Photographer Tracy Ryan finds the best spots to snap Litchfield National Park.
The thundering waterfalls, rainforests, pandanus-lined pools, fields of termite mounds and great walking tracks make Litchfield National Park a photographer’s dream. It is 100 km south-west of Darwin, near the town of Batchelor, and is generally accessible all year (on sealed roads). In the dry season it is also possible to get to the park from the north via Cox Peninsula Road (unsealed).
The park used to be a secret, with Kakadu taking all the limelight, yet nowadays it’s becoming a ‘must do’, an easy day trip from Darwin. I love Litchfield because there are so many easily accessible photo opportunities. Here are my top 5:
1. Magnetic Termite Mounds
There are two areas of magnetic termite mounds in Litchfield National Park. The first is not too far from the its entrance on the sealed road. This area has a car park and a great information area with a boardwalk leading out into a field, which has a mixture of ‘cathedral’ and ‘magnetic’ termite mounds. But my favourites lies at the far north of the park (on unsealed road), near Finniss River, which can only be accessed in the dry season.
About 100 magnetic termite mounds are scattered all over the landscape, reminding me of a magnificent ancient sacred site or a graveyard, with the huge mounds resembling headstones. The mounds are aligned north-south which acts as a temperature regulator in this tropical climate, so to capture their immensity and beauty it is best to get there early morning or late afternoon to make use of the light reflecting off the mounds.
Tip: If possible take a panorama or even a 360-degree shot of these beauties.
2. Wangi Falls
Wangi Falls is located about 55km from the sealed entrance and is the most popular waterfall in the park, sporting an impressive 70-metre drop, picnic areas and a kiosk. It is easily accessible and has a deep plunge pool, which can be wonderful for a swim (however, it’s not always open to swimmers because of wet season high water flow and potential for crocodiles to access the pool from a nearby river). There is a great walk that takes you from the base up and over the top of the falls and back down the other side – not for the feint hearted; it takes about an hour and there are some rocks to climb over.
The best time to photograph these magnificent falls is from about midday to mid afternoon, when the light shines directly on top of the falls. A viewing platform is in just the ‘right’ spot for capturing the falls from the perfect angle.
Tips: Experiment with slowing your shutter speed right down, by setting the dial on S and taking it down to 1/10 or my favourite with my camera 1/6. This can give you the ‘milky’ effect.
3. Florence Falls
Florence Falls, 30km from the park’s sealed entrance, can be accessed all year round and you can swim here without being worried about crocodiles (although only in the dry season because of the fast-flowing water).
The spectacular double waterfalls, set amongst rainforest, plunge into a deep pool. The most popular entrance is from the car park at the top going right, taking you past a spectacular lookout and down 147 steps. Or you can go left from the car park and follow the creek all the way around the back of the falls and down the other side.
Photographing Florence Falls is best from the lookout at the top or if you are game you can climb over the many rocks at the bottom of the falls for a different vantage point.
Tips: Again, midday to mid afternoon is the best time to capture the falls in all their glory. And experiment with a slow shutter speed for the milky effect.
4 & 5. Tolmer Creek Walk and Tolmer Falls
Tolmer Falls is 45km from the park’s sealed entrance , but my favourite place to photograph (before getting to the lookout to the falls) is along the Tolmer Creek walk. Winding your way through ancient escarpment and a cycad forest, as well as hundreds of native hibiscus in the first 15 minutes of this walk, is very special and also a great opportunity to practice your macro flower shots.
The next half an hour winds around the creek, which is wonderful for a swim. I love to take photographs of the creek with the escarpment in the background just before the falls’ cascades begin. Mid to late afternoon is the best time of day to capture the rich colours of this land.
About 15 mins further along the trail is the magnificent Tolmer Falls which cascades over a high escarpment plunging about 100m into a deep pool. There is no access these days to the plunge pool, so it’s a matter of enjoying the view! The best time to capture these falls is midday or just after (the escarpment can create shadows for much for the day).
Tips: Take a wider angle lens and a zoom lens to get the best photographs from the lookout perched on the escarpment opposite.
Tracy Ryan is an award-winning landscape and nature photographer from Darwin, who often hosts photography tours to Litchfield NP – see Tracy Ryan Photography for more information.