Dominated by steep rocky headlands and exposed to the ferocious force of the wind off the Bass Strait, the Pinnacles at Cape Woolamai in Phillip Island (situated just 1 1/2 hour drive from Melbourne) is an absolute treasure for landscape photographers. The area not only allows for spectacular grand vistas to be captured with the beautiful warm light of a setting sun to the west but also enables the creative landscape photographer to capture the smaller details, textures and patterns of the landscape made ever more evident by the low directional light at sunset. From the moment you set sight on this amazing scenery you can’t help escape the feeling of being transported to a far remote location – definitely no other scene within such a relatively short drive from Melbourne would provide this same feeling. The Pinnacles however is not for the faint hearted and involves a challenging decline and climb back! Read on for more details
Special Photographic Notes
Whilst I recommend you explore the area at your own free will, in addition to the Pinnacles rock formations on the right-hand side looking towards the ocean there is a very photogenic hidden cove at the base of the Pinnacles rock formations that could make for a great photograph. The rock formations on the adjacent side of the Pinnacles are just as spectacular in their own right so go exploring and let your imagination take control of what are endless opportunities for the making of a great photograph. As mentioned in the intro section, the nicely rounded boulders smoothed over thousands of years make for a very interesting foreground in your compositions.
– Wide to Standard focal lens are recommended
– Lens/Filter cleaning clothes to keep your lens and filters dry from the ocean spray
– ND Grad filters to hold back the exposure of the sky (especially essential when shooting towards the Pinnacles during the time of sunset)
– Sturdy footwear with ample grip required for when descending down the steep embankment – take extra caution
– Water bottle for the walk there and back (approx 1hr 30 mins return)
– A torch to see where you’re walking as you’ll be walking back in the dark if shooting at sunset
Best Time of the Day
After shooting at both ends of the day (sunrise and sunset), I recommend that you visit the location for a sunset shoot. Although more difficult to achieve a balanced exposure when shooting the Pinnacles against the very bright light source produced from the setting sun behind, the warm and low directional light that is cast over the boulders and rock formations in the foreground make it well worth the effort. It is recommended that you arrive well in advance of sunset (minimum 30 minutes beforehand ) so that it allows you to set-up and wait for the optimum light to arrive.
Although accessible at high-tide, it is recommended that you visit the location at low tide, or at the minimum when the tide is receding, as the surf can get quite rough. Check local tide times at http://tide-times.com.au and type “Phillip Island’ – the tide times are read from Woolamai beach.
As this location directly faces the open seas of the Bass Strait, you can expect the conditions to be windy. For this reason ensure that you continually check your lenses and filters to ensure that they are kept dry. A trick I use once I have set-up is to turn the camera around on the tripod and point the lens to me so that the front of the lens is not facing the ocean and is therefore protected from the spray. As another tip, it is recommend that you wipe any salt residue from your camera body and lens after arriving home and pat dry before storing.
How to Get There
Google Maps link
From the Cape Woolamai Surf Club car park located at the end of Woolamai Beach road, it is approximately a 45 min walk to the Pinnacles where you begin walking along the beach towards the point left of the Surf Club. Continue walking for approximately 10 minutes until you reach a set of stairs to your left; at this point the beach becomes a little more rockier and the rest of the walk continues along the cliff through grasslands. Continue along the marked path and keep to the left where the path divides shortly ahead of climbing the stairs. Continue for approximately another 30 minutes until you reach the point named the Pinnacles (you will know you are there when you see the resting bench). Now the tricky part… Follow the narrow path to the right of the bench towards the point ensuring that you take great care as the narrow path leads you towards the steep embankment looking down to the bottom. This is where you need to take extra care and where solid footwear with a good grip for traction. Watch your footing and keep low to the ground to avoid any risk of slipping. Once you get down you will be rewarded for all the effort with a stunning view and very often you have the place to yourself!