Albany south coast, Andersonia sprengelioides
Albany south coast is one of my favourite locations. When the summer weather sets in, Perth can get hot. The region offers a refreshing cool change with dramatic coastal scenery. Even in summer, small low pressure systems brush the coast near Albany. The change in weather not only means cooler temperatures but also changes in the quality of light.
I often think of light qualities in terms such as painterly, mysterious, dramatic, soft or hard. Approaching weather changes can provide a mixture of rapidly changing light qualities. That’s what makes photographing during periods of change interesting and challenging.
I was walking along the granite cliff tops near Albany when I made this image. It was late in the day and the sun was about to set. The light was angled low casting deep shadows between boulders. In contrast to the deep shadows bare granite rocks glistened almost white. This is a high contrast scene that taxes your ability to record it on colour transparency. Interesting light is nearly always photographically problematic.
Colourful Coastal Heath
As I looked towards the direction of the setting sun I saw the various hues of green, brown, crimson and delicate white tips carpeting the foreground. Thanks to The Wildflower Society WA members who helped identify the ground cover is Andersonia sprengelioides rather than Andersonia caerulea as I had originally thought.
Tech: Wista 4×5 field camera, velvia 50 ISO, 90mm Grandagon lens, no colour filter.
Granite coastline Albany region south west Western Australia comprise of cliffs and boulders, impressive both in scale and in their protracted war they wage against a restless, pounding, Southern Ocean. The windswept coastal heath above these rocky shores consists of highly specialised plants, adapted to survive in harsh conditions. Salt residue from sea spray coats their leaves, their root systems barely grasp these slopes made tenuous by shallow soil, and the lack of protective soil contributes to the plant’s thermal and water stress. The harshness of the conditions is often masked by the heath’s varied display of plants and wildflowers, set against the grandeur of a rugged and isolated coastline. This isolation and ruggedness combined with other recreational pursuits draw people to the coast. But we are in danger of loving it to death.
Four wheel drive tracks along sensitive areas of coastline are increasing in number and severity of their condition. Frequent use of tracks by vehicles quickly leads to erosion, which is further aided by water run off, cutting deep channels along the wheel paths and making them unusable in parts. The drivers’ solution is to create new tracks around difficult sections, thereby creating an ever widening excoriation of the coastal heath, leading to further damage to the plants that stabilise the top soil.
The worst examples of damaging 4WD are actually rather short in distance, usually radiating from a more established track directly down the heath slopes before stopping just above the cliff lines. For the short 30 or 40 metres of vehicular travel they “provide” they become large visible scars cutting directly down the slopes. Erosion from rainfall is at its maximum potential with orientation of these “tracks”. The remoteness of many of these locations means this damage is often proceeding unchecked, out of sight and out of mind. The 4 Wheel Drive Clubs in WA and Department of Parks and Wildlife need to get together to discuss and action a plan to minimise this type damage in National Parks. Or maybe we will leave things as they are to continue, then ask Lotteries West for funding and a bunch of volunteers to eventually carry out some type of “vegetation rehabilitation” on our scarred coastline? Prevention would seem a better option all round.
Liquid Light: I was walking back to my campsite late one evening. The clear blue skies of the day had slipped away into a dull metal grey with a light but steady rain of an approaching cold front.
It had been a strenuous day’s walking on the south coast, but otherwise it was uneventful from an image making perspective. Although I usually find plenty of subject matter for my camera, on this day I just couldn’t get the photographic elements to come together in some manageable way. Not to mention that the coastal vegetation was full of ticks, for which I had to check myself continuously, and was one reason why I didn’t stand still long enough to set up my tripod!
Away from the onslaught of ticks I stood for a few minutes near the edge of high granite cliffs. Below me there was the loud sound of air under pressure being rapidly released, punctuated by a spout of water vapour, followed by a long inhaling breath. A few seconds later a humpback whale swam leisurely by, just a few metres out from the cliff’s edge. As it passed underneath me I watched it follow the cliff line and then disappear.
Braving the ticks, I made my way across the low bush towards a four wheel drive track used by local fisherman. The rain, now pooling along the track, caught my attention as it reflected the glow of the evening sky. It was if the light was seeping out of the ground. I quickly set up my camera and made the exposure, the light fading rapidly, before a deluge of rain hit.
That night in my tent I heard the whales calling to each other as they swam into the bay.