Kelly’s Falls, The Sequel

Following on from my last post about persistent rain here in Sydney, actually almost the entire East coast of Australia, I had to take another trip to Kelly’s Falls.

My first visit to Kelly’s Falls was pretty much on a whim. I was shooting sunrise down at Coalcliff and on the way home passed a sign reading Kelly’s Falls! I love me a good waterfall, so I stopped on the way back to check them out.

This time, however, I made the trip out there specifically to shoot these awesome falls. On my first visit to these falls, I really wasn’t dressed appropriately to be wading upstream. I learnt my lesson and packed my reef shoes this time, making it extremely easy to venture further up the creek. The water never really got any deeper than thigh high, so it’s certainly not the most demanding frolic to the top. But boy is it worth it!


Shutter Speed: 3.2 sec – Aperture: f/16 – ISO: 100 – Focal Length: 24mm


Shutter Speed: 3.2 sec – Aperture: f/16 – ISO: 100 – Focal Length: 24mm


The Rains are ‘ere

With all the rain Sydney had last week it was only natural that I would be out, in it, shooting some sort of waterfall. One waterfall that is only out during the first day or so of heavy rain, is the waterfall at the Old Helensburgh Station. You can see my last post on it here where there was very little water.

After being at work all day and hearing about how much it was pouring with rain, I knew that that day would be perfect for this shot. I wasn’t wrong. I rushed home from work to pick up my gear and before I knew it I was back out in the pouring rain, umbrella in hand, shooting this ‘Indiana Jones’ looking scene. I gotta say, setting up a tripod, holding an umbrella, all whilst trying to take photos with my camera’s rain sleeve on is much harder than I’d first thought. But I’m so glad I persevered, as this shot has been on my bucket list for months!

Hope you guys like these two shots!


Shutter Speed: 1.3 sec – Aperture: f/16 – ISO: 200 – Focal Length: 42mm


Shutter Speed: 1 sec – Aperture: f/11 – ISO: 100 – Focal Length: 70mm

  • Josh Vhaan - Wow thanks so much for sharing this place, it looks seriously awesome.I can’t wait to go there, might wait till the next downpour to make the drive thoughReplyCancel

  • Pip - So sad I missed this, it would have been so cool to see!
    Next time, we get the kayaks and paddle down the glowworm tunnel!ReplyCancel


Visit the Shire – Understand Down Under

Leaving off from my last post – Will, Andrew and I returned back to the top of the mountain to meet up with the rest of the group. We arrived back dripping wet, while everyone else was still bone dry. When we’d had time to gather our thoughts and dry ourselves off a tad, we got straight into business. I should probably first tell you a little bit about Andy and his Understand Down Under, or UDU, Tours. Then back to business…

Andy started Understand Down Under sometime in 2006 in the hope that he could share his love for the Australian outback, and in particular the Royal National Park, with the world. One of the tours that UDU offers is an overnight moonlit walk through the Royal National Park. Once a month, during full moon, Andy takes you on an unforgettable and once in a lifetime hike through the wilderness that is Australia’s oldest National Park. During this overnight hike Andy and his dad “Dad” take you on more than just a physical adventure but also one full of lessons and fun, scientifically and photographically speaking.

As I was saying, we had arrived back at the group’s designated meeting spot ready for our big night ahead. By this stage, the sun had been down for about 30 minutes so it was starting to get quite dark. And what better thing to do in the dark with a bunch of photographers? …Light painting! As this group consisted of experienced photographers, we were pretty much able to get into things straight away. But incase you aren’t too familiar with your camera, Andy is an extremely knowledgable photographer who is second to none with light painting and by the end of the night you will be more than capable of capturing your own awesome images.

Whilst I was mainly concentrating on getting dry, I didn’t get too carried away with the painting. I did however, capture this shot of an illuminated tent. The only two light sources in this image are the light from my head lamp (lighting the tent) and the ambient light from Sydney’s city lights (orange sky). For this shot I lit the tent from behind. Usually in this type of image you would light it from the inside, but these were not our tents…


Shutter Speed: 8 sec – Aperture: f/4 – ISO: 400 – Focal Length: 17mm

After we finished light painting for the moment, we were treated to an awesome and extremely filling dinner at the top of the falls, Wattamolla that is. I guess they thought we needed the energy, as for the next 4 hours we would be on our feet – traipsing through the bush.

We finally left for our hike through the National Park, after our extremely satisfying meal, stopping occasionally for a little rest and for some educational insight from Andy’s dad. On one of these stops Andy volunteered to sit on this overhanging rock for some of us to shoot him, with our cameras. It was only about a 30 metre drop onto some gnarly rocks and crashing waves in the middle of the night, so it seemed pretty safe… One thing I don’t like about shooting during full moon is that it can look a bit like you’re out in the middle of the day.


Shutter Speed: 30 sec – Aperture: f/6.3 – ISO: 800 – Focal Length: 17mm

At the end of our walk we reached the beautifully secluded Curracurrang Falls where most of the crew decided to have a late night or early morning swim before our walk back to the campsite. By campsite I mean sand. Not sure if I mentioned it earlier, but part of the UDU Moonwalk Tour is sleeping on the beach at Wattamolla Lagoon. Pretty cool, right? By the time we made it back and set up our sleeping bags we were all pretty exhausted. I can’t possibly describe how cool it was to fall asleep on a beach to the sound of the ocean and the perfectly clear night sky above us. It’s really something that needs to be experienced personally.

The next morning we woke to the sun rising over the ocean, and what a view it was! Unfortunately, I didn’t come away with any spectacular shots, so I won’t be sharing those few images I did happen to capture.

I must say, this weekend was definitely something different for me. From the amazing group of people I spent it with to the awesome experiences we shared, it really was something I will never forget and something I hope I get the honour of being apart of again.

Let me leave you with some words of wisdom from a fellow landscape photographer I was lucky enough to shoot with over this ‘Visit the Shire’ weekend.


  • Josh Vhaan - What an awesome trip!!!!!!!
    I’m not a local, but I might make the trip to Sydney to do one of these tours. Seems like a sick tour, and you got some awesome shots out of it manReplyCancel

    • Matt Donovan - Thanks for the comment, Josh! It was an awesome tour, definitely something I’m glad I’ve experienced!ReplyCancel


Visit the Shire – Rainbows and Waterfalls

Part two of our Visit the Shire trip was soon to commence. Everyone was keen to get their daily coffee so we made our way to Grind Espresso before heading off to the Royal National Park (RNP) for our over night walk with Andy from Understand Down Under. As we all rolled into the coffee shop, the clouds did the same. Not just your average rain clouds, these had a distinct green hue to them which usually means we’re in for a huge storm. After just minutes of waiting at the coffee shop, the storm had hit and we were in the centre of it. The rain was extremely heavy and there was barely a gap between thunder and lightning. At this stage, we were all pretty sure there wasn’t going to be a moonlit hike through the RNP.

Huddled up in this small coffee shop with half the population of Cronulla taking shelter, we decided we had to make a run for the van or we could have ben there for hours. We waited for what appeared to be a break in the down pour and bolted for the van. We’d heard from various sources further South of Cronulla that the weather appeared to be improving, giving us all hope that our overnight adventure was still on the table! By the time everyone made it back in the van, it was decided that it was still going ahead.

As we started our drive out of Cronulla, Lauren noticed through the gaps in the buildings, a rainbow was forming over the ocean. A quick nudge to our driver and before we knew it we were back out in the rain, North Cronulla this time, shooting this spectacular rainbow. A double rainbow, in fact.


Shutter Speed: 1/80 sec – Aperture: f/14 – ISO: 100 – Focal Length: 17mm

After a few minutes of shooting and a quick run down to the beach, the rainbow started to fade, so it was time to get back on the road. Some 30 minutes later, we pulled into the park just at the top of Wattamolla Falls, the sun was setting and we were quickly loosing colour. We weren’t really in a prime location for an awesome sunset photo. Will, Andrew and I decided we had to ditch the group, just minutes into the tour and chase the rapidly fading light. As we ran further and deeper into the bush towards the coastline we could see glimpses of this amazing colour burning through the thick canopy above us. Finally making it to sea level, Andrew stopped to take some shots and remove his pants… We had to cross a relatively deep estuary to shoot where we wanted. On our way across, the water was just under waist height, which wasn’t a problem – just a quick roll up of the pants and removing of my shoes. Coming back on the other hand, was a completely different story.

With the adrenaline still pumping and the colour fading each second, we made the final bolt to the edge of the lagoon to shoot Wattamolla Falls. By the time we made it, almost all of the colour had faded. We snapped a few shots, disappointed knowing that we had missed what could have been an awesome shot. As Will and I packed up our gear, we turned around to see two deers staring at us from upstream. It was like something straight out of a Yosemite National Park brochure. As neither of us had telephotos with us (kicking myself now) we happily took in the moment, realising how lucky we still were.


Shutter Speed: (foreground) 5 sec – (sky) 0.6 sec – Aperture: f/14 – ISO: 100 – Focal Length: 17mm

No more than 15 minutes had passed since we’d made it to the lagoon, so we figured crossing the estuary would be no more of a challenge than the first time. That was not the case. The water seemed to be at least one foot higher than before. Lets just say, for the rest of the night I was quite damp from my chest down.

Stay tuned for the final chapter of the Visit the Shire instameet!


Visit the Shire

Over the past weekend, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Visit the Shire‘s very first instameet. I spent the weekend shooting around the Sutherland Shire with 8 of Australia’s top instagrammers: Lauren Bath, Pauly Vella, William Patino, Paul Fleming, Stephen Casey, Reichlyn Aguilar, Michael Sutton and Destination NSW’s Chief Funster; Andrew Smith.
From the golden sands of Cronulla to a moonlit bush walk through the Royal National Park, we really got a diverse taste of what “the Shire” is all about.

To kick things off, on Friday afternoon we were treated to a private lunch at Lilli Pilli Point Reserve over looking Port Hacking catered by the Hospitality Establishment and decorated by Piccolo and Poppi. After lunch we headed back to Quest to rest up before the public instameet later that afternoon. Before we knew it 4 o’clock rolled around and the public instameet was under way. Mainly consisting of photographers, we’d all planned to walk from North Cronulla beach around to Gunnamatta Bay just in time to shoot sunset. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a sunset; the sun didn’t make much of an appearance at all, so we made our way over to Northies for a big feast and a good ol’ chat. Then it was off to bed ready for the activities the following day.

The first item on our “list” of things to shoot, was sunrise the next morning. As it’s now getting closer to Winter, the sun is rising later and later. I’m used to getting up at around 4am to shoot sunrise, having to drive miles just for a good photo opportunity. Staying in a hotel that is literally 30 metres from the nearest beach certainly has its advantages. We practically rolled out of bed onto the sand and were ready to shoot within minutes.

Stay tuned for more… Or you can take a sneak peak on my instagram page 



Shutter Speed: 1/4 sec – Aperture: f/13 – ISO: 100 – Focal Length: 24mm


Shutter Speed: 1/10 sec – Aperture: f/13 – ISO: 400 – Focal Length: 24mm


Shutter Speed: 13 sec – Aperture: f/16 – ISO: 50 – Focal Length: 24mm