New wilderness book

Late in 2018 The Wilderness Society released a book that was ‘forty years in the making‘, Wilderness: Celebrating Australia’s Protected Places.  To quote TWS: “This magnificent book showcases landscapes protected over 40 years of Wilderness Society campaigns. This includes Kakadu, Daintree, the Kimberley and, of course, Tasmania’s mighty Franklin River. Its pages tell the inspiring story of how people power can rescue the future.”  Hallelujah to that.  Its 180 pages, 30 cm x 30 cm and you can even buy a Special Edition with a ‘clam shell box’!

The book includes six of my images, and can be purchased here to help celebrate past wins and to support ongoing TWS campaigns for nature.

Katoomba Hospital artwork

I was both surprised and pleased to be selected by art consultants to create a large-scale photographic mural for the new Community Dialysis Unit at Katoomba Hospital.  The brief called for a “memorable, restful and welcoming” artwork stretching the full length of the facility – a wall 23.5 metres long.  With windows and other interruptions, this was a challenging task, on a tight timeframe.  So I enlisted my colleagues and friends Ian Charles and Marianne Walsh of Nature Tourism Services to apply their aesthetic, design and photo-editing skills.

Part of the mural “Flourish”, showing windows

We came up with a composite of several misty forest scenes from the higher Blue Mountains, with some inserted flora and fauna.  The clients liked it and the printer completed a tricky install just in time for the opening in July.  We hope the mural improves the experience of dialysis patients, who visit the unit up to three times a week for up to fours hours at a time.  The unit is divided into three treatment ‘rooms’ and we designed the mural to provide some variety by being different but congruent across the rooms.

Plenty of research has shown the benefits of nature and art for health, wellbeing and recovery, and I was delighted to be able to use my photography for such a worthwhile purpose.

Coasting

As much as I love the edge of the land, with all the drama, power and mystery of the sea, I haven’t spent much time on the coast for a while. So it was great to re-acquaint myself on two recent visits. In the depths of winter (a wonderful time to be on the coast), four of us walked for 12 days along the edge of Victoria’s Croajingolong National Park, into New South Wales and Nadgee Nature Reserve. We didn’t rush, so there was plenty of time at the two ends of the day for immersion and photography in a rich landscape. A selection of ‘wilderness coast’ images can be seen in this gallery.

Granite dusk, Croajingolong National Park

Then in August our family spent a week on the South Coast of New South Wales, in the Bawley Point-Kioloa area, wedged between two beautiful national parks – Meroo and Murramarang.  Every morning before dawn, and some evenings, I’d sneak out to prowl some new section of coast with my camera.  Thanks to so many conservationists and forward-looking governments, NSW is lucky to have extensive sections of coast that have not been marred with headland mansions and other blights. Some South Coast images can be seen in this gallery.

Sunrise on Willinga Creek lagoon, on the edge of Meroo National Park

Sierra Nevada, California

Leaving Iceberg Lake, near Mount Whitney

The Sierra Nevada is the largest stretch of wild country in the ‘lower 48’ of the United States, and a superb alpine landscape. Pioneer conservationist John Muir came to love the Sierra, which he described as the ‘range of light’. He made the area pivotal in the birth of the modern nature conservation and national park movement. In 1984 I did a long ski journey through the High Sierra and swore one day to return for the rock climbing. It only took 34 years, but in 2018 a friend and I made the pilgrimage.  We climbed in Tuolumne Meadows, a little in Yosemite, and enjoyed long routes on six High Sierra peaks. Inbetween we visited some other wonderful places such as the Alabama Hills and the White Mountains with their ancient Bristlecone Pines.

Half Dome sunset
High Sierra joy

See the galleries for more California images.

Australian Geographic and The Wilderness Society

One of my images has been lucky enough to again be selected as a finalist in the 2018 Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year competition. “Truncated” depicts a graceful Blue Mountains Ash (Eucalyptus oreades) on the escarpment at Mount Victoria, and was picked for the Botanical category. This competition gets tougher every year with an increasing number of entries, so its pleasing that one of my ‘humble trees’, from so close to home, got in the mix this time. You can see all the finalists here, and the exhibition opens at the Australian Museum (Sydney) and the South Australian Museum (Adelaide) on 24 August 2018.

‘Truncated’ – finalist in the Botanical category, 2018 Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year

On another front, an image of mine from the Pilliga will appear in The Wilderness Society’s 2019 Landscape Calendar, in support of the campaign against gas extraction from this important natural area. Its not just the gas, but the damage to underground water and the dismemberment of the landscape with hundreds of wells and hundreds of kilometres of roads that is at stake. You can read about the campaign here.

Sandstone outcrop, Timallallie National Park, Pilliga

ACF Diary 2019

Three of my images were selected for the Australian Conservation Foundation’s 2019 Diary….look out for it later in the year. I enjoy my photos being used to promote and support efforts to protect nature in Australia.

Rockfall, West MacDonnell National Park (to appear in the 2019 ACF Diary)

Exhibition at Light & Shadow Gallery, Leura

My new monochrome exhibition has been showing at Light and Shadow Fine Art Gallery at Leura since 30 May, and at least some works will be there into July. Natural Reflections includes some images from Edge of Light, with a number of new works. Small prints are also for sale. Light and Shadow was opened in February 2018 to showcase the work of iconic Australian photographer Max Dupain. The gallery will continue to exhibit Dupain mixed with other photographers. Its the only gallery dedicated to photography in the Sydney region…so I hope people will support it!

Boolambayte paperbarks
Floodwood

Can photographs destroy the places we love?

This is an important question in light of some recent events and rising trends. In January, Tasmanian photographer Jason Futrill complained that an “Instagram-fuelled spike in visitation” to a previously obscure waterfall had caused a lot of environmental damage. See the story here.

The influx was based on Jason’s own images shared and named on social media, an action he now regrets. Jason also pointed the finger at Tourism Tasmania for blithely sharing social media images from sensitive places in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area without regard to potential impacts, and called on photographers and websites to “reflect on their own impact and take more responsibility for the conservation of the photos they post and share”.

In 2017, ABC TV reported that much less remote places were also copping a hiding from too many tourists because of social media promotion. Hyams Beach in Jervis Bay, NSW, and Esperance in Western Australia have both been besieged with tourists all looking for that perfect selfie with white sand and blue water. These issues were discussed with Futrill and Esperance photographer Jaimen Hudson (who wasn’t so concerned for his patch) on Radio National ‘Sunday Extra’ on 18 February 2018.

In Royal National Park near Sydney, Wedding Cake Rock and Figure of Eight Pool have both become Instagram ‘trophy’ sites. At least they are hardy spots…but hazardous for some (lives have been lost). Here in the Blue Mountains, some previously quiet bush swimming holes are now crowded with Facebook tourists. This started with a book on ‘wild swimming’ and social media took it from there. In less remote settings worldwide, locals in places from Iceland to Barcelona are jacking up against tourism impacting their quality of life. The phenomenon has spawned a new word: overtourism.

This is an issue that has concerned me for a while. I’m all for people enjoying the outdoors, as long as they are respectful and the environment can cope. I have had disagreements with people who seem obsessed with promoting particular places in the bush. Sometimes this is done for areas that need to be protected from other, more destructive impacts like logging or mining: if people know the place, they might care – and who could argue against that? But if the place is already secure in a conservation reserve, and in untracked, rarely-visited terrain, then I say let it be. And I find the sheep-like flocking to particular places rather distasteful and undignified.

Many images (especially of mine) are not readily attached to a specific place, being of natural details, bush interiors and other phenomena. But certain types of recognisable places are inherently attractive, and can look exceptional or highly appealing in photographs: white sand against blue water for instance, or a beautiful rockpool in the bush. People will want to go there. Places away from tracks can be just as vulnerable; if they are not too arduous to get to, and a position is GPS-pinpointed on social media, then there can be no turning back.

My position is clear: photographers do have a special responsibility. Its a privilege to be able to visit wild places, make photographs and share them. But just as we need to be careful to do no harm while out there, we should also be careful what we do with the images when we get back. So when I caption my photos, I tend to apply vague or generalised locations – unless the place is already well-known, recognised, popular and resilient, like, say, Govetts Leap waterfall. Why draw attention to a very specific but obscure bush locale and have it damaged when there are so many fabulous places to see and find for yourself? And its never going to be the same as the photo anyway, when it may have taken careful composition and several visits before certain conditions were found (and often over-hyped in processing, which I find philosophically disturbing).

For me, and I suspect most people, the most wonderful experiences arrive unexpectedly, by discovery, not from just following the crowd to the next tick. The best events are unscripted, and often associated with ephemeral circumstances like the weather or how you’re feeling on the day. They are as much about you as the place. Most spots that have not been hardened by track construction and so on cannot handle lots of people without becoming damaged. Then the Instagram crowds will move on to the next big thing, like slash-and-burn farmers. Its just sad, on so many levels.

(The image below involved serendipity. It had been raining heavily for days, filling the lakes brimful. Then late in the afternoon the storm abruptly faded away into clear skies and calmness.)

Will anyone find it just like this again? (Sunset, Myall Lakes National Park)

ACF Diary and TWS Calendar 2018

I was again delighted to have some of my images selected for these publications. Every year The Wilderness Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation collaborate to put out a diary and a calendar to promote the values and importance of Australia’s wild places and wildlife. I’ve been contributing for many years and this time they selected 2 images for the calendar and 5 for the diary. This news is a bit late and I guess they’re not available any more…look out for the 2019 editions around October.

Seeping waterfall, West MacDonnell National Park, NT (from 2018 ACF Diary)

Cape Flattery dunefield, Cape York Peninsula, Qld (from 2018 ACF Diary)

New exhibition EDGE OF LIGHT

EdgeOfLight flyer lores

My next exhibition will open at the Blue Mountains Heritage Centre on 1 December, running until the end of the month.  This one is a departure for me,  as Edge of Light is my first all-monochrome show.  It features images from wild places I’ve explored, including the Blue Mountains (of course), New Zealand mountains, Tasmania, Greenland and Far North Queensland.  Many photographs compare and contrast features from very different environments.  I’ve been delving into B&W for a while, with both large format film and digital, and learned that only some images work for me in monochrome.  Others just have to be in colour, while some can succeed in both modes with appropriate processing.

All images are for sale in limited editions, and some are also available in smaller prints.  The Heritage Centre is down the end of Govetts Leap Road out of Blackheath, and is open 7 days, 9.00 to 4.30 (closed Christmas Day).  I hope you enjoy it.

On the Dark Cloud Range, Fiordland
On the Dark Cloud Range, Fiordland
Rocky Creek lores
Dark canyon
Windermere sun, Tasmania
Windermere sun, Tasmania