Tag Archives: Mallacoota

Turtle Nesting, Mallacoota

I find it useful to allow pictures to ‘cure’ for a time before deciding which ones I like. Sometimes the images that appeal most at first viewing don’t survive the passage of time and re-viewing. Too obvious, too garish, too shallow, too derivative – there’s a host of reasons why an image that at first seemed to be a ‘keeper’ later seems uninteresting. Or even embarrassing.

But others emerge from the archive after being neglected at first glance. Or else I find myself going back to look at them or work on them some more to try to reveal some hidden potential. Perhaps it is just that my taste changes over time.

Anyway, here’s a picture from March 2013 that I’d put in that second category – of emergent keepers. The scene was captured at Mallacoota on the ocean beach, on a hazy afternoon with pale sunlight filtering through sea spray.

Turtle Nesting, Mallacoota (2013)

Turtle Nesting, Mallacoota (2013)

I liked the man emerging from the surf in his white swimming trunks. As I worked on the image in Photoshop, I came to imagine him as some kind of amphibian creature arriving from the deep ocean, rather than just an ordinary bloke who’d gone out for a quick dip in the surf on a warm day.

I cloned him several times to create a ‘troop’ (a ‘flotilla’, a ‘school’?) of identical figures all reaching land simultaneously. The waves and the walking men give a nice strong feeling of movement from the right to the left side of the picture. It was late at night when I worked on the image, and I drifted into thinking of those high school science pictures showing the evolution of life as sea creatures started colonising the land. Then of some kind of aquatic zombie invasion. But mostly, I imagined sea turtles during their seasonal arrival to lay eggs in beach dune nests.

On the day when I first arrived at the headland and looked along the beach towards the inlet, the light and framing of the scene had me thinking of the quality of light in the beach photography of Massimo Vitali, whose work I had recently been looking at.

Massimo Vitali - Vecchiano Venditori, Italy

Massimo Vitali – Vecchiano Venditori, Italy

And later, when I came to work on the RAW file to produce the final image, I found more inspiration in the luscious, painterly beach images of Belgian photographer Harry Gruyaert. He has employed much darker tonality than the light-saturated, almost washed out images of Vitali (and my own picture). However I really like the stagey compositions, elevated angle of view and big skies, all accentuating the perspective of the beach stretching away to the horizon. (Click to see more of his work on the Magnum photo site)

Harry Gruyaert. Picardie region. Bay of the Somme river. Beach of the town of Fort Mahon. 1991.

Harry Gruyaert. Picardie region. Bay of the Somme river. Beach of the town of Fort Mahon. 1991.

The Turtle Nesting, Mallacoota picture was made as part of my project on South East Coastal Adaptation – you can see other pictures from the series at this link.

Future Landscapes III: Mallacoota Washovers

Mallacoota Washover I

Mallacoota Washover I

The base photograph for this image was taken in Mallacoota, looking across the Genoa River inlet towards the ocean. Large numbers of pelicans frequent the area, attracted in part by the fish cleaning benches at the public boat launching ramp. Two them are seen to be taking off, in their ungainly way.

The overlayed bridge appears to have been immersed by the waters of the inlet, suggesting this to be a flooded place of human occupation.

Mallacoota Washover II

Mallacoota Washover II

At the Mallacoota Inlet, a complex system of sandbanks defines the passage of the Genoa River as it reaches the ocean, near the conjunction of Bass Strait with the Tasman Sea. At low tide the shallow platforms of sand emerge from the waters of the Inlet.

In this image I wanted to transform the view from a tidal landscape to a scene suggestive of future inundation, by placing a semi-derelict building and surrounding garden plants onto the sandbank. Surely it will be immersed by the next high tide. A lone figure with a small boat is seen departing – perhaps salvaging some last possessions?

The little building was actually photographed in a (dry) paddock alongside the road out to Pambula Beach in NSW.

Ghost Gums

Ghost Gums

The base photograph was taken in early morning light at Mallacoota, looking westwards across the waters of the inlet.

The photograph of the ‘ghost gums’ was taken along the Broadaxe forestry road through the Southeast Forests, near the Victorian border.

These trees, seen below the water of the inlet appear impossible – credible neither as a reflection or a submersion of a real forest. The perspective is ‘wrong’ in a way that disrupts the viewing of it as a conventional landscape. I wanted the image to evoke a mood with equal measures of serenity, melancholy and strangeness.

Future Landscapes: The South East Coastal Adaptation Project

Some new work. I’ve just completed work on series of images as part of a project with the ANU School of Art ‘Environment Studio‘. The project, which is continuing, involves around 25 artists from across all of the School’s workshops (e.g. painting, sculpture, printing, woodwork, glass – AND photography). Each artist is to create works inspired or informed by the issue of climate change and its future impact on the small communities of south-eastern Australia (from Wollongong, NSW through to Lakes Entrance in Victoria).

This art project is conducted as an adjunct to a bigger project – ‘South East Coastal Adaptation’ (SECA) – which is funded through the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility. Here’s how they describe their project in their final report:

“Coastal Urban Climate Futures in South East Australia from Wollongong to Lakes Entrance is an investigation into possible coastal urban futures to 2030 and beyond. The study focus is on coastal adaptation in the context of climate change. It is broad in its scope by considering environmental, social and economic change in the south east coastal region. It has a multi-disciplinary approach to the spatial and temporal dimension in considering action on the ground. It involves seven local government areas (Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama, Shoalhaven, Eurobodalla, Bega and East Gippsland), two states and several regional organisations and explores some of the critical governance issues.”

Anyway that’s all by way of background. It’s a worthy, rigorous and invaluable study. But the important thing (at least from the point of view of this blog post) is the art – and specifically. my own photographs.

Humpback flight

Humpback flight (2013)

Living in Canberra, I spend a bit of time down in the coastal region covered by the study, making photographs.  Earlier this year I also participated in two field trips down to the area from Merimbula to Mallacoota, exploring towns, national parks and forestry roads, eventually returning home with around 1400 photographs.

I selected a number of images for processing, some compositing of images, overlaying of text etc, and ended up with a couple of dozen final images that I’m pretty happy with. You can see the full set of them at this link . I’ll put some more posts up over the coming days to go into a little detail of the thoughts and photographic processes behind some of the images.

Fishery sunset

Fishery sunset (2013)