The Purnululu sunset that almost never was

“All good things come to those who wait” goes the old saying. I am not a patient soul so I often have to remind myself to calm down. And wait. Good things will come. I could argue that if you wait long enough, pigs will fly over a frozen hell but I won’t. It’s often true. Restless, frustrated and impatient I must admit that waiting works. Especially in landscape photography. I am passionate about landscape photography to the point of obsession easily leading to frustrations – but ultimately also to some amazing experiences:

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

Glowing Red Bungle Bungle Range at sunset
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

On an outback tour in 2008 in Australia, we were driving from El Questro on the Gibb River Road in Kimberley to Purnululu National Park. It’s an extremely long drive. It was an extremely hot day. Everything happened in slow motion. Everyone moved slowly. Everything took forever. Aircon wasn’t working in the truck. My boiling brain was constantly calculating our location and our ETA, the deadline being sunset at 5pm in Purnululu National Park.

As time froze on the never-ending bitumen road going South, I was getting very restless and frustrated. The sky was fantastic, some spectacular otherworldly cloud formations adding to my frustrations. This sunset would be out of this world and we would surely not make it to Purnululu in time. When we finally hit the 54km dirt road leading into Purnululu National Park it was after 3pm. It was my second time to Purnululu and I knew it is about a 2½ hour drive to get through the 54km quite poor dirt road – at least. Sunset was around 5.15pm. Simple math told me to give up; resign. We would not make it. We would have to stop on the way and enjoy the sunset from the road, I should start scouting for alternative locations along the way into Purnululu.

I remember being so frustrated I zoned out listening to my ipod. Imagine my surprise when we pull up at the ranger station at 4.45pm. We had made it in about 1 hour and 40 minutes! I switch into a shooting mode frenzy! “Nick” I shout at our driver, “Nick, mate, get everyone back on board, we’re 5 minutes from the Kungkalahayi lookout, we can make it we can make it!”.

Make it we did. Shoot many photos I did. All good things to those who wait! I raced up the hill and had a 360 degree view from the Kungkalahayi lookout of an absolutely magical sunset that had me smiling and talking all night after capturing countless images.

The shot above I have shown you before; it is with the sun behind me. Below is a new release facing the sun:

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

Purnululu Landscape against the setting sun
© Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

This is a stitched panorama. I can’t make up my mind whether the ‘sun beaming into a f/22 aperture’ works. There are also quite a few different colours in one shot and a slightly busy composition. But it’s a wonderful scene and there is a lesson in here somewhere I suspect. Something about patience.

Landscape Photography is all about waiting; waiting for that special moment with the magical light. Never give up. Things may look like a no-shot day but the sun can change that in a split second. Always be ready. I seem to get worse at waiting though. But when everything looks grim but ultimately works out beautifully like this day; the restless impatient me at least provides me with some good laughs afterwards. All good things to those who wait!

23 Comments on “The Purnululu sunset that almost never was”

  1. Interesting post this Flemming. I know what you mean by waiting as I've done my fair share. Something clicked for me last year though and when I'm out now, I don't really feel like I'm waiting.

    I think the main thing I realised was I was trying to get a photo first and enjoy the view second. I was worried about getting the perfect light and really stressing myself out. Now I just really enjoy where I am first and take photos second. And I have realised if I miss that sunrise, there will always be another one.

    When I look at your photo above I don't really look at the photo, but I think about how great it must have been to be watching that scene.

    Remember "all good comes to those who wait", but "first in best dressed". 🙂

  2. No worries, mate. The ‘sun beaming into a f/22 aperture’ works very well indeed.
    Somehow the colors in the landscape in this particular image conveys a calmness that goes well against the subdued drama in the story and the intense colors in the Bungle Bungle shot.
    You are not just a guy who shoots great photos, you are a great photographer all around.

  3. I'm with you, it is torture driving to a spot not knowing if you will make it. I can get quite sulky if things don't turn out right! Nice pics mate.

    1. Thanks Christian! Yeah, sulky and torture are the words for it, things don't turn out right and I don't get my shot then people want to keep a distance as I get in a rotten mood!

  4. Funnily enough I do not think your story is about being patient, waiting, but more about being calm and get the best our of any situation.

    Obviously you would have prefered to be there an hour (or more) earlier to "be ready" at the right time, but professional as you are you do not actually need it – you know what to look for, you know where to be and you know how to use your tools.

    Great photos .. btw.

  5. I love the light and atmosphere of the first image Flemming…I'm not sure if the second shot works either, the sun just looks odd to me.

    I guess I'm a bit on both sides of the fence here…I get frustrated if time is runnong out getting to a location… but if I am there I love to take th eplace in first.

  6. Good thoughts in this post. I would put myself in the same category with you regarding lack of patience waiting for the right light. I have learned that there are some days that you won't get the shots you're looking for, but boy do they leave me peeved!

  7. Impressive shots Flemming.
    Love the colour in the top one. I lack patience with photography. Im even at the point that when I think the light is wrong or the sky is too clear I don't even bother getting the camera out. And will shoot it another day.

    1. Cheers Thomas! If it's a location I can visit whenever I want I'm with you, if it's not right I don't shoot. If it's while travelling I always shoot whatever I can get no matter the conditions. That is actually a really good exercise, trying to find a shot even in difficult light, 'cos you know you have to get it that day.

  8. i really like the second Flem.
    the suns interesting, but for me neither adds or detracts from the image. so i'm happy how it is!
    how do you get the sunflare like that?? something i've tried, but just can't seem to get.

    the colours throughout the image are magic. and the detail in the foreground is stunning, especially as you're shooting into the sun! And i still like the first aswell.

    i now think to myself "if it's meant to be- it's meant to be" and will happen. as we've discussed before if you want to shoot landscapes, you will always be chasing the light. always looking at the sky more then you're looking at the road (helps when you're in a nice big cruiser for this- the other cars get out of your way! :-P)

    i always find that when i'm prepared, and get to the site on time etc, the light is crap. it's always the ones i'm running late to that have the best… or the sunsets i'm in a location without camera, or just a bad location haha.

    1. Thanks very much Stephen! To get the sun flare effect simply shoot into the sun using a small aperture, f/16 or f/22 or smaller. It works best if you can partially hide the sun behind something, in this photo it's a cloud. If not the sun will be too strong, or you'll have to really underexpose and will get no detail.

      I find it's a bit random, sometimes when I'm prepared and set up with heaps of times well then things do also work out…occasionally! Other times it's the quick improvised shots that turn out to be keepers. Some of the best shots have funny stories behind them that the viewers don't know, such as "it may look controlled and intentional but really, we were just having a toilet break and I shot a few down the road!"

  9. A bit late to the party, but i just had to laugh Flemming!

    You've just described my camping holidays to a T, except dialogue in minen goes like this:

    Me: Look at THAT, can we stop
    Him: Do we really have to?

    Me: Omg the light is gorgeous, we have to stop
    Him: But it's getting late and we need to get to the campsite!

    Me: STOP. NOW. Must take photo. Will die of disappointment if not.
    Him: WHY do you have to pick the worse times/places to tell me these things?

    And so on. You get the idea. He's slowly warming up to the idea that stopping isn't so bad though… maybe in another 10 years…. 😉

  10. Oh and i forgot to mention, i do tend to pick the worst times/places – stagnant salt lake, campsite, roadside with more sticky mozzies/sandflies/march flies than normal. Hottest day, coldest night… that sort of thing.

  11. I'm doing an assiment on Purnululu, But to know that it's so beautiful and remarkable. you made my day! Purnululu was listed in the world Heratige on my birthday. (ps. not born in 2003 i'm older)

    It's just a pritty site to see don't u recon?

    I've read your report 25 times so far.


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