1989 marked the publication of my West Australian Postcards series. Starting out with just one lens and one 35mm film camera I set about the self inspired project to make a postcard series of a region that I have been associated with all my life.
The common theme for the series was the coastal ribbon of national park located between Cape Leeuwin in the south and Cape Naturaliste in the north. The region is broadly referred to as the Margaret river Region. Scattered between the two capes are the coastal hamlets of Augusta, Hamelin Bay, Margaret River, Prevelly Park, Gracetown, Cowaramup, Smiths Beach, Yallingup and Dunsborough. Named after the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park, this was the first postcard series in Western Australia to focus on a national park and reserves theme.
Over 25 years and 1.5 million postcards later, I tell the story behind creating this award winning West Australian Postcard Series. Stormlight Publishing 25 years of south west postcards is a fascinating look at how I came to photograph, produce, publish and distribute postcards in a time prior to digital technology and mobile phones.
Southern Forests and Southern Coast Porongurup and Stirling Range Series
With the success of the Leeuwin Naturaliste Series I was able to expand the national park postcard range to include the Southern Forests Series, South Coast and Porongurup and Stirling Range Series. The card range eventually extended east to Esperance with Cape Le Grand National Park, and west to Albany near Torndirrup National Park. Neighboring Denmark and William Bay National Park followed. Postcards were added from the south west's mountainous regions: Porongurup Range near Mount Barker with the rugged Stirling Range National Parks. In the south west more postcards were made of D' Entrecasteaux National Park and Walpole Nornalup National Park near Walpole. The postcards also reached the forested regions of Northcliffe, Shannon National Park, Windy Harbour and Pemberton.
This makes it the most extensive West Australian postcards series of national parks to date.
Animal tracks Donnelly River south coast Pemberton Australia. If possible I like to spend a bit of time in a location so that I can observe it at different times of the day and under different weather conditions. Several days and nights spent on the remote south coast near Pemberton gave me a chance to explore a section of coastline. Sections of the coast are lined by limestone cliffs and just behind the sand dunes are wetlands, sedges and paperbarks. Beyond the paperbarks the landscape becomes drier and an ancient marri forest extends inland towards the rich loams that support the karri forest. These landscape transitions between beach, fresh water, sedges, wetlands and forests provide a rich ecosystem through which a variety of animals move. Early morning and late evening are good times to observe that movement as the animal tracks become visible.
The almost pure white sand takes on the pink sunset colours reflected off clouds above. The sun’s low rays accentuating the sand’s wind swept pattern cutting diagonally across the animal tracks.
Velvia 120 roll film in a 6x12cm back and my wooden 4×5 field camera.
Houseboat Walpole on the Nornalup Inlet. You will have to squint to see the houseboat it is the white spec on the left. This image needs to be big to enjoy it! One of the few mornings when I have found Nornalup Inlet to be totally smooth and not a breath of wind, although higher up the clouds were streaming inland. Who ever was on the hired houseboat moored to the island had a stunning morning vista to wake up to. I sat at Sandy Beach and enjoyed the peace and quiet of this south west inlet. Walpole Nornalup Inlet is popular with anglers, walkers and is part of the Walpole Nornalup National Park. Houseboat Walpole was photographed on 6x12cm velvia film and is available as 15×30 inch photograph and larger.
Reflections Walpole Nornalup Australia. I am sometimes asked how I set out to make a particular landscape photograph. The impression is that I control the conditions under which I photograph. This is of course far from the case. I have no control over the conditions I will find on location. That does not mean I don’t plan for a successful image. I will look at maps prior to visiting an area, even if I have been there before. I will consider the time of year, what time and direction the landscape will be receiving light. It is my opinion that it is an error to enter a landscape with a preconceived idea of an intended photograph. Weather conditions on the day may thwart your plans. Your preoccupation with a preconceived idea may make you oblivious the other opportunities that are present. On this morning I had walked to a location to prepare for a sunrise image. The clouds obscured the rising sun and I did not make the intended image. Upon returning to my camp the clouds had advanced swiftly across the sky allowing breaks for the sun to shine through. At ground level the air was still and the inlet’s surface a mirror in which the clouds were reflected. In this instance those same clouds which obscured my preconceived photograph became the subject of this unexpected composition instead. Reflections Walpole Nornalup Inlet, within the Walpole Nornalup National Park Western Australia and is available as a limited edition 16×20 inch photograph and larger.
Paperbark Walpole within the Walpole Nornalup National Park Western Australia. Paperbarks are easy to recognised. The trees’ smooth white papery barks contrast against the deep green backdrop that is the heavily forested Walpole. The region is renowned for its towering karri forest and tingle trees with enormous girths. The paperbarks reside on the margins of these giants, often in the swamps and wetland areas. Their tenacity for life and their reserve are expressed in their roots, much like the lines of face. There are interesting shapes formed by root diversions, overlaps, twists, unexpected angles and knots, an analogy of a life lived.
Karri forest Walpole on the Nornalup Inlet. One of the more unusual locations where you find a small section of beach and karri forest up to the water’s edge. The Nornalup Inlet at Walpole has many moods, wild and woolly when those southerlies come blasting through, peaceful calm to misty and mysterious. There are two forested knolls that create the narrow channel between the Walpole Inlet and the Nornalup Inlet. Their steep dark slopes provide the perfect back drop to highlight the karri trees’ smooth creamy bark. During Spring you can find many delicate wildflowers growing in the forest understorey. About hand made silver prints.
Paperbark roots Walpole: located about 400km south of Perth, on the south coast, surrounded by magnificent karri and tingle forests, several rivers and two large inlets, Walpole Inlet and Nornalup Inlet. This photograph was made in the few remaining minutes of daylight, with me struggling to focus and compose an image on the ground glass screen that is not only upside down and back to front, but dark as well (the largest lens aperture was using was F6.8). Part of the process of composition in landscape photography is to find order within what we perceive to be disorder, and this tangle of paperbark roots at Walpole certainly provided an enjoyable challenge.About hand made silver prints.
Native Pigface Wilson Head Denmark Australia. Wilson Head is just out of town from Denmark on the Ocean Beach road. I arrived in the afternoon at this stunning headland during a drizzly period of light rain. There was no wind, just the gentle fall of misty rain. As a result the coastal heath was soaked.
One of the effects of dull or overcast conditions on film is that colours appear more saturated. Wet objects also take on deeper colours. Another factor is the film itself as to how colour is recorded.
This small headland just out of town is popular with the locals for fishing, surfing and is a controversial site for a new wind farm. I have always been struck by the relative density and diversity of plant communities growing within the small sheltered coves around Wilson Head. The area would appear every bit as dense and diverse as coast found further east in national parks.
Native Pigface Wilson Head Ocean Beach Denmark Australia is available as a photographic print. It was first published in the large format 1998 Horizon Calendar and as a greeting card. It remains one of my personal favourites.
I was weighing up whether I should go or not, stay put and relax as the day draws to a close or get my backpack and tripod ready and head out? The cloud had been building steadily all day with an increasing south westerly wind and now, in the late afternoon it was completely overcast. This was my last night at the mouth of the Donnelly River, in the D’Entrecasteaux National Park of WA. I could either stay put and get myself warm and settled for the night or I could use this last evening of this trip and see if there was an opportunity to make a final sunset photograph. The wispy high level clouds had all but disappeared behind darker, lower clouds marching over the horizon. I stared upwards trying to read the sky, watching the two layers of high and low cloud travel in opposite directions, as if to collide with each other. Definitely a cold front on the way. With the fast moving cloud thickening, and the western horizon becoming steadily darker I didn’t have high hopes of making an image before the end of the day, if anything it looked like I was going to get wet. But one thing is for sure, if you don’t go out and try then the result is definitely no photograph. But it is in exactly these unpredictable weather conditions that you can witness some of the most spectacular changes in light.
I grabbed my camera bag and tripod, put them in the dinghy and travelled down river to the wide sandbar that partially blocks the flow of the Donnelly River into the Southern Ocean. I anchored in the crystalline white sand and studied the limestone cliffs hoping to find a reflection in the tannin stained river if the sun should re-appear. The wind was picking up making it difficult to keep the camera gear clear of fine sand particles. Looking back towards the dinghy, I set up my Wista 4×5 field camera and a Calumet 6×12 roll film back loaded with 50 ISO Velvia. The roll film 6x12cm format suited the composition best and would possibly allow me 2 quick exposures in relatively short succession. Setting a pre determined aperture and shutter I then covered the camera in a plastic bag to protect it from the wind borne sand, and waited.
It was getting late with the sun setting and it looked like my chance of capturing some dramatic light was fading with every second that passed. Then the unexpected happened, for a brief moment a break in the cloud let a small sweeping sliver of light trace a path down along the coast. Removing the bag I cocked the shutter and waited for the sweep of light to hit the sand dune mound in the middle of the bar. I released the shutter, exposed the film for one second, replaced the double dark and wound on the next frame. By then the light had gone completely, there would be no second image and sheets of rain were coming.
That night back at camp I cleaned my camera gear by candle light. In the relative quiet between the showers of rain I could hear various frogs calling in the dark and the lone call of a mopoke owl. Tired, I settled into my sleeping bag with the satisfaction of knowing that I had not foregone an opportunity to make a final image during my stay, by making the effort of being ready and just being out there.
Are you creating similar opportunities for your photography? Twelve months later I published this image as a double page spread.
Liquid Light: I was walking back to my campsite late one evening. The clear blue skies of the day had slipped away into a dull metal grey with a light but steady rain of an approaching cold front.
It had been a strenuous day’s walking on the south coast, but otherwise it was uneventful from an image making perspective. Although I usually find plenty of subject matter for my camera, on this day I just couldn’t get the photographic elements to come together in some manageable way. Not to mention that the coastal vegetation was full of ticks, for which I had to check myself continuously, and was one reason why I didn’t stand still long enough to set up my tripod!
Away from the onslaught of ticks I stood for a few minutes near the edge of high granite cliffs. Below me there was the loud sound of air under pressure being rapidly released, punctuated by a spout of water vapour, followed by a long inhaling breath. A few seconds later a humpback whale swam leisurely by, just a few metres out from the cliff’s edge. As it passed underneath me I watched it follow the cliff line and then disappear.
Braving the ticks, I made my way across the low bush towards a four wheel drive track used by local fisherman. The rain, now pooling along the track, caught my attention as it reflected the glow of the evening sky. It was if the light was seeping out of the ground. I quickly set up my camera and made the exposure, the light fading rapidly, before a deluge of rain hit.
That night in my tent I heard the whales calling to each other as they swam into the bay.
"I go for long walks in the bush or along the coast with my wooden field camera, a few sheets of film, a tripod and sometimes a tent and food. I like to take my time to absorb the environment, to rediscover and to reconnect.My direct involvement with the materials and technique for making an expressive photographic print is of importance to me, so I continue to develop my own films and hand print all my black and white silver gelatin prints in my darkroom."more...