The jacaranda trees of Grafton failed to receive the memo that 2020 was officially a shocker, and that it was understandable if they didn’t feel like putting on much of a display this October and November. In fact, the trees have remained completely oblivious to the planet’s current state of affairs, and have been busily readying themselves for their annual display of fragrant purple blooms.
There’s no denying 2020 has been a supremely ordinary lap of the sun and it looks like it will be a while before the world resumes regular programming. Nonetheless, as November nears, and Grafton becomes awash with the purple blooms, we see there is still a lot to be grateful for. Indeed, now more than ever, it makes sense to take the good things – the little wins, the moments of joy, the splashes of colour spread across a landscape – and really celebrate and savour them.
Photographer Lauren Bath, who is recognised as Australia’s first professional travel Instagrammer, said although she was disappointed this year’s Grafton Jacaranda Festival would not be going ahead as planned due to the global pandemic, she was sure the town with some 2,000 flowering trees would still be one of the best places in the State to see the display of flowers it is famed for.
Grafton is full of the unexpected
Bath has been invited to Grafton for the past three years to photograph the trees, which are native to South America, as they transform the streets of the small regional town of Grafton in northern NSW.
Although Bath’s primary purpose when visiting Grafton was to photograph the purple canopies of the jacaranda trees, she noted the heritage buildings in the 19th-century river town in the Clarence Valley also added to the town’s appeal.
“I love going somewhere new with a purpose — to photograph the jacarandas for instance — and then finding the unexpected. Grafton is not what you would expect. I love the small-town feel and the country hospitality and that is something I noticed there immediately,” Bath says.
“Take the Old Glen Innes Road that used to connect Grafton and Glen Innes and you will see some of the most spectacular countryside in NSW. It is dotted with beautiful farmland and is blanketed in mist in the early morning. There are kangaroos and horses coming up to you. It’s a really beautiful and less well-known aspect to the region,” she says.
Tips for photographing the jacarandas
Bath says from a photographer’s perspective, there is a beautiful simplicity in having just the one colour to draw from rather than the riot of colour present in, say, a botanical garden. She says while the best time to snap the blooms is at sunrise, when you can immerse yourself in the landscape, the middle of the day also works as the purple splashed against a cobalt blue sky adds another angle.
“As a photographer you are always looking for beautiful shocks of colour and jacarandas when they are planted together are so lovely to look at and consume. It really is a wonderland when you go there and find the purple petals are blanketing the roads and the landscape,” says Bath, who is also co-founder of The Travel Boot Camp.
“Grafton is on every photographer’s bucket list in the country. It’s like the canola fields in Western Australia and the sunflowers in country Queensland; it’s a seasonal phenomenon that professional and amateurs want to visit to photograph. What I also love is that the whole town goes all out – the stores have different specials from purple beer to purple ice cream. It’s such a good atmosphere,” she says. “From that point of view, it’s a must visit for everyone, not just photographers!”
How best to see the jacarandas
As for how best to see the blooms, Bath says she’d recommend hiring a car so as to cover more ground in the region she describes as ‘simply gorgeous’.