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Wilderness Landscape Photography

I don't see beautiful scenes of tranquillity out there in the wilderness landscape, I see a harsh environment that will kill you just for being there.

That's the wilderness landscape that I photograph.

Bega: Central Town of the Bega Valley

Bega, lying in a horseshoe of the Bega River and opposite the junction with the Brogo River, is a town built around the river and river flats. Bega, built on the undulating hills that overlook the fertile dairy farming and cropping land which to a great extent fuels the Bega economy.

Bega, on the Far South Coast of New South Wales, about halfway between Melbourne and Sydney, is my home and my home base for wilderness landscape photography.

The Bega Valley, with its rivers, agricultural country and administrative significance, gives its name to our local government area, the Bega Valley Shire.

The Bega Valley Shire extends along the coast from Bermagui in the north, beyond Eden to the Victorian border in the south, about two and a half hours driving time, and inland to to the top of the coastal escarpment, about an hour and a quarter's drive.

The broad diversity of country included in the Bega Valley Shire, facilitates major industries such as fishing, timber, dairying and the leading and growing tourism industry.

It is in the context of the diverse landscape of natural coast and mountain country that I photograph the wilderness landscape.

Wilderness Landscape Photography: How It Is For Me

A Few Confronting Thoughts About Wilderness Landscape Photography

These Boots are Made for Walkin'

When someone excitedly tells me about their wizz bang long lens I can't help but think back to the Nancy Sinatra song of my youth "These boots are made for walkin' and that's just what they'll do." Long lenses and short lenses too, are useful for altering the mood of an image. If you need to get closer, then walk.

There may be exceptions, but you'll seldom achieve outstanding wilderness photography out of the car window.

We all know you should never go bush-walking alone. However, most successful wilderness photographers are loners who can survive on their own and in fact perform at their best in solitude. See that you're well prepared with water, compression bandage, lighter and compass.

Whenever you're out photographing the wilderness landscape, keep in mind "These boots are made for walkin'."

Wilderness Photography is More than Point and Shoot

I once asked a young woman who thought her photos were pretty good "How do you capture a strong landscape image?" "Well, it's quite simple" she told me. "All you need is a foreground, a mid-ground and a background." When I saw some of her images I knew that her formula didn't work.

I do my best work when I isolate one element, to the exclusion of distracting bits and pieces, either by getting close or else by selective focus.

I know people who carry a camera in case they see something worth photographing. Well, I guess that's ok for them. For me, it's more a matter of fondling the landscape in my imagination; getting both myself and the wilderness ready for action. It's in my heart; it's how the world is for me.

The Wilderness is Rugged

For most of my life I've been an outdoor worker and outdoor recreationalist. I've suffered considerable UV damage to my skin and carry the ongoing pain of numerous physical injuries; the result of a prolonged encounter with the natural environment.

I don't see beautiful scenes of tranquillity out there; I see a harsh environment that will kill you just for being there. I see rough, hard, sharp, abrasive, crumbling, random, hot, cold, wet, dry, soggy, windy, steep, loose, slippery, rotten, smelly, biting, burning, glarey, stark, ugly, barren and so it goes on. That's the landscape that demands my attention and which I fondle in my imagination. It's in my heart; it's how the wilderness is for me.

Sleeping With the Landscape

Whether the arid outback desert of South Australia, the snow covered peaks, slopes and gulleys of the Kosciuszko National Park, the Far South Coast of New South Wales or giant sand dunes on the East Gippsland coast, wilderness photography holds a fascination in its freedom from the evidence of human habitation.

I was born to camp. I went on my first camping trip prenatally, when I was still a gleam in my father’s eye.

Mum and Dad married about the middle of the war after Dad was discharged from the army as medically unfit. They did it pretty tough, living in a one room, unlined, fibro hut. But they went on a camping trip.

From Lower Plenty, now a fashionable suburb at the north east of Melbourne, they travelled 50 miles to Rosebud on the eastern side of Port Phillip Bay.

After about a week’s break they harnessed Robbie the half-draught horse back into the jinker and headed for home.

Some time after dark a policeman stopped them and insisted they buy a torch and put a red rag over it for a tail-light. After further plodding, Robbie stopped in his tracks, sound asleep on his feet in the shafts and couldn’t be woken.

I’ve camped all my life, first with Mum and Dad, then on fishing and shooting trips in my late teens with various mates. Later, Lesley and I camped together, and then with the children as well. Now, although I sometimes camp with Lesley, the children and grandchildren, I often go on my own to isolated wilderness places.

One of the keys to wilderness photography is to camp on site where possible. That way I'm on the job for the best light just before and after sunrise and sunset.

On occasions I've staggered back into camp an hour or two after dark, tired, stiff and sore and, stashing my pack in the car, downed a cup of water and struggled into my sleeping bag hungry, sooner than get a feed.

Artist's Statement

Offended by my forthright artist's statement? Ah well! It's a personality thing, you know. It's through that rugged personality that I interpret the landscape.

So get out there and photographically express your view of the wilderness landscape.

Try not to get caught out in the rain or the dark. Neither of these is much fun, I can tell you.

Laurie.

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