Fremantle Bridge pipes as a film test subject to experiment with film speed and contrast. Film tests can be time consuming and generally bore me to tears, but every now and then they are a necessary evil. So to make it a little more interesting I tried to find some local subject matter that had some visual appeal.This image is quite industrial and not my regular subject matter, but was quite suitable for the test I had in mind, and I found the silvery curve of the pipes created an intriguing juxtaposition against the background of formal straight lines.
The scene is high in contrast, from the deep shadows under the bridge to the brightness of the sunlit wall. To retain the bright detail in the far left wall I cut the development, so that I did not have to perform darkroom gymnastics to obtain detail in the final print. Normally with such a cut to development I would increase the exposure to compensate for film speed loss, but I didn’t do this in this case. On inspection of the contact proof, the negative still held plenty of printable shadow detail, however in making the print it looked better when I printed these low values down further.
Jarrah tree blossoms Urban Landscape Perth Polaroid Type 55. I often rise early before sunrise. I like to think its because I am a dedicated landscape photographer, but truth is this: the cat has me trained so well to let her out at that time in the morning it has become a habit. When I am at home the morning starts with a brewed cup of coffee. As the predawn light softly filters through the kitchen window I survey the sky for a whisp of cloud or any other clues as to what the day is bringing. At this time of year, Perth summer weather can be very predictable, just like in Groundhogs Day. Today was no different, the cloudless grey sky was slowly turning blue and a gentle but persistent easterly breeze was coming off the scarp, just like yesterday.
I went into the backyard and stood under the jarrah and marri trees with my cup of coffee. Above me in the trees I could hear the industrious sound of insects buzzing. Looking up, the jarrah tree was heavy with tiny yellow blossoms, which stood out in the soft predawn light. With the extent of its flowering I wondered why I had not noticed earlier? During the day when the sun is blazing in the cloudless summers skies, these soft yellow flowers become almost invisible, lost amongst the bright light and glare.
I got out the 4×5, and focused in tight on the tiny flowers and a cluster of seed pods. The magnification was life size on the film and with every breath of wind the pods and flowers jumped in and out of my ground glass viewing frame. Working at this magnification depth of focus is very shallow and I used some back tilt on the camera to help bring the foreground seed pods into the plane of focus. For just a moment the breeze stopped. In a rush I placed a single sheet of Polaroid Type 55 PN film into the camera back, set the shutter for 1/2 second at f8. Both these settings were a compromise to sharpness, but it was all I could get. To make matters worse I could hear the leaves in the tops of the trees rustle in the breeze as I pressed the cable release to make the exposure.
I like to process my Polaroid in the darkroom, preserving the negative and clearing it in sodium sulphite solution whilst in complete darkness. Most my Polaroid prints are overexposed as my aim is to obtain the negative, which I expose at the slower 32ISO rather than the recommended print speed of 50ISO.
The first rays of sunlight began hitting the blossoms, the sky turning a bright pale blue. It was going to be a fine summer’s day in Perth. What remained of my coffee had gone cold, but at least I had awakened my senses as to what was happening in my own backyard and saw something anew. Maybe it wasn’t going to be another Groundhogs day after all?
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.