In 2007 I set myself a project to photograph all of the tidal pools of Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Results of this project can be found in my flickr set here. Mona Vale pool was one of my favorite pools, there is something about it that makes it interesting to photograph and visually interesting. For me it is the simple geometric shapes of the pool combined with the pools setting that makes it so photogenic. Mona Vale pool is on the tip of a sand spit between two beaches. When the tide is high, the pool is surrounded by water making it look like an island.
When the tide is lower, the rock shelf is revealed around the pool and there are lovely waves and water flow that surround the pool. The pool itself has some lovely features such as the stainless-steel rails decending into the water and the lovely rusty outlet valves that can form lovely points of interest. Lovely water flows can often be seen flowing out of the pool creating a multitude of mini waterfalls.
Special Photographic Features or Notes
Take special note of the tides when photographing Mona Vale pool, they make a huge difference to the images that you get.
It is worth noting that the pool is illuminated by a sodium vapour light, so if you are planning any pre-dawn shots, this is worth bearing in mind, you will need to do some work in post processing to remove the orange cast created by these lights.
King Tide shots
Some of my best shots have been taken of this pool during a very high tide. When the tide is full, the pool becomes cut off from the mainland by water and you can get some interesting shots of the pool surrounded by water and literally overflowing with waves.
When the tide is lower and there aren’t waves crashing over the pool, often the surface of the pool takes on a glassy tranquil look. Great for sunrise reflections. There are lots of interesting angles of the steps, the fence and the smaller play pool. If the tide is lower, and you don’t mind getting wet, you can get some great shots of the water valves by wading around in the water, it is around knee deep, so bring your rock-hopping sandals and swim shorts… just keep an eye out of rogue waves when you have your camera gear in the water.
When the seas are pumping, Mona Vale pool is an exciting place to be as you literally feel surrounded by the ocean. You can have waves breaking over the top of the pool and flowing around your tripod.
There is quite a nice view of Mona Vale Pool from he Headland to the North of the Pool. When the seas are high and the light is low, the light from the pole really emphasises how cut off from the mainland this tidal pool is.
The pool faces due East, so Grad and Grad ND filters are useful. Rock-hopping sandals and change of shorts are also useful as often you find yourself wading around in knee-deep water to get the right angles on some of the waterfalls and water valves. If you are going to shoot the pool from the headland, then take a telephoto lens, I found about an 85mm lens worked well on my Nikon D200.
Best Time of The Day
Pre-dawn and Sunrise for sure
If you are going to shoot Mona Vale, it is essential that you monitor the tides. Best tides to shoot the pool are mid – high tide. At a mid tide (1m), you will be getting water just starting to break over the rock shelf, and at high tide, you are getting water breaking over the pool itself. The pool is boring when shooting at low tide.
Mona Vale Pool is pretty exposed from all directions (even Westerlys). So if there is a strong wind blowing, be prepared to be wiping salt spray off your lens and gear a lot of the time.
Mona Vale Pool is a cinch to find. Just make your way to Mona Vale Surf Life Saving Club and park in the car park on the Northern side of the club house in Surfview Rd Mona Vale. You will see the light shining on the pool if you are getting there pre-dawn. The pool is about a 20m walk from the car… very nice. Incidentally, if it’s stormy and rainy in the morning, this is not a bad pool to go and shoot because you can wait in the car until the rain breaks and quickly jump out and shoot it.