Mungo National Park in outback NSW is home to some truly spectacular landscapes. Here’s how to capture the beauty without disrespecting the Traditional Owners.
Don’t Over Step the Boundary
In the past year heaps of photographers and social media influencers have come under scrutiny for overstepping the boundaries in protected lands. Over in the States, the ‘Public Lands Hates You’ Instagram page is naming and shaming people in an attempt to raise awareness around the issue.
Closer to home, I noticed a lot of this myself on my travels around Australia; people swimming in designated ‘no swim’ areas in national parks, flashing torches at delicate glow worms, flicking lures in front of ‘No fishing’ signs.
But there’s a more sinister side to all this that reaches to the very heart of Australia; the disrespect of Indigenous history and culture. One place where I really noticed this was at the Walls of China in Mungo National Park, New South Wales.
Read More: Exploring Mungo National Park
Capturing the Walls of China
The Walls of China are spectacularly eroded sand and clay dunes on the edge of Lake Mungo, a dried-up ancient river system.
The park itself was made famous with the discovery of the ‘Mungo Man’ in 1968 – the oldest Indigenous remains found in Australia dating back 42,000 years. These remains and others that were uncovered in following years gave great insight into the life of the people here – how they lived and hunted, as well as cultural and community practices.
The site is protected under the UNESCO World Heritage list and is one of the most important anthropological sites in the world. The Walls of China has also become a well-known location for landscape photographers, for obvious reasons. Here are a few points to note before visiting yourself:
You need a guide to get close to the Walls of China
NSW National Parks generously provide a guide service (tours are operating at time of publishing) to take groups into the Walls of China for a number of reasons. The first is to provide education to visitors about the history of the location and the Indigenous people here.
Secondly, the guide is able to take visitors to see the structures without causing widespread damage to the landscape. The clay soil can be firm at times as well as incredibly soft and delicate. After periods of rain, footprints will harden and be evident for weeks or months.
The dunes are very susceptible to damage and 40,000 years of erosion can be quickly undone in moments by people wandering by themselves.
You’ll need to get creative with editing
The guides run at 10am and 3pm – not exactly the ideal time for photography with the sun dead above! In order to take shots within the Walls of China and come away with something unique to any iPhone camera, you’ll need to think outside the box with your post-processing.
I visited ten days after the park received 10mm of rain; the perimeter road of the park was closed so the main viewing area and Redtop Lookout were all that I could visit. Luckily there was some cloud coverage and I was able to capture some shots of the structures without heavy shadowing, and create astro composites with these shots in the foreground.
One bad egg is all it takes
Footprints can last a very long time in the clay. The evidence of wanderers through the Walls of China is very noticeable. Footprints of running and hiking shoes are an incredibly unnatural mark that stand out from the clay patterns.
Editing these out is an easy fix, though it really shouldn’t be a necessary evil for visiting photographers and it ruins the landscape for everyone else.
The rules in place at the Walls of China are limiting to photographers, but they’re in place for a reason. Maybe these will push you to develop your skills as a photographer and get you thinking outside the box?
Following the boardwalks and visiting the Walls of China with a guide is not only acting to preserve the landscape, but respecting Indigenous history and culture as well.