Windjana Gorge and the Bunuba people

The mighty rock walls towers up to 100 meters in height on the flat spinifex covered Kimberley savannah. The gorge cuts the Napier Ranges in half for about 3.5 kilometers. The Lennard River runs through it and is home to at least 70 crocodiles. The mysterious Wandjina spirits have left their shadows on the walls in the form of rock art. The Bunuba people have lived here for hundreds of generations and still fight for their survival against the invasion of their country and destruction of their people.

We are in the Bunuba home visiting Windjana Gorge National Park in Western Australia; and the above are  just a few of the reasons why Windjana Gorge is my favourite gorge on the Gibb River Road! The mighty towering walls and the history of this area is magic to me. It is also a photographers paradise. You have the mighty rock walls, the crocodiles, the gum and boab trees, the caves, the art, the flat savannah, the station ruins and Tunnel Creek ensuring you won’t ever run out of compositions here! I managed a few different compositions while I was at Windjana but look forward to revisiting again.

Towering Walls

The steep ranges of the Napier Range are the walls of the gorge and even from a distance these impressive ranges will catch your eye. Below my old Fujichrome slide from my first visit in 1998 shows the walls towering straight up out of the ground!

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Hawk Dreaming Sand Palms at Dusk
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

I have attempted to capture the wide gorge and mighty walls of the Napier Range in this duotone panorama:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Walls of Windjana Gorge in Duotone
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

I converted this stitched panorama to duotone as I felt it gave the image more character, drama and a timeless quality compared to the original slightly flat and harsh colour version. I used Alien Skin Exposure filter and my technique documented here but for this photo I did two conversions and layer blended them. The rock walls and the sky is almost entirely the red channel which ensures a dark dramatic sky and bright rocks. The sandy foreground is mostly the blue channel as this ensures detail; the red channel had very little detail in the sand.  Blending different conversions is a great way to ensure details in all areas of your image.


The gorge is home to many freshwater crocodiles and if you explore the gorge in the early hours of the day you’ll see crocs sunbaking all along the river. Freshwater crocs are no danger as long as you don’t provoke them and keep a bit of distance. Keeping an eye on the crocs it is easy to slowly approach them. I chose to show the crocs in their environment placing them in an image with the rock walls towering above them in a vertical panorama:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Windjana Gorge Crocodiles 
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Lillimooloora Station – Jandamarra and the Bunuba Resistance

On the flat open savannah outside the gorge you find the remains of the Lillimooloora Station. This station, which also housed a police outpost, is integral in the story of Jandamarra the Bunuba resistance fighter. Once working as a tracker for the police he turned resistance fighter and is now a hero to the Bunuba people. Jandamarra’s fight against the terror of the white colonisation is still a symbol for the ongoing struggle to protect the law, the land and the culture of the Bunuba. I highly recommend reading Jandamarra and The Bunuba Resistance from Magabala Books; the book also contains many great and interesting photos. My photo of the Lillimooloora Station ruins was shot as the ruins were lit up by the setting sun with the Napier Range in the background. Arriving late and having to work really fast in the disappearing light I feel my composition can be improved on my next visit but still like the view:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Lillimooloora Station Panorama
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Gum Trees at the Gorge

The gorge is also home to some very impressive old gum and boab trees rich in character and story. As my Finding a Tree post explained it is hard and sometimes impossible work finding an isolated tree that can work in a composition without a distracting background. At Windjana I chose the opposite, filling a busy panorama with a glorious large old gum tree having the rock wall as a background. A bit of painting with light on the tree and the result is this panorama:

Click to see large size on my gallery! Copyright Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Glorius Gum Tree at Windjana Gorge
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

You can spend days at Windjana Gorge shooting, there is so much to work with here! I will hopefully get a chance to teach others about this wonderful place as I will quite possibly be part of guiding a photo tour in the Kimberleys in 2009. As long as we don’t loose a few photographers to the crocs I am sure Windjana Gorge will prove to be a highlight yet again!

11 Comments on “Windjana Gorge and the Bunuba people”

  1. i quite like the croc image Flem.
    it's a bit different due to the vertical format.
    shows the sheer size of those cliffs and the crocs in their element. nice one.

    you seem to be able to get your posts alot longer then mine with out it screwing up the format.
    is that because of the writing program you use??

  2. the duotone looks great Flemming ! I'll comment further on this post when time permits. 🙂

  3. Great post Flemming – Windjana gorge is awesome and I'd love to get back there myself – the entire Kimberely in fact ! maybe in 2009…
    I once stayed with a good friend of mine in Fitzroy crossing as he was living there with his brother in law ('Dicki') who is a direct decendant of Jandamarra. So the connections with everything to do with the region were hieghtened dramatically for me. Getting to hear the stories from the people themselves around a fire in their own backyards with a beer. One of 'Dicki's' brothers did all the artwork on the information boards at Geike gorge if you saw those as well – some of the best animal illustrations I have seen at any NP anywhere ! Bunuba's traditional lands run right back up the mighty Fitzroy river to contain places of great cultural significance such as Diamond gorge. There are countless other magical spots that 'no one' else knows about on this land as well…

    I'd love to read a post on your thoughts about shooting in 'the Kimberley light' too Flemming.

    tone 🙂

  4. Thanks heaps for your long comment Tony, super interesting stuff to hear your story of 'Dicki', must have been fantastic to hear the story from the people themselves! I've only read the book. As for magic spots there must be so many along the river and the Napier ranges that only the Bunuba know about! I also do remember those great info boards at Geike!

    If you're going to the Kimberley in 2009, why not jump on 'my' photography tour? 😀

    Btw I am going to do a post soon on my experience with the super harsh Kimberley light that is so hard to 'tame'.

  5. cheers for the offer Flemming ! perhaps you could pay me and jump on board one of my exquisite adventures… 🙂

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