Kangaroo Island is situated off the mainland of South Australia, southwest of Adelaide. The island is roughly 1,700 square miles and is home to only around 4,00 humans. Over a third of the island is protected in nature reserves, home to native wildlife like sea lions, koalas, and, of course, Kangaroos and Wallabies. The parts of the island that are accessible by vehicle are often unsealed unpaved roads. It is a great place to go and get away from the things of man. I made my first trip to Kangaroo Island in early 2019 and quickly understood how the island got its name; there were Kangaroos and Wallabies everywhere. Then, there was a major brush fire in late 2019 started by a lightning strike that burned nearly half of the Island. Initial reports were that a large amount of the population of wildlife was decimated by the fires. I knew the island’s foliage had regrown well but wasn’t sure what I would find on this trip.
I am happy to report that most everything has grown back. There are some old-growth trees that will take years or decades to recover, but the island is once again a beautiful place to visit.
As for the wildlife, I did see quite a few Koalas, Kangaroos, Wallabies, and even an Echidna, which tends to be very elusive.
However, I did encounter numerous spots where there were skeletons of animals that didn’t make it through the fires.
So what are the main differences between Kangaroos and Wallabies, and how can you tell?
First, size. As a rule, kangaroos are much taller than wallabies. Kangaroos have more distance between their ankles and knees, which makes their legs seem out of proportion to their bodies. Kangaroos can grow as tall as 8 feet, or 2.4 meters, and weigh as much as 200 pounds, or 90 kilograms.
Wallabies, on the other hand, have more compact legs that are designed for agility in forested areas. Wallabies, tend to weigh less than 45 pounds or 20 kilograms and don’t usually get any taller than 3 feet, or 1 meter.
So, Wallabies are about the size of an average dog or smaller, and Kangaroos are the size of a human or bigger. To me, the Wallabies seem more rodent-like than the Kangaroos. They would scurry from place to place. If a Kangaroo decides it’s time to go, they are out of there quickly.
For probably good reasons, Kangaroos and Wallabies tend to be a bit skittish around humans. Add to that the fact that they tend to be inactive during the day, and you find yourself with an opportunity to view and photograph them during the period right before sunset. On cooler days, you will sometimes see them out earlier in the day.
For these shoots, I shot with a Canon R5 converted to full spectrum and a set of Life Pixel Magnetic filters. There were a few instances where I was able to utilize a 24-105mm L lens, but for the most part, I made use of the RF 100-400mm lens. I carried 4 filters; a Bandpass for natural color, a Hyper Color (470nm), Super Color (590nm), and a Standard IR (720nm). To make my situation easier, I dressed in earth tones so I tended to blend into the surroundings.
The thing to remember is they have keener senses than you do, which means that the second you get within a short distance of them they know you are there, stop what they are doing, and stare at you to see if you are a threat.
Moving slowly, and never in a straight line will help you get closer without scaring them away. Even then, if they perceive you as a threat, your shoot is over very quickly.
For that reason, you want to use a fast shutter speed so that you can freeze movement. Since I use a Full Spectrum camera, I have the ability to shoot color and Infrared by simply swapping out filters, and with the magnetic filters, the process is very quick. I learned early on that if you shoot IR the animals tend to stand out, as opposed to natural color where their natural camouflage makes them blend into the surroundings. I found Super Color (590nm) to work the best for me.
In natural color, this little wallaby was barely noticeable.
I have the luck to be one of those people that animals tend to not be afraid of, so I was able to get quite close to the creatures on many occasions.
This is not something I encourage you to try, but if you do, keep in mind that they are wild animals and that they will defend themselves if they feel it’s necessary.
I had a particular bit of luck one day on my way to Cape Willoughby Lighthouse when the temperatures were cooler and the Roos and Wallabies were out in the middle of the day.
They were in a group and seemed quite social.
As there was a fence between me and them, they perceived me to not be any threat for the most part.
I was able to get close and was able to capture some facial shots.
This one seemed interested and curious as to what I was doing.
In the end, I found the experience to be very exciting, and I do suggest you try it if ever you have the opportunity.
I ended up with so many images from these shoots. If you’d like to see more, just click here.
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