My Hidden Hunter – Hunter Valley Magazine Special

Sam Yeldham is a professional photographer/videographer from Sydney who spent back to back weekends in the Hunter Valley recently, one to shoot a wedding and the other to attend an Instagram meet including the Annual Hunter Valley Balloon Fiesta. You can see more of his work on Facebook and Instagram.

When visiting the Hunter Valley, what did you discover you didn’t know before? 

I don’t think I had been to the Hunter Valley since I was a boy, so pretty much everything I saw over the two weekends I spent there felt like a new discovery. I was not at all aware that the Hunter Valley was a popular spot for hot-air ballooning in New South Wales, so seeing them rise into the air during a sunrise photo shoot was pretty special.

Any activities you would recommend to a friend?

I’d have to say hot-air ballooning! It is fun, you get to see the entire Hunter Valley from an incredible vantage point and it gets the adrenalin pumping just enough to justify an early brunch glass of wine to settle the nerves.

What was your most memorable wine experience?

I was fortunate enough to take a tour of the Scarborough on Hermitage tasting room. There I was given a rundown of the entire Scarborough wine philosophy, their processes and a generous smorgasbord of tastings. Safe to say, I walked out a little bit wobbly and with very satisfied tastebuds.

Must-visit restaurant?

Restaurant Botanica. Outstanding food and the staff were both friendly and very willing to recommend carefully chosen matching wines for every course, which, for a wine novice like me, was a great thing. Also they have a resident pig to pat, so that is a massive tick in my book – I am child at heart.

Most amazing photo location in Wine Country?

I think I need to explore more before I can give a definitive answer, but I was fortunate to be in the Hunter Valley for the annual Hot Air Balloon Fiesta that took place at Peterson House. It was a sublime location, with a large lake to shoot the reflections of the balloons taking off at sunrise, so I would recommend checking that out. Also Scarborough Wine Co tasting room on Gillards Road has an incredible looking vineyard with a mountain ridge in the background, which is stunning at sunset, so I would highly recommend that.

Favourite photo subjects?

I love shooting people, either single figures or couples surrounded by grand landscapes with an overwhelming natural light source, like at sunset or sunrise. I find that treating the landscape as the feature, and the human subjects as a smaller element in the frame paints a picture of how we are constantly being dwarfed by nature’s story, as ours roll on. I have found this works brilliantly when it comes to Wedding pictures, its’ something different and always looks grand. That and any kind of adorable animal.

What inspired you to take the shot above and how long did it take you to shoot it?

I was shooting the annual Hot Air Balloon Fiesta with a group of very talented Australian Instagrammers and one of them Grace Picot (@shotbygrace) volunteered to pose for myself and another photographer Rob Mulallay (@robmulallay). Rob was directing the impromptu shoot and I was shadowing from a distance, trying to capture the stunning Peterson House landscape in addition to Grace. We were moving between locations when Grace had to lift her knees to wade through the thick bush, so I ran ahead to capture her movements. We probably were shooting Grace for about thirty minutes, and it was an incredible shoot, everything just fell into place, apart from the Hot Air Balloons, they definitely did not fall!

Any ideas and inspiration for visiting Instagrammers?

It surprised me how beautiful the vineyards looked at night. It took some time but I got some very nice astro selfies that look fantastic because of the unusual shapes provided by the vines and leaves.

If you could invite anyone to the Hunter Valley for a weekend, who would it be and why?

My partner Sibella. She assisted me on a wedding shoot the first weekend I was there and was unable to come back the next weekend. I felt like she didn’t get to enjoy everything the Hunter Valley has to offer, both in wine tasting and pure relaxation, I definitely owe her a trip.