Photographing The Great Ocean Road

Showing off some of the beauty Australia has to offer, we bring you another awesome guest post from our friend Joshua Holko!

A few days ago I returned home from a whirlwind trip down the Great Ocean Road and I have now sorted through the roughly 600 frames which I shot while travelling down the coast photographing some of the mightiest icons of Victoria. For those of you who may not be aware, the Great Ocean Road is still one of the leading tourist attractions in the world. As a result of the increasing tourism, the area is now quite busy over the weekends, with regular busloads of camera-toting tourists and back-packers scurrying over the usual tourist hot spots. Shooting at the iconic Twelve Apostles at sunset can be like rush-hour. And yet, for the intrepid and dedicated landscape photographer, there are many other rugged and beautiful locations to choose from that are just as spectacular and more secluded from the tourist throngs.

The Cauldron

We were fortunate during this trip to have some dramatic light on the evening of our arrival, as well as some truly beautiful pre-dawn glow on the final morning before our departure. As a landscape photographer, I am always chasing dramatic light in order to create photographs that are unique, powerful and expressive. Whether it is through curtains of rain or stormy clouds, I seek out that special light that usually lasts for only a few seconds. And, it is not often I am fortunate enough to experience dramatic storm-light in combination with sunset, a combination that is truly magical and quite rare.

The conditions under which this occurred last Friday evening were challenging, with pelting rain, hail and powerful winds all conspiring against the rigidity of my camera and tripod which were perched precariously on the edge of the limestone cliffs. Standing near the edge of a 35 metre cliff above the broiling ocean, with the winds threatening to toss me into the sea with each gust certainly gets the adrenalin flowing. I was very thankful for the weather sealing of my 1DS MK3 as it was exposed to several hours of intense rain and pervasive salt spray from the storm breakers smashing into the cliffs. The waves that were crashing against the coastline were 6-8 metres high, tossing spray over a hundred feet into the air as they slammed into the rugged cliffs – it was both awe- inspiring and  intimidating to be on the edge of that precipitous cliff.

Rogue Wave

One of the joys of storm photography is how often and how quickly the light changes. You have to move quickly and instinctively in order to make the most of it if you are to capture the best light. Balancing composition with light in weather conditions that are conspiring against you can be a real challenge. Even keeping the camera lens free of rain spots can be problematic. Also, having an instinctive understanding of your camera controls is essential to being able to work quickly to make the most of the changing light and conditions. Likewise, understanding shutter speed and the effect it will have on moving water and waves is essential to creating photographs that are artistic and capture the feeling of motion and drama in the sea. Being able to combine your skills as a photographer whilst battling the elements takes some practice.

Brewing Storm

The Great Ocean Road is an astonishing but challenging location to photograph. The coastline is truly spectacular between Apollo Bay and Warrnambool, but to convey a sense of scale, place and context is difficult. Most photographs I have seen of this part of Victoria fail to do justice to the rugged beauty and grandeur of this coastline – a lovely sunset just isn’t enough. Although calm seas and a perfect sunset will always result in a pretty picture of this Victorian coastline, the area offers so much more for photographers willing to put in the hard yards and exercise their patience in search of the right light and the best composition.

London Bridge

Landscape photography in Australia is an exercise in patience and frustration followed by final fulfillment. Australia’s often harsh daytime light works against good art photography of the type I am pursuing, as does the flat light caused by overcast conditions. The golden hours of perfect light are fleeting. As I have said before, landscape photography in Australia is like a long-haul international flight – hours of boredom followed by a few seconds of sheer panic during landing, when the light is at its best. It is an exercise in patience, which, in the end, can be extremely rewarding. This is not known as the Shipwreck Coast for nothing.

Nearby, the dense and mysterious Otway forest offers many opportunities for daytime photography, including several waterfalls, a forest of giant Californian Redwoods, the Cape Otway Lighthouse, and countless coastline images, including a multitude of abstractions in the coastal cliffs, as well as the myriad of possibilities in the many rock pools.

I will shortly be offering a multi-day workshop down the Great Ocean Road designed specifically for photographers who are keen to work hard for their images and who want to take their photography to the next level. Like my international workshops, this trip will be strictly limited in numbers to ensure we can operate quickly and cohesively in the field. Bookings will be taken on a first come, first serve basis.  Stay tuned for further details over the coming weeks.

The Wall - Great Ocean Road

Higher resolution versions of these photographs can be seen on my primary portfolio website at www.jholko.com under Australia.

It is worth noting that I was travelling with a good friend of mine who owns and runs a successful portrait studio on this trip. It was very interesting to hear about the needs of a professional portrait photographer in contrast to my own camera requirements. Surprisingly, our needs proved to be more in step with each other than we might have first assumed, and I will have more to say on this in a future blog post.

Why is Chobe Called '19-24L'?

Why have such an odd number designation for Chobe? Quite simple really. Late last year we decided that all of our bags needed a consistent measurement in the name. We opted for interior useable volume.

The Chobe is two bags in one. A 19L daily workhorse and a 24L traveling phenom. It’s designed so that no matter the configuration, the bag can hold up to a 15” laptop in its own compartment, iPad or Kindle in its own compartment, pens, keys, business cards, documents, gum, coins, phone, water bottle, memory cards, chargers etc. In fact a quick look through my bag and it gets labeled a ‘man purse’ pretty quick.

Two of my favorite friends hanging out in the Salt Lake City airport. The Chobe on the left is in the 24L configuration and the Chobe on the right is in the 19L configuration.

The point is, there are two configurations:

  1. A 19L daily workhorse ready for the day-to-day business and a small camera. The external walls are lightly padded, so a camera can easily slide in and have minimual protection without the insert.
  2. A 24L traveling phenom with enough room for all of the above plus pro-size DSLRs with L-brackets, a variety of lenses, extra set of clothes and anything else that is needed. This larger size is also great when the other bags, like a Kiboko 30L, end up getting overloaded and the fine airline agents decide to throw some rules around. Simply slide some gear from one bag to another. No biggie.

So, Chobe is the 19-24L because it quite simply adapts from 19L to 24L with the flick of a zipper.The only challenge is deciding what not to take, because with the Chobe - you can always make more room.

Every Good Superhero Has a Sidekick: Gura Gear Kiboko 30L and Chobe.

As many of you know, in addition to working with Gura Gear, Andy Biggs travels quite a bit for his photographic safari and workshop business. Most of his travels tend to be to far away places, so who better to explain why the Chobe was created. Andy settled down for about 15 minutes in between trips to share his perspective on travel and the reason we developed Chobe to be the ultimate sidekick to the Kiboko.

As a ‘planes, trains and automobiles’ type of traveler I have to rely on many different types of transportation to get to and from my destinations. In addition to my foreign travels, I also do a fair amount of domestic travelling for lectures, photography outings, and business meetings. It goes without saying that getting my gear and myself from point A to point B, without any hassle, is top priority. That is exactly why the power combo of the Gura Gear Kiboko and Chobe bag was created.

At Gura Gear we thought about how photographers travel and how gear is used. We had to rethink everything from all angles. The goal was to make a camera bag that could accommodate the biggest super telephoto lenses and still be used as a carry-on for most commercial airplanes around the globe. We launched our original Kiboko bag back in 2008. The bag is fully functional with a unique butterfly style opening and extremely lightweight and durable. As expected, the bag has been a huge hit in the marketplace. The Kiboko bag has now evolved into the Kiboko 30L but the basic DNA remains the same. The question of why the Kiboko doesn’t accommodate a laptop comes up occasionally. As we had to balance the size of the bag, what the bag can carry, and how much the bag weighed before and after gear was put inside, we consciously decided not to ruin what we had, by trying to fit in a laptop compartment.

Since almost every major airline in the world allows for 2 carryon bags (a main bag and a ‘personal item’), we determined the easiest way to travel is to separate camera gear from computer gear. Designing the Chobe as the perfect companion for the Kiboko 30L was the logical solution.

Now when I travel my stuff is not only protected but also easily accessible. I put all of my cameras, lenses, and small accessories in my Kiboko 30L and I use the Chobe for my Macbook Pro, iPad, headphones, travel documents and any other travel-related knick-knacks.

What I love about my Chobe bag is that it holds a ton of gear and can fit easily underneath the seat in front of me on an airplane. This is especially useful since I can easily access everything I would need during the flight and just as easily put everything back without leaving my seat.

I mostly travel using the padded insert for the Chobe because I enjoy the freedom of being able to transfer some camera gear from the Kiboko 30L into the Chobe. I do this because some airlines have a very limited amount of weight allowance and by moving things to the Chobe bag I am able to stay within the weight allowance.

Tip: I have yet to meet an airline that has ever weighed my ‘personal item’. A personal item is often  referred to as a computer bag, purse or umbrella. Since my personal item is my computer bag (the Chobe), I move items into there as a temporary way of working the system to my advantage.

When I am on a photographic trip, I also may use the Chobe as a dedicated camera bag for short walks around town. I can easily put a camera, (or two), and two to four lenses into the Chobe. This makes for a great bag for urban shooting.

After being in the market for more than three years, I am happy that I have two bags that were developed for many different purposes. Traveling with gear has made photographers more and more stressed. Although we can’t eliminate every stress, (you’re on your own with squatting toilets and crowded foreign embassies), we are proud to say the combination of these two bags has solved many of the main stress points of traveling photographers everywhere