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Karri forest Margaret River Boranup Australia

Boranup Margaret River Australia

Karri forest Margaret River

Karri forest Margaret River with coral vine and purple hovea wildflowers at Boranup just south of Margaret River. This unique stand of karri forest is the most western edge of the karri forest belt. These  karri grow in limestone based soils as opposed to dark rich karri loam which is found around Pemberton and Walpole. Just above the purple hovea and red coral vine in this image you can see a limetone cliff edge. Its the presence of limestone which is responsible for the numerous caves within the Cape Leeuwin to Cape Naturaliste region. This image was made with a 6×4.5cm format Bronica ETRS camera using  velvia film and a 40mm Bronica lens. It has been published in magazines and calendars and in my Leeuwin Naturaliste postcard series where it has remained popular for over 20 years.

Karri forest Margaret River is available as a limited edition 16×20 inch photograph and larger.

 

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Thrombolites Lake Clifton Yalgorup Mandurah

Yalgorup National Park Australia

The thrombolites Lake Clifton  in Yalgorup National Park are about 100km south of Perth. These rock like structures, a form of microbialite, occur in rocky clumps which look similar to the famous strombolites found within Shark Bay’s Hamelin Pool, some 800km north of Perth.

Strombolites are examples of one of the earliest forms of bacterial life presently known to man and reside in salty water. Thrombolites on the other hand grow best in fresh water. The bacteria within them are photosynthetic and create calcium carbonate which is basically what limestone is made of. Apparently the largest known population of living marine microbialites in the southern hemisphere are found at Lake Clifton in Yalgorup National Park.  They require fresh water and monitoring of Lake Clifton’s fresh water is highlighting a decline in fresh water run off to the lake. There are other populations in nearby Lake Preston and further south in Augusta and Esperance.

Thrombolites are at risk by increasing water salinity, which stops them growing. Water salinity at Lake Clifton is affected by reduced fresh water run off from climate change and groundwater changes from urban and agricultural uses.

The day I made these photographs of Lake Clifton Thrombolites Yalgorup Mandurah I took my metal wista 4×5 field camera with 4×5 sheet film and a 6×12 film back. (The Horseman 6×12 back is quite thick and puts pressure on the ground glass springs of my wooden field camera). The film stock I was using for both was 50ISO Velvia. I timed my arrival for the mid to late afternoon, giving myself time to scout for potential compositions, although on an earlier visit I had already decided on a dusk composition (pictured above).

With the setting sun, the trees and reeds fringing Lake Clifton were lit with a warm orange light and the shapes of the thrombolites stood out in high contrast against the water. Using the reach of a longer focal length lens the  6x12cm back allowed me to fill the frame with thrombolites and the lake’s edge. It also allowed me to create several exposures in close succession, each one being a potential in camera duplicate should one be damaged by the handling of a publisher.

The image above was a timed exposure of several seconds made on 4×5 film after the sun had set. One of Velvia’s characteristics with long exposures is to develop a purplish magenta colour cast. For comparison I have included an image made on Velvia just before sunset (below). You can see how different the colour temperature is recorded by the same film type.

Lake Clifton Thrombolites Yalgorup National Park has been published in the 2015 Australian Conservation Foundation Diary. By purchasing it directly from Rob Blakers’ web site you can support the Australian Conservation Foundation and enjoy a yearly supply of wonderful photographs of Australia’s national parks.

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Soft muted colours of a winter morning Canning River

Canning River wetlands soft muted colours

Soft muted colours of a winter morning. With clear winter nights those chilly mornings are upon us again (chilly in Perth is when it drops below about 5ºC !). The samphires in the wetlands around the Canning River change colour this time of year from dull green grey to a soft mauve or pink. See if you can spot the two little fellas out and about for an early and chilly breakfast.

On this morning I was carrying in my pocket a small Canon digital camera. Doubtless, if I had my 4×5 by the time I  was set up the ducks would have moved, hence the expression ‘the best camera is the one you have at hand’. What I really enjoy most about this image are the soft muted colours and tones in which the ducks are almost camouflaged. The image is a jpeg straight from the camera and matches the quiet and stillness of a cold winter morning  at day break.

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Pine bark patterns Pine Canning River Regional Park Perth

Pine bark patterns Canning River Regional Park Perth

Pine bark patterns Canning River Regional Park Perth. There is an old pine tree I frequently pass which wears the scars of bush fires it has survived thus far. I say ‘thus far’ because pine trees are not native to the region and where it is situated it is surrounded by highly flammable eucalypts and bush land. But every time I pass it my eye is caught by its patterns of soft tones and flaky shapes against a charred grey  background. So tonight I decided to make a few close up images of the pine bark patterns using my nokia lumia 1020 which I had on hand.

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Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse four seasons in one day

Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse

Cape Naturaliste at sunrise with the shadow of the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse  projecting across the Cape’s heathland. Spring is a wonderful time of year to be out photographing. Of course there are the Spring wildflowers, but even more exciting is the constantly changing weather and the drama it plays out on the landscape. I had left Perth about 3am on a cold clear morning. By the time I had reached Bunbury, pockets of mist were collecting in the open fields and flowing westwards towards the warmer coast. When I reached Busselton, visibility was reduced by what was now a congealed bank of mist, the beam of oncoming car headlights barely penetrating it. The dense mist remained all the way to Dunsborough, but just 5km out of town on the way to Cape Naturaliste the mist suddenly disappeared.

I was on my way to Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse having arranged in advance with one of the guides to accompany me so that I could get some sunrise images from the lighthouse as part of an update to my  Leeuwin Naturaliste postcard series, now in their 23rd year. Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse sits high above the limestone cliffs of the Cape, and is shorter than its more southerly cousin, Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, which sits on a low, granite finger that protrudes into the ocean. While Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse may not be the tallest it certainly has commanding views of the Cape, Geographe Bay and the Indian Ocean. From the lighthouse I could see the morning mist which I had driven through flowing offshore into Geographe Bay. For a brief moment the sun broke through on the horizon, flooding the Cape with intense yellow light, creating dramatic, colourful scenes both east and west. I sighted several whales offshore making their annual migration. All too soon some rain laden cloud from the south had rapidly swept over the Cape, throwing the landscape into a deep shadow, the first spatter of rain drops hitting me. My work finished, I left the Cape, the rain was passing and the clouds were giving way to vast expanses of blue sky with bright sunlight hitting the distant landscape. Mist, cloud, light rain, a colourful sunrise, and the promise of a warm sunny day, Spring offers four seasons in one day.

Cape Naturaliste sunrise

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Shrines fishing gods

Shrines fishing gods Blackwood River Augusta Western Australia

Shrines fishing gods: we were walking around Augusta just on dusk, down by the banks of the Blackwood River. A beautiful windless evening with barely a ripple on the water. The clouds’ reflections were creating abstract patterns with soft pastel hues. Fishing is obviously a popular activity and every 20 to 50 metres dotted along the banks you will find these little fish scaling tables in various shapes sizes and design. As they floated in their own reflections they reminded me of little shrines or temples. The oil rich yellow lipped mullet caught fresh from the Blackwood are among my favourite fish. May the fishing deities be pleased.

Shrines fishing gods Augusta Western Australia

Fishing Augusta Australia

Fishing Augusta Western Australia

Blackwood River Augusta

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Donnelly River Pemberton

Donnelly River sunset

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.

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Long exposures film or digital?

Lefroy Brook Pemberton Western Australia

Long exposures film or digital? When film exposure becomes greater than one second, you begin to enter the world of long exposures. Apart from the need to steady your camera, usually with a tripod, images created from long film exposures start to behave differently to shorter “regular” exposures and this requires a modified approach to successfully anticipate their outcome. Take the above example of three images which I made late one evening along the Lefroy Brook near Pemberton. The sun had set and the brook was deep in shadow with the light coming from directly above in a break between the karri forest canopy. I was exploring along the shallow pools of the brook which was now flowing at a pre summer low. The river’s bedrock was exposed in parts, but where the rocks remained wet they were slippery and they trapped the fallen leaves from the forest in a scattered pattern across their dark surfaces.

I set up my tripod and 4×5 wooden field camera. The best composition and most comfortable subject working distance was achieved with my Nikkor 210mm lens. I was using a Horseman 6×12 roll film back loaded with Velvia transparency film, rated at 50 ISO. The 210mm lens is slightly longer than normal focal length for 4×5 (and certainly for 6×12). It’s depth of field is shallow and with a close subject this characteristic becomes magnified. If I focused on the nearby leaves the remaining image was so blurry you lost the pattern of the leaves and their relationship with the moving water. If I focused on the far leaves, the foreground image suffered the same blurring, and again I lost the visual relationship I was after. Stopping the lens aperture all the way down to f64 is one way to increase this depth of field, but at the cost of introducing unwanted softness through diffraction. Even at f64 I could not achieve enough depth of field for the image I had in mind. One of the major advantages with the 4×5 is that I am able to alter the plane of focus so that a greater perception of sharpness is achieved in both the foreground and background. Coupled with a moderate aperture of about f22 this would afford me just sufficient depth of field.

But the rapidly fading light was adding to my problems. Not only was it becoming so dark that seeing any image on the ground glass was becoming seriously difficult (it’s already upside down and back to front), but the exposure was going to be long. According to my spot meter the brightest leaves had an EV of about 6, the darkest about 4, representing a 2 stop difference. The white water was slightly higher at around 7 EV. The base rock was mostly very dark and barely registering on my meter with EVs in the 2 to 3 range. My meter indicated an exposure of about 1 minute would be required at f22 with ISO 50 film. I added another 20 seconds to account for lens bellows extension and then I immediately doubled that to about 2 minutes 40 seconds,  to take into account my experience with the reciprocity effect in long exposures with Velvia film. In addition to reciprocity, I knew that there would be an increase in contrast in the final transparency compared to what I was seeing on the ground glass which I wanted to use to my advantage. By the time I had completed all three images in the fading light my exposures were getting up into the 5 minute range.

Film has to receive a base threshold amount of light energy before it can begin to record an image from very dark regions within an image. The contrast of the film increases in long exposures because, proportionately, less of the light energy received by the film in the shadow or dark regions of the image is available for image making, compared to a greater portion of image making light energy received from the brighter areas within the image.  That is to say that even though the film receives reflected light from both light and dark objects for the same amount of time, the resulting film density is not proportional in both light and dark regions, as the image highlights activate disproportionately more image forming silver halide crystals than the darker, shadow regions. This characteristic forms part of a film’s sensitivity curve:  a curved “toe” at the base, a relatively straight line mid section and a curved “shoulder”. Each film has its own exposure index /curve/ developer combination.  In this low light situation photographing Lefroy Brook,  Velvia’s contrast response to long exposures matched my vision to bring attention to the leaves whilst maintaining a dark background.

Had I used a digital camera to attempt these images the resulting raw files would have been quite different to film, there would have been an almost normal appearance of the brook and leaves as if it was photographed in full daylight. Low light exposures with digital cameras sensors coupled with their particular algorithms can give a greater perception of overall scene brightness, indicating a much more proportional exposure response than film (ie more straight line than toe or shoulder).  From my experience, this is one instance where film, by virtue of its inherent characteristics, behaves quite differently to digital. In this series of prints of Lefroy Brook I was able to achieve, in camera, with transparency film, the desired contrast of a long exposure and the necessary adjustment of the plane of focus afforded by a 4×5 field camera.

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Cape to Cape Spring time ramble

Cape to Cape Spring time ramble

Cape to Cape Spring time ramble. Spent the last week in the south west and Spring is definitely out. I was doing a few coastal walks, the weather was wonderfully changeable, rainy and blustery one day, then calm, fine mornings with light wisps of high cloud the next. Just the sort of conditions I like most as it offers a wide range of photographic opportunities, from different light qualities to varying subject matter. On my way back one fine morning I sheltered for a while under these peppermint trees which were laden with white trails of bloom. There was the added bonus of a small brook and the sound of running water. So nice to see some water flowing in the brooks and streams this year compared to the dryness of last year. It’s a great time of the year to get out and do a bush walk, ramble, hike or what ever you choose to call it.

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Gourmand Awards Paris Pemberton Wine Region Book

Gourmand Awards Karri Valley Dam Karri Valley Resort Pemberton

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.