Here Be Dragon…flies.

Back in February my sister, who has long dabbled in the performing arts, scored a gig in a promo video/website for a cool new camping whatsit. The inventor, Helmut, has a highly admirable DIY ethic and had advertised online for someone to do the narration and demonstration while he would script, shoot and edit the video himself. He needed to film in a bush setting… which was quite remote… with no mobile phone coverage… alone with someone met online…

So I tagged along to ensure nothing Silence of the Lambsy ensued.

I passed the time by taking photos and occasionally yelling up helpful supportive comments to Justine such as “YOU SUCK!”
I passed the time by taking photos and occasionally yelling up helpful supportive comments to Justine such as “YOU SUCK!”

On a bright, hot Thursday morning, as soon as logistically possible, I drove for half an hour up Numinbah Valley towards Springbrook, past Hinze Dam, forested hills and farms. I made it to the general area thanks to Justine’s directions but would’ve missed the turnoff had I not spotted her little red car parked at the far side of a paddock.

They’d already started filming so after I was reassured Helmut was not a serial killer (he’d baked us a cake) I made myself scarce. In the background of their filming was a good sized creek and I was permitted to explore it as long as I kept my head down and didn’t wreck their shots.

Hinze Dam trees, autumn coloured leaves, cooling the tootsies, blue flower. Maybe a weed.
Hinze Dam trees, autumn coloured leaves, cooling the tootsies, blue flower. Maybe a weed.

It was a stinking hot day so I jumped in the creek to cool off. I adore swimming in fresh water; it’ll always be a novelty after growing up between the desert and the ocean and I don’t care how cold it is. I had to dodge the large clouds of green fluoro duckweed shit that were floating around and I kept my feet off the bottom (would there be yabbies in here? Or eels?!) but it was still a perfect spot. As I paddled into deeper water, it turned darker brown and then nearly black, thanks to all the tannin in it; I was swimming in an enormous cuppa tea! It was much warmer at the top; my legs churned up colder water below, so I rolled over and floated on my back in the warmth, with the sun on my face. Bewdiful.

Suddenly, above me there was a flash of red. Then a streak of blue. Followed by a glitter of yellow and black – dragonflies! Chasing each other back and forth across the surface of the water.

I swam back, retrieved the camera, put on the long lens and started taking photos. It was quite hard; the little bastards were so small and far away, and flew off if I got too close. I didn’t have my tripod with me either so had a hard time keeping the camera steady. Plus, while we do own a very nice DSLR I mostly use the auto setting as I have very little almost no idea how to work it manually. I’ll do a proper course soon but on this day it was the usual trial and error. Mostly error.

Overexposed. Shit. And he or she posed so nicely for me too!
Overexposed. Shit. And he or she posed so nicely for me too!
Shutter speed too slow. Have no idea how to fix that.
Shutter speed too slow. Have no idea how to fix that.

I noticed there was a pattern to their random flitting about, so I stopped my previous ‘Whack-A-Mole’ approach and inched closer to an apparently favourite rock. After a while they came back.

Cheers mate! My favourite shot of this guy - a male Blue Skimmer.
Cheers mate! My favourite shot of this guy – a male Blue Skimmer.

I could have chased the red ones for longer and gotten a better shot but to be honest the idea of getting a view that was any closer up kind of freaked me out. Is it just me, or does this guy

I KILL YOU.

Quiver in fear as you behold the Red Arrow.

remind you of this guy?

THEN I EAT YOUR SOUL.
I find bulbous red dragonfly eyes even more disconcerting than slitted yellow demon cat eyes.

Okay just me then.

OMG how freaky is this, considering the Legend reference above... this dragonfly's name is 'Unicorn Hunter'. I SHIT YOU NOT.
OMG how freaky is this, considering the Legend reference above… this dragonfly’s name is ‘Unicorn Hunter’. I SHIT YOU NOT.

I spotted another one, a stunning blue and black one, but he refused to co-operate. He kept flitting further and further upstream and I couldn’t follow him on my side of the creek due to the undergrowth. So I held the camera clear of the water and paddled across one-handed. I felt like Steve Parish! It was a bit trickier getting out on the steep far side though.

Male Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo. Him and his missus dropped half chewed casuarina pine nuts on me as I climbed out of the creek. The species is under threat - not quite endangered yet - I'd never seen them this close before.
Male Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo. Him and his missus dropped half chewed casuarina pine nuts on me as I climbed out of the creek. The species is under threat – not quite endangered yet – I’d never seen them this close before.

The blue dragonfly lured me further upstream past a mini rapid, then lit on a rock. I zoomed in as much as possible, click. Then he flew off. When he landed again, I tiptoed one step closer. Click.

That's it buddy, hold it right there... don't move, don't mo... shit!
That’s it buddy, hold it right there… don’t move, don’t mo… shit!

I tried not to make any sudden moves which is no mean feat when you’re balancing on shifting rocks in calf deep flowing water. Click. He seemed to have a favourite rock so when I inevitably got too close and he took off, I moved several steps closer, stayed still and waited. And he came back!

So damn chuffed with this shot.
So damn chuffed with this shot.

Success at last! This one’s name is the Arrowhead Rockmaster. Well I’m declaring myself an honorary Rockmaster too.

I finally felt ready to head back and have some lunch. I headed off home shortly after that, but not before witnessing a 10-15 metre wide willy-willy form at the far end of the paddock. It took over a minute to traverse its full length and reach us, but I couldn’t film it as my phone battery was dead from the Instagramming I’d done earlier. Spewing, because it looked SO cool! I have a vivid mental picture of Justine standing at her car door with this massive wall of wind, leaves and grass rotating lazily only a couple of car lengths behind her. Mother Nature really turned it on for us today!

– Michelle

P.S. Made my first ever gif. I call it ‘Rock Thought Bubbles’.

I really need to bring my tripod next time.
I really need to bring the tripod next time.
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5 Comments Add yours

  1. moseynmidgie says:

    Zat is tres cool !

    Like

  2. Hahah I am loving the Legend reference, I must say your dragonflies are a lot more interestingly named than ours are- a Unicorn hunter hey? Your final photo of that Arrowhead Rockmaster (swear this must be a name for a festival or energy drink) is beautiful! Worth the wade about. Looks like a lovely spot in the world.

    Like

    1. Michelle says:

      Yeah I know- Arrowhead Rockmaster- could also be a deadly snake or an ICBM. It is a beaut little spot, and I’m hoping to return this summer to try to shoot some more a bit closer and better. They are so quick though! Maybe I’ll cover a bunch of their favourite rocks with glue to get them to stand still for a bit.

      Like

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