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Granite Canal Rocks Yallingup Western Australia

Canal Rocks Yallingup Australia

Granite Canal Rocks Yallingup  hand printed 16×20 inch baryta based silver gelatin print

Granite Canal Rocks is a detail study of the many rock formations which characterise the area. Canal Rocks Yallingup has remarkable granite formations and canal like structure that form a massive bulwark against the pounding Indian Ocean swells, creating dramatic plumes of sea spray. The area is characterised by cliffs and rocky headlands and some small sandy coves. Canal Rocks weathered granite formations and coastal cliffs provide a range of potential compositions. Some shapes and patterns look like they are just ripe for a sculptor to release them into some free form. The patterns and shapes of the rocks combined with the heaving ocean swell are mesmerizing and it is easy to lose track of time watching the endless swell lines marching towards the impenetrable rocks. Tmax 400 4×5  sheet film with a 210mm nikkor lens with a cut in exposure and additional development.  About hand made silver prints.

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Walking dog Canning River Perth Australia

Man walking dog Canning River Regional Park Australia

Walking dog Canning River Perth, hand printed 11×14 inch baryta based silver gelatin print

Walking dog Canning River Canning River Perth. There are several good pathways plus two pedestrian bridges within the Canning River Regional Park. In the early morning and evenings the pathways are popular with local residents exercising their pets. This image was made one particularly cool morning. There had been some overnight rain that cleared to a cold night. In the morning a light fog developed, enveloping the flooded gums and paperbarks in a soft light. I was near the pathway and had my camera set up looking towards the misty river when I noticed the man and dog walking below the tree lined path about to be bathed in bright misty light. HP5 4×5 sheet film, 4×5 wooden field camera, 300mm lens f45 1 second.  About hand made silver prints.

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Canning River woodlands mist Perth Australia

Morning mist woodlands Canning River Perth

Canning River woodlands mist Perth  hand printed 16×20 inch baryta based silver gelatin print -sold.

Canning River woodlands mist Perth Western Australia. The open woodland track near the Greenfield Street bridge follows the banks of the Canning River. In the cooler months the mist gathers in the open fields and becomes dense around the river. On this morning there was a slight breeze and you could see the mist gathering. Standing beneath some flooded gums I pointed my camera back towards Greenfield Bridge, framing an old tree in the foreground. If I remember correctly I used a 300mm lens on my 4×5 field camera. Film was HP5 and the exposure was 10 seconds. I had forgotten to bring my watch so I had to count to 10 to time the exposure. Just to make sure I made a second back up exposure at 1 second using a wider aperture. The first exposure was the better as it had greater depth of field and was a good density.  About hand made silver prints.


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Seaweed Cape Leeuwin Augusta Australia

Cape Leeuwin Australia

Seaweed Cape Leeuwin, hand printed 11×14 inch baryta based silver gelatin print

Seaweed Cape Leeuwin Augusta Australia. One advantage of a 4×5 field camera is the bellows extension. Most field cameras will have a bellows which will extend out to approximately 300mm. With a standard focal length lens of 150mm this bellows extension can theoretically provide sufficient lens extension for one to one image magnification. It was just this set up that I used in this image of Leather kelp on the beach at Cape Leeuwin. The movement of front or rear standards can assist in optimising the plane of focus. In this image even the white grains of sand show clearly.   About hand made silver prints.

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Canning River oxygenation trail Perth Western Australia

Canning River oxygenation trail

Canning River oxygenation trail, hand printed 11×11 inch baryta based silver gelatin print- sold

Canning River oxygenation trail, Perth, Australia. Bubbles from nearby oxygen tanks pumped into the river to alleviate anaerobic conditions exacerbated by low water volumes and algal blooms. There are oxygenation tanks on the banks of the Canning River between Nicholson Road bridge Kent Street Weir. Large black polythene tubes run from the tanks into the river, snaking there way down stream just below the water’s surface. Oxygen is released from the pipes and percolates up through the water, leaving a trail on the surface. The Department of Water released a report in 2013 stating that  anaerobic conditions existed in the river most times of the year, meaning that the water is deprived of oxygen to support aquatic life. A third oxygenation tank was completed in 2014. The Department’s report also highlighted elevated levels of toxins and reduced rainfall due to the drying of the climate. It was reported that desalinated water had also been pumped into the river to maintain it. About hand made silver prints.

Oxygenation trail Canning River Perth 11×11 inch hand printed silver gelatin fibre based print. First published in Lost in Suburbia in 2013, then Circuit Magazine and Heathcote Museum & Gallery exhibition catalogue “Dissociation” 2015.

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Darkroom Printing – a typical session

photographic darkroom printing

I thought I would describe a typical darkroom printing session. When I go into the darkroom to make a silver gelatin print I usually like to start pretty much first thing in the morning, so I can take my time. I don’t like to be in a rush when I’m printing, it’s a mental state that is counterproductive in my experience to being creative and receptive to the materials you work with. In my case I print exclusively on baryta base (otherwise known as fibre based) papers. When I step into the darkroom I will have one, or at most, two negatives I wish to make exhibition prints from. I am usually armed with a contact print of the negatives in question, or an earlier print that I have tried to make but has failed to meet my expectations. These proofs or ‘failures’I use as departure points or guides as to where I might like to take the image and materials. When I am assessing a photograph or negative before creating an exhibition print I look for what I find visually exciting about the image and see how I can improve on it. By going to the area that most interests me I can quickly determine through test strips how far I can take the image before I destroy the very qualities or nuances in the print I am seeking. This process gives me a foundation on which to assess the remaining areas of the image in relation to the first. Printing in black and white is especially about how tones within the finished image relate to one another. This process of assessment may not suite everyone, others may prefer to look at highlights and low values of a print overall to begin their process, but apart from gross overexposure or underexposure I find this process difficult for me. I like to go straight to the feeling of the image.

Lefroy Brook Wattie tree karri forest Pemberton Australia

Typically on a 16×20 inch print like the Lefroy Brook one above, I will spend several hours making test strips. I will be searching for the highlights that make the print sing and the low values that anchor the tones to a deep baritone base, revealing the beauty and tonal depth of a silver gelatin print. In the process I will often find a few printing problems that will call on my darkroom craftsmanship to solve. Sometimes they remain unsolvable but instead present an opportunity to learn about fine tuning your craft and technique.

By midday I will start making the first full size images based upon a proper exposure to the highlights. Then I will begin the first series of refinements using various test strip information. This may include some addition exposure (burning in) of print areas or shielding of areas (dodging) from the base exposure.  This is an important stage because up to now  only test strips have been made and this is the first opportunity to see the print in its entirety and observe the overall relationship of tones. Further refinements of dodging and burning may be required to balance the print tones and maximise details in the soft creamy whites of the prints.

Printing notes Lefroy Brook

To keep track of these adjustments I write them down on the reverse side of the print with a black china marker. Once all the adjustments have been completed to my satisfaction, I then set about making 4 or 5 finished prints based upon the printing recipe I have constructed. Notes on how I made the print are kept for future reference in a notebook, illustrated above.

It is now about mid afternoon and I have made 4 or 5 prints from the one negative. All test strips and work prints are discarded, only the remaining 4 or 5 are washed, treated in hypo clearing agent to clear any residual fixer, then washed for several more hours. The wet print are then dried face down on plastic screen mesh where they air dry  for at least 24 hours at room temp. At a later stage I will selenium tone the prints and rewash and dry.

By the time the print is toned, trimmed and dry mounted onto 100% cotton rag museum board, then window mounted and framed you are looking at several days work, but I get a deep satisfaction when I view the finished images knowing that I have been responsible for every stage in bringing a print from just an idea into existence.

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Granite coastline Albany region south west

Granite coastline Albany region

Granite coastline Albany region south west Western Australia comprise of cliffs and boulders, impressive both in scale and in their protracted war they wage against a restless, pounding, Southern Ocean. The windswept coastal heath above these rocky shores consists of highly specialised plants, adapted to survive in harsh conditions. Salt residue from sea spray coats their leaves, their root systems barely grasp these slopes made tenuous by shallow soil, and the lack of protective soil contributes to the plant’s thermal and water stress. The harshness of the conditions is often masked by the heath’s varied display of plants and wildflowers, set against the grandeur of a rugged and isolated coastline. This isolation and ruggedness combined with other recreational pursuits draw people to the coast. But we are in danger of loving it to death.

4WD track erosionFour wheel drive tracks along sensitive areas of coastline are increasing in number and severity of their condition. Frequent use of tracks by vehicles quickly leads to erosion, which is further aided by water run off, cutting deep channels along the wheel paths and making them unusable in parts. The drivers’ solution is to create new tracks around difficult sections, thereby creating an ever widening excoriation of the coastal heath, leading to further damage to the plants that stabilise the top soil.

The worst examples of damaging 4WD are actually rather short in distance, usually radiating from a more established track directly down the heath slopes before stopping just above the cliff lines. For the short 30 or 40 metres of vehicular travel they “provide” they become large visible scars cutting directly down the slopes. Erosion from rainfall is at its maximum potential with orientation of these “tracks”.  The remoteness of many of these locations means this damage is often proceeding unchecked, out of sight and out of mind. The 4 Wheel Drive Clubs in WA and Department of Parks and Wildlife need to get together to discuss and action a plan to minimise this type damage in National Parks. Or maybe we will leave things as they are to continue, then ask Lotteries West for funding and a bunch of volunteers to eventually carry out some type of “vegetation rehabilitation” on our scarred coastline? Prevention would seem a better option all round.

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Dry mounting baryta fibre based prints

Dry mounting baryta fibre based prints

Dry mounting baryta fibre based prints for framing and exhibiting

Dry mounting baryta fibre based prints with only a week to go before my exhibition. I use the dry mount process for my prints, a procedure which has been around for many years. A print finishing method used by many well known photographers including Ansel Adams, it may not be entirely in favour with some gallery photographic conservationists.

I personally dislike the uneven surface of larger unmounted fibre based prints which can catch and reflect light and interfere with the viewing of an image. Why bother obtaining nuances of tone in high and low print values if viewing a print unmounted prevents you from obtaining a clear and unhindered view? I want to view a print in its entirety. Dry mounting creates a smooth surface and avoids the potential problem of unwanted reflections off the print.

As far as archival qualities are concerned this method is still used by some of the best and most collected photographers around the world. I have seen reports of archival tests showing comparing print degradation with time of dry mounted prints to unmounted.

Unmounted photographs are susceptible from chemical attack from both the front and rear of the print. Needless to say, mounted prints must be washed properly including the use of hypo clearing agent and partial toning in selenium or other toner to maximise print archival quality.

Mount boards should be 100% cotton rag avoiding all wood pulp. Wood pulp contains tannins which are acidic and therefore harmful to silver metal.

Sometimes I get asked about the procedure for dry mounting baryta fibre based prints so here are some sequenced images. Click on the images for step by step descriptions.


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Bannister Creek Perth Restoration Western Australia

Bannister Creek Canning River Perth

Bannister Creek Perth

Bannister Creek Perth is close to where I live. Lately I have been spending more time photographing around the Perth region, focusing on what is happening within my own “backyard”. Bannister Creek flows through metropolitan suburbia into the Canning River. Looking at this you could be mistaken for thinking you are somewhere in the south west, but this is in the middle of suburbia, with houses either side of its banks. It is intriguing to observe that the rear of the suburban  blocks uniformly face the creek, makes you wonder what the planners were thinking in turning their backs on this rare urban feature. Bannister Creek has had significant wetland restoration work done to it recently. The health of this creek and others like it all have an impact on the health of the Canning and Swan Rivers.

A hand printed 16×20 inch fibre based print of Bannister Creek was exhibited in my 2015 exhibition “Dissociation” at Heathcote Museum & Gallery.

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Zamia Palm Canning River Reserve

Zamia Palm

Zamia Palm Canning River Reserve Perth. With all those spikes, palms are generally are not my favourite plants. These are the seed pods (for want of a better description?) of our local zamia palm. Apparently they belong to a pretty old and relatively unchanged species, dating back to when dinosaurs roamed around, but I did hear that maybe they are not as ancient as some thought. They certainly look like they belong in a lush rain forest, and, to me at least, always seem a bit out of place visually amongst our dry open forests of irregularly shaped trees and bushes. This photograph was made in the Canning River reserve.