This month, we spoke to some of our favourite South Australian photographers about exactly why the Murray River, Lakes and Coorong region is fast-becoming one of their top places to photograph.
Whether it’s the exceptional darkness of our internationally accredited night skies, magic sunrises over the lower lakes and Coorong, untouched landscapes in our conservation parks, brilliant colours amongst our botanic gardens, historic paddlesteamers lining the Murray River wharves, or the layers and lines provided by the Mannum waterfalls – this region is a landscape photographers haven.
Every day our @murrayriverlakescoorong Instagram handle ‘pings’ with notifications of new photos our region has been tagged in by professional, amateur and budding photographers. So on this occasion, we decided to let them do the hard work for us and write this blog! We’ve captured the insights from a few of our regular talents, who have outlined exactly why this region is a photography hot spot for them. We’ve asked them to not only share their favourite places/icons to capture in the region, but also for some advice for other visiting photographers, and tips on their favourite things to do/places to stay/foods to eat while they’re here (just in case you want to spend a few extra days with us, and your lens).
No matter your level of interest in photography, you have to take a read of this article, which spills a few little-known secret spots for those who love to capture the perfect snap. (And make sure you follow these incredible artists on Instagram too!!).
In no particular order, here’s some magic from our region, to indulge your sights and senses…
“My favourite place to photograph is Milang.
I love the drive to Milang. I love how it is the perfect location for sunrise, sunset and astrophotography. It’s a destination that has so much hidden beauty to it.
My advice for those heading out to Milang, is to stay longer than you originally planned and explore along Lake Alexandrina. Bring a picnic along and enjoy the serenity.
Don’t leave once the sun sets. If you hang around on a clear night, you will be in awe of how many stars you can see here. It’s a great spot to lay on one of the little jetties and just gaze up!”
“Without a doubt one of my favourite places to visit in this region has to be Mannum Waterfalls.
I was absolutely blown away when I went there for the first time last year. My friend and I set time aside to explore and do the hike, but being photographers we got caught up in the awe-inspiring scenery and spent a good 4 hours shooting the same spot. Hands down a place that is amazing in person and worth the drive.
My advice for photographers is to take a wide-angle lens. I didn’t have the widest of lenses with me and was certainly kicking myself when I had the perfect image in mind. Be open to exploring every possible composition you could think of and definitely don’t be afraid to scale up some of the rocks, the hidden gems you find while daring to be brave are the best.
If you can, set time aside to camp or stay out and shoot at night. The sky visibility is absolutely unreal in this region and you certainly won’t be disappointed!”
“As a keen adventurer and outdoorsman, I often find myself photographing the rolling hills and night sky around small towns such as Palmer, near the Murray River.
Places like these which are situated high above sea level and overlook the land in the distance, give a sense of ‘on top of the world’. The light pollution is low, which makes photographing the stars ideal and being able to capture images of the Milky Way with incredible detail.
If you’re planning a day out or some time spent exploring the outdoors in places such as Palmer or Tungkillo, then give yourself plenty of time because there is lots to see and photograph. There are abundant old stone buildings and barns which show a lot of history and make for great images. The rolling hills and textures of large granite boulders scattered throughout the countryside also look super-interesting and if you’re awake early enough, there is often thick low fog tucked low in the valleys which looks incredible to see once you’re situated up on the hilltop.
When I’m not taking photos and want to get away from the city, I will take my dirt bike to some properties around the Coorong and go for a day out with some mates. In the warmer months of the year I’ll spend some time along the Murray River doing some watersports in the boat. There’s a must stop bakery in Mannum if you find yourself needing to grab something on the run or to take down by the river and relax.”
I love this location because it is often forgotten by photographers and its granite rock structures and flowing water give it an other worldly and unique look to a barren surrounding. There are so many interesting colours in this location and the landscape changes with the seasons.
Wait for heavy rain and be extremely careful of the change in humidity as you follow the track down to the waterfall. Letting your camera adjust to the temperature is important before you get to the bottom of the falls otherwise your lens will build condensation. You must also be prepared to walk through (or jump over) some water as you get to the waterfall, so dress appropriately.
When photographing the night sky in this region, never follow the ‘rules’ and make sure you push your creative boundaries!
On the way to Mannum waterfalls, you will drive past Monarto Safari Park. This is a perfect chance to make a day trip and experience the African animals during the day before spending the rest of your time under the stars watching shooting stars and listening to the relaxing sounds of the falls.”
"My favourite area to photograph is definitely Kinchina Conservation Park.
Kinchina is a one stop shop for me. I can get some fresh air on a walk and also find an abundance of nature, wildlife and beautiful landscapes. There’s also a railway line leading through the park which features some cool graffiti and history too – and always makes for incredible photos.
My advice for photographers visiting the park is – ‘don’t listen to music’. Keep your ears free and you’ll find yourself wrapped-up in the calmness of Kinchina. Inspiration will come pouring out from there.
Of course you’re technically supposed to stick to the trails, but if you see a slight deviation that allows you to capture “the shot”, go for it.
I’m fortunate that Kinchina is only 10 minutes away from me. But I do like to stop by and grab a coffee from Acre & Ash before setting out for my walk, topped off with a (Murray Bridge famous) savoury slice from McCue’s Bakery if needed!
Another favourite spot that I must mention is the iconic twin bridges, which link one side of Murray Bridge to the other. During winter, you’ll often find me in the area capturing scenes of the early morning fog – it’s even better when timed just right for the scheduled train to pass through. If I know we’re in for a good sunset, I’ll even launch the drone and capture the different aerial perspectives of the landscape below."
“The Coorong is an iconic natural environment to photograph.
Visiting the Coorong feels like stepping into an untouched natural world. The clean water and white sand dunes are home to pelicans, emus and kangaroos and it’s the most peaceful of places to spend time in.
This National Park area is only accessible by boat or 4WD and the opportunities to take great photos are everywhere. If your favourite types of photography are landscapes and wildlife in nature, then this is the destination for you.
“I can never narrow anything down to just one best thing because it really depends on what I’m looking to do, see or experience on any given day. And although most people think of the river, for me the region offers way more than that.
If I’m being a ‘bird nerd’, Monarto Woodlands and Fran’s Farm is the place to go. But my all-time favourite place (and I’m loathe to even put this out there because I love that it’s a best kept secret) is Pangarinda Botanic Garden.
Could seriously not love Pangarinda more. For starters, it’s quite out of the way nestled in there near the Wellington Ferry, so it’s more often than not just you and nature. Because… people. Not a fan. The native plants are absolutely amazing. Plenty of plants here I’ve never seen anywhere before. When they’re flowering, the range of Eucalypts and Banksias and Melaleucas and assorted other wildflowers there are mind-blowing. And of course, the insects and birds that come with them as well. Not to mention I love the conservation story behind the place.
As a photographer, you can’t really go wrong here. If you’re trying to shoot birds, obviously a longer lens is useful. Keeping quiet helps - not easy for a loud mouth like myself. And staying on the right side of the light so you’re not shooting into the sun can be tricky. But if you want to shoot the plants and flowers - winter is great for many of them - just get in there and get up close, even if it’s just with a smart phone. Get in super close and go macro if you can. Show off the details people don’t usually see with the naked eye.
If I’ve got time, I’ll try and hit a few different locations around Murray Bridge. Kinchina has some great trails, plants and bird life. Swanport Wetlands is always a great little loop and something I drove right past and over for so long before finally stopping to explore. If I’m driving to the South East, I’ll always go the long way, dodge the traffic and roll past the pink lake on the way to Meningie, and take the Princes Highway along the edge of the Coorong. I’ll even duck onto the Old Coorong Road to feel like I’ve had a bit of extra adventure.”
“My favourite place and icon to photograph is a sunrise over the Murray River.
For me you can’t get a better subject – unless of course you can have a paddle steamer in it as well. Possibly best known for taking a shot of the sunrise at the Mannum ferry most days for the last few years (featured on ABC’s Backroads in 2018) my passion is for Murray River sunrises, reflective glassy water, paddle steamers, ruins, and more recently astrophotography capturing the Milky Way.
I’m very passionate about capturing the region on camera to share with others to promote the fantastic experiences we have so close to Adelaide that many don’t get to enjoy – and I’m loving getting away from some of my other work (chef, accommodation manager) and doing more in the photography workshop space.
The region offers so many opportunities for photographers, stunning sunrises and sunsets over the river, the history of old homes and ruins, windmills, river red gums, abundant wild life, paddle boats (old and new) and of course the River Murray International Dark Sky Reserve.
My key tips are to use a tripod for long exposure photos at sunrise and sunset to smooth the water out for more of the glassy look and richer colours. If you’re coming to Mannum, you also need to visit the many lookouts between Mannum and Swan Reach to capture the birds-eye-view of the river and activity on it. PLUS – you should always visit in winter - the sunrises through river mist and fog are spectacular!
Day trips are nice, but you have to stay the night. If you want something simple, book into Mannum Motel, or if you need something bigger or premium accommodation, try River Shack Rentals (and the owner will give you a list of places to go!)."
So now that you know the best places to capture, it’s time to pack the car up and come for a stay. No flights needed, no long road-trips – you’ll be in our region only 45 minutes after passing the South Eastern Freeway’s tollgate. We’ll see you, your tripod, binoculars, lenses, lanterns (and everything else your pack can fit in) real soon.
(And don’t forget to tag us in your pics ~ @murrayriverlakescoorong.)