Tag: leura

A Landscape Photographers Guide to Australia’s Blue Mountains


Inspired by other guides for photographers in well known areas of the world (eg: Colby Brown’s Yosemite) I thought I would put together a page / few screens that (a) demystifies the Blue Mountains for visiting photographers and (b) acts as a nice upfront, illustrated walkthrough to my more detailed location-by-location guide on this site. This ‘hotspot’ photo location list also details best gear to bring and best times etc:). The general tourist or hiking sites tend to not consider the ‘photogenic’ aspects of the mountains, even though many come for that, so this site is also a response to that.

For now though a broad sweep introduction to photographing Australia’s Blue Mountains – All text and images © Gary P Hayes 2017.

Print or Tablet friendly downloadable PDF version 1.8MB A Landscape Photographers Guide to Visiting the Blue Mountains, Australia


Mount Hay – Sunset Grade 3

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ABOUT: Although a good 35 minutes drive down a 4WD track and then a 30 min walk Mount Hay offers a lot of photographic opportunities. The views east into the Grose Valley and river during late afternoon and sunset are second to none and the views north and south over some amazing crags are well worth exploring. If you are confident wait until last light as the path is reasonable to follow in dim light.

PHOTO EQUIPMENT TO BRING: A neutral density graduated filter is critical as the skies are bright and the land often in mixed shadows, and an ultra wide at least 20mm to capture some amazing vistas. Panoramas are also well worth considering using 35-50mm and bring a headlamp torch if you are staying late.

GETTING TO THE SPOT/S: Drive down to the very end of Mount Hay road, and park in the left upper car park. Follow the trail and take the right fork which you can easily see goes over to Mount Hay on the right of the car park. Follow the track up into the top crags for great views back down over the valleys. Not worth going to the top as it is forested.

Protected: Butterbox Point Above Canyon – Sunset Grade 3

There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.

Bridal Veil Falls Leura – Grade 3

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ABOUT: Bridal Veil falls come alive in strong rainfall and you can see where it gets it’s name from, when it spreads out across it’s wide base from a width of a few feet at the top. There are not too many angles available from the trail, but you can scramble a little up the left side for great side on shots with the cliffs in the background.

PHOTO EQUIPMENT TO BRING: The whole amphitheatre can be covered with a 14-15mm ultra wide lens and the very large falls (you are close to the bottom of them on the trail) can be covered with a 17mm or so. A tripod to soften the water flow of course and plenty of cloths to dry lenses as it can spray up if windy.

GETTING TO THE SPOT/S: A down then back up route from Leura Cascades makes most sense, unless you are doing the long loop out to Three Sisters which is a few km along the Prince Henry Cliff walk. From the car park follow the cascades, past the lookout above these falls and then down the many steps, walkways and rocks to the bottom.

Weeping Rock Falls – Grade 3

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ABOUT: A delicate 10ft drop and about 15ft wide and good in moderate flow of water. These falls is at the base of Leura’s Bridal Veil Falls, which itself is an extension of the cascades much higher up. There are a couple of vantage points to capture them, the one above being just off the trail, but there is one around some rocks to the right.

PHOTO EQUIPMENT TO BRING: You can’t get super close to the falls so a 50mm is ideal just for the water but the rocks either side are lovely covered in moss so a 24-35 is good too. If you want a panorama a center crop of a 16mm or so would work. Bring a solid tripod for water smoothing – and don’t forget mossy spray and a couple of dry cloths in this area.

GETTING TO THE SPOT/S: There are two routes down to here and both are big climbs out. The easiest is to follow the Leura cascades trail past the lookout and down into the bottom of Bridal Veil falls, about a 25 minute descent. Weeping rock is about 30 seconds past the base of Bridal Veil. You can come up via the Amphitheatre route but will need to walk back along the road from the Solitary Restaurant area to Cascades car park.


Outcrop nr Gordon Falls – Sunset Grade 2

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ABOUT: There are a lot of un-named lookouts along the Wentworth Falls to Katoomba south facing ridge and this one, just to the right of Gordon’s Lookout is an example. It provides a fantastic framed shot of Olympic Rock on the right, Sublime Point to the left and Mount Solitary filling the gap. Great on moody dawn with mist in the valley.

PHOTO EQUIPMENT TO BRING: An ultra wide or try to stitch a panorama together of the whole scene. The rocky vertical Olympic Rock area on the left also benefits from a 50-85mm range lens, but always try to get some of the lovely rock foreground in shot. The ledge is un-railed & bumpy so a good sturdy tripod in a constrained area recommended along with a graduated filter kit.

GETTING TO THE SPOT/S: Park in the Gordons Falls park area. Follow the short trail down towards Gordon’s Falls lookout and just before the final stairway down to the platform you will see a rough trail leading to the right, this takes you out onto open rocks so be careful.

Tarpean Lookout – Grade 2

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ABOUT: A lovely small railed lookout with a majestic view down towards Bridal Veil falls and the deep gully around it. Obviously best when the water is strong and flowing plus early morning and late afternoon it is in shade so careful exposures required. Fantastic also for birdlife which fly below you in the morning hours.

PHOTO EQUIPMENT TO BRING: Because of the dynamic range a tripod required to do multiple exposures if you want to capture the shade and lit parts of the valley. Ultra wide lenses are best because of the restricted view but long telephotos to capture birds or close-ups of the falls.

GETTING TO THE SPOT/S: The google point is at Solitary restaurant but you can park around the next loop towards cascades where the lookout is signposted. It is then a short 5-10 min walk.

Flat Top LO Mount Hay – Grade 3

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ABOUT: Flat Top viewpoint is a great spot for high wilderness style shots. It looks towards Mount Hay, the ridges of the Grose and even down into the Hawkesbury in the far distance. It would be a great spot for night photography or wide open vista style shots showing expansive skies and wide open bush. There is a trig marker at the top too.

PHOTO EQUIPMENT TO BRING: An ultra wide for those big sky shots even semi fisheye 8-12 mm but a good long telephoto to compress long views of Mount Hay and also Mount Banks in the distance. Tripod for night or low light of course.

GETTING TO THE SPOT/S: Keep following Mount Hay Rd until you pass the Pinnacles car park and continue around a ridge and you will see, as the road bends around to the right and on an open ridge, a small car spot on the left. The walk to the viewpoint is about 10 mins, marked on the opposite side to the car park. About 200m further down Mount Hay Rd is an interesting rock feature and ledge that the road precariously continues on, worth stopping and exploring here.

Mount Hay – Sunset Grade 4

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ABOUT: Can be combined with Butterbox Point walk but add an extra hour or so and make the decision where you want to be at sunset (can’t be in both places at once!). Provides great views into the Grose Valley and back to Butterbox Point area on the way up but views are not so good from the top where you enter the woods, so look for shots en route from the crags to the left on the way up. Best shots are of these crags at sunset when they glow orange.

PHOTO EQUIPMENT TO BRING: Tripod essential for sunset and you really need to bring your whole kit as the valley views need ultra wide lenses but more than anywhere else good medium and long telephoto shots abound, so bring a 70-200 or 100-400 to spot those distant views.

GETTING TO THE SPOT/S: Keep following Mount Hay Rd until the end, about 15km from the start of the unsealed section. Park in the so called picnic area, the road is quite rough in places, a low clearance car not recommended, 4WD only. Take into account walk back if doing sundown, torches are possible for the latter part coming back – but you can get down from Mt Hay crags in 20 mins back to the car park.

Not from Mount Hay but from above Butterbox Canyon – it is possible to do this pre sunrise and then get back up to Mt Hay crags.

Olympian Rock – Sunrise Grade 1

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ABOUT: Between Wentworth Falls and Katoomba is Leura and it has some fantastic hidden treasures. The cliff views between Sublime Point and Three Sisters are some of the best in the mountains. All look into the Jamison and some seem to be on top of Mount Solitary. Olympian Rock is one such viewpoint, left of this image, it is a large open fenced platform but each side of it are unfenced options. Try to get a misty or cloudy sunset as it goes down to the right and skims the clouds with a red glow.

PHOTO EQUIPMENT TO BRING: A moderate wide angle 35mm is good but the ridges in the distance and a deceptive back view of the three sisters benefit from a medium telephoto, 85mm or 100mm to capture detail and textures. Tripod obviously for sunset and strong ND grads to bring the sky down.

GETTING TO THE SPOT/S: There is space for cars opposite 27 Olympian Parade or anywhere on that road. The walk start is inset next to number 27. About a 4 min mild descent to the lookouts and cliff walk.

Leura Cascades – Grade 2

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ABOUT: One of the most photographed water features in the mountains due to it’s accessibility. A gentle stepped walk from the main car park follows a series of cascades down to a final viewing platform under a rocky overhang. You can get shots on the way down from the bank or from the fenced cave lookout. Consider too the Upper Cascades next to the car park. It is fantastic in mist and early morning, when few other people will be around too. There is a great lookout just a few minutes further over the top of Bridal Veil falls, so don’t mist that.

PHOTO EQUIPMENT TO BRING: For smooth water a tripod obviously and a good range of wide angles, but a 24 mm is fine as you cannot get next to the water on the final viewpoints. Higher up you can get next to the falls for low shots, but consider a telephoto to compress the cascades from a few viewpoints. A ND grad to dampen the light from the top recommended.

GETTING TO THE SPOT/S: Park in any of the Leura Cascade parking areas and follow the signs.

Butterbox Cliffs, Mount Hay – Sunset Grade 3

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ABOUT: A wonderful walk out to a point overlooking the Grose Valley opposite Govett’s Leap on the other side. It also offers great views of valley walls and Mount Hay which you pass on the way down. There are some steep views and walks along 300m tall cliffs so be careful. Walk out to the far point for stunning views in all directions.

PHOTO EQUIPMENT TO BRING: A longish walk and tricky terrain in places so travel light. A good wide angle, medium telephoto and gradual ND filters if there is no sky cover. Tripod essential for evening and sunrise shots.

GETTING TO THE SPOT/S: Follow Mount Hay Road for the full 15km after it turns into a dirt track. This should take about 20-30 mins depending on 4WD capability. Near the end of the road it will fork into two, take the left one up a short hill to a large car park area. Follow the trail to the left and bear left vs right to Mount Hay at the junction. The butterbox area is behind and round the large mound, for great views take the right trail around this mound vs the left one.

Lockleys Pylon, Mount Hay – Sunset Grade 3

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ABOUT: One of the best viewpoints up and down the tributaries of the Grose Valley within an easy 90 minute walk of a parking spot. There are three sets of views at the lookout area itself which includes good views back along Fortress Ridge and if you are lucky after rain a canyon waterfall pouring out of it’s exit high on a cliff. The best views are not from the peak, a final 5 minute push, but around it’s edge. Afternoon clouds as well as the golden hours all work well.

PHOTO EQUIPMENT TO BRING: You really need to bring your whole kit as the valley views need ultra wide lenses but more than anywhere else good telephoto shots abound, so bring a 70-200 or 100-400 to spot those distant views. Tripod optional midday.

GETTING TO THE SPOT/S: Keep following Mount Hay Rd past this Google spot for about 15 mins when you will see on your left, just before a sharp right downhill the Fortress Ridge Car Park, keep going for about 1km until you see another obvious parking spot for about 5 cars on the left, signposted for Lockleys & Pinnacles. Take into account walk back if doing sundown, torches are possible for the latter part coming back.

Sublime Point – Grade 2

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ABOUT: A very easy to get to lookout which extends far into the Jamison Valley which means sunrise and sunsets are possibilities. The rising sun from the left lights up distant Mount Solitary and any mist in the valley, while the sun sets over narrowneck ridge and works great with fragmented cloud around. The lookout is fenced but quite large and some foreground exists including a couple of nice trees, but the walkway leading up to the main lookout offers much better sunset foreground. Also there are unfenced sections en-route too which have one of two great vantage points.

PHOTO EQUIPMENT TO BRING: As usual tripods are needed for the golden hour shots but on cloudy days you can handhold and take telephoto shots without issue. I can get very windy on this lookout so wear a few layers in winter months. Best lenses are wides naturally and 14mm to 24mm most useful range. Bring a telephoto for good cliff edge shots and mist in valley close-ups

GETTING TO THE SPOT/S: Very simply drive to the end of Sublime Point Road and park. The lookout is approx. 8 min walk down a gradual gradient and the last part is on fenced rocks.

Pool of Siloam – Grade 3

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ABOUT: The Pool of Siloam is a pristine deep amphitheatre of ferns, small beach, pool and a delicate waterfall that feeds Gordon’s Falls further down. It is a photographers dream in terms of angles and ease of access – the pool, ferns, small rocks or some steps are the only really useful foreground. You can get around the back of it to the left but it takes away the lovely shape of these unique falls. The rock cascade is like an ancient ornament, vertical layers which in the right light seems to gleam a golden light.

PHOTO EQUIPMENT TO BRING: A stepping stone bridge at the back allows you to take standard lens shots if you like, but to the left and right an ultra wide is best, as the falls are deceptively high close up. A good tripod which can bed itself in the sandy beach or water is very necessary as it is very dark here at times.

GETTING TO THE SPOT/S: Park in the main Gordons Falls car parks. Go to the far left of this reserve area and across the green and the steps down to the falls are marked. It is about 400+ steps down (approx 12 minutes – a 3rd is on steeper steps) which are still easy, but pace yourself coming back up the same way (approx 20-25mins) about a 100m drop all up.

Mount Hay Fortress Ridge LO – Grade 3

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ABOUT: An off the beaten track walk to a stunning vista looking down the Grose Valley with Fortress Ridge on the right and Blackheath lookouts on the left, with a view of the less seen Grose Waterfall deep in the valley below. Fantastic on a partially cloudy way with sun rays spotting the valleys walls and river below.

PHOTO EQUIPMENT TO BRING: Although a shortish walk bring lightweight gear for the final cliff edge views. A light tripod and neutral density grads and an ideal lens is around 24mm – but 35mm or wider down to 16mm useful. A 100mm lens is good for shots looking down Fortress Walls on the right.

GETTING TO THE SPOT/S: Drive down Mount Hay (ungraded 4WD) road for about 15 minutes after it turns into a dirt track. At a bend after a couple of steep declines you will see the Fortress Car Park on the left. Park here and walk through the barrier up hill and then on the track for about 30-35 mins. Don’t turn right onto the longer Lockleys route. The viewpoint is obvious at the cliff edges.