Great Barrier Reef

click to see larger size-- One of my Saturday shots of Great Barrier Reef from above

One of the seven wonders of the world; a World Heritage area – and it is also actually the earth’s largest living thing! Stretching 2000 kilometers the Great Barrier Reef is the most extensive reef system in the world and it is made entirely by living organisms some as old as 18 million years! When lit up by the sun the colors of the corals and the sea practically defy photography, it is really hard to capture these colors on a digital sensor, the fantastic palette of blues and greens are impossible to reproduce. The reef is of course not one big reef, but made up of about 2900 separate reefs and Cairns is the main gateway to a bewildering amount of reef tours. You can see the reef in just about any way imaginable and the reef contributes an incredible 4 to 5 billion Australian dollars every year to the Australian economy!

I reckon the two best ways to see the reef must be: up close and personal by diving – or from above by helicopter. I’m no diver (to say the least) so for me it’s from above and it’s gotta be by helicopter (as some of you will know I love flying in helicopters). Last year I did a short helicopter flight over Moore Reef; this year I waited a full week to get a 60 minutes reef ‘n rainforest flight to Arlington Reef. They only fly with a minimum of two so it’s either wait till someone else books the same flight or pay for two. Luckily on my last day in Cairns the waiting paid off (I actually would have paid for two if I had to!) and 3 other passengers joined me for an afternoon helicopter flight with Sunlover Helicopters! Conditions weren’t perfect for photography, bit too much wind and a very hazy day but I have to take what I can get until I can afford my own helicopter (but then how would I fly and shoot pictures at the same time).

It is a phenomenal sight to fly above this very surreal and colorful landscape of corals and great fun to machine gun my Canon 5D out the window of the helicopter at the same time! We also saw some huge manta rays and hammerhead sharks from the air. The following is a few of my shots from Saturday, more on my gallery. I’m not entirely satisfied with them and the RAW files are really hard to develop properly on my laptop screen. But then I have the perfect reef shot in my head and I doubt I’ll every shoot it and like I said you have to see it in real life; it’s not easy to photograph:

click to see larger size--

click to see larger size--

(Polarizer filter on my lens means you can shoot basically straight through the water and really see the corals but also means you see the cloud reflections on the ocean – in case you were wondering)

I’ll end my reef post with one of my shots from 2006 – Moore Reef and still by far the best reef shot I have done:


  • ARRRRRGHHHHHHH…..bloody heart attack…shiiiiit…just before posting this my camera suddenly refused to recognize the memory card I just inserted. Bugger me!!!!! That got the blood boiling! Fortunately a reset by removing battery did the trick but I’ve never had this happen before. And even though I would walk down and buy a new Canon 5D tomorrow if it actually was broke, I would rather not, the 5D is super expensive! Whew…false alert, thank the maker, I can call off the heart attack.
  • Next post will be about the city of Cairns itself, I have collected a few great shots of Cairns a town that I’ve grown to really like over the past few weeks.
  • Weather…it’s just perfect everyday. Sunshine and 30c degrees. Like a resident from Cairns told me “it’s pure hell living in paradise”!
  • How the hell do I adjust to normal life again in Wintery Copenhagen now that I’ve completely adjusted to this tropical life and shooting pictures full time?
  • My thanks to our Crown Prince Frederik for marrying Mary the Aussie; Danes are now treated almost royally down here, many Aussies feel Denmark is now some sort of sister-country and often want to know how Mary is going!

Quote of the day:

“Thanks for inviting me to OPEC”
– George Bush speech at the recent APEC convention in Sydney.

(He also managed to call Australians “Austrians”!
He’s got heaps of speech writers, just read the bloody text mate!)

6 Comments on “Great Barrier Reef”

  1. Hi Flemming,
    Very nice shots – but I agree the shot from 2006 is still the best. It´s strange how the clouds reflects in the sea due to the polarizer filter, but to me it just adds more ?? I don´t know what to call it, but I like it.
    Strange that the 5d all of a sudden refused to recognize the memory card. Hopefully it wont happen again.
    See ya.

  2. Did you hear the news today, that scientists say global warming and climate change will destroy the Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs? It's shocking to think about what could happen…

  3. The reef is so awesome – nice shots 🙂 and I concur with you on the best ways to see/experience it.
    I got a laugh from the quotes part – I remember that !

  4. Thanks Tony, the reef is so awesome that it's really hard to photograph. I may have another go at these raw files some day to see if I can't improve them a bit. I have also since learned that shooting the reef from above must be done at high noon where the sun rays will penetrate the water and hit the reef.

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