An Australian Photo Adventure

By Darrell Gulin on May 12, 2011

When my father served in the US Army, he was stationed near Brisbane, Australia.  Ever since I was young, I’ve been hearing all his “Great Stories” about this Land from Down Under.  Now, finally, I’ve an opportunity to travel to Australia.  Earlier this month, along with Australian trip leader, Darran Leal, we led the Australia: Queensland’s Islands & Rain Forest photo safari to the scenic Sunshine Coast.

Before the group arrived, my wife, Sylvia, and I spent three nights in Sydney at our hotel in Darling Harbour.  What a view of the city!  We rented a car and set out to tour on our own.  This was also the first time I had to drive on the left side of the road—but, armed with maps and GPS, we found our way around the beautiful city of Sydney.  We photographed the iconic Opera House, St. Mary’s Cathedral, the Botanic Gardens—and more.  It was great just to explore the wonderful waterfront and to capture some nighttime images of this brilliantly-lit city in the shimmering waters of the harbor.  But beware that parking in downtown Sydney can be very expensive—in The Rocks area, two hours in a parking garage cost $46 Australian!

After meeting with our group of photographers, we flew from Sydney to the Sunshine Coast and drove the twisting road into the high rain-forested mountains of Lamington National Park to our lodge, O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.  What an amazing place:  birds of all colors, including crimson rosellas, king parrots, and regent and satin bowerbirds.  All amid a rain forest landscape with secluded waterfalls, winding streams, magical-looking ferns—and so much more.

From the rain forest, we drove to Coolum Beach, home of the Australia Zoo that was started in the 1970s by Steve Irwin’s father.  During our day of photography, I even had the opportunity to pet and photograph koalas and grey kangaroos!

From Coolum Beach we traveled to Hervey Bay and, following a 45-minute ferry ride, arrived on Fraser Island.  Frasier is a 75-mile-long sand island—so very much sand that the only way to get around was by 4-wheel-drive vehicles.  Each morning we drove across the island on the sandiest, bumpiest and narrowest tracks imaginable—and, here again, I experienced driving on the left side of the “road,” as well as learning to shift with my left hand.  What an adventure!  I just loved it (although Sylvia was not quite sure about this part…).  Once we reached the eastern side of the island we could drive for miles and miles on the open sandy beach.  Here, along our way to an old rusted-out shipwreck, we photographed Australian dingoes, fish eagles and oystercatchers.  We even shot images of a unique rain forest rooted in nothing but sand!

A short half-hour flight on a 13-passenger plane brought our group to Lady Elliot Island, the southernmost island of the Great Barrier Reef and the final stop of our two-week adventure.  It reminded me of Midway Atoll—minus the albatross!  In Australia, of course, it was springtime and nesting birds were everywhere—even under the deck of my ocean-view cabin.  What a treat it was to have the beach just a few steps away for early morning photography.
Now I will finally be able to share my own “Great Stories” and images of the Land from Down Under.  And I cannot wait to return.

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