Tips for Photographing the Murray River

Without doubt photographing along the Murray River is a truly spectacular opportunity to sharpen your skills and capture some beautiful landscapes and lifelong memories.

Here’s some tips that will help you get the best from your Murray River houseboat holiday experience and take home some wonderful memories to share with family and friends.

Remember good photos are about how you use light. The best light for creating warm colours and emotional shots are first thing in the morning and late afternoon and dusk.

Broad Horizons

The Murray River is a big landscape and capturing its mood can be challenging. Either use a wide angle lens or put on the telephoto and crop in on that special shot. Removing the unnecessary elements in your frame ensures a well balanced photo is produced.

Working with natural light

Our number 1 tip is to take a tripod…but don’t use it on the boat if you want a sharp long exposure. Although the boat seems still the river’s current is pushing and moving it. During a long exposure, particularly at the stern (rear) the boat moves more.

Early morning

Before the sun has broken the horizon just before the wind begins to get active you’ll find some magical reflections. There are 2 shots that work best. Silhouettes of trees and shooting towards the sun (while down). Rich blues, yellows and reds await the early riser.

If there is cloud you’ll also get those spectacular reflections. If you have a long telephoto look at the ripples in the water and you’ll see some wonderful abstract photos as well. Bracket your photos as exposures can be tricky.

As the sun rises the colours of the sky and landscapes change. This is a tricky time to shoot with high contrast your enemy. Be selective with your shot, frame well and bracket.

When near a forest look at the river gums and the warm first morning light highlights their trunks or backlight grasses with silhouetted trees are amazing. These shots are not available during the day.

During the day

The strong sunshine increases the contrast and makes landscapes harsh and the river although spectacular less inviting to photograph. Look along cliffs for small details or patterns in water reeds, birds etc. Ensure there’s good contrast and balance on lit subjects so there’s not too much shadow.

If you have a canoe or kayak ensure your camera is well protected and drift near the banks slowly absorbing the river environment but also be prepared for that special treat to photograph.


Sunset is also a tricky time on the river as generally the wind is up and the colour temperature is hazy. Look for cliffs or reflections of trees in the water. Reds and oranges seem extra saturated when you shoot. Silhouettes are challenging at dusk as the shadows seem harsher. Shooting through foliage can be tricky so although the sunset and river reflections look amazing with the eye, just stop and ensure you crop, compose and balance as to not have lots of black.

What are the skies doing?

Clouds on a sunny day make beautiful subjects. Cirrus and Cumulus clouds make great stories showing peace, fun and relaxation.
If you have an overcast day consider black and white settings for a while and increase your exposure by two thirds a stop so they don’t look so dark if you have the capacity for manual camera management.

Keep an eye out for other subjects such as flowers, people, boats and landmarks that tell a story of your experience and the river environment. When photographing your family and friends during the day use a bit of fill in flash and have their back to the sun.

Birds and wildlife

The most important aspect of photographing birds and wildlife is to get close…and be patient. Bird photography is very challenging and many photographers spend hours, days and sometimes weeks waiting for the perfect shot. You need a long lens and stable hand or tripod. To have a good photo it needs to be interesting and well lit. Avoid flash if possible and use that natural light.

Photographing the Murray River is truly rewarding however it is also challenging. Consider the water’s reflections, shadows and other ways of representing the river’s landscape through abstract shots. With some consideration and thought you’ll walk away with a memory card full of great shots that’ll impress your family and friends and capture the best of our great river.

Happy photographing, Shane Strudwick

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