A couple of weekends ago, which just happened to also be the last weekend of my holidays, I headed out to the Darling Downs in search of sunflowers. I'd been seeing a heap of pics of them popping up in my Facebook newsfeed, and decided that I needed to see them for myself. What better way to spend a weekend - touring around the Downs and visiting some places I'd never been to before.
So Friday afternoon came, and I packed my ute up. My fridge, my swag and my new chair to kick back under the stars in all got thrown in the back. Needless to say, my two dogs weren't very impressed when I told them that they wouldn't be joining me :(
Early to bed and early to rise, as I had planned on shooting sunrise on my way out on the Saturday morning. The alarm went off at 3am, and I was quickly out of bed and into my ute heading west. I was watching the eastern horizon gradually grow lighter in my rear vision mirror, and I could also see some lovely high cloud floating above me. Could this be my 'cracker' sunrise that I had been chasing all holidays without any luck? I didn't have a particular destination in mind for sunrise, so I pulled off the main highway and down a dirt track somewhere out near Warill View, and my goodness, the sunrise did not disappoint! The entire sky filled with the most beautiful and soft purples, pinks, reds, oranges and yellows as the sun slowly rose from below the horizon. I shot a timelapse sequence of the sunrise, as well as a couple of 180˚ panoramas. Thankfully I had bought my laptop, as I had burnt through a couple of memory cards already! By this stage, I was pretty hungry, but the flies and mozzies were unbearable, so I jumped back in my ute and continued on my way.
After leaving Aratula, I started the climb up Cunninghams Gap. Approaching the top of the range, I got a great view of low cloud hanging over the ridge line....in other words, a great timelapse opportunity. As luck would have it, there was a little clearing just around the next corner for me to pull in to, set up my tripod and start my next sequence. My hunger definitely got the better of me at this point, so it was time for breakfast while my camera did its thing.
After getting through the Gap, I couldn't believe how green everything was! I was last out this way only 4 months earlier, and back then, everything was as dry as a bone. Amazing what a bit of rain can do!
My target area for the sunflowers was Allora, so I took the turn off the main highway and continued on my way. Not far out from town, I came over a crest to see a mass of bright yellow. Well that wasn't too hard to find I thought to myself! I found my way to this field, only to find that this field was past their best. Oh well, surely there will be more around.
Time to do some exploring. Down this road, turn right at that intersection, a left at the next, down that dirt road, past those two old windmills, round the next bend, veer left at the old red shed and then you'll find this great paddock of perfect sunflowers. Well, I think it went something like that! This field was fantastic, and to top it all off, I had a fantastic blue sky with some awesome cloud formations. The breeze was also blowing and moving the clouds along quite nicely....in other words, a great timelapse opportunity. While this sequence was being recorded, I downloaded my previous sequences to my laptop so I didn't accidentally wipe anything. I also marked this field on my GPS, as I knew I would want to return here at some stage of the day or night.
Next stop, Allora. Having never been to this town before, I headed on in down another series of dirt roads before popping out on the bitumen just out of town. I drove around for a bit checking out the main street, the pubs and the church. I found the local park and tourist info sign, so I pulled in to check it out. It was here that I became aware of a tourist drive called 'The Sunflower Route', which is a 50km loop that links Allora with Warwick. I'll definitely be checking that out for sure, but first I wanted to Head up to Clifton, another little town that I had never visited before. So off to Clifton I went for a look around. I did a big loop back to Allora through Clifton, Elphinstone and Ellinthorp, stopping a few more times for various timelapse sequences. I'm pretty sure the guy on the tractor thought that I was a bit of a weirdo! He may be right!!
I stopped back in at Allora for a bite to eat - a good old meat pie from the local cafe and a can of coke. Typical 'road trip' type food! Then it was off towards Warwick following the Sunflower Route. While there were no fields of sunflowers along this section of the route at this time, it was a lovely drive through the country. Quite unexpectedly, I came across this pretty awesome old timber railway bridge....in other words, a great timelapse opportunity. Then, after this, I stumbled upon an abandoned industrial area. My day was just getting better and better!! After a quick recce, I continued on my way, but not before marking this location on my GPS with a vow to return in the not too distant future with my partner in crime AKA my wife as she is a firstly a bit of a railway tragic, and secondly, she loves abandoned stuff as much as I do!
From here, I continued along the tourist drive heading back towards Allora. It was at this point that I realised that I had already done most of the return journey on my way to Allora earlier in the day, so I took the next left hand turn down some back road. As luck would have it, not more than 500m down this road, that I found my next timelapse sequence subject. The. Best. Letter. Box. Ever! It was an elephant (fashioned out of stainless steel mind you) that was in fact their letterbox. Gotta love the quirky nature of the country!
After this stop, I continued down many dirt roads and tracks, still looking for the elusive next sunflower field. Unfortunately, I didn't find it so I headed back to my field from earlier. Obviously word had got out, as many other photographers and sightseers came to visit during the course of the afternoon.
As I do, I talked to most of them. Mostly I was letting them know that they had found the best field around, and that there was no need to keep searching, as I had already done that for them.
Being a wedding and portrait photographer as well, I approached one young couple that I had been chatting to earlier, and offered to do a quick couples portrait session for them. A bit left field, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. They accepted my offer, so I spent the next 15 minutes chatting with Shaun and Brittany and getting some fantastic shots of them in the field of sunflowers. Sure beats a selfie with your iPhone! Like I said earlier - could this day get any better? All I needed now was some nice clouds and colour for sunset, and then for those clouds to disappear for the stars to come out and play for me later.....was I asking too much?
Just prior to sunset, I was joined by another family who I got talking to, and it turned out that Daniel, was another 'kind of' local photographer (from the Gold Coast) that I knew of through Facebook, and vice versa. It really is a small world. We chatted and setup our tripods waiting for sunset. There was some awesome high cloud around, and it did colour up a little, but unfortunately, there was a rather thick band of cloud on the horizon that didn't let it go off as we thought that it would. Oh well, you can't have everything....
When the sun had disappeared, Daniel and his family hit the road, so I had my dinner waiting for the sky to darken enough to reveal the stars.
There was a little bit of cloud around, which I really don't mind all that much when doing timelapse sequences - it adds another element to the shot. However, it's only good when it's not too thick. I set my two tripods and cameras up in the field of sunflowers, as I had an idea in my head that I wanted to get the half moon rising and illuminating the field of flowers with the stars above. To a degree, I succeeded, however, those pesky clouds did come in pretty thick at about 1am. It was at this point that I decided that it was time to try and get some sleep, but I was too lazy to roll my swag out, so I just lay in the back of my ute on top of a tarp and tried to get to sleep while mozzies the size of B52 Bombers tried to get in to, or eat my ears! I think I got about 2 hours sleep before it was time to get the cameras back out and head off in to the field again for sunrise. Due to the cloud cover, sunrise was a bit of a fizzer, but it was still great to be out in the country.
I took some more back country roads and found an amazing field of sorghum which took my interest. I climbed the corner fence post and rattled off about a dozen shots to create a pano of the field before hitting the highway just before Cunninghams Gap and continued on my way back home.
It certainly was a great twenty four hours (plus a couple more!)
Check out the timelapse of my adventures!