Lake Ballard - Revisited


I like to return to the scene of my “crimes” – doing so gives me the chance to improve upon my previous shots or to otherwise re-interpret the scenes. In early February, I returned to Lake Ballard, knowing there had been a rainfall there.

I had a particular shot in mind – a lone figure reflected in the still and shallow water of the lake at sunset with a glorious sky as a backdrop for the whole scene. I took a punt and gambled that the forecast of high clouds would eventuate, so I drove the 2 hours to Lake Ballard after closing the gallery for the afternoon. Unfortunately, the clouds didn’t arrive on time, so the shot still remains an imaginary photo.

However, all was not lost just because the weather didn’t live up to my expectations. I was able to document my efforts on film to share with you in this article.


I knew from my earlier visits to the area that I would need to take my own dry work place with me if I was to work in the middle of the lake. A wet salt lake offers no place to put my camera bag down while I prepare to photograph the scene. I carted my wheelbarrow from home for the purpose of providing me with a mobile table where I could place my bag out of the salty water. It also gave me an easy way to carry all my gear on the 4km walk to my site.

It may look ungainly, but it worked quite well. The mud wasn’t the sticky type which makes you an inch taller for every step you take, which meant that wheel kept turning. It also meant I didn’t have 15kg of camera gear pushing me deeper into the mud as I walked.

It’s a good thing the lake’s floor is flat: I had enough trouble simply staying upright whilst pushing my barrow as it was. The salty mud was extremely slimy beneath my feet, and with each step my foot slipped alarmingly as I pushed forward off my toes. The trip across the mud was certainly the hardest I’ve ever had to do with my camera.

My Barrow


Surprisingly, it was easier to walk in the areas of the lake where water was covering the mud. Cold and clammy as it was, I was relieved when I made it to the water’s edge as I approached “my statue”. I was also pleasantly surprised by the water-proofing effect produced by the cake of mud on my runners. It took about 15 minutes for the water to actually get inside my runners and wet my socks, and by that time I had reached my target.

I’m pretty stingy when it comes to buying new equipment, especially when I’m only likely to use the equipment occasionally. Tripods are an excellent example of this stinginess: every now and then, my normal tripod is too short for the shot I have in mind. It’s a light-weight tripod (but it’s very strong) so it’s great for those longer trips away from the car.



Now, I could go out and spend $700 on a tall carbon fibre tripod which would be as light as my current one, or I could spend $600 on the bigger and heavier version of the one I have now. By doing so, I’d be in trouble with The Boss and find myself with an expensive and rarely used toy. Instead, I chose the cheapskate option: find a local engineering firm who would make me some removable leg extensions using aluminium tubing, allowing me to keep my lovely old tripod and my young and beautiful wife.

These leg extensions turned out to be the ultimate cheapskate option: they didn’t cost me anything! The boss of the engineering firm liked my idea and made them out of old scrap he had lying around. I owe him a favour, so when he comes in, he’ll be well looked after.

Once I arrived at my intended site, I got my camera ready, even though the sky was not cooperating. The clouds were just not there today, proving that all the preparation in the world doesn’t help if the conditions you want do not eventuate. There were clouds far to the north and east of Lake Ballard, however they were not going to help me on this occasion.

I can't help it: I love my camera! Here's a pin-up shot for the magazine. She is ready for action and waiting for the perfect light.

Rather than give up all hope of making a decent shot on the trip, I decided to return at sunrise the next morning, albeit to a different statue. I left my cameras by the lake’s edge – it was hard enough walking all that way without pushing my barrow at the same time. Besides, who was around to steal my camera anyway?

Alas, I was once again thwarted by the weather. The only interesting clouds were in the east, which is where I wanted them at sunset the previous evening! Yes, I did manage to make an “interesting” shot of a sunrise, but I’m not a big fan of sunset/sunrise shots without some other strong point of interest being in the shot. The only way to make this sunrise even slightly photogenic was to kneel in the salty slush and quickly grab a shot with my 35mm camera – the spectacular part of this sunrise lasted less than 20 seconds on this occasion.

Sunrise - Lake Ballard

No doubt I’ll try again for the shot that remains in my head. Until then, I have plenty of other imagined shots yet to be realised. I guess I had better work on them first …….