For those of who read my Art of Travel Photography series, you know that one of the most important tips for taking good travel photos is to understand what you will be photographing before you travel. This is important for a number of very good reasons. First and most importantly, if you aren’t familiar with what is at your destination, you might not even make time to see some of the amazing things you could have seen, let alone photographed them.
Even if you do have a good itinerary planned that covers all of the top things that you would like to see at your destination, understanding exactly how you are going to photograph these subjects or locations before you travel can save you valuable time. I like to know where the best spots that give you the best angles are before I arrive. That way I am not wasting valuable travel time trying to figure out where to take the best shots.
Finally, understanding what you want to photograph and how you want to photograph those subjects or landscapes before you travel will help you prepare what type of gear you will need to have with you. For instance, what time of day is best to photograph at these locations? Where are the best spots at these locations to capture sunrises or sunsets? What type of lens will be best for capturing the subjects or landscapes at these locations? These are just some of the questions that the proper advanced research can answer.
With about a month to go until our trip to Australia and New Zealand and the itinerary for our trip all set, I figured now was as good a time as any to start doing the photo prep for the trip. In this series, I am going to walk you thru my photography prep for each of our destinations in Australia and New Zealand. If you haven’t had a chance to review my planning process for our Australia and New Zealand trip, I have linked those articles for you to review below.
In the second installment of my photography planning for the trip, I am going to cover our second destination, which is Cairns, Australia. I am going to outline the research I did on what the top photography locations in Cairns are, where it is best to photograph in those locations, which time of day it would be best to photograph the locations, and what type of photography equipment I will need to get my desired shots.
- Part 1 – Photography Planning for Sydney, Australia
- Part 2 – Photography Planning for Cairns, Australia
- Part 3 – Photography Planning for Melbourne, Australia
- Part 4 – Photography Planning for the Great Ocean Road
- Part 5 – Photography Planning for Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
- Part 6 – Photography Planning for Mount Cook, New Zealand
- Part 7 – Photography Planning for Queenstown, New Zealand
- Part 8 – Photography Planning for Te Anau, New Zealand
- Part 9 – Photography Planning for Wanaka, New Zealand
- Part 10 – Photography Planning for Fox Glacier, New Zealand
Resources I Used
When doing photography planning for any trip, the first step I take is to do research on the location to see what there is to photograph, where the best places to photograph those subjects or landscapes are, and when and how to photograph them. When it came time to do my research on Cairns, Australia, here are some of the best resources that I used to do my research.
- Cairns-Sharehouse – The Best Instagram Locations in Cairns
- The Wandering Lens – A Guide to Tropical North Queensland Photography Experiences
- Shot Hotspot – 49 Photo Spots in Cairns
- Larissa Dening – 10 Most Instagrammable Spots in Tropical North Queensland
- Tropical North Queensland – 10 Instagram Locations Near Cairns
- Journey Era – 37 Cairns Photos To Inspire Your Tropical Queensland Travels
- Walk My World – The most Instagrammable places near Cairns
- Instagram Photos with the #Cairns Hashtag
- A Search of “Cairns, Australia” on Pinterest
With these resources in hand, I sat down to start looking for places and things that I would like to photograph in the Cairns area. By doing this research now, it will ensure that I don’t miss photographing anything spectacular when I arrive in Cairns and it will also help save me time trying to determine when and how to photograph the subjects and locations that I have identified. If you would like to learn more about the process I use when I do my photography research, I would suggest that you check out my Art of Travel Photography – Planning Your Shots guide.
Photo Spots I’ve Identified
After doing my research, I identified ten locations in Cairns that I really want to take photographs at. I am going to cover each of these locations in greater detail, but as a summary, I have included a map and a list of all ten locations for you to review below.
|Nudey Beach- Fitzroy Island|
|Josephine Falls – Wooroonooran National Park|
|Millaa Millaa Falls|
|Kuranda – Barron Falls|
Nudey Beach- Fitzroy Island
The first photography location that I identified in the Cairns area is Nudey Beach, which is located on Fitzroy Island. The whole area around Cairns is known for its amazing coastline and Fitzroy Island is no different. There are some absolutely stunning stretches of coast on the island and Nudey Beach is probably the prettiest. When shooting in this area I would definitely recommend carrying a wide-angle lens and polarizing filter with you to capture the amazing landscapes.
An added bonus with Nudey Beach is that it sets up almost perfectly for some amazing sunset shots when I will be visiting in mid-September. As you can see in the map below, the sun will be setting almost directly off the coast of Nudey Beach while I will be there. If you are planning on visiting Nudey Beach and would like to get some sunset shots, I would strongly recommend that you carry a sturdy tripod with you.
Josephine Falls – Wooroonooran National Park
This location is a little bit of a hike from Cairns, but if you are looking for beautiful landscapes and a fun day, then you can’t do much better than Wooroonooran National Park. Josephine Falls is one of the prettier waterfalls in the park and it is a great waterfall to photograph. When shooting in this area I would definitely recommend carrying a wide-angle lens and polarizing filter with you to capture the amazing landscapes.
There is a lot of tree cover in the area, so getting amazing sunrise and sunset shots will be a challenge, but it isn’t impossible. You just have to work to find the right spot to catch the sky and the falls in the same shot. If you are planning on visiting and would like to get some sunset shots, I would strongly recommend that you carry a sturdy tripod with you. I would also recommend playing with some long exposures if you are familiar with the technique. To get a long exposure during daytime hours, you will need a neutral density filter and that tripod I recommended.
Among other things, Queensland is known for having some absolutely breathtaking coastline and beaches. When in the Cairns area, it is well worth your time to photograph Pam Cove, which has some of the prettiest coastlines. There are a number of spots in the area to take some great shots of the rocky coast, beautiful beaches, and rows of stunning palm trees. I have included a map below to give you a general sense of the area. Again, I would recommend bringing a wide-angle lens and a polarizing filter to capture these beautiful landscapes.
The coastline near Palm Cove will be set up really well to take some fantastic sunrise shots while I am in the Cairns area this September. As you can see in the map below, the sun is set to rise just off the coast of Palm Cove. If you are visiting the area and would like to get some great sunrise shots, I would recommend bringing a solid tripod with you.
If you head further North up the coast, there are some more fantastic places to take photographs along the coast. On these places is Cape Tribulation. There are some wonderful lookout spots in the area where you can get some spectacular shots of the coastline. If you are interested in exploring this beautiful area, I have included a map of the area for you to review below. I would recommend bringing a wide-angle lens and a polarizing filter to capture these beautiful landscapes.
Like much of the coast of Queensland this time of year, Cape Tribulation sets up to be a fantastic sunrise location in mid-September. The sun should be rising directly off the coast and sunrise shots in the area at this time of year should be extra beautiful. If you are planning on visiting and would like to get some sunrise shots, I would strongly recommend that you carry a sturdy tripod with you.
Millaa Millaa Falls
If you love shooting waterfalls, I have included a number of beautiful falls on my list of the top photos spots in the great Cairns area. One of the most scenic of these waterfalls is undoubtedly the Millaa Millaa Falls. It is such a pretty waterfall that is in such a pretty area. There are a number of great spots that you can shoot this waterfall from and I have included a map of the area for you to review if you are interested in shooting it. Because you are so close to the falls from these viewpoints, I strongly suggest you bring a wide-angle lens with you.
Like most of the waterfalls in the area, the land surrounding the Millaa Millaa Falls is mostly forest, so it isn’t as easy to get a sunrise or sunset shots as it is on the coast. However, if you plan your shots right, you can still use a beautiful sunrise or sunset in your shots. As shown in the map below, the sun will set up fairly well for me to get some decent sunrise or sunset shots near Millaa Millaa Falls when I visit in September. If you are planning on visiting and would like to get some sunrise shots, I would strongly recommend that you carry a sturdy tripod with you.
Another one of the spectacular waterfalls that you can visit in the great Cairns area is the Ellinjaa Falls. This is another beautiful waterfall that is absolutely worth the trip to see if you are going to be in the area. Again, the area around the falls is rather wooded, so you are going to want to make sure you have a wide-angle lens with you because the shots tend to be rather tight.
Because the area surrounding the falls is mostly forest, it makes it tough to get some really good sunrise or sunset shots with the falls in the picture. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get some great shots with some of the great light you get during the Golden Hours. Remember, if you are going to shoot shots during the Golden Hours, I would strongly recommend you bring a sturdy tripod with you.
Kuranda – Barron Falls
The last waterfall that I am covering in my photo planning guide for the great Cairns area may be my favorite out of all of the waterfalls I cover in this guide. Not only are the Barron Falls beautiful, but they are also very easy to photograph. There are several high vantage points that you can use to get some absolutely fantastic shots of the falls. If you would like a better understanding of where the falls are and where to photograph in the area, I have included a detailed map below.
Because you will be shooting from high vantage points as well as in close if you do some hiking, I would recommend bringing a lens with some reach as well as a wide-angle lens. This will allow you to get the good shots when you are in close with the wide-angle, but also zoom in to get some close-ups of the falls when you are at the high vantage points.
Because there are some high vantage points to shoot this waterfall, it sets up really nicely to get some great sunrise and sunset shots with the waterfall in the shot. When I am going to be visiting in mid-September, the sun will not rise or set directly behind the falls, but I should be able to get some colorful skies as a backdrop in my photographs. Remember, if you are going to shoot sunrise or sunset shots of the waterfall, make sure you bring a sturdy tripod with you.
If you have noticed a trend so far with all of the locations I am highlighting being either beautiful waterfalls or gorgeous stretches of coastline, you are very astute. The great Cairns area is well known for its tropical forests that have some absolutely stunning waterfalls and for its beautiful coastline. Yorkey’s Knob is one of such stretches of coastline that is well known for its beauty. If you are going to shoot at Yorkey’s Knob, I have included a map to assist you in your planning below. Like other scenic landscapes, I would recommend a wide-angle lens to capture as much of the beautiful coast as possible.
When I am going to be visiting the Cairns area in mid-September, the sun should be rising almost directly off the coast of Yorkey’s Knob, which should allow me to get some fantastic sunrise shots of this beautiful coastline. If you plan on taking pictures of a sunrise at Yorkey’s Knob, make sure you have a sturdy tripod with you.
Another absolute gem of a location in the tropical forests that surround much of the Cairns area is the Mossman Gorge. The Mossman River Gorge is a beautiful scenic area that is a favorite swimming spot for tourists and locals. It is also a very scenic place that is great for capturing beautiful photographs. If you are going to shoot at Mossman Gorge, I would strongly suggest bringing a wide-angle lens as most of the shots you take will be in tight.
Because you will be in tight in an area that is surrounded by forest, it will be difficult to get a lot of a sunset or sunrise into the background of your images. However, taking pictures during the Golden Hours is never a bad idea because of the good light. If you do decide to shoot during the Golden Hours at Mossman Gorge, I would suggest bringing a sturdy tripod with you.
The last location in the greater Cairns area that I am highlighting in my photography research is Clifton Beach, which is another of the amazing coastal areas in the Cairns area that I recommend you take a look at for photography. Clifton Beach is close to Palm Cove, which is highlighted earlier in this guide and is a continuation of that beautiful stretch of coast north of Cairns. To give you an idea of where Clifton Beach is and where to shoot, I have included a map for you to review below. Like other coastal regions, I would recommend you bring a wide-angle lens with you to capture as much of the landscape and coastline as possible.
When I will be visiting in mid-September, the sun should be rising almost directly off the coast of Clifton Beach, which means I should be able to get some absolutely fantastic sunrise shots in the area. To give you a better idea of where the sun will be rising and setting at this time of year, I have included a map for you to review below. Remember, if you plan on getting some sunrise or sunset shots at Clifton Beach, make sure you bring a steady tripod with you.
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