The Stockton Sand Dunes – Stories + Camera Settings


Let’s take a stroll by the sand dunes of Stockton with Deb Newton of Lens and Muse, native photographer and contributor of The Wandering Lens.

Powerful, breathtaking and ever-changing, the Stockton sand dunes situated on the Worimi Conservation Lands in Port Stephens, New South Wales, Australia are an ever-changing kaleidoscope of sweeping curves, textures, distinctive patterns, colors and dynamic contrasts of sunshine and shadow.

Quite merely put, these plenty of shifting sand are a photographer’s dream.

The Port Stephens space, situated a brief drive from Newcastle, is in and of itself, a photogenic paradise. From azure blue bays and surf seashores, to the towering headland of Tomaree National Park, and an abundance of strolling trails snaking by nature reserves dotted alongside the shoreline, there are many landscapes to be impressed by. It’s straightforward to see why so many photographers have Port Stephens on their checklist of locations to seize.

Another inspiring panorama situated within the Port Stephens space is the Stockton Sand Dunes situated on the Worimi Conservation Lands. At a size of 32km, the Stockton Sand Dunes are the longest shifting sand dunes within the Southern Hemisphere, and at their peak, can attain as much as 50 metres excessive.

From the second you arrive, it’s not exhausting to see simply how imposing the dunescape is. Whilst this panorama appears to be like extremely spectacular from a distance, it’s solely while you begin strolling amongst these towering partitions of sand that you just get an actual sense of simply what number of photographic alternatives there are in and amongst the dunes.


Exploring the Stockton Sand Dunes

When it involves exploring and photographing these landscapes, it’s necessary to grasp that dunes will be fairly deceiving in terms of safely navigating your means out and in. If, like me, you propose on strolling your self out and in of the dunes, a few tricks to take into account can be:

Watch the climate – each earlier than and through your dune journey. This is not only from a images perspective, but additionally guaranteeing you’re dressed appropriately for the climate you anticipate you’ll expertise.

Familiarise your self with the entry and exit factors. Try to discover a bodily panorama maker that you would be able to simply recognise to warn you to these entry and exit factors, in order that should you’re strolling again in very low gentle, you possibly can nonetheless safely discover your means out.

Be conscious of the wildlife that you could be come throughout within the dunes. If the dunes are inside a National Park, the National Parks web sites present a wealth of knowledge round each the natural world you would anticipate finding within the space.

Behind the Lens – Stories + Settings

Camera Settings: ISO 100 – 28mm – f16 – 1/15sec

Don’t let the calm trying nature of this picture idiot you – this specific afternoon within the dunes the wind was howling as an incoming storm got here rolling in.
I had been watching the climate forecast all afternoon and determined to take an opportunity and drive as much as the dunes and see what I may seize whatever the means the climate turned out. As I walked into the dunes, the cloud cowl was rising considerably – as was the velocity of the wind – and I knew I might have a restricted period of time to scout for a location, determine on my composition, seize it and get again out of the dunes earlier than the storm hit. I continued to stroll into the dunes slightly additional than traditional and I got here throughout this scene. The solar’s golden hues have been spilling out from the skies to the west hitting the peaks of the dunes giving depth, kind and distinction to the dunescape by shadow and light-weight.

There was sufficient gentle to choose up the patterns of the sand ripples within the foreground, and the mix of the sunshine hitting the peaks of the dunes and howling wind shifting the grains of sand at a fast tempo, meant that I may seize the motion of the sand throughout the peaks of the dunes within the picture. The inverse main strains of the curvature of the dunes and
the clouds additionally added some visible curiosity to the picture.

Camera Settings: ISO 100 – 70mm – f5.6 – 1/40sec

The gentle on the night this specific picture was captured was probably the most superb shows I’ve witnessed to this point within the dunes. As the solar continued to dip decrease and decrease, the color of the sand would change as the sunshine did – from mushy yellows, to pastel pinks and muted oranges, to superbly earthy burnt sienna tones – a kaleidoscope of ever altering color repeatedly modified the panorama earlier than me.

The earthy tones within the dunes supplied by the sunshine later within the night have been simply pretty, and I wished to get artistic and isolate a small part of a dune to create a extra summary seize and focus in on the intricate sand ripples and type of the dunes.

Camera Settings: ISO 100 – 35mm – f14 – 1/20sec

Organic shapes and sand ripple patterns within the dunes are a few of my most favorite types of photos to seize. What I like about it’s realizing that the subsequent time I flip up on the identical location, I’ll by no means be capable to seize the identical shapes and sand ripple patterns ever once more, and due to this fact every picture is exclusive. Whilst I’m an enormous fan of color images, there’s something so splendidly uncooked, highly effective and pared again about black and white

The gentle this specific afternoon was slightly uninspiring, and so I went in the hunt for natural shapes and patterns within the dunes as a substitute. I spent almost an hour on this one undisturbed space of dune the place there have been miraculously no footprints or 4 wheel tyre tracks to spoil the picture. What struck me with this composition was the very pronounced pure curve shifting my eye all through the body, and the way in which the sunshine accentuated the distinction of
texture between the graceful sand and the raised sand ripples.

Camera Settings: ISO 100 – 70mm – f11 – 1/25sec

Whilst golden hour is my favorite gentle to shoot in, each from time to time, it’s good to push myself creatively and seize the dunes at completely different instances of the day. It had rained the evening prior, and the cloud cowl was setting in to stay round all day so I made a decision to seize my digicam and head out to the dunes and see what I may discover to seize.

Walking into the dunes what caught my eyes have been the patterns within the sand. The patterns I’m referring to weren’t from the standard natural ripple patterns you discover in these landscapes, fairly, the patterns got here from the rain the evening earlier than and the sand drying in several sections at completely different instances, creating summary shapes all through the panorama – it regarded as if somebody had taken to the dunes with a giant paintbrush. Having vital cloud
cowl additionally meant that I basically had Mother Nature’s very personal model of a diffuser the dimensions of the sky to melt the scene which helped to create a pastel color palette. As I began to take photographs of the dunes, I seen a cloud hovering above the height of one of many dunes – it regarded prefer it was so shut that I may simply stroll up and contact it…in fact I couldn’t, however the cloud, the pastel color palette and the patterns from the rain made for a whimsical fashion seize.

Camera Settings: DJI Mini 3 Pro – ISO 100 – 6.72mm – f/1.7 – 1/1250sec

There’s one thing so magical about aerial photos of any panorama – and capturing sand dunes from an aerial perspective isn’t any completely different. I like the artistic freedom a drone can deliver to composing and capturing a scene, and it’s very helpful to discover slightly additional afield in a dunescape when your legs can’t fairly go the gap. It’s necessary to notice that it’s a good suggestion to do your analysis relating to restrictions previous to launching your drone to ensure you are allowed to fly your drone within the space you’re capturing. The Stockton Sand Dunes do have sure restricted areas requiring approval to fly a drone when the realm is energetic, and I take advantage of the app Open Sky to test for any restrictions and to ensure it’s secure to launch, land and function my drone.

I arrived on the dunes within the early hours of the morning with the intention of capturing the panorama with my drone. As I used to be strolling by the dunes I regarded up and noticed a cluster of smaller sand formations on a bigger dune with what regarded like some nicely outlined areas of shadow and light-weight. I launched my drone, and as I flew over the dune, the peaks of those smaller natural kinds had been lit up superbly by the early morning solar, and I made a decision to isolate sure areas within the body to create the summary picture you see right here.

Camera Settings: ISO 125 – 70mm – F9.0 – 1/30sec

One of my favorite photos from my Stockton Sand Dunes gallery (to this point) is that this one. The sundown sky was completely gorgeous, and as I used to be strolling round with my digicam, I got here throughout this composition. I like how the wave-like formation of the sand dunes framed the crashing waves from the ocean within the distance.


Contributor Information – Deb Newton

An enormous thanks to Deb for sharing these insights into her many photographic journeys to those dunes. If you’d wish to see extra of her work, comply with alongside through @_debbienewton on Instagram, or take a peek at her different guides and prints through
There’s a fantastic in-depth article about exploring sand dunes right here, and Deb is at the moment engaged on ‘The Australian Sand Dunes Project’, photographing sand dunes throughout Australia, along with her most up-to-date journey together with a camel trekking safari throughout the Simpson Desert! Check out the challenge right here – @australiansanddunesproject



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