"On the Fly" for all seasons
Updated: Jan 30
Capturing the essence of Mount Tumbarumba Vineyard across all the seasons and elements...
Tumbarumba is where we currently live. It is located in the cool climate mountain region in the Snowy Valleys of New South Wales. "Tumba", as called by locals, is surrounded by farms, forests and vineyards. Yes, vineyards! Have you ever heard of any of the Tumbarumba wines? If not, you’ve absolutely gotta look for them. But I'll get back to the whole wine region later on. When we moved in a few years ago, one of my first photography assignments was offered to my husband and I by Mount Tumbarumba Vineyard. I met the lovely vigneron couple Elvie and Richard while doing markets and I was delighted to work on this 4 season photography project for them. I was already building up on this type of commission work but I was mainly doing graphic design back then. I discovered from then, this was going to be my new passion. Capturing where the produce grows is amazing as you get to learn where it all comes from, and the processes involved. It also has its challenges: weather forecasts, timing for the best available light and extreme events organised by mother nature... We certainly learned from this after a freaky hailstorm and bushfires. The project has taken more than 4 seasons to achieve, but we made it and here's the story!
Spring morning light in the vineyard • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2018
Mount Tumbarumba Vineyard is located on the land that has been in the Cottam family for 3 generations and is one of the oldest and smallest vineyards of the Tumbarumba region. It is the closest vineyard from our place at the edge of town. This was convenient for early morning or last minute shoots as we live an approximate 5 minute drive away. As Richard and Elvie were living in Canberra (now moved to Tumba), we were allowed access to the vineyard any time that was suitable, so most of the time we were on our own with the vines and the birds. These photos were taken in spring 2018 when the vines were starting to shoot. Spring morning light is stunning in a vineyard when the sun reflects on the cables. It was nice that Richard was doing some work on that day, so we got a few shots of him working. Spring is the time to guide these pretty green shoots so they produce good fruit.
Before and after the hail storm • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2019
SUMMER OF ICE
Summer in Australia is almost like it was two seasons in one. The weather up in the mountains is quite normal and enjoyable for most of December, but then comes the heat during holidays. Things can turn quite extreme when January and February comes. The first summer shoot at the vineyard started well, we captured the flowering and the start of fruiting. The vines were so green and lush. One afternoon, in February 2019, I was at home and a big hailstorm came all of a sudden, shredding our garden and all my promising veggie crops with huge balls of ice. I thought about Richard and Elvie's vineyard and knowing they were not in Tumba, I sent them a message to notify them about the storm... They later went to evaluate the damage done and it was clear they would not be harvesting. Elvie sent us to capture and document the unharvested vineyard while the grapes were in fruit. Cockatoos were having a feast while expressing their joy loudly. I would have much preferred to experience this "vendange" season but sadly, it had to wait to the next year...
Ending the season on a colourful note • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2019
AUTUMN COLOURS CHEER UP
Autumn is the most beautiful and comfortable time of year up in Tumbarumba. The season always begins with Tumbafest, a festival celebrating local wines, but also at the same time, the new vintage harvest is on. It was a sad year for Mount Tumbarumba Vineyard not to be harvesting the grapes but they were keeping a good spirit and the photography project kept continuing on. We captured their beautiful stall during the festival and also photographed a family reunion in the vineyard. The colour of autumn can only bring a "cheer up" and hope for a better year. Good thing we had no idea what was coming up in 2020...
Happy winters in the vineyard • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2018-19
WINTER GOOD DAYS
Winter in Tumbarumba is pretty chill for the vignerons. There is still work to do like pruning the vines, planting new rows, planning the next year, updating the new labels... But spending time with family by the fire with a glass of wine is also on the list. The first winter of 2018 was when the shoot project started. I loved the bare vines and their beautiful curves. This is when I came to the vineyard the first time and discovered the beautiful little vineyard surrounded with cows, magpies, gum trees and, of course, Mount Tumbarumba itself. We captured the pruners cutting the vines but we did not get the snow as I was on holiday in Canada when the snow fell in Tumbarumba on winter 2018. The following winter it was family portrait time with their 3 daughters Caitlin, Sigrid and Briony and that was a really fun shoot!
A treat before the threat • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2019
SUMMER GONE IN SMOKE
The following early summer, we were invited to photograph a little cocktail the family and friends were having during the holidays. Was it before or after Xmas, I'm not sure, my memories of that time are as hazy as the air was. It was hot and dry. We were getting the haze of smoke from the bushfires happening further away in the state. A little storm came to freshen up the air one late afternoon. The rain was good. But a lighting strike had lit up a fire somewhere on Dunn's Road near Holbrook which was going to become a monster flaming up the pine plantations and national parks in many directions across the region. On the morning of 2020 New Year's eve, we evacuated our home. The fire passed on the hills just in front of our house, devastated many parts of Tumbarumba and some vineyards. This was my first bushfire, and first disaster-trauma experience, something we are all still sensitive to talk about. Mount Tumbarumba Vineyard was luckily spared. While the town was without power and water, some of the family members stayed to protect the vineyard and look after things in town while there was a second threat coming up. I felt so grateful that Richard came to check on our place as well while we were away and offered him to pick as many veggies he could find in the backyard for supply. After the fires, it was the beginning of recovery. There was damage at all levels. The smoke taint in all of the grapes meant that no wine was able to be made in 2020. The test results came around March, and then Covid...
A successful harvest of vintage 2021 • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2021
THE SPECIAL HARVEST
Summer 2021 was mild and wet, which was a relief after the "black summer". Vignerons of Tumbarumba enjoyed a successful harvest, including Mount Tumbarumba Vineyard after a tough couple years. I was so happy for them, and also grateful to complete the project with grapes and the vineyards in harvesting action. International borders were still closed and we were not (and still today) out of the woods yet with the Covid pandemic (vaccination and Delta spread was about to slowly begin). Richard and Elvie sold their home in Canberra and moved to Tumbarumba just in time before the new lockdown. They are re-stocking their wine and have exciting projects like building a cellar door and boutique accomodation! I'm a big fan of all their "On the fly" wines, the Pinot Gris (featured in this Pumpkin & Saffron Risotto), the Pinot Noir, the Rosé, the Chardonnay are all sublime. I look forward to taste the new varieties (including a sparkling!) and work with them again. This project has brought us to work on a new gig this year with the whole Tumbarumba Vigneron Association on a photography library project! Thank you so much Mount Tumbarumba Vineyard, I wish you a bright future. Follow them on Instagram and Facebook, and visit their website for more info about the wines, the vineyard and their story.
"On the fly" wine bottles • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2021