Tutu time

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I claimed I was on a mission, and I’m sticking with the theme. I’m gradually getting up to speed on the nuances between various mallee and macrocarpa and where I may track them down, thanks to evenings spent poring over quaint brochures, wildflower society booklets, and the ABC’s weighty Native Plants tome. I’d recommend not sitting next to me at a dinner party and politely enquiring about it, lest I send you to sleep. Suffice to say, it is proving to be a treasure hunt for me, and easily as much fun.

As glamorous as this sounds though, hold your envy in check. This week I took a while to get some shots near a house that had no open curtains, a large number of cars, and frequent short term visitors. I briefly contemplated a side business in surveillance, but as the industrial seed oil smoke from the nearby fast food outlet enveloped my hair, I realised I wouldn’t have the tenacity. And I don’t eat donuts.

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Ah, the serenity.

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Beyond the tutu. An exercise in being present.

After about Day 3, W said he no longer needed to see my daily finds, but to let him know when I have something different. Luckily I have a boom or bust approach to, well, everything; a perfect foundation for making hay when nature shines.

So, at the risk of overdoing the mallee and macrocarpa theme, here are a few from the last few days. I’m gathering a body of such work over at Nina Williams Photography, so check in there every now and again, if you would like to see more. I’ll be taking calendar orders in November!

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Iconic Australian Imagery

Iconic Australian Imagery

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I always love to hear if you have a favourite, and please let me know if you are interested in the plant names!

 

 

 


Roadside attractions

Iconic Australian Imagery

Spurred by my singular mission for Australian iconographical supremacy, I have been burning up the kilometres in Perth’s hinterlands and developed a keen eye for the shrubbery of my favoured plants. Next time I will take a shot of the other view around some of these images. Envisage trucks and cars roaring past apace, and about every 10 minutes a ute horn and muffled yelling issuing forth. A strange custom, that one.

 

I’m playing around with backgrounds a bit. I cannot bring myself to snip off branches, preferring to shoot them in situ, but I have particular ideas about what I want my subject matter to sit on, and the background is not always ideal (the McDonalds red and yellow is SO dominating). I love the challenge of finding plants at the perfect stage, in the right light and manageable weather – it takes me back to driving around pre-dawn Victoria in the dark winter drizzle, with my travel mug of tea, and frozen fingers on the car heating vents. My happy place!

 

Iconic Australian Imagery

Eucalyptus caesia, Silver Princess

Iconic Australian Imagery Iconic Australian Imagery

Hakea laurina, Pin-cushion Hakea

Hakea laurina, Pin-cushion Hakea

Iconic Australian Imagery

Eucalyptus Macrocarpa, Mottlecah

Iconic Australian Imagery


In summary

WA Smokebush

The radio silence has ended.  In truth, it has been an interesting, somewhat patchy, all-over-the-shop year, that was not at all as I envisaged at the beginning. When that happens, some things get my attention, and others languish. Nothing seems good enough to share, and the paralysis of perfectionism kicks in. Here are some observations.

In 2013, it is safe to say I did more new things, challenging things, and dumb things than I have done before. I was more excited, disappointed, determined, exhausted, and inspired than ever before, and sometimes in close succession. In fact, I squeezed all of those things into a 4 day mountain bike event, and somehow sneaked into the official documentary. I apologise unreservedly for the dodgy snippet.

Watch the full Cape to Cape 2013 Documentary on SBS here and join us next year! (I may have stuffed up the video above, if so, I’m at 48 minutes!)

Training for the event pulled me through the dark part of my year, winter. That, and a clutch of talented, inspiring, and just plain good fun mountain bikers that had me riding at my limit, and only ever crying on the inside. Legends, all. I’ve learnt that when I’m riding, if my mind drifts off to anything but riding, my speed drops 30%. Sometimes, thinking too much leaves you behind. 

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My photography world has shifted. The brooding, changing, landscapes I came to seek, love, and know inside-out in Victoria, have been replaced with vistas hardened to strong light, the colour sucked out of them, and located hundreds of kilometres from home.

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I came west with a specific and fanciful aim to spend days on the road, finding magic, but while adventuring with W, I realised I it only worked when he was around. I felt unsafe travelling alone, and this destroyed my ability to see any magic. This floored, then freed, me. Without the singular identity of ‘Landscape Photographer’, I have spread my wings, and undertaken both paid and personal projects across the genres.

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Against the advice of every entrepreneur that knows their shizz, I’ve done the opposite of specialise, amongst other things, pointing my camera at architecture, real estate, a baby Cake Smash, documentary, events, actor portfolio shots, vintage flowers, and corporate headshots. Throw in a Star Trek-themed wedding and a Bar Mitzvah, and no stone remains unturned.

Office Kitchen

I don’t recommend this approach for anyone starting a business, but it has been an important journey for me. And while I came to Perth with a plan that hasn’t materialised, it is a fantastic place to live if Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is something that snaps at your heels. It is never too early to greet a fellow traveller along the river, and they always seem happy.

Like the shirtless guy last week, strolling barefoot along at 5.30am, in his business pants, a business shirt tucked into the back of his pants, carrying one business shoe, and waving a cheery good morning.

In summary, 2013 has been a year of possibility, made possible by the unrelenting support from a handful of wonderful people. I wish you all the same for your 2014.


Vintage mad

West Australian wildflowers

West Australian Wildflowers

West Australia allegedly has the greatest concentration of wildflowers in the world. I wish I could remember where I read that, to chase it up. But that snippet has gone the way of many useful fragments of information that float about untethered in my brain, untraceable until presenting themselves at 3am, when no-one is available to hear them.

West Australian Wildflowers - Everlastings

West Australian Wildflowers – Everlastings

Spring is wildflower season, so I have been driving the countryside in search of sweeping vistas of everlastings, and determined to portray them in a manner that is not at home in a tourist brochure. This, along with a population obsession with ‘instagram’ style imagery, has prompted me to mess around with different photoshop effects and to take photos with the photoshop effect in mind. Et Voila! This week the vintage effect obsession is mine. Everything that passes through my camera memory card gets sprayed with layers of this and that. I predict that like shoulder pads, bum bags, and mullets, Instagram image filter effects will be immediately identifiable with an era, and Instagram will become a verb.

West Australian Wildflowers

Smokebush

Margaret River

Margaret River waterway

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Margaret River Rail Trail

 


Iconic Australia

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Excitement! It has been a while in development, but I can finally tell you all about the wonderful work I got to do with my great client OAMPS Insurance Brokers.

What began as a brief back in 2011 to produce some iconic Australian images for their marketing material, eventually grew into a fantastic brand refresh project, leaping from the pages of templates, to going live on the website, and now adorning the walls and meeting rooms of OAMPS offices.

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OAMPS Melbourne

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OAMPS Melbourne

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OAMPS Brisbane

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OAMPS Brisbane

So what is iconic in Australia? For me, it is so much more than the Sydney Harbour Bridge or a kangaroo. Australia is out-of-the-box. The incredible colour and variety of its land, eco-climates, and flora is vast and undervalued. While I love to travel to the more remote and difficult areas of this country, I appreciate that not everyone has the same will or ability, and so I aim to bring it to them. In a world of manufactured fun, beauty, and instant gratification, I like to encourage people to value the incomparable natural wonder that is Australia, and its contribution to the irrepressible Aussie Spirit.

So, how did we get there? The Marketing team and I began by going back to the beginning, identifying the very heart of what OAMPS is about. OAMPS has grown organically over its long history and although the name of OAMPS held a very strong connection with clients, the brand identity itself had become fractured and the way they presented to clients, very inconsistent.

We landed on the idea of representing aspects of Australia’s environmental and geological diversity; from rainforest, to coast, to the arid zones and treasures buried in rock. After story-boarding our way through sandy beaches and other obvious choices, we narrowed it down to a group of potential subjects. Over the next few months, I kept these ideas in my head as I travelled, ever vigilant for the ‘right’ image.

I credit the team for choosing the brave direction, leaving industry imagery behind, and instead, taking clients and colleagues on a journey to Australia’s wild heart and beautiful landscapes. Executed with Simon Long’s gorgeous organic graphic design, these images help OAMPS tell their story, where they have come from, what they value, and what clients can expect from them. This is Project Iconic Australia.

Boulder opal from Lightning Ridge

Boulder Opal from Lightning Ridge, NSW

When I first looked at this piece of boulder opal I saw a topographical map; an aerial view of the Australian landscape with broad dry plains, ridges and meandering waterways. I liked the ambiguity of the image and that the viewer may have to look closer to figure out what it is. I also like the way the opal forms between separate pieces of rock, tenaciously looking for an opportunity, just like the hardy and colourful characters who optimistically seek it. Opals are difficult to photograph, and often a photo does no justice to the range and depth of colour you can see with the naked eye. I spent hours trialling all sorts of angles, light sources and photographing different pieces of opal before I found ‘the one’. To me, opal represents the tough Australian spirit, ingenuity and perseverance, a precious gem wrapped in rock.

Apollo Bay rockpool with anenomes. Who knew?

As an island surrounded by ocean I wanted to represent the coast in a way that wasn’t simply crashing waves. Rockpools are a part of the Australian coastline. Highly resilient, they exist at the whim of tides, sun and human intervention. Rockpools represent carefree childhood summers at the beach, hours spent investigating each one for a sign of life, and dodging breaking waves to get to the best ones. Taking time to peer into each tiny ecosystem, you never knew what you would find, and creatures would only emerge from hiding to reward those with patience. Taking this shot, I had to discourage around 100 seagulls from landing around me and casting shadows. One of them left me a little white present in my hair.

Stag horn fern, Otway Ranges, Victoria

Stag horn fern, Otway Ranges, Victoria

Native to Australian tropics, the staghorn fern lives in symbiosis with its surroundings, seeking out the best position to thrive. It  symbolises Australia’s many forest and tropical regions and presents such an abundant contrast to the open arid centre. The scale, colour, delicate beauty and ingenuity of the staghorn appealed to me. Growing on the trunk of a tree it makes the most of its host’s water attracting ability, but does no harm to the tree. Thriving in the filtered light of a rainforest, this plant is sculptural and unmistakably tropical. Photographed it in the Otway Ranges of Victoria, a gutsy Bull Ant took its chances on my foot while distracted. Thinking it was a stick digging into me, I ignored it. For a week, the three bites I had gave me a cankle that could not be forced into any boot.

Spinifex grass, Karijini National Park, WA

Spinifex grass, Karijini National Park, WA

Spinifex grass is essential to the arid landscapes and dune ecosystems of Australia. Resilient and ubiquitous, it is one plant that is present where little else survives.  Appearing soft, it is actually very sharp to touch, and I recommend long pants when walking through it, although I never take my own advice and always end up with shredded legs. I have seen two-metre snakes, large lizards and scores of spinifex mice disappear into a single plant. The plant appears solid in the centre, so to this day I wonder where they go. Nothing beats the way light shines through it at sunset.

Devils Marbles, Karlu Karlu Conservation Reserve, NT

Devils Marbles, Karlu Karlu Conservation Reserve, NT

Created millions of years ago, and transformed from granite by water alone, they are symbolic of Australia’s ancient roots. I love the idea that we can walk around and touch something formed 1600 million years ago.  Granite graces the landscape all over Australia, in different colours and shapes, but the Devils Marbles are especially stunning. There are few sharp edges or straight lines in the mounds of rocks piled precariously, and the rich colour at dawn and dusk is arid Australia at its finest. I cannot imagine anyone visiting this place without being moved or impressed by it. When shooting this at dusk in January, biting flies that blotted out the sun tested my ability to retain courage under fire, and complete my mission. It was a radiant 34 degrees at 5pm, and I would have given anything for a biohazard movie crime-scene suit.

Gumnut, Great Otway National Park, Victoria

Gumnut, Great Otway National Park, Victoria

A more perfectly adapted plant to an environment beset by wildfire I know not of. Found in the woodlands of Australia, gumtrees connect us to resilience, regeneration and hope, even after disaster. When thinking about iconic Australia, I kept coming back to the gumtree, but as an image itself, I felt it was overdone. Looking closer into the actual seeds and life cycle, I developed a greater appreciation for one of the most uniquely adapted and beautiful plants Australia has. I love the fine detail in each gumnut across the varieties and the contrast between the leathery, hard, gumnut shell and the delicate tutu-like flower that emerges from it. I like the connection for those Australians who grew up reading about May Gibbs’ Gumnut Babies.

Most gumnuts are annoyingly out-of-reach and I spend many hours leaping up to snatch at them, or filling my car with broken branches (and resident bugs) picked up off forest floors for later research. This has spawned an obsession for gumnuts, and a calendar for my Mum. I discovered this particular gumnut in the Great Otway National Park in Victoria, on an extremely windy day with branches crashing around me. It felt like a long walk down to the coast and back up a trail to find this treasure. 40,000km of tyre and foot wear later, I have never found the same one again.

OAMPS Melbourne

OAMPS Melbourne


Sky painting

Perth sky

For a big country town, Perth holds its own for homeward traffic. Stuck on the motorway with no spot to stop my vehicle and whip out the big gun, the iphone got the gig. I would have risked police intervention if only there had been space for the monster truck.

The sky was like this for around 4 minutes in total, and looked even more amazing before I was pulled inexorably into a tunnel, an excrutiating 2 minute crawl to freedom and vision at the other end.


Disorder

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Those close to me may have noticed my barely concealed pathological desire for order. I am fully aware that this is one of those genuine weaknesses one could declare at a job interview, and not sound smug, unlike “Oh, a weakness? Hmm, let’s see. I’m a perfectionist?”. I say pathological because I actually feel anxious when things are disorderly, to the point of preventing forward motion. I write spreadsheets of packing lists for roadtrips, bike trips, work trips, lists for things that live permanently inside the camper, lists for stuff that gets added on the day of departure with the camper. I spend hours arranging the lists. I print the lists. W ignores the lists. Last weekend we took a quick trip to Margaret River. It is our 20th trip, and 150km down the road we realise we have no coffee. In terms of functional necessity, one may as well have forgotten to bring clothes.

NSW

I deal with my Disorder Disorder by making myself take abstract photos, and not rearranging my tees that call to me daily to be placed in order of hue and saturation. The Fleeting Glimpses technique (named during a road trip from Melbourne to Perth with photographer C, who introduced me to the idea) of shooting out the window of a car travelling at 110km is one way I practise achieving the unpredictable. I took these photos in the wonderfully verdant and be-sheeped hills of New South Wales, between Wagga and Canberra a couple of weeks ago. I love that the Auto-Focus and Vibration Reduction mechanism on my 70-200mm lens go crazy trying to lock onto something, which results in blurred lines going in lots of different directions, or a single plane of sharpness and all the rest a blur. Which is exactly what my brain feels like more than some of the time.

I welcome feedback on any of the pics I post. What do you like? What don’t you like? What do you want more of? Don’t be shy! It is great to hear what strikes people.


Another side of Canberra

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Given the kerfuffle swirling about Canberra this week, I decided my pic of the day would show a different side of Canberra.Canberra sports some pretty orderly plantings, so this weedy little spot really appealed. A perfect pastel sunset, with a jaunty pink float in the pond, and I was sold.

It was my first trip to Canberra. I swept through there a couple of weeks ago on the way back from a weekend at Wagga, attending a Marching Out Parade at the Kapooka Army Base. I drove around the parliament buildings so many times trying to escape the infernal hexagon of road planning hell, I feel certain I am on some security watch list.

Pink Buoy

 


Uluru and the moo(n)

Uluru and the moo(n)

Uluru and the moo(n)

Uluru is quite possibly the most over-photographed natural wonder in Australia, but I didn’t let that deter me from spending three days driving and walking around and around it looking for the new angle. What I like about this is that the sun had set leaving the moon to provide light. The stars are out though barely discernible at this size of image, and the 30 second exposure allows for the kind of cloud movement I would ordinarily avoid. I feel a roadie to the reddie coming on!

On the same day we had been to Kings Canyon and climbed Heartbreak Hill to the Canyon Rim. A sartorially splendid gentleman stood out, for both his jaunty scarf and ability to look Milan fabulous, and for being a good sport while his partner took a photo.

Massimo was certain a fashion forward pose would conceal his abject terror

Massimo was certain a fashion forward pose would conceal his abject terror


Lightning up my life

Lightning show, Cape Range National Park, WA

Lightning show, Cape Range National Park, WA

As my thinking is drowned out by the fans kicking in on the Mac and the interminable whir of 15 terabytes of storage, I am forced to face the fact that I have literally thousands of photos taking up space, that never see the light of day. They transition briefly through my image management software before I resign them to the Anthony Marantino (Sex and the City) “hates it!!” pile.

I freely admit to a perfectionistic streak, but rather than a charming character trait I have decided it is constraining to ones ability to share and something I must challenge. So, prepare yourself for more frequent posts. Sometimes without stories, sometimes something perhaps your three year old could do better, but the photos will always be something that grabbed me on the day. So, first cab off the rank is a shot of a fantastic lightning storm we had front row seats to, at Easter at Cape Range. It was better than the best fireworks I have ever seen. I love how the clouds are all leaning to the left. Could I love Cape Range any more?