In December I was in the Docklands and I took some photos of the massive ferris wheel that was being fixed after a problem a few years back. It has taken a while, but the Melbourne Star is now running again. I am so glad it is, and I really hope it will help the Docklands. I decided that I had to go up in it and see what it was like, so on Tuesday evening I went.
The first time I saw it, which was over a year ago and the cabins weren’t on it and bits were missing, I didn’t think it was very big. I wondered if you would be able to see much of it. As time went on and I could see it coming together as I drove over the Bolte Bridge, I started to see how big it actually was. On the TV ads they say it is 40 stories high, not bad.
It was a hot night that I picked, and the first of our over 41ºC days. I wanted to go up and photograph the sunset. I picked my time, but one of the things that I did get totally wrong was the direction the Observation Wheel goes in. I thought as you were going up you would see the city first, then come down watching the sun setting in the west. So it goes in the opposite direction. If you are coming from Harbour Town in the Docklands then it goes clockwise. A small thing, but if you want to photograph the sunsetting, then you need to know this.
As you enter the bottom part of the Star there are various rooms and lots of information on Melbourne. I thought this was brilliant, not only for tourists but also for people who live in Melbourne. They want to give people who go to the Star a great Melbourne experience. That made me feel good because that is something I try to do with this blog, give that experience to you, what Melbourne is for me.
The bit I found strange was how you get into the cabins. They don’t stop, you have to get on and get off with the Wheel still moving. It doesn’t move quickly, so it isn’t hard, but it was a little strange. The cabins are completely enclosed and air conditioned, so on the very hot day and evening, they were wonderful to be in. They have a lot of room in them too, quite spacious. There is a seat in the middle, so you don’t have to stand for the whole 30 minutes as you go around.
If I had one criticism it would be the audio that plays while you are going around, it is quite loud and you can’t talk while it is on. I don’t know if there is a button you can press to turn it off, but if there is one, I would turn it off. I am sure many people would like the audio, and enjoy it, but I don’t like it when you don’t have a choice. I like to choose when I am being given information. Really, very small thing though.
You can see forever, well almost, and my initial concern about it not being big enough, well, it was silly really, you can see so much. This view is overlooking Port Melbourne, an area I would love to investigate with my camera one day.
It would have been easy to just go there and photograph the views, but I am intrigued by the structure of the Wheel as well and wanted to photograph it as well. It is really amazing.
Most know that it is based on the London Eye, and that the same designer for that also designed this one. Part of the reason for the difference in the design was because they wanted to put neon lights on it, and at night you can see it from a long way while it is open, so the bicycle spoke design of the London Eye wouldn’t work, so they made ours more like a star, and I think it is the only one in the world like it.
The Melbourne Star website has lots of information on it about the Observation Wheel, but I am more concerned about taking photos from it. The views are great, but how you get the photos can be a problem. You are behind glass, which means reflections in the glass. When you see the gallery of images I have you will see that I had some problems with reflections for a couple of images. I first had on my 14-24mm lens, but soon realised that I couldn’t get close enough to the glass with it. The lens hood is perfectly round, so it doesn’t block out the reflections. I changed to the 24-70mm and had much better luck.
To take photos without the reflections you need to put the lens as flat as you can against the glass. However, watch out for dirty parts on the glass. They don’t clean the glass on the outside continuously, so there will be marks on it from rain and what not. Pick places that are the most clean and clear. If you stand back and take photos, you will get reflections.
They won’t allow you to take tripods, however, it would be pointless anyway because a tripod wouldn’t let you get that close to the glass anyway and you would get reflections. There are ways of doing it with a tripod, but since they won’t let you take one, there is no point going into it here.
Once the trip is over on the exit, through the shop, you can see the second Wheel. A to scale model of the Melbourne Star made from Lego. It even goes around and the cabins rotate as well.
I really enjoyed my trip on the Melbourne Star and I think it is a fantastic way to see Melbourne. The staff there are very friendly and make you feel very welcome. I like that it isn’t just a ferris wheel, it is so much more, and for tourists, it would be a great way to start a trip to Melbourne. It would help them work out places to go and see. It is a great Melbourne Experience.
One thing I wanted to say was for people who are scared of heights. I’m not afraid of them, but my daughter is. She wasn’t sure about going up. She didn’t stand up next to the glass, and sat and enjoyed the views for most of it, but she didn’t find it scary. The Wheel is so smooth and you hardly notice that you are moving. Occasionally you might feel a small jolt, but it is very slight. I think if you are afraid of heights, you wouldn’t have too much trouble. I am not going to say it would be fine, but I think if you can stand looking out a window on a tall building, then you would be okay.
After we left we walked down to the waters edge, since I missed the sunset on the wheel, though I could see that the sun would set behind the Bolte Bridge, we went to watch and photograph it.
I learned something new about my camera on this night. When I got home and was looking at the photos, I realised how grainy some of them were, especially the sunset ones. I looked at my camera and saw that the ISO was auto. I had no idea how it got onto that, I never use auto ISO, I really don’t think the camera is the best judge of that. It took me a bit to realise how to turn it off, and when I did I could see how easy it was to switch it on and not realise. I will have to be really careful about that in the future.
I had a great time on the Melbourne Star and would recommend people to check it out. You get a very different experience to other places that have observation decks. You should check out their website, Melbourne Star.