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How to see Australia's most amazing skies

With sensational sunsets, dramatic dawns and all sorts of crazy cloud formations, Australian skies are a photographer’s dream. 


By Simon Webster
Published: 08 December, 2017

There’s something about Australian skies. They’re somehow bigger than skies elsewhere in the world. And incredibly dramatic. For photographers, these skies – and the landscapes they look over – present some wonderful opportunities, particularly at dawn and dusk, when the Australian light turns into something magical.

And in a country as diverse as Australia, landscape photographers are never short of subject matter, as can be seen in the images taken for the Bureau of Meteorology’s 2018 Australian Weather Calendar

WEST MACDONNELL RANGES, NORTHERN TERRITORY

West Macdonnell Ranges, Northern Territory

Photographer Peter Nunn snapped this sunset and brewing storm while returning to Alice Springs from a photography trip to the famous gorge and waterhole known as Simpsons Gap. The West MacDonnell Ranges, in Australia’s Red Centre, offer an unforgettable landscape of desert plains and ridges that change dramatically depending on the light and conditions.

Photographers who really want to immerse themselves in this country can do so on the Larapinta Trail, one of the world’s great hikes. The full trail is a 223-kilometre (139-mile) journey through the heart of Australia, but it can be broken into smaller sections – and you don’t even need to sacrifice sleeping in a comfy bed.  

MOUNT HOTHAM, VICTORIA

Mount Hotham, Victoria

Australian landscapes are nothing if not diverse. This snowy sunset could be on another planet to the Larapinta Trail. In fact, it’s at Mount Hotham, Victoria. On his way home from a family day out, amateur photographer Jon Bagge just couldn’t resist pulling over the car and reaching for his camera when the setting sun hit a misty valley, turning everything orange.

The highest village in the Australian Alps, Mount Hotham offers ski slopes for everyone from beginners to experts, as well as 35 kilometres (22 miles) of cross-country trails, and plenty of apres-ski bars and restaurants. The winter season runs from June to October. In the warmer months it’s all about hiking, mountain biking and relaxing – and taking photos, of course. 

LAKE ARGYLE, KIMBERLEY, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Lake Argyle, Kimberley, Western Australia

The wet season transforms the northern part of Australia, turning skies electric and landscapes from brown to green in what seems like the blink of an eye. Ben Broady took this picture at Lake Argyle, near his home town of Kununurra, Western Australia. When he saw a storm brewing, Ben raced up to a nearby lookout, rolled out a swag (a heavy-duty Australian sleeping bag) and set up his camera. Five minutes later, “Boom!”

Kununurra is the gateway to the Kimberley, one of Australia’s most iconic regions, a remote and spectacular destination that offers everything from swimming holes in the desert to camel rides on a beach. Don’t let the wet season (November to April) put you off. This can be the most spectacular time to visit. Rivers and waterfalls (even horizontal ones) roar, wildlife is abundant and a wet season cruise can offer some extraordinary photo opportunities.

DAVIS STATION, ANTARCTICA

Davis Station, Antarctica

Not many of us get to see the Southern Lights (also known as Aurora Australis) from our workplace, but then not many of us work in the meteorology building at Davis Station, Antarctica. Barend ‘Barry’ Becker has spent most of 2017 there, and it was on a clear night in March he took this stunning pic, which involved an hour and a half outside, messing about with exposures (photographically and thermally) in temperatures of -16C (3.2F). 

If you want to see Australian Antarctica yourself, you can do a daytrip (believe it or not), or a longer cruise. You can also see the Southern Lights (caused by particles from solar flares hitting the Earth’s magnetic field) from Tasmania, as well as sometimes Victoria and the southern parts of New South Wales. Occasionally, when the aurora is particularly strong, even Western Australia and South Australia get a glimpse. Here are some tips for photographing the lights. Don’t forget to rug up.

Find more stunning pics of the Southern Lights here.