A few weeks ago I was visiting the Cape Clairault region, below Yallingup. It was one of those rare days on the coast, barely a whisper of a breeze. The clouds moved slowly across the sky and the sun shone sporadically through the small gaps. Up on the cliff tops there was the sound of crickets amongst the coastal heath and a wonderful sense of peace. Beautifully formed lines of waves broke upon the shore.
The view up and down the coast was expansive, in front of me was a tumbled down line of old wooden fence posts ending abruptly at the cliff’s edge. They once marked the extent of the property boundaries which have since retreated inland from the ocean, leaving behind this very narrow coastal strip, in parts only several hundred meters wide, as part of the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park.
At the start of my walk I had no real objective, other than to visit a small waterfall, something I have done many times in the past. A school bus parked at the walk’s commencement announced that there was going to be company on the track. I couldn’t help but reminisce about the first times I had walked this area, over 20 years ago, before there were walk tracks and wooden bridges. You could spend hours here and meet no one. This area is now part of the Cape to Cape track, although the route to the waterfall is a slight detour. Not far along I met a party of young primary school kids returning from their walk. How lucky these local kids are, to enjoy a school outing in such a location.
I had a relatively easy walk, along the cliff tops and then down into the sand dunes as I followed the passage of the small brook snaking inland. Reaching the waterfall, I had the place all to myself and I was delighted to see it was flowing, given the dry winter.
On my way back, I picked my way through the dunes towards the ocean, pausing frequently to absorb the view and perfect conditions. When I came to the mouth of the brook I made this image.
Near the Perth metropolitan region there is a transition zone between the coastal sand plain and the higher inland plateau, referred to as the Darling Scarp. Here the land falls several hundred metres creating hills and valleys and there exists just a handful of brooks with small waterfalls. In summer these brooks are reduced to a trickle, only revealing their true extent during the winter months after heavy rainfall. Near the metro region these brooks eventually feed into the Swan and Canning Rivers, connecting the inland plateau to the ocean. Lesmurdie Falls is one such waterfall, which joins the Canning River a little way upstream from the Nicholson Road bridge.
In winter, after heavy rain, it can be quite spectacular as far as local waterfalls go. Several years back I made a series of images, but amongst my favorites are those which were made just prior to heavy rain, where only small streams ran down the rock face. I decided it was time for me to revisit the falls, and perhaps discover something I had not previously seen. When I arrived at the falls there was a small trickle of water down the slippery rock face which was promising, but something was not quite right, something had changed. Someone recently said to me that you can always go out and photograph the landscape, its always there, unlike people. But change is often perceived over a period of time in all things, even the landscape.
I realized what had changed at the waterfall since my last visit about 5 years ago. There was some obvious graffiti painted on one of the main boulders. But more importantly, one of the tops of the boulders had been broken or levered off, I doubt it would have fallen by itself. Finding the best camera position for the composition raised a number of considerations. Camera positioning is limited by the slope of the rocks on which I was standing. I chose a position at an angle to the graffiti to avoid showing it. The gross white lettering was for me out of context and served no aesthetic purpose, but I did want to record the fallen boulder as it represented a lasting change. Returning home I pondered the interconnectedness of the plateau, its water catchments, the rivers and the ocean, and ultimately the impact of our actions with their often unforeseen consequences.
Swamp sheoaks Canning River
Living in Perth I am lucky to be so close to the Canning River and its reserves. There are kilometres of cycleways and walkways traveling up and down the river, passing through parklands of flooded gums and sheoaks, were you can always find some peace and quiet. Then there is the river itself, which is wonderful to paddle your canoe or kayak on. Upstream near my neighbourhood, the Canning River diverges into many leads with dead ends. The river banks are covered with bushland, giving you an impression you are anywhere but in the city. There is a multitude of bird life from ducks and swans, even large kites.
This image of the swamp sheoaks, Casuarina obesa, was taken during Spring, just on dusk. The little white flowers (Hesperantha falcata) open up only in the full shade or very late afternoon. Like so many of our most successful weeds, Hesperantha falcata originates from South Africa, and it literally carpets sections of the Canning River reserve. In previous years during Spring, I have resisted making a similar image, because I did not want viewers to misinterpret these as wildflowers native to the park. Eventually, I decided to work amongst the swamp sheoaks over the course of a 12 month season, recording the changes in their immediate environs: from sombre deep winter tones to abundant white of spring flowers, then to the stark black charcoal from summer fires. Even though the photograph may not show an ecological ideal of native bushland, it never the less offers a glimpse of its seasonal state during these times.
I have been invited as guest speaker for the next Artist Lounge Talk, a quarterly evening event providing a forum for local art and craft minded people to listen to a professional artist (or in my case photographer) discuss their art experience and knowledge.
I will be giving an overview as to how I began my photographic career, my choice of subject matter and the founding of Stormlight Publishing. Photography has undergone rapid changes over the last decade brought about by the advancement of digital technology. Even so, I will discuss my preference for using a large format wooden field camera which I will bring along to show. Finding the balance between personal artistic expression and commercial needs is my aim in using both digital technology and maintaining the use of non digital, traditional, wet darkroom techniques. You are invited to come along for an evening of discussion and view some of my recent work.
Artist Lounge Talk, 7.00pm June 14th 2010
Cooper Avenue, Kenwick
for bookings and information call 9452 9903
Having been away during its launch I finally got down and saw a little of the FotoFreo 2010 in its last days. The biggest joy for me was at the Fremantle Arts Centre with the photographs by Qin Wen of the demolition of old Chinese buildings under a wave of new western style high rise. They were big images, about 1m x 1.5m inkjet outputs (see above pic), probably from 4×5 format given their great detail. The compositions had a theatrical air about them. You could really stop and stare into these images, seeing the new buildings on the horizon all the way forward to peoples’ faces, tangled powerlines, jumbled tiled roofs right through to intricate foreground detail. The images were almost monochrome at the edges, with wonderfully soft, muted colours, except for the woman in traditional red dress who was the thematic link in all images. The soft muted colours of this exhibition were also shared by Eugene Richards’ “The Blue Room” at the Fremantle Prison Galleries. So refreshing to see subtle nuances being displayed again in colour photography, rather than the gawdiness often associated with a heavy handed photoshop technique. Also squeezed into the prison was Brad Rimmer’s exhibition “Silence – the West Australian Wheatbelt”, one of the few local, contemporary works supported within the main exhibition program by the FotoFreo organisers.
Play a little with composition design. I was “down south” for a couple of days recently and covered a fair bit of ground, traveling from one country town to another. Whilst I wasn’t strictly on a photographic trip I took my 4×5 anyway, and some double darks loaded with T-Max 400 film. You never know what you might find. Through the car window I often glimpse fleeting images and compositions. My usual thoughts are that I would love to stop the car, get out and set up the tripod and camera, but usually time constraints apply, and the idea remains just that. On this trip I decided things were going to be a bit different. Rather than making a mental note of a potential image and coming back at a later time, I made an effort to stop and make a photograph. I figured if it looks rights now, let’s not wait until another time when probably the light – or inspiration – has evaporated.
I was pleasantly surprised with the results. Even though I am working with a slower 4×5 camera, it sometimes pays to have some fun, play a little, and take a chance by seizing the moment as it presents itself. The spontaneity of subject matter and composition can be quite refreshing.
Gourmand Awards Paris: My recently published book Pemberton Wine Region Western Australia was the Australian finalist in two categories at the Gourmand Book Awards recently held in Paris. The categories were Best Wine Photography and Best Book on New World Wines.
The Belgium-French and Italy entries finally took home the awards. Italy won Best Wine Photography in the World with Lombardia, Il Mosaico del Vino, Andrea Zanfi, Gio Martorana, (Carlo Cambi). The Belgium-French entry won Best Book on New World Wines in the World with: Chile, País de Vinos y de Montañas Papianile Mura (Versant Sud). Congratulations to the other publishers and authors.
The real Margaret River in detail. On the day I made this negative it had been drizzling consistently with rain, a typical winter’s day with an overcast sky, and then a late afternoon burst of sunlight. The river was flooded with fresh rain and the noise of rushing water could be heard several hundred metres away from within the marri -jarrah forest from where I had emerged. The forest (now a proposed national park) formed a natural buffer between my grandparents’ farm and the river valley. I have fond childhood memories of the river in various moods, with its secret rock pools, forested banks, jumble of dark rocks and fallen trees. But it is during the midst of a winter flow, with the rush of water over submerged rocks, swirling around partly submerged peppermint trees, that the rhythm of the river is most mesmerising. Kodak Tri X 4×5 film, exposure was probably f22 at 1/2 second, Rodinal developer.
Even in this age of digital cameras, there is still something truly amazing about Polaroid Type 55 positive/negative film. Rated at about 32ISO (rather than the recommended 50ISO), this film is capable of recording superb detail and tonalities. With Polaroid Type 55 4×5 film, each exposure yielded a positive 4×5 polaroid print and a 4×5 negative that could be used in an enlarger for printing. My approach to using this film has always been to treat it like regular film, compose the image and expose carefully, then process the film when I get home. Using the Polaroid back I would do this processing in my darkroom, keeping any light exposure of the negative to a minimum until the negative had safely cleared in a sulphite solution. Then I would complete the processing with a wash period, photoflo immersion then dry just like a regular film. You now have a 4×5 contact print in one hand and a perfectly usable 4×5 negative in the other, what a bargain! This image of the Dune Cabbage is an enlargement from Polaroid PN 55 made on Forte graded paper. This Dune Cabbage (Arctotheca populifolia) was photographed near Cape Leeuwin, Augusta in Australia’s south west, although this successful dune coloniser is widespread around coastal regions, it originated from South Africa. Apparently the leaves can be peeled and eaten as salad or lightly steamed. Here’s one I prepared earlier.