Something in the Eyre – Murray White

Something in the Eyre – Murray White

The mostly coastal drive along the Flinders Highway between Port Lincoln and Ceduna must rank as one of South Australia’s most under rated. Surfers and fishers seem more than content that other visitors have largely passed them by, but for photographers I would recommend visiting here soon before the rest of Australia wakes from its slumber.

For those travellers on a single minded mission, the Eyre Peninsula is simply a broad stretch of land separating Ceduna from Port Augusta, and a logistical staging point to and from the eastern states. The hypnotic bitumen of Highway One spears across flat lands here, with the Gawler Ranges jumping up in jagged relief to the north and wheat country defining the more developed pastoral spreads to the south. But for those camera enthusiasts who care to take a little time out and venture along Spencer Gulf to the open sea, a series of beachside fishing villages will begin the laid back transition to some wild coastline.

As far as getting the dark cloth out goes, I find the west coast of the Eyre vastly more appealing than the rest of the peninsula. This is certainly not to devalue the east coast destinations or even the grain cropping interior in any way; I have had wonderful times touring these welcoming communities too. No, its just that for me, the natural features defining the west coast are so unbelievably spectacular that I feel compelled to save my film for there.

Lincoln and Coffin Bay National Parks protect the wind and surf beaten rocky outcrops marking the southern tip of the peninsula, and feature rare opportunities for what is almost wilderness photography; such is its apparently undeveloped character. Although defined walking tracks and lookouts abound, they are supplemented by countless other options that radiate across these parks, and as a bonus, outside of holiday periods you will generally have much of the coastline to yourself. Some limited access is available for conventional vehicles in both parks, but 4WDs are essential for many tracks and camping areas, especially through the sand hills of Sleaford Bay and west of Little Yangie Bay Camp in Coffin Bay NP.

Boulder and paperbark fringed sandy beaches make great subjects through here, but don’t worry if the light isn’t playing the game, because another cove secluded behind waving marram grass is literally around the next corner. Be prepared however for raised sand and salt spray at times; these hostile companions are far from uncommon on the exposed and windy west coast, while unpredictable waves are a very real risk at any time close to those photogenic rock stacks on the ocean’s edge.

Nearby Whalers Way is a corrugated gravel drive to one of the most southerly points of the peninsula at Cape Carnot. A fee is payable for small groups to access this private station country, from where whaling fleets once operated. This is seriously wild coastline, and you will be warned of its dangers, but few photographers will leave here unfulfilled. I found much of interest in the extraordinary rock formations and countless caves undermining the coastline, but many others I’m sure will enjoy the bigger picture alternatives, found by just looking out from the imposing cliffs.

Heading north along the Flinders Highway, you will find plenty of destinations to burn more film. It would be counterproductive to single them all out, because we each will have our own particular take on how to interpret this area’s cocktail of visual elements. However I will detail a number of personal favourites, some of which I have been to more than once, and all remain on my growing list of things to do.

Not far from the southern tip of the Eyre, Greenly Beach and adjacent Coles Point offer sheltered bush camping and informal walks to wave pounded undulating beach sand and a maze of eroded rock features. If you are lucky with the timing, few others will invade your space, leaving only beautiful coastline to brighten your ground glass. Further north, Sheringa Beach is more popular with surfers and campers, but it is home to a dunescape that (mostly for reasons of weather) has so far evaded my camera. It is definitely a place I will return to, being home to some massive sand hills that rival those of Lincoln NP.

More impressive sand dunes feature at nearby Walkers Rock. The designated campground here can be busy too, but you don’t have to walk far to find plenty of subjects that you will have to yourself. Closer to Port Kenny, you can swing off to Talia Beach and its dramatic cave structures holding back a sometimes angry ocean. A short walk inland from here brings you to yet more complex sand dunes, where the only footprints you are likely to see will be your own.

Although I choose to only capture landscapes, other photographers with healthier outlooks in terms of genre will find much more to point their lenses to along this magnificent coastline. Those atmospheric fishing communities, old rural infrastructure, and other random quirky subject material, will all fight for your attention. If you ever get a chance to follow the Flinders Highway, don’t worry about the surf board or fishing rod, just make sure to bring plenty of film.

Main photograph above: SEAMS LIKE THE SAME
The geological story on the southern reaches of the Eyre Peninsula is so graphic, that it must raise questions within all of us who visit. This wall of rock caught my eye with a depiction of structural variation, yet defined by a similarity of elements at its foundation. I have no idea how such a relationship can occur, but as an interested observer I am glad it does.

FIRST LIGHT AT WALKERS ROCK I find mornings are the best time to explore sand hill areas because they are typically at their quietest both in terms of other people and wind activity. Previous footprints will have usually blown over with sand in the night, and if you are lucky in your choice of subject material, the lower directional light can help create a sense of depth, through shadow play and tonal variation.
NEIGHBOUR FROM THE DEEP There is some sensational coastline along Whalers Way, and if access is possible it is well worth bringing your camera equipment on any walk, because it is inevitable that you will find subjects of interest. I offset the main subject in this image in an effort to mirror the geological instability of this area, and held back a part of the water when printing hoping to conceptually imply of a visiting entity, sharing a similar tonal structure to the cave and its resident rock.
TIDAL WAVE The dunescape behind Talia Caves is home to a remarkable array of textures, most pronounced in the lower angled light of early morning or late afternoon. Although this print may look like a darkroom composite, it is not. I climbed the foreground sand hill to align several wedge shaped structures with a shadow line created by the morning sun. I used a 270mm Nikon lens on the Ebony with a fair degree of forward tilt to accommodate the composition.
THE REMAINS OF TIME Tiny washed up shells are a common occurrence on Greenly Beach and provide some contrasting lines that effectively illustrate the wave behaviour over a period of time. With soft sand and intermittent wave action undermining my tripod, a view camera capture was going to be a character building exercise to say the least, so I grabbed the Mamiya 7 and with a short telephoto lens, capturing this shot between waves.
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Murray White is a fine art photographer based in regional Victoria.

There are 6 comments for this article
    • Murray at 10:09 am

      Thankyou Alex, I think these qualities are desirable photographic outcomes, especially in B&W, and the Eyre Peninsula is definitely a hotspot for both.

  1. Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:09 am

    I read your account of a roadtrip on the western side of Eyre Peninsula with great interest Murray. I have made that trip several times though without using a large format camera. I haven’t been to Cape Carnot as I have spent more time in Venus Bay, Talia Beach and Yanerbie.

    Wonderful photos Murray. I agree with Alex.

  2. Kate Baker at 11:23 pm

    These images transported me to a wild coast of my own imagining, beautiful photographs, complete with the sound of the ocean and smell of salt, which to me is a mark of a good thing! Thank you so much for sharing.

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