Tropical Queensland

From the dry of Western Australia’s Swan Coastal Plain at the end of summer to the Sunshine Coast hinterland in Queensland – a long way and a world apart.

It’s a work trip, but nonetheless there is time for nature – mostly incidental, because in a leafy town like Maleny, in humid, bursting-with-life-Queensland, there’s bush and birds everywhere.

The Glasshouse Mountains, seen from Maleny.

Mary Cairncross Park near Maleny

  
Mary Cairncross Park, with vines thicker than my arms. Birds everywhere – my colleague stops often to listen and point out their individual calls. Most of what we hear we do not see.

A pademelon in Mary Cairncross Park

Now, after a week of meetings I’m waiting at Brisbane airport to return to WA. Conversations this week have brought to the forefront of my mind – once again – questions of connection to place. As always with new people, I must explain why I say I am “from” Fremantle, yet also “from” East Gippsland. Having many layers of identity when these layers refer to two different, faraway places seems odd to others.

Often, it takes too long to really explain what I mean. According these two places the status of “I am from here” does not seem to do justice to either. For one, it neglects the years of family history that count for as much as my own years there. For the other, it neglects the choice to return, nearly two years ago now, many years after leaving for new places. Yes, to some degree I have come home, but the other home remains, the feel of the land there waiting to be recalled, remembered – revisited.

Fremantle photos

Today Kill Your Darlings published my piece ‘Looking west: an evening with Tim Winton’ on their blog. Writing about Western Australia prompted me to look back through the Flickr archives and hunt out a few of my favourite film photos from Fremantle, all taken a few years ago.

Untitled

Fremantle harbour in a seabreeze, 2009 – Minolta XG2, Fuji Superia 400

Untitled

South Fremantle bus stop, 2009 – Minolta XG2, Fuji Superia 400

Light on Leeuwin

Light on Leeuwin, 2009 – Minolta XG2, Fuji Superia 400

From the woolshed

From the woolshed – Olympus OM-1N, Kodak Ektar 100

From the woolshed, looking out to a familiar scene
Clouds on the hill, weathered boards underfoot
The same old fencelines divide the land
Just as you remember
The Rye paddock and the Lane
The Airstrip out of sight beyond the ridge
Then other people’s land
Land you don’t know
Before the distant peaks slide into the hills
Just as you remember.

The words behind the image

The morning light distils the cold air into something sweet and fresh. The layers of the hills are a patchwork of muted colours and texture at this time, as the sun, far to the north, illuminates them in turn, and the patterns on their faces emerge gradually into the light.

There is, as always in this land, a mix of nature close alongside that which is made and managed by humans. The textures of pasture and corrugated tin, of fence post and gumtree, of river water and bridge, complement and highlight one another on this land. It is land I know well, though not so well as the kelpie knows it, with her finely tuned senses and her quick feet.

On a winter’s morning in June, with the three young kelpies and the old border collie cross following me everywhere I went, I did not know that it was the dog in this photo that would end up with me. I thought – hoped – that she might, but we were all in limbo then, nothing certain.

Now we are far away, the dog and I, but I think often of that morning. A roll of slide film, brisk mountain air, trying to capture a ghost of the landscape while I still could. At the homestead, away to the left, smoke rose from the chimney.

But it was the last days, and the dogs knew it. On a day like today, the sun and cloud will be playing patterns with the wind on the water of the trough, undisturbed by us.

* * *

Perhaps a good photograph should stand alone, capable of telling a story without the need for words to explain it. But I am a writer first and foremost, from long before the days when I started to think in terms of images in a camera.

So for me part of the attraction of photography is the opportunity it presents for an interplay with words.

In previous years at Unsensored I have sought to explain or enhance my images to some extent with words. Not to explain in terms of where, why, how, but to suggest my own thoughts in relation to the image; to give a hint of what it meant to me.

This year, however, the image I exhibited bore no neat, four line explanation. I tried, covering pages with notes and images as I tried to pull out the words that would say enough, but not too much.

But I couldn’t do it – I could not condense what this photograph meant to me into just a few lines. I still can’t, but now, in the aftermath of the exhibition, with the photo on my wall and the dog outside my window in the sun, a blog gives more space than an image card could, so that I might try and say just a little of what it means.

Image: Olympus OM-1N, Fuji Sensia 200, expired. Click to view large.

Black and white, textures of the land

In the high country in June, it was very cold but the sun shone. Up high on the hillside, gazing out across the valley, the colours sang. But so too do the textures; the textures of hillsides and shadows, of dead trees and living. Sometimes these are textures best caught in black and white, as No Fixed Address has in these images.

Dead trees and living – Canon EOS 3000V, Rollei Retro 100

Sunlight on her coat – Canon EOS 3000V, Lucky SDH 100

Cattle on the hillside – Canon EOS 3000V, Lucky SDH 100

Frosty morning

From a cold and icy morning on the farm in Victoria’s high country in mid June:

The meaning of the frost

Iced Volvo

Underfoot and into the distance

It’s over two months since I last posted on this blog. These photos, by way of explanation, are from the place that I went to in June and July, and which sharply interrupted my blogging habit. There is no internet connection at the house. In this place, few things seemed less important than the online world.

Images: Olympus OM-1n, Kodak Gold 400.