This is the first in a new section of Light Stalking dedicated to critiquing our favourite places to shoot. While it’s easy enough to find shooting guides for big cities or whole countries, this new section of Light Stalking is where you will find those secret spots that few people know about except the locals.
Bare Island is a gorgeous and very small island easily accessible for those in Sydney that was discovered by James Cook in 1770. From 1885 it was home to a military fortification and in 1912 was turned into a retirement home for ex-servicemen which it remained as until 1963. These days it’s run by the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service as a tourist attraction.
Where is it?
Bare Island is located on the north side of Bottany Bay in Sydney. It is 16km to the south of the CBD. You can walk across a bridge from the suburb of La Perouse to get to the island.
How to Get There
The easiest way to get there is by car – especially if you’re carrying a lot of gear. If that’s not an option, the bus from central Sydney to the suburb of La Perouse is probably your best bet.
The 393, 394, L94, 399 and X99 busses all go to La Perouse (where Bare Island is located) from the city including Circular Quay. It’s easy enough to get there, but not many tourists do it. Get a free map and timetable here.
There are public toilets, a park, a national park with walking paths and several restaurants nearby.
Things tend to close early around here, so if you’re planning to go to the restaurants, make sure you book ahead. If you’re there on the weekend, then there will probably be a couple of ice cream trucks and a lot of locals enjoying the scenery!
Typically, there will be some breeze and of course, it’s an island so you are surrounded by salt water, a bay and you can see the open ocean several miles away (see the photo at the top of the page). When walking around the island itself, you’ll be walking on rock and through shallow pools of water.
Be sure to check the weather because there is very little shelter from rain nearby. The tide will also affect your shooting location with marginally better opportunities at low tide to get the rock formations into your foreground.
What to Bring
It can get cold and windy at Bare Island so you do need to be a little prepared. In terms of clothing, you will need to be well rugged up in the Winter and even in Summer it’s a good idea to bring a light jumper if you’re going to be there in the early morning or late afternoon and evening. A solid pair of walking shoes or trainers will be more comfortable too.
In terms of photography gear, the thing to remember is that it can get windy and you are on the water so salt spray on your lenses can become a problem. Always bring a lens cloth if you’re going to be there for a while because you will almost certainly need it.
The island is also one of the best places in Sydney to get some nice coastal landscapes, so you’ll want to bring the gear for that. I almost always bring a tripod, a wide angle lens and an ND Grad filter.
At sunset, definitely don’t forget to look EAST. The first photo in the ones above was taken while facing east after sunset, so the sun can still throw some beautiful colour around the sky – especially on mildly cloudy days.
Also, make sure you stay around for blue hour in the evening. Most photographers leave way too early and miss this great time to shoot. All of the shots here were taken after the sun had dipped below the horizon.
Personally, Bare Island is one of my favourite places to shoot and also one of the few places to get a clear shot of wide open spaces when looking west within the city limits of Sydney. If you’re keen to get a few coastal landscapes then it’s a must-visit when you’re in Sydney.