My Island Home – Tasmania

My Island Home – Tasmania

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Hobart Sunset Photos: Paul Fleming

I’m fortunate to live on the island of Tasmania, which is so wonderfully photogenic all year round. I’ve travelled to almost every corner of the state, and to some of Tasmania’s most beautiful islands, including Flinders, Maria, Clarke, Schouten and Bruny Islands; however I feel I have barely scratched the surface of what Tasmania truly has to offer, with its rich experiences and endless photographic opportunities.

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My island home

I come from a family of conservationists, passionate about the island and its wonders. Whilst other kids were heading off to the ‘mainland’ for summer holidays, my childhood was spent exploring remote pockets of the state and delving deep into national parks and remote reserves.

I first climbed Cradle Mountain when I was just six years old, completed the Overland Track when I was nine and battled and conquered the rugged South Coast Track by age 11. The beauty of Tasmania’s wild places was etched in my mind long before I learnt how to capture it on camera.

I’m most at home when in the mountainous heart of Tasmania, especially the Cradle Valley region.

I’ve lost count how many times I have been there, but part of the allure is that no moment there can ever be replicated – within minutes you can experience summertime sunshine then be catching snowflakes on your tongue.

Every moment captured there is unique, fleeting and your very own personal experience. Plus, the cutest wombats roam freely there, so you’re always surrounded by twitching noses and gentle wandering critters.

my island home tasmania

Tasmania is home. It’s the place that makes my heart skip a beat when I gaze out an airplane window and see the azure waters of the northern coast breaking against the untouched, uncrowded and unspoilt beaches and rocky foreshore that rises from the watery border of Bass Strait, which keeps us Tasmanians separated from the big island of Australia.

I’m from Legana, a small community on the western side of the picturesque Tamar River, about 15km north of Launceston. The area is dominated by apple orchards and premier vineyard estates.

After living and working in Brisbane and the United States, I am now based in Hobart, Tasmania’s capital, at the southern end of the island.

Being an island hugged by pristine beaches and spectacular rock formations with a heart of mountains and densely forested river valleys, we have an overwhelming choice when it comes to where to shoot sunrise or sunset. It entirely depends on what you want to experience.

my island home tasmania

my island home tasmania

Living in Hobart, a city of about 200,000 people, means it is small enough that you can escape to a quiet place fairly easily. Within a 30 minute radius you can lose yourself on a beach without another soul in sight, or head into the forests and be mesmerised by cascading curtains of waterfalls.

When in need of time out, we’ll often just jump in the car and see where the road takes us.

Close to Hobart, we often head to Mount Field National Park and Lake Dobson. There is a grove of ancient pandani there, an endemic species of plant to Tasmania that evokes the era of the dinosaurs and gondwana.

Further afield, if it’s sunshine and beaches we crave, it will be the coastline surrounding Bicheno on the east coast. It’s the less touristy option than Coles Bay, which is about 40 minutes’ drive to the south.

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Winter is probably my favourite for capturing Hobart and surrounds. Mount Wellington is often capped in a dusting of snow (sometimes some suburbs too) which I find beautiful.

Playing in the snow, capturing icy scenes from atop a 1,200m mountain with an Australian capital city as the background is a fantastic experience that can’t be replicated in any other place in the country.

Be there for sunrise or sunset and you’ll wonder why you haven’t thought to visit the city in winter before.

my island home tasmania

My favourite place to photograph sunrise is from on top of Mount Wellington, the 1,271m ever-present towering backdrop to Hobart.

A 22km drive from the CBD gets you to the summit, and allows you to easily find a spot to perch and await one of Tasmania’s famous deeply coloured sunrises. You can feel the first touches of warmth resting upon your face as the city down below you slowly awakens. It’s a magical place to be – and very easily accessible to anyone.

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For sunset, there are hundreds of kilometres of untouched western coastline, or many bays and coves all around the island that will feel the lingering Tassie light.

My most memorable sunsets are often from the north-coast Narawntapu National Park, often referred to as the ‘Serengeti of Tasmania’ due to the abundance of friendly wombats, wallabies, potoroos and one of the few areas in the State where you’ll find our single variety of kangaroo (the Forester/Eastern Grey). Little hairy bodies with a tinge of golden glow through their fur is simply wonderful to witness.

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Freycinet National Park

Coles Bay, the gateway into Freycinet National Park, is my favourite place from this selection of images. Many childhood memories were nurtured here, as my family often stayed in a shack right by the clear waters of the bay with a view across to the inspiring mountain range of The Hazards.

It is where my dad would take my brother and I out fishing in a dingy, and then we’d explore the granite boulder-strewn coastline and chasing after cute little wallabies.

Finding creatures we’d never seen before – from a light-emitting cephalopod to humpback and southern right whales frolicking in the bay – seemed like the creations of an over-active imagination for this curious kid.

my island home 1A journey into Tasmania’s wild and untamed World Heritage-listed South West wilderness is an experience that doesn’t just leave you breathless – it forces you to stop, listen and forget the troubles of the world. You’re disconnected from what you thought was important, removed from your creature comforts. Yet, you feel inspired, uplifted and alive.

We struck a stunningly calm day, which surprisingly is not as unusual as you may think. It can however get ferociously wild here, battered by the Roaring Forties winds from the west and incredible storms. That’s part of the mystical attraction of places like this.

Bathurst Harbour covers an area of about 178km2, and is almost entirely landlocked except for a narrow channel opening to the Southern Ocean.

If the mountains and golden-hued hills with pockets of white quartzite shining through wasn’t captivating enough, the water itself is a sight to see – it is permanently stained a dark red-brown colour, from tannin that filters through the roots of the expansive plains of button grass that extend around the area. The tannin water sits as a separate layer on top of the salty sea water, blocking most light from getting through.

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I have been here numerous times, including by foot – a walk of about a week from the nearest road.

However, you can experience this place as a day trip direct from Hobart via light aircraft with Par Avion Wilderness Tours or seaplane with Tasmanian Air Adventures. Both include onshore short walks to get a closer look, feel and sense of this remote place and to learn about the aboriginal peoples and European intrusions into parts of the landscape.

A highlight is stepping ashore one of the Celery Top Islands, a tiny natural wonderland in the harbour, and where stunning vistas of Mt Rugby are captured.

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Freycinet and Cradle Mountain are Tasmania’s top two most popular National Parks – and it’s not hard to see why. Capturing them in a unique way is certainly a challenge many photographers face when they arrive at either region – they’re recognised by iconic shaped skylines, and are mostly captured from the most accessible and obvious places.

The key to a unique, yet still recognisable, shot of these places is to search out where most of the images are taken from: at Cradle it’s the path from the carpark to the boat shed, and at Freycinet around the Coles Bay jetty area.

I like to check out the surrounding area for an interesting foreground, change in height/angle or perhaps something that is temporarily there – like a distinct yacht moored in Coles Bay or at Cradle, some flowers blooming or ice on the lake. That way, you still get an image that is recognisable from that place, but is a unique perspective.

If you get there early for sunrise or sunset, you’re on your way to a winning capture.

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The Central Highlands

The Central Highlands has generally been a place that visitors pass through on their journey to the west coast of Tasmania, or to take a scenic detour to traverse the island from north to south. They used to rarely make many stops, or perhaps ‘see’ what they were passing through – the focus was on the coastal destination or to start a long bushwalk.

The Central Highlands is a large slice of the island – the Great Western Tiers rise steeply from the fertile farming plains of the north and midlands region, and tapers away to eventually meet the mighty Southern Ocean to the west and south.

More recently, the stunning beauty of the alpine lakes and swirling patterns of the gum trees, back dropped by mountain peaks straight from storybooks, has been luring people to linger in the area.

The famous Overland Track, winding and climbing through 65km from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair is found here, as well as the enchanting Nelson Falls a little further to the west. Many of Tasmania’s most popular walking tracks are in this area.

The Lyell and Marlborough Highways and the Highland Lakes Road all intersect through the region and offer some of the islands most spectacular scenic drives.

Tasmania is powered entirely by hydro-electricity, and it’s here you will see and learn about the history of how that came about – from ghost towns that are remnants of the dam building boom decades ago to some fairly impressive infrastructure including massive water pipelines plunging steeply into gravity-fed power stations at the base of valleys and canals at that criss-cross the landscape to feed water between the extensive system.

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One of the old pieces of Hydro infrastructure that has had a new breath of life recently is the 1940’s water pumping station on Lake St Clair at Pumphouse Point. This abandoned four story, art deco building sits 250m out on Australia’s deepest lake and has just opened as Tasmania’s newest boutique hotel experience – and a startlingly unique experience at that. It’s an immersive wilderness retreat of only 18 rooms, and one that photographers are already flocking toward to try and capture it in their own way, and to be one of the first.

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Tasman Peninsula

Those cheeky sea lions! They’re residents of the fauna-rich Tasman Peninsula, off the states South East coast. Pennicott’s Wilderness Journeys runs award-winning eco-adventure cruises daily to this seal colony and out to the mind blowingly rugged Tasman Island. It’s a place that will have you cranking your neck back to look up at 300m high sea cliffs then swiftly back down to the pod of dolphins playfully chasing the powerful purpose-built boats.

My most memorable wildlife encounter – that’s a hard question to answer, as we’re blessed with a plethora of adorable wildlife in large numbers here, some unique to the island too.

I’ve seen Tasmanian Devils in the wild, and quolls, snakes, and the much loved platypus, echidnas and wombats. On the water I’ve seen whales, dolphins, seals and penguins to name a few. Every encounter with a wild animal is special to me.

If I had to pick one moment, it would probably be when I saw my first whale. I was a kid fascinated, perhaps obsessed, with them. One day we were out on a boat on Great Oyster Bay (near Freycinet) and found ourselves right up close a pair of southern rights just lazily passing the day. They didn’t ‘do’ anything, there was no fluke slapping or breaching – they were just huge, peaceful creatures that captured my imagination.

Growing up in a family that placed a lot of focus on holidaying in different places across the island, I’ve actually been fortunate to have already visited many of the places that I could name as ‘the’ places to see. There’s always more to discover though, and places that I want to experience – such as King Island and get a stronger feel for the Tarkine region.

If I had to narrow it down, there are two places that I consider bucket-list locations – Maastyker Island and Tasman Island. They’re not easily accessible (anyone got a helicopter handy?) yet I feel a strong pull towards them for their remoteness, and also to (at least briefly) experience what the pioneering lighthouse keepers saw and experienced for decades as they kept the lights shining through starry or stormy nights.

I love to revisit places too; not to try and recreate existing memories but to see how they’ve changed and how my own growth into an adult has shifted how I feel and connect to a place.

tasmania my beautiful home

Photography tips

The best tip I can give about photography in Tasmania is that we have a beautiful, lingering light that glows from low angles in the mornings and evenings the rest of Australia generally doesn’t get (due to us being further away from the Equator).

We also have a lengthy twilight – it’s not uncommon to still be capturing enchanting soft light anywhere up to 45 minutes to an hour beyond sunset. The same applies before a sunrise – be prepared to be at your location at least 40 minutes before the sun is due to rise to have the best chance of capturing the light.

In summer, this means you’ll still be wandering around without a torch up until around 10pm.

I still predominantly shoot with an iPhone (either a 5 or 5s). I do also use a Nikon D750 with an f4 24-120 lens depending on the location, subject or needs of a client.

For more things to do in Tasmania see Best of Tasmania and Discover Tasmania.

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