Bull Creek tree ferns is an image I am yet to print. It was made in 1988 on a friend’s property at Bull Creek, in the Cradle Mountain Valley, Tasmania. We had spent a wet day hiking through myrtle forest and tree ferns on the slopes above Lake Cethana locating the old survey pegs.
In my backpack I had my wooden field camera, one lens (the only one I owned) and 6 sheets of film. The tripod I carried in hand was used more as a walking aid than for any photography. It was covered in dirt, mud and all manner of leaf litter, as I used it to support myself down steep slopes. I still have that tripod and it works fine, although these days I have opted for lighter ones.
During the day I used up my 6 sheets of film at various locations. Several images were made of Bull Creek in a deep valley where it runs through the property. Here the forest canopy was thick and light levels very low. Exposures ran to minutes even though I was using black and white film I had rated at 200 ASA.
Towards the end of our day the sun broke through briefly illuminating the forest and tree ferns with back light. I used my last 2 sheets of film making a vertical and horizontal format image of this scene. The image required additional exposure which it did receive, but did not receive reduced development, which it should. The exposure was several seconds, with a 90mm lens on a tripod. With split grade printing on multigrade (my preferred method), it should print up successfully into a 16×20 inch fibre based print.
At the time I made this image Bull Creek tree ferns, the property was pretty much in the back blocks, but now borders Lemonthyme Lodge.
The dust jacket of the book Gone Bush, edited by Roger McDonald, describes the Australian landscape as diverse. The writers’ essays in response to this landscape “explores a country defined by ideas of naming and possession”. In the next sentence if further elaborates that the collection of short stories by twelve Australian authors also “… illustrates the fragility of an environment sometimes easier to hate than love….”.
The bush is a commonly used name for that area of relatively nondescript land covered in shrubs and vegetation. You can find remnants within the suburbs or it can also be a remote place far from any settlement. Unlike its fancier sister, Nation Parks, with her well defined borders, the bush is invisible on maps. Nor is it considered to hold any particular attractive natural feature or other value.
It is this invisibility and its relationship to the idea of naming and possession and therefore our perception of it that intrigues me. When further coloured with a love-hate sentiment it possibly flies under the radar of public scrutiny and enters the murky jurisdiction of bureaucrats. The area of land affected must be enormous. In European culture, maybe our problem is that we don’t have a name for this land. Not only does the nameless remain unspeakable, by definition it can be of no value and so it remains invisible to our psyches.
Ferns Polaroid Type 55 positive negative film. Polaroid is quite a remarkable photographic medium. Quite apart from the instantaneous imaging it could provide, the prints themselves are quite unique in their characteristics. Polaroid introduced the Type 55 P/N film back in 1961. It produces both a positive print as well as a black and white negative which could be enlarged.
This image was made in my parents’ home garden one summer. I had just purchased a Polaroid 545 film back for my wooden field camera and I was eager to try out some 4×5 Polaroid film. My only previous experience of 4×5 sheet Polaroid was as a student at Curtin University in the 80s doing a photography unit elective as part of my science degree. Watching 4×5 polaroid develop in just a few seconds was magical stuff, was also expensive and was why the tutor used it sparingly.
Alas, Polaroid Type 55 positive negative film is no longer made. It was rated around 50 ISO on the box which, in my eagerness, is what I exposed the image above at. Great for a well exposed print, big mistake for a negative if you want to print from it. In Ansel Adam’s Polaroid Land Photography, 1978, it states that there is more than one stop difference between the effective negative and positive print speeds. Their tests gave an effective print speed of 64 ISO and a negative speed of 20 ISO (page 288). This speed difference would in some way explain my difficulty in matching the polaroid print (in this instance) with an enlargement on fibre based from the polaroid negative. Indeed the polaroid negative is visually thin and would indicate underexposure.
Today I was printing from the Polaroid negative for the first time, using the Polaroid print as a reference. Try as I may, I could not achieve the same degree of tonal separation between the fern edges and the dark shadows. Yet the Polaroid print itself captures it beautifully. I have not given up though, I might have another try in the darkroom after a bit of thinking about it.
The Impossible Project (https://www.the-impossible-project.com/) are still manufacturing instant films in some formats.
Photo Canning River Kent St Weir Perth. Printed this morning in my darkroom, I made this image last weekend just after some recent rain. It was rather impromptu in one sense. I had been out earlier walking the dog, minus my camera, and noticed that in the late afternoon the weather had abated and everything was becoming wonderfully still. When I returned home I grabbed by 2 1/4 square camera and went back to the river in the fading winter light.
This image is of the Kent Street Weir, using my Bronica SQA and 105mm lens. Exposure time was 8 seconds at about f16. Film was TMax 400 developed with LC29, with slightly less than normal development. Scan is from a 7.5 x7.5 inch Foma RC print.
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.
Canning River wetlands Perth.
I often make my more personally satisfying images when I am alone. It’s not that I don’t photograph when in company, it is just easier to immerse myself more fully with my subject when alone. When I am in company there is always an imperative or priority which more often than not tends to prevent me from connecting more fully with what I am seeing.
I seek quietness, stillness. My eyes are constantly scanning, yet at this early stage I may not be conscious of looking at any one particular thing. Suddenly I am conscious of something catching my attention, my eyes returning to it over and and over, reading tones, shapes, textures and colours. How the object would look in black and white, or would be better in photographed in colour? My attention now focussed I consider my potential subject more carefully.
There may be technical problems, my eyes and brain see more than what film and camera is capable of recording. Is this worth a photograph? Can I resolve the technical problem or should I reject the idea of a photograph?
I look away, turn around, and there just a few feet away below the trunk of a swamp sheoak is the soft glow of a tendril like branch. It is the delicate shape of a broken paperbark resting upon a carpet of sheoak branchlets. I shift my camera and tripod, focus, insert the film holder and make the exposure. In a few days this branch will disappear underwater. The samphire wetlands around the Canning River will fill with winter rain.
Canning River Perth oxygenation trail tryptich
Canning River Perth oxygenation trail. Tryptich made of three 8×10 inch hand printed silver gelatin fibre based prints. Matted and window mounted using 100% cotton rag museum board. Framed in 100x40cm aluminium – colour graphite.
Each image is from a three sequential 35mm frames, made down stream from the oxygenation tank at Greenfield Street.
Made during conditions when the wind is relatively calm and the river flow rate is slow. The oxygenation process creates bubbles which form a thin white foam on the surface of the water, creating fascinating patterns.
First published in “Lost in Suburbia” in 2013. This is the only images in my Canning River exhibition “Dissociation” which were made from 35mm format.
Canning River Perth burnt woodland
Canning River Perth burnt woodland was first published in “Lost in Suburbia” in 2013, “Dissociation” 2015 Heathcote Museum & Gallery exhibition catalogue.
When I first viewed this on the ground glass screen of my camera I was excited by the prospect of producing a wonderful print. As is so often the case in photography, Burnt woodland Canning River proved for me to be much harder to realise in print than I had anticipated. The curve of the trunks and branches combined with the lines of shadow created a visual rhythm.
The image is back lit and high in contrast and the negative received reduced development and slight increase in exposure. My main problem in making this print is to preserve the feeling of intense light which reveals the flatness and dryness of the subject. To make an print consistent with my vision I had to avoid the back lit trunks and and their shadows from printing too dark. The print was made with a series of hard and soft exposures. An initial soft exposure was made to retain a suggestion of detail in the dried sunlit leaves, during which the central trunk was carefully dodged. A series of higher contrast exposures were made to selected areas to introduce more black and therefore some contrast. It is not an easy print to make and if making a new print I may well try a different approach to see if I could get a print closer to my vision. Hand printed 16×20 inch silver gelatin print.
Canning River Perth sunrise Western Australia
Canning River Perth sunrise. Whenever I wake to a misty morning here in Perth I try to get down to the river. Mist or fog transforms the landscape, highlighting visual elements close to the viewer by fact that it obscures the view of more distant objects. It also transforms the quality of light and depending upon the mist’s density it can have a soft enveloping light. The disappearance of distance adds mystery to the landscape. Mists do not occur frequently in Perth, so I when they do I try to make the most of exploring the environment in a different light. Sunrise Canning River Perth Western Australia 16×20 inch hand printed silver gelatin fibre based print
first published in “Lost in Suburbia” in 2013, “Dissociation” 2015 Heathcote Museum & Gallery exhibition catalogue