Glamorous Camping or Glamping as it’s known as has always been something I wanted to experience for a long time, fortunately, that opportunity presented itself through the Fuji X Aus community. Big thanks and shout out to Ian Tan for organising and putting it together, Dale Rogers from Photo Rangers for being our tour guide, Randall from The Sheltered Glamping Co for the amazing experience, Leigh Diprose from Fujifilm Australia for the loan GFX50s + an assortment of lenses (and the awesome Fujifilm X Coffee Mugs) and finally to all those who attended the event. In short, it was an experience I would never forget and something that I want to share with the community.
The event took place at Phillip Island, Melbourne on June 16 just as the winter season kicked into gear. Those from Phillip Island will tell you that the weather forecast can (and often does) change at a moment noticed, it’s as unpredictable as Donald Trump’s tweets. The venue (campsite) was only a short walk from one of the beaches that surround Phillip Island, fortunately, it was in a well-sheltered area to break the chilly winds coming from the ocean, which is how The Sheltered Glamping Co got its name.
On the first night at camp, the skies were clear ideal for some Astro, you could just make out the Milkyway with the naked eye. So a handful of us set up our tripods around the campsite and aimed our cameras into the sky. If you’re planning to shoot Astro make sure you have a sturdy one, the grounds around the campsite was damp and uneven and I found myself on a few occasions catching the tripod as it toppled over. It doesn’t hurt to bring a few square planks of wood to rest the foot of your tripods on, they don’t take up much space and can be left in the boot of the car. Another advice I have around tripods is ensuring that you have one that can point directly up into the sky (90 degrees), unfortunately, I was left in a bit of a pickle as my Manfrotto tripod head did not allow for this. But all was not lost, I did manage to get a few shots of the sky before the clouds rolled in but would have liked to have taken more, perhaps a panoramic shot.
One of the highlights of the whole glamping experience is waking up to the fresh air as you step out of your tent. There were plenty of Wallabies around the campsite, many were not shy at all and did not mind you venturing close for a few snaps. I figured this would be a good time to take out the GFX50s and do a few snaps of my own. I’m always blown away by the images that come out of the GFX50s.
There is much to see and do at Phillip Island, we were fortunate that the weather remained clear and sunny for the first half of the day, enough for me to take a few shots and really use the GFX50s. One of the more popular lookout points is Pyramid Rock, known for the rock formations and silhouettes. There is a short walking path that takes out to the tip of the lookout point, it was extremely windy during our visit and at certain parts of the trail we were hit with some sea spray, it is recommended to bring a windproof jacket of some sort. There were some great scenic views once you reach the endpoint, unfortunately, the skies started opening up and when combined with the high winds, it felt like razor cuts to the face. It was time to move on.
The second lookout point we went to was Nobbies Point, this is also where you’ll find the famous Penguin Parade. Unfortunately, the Penguins only arrive during sunset and we already had plans to capture the sunset from another location. There are lots to see at Nobbies Centre, you can visit the interactive Antarctic Journey or take a walk along the clifftop boardwalks looking out directly into the Bass Strait and Seal Rock, home to Australia’s largest fur seal colony although we never saw any seals.
While using the GFX50s, I was a little concerned that the weight would get to me and but it never really bothered me much, I was more annoyed at not being able to feel my fingers from the chilly winds than the weight. The GFX50s never missed a beat, the WR from both body and lens meant I didn’t have to worry about sea spray. It was around this point when I realised that when I have the camera sitting on my Spider holster with the GF32-64mm pointing downwards, the lens barrel would slide forward, more commonly known as zoom creeping. It’s quite common among zoom lenses, I remember my XF16-55mmf2.8 doing the same thing, fortunately, there is a quick DIY hack where you place a rubber band around 2 points (usually the base of the zoom ring). Unfortunately, I didn’t have a spare rubber band in my kit, something that I’ll remember to bring next time around.
We couldn’t have asked for any better shooting conditions given that the weather was forecasted to be stormy conditions all week, there were short periods of sunny blue skies enough for us to take a few shots. Just as with Pyramid Rock, the weather soon caught up to us and the winds started to pick up speed. It was time to move on once again.
Not long after and it was time to meet up with Dale and everyone else at the meeting point, from there Dale took the group approx. 13 of us, down to the beach where we started our trek to the Pinnacles. Not long into the walk, there was a section where we had to time our run and sprint across 50 meters to avoid the waves coming up the shore and into our boots. Picture a dozen people all holding their cameras with backpacks and hiking gear sprinting 50 meters, obviously not all of us were able to make the full distance, and like many who tried, I was caught in the middle of the run as the waves came up the shore. Not wanting to walk in wet boots for the rest of the hike, I frantically threw myself onto a sand ledge and commando crawled away from the waves. Let’s just say that I was the only one that had dry feet by the end of the hike.
For the rest of the journey, the skies opened up and pelted us with rain and hail (yes hail!) along with 50kmph winds. But no matter what mother nature threw at us, it never phased the group, we were determined to reach the Pinnacles.
We eventually made it all the way to the Pinnacles, by then we were all soaking wet and dripping with rain, many of us had WR camera bodies i.e. X-T1, X-T2 and X-H1, it was a testament at how well it stood up against the elements. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you see it), I left the GFX50s battery charging back at camp and so it remained in the backpack for the duration of the hike, instead, I had the X-T2 with the XF50-140mmf2.8, it coped a beating but never faulted, it was like water off a duck’s back.
The weather eased on the return trip back to the campsite, we all changed out of our wet clothes and met back at the Safari hut where we prepared dinner and handed out some exclusive merchandise courtesy of Fujifilm Australia.
Overall, despite the weather conditions, it was a great event and a pleasant experience. This would not have normally been something that I would do, the sight of a few raindrops is enough to keep me home and in front of the TV. The highlight for me was being around other Fuji X Aus members and sharing the day with them, exchanging war stories and just having a good time in each others company.
For those keen to learn about landscape, seascape and astrophotography, reach out to Dale Rogers, he runs a number of workshops almost all year round and has a wealth of knowledge in this space. He was kind enough to part some of those tips during our interview with him which you can hear in episode 1 of our Podcast.
If you’re interested in the glamping experience, contact Randall from The Sheltered Glamping Co and mention that you’re from this community group. That’s if for now, hope you enjoyed the read and got a bit more insight into what you can expect from these events that we host, the next Astrophotography event is on 11 – 13 August at Wilson’s Prom, more details at our Facebook Event’s page (here). Hope you see more of you at the next event.