale Blue Dot Photography Rob Embury See Australia Travel Photography Victoria Victorian High Country Sun, 10 Apr 2016 08:03:00 GMT
Photography & Mental Health  

Waynoka OK GreenWaynoka OK Green

How Finding a Passion Like Photography Can Help Your Mental Health

Mental health is an issue that is thankfully now firmly on the public radar. I was inspired me to write this, in the hope that somebody can take something from it - even if that something is not necessarily photography related.

A little bit of background information. I've always had an appreciation of landscapes and nature, and have always been interested in the creative side of things, but photography only came to me within the last 2 years (and only semi-seriously in the last 12 months or so). When I decided to go and get myself a decent camera and give photography a proper crack as something more than just a passing interest, my life was not in a good place. I had dealt with some pretty nasty stuff, and I'll happily admit that my head was in a far worse place than my life actually was.

I was lucky enough to have a very supportive family and a great group of friends by my side, and I acknowledge that not everybody has that luxury in times of need. But when you are stuck in that hole and your life has fallen to pieces, you need something more than that to break the cycle - and that DIY element to overcoming mental health issues is without question the hardest part.

Alfred Nicholas GardensAlfred Nicholas Gardens

Enter photography. So, why has photography had such a profound effect on my mental health, and why do I think it could also be something that might help others?

1. It's an extension of something that already makes me happy. It's getting out of the house, and spending time outdoors. When you are stuck in a rut, something as simple as just getting outside and appreciating what's out there has a huge effect in breaking a cycle.

2. It focuses me. This happens in 2 ways. The first is that I'm focused on what I'm doing - thinking about the shot that I want, and focusing on getting that shot. The second is that I'm focused on learning HOW to get that shot. The amount that I've learnt about how to take photos within a fairly short space of time is huge - I look at photos I took 18 months ago and cringe sometimes - but the point is that I was focused on teaching myself something new. When you're focused on something, your mind is not engulfed in whatever it is that is bringing you down.

3. It's a form of communication. A lot of people who are suffering from mental health issues are weighed down by the fact that it is hard for others to see things through their eyes. Your eyes are unique - how you see the world through your eyes is yours and yours alone. Art is a way to communicate how you see the world to others - and art can be anything (from photography, to acting, to creative writing, and more).

It doesn't matter what you are communicating - the art of communication is cathartic and by way of communication you are releasing things you have inside your head, even if you don't realise it at the time. For me, I look at a landscape differently to a lot of other people, and I try to communicate my vision of that landscape through photography.

The Curtain CallThe Curtain Call
4. It's a social activity. The social aspects of photography can be direct or indirect. I've rekindled old friendships, and met some wonderful people through photography, whether that was from taking photos with them (other photographers), bumping into them randomly and chatting whilst out taking photos, or linking with them afterwards on social media.

There are some great photography groups on Facebook where you will find like-minded people who you can learn tips/skills from, join in photography excursions/social events with, or even just share your work with. Of course you don't have to share your work - maybe your photography is personal to you, and that is fine.

If you are planning on sharing your work, just remember that it is YOUR work, and how many likes it gets on Facebook or Instagram is not reflective of what it means to you, or necessarily a reflection of how good it is! You will find that there are a lot of positive people out there that give you confidence to keep going, and help you to improve. And you don't HAVE to go and take photos with other people - a lot of the time I prefer to shoot on my own - but the option is there.

5. It's something I don't suck at. I've sucked at a lot of things. I'm 34 next week, and whilst I've realised I'm not going to be a guitar shredding rockstar gracing the stages in the next iteration of Metallica, photography is something that I think will stay with me until my eyes stop working. When you find something you're good at, it does wonders for your confidence and self esteem - plus it makes you want to do it more and more. And the more you do it, the more your mental health improves (see above).

Again, I will stress that "not sucking" or being "good" at something is not based on the opinions of others. If you enjoy it, and you are happy with the results that you're getting, then you're not sucking at it! It's about what you want out of it. Plus, the more you focus on it, the more you will learn, and the better you will get.

IMPORTANT - note that the above is written based on my personal experience through photography. If you remove the word "photography" and replace it with another pursuit - say drawing, painting or writing, or even fitness - it still makes perfect sense, and can still have enormous benefits for your mental health. It's about finding a passion that makes you happy.

Lake Bonney Sunset PelicanLake Bonney Sunset Pelican

Thanks for reading - please feel free to leave me a comment, and please share this with anybody who you think it might help. If you think photography might be something you would enjoy, by all means contact me and I am happy to give you advice or point you in the right direction, or possibly even catch up for a shoot at some point!

Mental Health Links:

Beyond Blue: and

(Rob Embury - Pale Blue Dot Photography) beyondblue depression headspace landscape landscape photography melbourne photographer mental health pale blue dot photography photographer photography rob embury see australia travel travel photography Wed, 02 Mar 2016 23:48:57 GMT
Lord Howe Island  

Lord Howe Lagoon BeachLord Howe Lagoon Beach
Lord Howe Island is my favourite place in Australia. There, I said it. I first visited here many years ago, and I can't really describe my experience as anything other than love at first sight. The island is a jewel in Australia's already very impressive crown of stunning locations that basically beg to be photographed.

In October 2015 a friend from the island invited me to come over and take family photos of her and her daughter, who was turning 1. Suffice to say, I didn't really need too much convincing to jump on a plane and head over there. From the instant the plane dips through the clouds and you catch a glimpse of either the island itself, or the prehistoric looking Balls Pyramid, you know you are arriving at a pretty special place. Cue theme from Jurassic Park.

So, a bit about the island briefly. You're looking at a 2 hour Qantas Link flight from Sydney or Brisbane (weekends only), and when you arrive you will be 1 of no more than 400 "guests" on the island - the local population is around the same. The island (and the chain of surrounding islands) are World Heritage listed volcanic remnants, with a diverse range of landscapes including forested areas, pristine white sandy beaches, wild rocky cliffs, and the island's piece-de-resistance - the twin peaks of Lidgbird and Gower.

White Tern LHIWhite Tern LHILord Howe Island's gorgeous White Tern

Lord Howe is a haven for holiday-makers, bird-watchers, game fishermen, hikers, and photographers. There are geographical features and wildlife that you will not find anywhere else in the world, and the vibrant colours of the island are to be seen to be believed. The weather is mild and pretty good year-round, although Spring and Autumn are probably the best times to go.

This time around, I sadly only had a few days here, but I tried to get as many shots in as I could hiking around the island and trying to suss out which spots might work best at different times of the day. It's an incredible place to explore, and fascinating to watch the twin peaks dictate the island's weather patterns. On my final morning, Mt Lidgbird and Mt Gower put on a show - with a mindblowing display of lenticular clouds. Incredible. The locals reckon it happens a bit there - and being a weather nerd I knew what lenticular clouds were, from pictures - but seeing it in person was magical.

Lord Howe LenticularsLord Howe Lenticulars

I was really happy with how the shots for my friend came out as well, but with a backdrop and light like that, how could they not have looked amazing. Lord Howe Island, I'm not done with you yet - I shall return!

Emi-4Emi-4 Emi-5Emi-5 Emi-6Emi-6 Emi-9Emi-9 Emi-10Emi-10


(Rob Embury - Pale Blue Dot Photography) Australia Australian Photographer Landscape Landscape Photography Lord Howe Island Melbourne Photographer NSW New South Wales Pale Blue Dot Photography Rob Embury See Australia Tourism Travel Travel Photography Visit Australia Visit NSW Thu, 04 Feb 2016 08:20:47 GMT
Zion National Park In December 2015 I went on an amazing week-long roadtrip around Utah (and some of Arizona) - this is the first installment about my travels in my trusty campervan Steffi, from Lost Campers in Salt Lake City. Zion National Park is quite simply a treasure - a playground for photographers, hikers, campers and adventurers alike.

Zion Tourist RoadZion Tourist RoadZion National Park in Utah
I only spent a couple of nights in Watchman campground, but I could have easily stayed longer, and I'll certainly be back to tackle the hikes I didn't manage to get around to. The park is centred around the canyons that rise above the Virgin River, and the landscape is absolutely stunning. The cliffs show off their features and different hues at different times of the day, and I was lucky enough to even have a bit of snow on the ground in places to add to the beauty.

As far as hikes are concerned, I tackled Angel's Landing, the peak pictured below - it was a challenging hike but the top was worth every drop of sweat. If you're heading up there to get some amazing photos, I would suggest going in the afternoon - I went in the morning and unfortunately direct sunlight at that time of day meant that photography was tough. I ended up with a lot of blown out skies.

Angel's LandingAngel's LandingThe Virgin River in Zion National Park, Utah underneath Angel's Landing. LIMITED TO 25 PRINTS ONLY
There is plenty of wildlife to be seen here, and on the hike up Angel's Landing we (my French hiking buddies and I) actually managed to spot a California Condor. I've been a keen birder since I was a kid, and seeing this particular bird was remarkable. To give you a bit of background, they were extinct in the wild in the 90s, and were bred back in captivity. There are 2 populations - 1 in Zion and 1 in the Grand Canyon National Park - and only about 120 individual birds in total. In the world. Amazing. You can also see plenty of Mule Deer, like this buck that popped his head up when I was heading to a place to photograph the sunset.

Mule Deer Buck - Zion NPMule Deer Buck - Zion NP You can find out more about Zion National Park here and here. I'd highly recommend checking it out if you happen to be travelling in the general area. I made a GoPro video on the drive out on the tourist road - this will give you an idea of the expansive beauty of this place. Check it out, and check out my Utah photo collection!

Zion National Park Tourist Road from Pale Blue Dot Photography on Vimeo.

(Rob Embury - Pale Blue Dot Photography) Australian Photographer Landscape Photography Lost Campers National Park Service Pale Blue Dot Photography Rob Embury USA Utah Zion National Park Sat, 30 Jan 2016 07:13:58 GMT
Warburton Sequoia Forest Just past Warburton, in the Yarra Ranges east of Melbourne, there is a very special and unique place that I can't believe I took so long to go and see. The Sequoia Forest (or Redwood Forest) has about 1,500 enormous California Redwoods (SEQUIOA SEMPERVIRENS) and is an artist/photographer's heaven.

I went on a summer morning when low cloud had just cleared away, and whilst the sunshine through the trees and glimpses of blue sky through the canopy was great for photography, I can only drool at how incredibly mystical this place would be in a fog.

Sequoia CrownSequoia CrownThe beautiful Sequoia or Redwood Forest in Warburton, just east of Melbourne in the Yarra Ranges region.
The other thing I loved about this place is that artists have taken the time to use fallen branches and twigs to create natural sculptures that compliment the landscape. With UK artist/sculptor Andy Goldsworthy being one of my favourite artists growing up (click here to check out some of his amazing work), this place got me a bit inspired.

I was initially just going to take photos of the forest, but after seeing others' work I thought I'd get a bit creative and let my repressed inner Goldsworthy loose for a few hours. I made a cairn with sticks on top of a stump that was sitting in the middle of a row of trees, and also some leading lines to and around the cairn, and around the bases of the trees.

Below is a timelapse of the construction, and a photo of the finished product. Be sure to check out my Sequoia Forest photo collection as well. This is a magical place, and I'll definitely be back. If you're looking for a nice daytrip from Melbourne I highly recommend it. You can find a bit more information on the Warburton area here and more information on the Yarra Ranges (there are plenty of other great spots to see in the area) here.

The Pillars of the EarthThe Pillars of the EarthThe beautiful Sequoia or Redwood Forest in Warburton, just east of Melbourne in the Yarra Ranges region. LIMITED TO 25 PRINTS ONLY

(Rob Embury - Pale Blue Dot Photography) Australian Photographer Landscape Landscape Photography Melbourne Melbourne Photographer Melbourne Photography Pale Blue Dot Photography Redwood Forest Warburton Rob Embury Sequoia Forest Warburton Warburton Yarra Ranges Wed, 13 Jan 2016 04:43:41 GMT
Welcome to Pale Blue Dot Photography Welcome to Pale Blue Dot Photography!

I very much appreciate you checking out my new website (as of Jan 2016) and my work, and in turn supporting my passion. I'll be starting to add a few blog posts from here on in - some will be about photography adventures I have been on, and some might be more about specific techniques/tips on photographing a certain subject or scene.

Mt Batur SunriseMt Batur SunriseSunrise seen from the volcanic crater rim of Mt Batur on Bali in Indonesia with a silhouette of a traditional Balinese statue
If you like what you see/read then please subscribe, and please also share with any friends/family who you think may be interested. The more people who care, share, and generally support, the more I'll be inspired to go and do cool things, take cool photos of those things, and then write about them!

If you have any questions about any of the shots I've taken, or are interested in purchasing them in any format other than the products listed on the site, please get in contact with me either by email or phone. If you'd like me to come and take photos for you for any reason (event, family shots etc) then I'd also love to hear from you, and I'd be happy to put together a quote.

Thanks again, and I hope you enjoy my adventures! Rob Embury - 12/01/16

Lord Howe Island, Aug 2015


(Rob Embury - Pale Blue Dot Photography) Australian Photographer Landscape Landscape Photography Melbourne Photographer Pale Blue Dot Photography Photographer Photography Rob Embury Tue, 12 Jan 2016 04:49:14 GMT