Werribee Gorge, the unlikely el Capitan

I had a brilliant idea to find some beautiful locations that are not well photographed. My thoughts were to scout the areas and determine if I could find any potential in capturing something unique. I started with what is close to me, Werribee Gorge State Park was only 30km away and each image on Google just reminded me more and more of something familiar. Never would I think something as close to Werribee could remind me of El Capitan and the views seen by Ansel Adams, yet somehow these images of Werribee Gorge did.

Sunday 25th of August, the date was set and I was on my way to meet a friend to join me on a scouting exercise to find composition and some unique beauty to capture. I arrived at the lower car park and Werribee Gorge Circuit Track and decided to commence the circuit via the gorge and river first. As the hike started to descend into the gorge there is a lot of beauty but nothing much that I could pull together to bring a strong photograph. We were surrounded with flowing river and quite prompt small waterfalls from recent rain fall, yet it was very difficult to align the elements for a strong composition.

We stopped by a waterfall around pyramid rock, where I spent some time attempting a composition, however there were too many aspects and details in the scene to give me a strong foreground, midground and background and a complete lack of lead-in lines to emphasis the gorge structures.

I decided to move on and proceed into the hike; along needles beach is a huge rock formation, yet again I struggled to bring together more elements than just the rock. Below is a black and white image of the formation.

Moving beyond this point was again covered in natural beauty but I still struggled to find any elements to bring together a strong photograph. This is the most likely reason Werribee Gorge State Park is not well photographed, it is very difficult to find a worthy composition.

As we proceeded on, we went past Needles Beach and as we proceeded, we faced a decision. Sunset was in 1 hour and we could either proceed on the track to explore the higher ground or we could proceed backwards and re-attempt the waterfalls we spotted earlier. I decided that I would give the waterfalls another attempt at sunset, but I wasn’t convinced. As we started to head back, I continued to look around and only moments later I found a composition. Excitement started to kick in as I setup my camera and tripod, knowing I had found elements required to capture the beauty of this location.

As soon as I setup, the sun was just softly kissing the tip of the gorge tip. I had all the elements aligned and captured what I had seen in the first click after setting up.

Let’s break this image apart so I can explain what I could see and why this photograph works.

Overlaying the image with a grid allows us to see how I have composed the image into groups of thirds. This technique is called the Rule of Thirds and is one of many techniques. As I do when taking any photo, I keep the following things in mind which build my composition (in no particular order).

  1. Balance
  2. Symmetry
  3. Lead-in Lines
  4. Light
  5. Emphasise the subject

Let’s pull apart this photograph

  1. Balance | The main subject is the gorge rocks at the far-left hand corner. Because it sits to the far left, we need an element on the right to carry some weight and balance the frame. The balancing element is the fern in the bottom right hand corner and the trees in the far-right hand corner of the frame.
  2. Symmetry | Most of this composition is in thirds, for example
    1. The track takes up two thirds
    1. The gorge takes up one third
    1. The greenery takes up two thirds
    1. The rock formations take up one third
  3. Lead-in Line | The path starts at the bottom left of the frame and leads all the way up to the final resting position which is the main subject – the gorge.
  4. Light | The light was softly kissing the gorge emphasising the main subject.
  5. Emphasise the subject | The lead-in line and the light in the photograph really make it.

I hope that you enjoyed the read, please feel free to leave your feedback on any comments.

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