Leeuwin Naturaliste - Southern Forests - South Coast Postcard Series
I finally got around to completing Stormlight Publishing 25 years of South West Postcards.
For those of you familiar with my work you would know that I have been publishing and distributing images of Western Australian national parks since 1989 under my imprint Stormlight Publishing. Many of these images have been as postcards, as well as greeting cards, posters, calendars and books.
When I started publishing my postcards series in 1989 I had no idea where or how far it would go. Postcards series specific to national parks did not exist in WA at that time. Some retailers were sceptical about selling images that were not of something. They wanted identifiable subjects such as a recognisable memorial or a building. It was said to me that they were just pretty images of nothing. Others asked me where these places were as they could not be local places.
Starting out with a 35mm film camera and one lens I set about creating a postcard series that endured for a quarter of a century. 1.5 million postcards later, I reflect on the processes behind creating this award winning national park postcard series in a time prior to the prevalence of digital technology and the social phenomenon of mobile phone “selfies”.
Luckily for me I found plenty of south west retailers willing to give the postcards a go. Even more lucky for me is that they sold. This allowed me to eventually produce images covering regions along the south west and southern coastline of Western Australia. These included Esperance, Albany, Denmark, Walpole, Pemberton, Northcliffe, Augusta, Margaret River, Yallingup, Dunsborough, the Stirling and Porongurup Ranges.
If you are interested in landscape photography or just appreciate the unique beauty of the national parks in south west Western Australia then you will enjoy this collection of 70 postcard images. I have a limited number of copies on hand which I can post within Australia, otherwise copies are available directly from Blurb.
Hard cover | dust jacket | 82 pages | 70 images full colour | 10 x 8 inches landscape
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.
North Point Cowaramup Bay is where I had been exploring the coast for new images over the past few days. As the sun was setting I was reflecting on how I had started the day, near this spot, before dawn. About 12 hours ago, the blue pre-dawn gloom of the night sky was giving way to the soft magenta projected skywards by the earth’s shadow. The sea had been relatively calm that morning, but the swell had been building steadily all day, something I had noticed further up the coast where I had spent the day hiking and exploring. Now I was back at Gracetown at sunset, my movements had gone full circle.
The coastline around North Point Cowaramup Bay offers elevated views over the surf breaks. North Point is a granite cliff face and rock outcrop, strewn with boulders the size of cars. As the sun set, a few people with cameras materialised at certain vantage points around the cliff tops, looking towards the sunset. But my camera was aimed squarely at the last surfer of the day, bobbing gently in the swell off North Point, waiting to catch that final wave of the day before the fading light. A set appeared, he took off, cutting clean lines across the back lit wave, riding it all the way past the point.
I included this image in my latest update and printing of my Leeuwin Naturaliste postcard series, which will be available shortly. It has come as a bit of a shock, but next year, 2013, will be the 25th year I have been producing this series of cards that have showcased the coastline between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin and the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park.
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.
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