I was reviewing some of my data files from film scans and came across this image of Smiths Beach Yallingup. It was made at sunset with my wooden field camera back in about 2002. The composition I envisaged was of the panoramic proportions above, although the actual film was a full sheet of 4×5 velvia. My initial plan was to publish the image in my Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park postcard series. Although I don’t normally crop my 4x5s this was the only camera I was using on that day, so I made a decision to “waste” half my potential film and make a panoramic from the final image.
I recall that the biggest concern at the time of making this photograph was trying to minimise the lens flare from the setting sun. The acute angle of the sun hitting the lens front element set up internal lens reflections taking on the form of the lense aperture blades. Under a focus cloth I carefully positioned the camera lens at the smallest angle to the sun that would just allow me to avoid the flare.
Checking my focus, I then stopped the lens down, closed and cocked its shutter. I placed a Grafmatic film holder in the camera back containing my 6 sheets of 4×5 velvia. Carefully pulling the double dark up from the Grafmatic back and then returning it. This moved an unexposed sheet of film to the front of the pack, ready for exposure. I waited momentarily by my tripod watch the surf and waiting for what I guessed would be the right sequence of waves.
Pressing the cable the shutter clicked and whirred for its one second duration. The exposure over, I pressed the lock catch on the Grafmatic insert, raising and lowering the internal film compartment. This action effectively shuffles the exposed sheet of film to the back of the film pack, leaving a fresh film on top for the next exposure.
What I had’t accounted for was that at such an acute angle to the horizon the sun’s position moves significantly in a relatively short period. 60 or 120 seconds later from checking my focus and positioning on the ground glass was sufficient time for the sun to move and cause lens flare.
I guess that is one of the difficulties in using a camera where you can’t continuously view the image through the viewfinder or in this case, ground glass (by virtue of the fact the film back has to be in position to make the exposure thereby obstructing and possible view). A possible fix is to use photoshop to edit the sun flare out, although this makes it a little too perfect for me. Although not initially intended I can live with the lens flare. It’s an authentic lens artefact from photographing into the sun and forms part of the quality of light that attracted me to make this image of Smiths Beach Yallingup in the first place.
For one reason or another the image was never used in my south west postcard range, although I have made custom prints of it.
Smiths Beach Yallingup: Wista field camera Rodenstock Grandagon 90mm lens 4×5 velvia 50 ISO f16 1 second.
When I commenced publishing the Leeuwin Naturaliste Series of postcards back in 1989 I started with just 11 cards. By the following year I was needing more new images. In particular, I needed images made in the 35mm film format I had designed my postcards around. As I explained in “25 years of south west postcards” cropping images from other camera formats that did not fit the 2:3 ratio posed a bit of a problem. I had been using 645 medium format and 4×5 inch large format well before 1989. Both have a similar aspect ratio and when I composed an image for that format it did not necessarily crop well into a 2:3 image for postcards.
So in 1990 I set about hiking about the south west with the only 35mm camera I had and a 28mm wide angle. The majority of the postcards I made over 25 years were produced with this single combination. Although I did own a 100mm short telephoto for my 35mm Pentax LX, I can’t recall taking it on a hiking trip with me. This may sound contradictory it was just a little too short for landscapes.
I arrived at Yallingup to a cool crisp winter morning, well before sunrise. There was a faint yellow glow in the east and a deep violet earth shadow descending across the western horizon. A light offshore breeze felt cold on my back as I set my camera up on a tripod and pointed it towards the west. In the distance far offshore the breaking surf was lit up by the first of the sun’s rays.
In the foreground slanting rocks facing the sun stretched out in small parallel lines into the ocean, drawing the eyes towards the breaking surf. The sun was slightly diffused through some cloud as it first lit the scene. I managed a few frames with the distant break working, before the sunlight broke through the cloud completely and the contrast became too high turning the shadow details to black.
Placing my camera inside my backpack and shouldering my tripod I continued my coastal walk to see what else might be around the corner. The light at this stage was fast losing its morning warmth and the movement of cloud predicted an overcast day was soon to follow. As I walked below Rabbit Hill at Yallingup beach the steeply angled light hit the plumes of spray blown off the tops of the waves.
I attached a zoom lens which I had borrowed from a friend. It was an odd 3rd party lens -I can’t remember its make- of around 140mm maximum focal length. At its maximum I managed to compose a small section of water below the cliffs in which the waves were breaking. Timing is everything in photographing breaking waves. The shutter speed has to be fast enough to “freeze” the image while the success of the composition is totally dependent on the placing of the waveform. Each sequence of waves offers a different image potential, no two sequences are the same. So I made a series of exposures from the same tripod position until the sun faded under the clouds and the lighting effect lost.
Both images were made on the same morning within an hour, yet show vastly different views. The Surf Rabbit Hill Yallingup, postcard was published in 1992, two years after I had published Yallingup Sunrise. Although it was made with a short telephoto lens it still required some cropping in the final drum scan. It became a hugely successful postcard card. Both images were made on Fujichrome 50 Professional RFP 35mm ISO 50, which I used up until the introduction of Velvia 50 ISO film not long after 1990.
Contos Spring flows when the local limestone caves have received enough underground water. The spring seeps up out of the beach sand at the southern end of Contos Beach. Overhanging limestone cliffs dominate the beach and create a colourful and dramatic back drop especially towards evening.
On this particular evening there were several parties spread out on the beach enjoying the late sun and solitude. You can just make out a small dot on the far beach of one individual.
The foot prints in the foreground are testament to the beach’s popularity that day. Nearby is the Contos Beach camping ground and the Cape to Cape trail.
During this visit I made this image on 4×5 velvia film at 50iso using my wooden field camera. No filters required, image is as it appears on the transparency.
Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is perched at the very tip of a rocky peninsula that pokes out like a little finger off Cape Leeuwin near Augusta. It is the most south-westerly point of the Australian mainland and as such is the first landfall to obstruct the wind, rain and storms generated deep within the southern ocean.
Made with my digital Canon 5D2 in 2012, it was published later that year to replace an earlier lighthouse image of 1997-98. That image had been published in 1998 and was a popular postcard, with tens of thousands being sold. It had also appeared in several publications and a book. However, I felt it was time for a new image. The early photograph had been made on velvia 50 iso film using an Olympus OM4Ti and a 300mm lens. Made in the evening, so I could photograph the lighthouse with its light on, the exposure was over several minutes. By comparison, the more recent image made at sunrise took only a second.
Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse was one of the last in the world to be manually operated until 1982, using a clockwork mechanism and kerosene burner. Its height is 39 metres and elevation 56 metres above sea level.
Laundry shed, Margaret River. I didn’t set out to deliberately make this image. Call it exploration or perhaps just a happy accident. I had my medium format camera set up on a tripod outside my late grandparents’ farm house looking out across the paddock. For whatever reason, I abandoned my initial plan and turned the camera 180 degrees back onto the shed behind me. The sun was hitting the north face, with some of the aged grey weatherboard almost reflecting specular light. In stark contrast the other side of the shed was in deep shadow. Only the sunlit heads of dried grass swaying gently in the breeze created a bridge between the two opposing tones. The portrait lens on the camera allowed for a tightly composed image. It accentuated the visual tension created by the weatherboard’s converging perspective culminating at the shed’s corner. That corner also delineates the image between sunlight and shadow. There is further tension within the image created by the vertical planks of the doors which run at right angles to the wall planks. Across the composition there is a repetition of rectangular shapes and opposing tones. The image oscillates between a perceptible three dimensional perspective realised by the shed’s corner, to an image reduced into two dimensions by its columns of tone and shapes. In the original 11×14 inch silver gelatin print, the three dark windows above the barn door hold good shadow detail allowing some internal window frame to be seen.
This image of my late grandparents’ laundry shed, Margaret River was made with a Bronica ETRS and printed on Foma fibre based 11×14 inch silver gelatin paper. I find the composition pleasing for its underlying visual tension, repetition of shapes, opposing perspectives and tonalities.
Storm light Margaret River was made one winter’s day in 1983 at my grandparents’ farm. I remember the five or so days that we stayed it bucketed with rain and squally winds. It really started at Australind, with the wind driving the rain horizontally into the coast. By the time I had reached my grandparents’ farm in Margaret River it was raining non stop. Over the next few days the light was gluey grey punctuated with startling sunlit contrasts as low clouds rapidly scudded across the sky.
The film was Kodachrome, the exposure made with my Pentax LX and a Pentax 100mm lens, hand held with the camera jammed against the front door for stability. I can’t be sure of the shutter but it was likely to be 1/15 sec or slower, aperture at its widest f2.8. This photograph gave me the idea to name my publishing imprint Stormlight Publishing.
Redgate Beach coastline Margaret River region coastline characterised by outcrops of granite. This particularly large massive boulder had a deep fissure running part way along its length. The threatening depth and angled geometry of the fissure combined with the neat layer of ocean just above it creates a visual incongruity. Adding to the drama is the approach of rain clouds across the ocean. The light was soft allowing full saturation of the orange lichen on the rocks mixed with the softer grey hues of granite. Film was 4×5 sheet velvia, Wista wooden field camera and a wide 90mm lens. Fissure Margaret River region is available as a 16×20 inch photograph and larger.
Bracken Fern Augusta detail, hand printed 16x20in silver gelatin.
Bracken is ubiquitous in the paddocks, fields and forests of the south west. This image of bracken fern was made on a windless morning in the Cape Leeuwin region near Augusta. Not having any wind around was important in securing a focused image as the exposure of half a minute was made in relatively low light. This image was made just before the first rays of sunlight spread across the landscape. The soft light allows the gentle tracing of the ferns to be revealed. Obtaining the correct contrast in the final print requires careful balance in the highlight fern leaves, they contain texture but this can easily be lost. Too soft a contrast grade and the print can turn muddy. About hand made silver prints.
Flowing water Margaret River detail is a 16x20in hand printed silver gelatin print. The image is from an area along the banks of the Margaret River that I have visited frequently since childhood. During the drier months the dark granite boulders of the river bed protrude above the water. At this spot and an ancient marri tree leans precariously over the water. In winter its branches are submerged in raging water, causing it to vibrate. I made this image just before summer when the water was just flowing over the rocks. A huge air bell, made by the flow of water over the rock creates a dark silvery bubble.
Beach detail seaweed Augusta, hand printed silver gelatin
Beach detail seaweed Augusta. I made this image on the most south western tip of land in Western Australia. Cape Leeuwin is a boulder strewn granite promontory that juts out into the ocean. It is sculpted by small sandy bays and weathered boulders of various shapes and sizes. At its terminus is Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse looking out onto the Southern and Indian Oceans. Over the years several ships have come to grief along this rugged piece of coastline.
There is an abundance of seaweeds and small shells in this area. Hidden amongst the bays and the rocks are ocean treasures waiting to be discovered. I came across this delicate necklace like arrangement of seaweed floating in a shallow rock pool. Its almost translucent seaweed looked like it had been carefully arranged over the rock.
I have browsed through the botanical illustrations in my copy of “Walking Round in Circles”. From the drawings of seaweed it would seem that this is a deep water species called cystophora racemosa.
An 11x14inch print, Foma silver gelatin fibre based paper mounted on 16x20in 100% rag museum board.
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 techniques for making an expressive photographic print is of importance to me. I continue to develop my own films and hand print all my black and white silver gelatin prints in my darkroom. read more