What is Soft is Strong


Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.”

Tao Te Ching – The Teachings of Lao Tzu

I call this image “Serenity”. The subtle tones of greens, yellows, greys and naturals evoke a feeling of calmness and serenity. The sound of the water flowing in the creek and its softness to touch is a paradox to its strength and consistency over time. These are places that I feel my true self – at ease and at one with nature. Its these feelings and emotions I attempt to capture with my photography. I hope this image brings these emotions within in you as well. This image was shot in Thredbo Village, Kosciuszko National Park along a picturesque section of lower Merritt’s Creek.

Winter Trees

Dead Snowgum Shadow 1600px

I like everything about the mountains in winter – The rarefied air and cold temperatures; watching banks of moisture laden clouds rolling in and the wonderful light of a clearing storm; The pureness of alpine streams, tarns, lakes and glaciers; the distant vista of high mountain peaks and the silence of the high alpine.

Mike Banks Hakkoda sRGB 1600px

I am particularly drawn to snow, whether it is falling from the sky, lying in a fresh blanket, pristine and untouched, lapping over my skis and boots and if its deep enough over my head, in the sastrugi that builds up on the surface during high winds, being blasted into my face in a blizzard, getting up through the night to dig my tent out, built up as rime on exposed rocks, vegetation and huts. It’s the pure nature and the whiteness of snow that leaves my soul cleansed.

Rusutsu Forest Rusutsu & YoteiTree of Woe 1 1600px BW

There is something special about the trees that survive in these harsh but beautiful environments. They look other worldly covered in fresh light snow, encrusted with hoar frost or plastered with ice from the freeze/thaw cycle. This blog is dedicated to those amazing forms of life that cling precariously to the high mountain ramparts.

Furanodake Birch 1600px

Dead Snowgum Ramshead 1600pxBogong Creek Snowgum 1600px Crop

Epson International Pano Awards Finalist – Gold Award

Epson Pano Coogee Dusk Gold 2014

I was honoured to be included as a finalist in the Epson International Panoramic Photography Awards, Open Built Environment Category. My entry “Coogee Dusk” finished in 6th place and as such was upgraded to a Gold Award. Judged by a high profile panel of internationally renowned peers, this result means a lot to me as a photographer, particularly as it was captured on film and was competing against largely digital entries. I’m looking to hone my digital panoramic skills over the next year and enter some digital entries in 2015. See the top 50 in The 2014 Epson Pano Awards Open Built Environment category here:  https://thepanoawards.com/awards/2014-open-built-environment-top-50/

Epson Pano Silver Award

Epson Pano Coogee Dusk Silver 2014

I’ve just won a Silver award in the Epson International Pano Awards. Judging seemed extremely tough this year as my other entries didn’t get close to bronze level. Last year I received a silver award also but didn’t make the coveted Top 50 panoramic photos worldwide. This year with the tough judging it appears that I’ll have a chance of getting into that elite group and may have a chance at the top 10.

The most pleasing thing about this image is that it was shot on film with a Linhof Technorama Panoramic Camera. Just goes to show you that film capture is still worthy in this new age of panoramic stitching with digital cameras….but for how long?



Astro Pano 2 V1 3000px

Crago Observatory, Bowen Mountain

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known” – Carl Sagan

Camera/Lens: Nikon D800E, Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8

Post processing: 2 rows x 10 image vertical stitch, Topaz denoise, minor levels adjustments and colour correction

Feeling a little uninspired lately with images of Sydney being so overshot and being stuck at home doing domestic chores, so I set myself a challenge. This is my first attempt at both astrophotography and multi panel stitching on the digital medium as opposed to the simplicity of a single panoramic image on a 617 film camera.

With the kids at Nanna’s I discovered this observatory on the outskirts of Sydney and thought it would make an interesting image with the milky way above it. Walking through the bush on a moonless night was a little unnerving but necessary to capture the stars without moonlight or too much city light affecting the image. I also discovered that multiple image stitching is great on a slow processing computer – it gives you time to dust, vacuum, mop and pick the kids up from school!

This was a great learning exercise. Its amazing what you can do these days on a digital camera and Photoshop. This is far removed from the old days of 35mm film. I find the process of shooting on film with a 617 camera wonderful but the possibilities and versatility of digital cameras is absolutely amazing.

Abandoned Railway Sidings of the Monaro

Jincumbilly Close Angle

Jincumbilly Siding, Bombala Line: Opened 21st November, 1921/Closed 9th March, 1975

Limited Edition print available here

An alternate route to the Snowy Mountains through the Monaro region is via Cooma, Nimmitabel and the Snowy River Way to Dalgety and Jindabyne. I have taken this route a few times to photograph the remote abandoned rail sidings. Located in the rain shadow of the Snowy Mountains, the Monaro region is characterised by rolling, largely treeless hills. Too cold for reliable crops this is classic grazing country for cattle and sheep. These abandoned rail sidings pay testament to the remote and difficult life the settlers of the area endured.

Jincumbilly rail siding features a 120m platform with a small well preserved waiting room designed as a shelter from the howling gales that can whip across these plains. The remains of two passenger wagons have been moved to the neighbouring property.

This remote siding was of great importance during World War II. All supplies came and went by goods trains, due to petrol rationing. The men who enlisted left on the steam train, and those who returned were announced by the train tooting all the way from Holts Flat siding.

Outside of the war years the train was the lifeblood for the small farming communities scattered around Monaro. Goods trains took provisions to Bombala and Delegate, such as superphosphate, tractors and harvesters, and on the return journey they hauled local produce, predominantly wool, to market.

During the winter of 1949, Monaro had two unusually heavy snow falls about 10 days apart. Roads were cut, stock buried and everything was in crisis. The reliable steam train continued until the 1st August when it was lost in a huge snow drift. The locals arrived to help dig the train out. The Bombala end of the rail sent a fettler’s bogie to rescue the passengers, luggage and mail from the goods van at the back of the train.


Jincumbilly Dig

Steam Train being dug from the snow near Jincumbilly Siding in the big snow fall of August 1949 Photo: Dave Goodyer Collection


Holts Siding 2

Holts Flat Siding, Bombala Line: Opened 21st November, 1921/Closed 9th March, 1975

Limited Edition print available here 

The 88m platform and shelter stand on the up side of the line, opposite a loop siding. The truncated platform and small building are in poor condition and of need of restoration. The area is sometimes used for grazing, and as a result the yard is not badly overgrown.

Rime Encrusted Rocks

Rime Encrusted Rocks Retouched 1600px

Camera/Lens: Linhof Technorama 617S III, Schneider 90mm f5.6 Super Angulon
Film: Fuji Velvia 50

See all my Limited Edition Prints

After setting up camp on North Ramshead I went on a late afternoon tour around the Ramsheads. This plateau above Thredbo resort allows quick access via the lifts and if the weather turns ugly its an easy ski out to civilisation.

This image is captured from the Central Ramshead area with a group of rocks covered with Rime ice. This is a common phenomenon around Kosciuszko National Park on anything exposed to the weather including snow gums, huts and pole lines.

Ground Blizzard, Ramshead Range

Ramshead Ground Blizzard 1600px

Camera/Lens: Nikon D800E, Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8@ 24mm

After a beautiful day ski touring around the Ramshead area near Thredbo, the wind started to pick up while returning to my camp. The natural phenomenon of sastrugi forms small ridges of packed snow from consistent winds. I thought the late afternoon light combined with the windblown snow and the sun low on the horizon would make for a nice image highlighting the sastrugi in the foreground. Little was I to know that the winds would increase ten fold and almost bury my tent with windblown snow during the night. Only shovelling every few hours throughout the night prevented the tent from being completely buried. I made a quick escape at first light in bad visibility and flat light, negotiating  sheet ice and invisible snow drifts on the plateau before reaching Thredbo Top station and the refuge of Eagles Nest.


Mike Banks Snow Gum 2 sRGB 1600px V2

Camera/Lens: Canon S95, 28-105mm f2-8.0

Theres something special about early morning in the high alpine in winter. The stillness and quietness is soul cleansing and a fresh blanket of snow gives a sense of newness and fragility. Theres nothing like clipping into your skis and making your own tracks in the pristine snow.

On this occasion a few centremetes of snow overnight along with the thaw from above zero temperatures the day before covered the snowgums with a thin layer of ice. It was a stunning scene when we peered out of the tent in the morning. Travelling light, I only had my little point and shoot Canon S95. It’s a wonderful little camera that shoots 10 Megapixel Raw images and has a minimum aperture of f2. It fits easily into a pocket so it is with me almost always – great to shoot anything from the kids to landscapes.