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. Local council, school and community groups have assisted in wetland restoration in and around the creek.
Several weeks before 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 the 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.
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.
I planned to make a black and white photograph directly into the sunlight. I knew the scene was high contrast and normal exposure and 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.
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.
The initial inspection of the negative after 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.
The final print 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. This print is limited to just 10. If you want to know more about print availability please contact me.
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 which 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.
Ilford FP4 4×5, 150mm lens, 15 seconds at f32 modified stand development