Rodney Campbell's Blog

Stockton Sand Dunes – Road Trip Day 1…

by on Jul.02, 2014, under Life, Photography

It was photography road trip time again… an overnight trip up to Stockton Dunes just north of Newcastle on the north coast of New South Wales

Gerry, Suren and I left an hour after midday on Saturday and headed north along the M1 freeway (with a little detour on the old Pacific Highway to avoid a 10km long traffic nightmare due to an earlier truck on fire heading north)

The late start and the detour to avoid the armageddon on the roads meant a late arrival at the Stockton Sand Dunes (just before 4PM)

Gerry had seen what he thought might be the “perfect” lone tree out in the midst of the mass of sand dunes on Stockton beach whilst flying over the area some months back and was keen to try and find it. Given that the beach and the sand dunes is 32km long and about 1 to 2km wide it’s not exactly practical to just try wandering on the sand till we found it. Google Maps gave us some potential candidates for lone tree’s out in the sandy wilderness and as best as we could figure we might be able to drive to Lavis Lane in Williamtown where the 4WD vehicular access is and where the sand dune tours run from. Note that most of the green splodges out on the sand dunes on Google maps are just low scrubby bushes and not trees

The plan was to park as close as we could to where the vehicular access to the dunes was and ride bikes along what looked like some tracks parallel to the dunes and then walk the rest of the way. We’d timed our trip here to coincide with the new moon so we were hoping we’d be in a place with very little light pollution (it being at least 100km from Sydney and further east than any of the land so we should have open sea to most of the south). We were hoping this might prove to be somewhat ideal for star trails and the weather forecast indicated sunny days and windy conditions) after shooting sunset on the dunes

Note: These images (especially the wider shots) look much better when larger – so click any of the images below to see larger versions in an inline overlay slideshow gallery viewer.

Given our late arrival we didn’t have a lot of time to muck about before sunset and the so called “tracks” looked pretty much unpassable on bikes so we opted to walk from the car…

A bit under half an hour later we were up on the dunes exploring and photographing…



NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 70 mm, 1/2 sec at f/16, ISO 100

The area is massive and fantastic and we only saw a very small slice of it

Our plans for star trails looked to be bust when a massive (and I mean absolutely enormous) storm front moved in rapidly from the west (the weather forecast got the windy bit right because the clouds were moving over fast)

This ten (10) frame stitched panorama taken pretty much on sunset looking south over the ocean around to the west where we were getting this ridiculous red layer right behind the dark black clouds on the horizon and around to the north where it was still a little clear. The cloud structure was incredible and it was just rolling in towards us with a vengeance

Storms Brewin’

Storms Brewin'

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm, 1 sec at f/11, ISO 100

Unfortunately the down side of this was two fold – we no longer had any expectation of shooting the stars and with heavy lightning striking in the distance both to the south and west we were fearful of both rain and being zapped (standing atop sand dunes)

Coming and Going

Coming and Going

NIKON D600 + 24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 @ 24 mm, 13 sec at f/16, ISO 100

When it started to rain we sheltered under what few pitiful trees were close by and waited (the weather radar seemed to indicate the mass might pass over and be clear behind it)

We did however see in the distance what looked to be that lone tree Gerry was interested in using as foreground interest for some grand star trails on the dunes…

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