The inspiration from this trip came from a rough winter of not a lot of photography, and a burgeoning interest in challenging myself with night photography. I’ve shot the city fireworks display many times in the 10 years since I got my first digital camera, and wanted a new angle to shoot from.
I had originally hoped to take the family and stay for a couple of nights (taking a half day on the Friday), but none of our friends wanted to join us, and Mark wound up not getting back from Sydney till midnight Friday, so just the one night and just me worked better in the end.
This trip was 99% about the photography. My hope was for a clearish and reasonably still night, to get sunset, fireworks, perhaps Milky Way (if I was lucky and very pedantic with my settings, as it would be setting over the CBD as the full moon rose behind me, immediately after the fireworks). Then maybe some star trails or moon-lit long exposure shots of the old quarantine buildings before sunrise.
Instead, I was stuck inside or in my tent a lot, as the wind was massive (strongest gusts in the range of 120km/hr overnight), and there was a lot of cloud. But I got to shoot the fireworks, which was a challenge in itself at that distance, and planned some future astro-photography options.
The camp site on the island has very little shelter from any wind direction. Given it was a northerly, I parked my very low profile tent adjacent to a small wall to provide some shelter, which stopped the wind getting in underneath. In a southerly, the sheds in the camp ground provide better shelter, but only for one or two tents. The kitchen is small, with only one standard oven top to cook on, no fridge, and no shelves for unpacking food to. But, all your pots, pans, plates etc are provided, so that’s a bonus.
The best thing about this trip was finally seeing little blue penguins. I went wandering after the fireworks with a group of people who were staying at the houses on the island, and we came across 5 of them. Amazing.
The hardest part of the trip was the lack of sleep from the wind. I hit the wall about 2pm Sunday and just could not do anything for the rest of the afternoon. Come Wednesday morning after I got home, I still hadn’t unpacked – good thing my food rubbish was taken home by the group who were camping alongside me!
After this trip, we’ll be retiring our very old (probably 12 years?) Kathmandu North Star
tent. I picked it up as a second as part of my leaving shop when working at Kathmandu in late 2007. The seam seal tape has completely disintegrated, and I doubt the outer is actually waterproof any more. It’s been through a few good adventures with us over the years.
To get to and from Somes Island, I travelled by East by West Ferry. It’s the only way you can get there unless you are kayaking or own your own boat. And it has advantages over taking your own boat, in that you don’t need to then berth away from the island and kayak / swim back.
All up, I spent about $60 – one nights campsite fee, return pass on the East by West, and dinner supplies at the supermarket. Well worth it!