As editor of Great Walks I always take photos on my trips. Part of it is for work and part of it is for fun. So when I was invited by Pinetrees Lodge on the magnificent Lord Howe Island to attend their week-long walking and photography week I immediately said yes.
Lord Howe is a part of NSW and a two-hour flight from Sydney. Recorded by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site of global natural significance, Lord Howe is teeming with unique bird and marine life, and offers pristine natural beauty.
"Add to the landscape two daily sessions of soft morning light and saturated evening light, and you have the criteria for some exceptional photos," says Pinetrees owner and photography guide Luke Hanson.
In each group of 12 photographers, there are two professional photographers and a local guide. Each morning after breakfast, there's a 30-minute workshop on the technical theme of the day and then guests are given a brief for daily photo competition, although Luke says it's not really competitive. "It’s just a way to get guests to concentrate on a technical theme, and have a bit of fun.”
The daily theme could be tonal contrasts, scale and perspective or, in the case of today's assignment, drama, which we're not short of as we climb along the granite face of Mt Lidgbird, one of the island's two mountains. To get there requires an hour-long hike up a series of steps through palm forest under a thick canopy, so there's a certain physicality to the photography week which I like.
The walk has its challenges but there are ropes in place for some of the steeper sections. All this provides plenty of photo opportunities to showcase today's drama theme. Our destination is Goat House Cave half way up Lidgbird. From where we stand Lord Howe looks like some wild, exotic island straight out of an adventure novel.
Looking through my lens, I photograph the island under the watchful eye of my three photography mentors Luke, Kenny Lees and Alex De Kiefte. As taught on day one of tour I'm constantly checking my histogram to help me improve each shot.
Every night we have a debrief and everyone shows their top two shots of the day. “It’s always a revelation for each guest to see how many different perspectives there are from the same location," says Luke.
And it's not just the photography instructors who are impressed by the quality of photos. Everyone sometime during the photography course produces a stunning shot that we all get to admire and congrats that person for their efforts. We all have a sense of pride as our photos are revealed to everyone at the end of each day – including other guests at the resort who are curious to see what we're looking at.
There's a bottle of wine for the best photo of the day and guess who won the pinot for best dramatic photo? Thank you very much!
Great Walks was a guest of Pinetrees Lodge. Words_Brent McKean