about the image

We all leave marks

After accidentally erasing my first attempt of processing black & white film which you can read here, I loaded the same type back into the camera and went photographing immediately after work the following day.

With the shots lost, there was one that could be replicated easily; an outlying column of sandstone rock at Reddells beach that has been engraved with names and initials over time. I've seen similar engraving on the walls of remote caves in Cambodia, the insides of which were emblazoned with the names of hundreds of tourists. Cedar Falls outside of Brisbane is a small waterfall and bush walking area where people have sprayed tags over the rock-face. I've even seen a small fishing boat that had sunk in the shallow, clear waters off the dive island of Ko Tao in Thailand, that was totally covered and tagged by people that had dived there.

I'm pretty unforgiving when it comes to mindless tags and vandalism. To me, it's about as imaginative as a dog pissing on a lamppost. I was speaking to a friend about this recently and she was less scathing. She said if she saw the initials of a couple in a tree, than that added a story. A mystery. It conjured up a narrative about who they were, when they met, did they eventually get married etc?  And in cases like that I get it. The photos and examples above feel different though,

Bundy, The Ord River, The KImberley, Western Australia, 2018

Bundy, The Ord River, The KImberley, Western Australia, 2018

And yet, I do have experience of this. When I was about five or six I wrote '"Steven's Garage" (minus the apostrophe presumably) in green marker pen on the garage wall of my parent's home in big, scrawling, childlike writing. Dad had been out and I wanted to surprise him on his return. He pulled up in the drive way and as he stepped out the car I proudly showed him my addition to the pebble dashed, exterior wall. He was surprised alright and instead of the kindly praise that I was expecting, I got an absolute bollocking for it

Also when I was at secondary school, I would occasionally engrave the names of my favorite bands into the wooden desk tops during class which were already covered. However one day I tagged the wrong desk. Mrs White, who had thick glasses, a soft voice and short wispy hair kept me after class one day, where she had found my latest additions. Strategically it was a flawed decision on my part because these were new tables, plastic coated with a mock grain underneath and pristine. She worked out it was my work because a) we all had designated seats for the whole year and b) there had been no other class in that room since we were last in there, so she didn't exactly need a qualification in criminology to deduce, correctly, that I was the culprit. At the time I couldn't' believe she traced it back so quickly and before my lame attempts at denial were over, I had a cloth and spray firmly placed in my hands.

So I have history of it. In this context we're talking about the natural environment where people, adults, have engraved their names into rocks that can't be wiped away. I get we all want to leave our mark etc but really?

So I went to retake the photograph with these ideas in mind. I knew my first composition from the original film had good lines, contrast and balance. However I couldn't replicate it from memory so I had to approach the rock like I was seeing it for the first time. After a couple of exposure errors I had to retake two more but as I was packing up I saw what looked like a misalignment between the camera and the film back which you can see in the short clip below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This unnerved me because I didn't want to invest too much time and effort into this film only to realise that the shots were compromised by light leaks. And I wasn't exactly looking for much of an excuse to finish this one to get another chance to develop at home once again. So I quickly shot the whole film that evening, rushing through in the falling light. The shots included a couple of abstracts at the base of the engraved rock and a couple of the theropod prints in the reef that were visible due to the low and outgoing tide. Dinosaurs walked here, their marks still visible 135million years.

Hasselblad 500c, 80mm Planar, Ilford Pan F50, f.16 1/30s

Hasselblad 500c, 80mm Planar, Ilford Pan F50, f.16 1/30s

Hasselblad 500c, 150mm, Ilford Pan F50, f.16 1/30s

Hasselblad 500c, 150mm, Ilford Pan F50, f.16 1/30s

Rock Abstract, Reddell Beach, Broome.  Hasselblad 500c, 150mm Planar, Ilford Pan F50, f.16, 1/30s

Rock Abstract, Reddell Beach, Broome.

Hasselblad 500c, 150mm Planar, Ilford Pan F50, f.16, 1/30s

Theropod Print, Reddell Beach, Broome,  Hasselblad 500c, 80mm Planar, Ilford Pan F50, f.11, 1sec

Theropod Print, Reddell Beach, Broome,

Hasselblad 500c, 80mm Planar, Ilford Pan F50, f.11, 1sec

By and large very happy with my first successful attempt at developing film at home. Stunning detail, tones and feel with this film.

And no light leaks.

 

 

 

An Experiment with Composition

Early in March of last year, I started reading Larry Fink’s book On Composition and Improvisation, part of the aperture photography workshop series. There are some stunning black and white photographs chronicled in this volume presented with a mixture of the photographers insights, compositional techniques and other photographic processes. It's a book I refer to regularly.

On page 26  there is this photo of a boxer training before a fight

 

Copyright Larry Fink

Copyright Larry Fink

Below this photo he instructs:

Do a little experiment with this picture. Cover that little corner of the table in the bottom left with your hand so that it’s no longer in the picture and look at what happens. The picture flattens out. No longer do you see the boxer embattled inside the context of space. It doesn’t become a bad picture without the table but it becomes infinitely less good because there is less tension. The picture becomes more two-dimensional, rather than sculptural or volumetric.
Roebuck Plains, March, 2017.

Roebuck Plains, March, 2017.

At around this time I was on Roebuck plains towards the tail end of the wet season. My intention was to get some dramatic storm fronts cutting across the salted, treeless plains just outside of Broome. The earth is chalky white, spread with clusters of spear grass, rough spinifex and pale termite mounds. Even though it looks landlocked this area is within an eleven metre inter-tidal zone where you often see hermit crabs marching along deep 4x4 tracks.

Down the end of one of these dry and weathered track I came across a friend of mine and we spoke through the wound down window for a while. The horse took the initiative and came in to inspect and as it did I took some photos and framed it with the recent advice still fresh in my mind, using the wing mirror to give it the effect of adding depth to the composition.

sc_broome_2573.jpg

 

Most of the photos I took used this effect. The mirror is brash and bright, unlike the delicate placement of the table corner in the boxer photograph but was useful to use a compositional technique days after reading about it.

 

 

You can buy On Composition and Improvisation here.

Cable Beach Storm: About the image

It was late afternoon in February and I was on Roebuck plains trying to find an interesting composition of the storm that was enveloping Broome. Looking up it was hard to find much drama or scale since the clouds were mostly spread out across the sky in one mass vortex with sporardic tentacles of rain. I took a self-timed selfie to start the photographic process while illustrating some of the dramatic lighting and clouds.

sc_blog-2433.jpg

When the first drops of rain landed, moments after this was taken, I knew that the photographic opportunity was gone. I walked quickly back to the car getting wetter with every step as the rains fell harder, disappointed that I didn't get out there sooner. However, driving home and heading west I did see the vaguest break in the clouds and figured it would be worth heading to Cable beach, just to see what the conditions were like. Broome is a small town but it never fails to surprise me how different weather can be a few minutes drive from one area to the next.

sc_blog-2442.jpg

Five minutes later I was walking the 50metres up to the surf club and I could sense the opportunity. Sometimes there is a moment; a palpable suspicion of photographic potential and that was lingering in air. The first thing that I noticed was the contrast of light between the foreground and background. Then there was this calm, awe filled silence that was intermittently broken by the flash of lightening and deep rumble of thunder on the horizon as people faced west.

sc_blog-2449.jpg

But with the sun already below the horizon I knew I didn’t have long to capture something interesting. I wanted to make the couple in the foreground, who were taking photos, the focus of the shot. Then it was a case of shoot, recompose and hone in on the composition. I did take a lot because I tried, unsuccessfully, to land a lightening bolt.

I never knew what I had until about five months later when I reviewed the files. I came away from the afternoon annoyed because I felt I left it all too late.  Also I tend not to look and edit the photos until months later. Time passes and objectivity replaces emotional attachment to an image, which in my experience is vital when reviewing and selecting your own work. Now, not only am I really happy with the photo as in ties in with many ideas I have about technology and our relationship to the environment, but it was awarded the photographic prize in for Shinju Matsuri, Broome's annual cultural festival, where the judges said:

 

'We thought the artist created an image that went beyond a mere photo. The photo is glamorous in its presentation of light, landscape and individuals.'

 

And I also managed to get into Capture Magazine's 'The Annual' with this photograph, which is Australia's leading publication for pro-photographers. I think it is one of my strongest images to date and there is a line of enquiry that I am pursueing further with this.

sc_blog-.jpg