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Outdoors in Victoria in Spring – it pays to plan your photography trips

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

Victoria in spring is a highly variable season – it could be quite cool, wet and windy, there can be thunderstorms and damaging winds, or beautiful sunny days progressing to warmer or even hot northerly wind days preceding the next cold front which always comes from the south-west or west.

This week I had a variety of short holiday options to consider:

  • head west to the beautiful Grampians
  • head south west to the Otways and Twelve Apostles
  • head north to the Murray River region
  • head north -east to alpine areas such as Mt Buffalo
  • head east to alpine areas such as historic Walhalla or further east to remote bush walks around Licola
  • head south east to Wilsons Prom again

I was leaving on Wednesday morning.

The weather was forecast to be beautiful and sunny on Thursday but with strong northerly winds in western Victoria hitting Melbourne in the evening then south Gippsland and the alpine areas overnight on Thursday, followed by a strong cold front which would make conditions more dangerous and more miserable on Friday and Saturday.

The northern areas of Victoria had already been flood affected and recent wind storms had caused further road closures so northern Victoria was not high on my list.

Snow had been forecast for the alps at the start of the week and most of the alpine roads are still in seasonal closure until end of the month so, the alpine areas for solo bushwalking were not a great option.

With the cold front coming in from the west, western Victoria was not going to be the best option as it would shorten my “nice weather time”.

So I headed off eastwards with no fixed destination, although Walhalla was my first priority, with camping gear and camera gear, range of clothes for whatever weather I was served up and some freeze dried food in case I ended up without access to a cafe for dinner (most close early in the countryside).

As I drove I saw the beautiful puffy clouds and I realised that with a bright sunny day forecast for the next day with possible strong winds coming, the cold forests would not be my best option, but the lovely beaches of the Prom would be optimal – hence I took my time meandering around the South Gippsland countryside in occasion rain showers exploring the beautiful rolling hills around Mirboo North before heading to Tidal River where I set up camp.

Mirboo

Three cows on a hillside

Mirboo

Rolling hills from Loves Lane on the way to Mirboo North

Mirboo

On the Grand Ridge Road circuit past Mirboo

Mirboo

Dilapidated building in Mirboo – presumably a town hall.

Convoluted decision making but in the end, the best decision, it was awesome down there – see my previous blog posts.

The weather makes an enormous difference to landscape photos:

  •  clear blue skies associated with a high pressure system to give the summer relaxation feeling or spaciousness to your image allowing your subject full attention, but which give very harsh midday shadows in the Australian summer
  • small puffy cumulus clouds which precede the high pressure system and which make for great sunset photos or lovely high contrast dramatic dark monochromatic skies, or a more subtle, dreamy look
  • wispy cirrus clouds after the high pressure system passes to create beautiful dramatic high contrast skies
  • storm fronts of the incoming cold front or thunderstorm systems
  • boring stratus clouds preceding a cold front which make the sky look ugly in most landscape images but are great for shallow depth of field work outdoors such as portraits, etc where the sky can be excluded or used as a white backdrop

Examples:

The Big Drift

Lovely cumulus clouds in the distance at the big drift

The Big Drift

Small puffy cumulus clouds in the late afternoon

The Big Drift

Lovely swirly cirrus clouds follow a high pressure system and precede the stratus clouds that envelope the sky before a cold front hits.

 

 

a sprinkling of snow on the eucalypts on the mount at sunset

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

On my way home from my day jaunt into central Victoria, I decided to drive over Mt Macedon in search of a bit more snow.

My 2degC earlier walk turned into a sub zero walk on the mount but was rewarded with a pretty powder coating of snow.

Here is a hand held shot in low light with my cold hands with a touch of sunset glow in top left background.

snow on gums

Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 pro lens on the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera at ISO 400.

and here is another in very low light of snow on a bracken fern in the forest, also with this lens:

fern

2011 – a disastrous few months gets worse – floods, cyclones, quakes, tsunamis and now nuclear risk

Monday, March 14th, 2011

2010 was the year the 12 year drought broke in south-eastern Australia thanks to La Nina.

But La Nina and tropical cyclones in northern Queensland brought the worst flooding in 100 years throughout much of eastern Australia, impacting vast areas of Queensland and north-western Victoria. 99% of Queensland now is covered by state and federal disaster relief arrangements.

Then Christchurch, New Zealand, was devastated by a second earthquake in a few months.

Now we have Japan being brought to its knees by one of the 10 most powerful earthquakes of the last century recording 8.9 on the Richter scale and which moved Japan’s main island an incredible 2.4m closer to the US and altered the earth’s spin.

Although causing surprisngly minimal structural damage to Japan’s earthquake-designed buildings, the resultant tsunami devastated the northern coastal cities and now, Japan faces a major risk of a nuclear meltdown at one of its nuclear power plants in Fukushima while a second one has leaked radiation, and suffered a hydrogen explosion at midday today and it too is at risk.

The tsunami caused a terrible loss of life with well over 10,000 thought to have died in one city of 17,000 alone.

Over 200,000 have already been evacuated from the nuclear 20km exclusion zone which has been put in place.

A nuclear meltdown would not only be an environmental catsatrophe, but will have  massive effect on Japan with a potential to make an important region of 30km diameter uninhabitable for many generations. Japan and the world can ill afford another Chernobyl.

One must question the wisdom of building nuclear power plants in regions at risk of severe natural disasters.

It seems the Japanese engineers were falsely reassured that in the past 300 years, no earthquake larger than magnitude-eight had struck in the Japan subduction zone. That, in turn, led to assumptions about how large a tsunami might strike the coast.

Many of Japan’s manufacturing plants have either been flooded or had minor earthquake damage, or just closed down as a precautionary measure pending further risk assessment and the outcome of the nuclear plant instability.

Affected manufacturing includes:

  • Sony has halted production at eight electronics plants in the Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures (including a Blu-ray factory which was flooded, stranding over one thousand workers who were forced to seek refuge on higher ground).
  • A Sony Technology Centre is also located in Sendai.
  • Panasonic revealed that falling building structures have caused minor injuries to several workers at its factories located in the Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. These facilities mainly dealt with digital cameras, audio equipments and electronic parts.
  • Panasonic’s Lumix camera factory in Fukushima is ~80km from Fukushima 1 plant.
  • Panasonic’s new EV Energy plant in Sendai (a joint venture with Toyota and run by the entity PrimEarth EV Energy Co) which makes metal hydride batteries for cars is said to have been destroyed.
  • Toshiba has shut down operations at its semiconductor plant in the northern prefecture of Iwate.
  • Sanyo is also said to have implemented shut downs.
  • Canon announced that although some damage occurred, it will not halt production.
  • Canon confirmed that around 12 employees suffered minor injuries at its lens factory in Utsunomiya which is 200km from Fukushima 1.
  • Nikon’s dSLR plant is in Sendai some 6km from Sendai airport (see this image for its proximity with Nikon’s factory marked as A) and 100km from Fukushima 1 nuclear power plant. It seems it has had little direct damage, but one could expect the regional devastation to surely impact its ability to be productive in the short term.
  • the Nikkor lens factory at Tochigi, is midway between Tokyo and Sendai
  • Olympus does not appear to have been significantly affected directly.
  • global production of LCD-related components may be severely impacted, as Japan accounts for a substantial share in the worldwide manufacturing of colour filters, glass substrates, polarizers, cold-cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) used in LCD panels and products.
  • The Japanese car industry has been hard hit with Nissan closing four car factories, Toyota closing three and Honda closing two.
  • It is estimated that 7% of Japan’s industrial output will have been wiped out with this disaster assuming the nuclear situation is stabilised.

Japan’s economic situation was not great prior to this disaster with debt levels at 200% of GDP,  government budget deficit at 7% of GDP and a recent downgrade of its credit rating last month. Japan’s stock market fell 5% today on the concerns of the costs of this disaster.

2 million homes in Japan’s freezing north are currently without power.

Japan’s transport infrastructure has been severely impacted as its rail system on which Japan is heavily reliant upon has been compromised.

Fortunately, Japan’s steel industry has not been significantly affected.

The rising oil prices due to the current Libyan civil crisis/war and other unrest in the Middle East will not help their cause.

There is a still risk of further severe after-shocks with a greater than 50% risk of a quake greater than magnitude 7.0 occurring in the next few days with possible secondary tsunamis.

Meanwhile, a volcano (Shinmoedake) in Japan’s south-west erupted again, perhaps due to the earthquake. It had erupted for the first time in 52 years in January 2011.

Some images of before and after the tsunami hosted on Australia’s ABC news website.

Post script 15th March 2011:

Further explosions at the Fukushima nuclear plant has raised local radiation levels and heightened risk of nuclear meltdown resulting in Japan’s PM wideing the exclusion zone from 20km to 30km and the Japanese stockmarket falling over 10% today after the 6% fall yesterday.

Cairns advised to evacuate as massive Cyclone Yasi builds strength and likely to cause severe local damage, and widespread flooding down to flood-stricken Victoria

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Areas of Victoria’s north west are still on major flood alerts as flood waters slowly pass down the Murray River region near Swan Hill at 2km per day.

Queensland is recovering from their recent once in a hundred year floods and it is still raining courtesy of the recent small cyclone which has now become a monsoonal depression over inland Queensland.

Now northern Queensland is bracing itself for a 700km diameter monster cyclone – Cyclone Yasi – almost as big as Queensland itself, and expected to be twice as large as the last devasting cyclone, Cyclone Larry, which hit in March 2006 as a category 4 cyclone, the most powerful to cross the Qld coastline in a century. The areas most likely to be hit hardest by rain, wind and storm surges is the area between Cairns and Innisfail, with possible direct path including Townsville.

The Queensland Premier has just announced evacuation of all patients from Cairns private and public hospitals – the first ever evacuation of a regional hospital in the State’s history.

See Youtube video of the potential path and likely effects on rainfall throughout eastern Australia:

Now its Victoria’s turn for 100 year floods

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

Queensland’s floods are subsiding and the clean up  has started in Brisbane. To date 17 have died and a further 21 still missing and likely to have died.

An incredible 700,000 square kilometres of Queensland has been declared a disaster zone, with substantial inundation damage, severe infrastructure damage, shortage of fresh food or drinkable water, and many thousands still without basic amenities of power, sewerage.

What is worse, there is still 2 months of their wet season to go and La Nina will threaten more floods.

La Nina has now sent NSW, Victoria and Tasmania unseasonally heavy rains which in the north-western plains of Victoria has resulted in current flood disaster with over 40 towns affected, many with record flood levels or at least the highest in 100 years, and still the flood waters threaten towns as it flows towards the Murray River.

This flood appears to be likely to be Victoria’s worst flood disaster on record and comes only months after many of the towns were flooded in September.

La Nina has also produced major rainfall event in Sri Lanka which has had its annual rainfall in the past week, and drought to Argentina.

A major flood event that is not caused by La Nina has killed over 500 in Brazil, largely from resulting mudslides.

Queensland flood catastrophe worsens

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Australia is a land of extremes, we have had 12 years of drought over much of Australia with the hottest decade on record which culminated in the devastating Black Saturday bush fires in summer 2009 when temperatures in Melbourne hit an unprecedented 47degC – my posts regarding this can be seen here.

La Nina has brought a wet, cool, humid 6 months to Victoria and our unseasonally wet summer continues, but this is nothing to what has happened in Queensland over the past few weeks where they have often been receiving Victoria’s annual rainfall in a day and repeated episodes of this. The last major La Nina was in in 1974 which resulted in Australia’s wettest year on record and major flooding as well as cyclone Tracy which devastated Darwin.

Much of Queensland has been covered with flood waters for weeks and all the dams are not surprisingly full with limited capability for further flood mitigation.

Heavy rain and storms continue over Queensland.

Yesterday, the Queensland town of Toowomba was hit by a devastating, surprise “inland tsunami” – an unexpected 8m wall of water rushing through the main streets washing away all before it and resulting in 8 dead and 72 missing as of this morning with that figure expected to “rise dramatically” according to Premier Bligh. This wall of water came from torrential rain (80-200mm in 30 minutes – a ” 1 in 100 year localised event”  for that region) in the nearby Lockyer Valley and disappeared almost as fast as it came, to continue on to cause major flooding downstream, washing away houses.

Here is a sample of how fast the creek rose:

To try to understand this type of event, imagine that if you had a 1km wide and long flat paddock with no inflows or outflows other than the direct rain, at 100mm in 30 minutes, the whole paddock will be filled with water 100mm deep (ie. 4 inches). This equates to a volume of 100,000 cubic metres = 100 megalitres.

Now imagine a potential 10m wide creek within a valley which is 1km wide, if there was no run off from the mountain sides, and no inflows or outflows, that creek would become 100mm deep after this amount of rain.

BUT, as a crude calculation, if all the run off from the mountains 0.5km on either side of the creek ran into the creek immediately, then 1 kilometre of catchment draining into 10m wide creek results in a 100x multiplier effect (1000m valley width / 10m creek width) – ie. the creek would rapidly rise to 10m and this wall of water would rush downstream. For every 1km length of valley, 100 megalitres will be added to the flood plains below.

This is why bushwalkers and campers do not camp in dry creek beds in areas at risk of heavy rain in the catchment of the creek bed – which could be a 100km away!

Queensland’s capital city, Brisbane lies on the banks of the Brisbane River which is now at risk of major flooding in the next 36 hours.

Major flood level of the Brisbane River is regarded as being at a level of ~3.6m, with the Wivenhoe Flood Mitigation Dam still managing to delay water flows into the Brisbane River.

At 9am today, the forecast was that the river is expected to peak at 3m tomorrow which will inundate perhaps 500 houses but if levels are more than this perhaps 7000 homes are at risk. Authorities have indicated 30-70 suburbs are at risk.

The Wivenhoe Dam reached full flood mitigation capacity today and further inflows will by necessity be allowed to flood Brisbane.

At 3pm today, this forecast has been revised to give a peak height of the Brisbane river at major flood levels of 4.5m at the high tide tomorrow afternoon, not too far off the 5.45m of the 1974 flood, but levels on Thursday are expected to EXCEED the 1974 flood and “devastating”!

The nearby city of Caboolture on the Sunshine Coast has been advised to evacuate today.

The Wivenhoe Dam was built above Brisbane to prevent a recurrence of the devastating 1974 flood when the Brisbane River hit just over 5m, and it was calculated that it would reduce flood levels in the Brisbane River by ~2m. See history of Brisbane floods here which show the highest flood on record was the Feb 1893 flood when the Brisbane River hit over 8m resulting in boats floating onto their Botanic Gardens.

The Wivenhoe Dam supply capacity is 1.15 million megalitres (“100% capacity)”, and can hold a further 1.45 million megalitres in a flood before it runs risk of failure. On the 6th Jan it was at 100% capacity, and by 9am yesterday it had reached “148%” capacity – filled to half its flood additional capacity in only 4 days!

Remember, assuming 100% run off, as in saturated soils, each 1mm rainfall results in 1 megalitre per square kilometre of catchment.

The dam has a 7000 square kilometer catchment and the recent inflows have equated to water twice the volume of Sydney Harbour EVERY DAY!

This has forced water authorities to release water from the dam which is contributing by necessity to minor flooding of Brisbane River at this stage and moderate flooding later today and tomorrow as levels reach 2-3m.

The ongoing heavy rain and fog  is not only hampering rescue efforts by limiting helicopter rescues but it runs the risk of further unprecedented flash flooding throughout Queensland and it was hoped the dam will prevent major flooding of Brisbane itself.

Some areas between Maroochydore and Warwick are expecting further rain today well in excess of 50mm per hour (2 inches per hour)!

Many spent a cold, wet night on their roof tops last night and are still to be rescued this morning.

Ipswich levels will hit 16-18m today (in 1974 they hit 21m) – this has now been revised to be forecast at more than 22m and up to a third of the city is expected to be inundated.

One third of Queensland has been declared a disaster area – that is ~600,000 square kilometres – an area larger than the whole of France.

Best case scenario for many Queenslanders is that they are likely to be isolated in their homes for perhaps a week or more as roads continue to be closed, many others will have severe damage and losses to their homes and businesses from which it will take many months if not years to recover.

Bureau of Meteorology warnings here.

11th Jan 2011, 9pm update:

Premier Bligh has announced a revised figure, with up to 40,000 homes now at risk of being affected by the Brisbane floods while 100,000 will lose power for the next few days.