Lake Echo. 8x10 black glass ambrotype This probably isn’t a…
Alex Bond, Bannister Creek Perth 2017, silver gelatin photograph
So close to home
These days I try to photograph closer to home. For the past few years I have been exploring the question of what it means to travel in search of an ideal landscape. While there is no doubt a new and unfamiliar landscape can be creatively stimulating, are we as photographers ignoring what is right under our noses?
I am no different to everyone else, I enjoy getting out and exploring new places and landscapes. However in the past few years I have tried to become more mindful and aware of the landscape in which I live. The landscape we spend most of our time in, whether it be in the inner city, the suburbs, whilst commuting to work or where we spend our leisure time, just how well do we know it? Are our eyes indifferent to it, desensitised by its everyday familiarity.
I live in a highly urbanised environment just 10km from Perth’s city centre. I am also close to the Canning River, a major tributary to the Swan River. Where I live the Canning River is narrow and crossed by two footbridges a few kilometres apart. There are samphire flood plains and areas wooded with flooded gums that follow the river’s edges for several kilometres. Snaking through this parkland are dual use footpaths providing access for pedestrians and cyclists.
Several small creeks flow into the Canning River after winter rainfall. Bannister Creek is one such tributary. Paperbarks grow in the moist creek bed.
Set back from the creek’s banks are two parallel lines of fibro cement fencing enclosing both sides of the creek. This marks the boundary between the creek and domestic urbanisation. Over time the creek’s function has become a convenient drain for road run off. Subsequent housing development resulted with all the houses facing with their backs towards the creek. More recently the importance of the creek has gained a new understanding. Local council, school and community groups have assisted in wetland restoration in and around the creek.
Several weeks prior to making this photograph I had visited the Bannister Creek. At that time the water level was quite low and it was the wrong time of day for the sunlight’s direction. Yet I new it held potential under the right conditions. After recent rain those conditions arrived. With my 4×5 field camera and tripod strapped onto my bicycle, I peddled off down the cycle tracks to the creek.
It was early morning and the sun positioned directly behind the trees. The water drops caught in the paperbarks glistened like thousands of delicate jewels. There was an overall atmosphere of enveloping brightness everywhere I looked.
My plan was to make a black and white photograph directly into the sunlight. I knew the scene was high contrast and normal exposure and development was not going to preserve the atmosphere of enveloping brightness.
To make a print of the type I envisaged it was crucial that I record all the nuances in the high values. The aim was to give a very smooth transition in the light print tones while holding fine detail and texture. This would give the light in the print volume. The darker tones in the final print are only to serve as a key visual reference to the brightness in the scene. These would be confined to small areas of the print.
My solution was to choose a modified stand development. Modified stand development can yield low contrast negatives ideal for recording high contrast scenes. In addition to this, earlier tests I have conducted have shown that I can obtain nearly half a stop film speed increase. That means I get a nice boost in the separation of tones in the darker areas of my print as well as good separation in the highlights.
Initial inspection of the negative after modified stand development was as expected. It was of low contrast but held excellent shadow detail. It printed easily in my enlarger revealing all the soft creamy highlight tones. With split grade printing the negative offered a wide range of interpretations and ease of control.
The final print was made on 16×20 Fomabrom fibre based paper. I am happy with the current high key interpretation. I think the modified stand development served its purpose well. The print holds great textural detail and expresses the atmosphere and quality of the enveloping light I experienced at the time.
Lifting the veil on the familiar is no easy task. It is a constant challenge to our awareness, values and perceptions as to what we find worthy of photographing. My explorations closer to home have evolved into bodies of work which I have exhibited locally. While I still enjoy getting away to visit new locations it is also satisfying to know that rewarding images can also be made closer to home.
Ilford FP4 4×5, 150mm lens, 15 seconds at f32 modified stand development.
Alex Bond is a Perth based landscape photographer. In 1989 he founded Stormlight Publishing producing cards, calendars, posters and books. His style has been crafted over decades of hiking with his wooden field camera. He runs small workshops on large format black and white photography and traditional darkroom printing.
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