The hard summer dryness in the parkland around the Canning River is slowly softening. Yesterday morning there were signs that the seasons were changing with our first mist for the calendar year. The daytime air is still warm but the sun is getting up a little later each day. I took an early morning stroll with my camera, the landscape enveloped by a gentle glowing light, something we don’t see too frequently here in Perth. A few early morning joggers and walkers were out enjoying the cooler air, but mostly I had the misty forest and pathways to myself, it was a quiet and peaceful morning of a long weekend. You could barely believe that this regional park is bordered by suburbia, shopping centres and highways. For those of us who live near the Canning River in Perth, we are just so lucky to have this wonderful asset at our doorstep whilst being in the middle of a city.
Fire on the Landscape. Last week, with strong gusting winds, fire has once again touched the landscape in several locations around Perth. Whilst helicopter water bombers battled the severe fire at Roleystone, where tragically over 70 homes were lost, fixed wing aircraft dropped water on a blaze in the Canning Regional Park. Thanks to the firefighting crews, the fire was contained by the evening. Logic would have it that fire should travel in the same direction as the prevailing winds, but when I took a walk through the burnt area it became clear that the fire had not only jumped the river, but traveled backwards on itself, upwind against the gusting easterly winds, to ignite unexpected areas. That gives an idea of the ferocity of the winds created locally by the fire’s intensity. It’s a sobering reminder that fire continues to be a major force in shaping our landscape, evidenced by our highly flammable vegetation, the charred bark remains on mature trees and the fire dependent reproduction cycles of native plants. Has the reduced use of fire on the landscape over the past 200 years had the unintended consequence of increasing fire severity and therefore greater risk of destruction of homes and environment? This image was made in an area of the park which I regularly visit as part of a longer term photographic project exploring the seasonal changes and activity within the urbanised setting of the Canning River Regional Park, and was made several days after the fire.
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.