Paperbarks Bannister Creek Perth

framed 74.5cm x 61.5cm | image 40cm x 50cm | 2 of ed10 | $1650

Paperbarks Bannister Creek is an image I made close to home. For the past few years, I have been exploring the question of what it means to travel in search of an ideal landscape. While there is no doubt a new and unfamiliar landscape can be creatively stimulating, are we as photographers ignoring what is right under our noses?

Sheoak Forest Canning River Perth

I made this image of the swamp she-oak forest along the Canning River this morning. After not being able to get out and make photographs these past few weeks due to COVID restrictions, I finally got a chance today.

This photograph I have had in mind for a while. It is an area of she-oak forest on the banks of the Canning River, where I sometimes walk the dog. In winter this finger of wetland that pokes into the Canning River can become flooded with high tides and rains. It is hard to believe that this important wetland environment is just 10km from Perth CBD.

Print Availability

Paperbarks Bannister Creek Perth is available for purchase online, is a 40 x 50cm silver gelatin print, hand-printed by the author. It is dry-mounted onto 100% cotton museum board, then window-mounted behind a clear acrylic sheet. Framed in graphite tone aluminium it is ready to hang. Outer dimensions 74.5 x 61.5cm. Limited edition of 10, signed and numbered. Freight and insurance within Australia included.

Everyday familiarity

I am no different to everyone else, I enjoy getting out and exploring new places and landscapes. However, in the past few years, I have tried to become more mindful and aware of the landscape in which I live. The landscape we spend most of our time in, whether it be in the inner city, the suburbs, whilst commuting to work or where we spend our leisure time, just how well do we know it? Are our eyes indifferent to it, desensitised by its everyday familiarity?

The Urbanised Environment

I live in a highly urbanised environment just 10km from Perth’s city centre. I am also close to the Canning River, a major tributary to the Swan River. Where I live the Canning River is narrow and crossed by two footbridges a few kilometres apart. There are samphire flood plains and areas wooded with flooded gums that follow the river’s edges for several kilometres. Snaking through this parkland are dual-use footpaths providing access for pedestrians and cyclists.

Several small creeks flow into the Canning River after winter rainfall. Bannister Creek is one such tributary. Paperbarks grow in the moist creek bed.

Set back from the creek’s banks are two parallel lines of fibro cement fencing enclosing both sides of the creek. This marks the boundary between the creek and domestic urbanisation. Over time the creek’s function has become a convenient drain for road runoff. Subsequent housing development resulted in all the houses facing with their backs towards the creek. More recently the importance of the creek has gained a new understanding. The local council, school and community groups have assisted in wetland restoration in and around the creek.

Several weeks prior to making this photograph I had visited Bannister Creek. At that time the water level was quite low and it was the wrong time of day for the sunlight’s direction. Yet I knew it held potential under the right conditions. After recent rain, those conditions arrived. With my 4×5 field camera and tripod strapped onto my bicycle, I peddled off down the cycle tracks to the creek.

Preserving an overall atmosphere of light eveywhere

It was early morning and the sun was positioned directly behind the trees. The water drops caught in the paperbarks glistened like thousands of delicate jewels. There was an overall atmosphere of enveloping brightness everywhere I looked.

My plan was to make a black and white photograph directly into the sunlight. I knew the scene was high contrast and normal exposure and normal development was not going to preserve the atmosphere of enveloping brightness.

To make a print of the type I envisaged it was crucial that I record all the nuances in the high values. The aim was to give a very smooth transition in the light print tones while holding fine detail and texture. This would give the light in the print volume. The darker tones in the final print are only to serve as a key visual reference to the brightness in the scene. These would be confined to small areas of the print.

Stand Development of Film

My solution was to choose a modified stand development. Modified stand development can yield low contrast negatives ideal for recording high contrast scenes. In addition to this, earlier tests I have conducted ( have shown that I can obtain nearly half a stop film speed increase. That means I get a nice boost in the separation of tones in the darker areas of my print as well as good separation in the highlights.

Initial inspection of the negative after modified stand development was as expected. It was of low contrast but held excellent shadow detail. It printed easily in my enlarger revealing all the soft creamy highlight tones. With split grade printing the negative offered a wide range of interpretations and ease of control.

Holding Textural Detail

The final print of Paperbarks Bannister Creek was made on 16x20in Fomabrom fibre based paper. I am happy with the current high key interpretation. I think the modified stand development served its purpose well. The print holds great textural detail and expresses the atmosphere and quality of the enveloping light I experienced at the time.

Lifting the veil on the familiar is no easy task. It is a constant challenge to our awareness, values and perceptions as to what we find worthy of photographing. My explorations closer to home have evolved into bodies of work that I have exhibited locally. While I still enjoy getting away to visit new locations it is also satisfying to know that rewarding images can also be made closer to home.

Wista 4×5 field camera, Ilford FP4, 150mm lens, 15 seconds at f32, modified stand development in Fomabrom R09

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Since 1989, Alex Bond has published cards, calendars, books, and posters under his imprint Stormlight Publishing. His images showcase the West Australian environment. Bond's handcrafted, silver-gelatin, fibre-based prints are personally made by the author in his darkroom.

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