My experience photographing the stunning and remote Kumpupintil Lake

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Photographing remote locations has been my passion for the last six years or so, and when I started researching Kumpupintil Lake/Lake Disappointment three years ago, I knew it was one of the next places I had to get to. 

The 160km long salt lake is located in one of the most remote areas of the Pilbara, and as well as being geographically far away from everything, there’s also very few images of it online, which made it all the more interesting.
To get an idea of what was out there I used Google Earth to scope it. I could see that the east side of the lake showed a lot of potential, with sweeping ranges, rivers and even waterfalls, but apart from that it was hard to tell. I went ahead and pinpointed all the promising locations on a map and started making enquiries about flying out there.

With the nearest base to leave from being Newman, 300km west of Lake Disappointment, I soon discovered that while I could get out to the lake, there would be no fuel for a helicopter's return trip. It was looking like I'd have to do a fixed wing photoshoot, something I dont like and try to avoid at all costs.
While talking to the local fixed wing pilot he told me that it was possible to use fuel at a remote Aboriginal camp further North, but my request was declined when I reached out to the community. At this point, I'd basically given up on the project.

Then at the start of 2021, I mentioned to a cattle musterer pilot friend of mine about my plans and he told me he was doing some work out that way, had fuel, and even better, was more than happy to take me with him. The best part was because we would be using a helicopter, we could land there and camp the night which would let me capture sunset and sunrise aerials as well.
Over the two days of the shoot we concentrated on an area of 60 x 60km with the most time being spent exploring the east side, which as I suspected, proved to be the most diverse and where the majority of my images here came from.

Our camp for the night at the Lake.
Parked up for our night at the Lake.
The only real problem we encountered was camping in the open, with wild camels circling us all night!
My 1DX setup with twin KS-8 Kenyon gyros.
My 1DX setup with twin KS-8 Kenyon gyros.
The images here were mostly shot with a Canon 1DXII & 24-70mm 2.8II lens which is attached to two KS-8 Kenyon gyros. The gyros give me the option of shooting up to and even after sunrise or sunset without using high ISO.
For sunrise/sunset shots, I shoot mostly between 200-400 ISO and maybe even up to 800. My images are always at f2.8 and my shutter speed varies between 200 - 1000, although I can still get sharp images down to 1/30 if in a hover. The gyros are detached for daytime use, and my daytime images are always captured at 100 ISO, f4.
And finally, if reading this has got you thinking you might like to visit the lake, sadly, you really can’t! Serious 4WD’s could do the Canning Stock Route, but that doesn’t access the east side of the lake which is off limits anyway as it’s an Aboriginal area.

If you're really keen, you could do aerials in a fixed wing aircraft, but you would be limited to a short time in the air - as there's no airstrip nearby.
About the author: Colin Leonhardt runs Birdseye View Photography, a helicopter based aerial photography service located in Perth, Western Australia specialising in stunning photography of Perth and WA. See more of his images at

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