Photographing Reflections In Kakadu National Park

A reflection of a large paperbark tree by the water's edge in Kakadu National Park, Australia.

Reflections are beautiful, calming and somewhat symmetrical. They have the ability to bring notions of earth and sky, physical and spiritual together into a cohesive and harmonious form.

Why I Love Kakadu National Park

Kakadu is a very special place. It’s a wild and beautiful environment in the Top End of Australia’s Northern Territory.

While there’s a highway through Kakadu National Park so much of the park’s beauty is only accessible from the water or from above, looking down from a fixed wing airplane or a helicopter.

Flying over Kakadu is the perfect way to get a sense of the gigantic size and scale of the national park.

However, except for a few rocky outcrops and billabongs that are accessible from the highway, it’s at water level that the beauty and perils within this most unique environment can best be appreciated.

I photographed the above reflection, under late afternoon light, on the Yellow Waters Cruise in Kakadu National Park.

An inquesitive crocodile in the Yellow Waters Billabong, Kakadu National Park, Australia.

Kakadu Supports a Diverse Wildlife Population

Magpie geese, sea eagles and crocodiles thrive in this environment. In fact Kakadu is a haven for around one third of the bird species found in Australia.

Fortunately the barge on which you cruise provides protection and excellent opportunities for viewing and photographing the regions flora and fauna.

I’ve been fortunate to have undertaken the Yellow Waters cruise on four occasions over the years:

  • Mid December, in the build up to the wet (i.e., monsoon)

  • Mid February, during the wet season

  • July, during winter, which is the dry season in the Top End of Australia.

 
Kakadu Reflection, Yellow Waters Billabong, Australia

About To Travel?

Viewing the wetlands at different times of year was a great education and it’s allowed me to produce a diverse range of images of Kakadu National Park.

Nonetheless, I know I’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to exploring this vast and ancient landscape. That’s why I’II return, again and again.

 

A Darter bird resting on a tree branch above the Yellow Waters Billabong in Kakadu National Park, Australia.

How To Photograph The Australasian Darter Bird

While not the most attractive bird the Australasian Darter is, nonetheless, quite special. It’s a medium size water bird, measuring around 90cm in height with a wing span up to 1.2 meters.

Most of the bird’s color is found in its bright yellow colored bill, though other markings appear during courtship.

Diving into the water in search of prey, and staying submerged for up to a minute, the Darter spears fish which it then brings up to the safety of a tree where the prey is turned around and swallowed, head first.

A tranquil and detailed view of a billabong in Kakadu National Park, Australia.

Nature Photography | A Study In Composition

The above photo of a billabong in Kakadu National Park is not your average reflection of a landscape. There’s no sky, nor is there any discernible horizon.

These facts combine to make the image a little more abstract that what it might otherwise appear.

On one hand it’s a photo of blackened tree trunks, water and native grasses.

But this photo is also a study in composition which explores line, texture and tonality and links elements in the foreground with similar elements in the background.

A saltwater crocodile, at sunset, ambling along in the Yellow Waters Billabong in Kakadu National Park, Australia.

There’s Only One Way To Photograph Crocodiles

One thing that’s critical about travelling in the Top End of Australia is to keep away from water. Don’t swim in waterholes, rivers or the sea and keep well away from river banks.

When the water’s deep enough the saltwater crocodile has the ability to hold a vertical position underwater and, as quick as a flash, propel itself up from below the surface to snatch prey.

It’s good to remember that crocodiles hunt by ambush, at which they are undisputed masters.

There are signs everywhere warning folks about the dangers of attacks from saltwater crocodiles. But that doesn’t stop some folks, particular tourists.

They probably don’t realize that an isolated and inviting waterhole was, quite possibly, part of a river during the wet season.

The force of a flooded waterway can wash a crocodile downstream. But, eventually, the rain stops and the crocodile begins to explore and exploit the environment in which they’ve found themselves.

Over time the waters reside and the crocodile finds itself in an ever shrinking waterhole.

But the saltwater crocodile can exist in both salt and fresh water environments, which is one of the things that makes them so very, very dangerous.

My view is that there’s only one way for anyone, other than an appropriately qualified naturalist, to photograph saltwater crocodiles in the wild.

And that’s from the safety of a professionally crewed launch in places like Yellow Waters within Kakadu National Park.

The rangers there really know their stuff. They’re extremely knowledgeable and trained to provide you with a safe and intimate wildlife viewing experience.

I look forward to my next visit to Kakadu and I enthusiastically recommend Yellow Waters; in particular the sunrise and sunset cruises, to all keen photographers. Maybe I’II see you there.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru