Granite Smoothie – Murray White

Granite Smoothie – Murray White

If David Tatnall is not editing another article for View Camera Australia right now, you might find him behind his 4 x 5 at The Cascades. How do I know that? Well I don’t really, but it’s certainly a possibility, as it was he who originally told me about this wonderful location, and even I have been back on several occasions since then; such is the strength of its endearing nature. And I hope he won’t mind if we tell others about it.

The Cascades is situated on the Coliban River, just out of the locality of Metcalfe, and barely 100 kilometres or so NW of Melbourne. It is protected by a small Nature Conservation Reserve providing only informal parking, no facilities and just a couple of picnic tables. However what the reserve lacks in infrastructure is more than compensated for by a landscape known to relatively few for its eccentric geology and dynamic water behaviours.

The photographs presented here do not even begin to illustrate the diversity of natural features that could interest a large format photographer. As its name suggests, in times of abundance The Cascades is witness to a show of eye catching and gymnastic manoeuvres, as the Coliban waters twist and bounce through a rocky choke perhaps 100 metres long and of variable width. Its granite bedrock is peppered with potholes and time scalloped ski jumps, sending water on a frantic race over falls, slides and bubbling backwash.

Even during times of reduced water flow, there is still much of interest for photographers with organic rock sculptures, unpredictable light play and a lovely stand of resident redgums. Unlike other more popular destinations, there are no defined points of interest here, leaving camera enthusiasts to find their own subject material in a way that encourages individual vision. Informal pathways follow the river bank to a number of potential viewpoints. I was able to both cross the river and keep dry on one occasion, by rock hopping and carefully avoiding the slippery moss and lichen stained patina.

Water flow at The Cascades is variable and not necessarily only dependant on local rain events for increased levels, as planned catchment releases also play into its demeanour. The Coliban headwaters gather near Trentham before tracing their 80 kilometre rural meander via three regulated reservoirs, to finally merge with the Campaspe River at Lake Eppaloch.

Walking from the carpark to the water’s edge is short and relatively easy permitting those with bulky equipment to find a suitable viewpoint. I have used my Mamiya 7, 4 x 5 view camera and even racked out the bellows of an 8 x 10 here on one occasion. In fact given this location’s remarkable geology and atmosphere, and despite its somewhat hidden public presence, it is amazing just how accessible this destination really is.

Many more similarly featured destinations can be found across Australia, but very few can be reached with the convenience of The Cascades. Other Victorian alternatives like those at the Grampians and Murrindindi for example are equally photogenic, but you will have to walk for longer and may need to stand in line before setting up the tripod.

TWISTED Puzzling granite features are a great subject for view camera photographers who can allow time to consider a broader range of visual possibilities. This viewpoint required my tripod (and me) to find muscles we were unaware of, so I could allow the intersecting lines and unusual light to overlap.
ADRIFT WITH THE SHADOWS In times of lower river levels it is possible to find quiet compositions where surface reflections and shadows may combine with water movement to reveal some interesting tonal behaviours. There are many pool and gouged rock combinations to consider.
DETACHMENT Water flows at The Cascades can be quite powerful on occasions. I captured this scene on the 4X5 Ebony after the last big rain event in 2022. The roar from the foaming mass was quite impressive, as was the earthy colour and tonal depth from solids suspended in the water.
FLOOD GATES This area’s foundational granite mostly presents as smooth time and water worn structures, but there are newly split formations such as this that offer an alternative face to the still evolving location. Those view cameras set up here in a few million years time will have a new set of rapids to look at!
RESOLUTE I caught this subject at a windless moment with the Ebony, but under drizzling conditions. Very recent flood waters had flattened some vegetation, while other drowned grasses had begun to find their feet again.
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Murray White is a fine art photographer based in regional Victoria.

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