I feel inspired and reinvigorated after my recent visit to Lake Tyrrell. It is the largest inland lake in Victoria, Australia, and sits north of a small town called Sea Lake, in the Mallee District. It is flat low-lying country, with a sparse population, dotted with mallee eucalypts. It’s hot in the summer and quite dry year-round with low annual rainfall. The area is renowned for its stunning sunrises, sunsets, and night skies. When the lake is covered by a thin layer of water and the sky is completely reflected in the lake, you can stand there for hours, transported to another world, transfixed, and mesmerised by her colour and beauty. 
For thousands of years, the Boorong lived, loved and danced on this country, caring for it according to their lore, law, traditions, and ceremonies. They called this place Direl, meaning sky or space. It was a sacred and spiritual place to them. When you stand in the middle of the lake on a star-studded night or just as the sun is peeking over the horizon, you too begin to sense that mystery—and Direl becomes part of you. 
Sea Lake was once an inland sea, and the surrounding remnants of sand-dunes and salt lakes make it a favourite destination for both Australian and international photographers. While it is hard to do justice to the vastness of this landscape, flying a drone above the area does give a better sense of scale. We are fortunate in Australia to have a network of rare pink salt lakes. They are not permanently pink, but when the conditions are right, the bacteria and algae combine to form a visual feast in these hyper-saline environments. Please remember that this is a fragile landscape when visiting and treat it with respect. 
About 120,000 years ago, this lake was about 13m deep, but it has since dried up. The thin layer of water that now bubbles up periodically, makes photography interesting and different each time you visit. When this parched landscape is viewed from above, the colours, textures, shapes, and forms caused by the wind and rain are a sight to behold. 
Planning and Gear
Google Earth is a good place to start planning your trip and the proliferation of images on the internet can give you a glimpse of the variety of photographs that can be created here. The lake will be mostly dry during summer, but you can almost be certain to find water somewhere in the winter. The time between mid-autumn to spring is possibly the best time to visit if you are keen to find reflections. 
Visiting the information centre in Sea Lake is a must for picking up maps and understanding the current weather conditions. You can also book a tour here if you want help with familiarising yourself in the area. If venturing out on your own, drive to the viewing platform at the lake to get oriented. There you will find information about the history of both the indigenous occupation and the local salt works. On the western side, there is a dry weather only track that takes you along a less trodden path. The painted silos in town are also a favourite with photographers, especially at night when they are sometimes lit. 
Drone photography can be done at any time of day but depending on what you are looking for—long shadows, golden light and abstract imagery—decide when to fly. Of course, you can’t beat the golden light at sunrise and sunset to capture landscape images with your camera. A good App like Clear Outside, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) app, and PhotoPills can further aid your decision-making. Open Sky will indicate the restrictions on flying a drone in Australia. 
When visiting in winter or the shoulder seasons, you will need layers of cold weather gear. Pack gumboots as the lake can be muddy. Gloves, a beanie and pants you don’t mind getting dirty will come in handy for those freezing cold mornings and nights. Besides your tripod and camera, remote trigger, polarizers, and ND filters, bring lenses that are suitable for landscape photography. I shoot primarily with my Canon R6 and my Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L lens with a RF adapter. If you have a drone, this is perfect territory for aerial imagery. 
You will need backup batteries, chargers, memory cards, and an external hard drive for storage. I like to bring a laptop to download and check my images between shoots. Bring lens wipes and a plastic bag for your camera in the event of rain and a head torch for those early morning or night shots. Some people cover their tripod legs with little plastic bags to shield them from the salt. I make sure to give my tripod a rinse after every shoot. Reflection shots mean that you will be shooting quite low down, so a portable stool might also be handy. 
There is accommodation at Sea Lake including a caravan park. The pub is the hub of this small town and is a good place to wind down in the evening and meet the locals. It is just a 10-minute drive to the lake from town. Make sure you visit the Skymirror Gallery in Sea Lake to be inspired while sipping a great mug of coffee or indulging in a hot breakfast. 
Understanding the Challenges and Settings for Your Tripod and Camera
Wind and weather will be your biggest challenges, but it can also create opportunities for stunning photography. However, you want still days for perfect reflections and moonless, clear skies for the best images of the milky way. Based on the conditions, be creative with your settings, especially your shutter speeds to create images that are here for the taking. I prefer to shoot on manual settings, with a tripod for my landscape images at least when the light is low and at night. This enables me to use the lowest ISO that is suitable for the conditions and determine my shutter speed and aperture depending on what I am shooting. I tend to use around f/11 for my daytime landscapes and f/2.8 for my astro images with a higher ISO. Depending on the size of your drone, decide on the day if it is safe to fly. 
The Tyrrell sign, the sky lounge and walking platform at the main entrance to the lake are great for foreground elements for your landscapes. Don’t forget to find time to just sit and breathe it all in and feel the spirituality of this place at the Sky Lounge. 
Finding Metaphor and Meaning in Composition
While colors, textures, form and shapes are central to abstract photography, many photographers are keen to also to find meaning and metaphors in their images. Pareidolia is the tendency for us to perceive meaning from random shapes in the landscape. They can form interesting compositional elements especially in your aerial photography. Aboriginal artists were also keen observers of the landscape and night sky and often painted stunning aerial interpretations of it.  
This narrative has been written after my second visit to Lake Tyrrell in May 2023. However, on my first visit, exactly two years ago, I captured quite different aerial images for my PSA Bronze portfolio—Impressions of a Salt Lake. The lake is different each time you visit, and this place has become a regular pilgrimage for many photographers. It is not just a place to take stunning images. It is also a place to lose yourself, de-stress and re-connect with the natural environment that is all around you.  
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