Group Rocky Creek

CASE STUDY: Photo Workshop

Learn how to guide others Outside their Comfort Zone

We just spent an intense Easter weekend leading a group through canyons in the Blue Mountains. We went in search of often illusive glow worms and the adrenaline high of what one friend calls “soggy bouldering”. Experts call it “canyoning”, but whatever you call it, it will take you outside your comfort zone.

The water can be freezing (5mm wetsuits are standard issue), there are snakes, spiders, waterfalls, slippery rocks, and steep ascents at the end of it all.

But the thrill of challenging yourself and exploring places that few others dare to tread and bringing back photographic trophies makes it worth it.

We were led by award-winning photographer Josselin Cornou and guided by Alex from Blue Mountain Adventure Company. Equipment provided by NiSi Australia and Gitzo Tripods from Georges Camera to help us capture the scenes.

I know I learned a lot from Josselin about how to take the right types of photos on the ground to enable the best kind of editing after the fact. I’ll never look at a sunrise or night shot the same way again!

Follow your guide and be prepared to turn your lights off and stand in the dark feeling like you’ve been transported to a fairy land.

FRI Night – Glow Worms:

Arrive by 2PM to Blackheath, descend into the canyon with your canyoning gear starting at 4:30. As the sunlight fades away you find the canyon closing in and the chill of the water cooling you down after the initial descent.

Geared up an ready to explore the caves.

Soon the glow worms start popping up all around you. They move around the canyons, so you never know exactly where they will be. Follow your guide and be prepared to turn your lights off and stand in the dark feeling like you’ve been transported to a fairy land.

You may see spiders the size of your palm and eels snaking past in the water. Watch where you put your hands as you reach for holds – there are bull ants ready to take a bite. If you’re feeling a bit cold, just remember you have a 200m+ ascent on the way back that will warm you right up.

By the time you arrive back at the hotel, you’ll be ready to crash. But if you still have the energy you can join the party at the pub. Just be sure you’re ready for an early rise.

SAT – Rocky Creek (optional Sheep Dip):

Be sure to call in a favour with BMAC to get the Altitude cafe to open early for you – their brekkie is amazing! Then be ready to depart at 8AM – water and gear packed into your bulging bag.

If you’re an adventure group, be sure to add on the Sheep Dip canyon with lots of jumps to get you energised after the jarring dirt road ride to the trail head. If you’re focused on photography, skip that part and spend more time deep in Rocky Creek. Remember to double dry bag your cameras!

Listen to your guide when he tells you not to switch into dry footwear on the ascent – I swapped out my water shoes for hiking boots and slipped right back into a pool after changing into my dry gear; nearly went over the 4m waterfall!

On my ascent up one of the water falls I went to grab the rope and did a double take – is that a snake??


Along the way I watched a water spider the size of my palm swim across the pool I was meant to cross. I made sure to splash a lot from then on to ensure any other 8 legged friends were encouraged to swim the other way. On my ascent up one of the water falls I went to grab the rope and did a double take – is that a snake?? It was a small striped snake being tossed about at the base of the waterfall – was it a tiger snake, a banded sea snake? There was much argument after the fact, but either way, I made sure to put my feet far from where it was flailing about.

Most of us fell asleep on the ride back, despite the off-road bumps along the logging roads. We got back around 6PM, a bit late, but happy with our photographs and no permanent injuries. None of us staying awake past 9PM that night!

SUN – Sunrise @ Hanging Rock

Only a 5 min drive from Blackheath, the trailhead for Hanging Rock starts you on a 6km easy walk along a fire track. Some blogs tell you it is only 3km, but the gate must have moved because we couldn’t get that close in the car. So we had to change plans to view the sunset from Govett’s Leap. Lesson learned: allocate enough walking time for the full 6km before the sunrise.

Blue mountains – looking blue in the morning mist with the sunrise coming on.

You’ll be back with enough time for a nap before brekkie. If you’re doing photography, you’ll spend the morning touching up the shots you’ve taken and nursing any wounds you’ve acquired.

Otherwise you might want to add on an extra hike to Wentworth Falls or Flat rock on the way back to Sydney.

DIY – Do It Yourself

Inspired? You can lead your own version if you have the photography skills, or you can just lead an adventurous group on a canyoning trip. If you are keen to join the next Photo workshop from Josselin Cornou, be sure to follow him on instagram @untitledshot.

You can lead your own photography workshop to these incredible canyons and host the payment, task management and schedule details on YouLi.

If you don’t know you’re way around the canyons, be sure to get your guide from Blue Mountain Adventure Company. I was impressed by the filters from NiSi Australia and Gitzo Tripods from Georges Camera that allowed us to capture our adventures despite the challenging lighting conditions.