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.

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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.

First Light on The Main Range Peaks

First Light on The Main Range Peaks

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

I had pre-visualised an image capturing the first sunlight to hit the Main Range peaks of Kosciuszko. In the pre-dawn light, from a position near Seaman’s Hut, I pointed my camera to the north west and waited for the sun to do its work. I wasn’t sure whether I could get just a hint of sunlight on all the peaks at the same time. I patiently waited as each peak was slowly bathed by the suns early light and pressed the shutter as the last summit was lit up.  It captures a special time of day on the roof of Australia. The peaks lit up from left to right (including height and height ranking) are:

Byatts Camp (2159m, 8th), Abbott Peak (2145m, equal 9th), Mt Townsend (2209m, 2nd), Mueller’s Peak (2120m, equal 13th), Alice Rawson Peak (2160m, 7th), Mt Northcote (2131m, 12th), Mt Lee (2100m, equal 15th), Mt Clarke (2100m, equal 15th).

Not in the image, heading south and to the left are:

Unamed peak on Etheridge Ridge (2180m, 5th), Mt Kosciusko (2228, 1st), North Ramshead (2177m, 6th), The Ramshead (2190, 4th).

To the north, obscured by the Northcote/Clarke Ridge are:

Carruther’s Peak (2145m, equal 9th), Tenison Woods Knoll (2136m, 11th), Little Twynam (2120m, equal 13th), Mt Twynam (2195m, 3rd)

There are 26 peaks over 2000 metres in Australia (A2K) and all lie in Kosciuszko National Park. It is possible by travelling light and with good weather in summer to scale all the A2K peaks in three days. In winter, with a stable weather forecast, a ski traverse summiting the top 10 over three days, is also possible.

35mm Film Images of The Snowy Mountains

As the winter snow season gets closer I have been posting on Facebook my old 35mm film images from the last 20 years or so with short stories on the capture of each image. I thought it might make an interesting blog post with them all together in one place. Enjoy.

April Snowfall, Seaman’s Hut

Camera/Lens – Nikon F100, Nikkor 28-70 f2.8

Film: Kodak EBX Slide Film

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Every year as the ski season nears we await with eager anticipation the first snowfall. On this occasion we checked out the forecast a few days out and it looked like a big front was going to dump plenty of white goodness. Snowfalls do occur early in the year but this one, at the end of April, looked like it might be pretty substantial.

We arrived at Charlotte Pass lookout after dark on a Friday night with a few centremetres of snow on the road. As we headed off up to Seaman’s Hut the snow got deeper and deeper, with some big snow drifts of over a metre tall. It was great being out in the snow again. We were like kids who were seeing snow for the first time – full of wonder and excitement. When we arrived we dumped our packs and carved telemark turns in the snow drifts outside the hut.

We awoke the next morning to see around 30 cms of snow on the ground. With the sun trying to break up the low cloud the colours were amazing. I rushed outside and captured this image.

 

Snowgum, Thredbo

Nikon F70, Tamron 28-200 f3.5-5.6

Film – Fuji Provia 100

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On my many trips to Thredbo over the years I had noticed this snowgum at the top of one of the runs and had always thought that would make a great image in fresh snow. I waited for a morning with new snowfall and took my SLR camera with me. I was lucky with the light as the low cloud opened a small window for the sun to momentarily bathe the tree at an oblique angle. With a ground blizzard blowing spindrift around the tree it made for an interesting image.

 

Early light on Mt Kosciusko from the summit of North Ramshead

Fuji Provia Slide Film

Camera/Lens: Nikon F100, Nikkor 28-70 f2.8

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A favourite campsite in winter is the summit of North Ramshead. You really get a sense of being on the top of Australia on the 6th highest peak in the country at 2177 metres. The large tors on the summit provide calm sanctuary from the prevailing south westerly winter winds. The views west to Mt Kosciusko, particularly at sunrise and sunset are spectacular.

In this image I asked my friend Grant to stand on the summit to offer some foreground perspective and pressed the shutter as the days first light hit Mt Kosciuszko in the distance.

 

Ice Crystals, Thredbo Diggings

Camera/Lens: Nikon F100, Nikkor 28-70 f2.8

Film: Fuji Sensia

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I awoke one particularly frosty morning at Thredbo Diggings before my friends had stirred and wandered down through the ice encrusted alpine grass to the Thredbo River. Shallow pools on the edge of the river had frozen overnight creating these amazing blue colours and patterns. Having come away without a tripod there was barely enough light to hand hold the camera and still get a reasonably sharp image.

 

Seaman’s Gold

Camera/Lens: Ricoh AF 60, Rikenon 35mm f3.5

Film: Kodachrome 64

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Many Easter’s ago I ventured out into the Snowy Mountains with three friends to hike around the Kosciuszko Main Range. We left Thredbo resort from the top of the chairlift and went via the summit of Kosciuszko, camping near Club Lake, one of the stunning glacial lakes of the area.

To cut down on weight I left my Olympus SLR at home and borrowed my Mothers point and shoot Ricoh AF 60 with a fixed 35mm lens. I brought a few rolls of Kodachrome 64 slide film with me.

The first days beautiful weather gave way on the second day to high winds and low cloud forcing us to spend the entire day in our tents. On the third morning, in light rain and poor visibility we decided to hike to Seaman’s Hut in order to dry off and spend our last night in comfort. That afternoon and night a ferocious storm raged outside with gale force winds and torrential rain.

The storm cleared just after dawn and with the sun trying to break up the heavy cloud I managed to capture this image as it lit up Etheridge Ridge. I have been back here dozens of times since, at all times of year, but never been able to capture light as beautiful as this.

 

Telemark Delight

Camera/Lens: Nikon F100, Nikkor 28-70 f2.8

Film: Fuji Sensia

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After setting up camp on the summit of North Ramshead in Kosciuszko on a June long weekend, we ventured out to the north slopes of the Ramshead to play around on all the great windblown snow. As I climbed the slope, the late afternoon light looked fantastic, silhouetting my friends as they skied past me. I found a spot so the sun was hitting the ridge but not directly into my lens. Amazing light bathed the surface of the snow and lit up small ridges of sastrugi. I shot off a number of frames as they carved telemark turns past me and this one turned out to be a winner.

 

Etheridge Glow

Camera/Lens: Nikon F70, Tamron 28-200 F 3.5-5.6

Film: Fuji Provia 100

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The end of Etheridge Ridge looms over Seaman’s Hut some 2 hours ski from Thredbo top station. An unnamed peak, the 5th highest in Australia at 2180 metres, lies a few hundred metres on the ridge to the south (left of this image). After spending the night nearby I rose early to try and capture the magenta colours of the Alpen glow. Asthe sun began to bathe the ridge in early morning light the full moon was setting fast. I was hoping I would be able to capture both the light and the moon but from my position it was going to be touch and go. Just as the end of the ridge received direct sunlight I pressed the shutter and just managed to capture the moon above the horizon.

The Beauty of Limited Edition Fine Art Prints using a Panoramic Film Camera

New website launched today and to acquire Fine Art Limited Edition Prints go to http://www.artefotografica.com.au

Recently I sold this limited edition fine art print titled ‘Early Morning Light at Seaman’s Hut’ to Tessa Rogers from Sydney. Tessa was kind enough to send me these photographs of the print hanging in her home.

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The print is 1.5 metres X 50 cms on Fuji Flex Crystal Archive paper and is mounted in edge to edge 4.5mm acrylic. This type of mounting for large panoramic prints looks absolutely spectacular. I like to think of them as ‘Windows of Art’. It does give the appearance of looking out of a window at an eye catching scene. I recommend this type of framing and mounting for my fine art limited edition prints, to all my clients.

Why buy a Fine Art Photographic Print from Film?

Tessa had been snow shoeing in the area and fell in love with the high alpine environment and the hut itself. She wanted an image as a centre piece in her home to remind her of this wonderful place and give her the desire to go back there. Tessa searched on the web and found my image on Flickr, the photo sharing social media platform, and the rest is history. Most of the fine art prints I have sold, people have an emotional attachment to – they have been there, remember what it felt like and want a memento of the place in their home or office. Large prints from digital cameras look great but in my opinion nothing beats the beauty of the panoramic film format.

Message from Tessa

Hi Mike,

As you can see, I think your skills are needed to capture the picture on the wall. It looks small in photos, but in fact is very stunning in reality.

I think the amazing thing about this picture is its ability to mimic the time of day with the light it appears to reflect. Early in the morning it is sunrise on the mountain. Its as though you are really there, standing by the hut in the moment.

Thanks for an amazing photo Mike.

Regards, Tessa

Story behind the Image

I left from Thredbo top station on skis one September morning in 2012 with all my camera gear and supplies for a three day solo trip in the Kosciuszko backcountry – a total of about 30kgs in my pack. With me was my Linhof Technorama 617S III panoramic film camera with a superb Schneider 90mm f5.6 super angulon lens, and a Nikon D7000 with a 18-200 f3.5-5.6 lens. My goal was to photograph Blue Lake, The Sentinel and Seaman’s Hut for both sunset and sunrise with the Linhof and add those images to my limited edition print collection.

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Scan from a transparency (no post processing) on a 
previous trip to Blue Lake in August 2012

It was a long ski of four hours from Thredbo to Blue Lake and I almost made it before low cloud and zero visibility forced me to retreat to the Snowy River and I set up camp at Foreman’s Chimney. I had always wanted to photograph the chimney at sunrise so it wasn’t a bad plan b. I captured the chimney with perfect blue skies the next morning and have added that image to my limited edition prints.

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Foreman’s Chimney (Limited Edition Print)

A two hour climb brought me to the top of Carruthers Peak. Here I hoped to get some good morning light with orographic clouds lifting out of the western faces but it was a perfect bluebird day – great for ski touring but not so good for photography. Having not had time or been in the right place to actually do some skiing I dropped my pack in the Carruthers/Lee saddle and laid 100 or so telemark turns down into Little Austria, a great western facing run. With the spring sun on this aspect the top couple of centremetres of the surface had turned into soft corn snow – the next best thing to skiing powder.

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Self–portrait - Telemark skiing on ‘The Spur’ run from Ramshead to 
Leatherbarrell Creek in August 2007. 

I then hauled myself over Mt Northcote and dropped into the Clarke/Northcote bowl. I had skied the bowl with my friends some years before in August 2006 and remember how light and dry the snow was. This time however the warm afternoon sun had softened at least 5cm of the surface. I laid parallel turns with my heavy pack down through this lusciuos buttery like surface – it was absolutely sublime.

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Telemarking in August 2006, Northcote/Clarke Bowl

On a high, I climbed up the other side of the upper Snowy River Valley to Seaman’s Hut where I spent the night. I have used the hut as a refuge on many a stormy night over the years. It is in such an exposed position but a welcome respite to the prevailing south westerly winter winds. This night however was calm and relatively clear. I awoke before dawn to see clear skies, which didn’t bode well for the type of image I was looking for. The alpen glow on clear mornings is a quite beautiful magenta colour so I was hoping to at least capture this colour in the early morning light. I only took four frames (one roll of film) of early light on the main range peaks and Seaman’s Hut itself and was fortunate to come away with these images.

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Early Morning Light at Seaman’s Hut

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First Light on the Main Range Peaks

New website launched today http://www.artefotografica.com.au

Bogong Creek

Bogong Creek

Camera/Lens: Linhof Technorama 617S III, Schneider 90mm Super Angulon
Film: Fuji Acros 100

I spend a lot of time backcountry skiing in this area with friends so don’t usually have the time to photograph. This is a great place close to Thredbo resort where you can ski untracked snow while the resort is all chopped up. As it faces south, is protected from the south west winds by big peaks and is in a hollow the temperatures here stay cold which keeps the snow light, dry and deep. We usually have all this great snow to ourselves.

I’ve always thought the dead snowgums with their shadows on the snow and the snow contours in the creek would make for a great black and white image. On this occasion I found a nice campsite amongst the snowgums and skied down to the creek to shoot in the early morning.

First light on Mt Kosciuszko

First light on Mt Kosciuszko

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

Finally got the chance to scan my panoramic film transparencies after buying an Epson V700 scanner. I am pleased with the results for web use. Drum scanning gets the best results for printing but gets expensive when needing to scan lots of images. Had this one filed away since July last year and got a pleasant surprise when I put it on my lightbox. Captured this on an overnight solo trip – I love being out there on my own experiencing these moments. It was my last frame on the roll of film so I had to wait for the right moment. Used a small rock in the saddle in the lower middle of the image as my point of reference and pressed the cable release when the light hit it. Would have liked more light in the saddle but the colours in the sky were waning. Looking forward to getting out there again this winter. Lets hope we get lots of snow.