What’s a day in the life of an adventure photographer really like? We asked Snowy Mountains legend Boen Ferguson.
I love getting outside, which is probably the reason I’ve found myself in this job. It’s a mixture of modern day, cutting edge cameras and computer tech combined with getting out in the elements and trekking around in nature.
I’ve always felt at home in the mountains and enjoy every season up in the alpine. We’re on the cusp of winter, so I’m excited to go where the air is thin.
Today’s Plan: Do a Reccy
Today is like the Friday of my work week. Not literally Friday, but the vibe of Friday. It’s possibly one of the best parts of my job: it’s called Reccy Day.
‘Reccies’ (short for reconnaissance) are kinda like a dress rehearsal, there’s no timings or run sheet, you simply go take a look at locations, familiarise yourself with the area and snap a few piccies for reference, so when you come back with models and all the gear on the shoot day you don’t end up looking like an idiot without a plan.
The plan today is to take a look at Seaman’s Hut. A popular spot on the Main Range and one I’ve been to many times before.
Although I’ve been there before, the scenery is constantly changing up in the alpine and I want to see if it will work for an upcoming shoot.
Checking The Conditions
Like most trips out into Kosciuszko National Park before heading off, I find myself umming and ahhing in my garage. Depending on today’s and recent weather conditions, the equipment I decide to take can make or break the trip.
I want to be able to move as easily as possible and go as deep into the park as I can without turning it into a giant mission.
This decision is especially important on the fringes of winter. I don’t want to be pushing a mountain bike through two feet of snow just as much as I don’t want to trudge 18km in the mud kitted up for snowboarding with no snow in sight.
To the trusty iPhone! Weather looks great today, bit cold, but not a breath of wind! There was that 10cm of snow earlier this week…
How about the webcam? Ok, there’s a bit of snow hanging around up top – probably not enough to ride – definitely not enough to ride on the new board.
But I reckon the mountain bike will work all the way to Seamans Hut. It’s nothing too crazy, 12km return, but on a bike it’s a lovely ride.
What about the camera gear? Straight away I grab my stills camera, which is a Canon EOS R5. I love how this camera is light weight but has all the best modern features, particularly its lightning fast auto focus.
So my next choice will make less sense… it’s my RED Scarlet-W, a big bulky and cumbersome cinema camera. I didn’t even need to lug it up the mountain, I’m just shooting a couple of stills! But I have a love/hate relationship with this camera – it’s heavy and clunky but sometimes it just makes places look magical and amazing.
I throw all the gear in the car and hit the road up to Charlotte Pass.
Heading Out on the Range
I arrive at the car park and trail head, greeted by selfie stick-toting couples getting snowy selfies with the leftover snow on the edge of the road.
I fill my camera bag with a camera, lens, gas cooker, and a peppermint tea, then throw on my puffer jacket and hit the trail.
It’s a ‘gentle’ slog up on the gravel access road all motivated by the thought of the downhill return. Although it’s a still and sunny day the temperature is hovering around 2°C, so the decision to wear a down jacket is perfect.
Down jackets are a staple for pretty much anyone visiting the Snowy Mountains as they’re breathable and lightweight, but incredibly warm. My favourite thing about down puffer jackets is that they’re cozy to wear but as soon as you don’t need them they can be squished down and packed tightly so they take up hardly any space in your pack.
There’s definitely a strong attachment between people and their puffer. That’s why you see so many old mates with duct taped jackets holding on by a thread… a good puffy is for life.
I’m using the Grand Trek down jacket from Columbia. It’s a bit bulkier than some of the jackets out there, but that’s partly because it’s waterproof with a heat-seal tech that cuts down on stitching – perfect for when the weather flips on you out on the range.
Crossing The Snowy River
As the trail meanders its way into the mountains I’m greeted with familiar, yet always changing views of the range.
Around half way the trail crosses the headwaters of the Snowy River. I stop to get a few shots of the ice cracking and tiny frozen icebergs bobbing around, relishing the lack of schedule that reccy day brings.
From the river up to the hut is the hardest riding and it happens to be the snowiest. To my surprise the midday sun has warmed up the snow just enough to make it soft enough to grip, but firm enough to not punch through. Perfect really!
I huff and puff my way up to the hut, then turn around and look out at all the mountains covered in a dusting of snow.
I reach Seamans Hut with plenty of sunlight. And since it’s a rare completely still day I decide to set out to find a flat rock to have a cup of tea.
Checking Out The Conditions For a Shoot
I scoop some snow into my gas burner and have a look around. The snow’s melted much more on the sunny north and west faces and stayed protected in the shade of the south and east facing aspects, making for some cool contrast.
Generally, I like to shoot into the sun. It’s the opposite of what most photography classes would suggest but I think most of the time backlit photos look great.
Wearing my down jacket I can feel the heat of the sun soaking through and although the temperature’s just north of freezing, I’m completely comfortable.
I sip my tea and look at Seamans Hut.
Seamans Hut is situated between Australia’s highest peak, Mt Kosciuszko, and Charlotte Pass. It’s a very photogenic little hut built from stone in 1929 as a memorial for two skiers who got lost in a blizzard in the area.
It’s now open for day use to warm up and escape the elements or for emergency overnight use if you get stuck in a storm.
Little huts like this are scattered all over the Main Range and always have some interesting history, they also make for awesome backdrops for alpine photo shoots, so it’s good to see there’s no construction work going on and the snow is sticking around.
With the sun just setting I stuff all my gear in my bag and prepare for the ride home. This is where the bike really pays off. Hiking from Seamans Hut can take over two hours, on a bike it’s around 20 minutes!
This gives me much more time to hang out, shoot and enjoy the sunset without having to walk back in the pitch dark. It also gives me more time at home to pull a bit of a plan together now my reccy’s in the bag.
Coasting down the frozen track is where I really appreciate the Omni Heat tech on the Columbia jacket. Basically, the jacket’s inside is covered with tiny reflective dots like a space blanket, making it way warmer for its weight than it has any right to be.
Even coasting on my bike down a mountain trail in negative temperatures I was toasty.
Snow’s in the forecast! I can’t wait to get back out on the Main Range to keep exploring (and shooting) old and new places.