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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
The Australian Professional Photography Awards this year delivered me a Silver Award, and oh my, how I have grown.
Once crushed by the disappointment of my unrewarded works not considered worthy, I find myself in 2012 simultaneously thrilled my wedge-tailed eagle found friends on the judging panel, and that my other two (un)landscape images were not quite their cup of tea. High five for different strokes!
I traversed a most lumpy piece of ground in the trusty truck to get close enough to this gorgeous bird that wanted to fly off (but really didn’t want to leave without eating some greens). Now, I love a raptor as much as the next person, but the wedge-tailed eagles have my heart. Such a beautiful face!
There is a lot to love about a summer evening and a chilled beverage at sunset, on the Ceduna foreshore. Suffering from an embarrassment of riches in seafood, Ceduna is one of those magical places that owes its contained size to its relative remoteness. The people who live and work here are passionate about fishing, the region, and fishing.
Seated on the balcony and blowing the inherited smoke of other diners away, we were joined at our unfeasibly large dining table by a lovely farmer and his date. Generous with information on the region, garnered by generations of family, he pointed us in the direction of Penong and Cactus Beach. We were not disappointed.
In the fresh morning light we came upon salt lakes of coconut ice, and a surf beach that boasted allegedly one of Australia’s best left handers. Chrissie handed me her polarising filter. Oh.My.Goodness. As one who loves a watery vista, I really should have got one long ago, but I always thought it would be another filter hiding in those otherwise un-useable crevices of my camera bag, clocking up frequent flyer miles but never getting out of their little plastic cases.
Speeding away, Nullabor bound, Chrissie let me in on what I like to refer to as her Fleeting Glimpse technique which involves hanging your camera out the window of a vehicle travelling at 114km per hour, and defying the Vibration Reduction system of your lens. What I was going for here was the idea that you only catch glimpses of things as you speed by the world, you only focus on bits and pieces. It also greatly challenges my (some would argue) pathological need for order and precision. Rookie attempts, more to come.
Leaving the charming Morgan motel, the Gawler Ranges beckoned. Granite hills, millions of years old. A manageable side adventure on the route west that I hadn’t visited before. Gantt charts and spreadsheets allowed a good three days for exploration. I pored over forums warning of flood and pestilence. I packed the compressor (for tyre management). Chrissie filled a bin with rations should we be waylaid. Perishing was not on our agenda.
Immersing ourselves in the weighty bag of brochures and promises Chrissie had sourced pre-trip, it became apparent we could base ourselves in one of the small highway towns and run day trips into the Ranges. We settled on a motel in Wudinna, a town we couldn’t help but call Wooden-eye.
I am somewhat embarrassed to admit our three day intrepid adventure was compressed to a handful of hours. The radiant heat from the 1500 million year old granite mounds meant our dashes from the car were briefer than the wonderful landscape deserved, and the time of year delivered an arid and dusty scene; photos drained of colour and plant life doing its best to conserve energy. Uninspired, I whispered my apologies and promised to return in a future spring. I swear I heard the granite reply on the wind, in understanding tones, that it wasn’t going anywhere.
Visit the most excellent Wudinna District Council website for decent info about the Gawler Ranges.
Tomorrow, the Coast!