Risks must be taken?
On the 29th October 2017 I went to the Mornington Peninsula on a photography day trip, it was a beautiful spring day which was not great for photography. The tides were low and I was able to walk on reefs I had never been on.
Some locals we were shooting with talked about how treacherous the reefs were to the inexperienced and a number of photographers, fisherman and tourists had drowned swept off the reefs or falling through pools they could not see in tides.
The next day, at the very location we were shooting at, a veteran fisherman drowned, appearing to have been swept off the rocks and reefs.
A very scary reality. As a group we went to Cape Schanck and Pulpit Rock. The long walk down the boardwalk where the winds howl, and you can see surfers in the distance enjoying the swell and tides.
Entering the cove and climbing over the rocks we reach the point where I stand and watch the waves crash over the reef. For photography this is great.
I watched the currents, swell and waves for a good 10 minutes, looking left and right and counting the waves. Im looking for the direction of the king wave or 7th wave, the deadly wave.
Feeling safer, I pick my spot. I shoot there in that spot for 15 minutes with the water lapping at my feet. In the next 30 seconds my experience could well be so very different. I spotted a set of waves to my right, this wave looks bigger than all those before. Watching it, I made the mistake of only watching to the right, out of the corner of my eye I see the reef in front disappear… I knew was was coming.
I grabbed hold on my camera and tripod and turned. I was wearing reef boots with spikes and waterproof clothing, as I turned I stepped forward to centre my body weight and twisted my foot into the reef below, anchoring my feet in. As the wave hit, I propped my tripod forward to help with balance, protecting the camera against my chest. I was suddenly waist deep in water, and lucky… It could have been so much worse.
The conditions on this coast change so rapidly. We were supposed to have another 2 hours of favourable tides and swell but the weather changed also. It was time to pack up and leave.
As we were leaving we passed a group of tourists that had been taking selfies on the rocks in the cove. They were heading to the ledge we were shooting on. I noticed the pants, and simple runners and dunlop volleys they were wearing. Not really the right gear for the conditions that were around the corner.
As we passed them, I said “The conditions are getting a bit rough out there, be careful guys”… we were met with sarcasm and cockiness “she’ll be right, were just after some shots”.
The 3rd January 2018 a tourist drowned at Rye, he was last seen taking photos with his phone
Life Saving Victoria Drowning Report 2016-17 which shows a “99 per cent likelihood of one or more drownings occurring on the Mornington Peninsula in any given year”.
29 people have drowned in Victoria from 1 July 2017 to 20 January 2018 this year. This is seven more than the five-year average (2012-17). Of the drownings, 15 were at the beach, 11 inland and three other.
Many of which can’t identify rip currents and were unaware to tides and swell conditions.