Under observation: a medical student’s photo diary

Written by Hillary Dinning

Hillary Dinning is a third-year medical student currently on a rural placement on the beautiful NSW South Coast  - and she's absolutely loving it! Here she shares some of her favourite photos.


Most of the photos in this blog are places that I visit or drive past everyday during my medical placement or from my time on campus in Canberra. I carry my camera and three lenses in my handbag everywhere I go, just in case there's a photo op. I’m always waiting for the golden hour or for the fog to settle in the right place, for that stunning sunset or the perfect surf conditions, for those autumn colours or the most spectacular thunderstorm. Sometimes I get lucky but mostly I’m just patient and persistent.

  • Mossy Point, New South Wales

    When I first arrived on the South Coast this year, the swell was so powerful and the surf conditions so dangerous that they closed most of the beaches. Around that time I found a small secluded cove, just off my usual running track. The waves were breaking over the rocks, sending spray metres into the air. A long exposure just after sunset allowed me to capture this scene - my favourite of the year so far.

  • Moruya, NSW

    Cooler conditions in May means the start of hundreds of hazard reduction burns throughout the Eurobodalla/South Coast region. For days the skies were filled with wood smoke and there was a constant haze on the horizon which made for some spectacular sunsets. This photo is taken looking back towards the Deua National Park, on the edge of the Great Dividing Range. The smoke obscuring the mountains and the particles in the air turning the sky orange convinced me to stop on my way home.

  • Heritage listed boat sheds on Forster's Bay, Narooma, NSW

    The nature of our placements here often means long drives to different GP clinics and hospitals. On this day I finished two hours before my colleague and headed off to explore the new surrounds. As I drove up to these colourful boat sheds, the sun shining through the smoke on the horizon produced the perfect golden light and I couldn’t resist stopping for a photo.

  • Narooma, NSW

    Narooma is known for its fur seals, fishing, oyster festivals and stunning tidal waterways. The boating channel is demarcated by a stone breakwater. As the tide comes in, water flows from the channel over the stones and back into the tidal flats of the Wagonga Inlet. The moving water and the colourful sky seemed ready-made for this long exposure.

  • Moruya, NSW

    Sometimes I just get lucky and end up in the right place at the right time. This is the view from the car park at the Moruya Hospital. The fog was lifting as the sun just started to rise, and I had about two minutes to capture the light rays before running into theatre.

  • National Botanic Gardens, Canberra, ACT

    I use this photo as evidence that not all perfect photo conditions are dependent on nature. In the middle of one warm summer’s day, I walked into the National Botanic Gardens in Canberra and found a single patch of fog. It took me embarrassingly long to realise it was from the fogger sprinklers they use to humidify the rainforest area. The Garden’s website states the foggers have a “pleasing aesthetic effect” and I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • Canberra, ACT

    I think everyone agrees that Canberra is most stunning in autumn. The weather is usually mild and sunny during the day, and the trees all slowly turn their stunning autumnal shades. The Brindabella Range in the background, the autumn leaves on the shores and the yacht on Lake Burley Griffin in the foreground were a perfect relief from study on this afternoon.

  • Jindabyne, NSW

    Two seasons combined beautifully for me on this cold morning. The fallen leaves remaining after the end of autumn were frosted overnight by the winter chill. I struggled to take the photo through my gloves but it was a perfect sparkly winter wonderland sort of morning.

  • Canberra, ACT

    Canberra gets some amazing lightning storms in late summer and I was fully prepared for this one. Sitting on a friend’s balcony with a tripod and hundreds of three-second exposures led to a capture of this stunning double strike. I probably could have headed out into the rain with all the other brave (read: real) photographers that night and found a better frame for the photo, but I was comfortable and dry on the balcony and the view was unbeatable.

  • South Broulee Beach, Broulee, NSW

    On one of the first nights I spent on the South Coast this year, the sunset shaped up perfectly and I headed out to find the best vantage point. There was one lone surfer out on the isolated break and the sea haze made for a magical view. Safe to say that next time I’ll be taking my surfboard instead of my camera.

  • Public Jetty, Mossy Point, NSW

    I didn’t need any fancy tricks, long exposure or even a tripod for this photo. This public jetty overlooking the mouth of the Tomaga River is such a beautiful spot that this image has become a local cliché, but it’s worth it nonetheless. The water was so still and the sky so perfectly coloured that I walked onto the jetty, took a single shot and went back to enjoying my walk in the amazing light.

  • Moruya River, Moruya, NSW. Taken from the Princess Highway bridge shortly after sunrise.

    I’ll admit, when I was taking this photo I had no idea how much I’d end up loving it. Frustratingly, no matter how hard I try, I’ve never been able to recreate it from a closer vantage point with a clearer lens. Either the fog obscures the boats completely, or the sun is in the wrong spot. I made myself late for placement to get this photo, but I didn’t regret it.