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Water (June 16–21, 2005)

Clemens Pfeiffer, MBA

The "Blue Danube"

Norman Peters

Effects of Drought - Dry Storage Dam

Wyangala Waters, 35 km from Cowra, New South Wales, Australia

16 June 2005 - 05.40 UTC (14.20 local time)

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© 2005 Norman Peters, All Rights Reserved.



Eastern Australia is in the worst and longest drought experienced since European colonisation began 217 years ago, so far lasting 3 years. Ninety-six percent of the state of New South Wales was officially declared in drought or considered marginal in June 2005. NSW has an area of 809,444 square kilometres, which is close to 20% bigger in area than the state of Texas.

Only days before this panorama was taken, there was some significant rainfall, however the storage of the dam pictured is still down to only 7% of its full capacity. This is a frightening development when you consider that its catchment area – 8,290 square kilometres – is only slightly smaller than Puerto Rico.

If you zoom in, you will see two separate dam walls. Work on the first dam (the right hand low wall) commenced in 1928, and its 60-metre high wall was completed in 1935. This wall is normally completely submerged when the lake is full, and can not be seen. A second 82-metre high dam wall (the left-hand wall with gates and spillways that is behind and wraps around the old wall, on the right when the panorama opens) was proposed after the original dam was unable to withstand the flood of 1952. Work commenced in 1961 and was completed in 1971.

When full, Wyangala Dam has two and a half times the surface area of Sydney Harbour, and the full capacity of the dam is 1,218,000 megalitres. To provide some context to the panorama, the length of the modern earth-rock fill dam wall is 1,510 metres, and at its highest point the structure is as tall as a 25-storey building. This means that the water is now about 25 metres (about 80 feet) lower than the lowest point of the spillway structure. To give some scale to the image, zoom in on the opening screen and look for a 6 metre long boat on the far bank.

The panorama was taken from a dry land highpoint that has emerged from the dry bed of the lake that is normally completely submerged under at least 15 metres of water when the dam is full. This point has been dry long enough to allow wind-blown weeds to take root and grow to over 1 metre in height – you can see these near the roof of my 4WD.

With such low water storage, farmers with general-security irrigation licenses have had no water for more than two years. Now even high-security irrigation license holders - who usually get 100 per cent of their water allocation - will only get 15 per cent. Times are tough in this global-warming affected area of the driest inhabited continent on earth.

Wyangala Dam is situated 35 kilometres east by road of the township of Cowra.


Australia - New Zealand / Australia

Lat: 33° 58' 12" S
Long: 148° 57' 54" E

Elevation: 380 metres

→ maps.google.com [EXT]

Precision is: High. Pinpoints the exact spot.


Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC5 (Leica Vario-Summicron lens), 1/500 @ f8.
Manual focus & exposure mode, hand-held without tripod.
26 images stitched with PTGUI & PanoTools.
I wanted to show that a 4 megapixel point-and-shoot camera using JPEG images throughout the image and stitching process can produce quality panoramic images.

French Translation

L'Australie orientale passe par la plus longue et la plus grave période de sécheresse qui ait été enregistrée depuis sa première colonisation il y a 217 ans. La sécheresse dure depuis 3 ans déjà. En juin 2005, il a été officiellement déclaré que 96% de la superficie de la Nouvelle Galles du Sud est soumise à la sécheresse ou est considérée marginale. La superficie de la Nouvelle Galles du Sud est de 809.444 kilomètres carrés, c'est-à-dire supérieure de presque 20% à celle du Texas.

Bien qu'il y ait eu des averses seulement quelques jours avant que ce panorama n'ait été photographié, l'eau contenue dans le réservoir ne représente que 7% de sa capacité maximum. C'est un développement effrayant lorsqu'on considère que la superficie de la zone de captation – 8.290 kilomètres carrés - n'est que légèrement inférieure à celle du Puerto Rico.

Si on fait un zoom avant, on aperçoit deux parois distinctes. Les travaux de construction du premier barrage (la paroi peu élevée à droite) ont commencé en 1928, et la paroi, d'une hauteur de 60 mètres, a été achevée en 1935. Cette paroi est normalement complètement submergée et donc invisible lorsque le réservoir atteint son niveau maximum. Une deuxième paroi haute de 82 mètres (la paroi de gauche munie de vannes et de déversoirs qui est derrière l'ancienne paroi et qui s'enroule autour de celle-ci, à droite lorsque le panorama s'ouvre) a été proposée après que le barrage initial s'est révélé incapable de résister à l'inondation en 1952. Les travaux, commencés en 1961, ont été achevés en 1971.

Lorsqu'il est rempli, le réservoir de Wyangala a une superficie de deux fois et demie celle du port de Sydney et sa capacité maximum est de 1.218.000 mégalitres. Pour mettre le panorama dans son contexte, la paroi du barrage, construite de pierres et de terre, est 1.510 mètres de long, et à sa crête l'ouvrage est aussi haut qu'un bâtiment de 25 étages. Ceci signifie que l'eau est aujourd'hui à environ 25 mètres (environ 80 pieds) au-dessous du point inférieur des déversoirs. On peut apprécier l'échelle de l'image en faisant un zoom avant et en cherchant le bateau de 6 mètres qui se trouve sur la rive opposée.

Le panorama a été photographié à partir d'un point élevé de terre sec, surgi du fond sec du lac mais normalement complètement submergé sous au moins 15 mètres d'eau lorsque le réservoir est rempli. Ce point est sec depuis assez longtemps pour permettre à des mauvaises herbes portés par le vent de s'enraciner et d'atteindre une hauteur de plus d'un mètre - on peut en voir près de mon véhicule 4x4.

Dès lors que le réservoir contient si peu d'eau, les fermiers détenteurs de permis généraux d'irrigation ne reçoivent plus d'eau depuis plus de deux ans. Dorénavant, même ceux qui détiennent des permis prioritaires d'irrigation, et qui obtiennent d'habitude 100% de leur allocation en eau, ne recevront que 15%. Les temps sont bien difficiles dans cette région touchée par le réchauffage global à l'intérieur continent peuplé le plus sec du monde.

Le barrage de Wyangala est situé à 35 kilomètres à l'est de la ville de Cowra.

French translation © 2005 Dr Linda A Pontré

Behind the scenes : how this panorama was made

I originally intended to photograph a dry domestic water supply reservoir supplying the city of Goulburn, NSW, for the solstice water event, however the opportunity to photograph Wyangala from the lake side of the dam wall was just too good to pass up.

I was of course totally unprepared for capturing the panorama, as I had planned to do the Goulburn shoot some days later, and I did not have a tripod nor spirit level bubble with me, so I had to rely on guessing the horizontal alignment, and I rotated the camera without any support to take the 26 images that were required, so it is very much a best-guess effort. I had limited memory available so I had to take just one sequence, with no exposure bracketing possible either.

If you look behind my 4WD, you can see a group of people and two Land Cruisers – I had originally started to take the panorama from that exact location, but they turned up as I was in the middle of taking the series images and their presence would have spoiled the panorama, so we decided to move and re-shoot.

Twenty-six vertically oriented 4 megapixel images taken with a Lumix LC5 takes a bit of time to compose and capture at full resolution, and so the beginning and end of the series are marked by a change in the lighting affecting the clouds between these frames. I guess that this inevitable occurrence is acceptable for such a large series of images. I look jealously at the wonderful cubic images people are producing using a fisheye from just 8 frames...

The images were stitched with PTGUI 4.1, using JPEGs all the way through from capture to the panorama, so I could not use the Enblend plug-in to smooth the lighting transitions. I had problems creating a TIFF from sheer size of the source images, causing the TIFF stitch to repeatedly fail.

I used Photoshop after the stitch to fix a couple of minor errors that I had missed when placing control points, and I sharpened the images using an unsharp mask. The exposure and colour balance is exactly as captured.

It is a real challenge creating a QTVR object using a Windows platform, as there are not many reliable, affordable tools available. I hope to have a better toolbox to work with for this aspect for the next WWP event.

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